Fans expecting the same high flying, high scoring Pats team they saw last year, maybe a little disappointed this year – at least to start.
With key players either injured or at NHL training camps, the Pats are not expecting to be the same team they were at the beginning of their 100th season than they were at the start of their 99th.
Speaking at the WHL’s season kick-off event this morning, Pats head coach and general manager John Paddock was frank, saying he does not expect to have the same pace setting season his team had last year.
“Well, there’s (Nick) Henry, there’s (Jake) Leschyshyn, there’s (Josh) Mahura and (Sam) Steel. Those are four reasons,” he said. “I know we’re not where we were this team last year … injuries have hampered it (even) more with Jake and Nick.”
Leschyshyn, who was recently named one of the team’s assistant captains is still recovering from season-ending injury last season, Paddock expects him back in about a month.
Henry, on the other hand, will be out a little longer after he had surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder. Henry scored 81 points in the Pats last season while on a line with Steel and the now-graduated Dawson Leedahl.
Mahura and Steel are expected to return to the team from training camp with the Anaheim Ducks, though exactly when the Pats will get them back is still not known.
The Pats also likely will not see the return of defenceman Connor Hobbs or speedy forward Austin Wagner who, while both still have one year of WHL eligibility, are thought to be staying within their NHL systems — the Capitals and Kings respectively.
That’s why Paddock doesn’t expect his team to be in top shape until about the mid-season and that their Highway #1 rivals, the Moose Jaw Warriors, to start the season off much stronger.
“They didn’t lose anybody but their 20-year-olds, so that’s a pretty good team,” Paddock said. “They’re the best team in the conference right now, I hope by halfway through the season that we’ll say we’ll be completely ready to challenge them.”
However, that doesn’t mean the Pats centennial season does have a special buzz around it, especially considering Regina is hosting the 100th Memorial Cup in June.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” said 20-year-old goaltender Tyler Brown. “We sold 5,000 season tickets, all the players know that and there’s a lot of hype around the team this year and I definitely think there’s a different feeling.”
The season is especially exciting for Brown, who is one of the only players that has been with Paddock since he started coaching the team.
Knowing that his final year will be a Memorial Cup year is also very special to Brown.
“It was definitely motivation to work harder,” he said.