It’s been a different kind of year for RDC hockey Kings head coach Trevor Keeper, at least when it comes to recruiting.
Over the past four seasons Keeper is usually hitting the recruiting trail about now looking to fill out his roster.
This season he’ spending more time at home.
“Recruiting is going really well, we’re ahead of schedule,” he said. “Usually I’m off to the Western Canadian Junior Championships or even the Royal Bank Cup, but unlike the past when we needed 10 to 12 recruits, we have 18 players returning and only need a handful of new players.
“One of the reasons we’re ahead of schedule is that we have high quality recruits committed … it’s certainly nice to have them locked up already.”
Keeper has six new players committed. He wouldn’t mind one more defenceman and one forward.
“We have seven of eight defencemen and 14 of 15 forwards,” he said.
He does have three netminders locked up with the addition of Estevan Bruins starter Nathan Alalouf.
The six-foot-one, 208-pound Alalouf, a native of Delta, B.C., is coming off a solid season. He played 29 games with a 3.05 goals-against-average (gaa) and a .910 save percentage. In five playoff games he had a 2.20 gaa and a .933 save percentage.
Unlike junior or the pros, where teams normally have two goaltenders, college teams need three in case of injury. Alalouf will join fifth-year veteran Mike Salmon and sophomore Troy Trombley.
“We really have a 1A and 1B when it comes to our goaltenders,” said Keeper. “Now we added a skilled starter in Nathan, who will be a good addition to the tandem.”
Keeper also isn’t about to hand playing time to any of his netminders.
“It is tough coming in where there’s two established netminders, but I told Nathan Mike will graduate next year and also our philosophy is that everyone will play early and if one is playing better than the others he will get more starts. It doesn’t matter if they’re first-year, second-year or fifth-year.”
The biggest change for the Kings is up front where Keeper looked to add offensive punch.
“I was happy with a lot of things with our team, from goaltending, to special teams to our work ethic and dedication, but we struggled scoring five-on-five and with that in mind we recruited to add more offence.”
Keeper added former Red Deer minor hockey grad Ty Mappin early in the recruiting process. Mappin was the leading scorer on the Brooks Bandits, who’s favoured to win the AJHL again this season. The five-foot-11, 175-pound Big Valley native, who was a first round draft pick by the Everett Silvertips, had 22 goals and a league-leading 68 assists in 56 regular season games. He had three goals and five assists in a four game playoff sweep over Olds.
Keeper has also added former Red Deer Rebels prospect Lynnden Pastachak and Jason Miller from the Estevan Bruins and Jake Wozney from the Weyburn Red Wings.
Pastachak, a six-foot, 165-pound native of Bienfait, Sask., was the Bruins captain and had 23 goals and 27 helpers in 54 games.
Miller, a five-foot-nine, 175-pound native of Spruce Grove, posted 26 goals and 33 assists in 65 games. He is a former draft pick of the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Wozney, a six-foot-one, 19o-pound native of Richmond, B,C., had 30 goals and 23 assists in 55 games.
The Kings have a solid defensive core returning and added six-foot, 190-pound Tyler Podgorenko from the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Podgorenko, who is from Nelson, B.C., started last season with Notre Dame in the SJHL before being traded. He had 12 goals and 24 assists in 36 games with Notre Dame and two goals and seven helpers in 19 games with the Pontiacs. In eight playoffs games he had a goal and six helpers.
“I believe our defence may be our strength,” said Keeper, who has Tanner Butler, Zak Hicks, Trevor Costello, Arie Postmus, Dylan Baer and David Heath returning.
The Kings did lose Riley Simpson up front, but have Tyler Berkholtz and Logan Sceviour back for a fifth season to go with Dustin Gorgi, Scott Ferguson, Landon Kletke, Dylan Thudium, Ben Williams, Nick Fountain, Austin Hunter and Dustin Spearing.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca