The St. Albert U18AAA Nektar Raiders locked in the 20-man roster on Sunday after closing out their pre-season schedule with a dominant 6-0 victory over the Edmonton Canadians.
With the squad now set in stone, Raiders head coach Jack Redlick said it is up to his coaching staff to see where these players will end up on the roster.
“Guys are going to start battling here to carve out roles on our team ... everyone will get an opportunity early on, but they will start segmenting themselves into what kind of player they are and what role they will fill,” said Redlick. “Even though we are down to our 20-man roster, the tryout process for positions and roles is very much intact for the next little bit.”
The goal tenders fought through camp for a spot on the team and in the end the two surviving netminders were Teagan Kendrick and Christian Francis. The duo will continue to battle with each other for the starting position as the season gets underway.
Returning player Ty Hodge will serve as the team's captain, while team veteran Liam Fitzgerald was given the assistant captain honours.
Teo Pisani, son of former NHLer Fernando Pisani, made the team as a 15-year-old, which is rare for a young player on a U18AAA team.
Pisani said he is happy to crack the roster and hopes he can aid in bringing the team some wins this season.
"It feels pretty good. It's a long process with all the guys trying out the team so I've been working hard and playing to the best of my ability and it ended up working out, so it's been a pretty fun experience," said Pisani. "I think my speed and play-making will help this team a lot, help them get some wins and have a pretty good season."
The team will ice forwards Gaege Johnson, Jacob Goudreau, Aidan Taylor, Bradley Gallo, Evan Sundar, Evan Zazulak, Tanner Churchill, Tyden Redlick, and Xander Schulte.
The defensive squad saw veteran Lohgan Nimmo return to the team along with Elijah Pool, Eric Ceh, Andrew Kennedy, Ben Costantino, and Pierce Yakimchuk.
The team has racked up a few recent wins and came out on top in all three of their pre-season matches last week, ending their pre-season schedule on a six-game winning streak. Redlick said he likes what he has seen from the team heading into the regular season.
“I really like some of our hockey sense. We have a smart group who [is] able to adapt and it's always a privilege as a coach to have a group that is receptive to feedback,” said Redlick. “We’ll control what we can and that’s more or less our work ethic and our attitude every day coming to the rink, and then at the end of the year we’ll be able to take a look back and see where cards fall.”
Team captain Hodge said he has high hopes for this team. Hodge is a first-time captain for the Raiders and it's a privilege he doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m super honoured. Ever since I was a kid I always looked to the Raiders as a team I wanted to make ... now to be the captain of the team, it’s not only an honour but just really awesome,” said Hodge. “Team-wise I want to get the core values of accountability, legacy, and checking your ego through to the team.”
“[Redlick] will obviously do a great job coaching and we should be a great squad this year.”
The Raiders will be heading to Calgary this Thursday for one last tune-up tournament before their season opener scheduled on Oct. 9 against the Lloydminster Inland Steel Bobcats.