Leading up to the start of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2020-21 season, which starts Nov. 13, 2020, the league is publishing team previews.
These stories will highlight areas of focus for the respective organizations as well as players. Our last preview featured the Grand Forks Border Bruins, and now we highlight the Kamloops Storm in the Doug Birks Division.
Jakob Drapeau will be among the key veterans in the Storm lineup.
Last season the Storm qualified for the Teck Cup playoffs, but were swept by the defending KIJHL champion Revelstoke Grizzlies. Storm general manager Matt Kolle says they felt the team lacked overall drive and commitment. During the offseason, they placed an emphasis on finding players who are motivated and focussed on bettering their game and getting to the next level.
“If a player is or wants to be a true hockey player, the Storm model will provide them the tools to achieve their goals,” says Kolle.
The Storm got on early jump on their season beginning in September, to take advantage of time to hold an extended training camp and the opportunities it has provided to give their players what they believe is an advanced level of training.
“I don’t think it has been too bad for us to keep guys busy while we wait for league play,” says Kolle. “Early on we took advantage of the extended training camp and played regular intra squad games within our group. Now we have progressed to actual exhibition games against opponents within the league, and soon we will hit league play. Overall it has been a pretty good progression.”
This year’s Storm is largely built on rookies and it’s a group motivated to succeed.
Ryan Dusseault- Kamloops - South Island Royals of the BCMML - Goalie- Dusseault has been around the Storm for the past three years and has steadily trended in the right direction and is being recognized at the higher junior levels as goaltender of interest.
Devin Benson- Thompson Blazers of the BCMML - defence - Denson was drafted by the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2018. He is a highly skilled defenceman who can control the game. His skill set, combined with his strong hockey knowledge allow him to impact every game.
Sam Lewis - Thompson Blazers AA - Defence- Lewis is a big, strong defencemen who uses his size well. Whether protecting pucks or the front of the net, he is a heavy presence. He plays well defensively and can make a good first-pass. A keep-it-simple player that can be counted on in all situations.
Braden Smith - Thompson Blazers of the BCMML - Defence - Smith is a Victoria Royals 2018 WHL draft pick and is a hard-nosed defender. He can play the game whatever way you want. He hits hard, he blocks shots and he hammers home one-timers.
“We look to see him in a Royals jersey sooner than later,” says Kolle.
Lex Friesen - POE U18 of the CSSHL - Friesen is a highly skilled production guy. Skates well, passes well, shoots well, and possesses a high hockey IQ. Friesen makes people around him better. He will be counted on as a key contributor.
Owen Barrow - Kamloops - Yale Hockey Academy - CSSHL. Barrow is going to play at the next level. He is a big and strong player that makes things happen. Barrow bangs bodies, moves pucks, and scores goals. He’s a power-forward who’s got the whole package.
Brett Mero (29) is among the 20-year-olds expected to provide leadership.
The Storm expect all their 20-year-olds to take a leadership role and use their knowledge and experience gained to guide the team to a successful season. Jakob Drapeau has been solid and steady in net in his three years. He is motivated to lead goalies in the league this year. Brett Mero, a five-year veteran and Chris Thon a four-year veteran, look to drive the offence.
“They both have the proven ability to put up points and we will look at them to not only to put up points, but make others around them better,” says Kolle. Brendan Mucha is a three-year vet, who will be counted on.
“We are looking to play a fast-paced game. Always pushing the play,” says Kolle. “We want to force the opposition to have to play 60 minutes to stay in the game.”