RDC Kings Hockey head coach Trevor Keeper has been thinking long and hard about what separated his team from the top last season.
The difference was marginal in his eyes, says Keeper, a depth forward or two that would help kill an extra penalty or score a clutch goal on the advantage might have been the difference.
In the sixth season of the program, those are now the choices Keeper looks forward to in recruiting.
“In the past, when you’re building your program, you have some weak links and maybe not enough depth. We feel like we’re in a spot where we have depth at every position and that’s what we need to push us into the finals next year,” he said.
His team lost to the McEwan University Griffins in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference playoffs last year.
Keeper has been busy over the last two weeks, adding a pair of forwards to the mix for the 2018-2019 season. That brings them to 15 players up front and five lines that could make a difference on any given night.
“I really believe in the philosophy of trying to give everybody a role,” he said.
“We have the pieces in place where we have a lot of depth at each position and a lot of skill. Honestly, looking at our roster we could take our fourth or fifth line and take them into games and trust they are going to get the job done.”
Red Deer’s Parker Smyth decided to forgo his final season of junior hockey to join the Kings.
The forward was a second-round pick of the Saskatoon Blades in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, but he played only a few games in the league. Smyth split last season between the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
An alternate captain in Grande Prairie, he had 10 goals and 25 points in 34 games before being traded to the North Stars, where he recorded a goal and seven assists in 13 games.
“He can skate and he’s got good size. He’ll be a little bit young and we don’t usually take 20-year-olds, but he’s smart enough that he can make that transition and he’s excited about coming and play back home,” said Keeper.
RDC also added Kyle Salaway from the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. In 177 career games with the Capitals, Salaway had 55 goals and 65 assists. In his final year of junior, the Estevan, Sask. native notched 63 points in 60 games. Salaway said he chose the Kings because they have a lot to offer.
”It’s a great city to live in,” he said. “It’s a great school. They’ve got a new rink coming up and it’s a great hockey program that’s always improving.”
Keeper said he’s heard Salaway gets into the dirty areas and can play a skill game.
“Has really good hands and a high hockey IQ,” said Keeper. “Heard lots of good reports on him and his playmaking ability. When you can put up 63 points in 60 games you know he’s doing something right.”
The Kings are nearly finished recruiting but expect to hear about one more player before training camp starts at the end of August.