As tourist destinations go, Edmonton isn’t a city that readily springs to the forefront. The region is flat, it’s windy, and, let’s face it, cold in winter.
Adam Brown could care less about all that stuff. Why, he’d love to live there, albeit it as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
One week from now, Brown will leave Kelowna for Edmonton on a free-agent tryout with the Oilers. His stay in Alberta will be short — just 36 hours — before leaving for Penticton to compete in the Young Stars Tournament at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The round-robin tournament runs Sept. 11-15, and features top prospects from the Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity,” said Brown, who leaves for Edmonton on Sept. 8. “How long I’ll be Edmonton depends on how I do, so it’s not for a set period of time. After the Young Stars Tournament, we’ll see what happens from there.”
Should the 20-year-old be returned to Kelowna, for what would be his final season of major-junior eligibility, it’ll be a move that’s OK with the Rockets’ top goaltender.
“This should be a really exciting season,” said Brown. “We have a lot of good, young guys coming in, a couple of 16-year-olds stepping in on defence who are going to be really good, and with the large number of returnees we have, I think we have a shot at a really good season.”
If there’s one aspect that underscores this camp, it’s confidence. Not swaggering confidence, but, rather, strong knowledge that this team is on the cusp of something good. Much like the 2008-09 team before it took off following the mid-season acquisition of Mikael Backlund.
“I think there’s a lot of similarities between this team and the 2009 team,” said Brown. “That team had a lot of older, returning guys who were ready to step into big roles and had young guys who filled into their roles as well. Right now, I see a lot of both in this team. So there are some similarities, but this is also a different team. Hopefully we can have a little better start to the season.”
Yes, that terrible start to 2010-11.
For a refresher, the Rockets lost their first four games of the season, seven of their first 10 and 10 of their first 14 before stringing together a six-game winning streak and establishing consistency. Statistically, the losses didn’t hurt Kelowna, as the Rockets placed first in B.C. Division standings and second in the Western Conference, well behind first-place Portland.
Continuing on with new starts, Mitchell Callahan will be facing a new beginning as his journey into professional hockey starts.
“I’m happy, but it’s also overwhelming,” said Callahan, 20, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick. “This is the first time I’m not going to be playing with some of these guys again. But it’s also exciting to be here at main camp, because everybody’s really pumped up for the season. I think all the guys are excited because they’re going to have a pretty good team. I don’t know where I’ll wind up yet, so it’s kinda exhilarating to see where I’m going to go.”
In the short-term, Callahan, who hails from Whittier, Calif., is off to Traverse City, Mich., on Sept. 8 for a prospects tournament with Detroit. After that, it’s likely off to the Red Wings’ farm team in Grand Rapids, Mich., Griffins.
“Kelowna has been my home for the past three years, and it’s pretty sad to leave it,” said Callahan, who signed a three-year contract with Detroit last spring. “But, at the same time, I want my career to move on.”
ICE CHIPS: With Kelowna’s training camp having reached its halfway point, the Rockets were expected to cut around a dozen or so players from the roster list of 56 on Wednesday night. . . . There will be more cuts, as the team wants to be between 27 and 30 players for its two exhibition games this weekend. The Rockets host the Vancouver Giants on Friday night, then the Victoria Royals on Saturday evening. Both contests feature 7 p.m. starts. . . . Among the camp attendees is the Rockets’ first selection from the WHL’s 2011 bantam draft, Rourke Chartier, a 5-foot-7 centre from Saskatoon who was selected 15th overall. . . . Too young to play in the WHL this season, Kelowna’s goal is to have Chartier make the roster next season. . . . Said Rockets assistant general manager Lorne Frey of Chartier: “You can’t miss his passion for the game. He loves to play, he has a good work ethic and his skill level is outstanding. He’s competitive . . . he’s just one of those young guys that you love to watch play and you know that you’re going to get the same effort out of him every night.”