Saturday, 24 August 2013

Grant Armstrong - Rookie Camp Impressions

Grant Armstrong, the Royals Director of Player Personnel is atingle with enthusiasm over the 2013 Bantam draft selections during first couple games of Rookie Camp at the SOFMC. 

“Certainly we’ve been impressed with our drafts this past season, the skill level and the way they play the game is something that we’re pretty excited about.

Armstrong couldn’t help but be a little anxious though while watching them for the first time play against each other.

“It’s a little bit of a nervous time for everybody too because you go through the draft process and you see them coming through the winter play, and wonder what they’ve done for the last couple month – but it’s always fun when they get to the rink and you see them against their peers…”

Dante Hannoun
Victoria used their first two selections on 5’5 forward Dante Hannoun (11th overall), and 5’6 F Matthew Phillips (33rd overall), trending away from the large power forward type.  In fact, the Royals first 6 forwards selected are listed at 5’9 or less.

“The league has changed, it’s not a big boy’s league anymore as much as it used to be – it’s highly skilled.”

While their’s still a lot of time to grow, Armstrong does note other clubs long term success to look ahead.

“Teams that are at the top of the standings are always teams that have highly skilled players.  That’s our goal, we want to be at the top of the standings year in and out and you have to go with highly skilled players.” 

Rule changes have a lot to do with the way the game has changed, influencing his decisions come draft time.

“Clutching and grabbing is gone.  Speed, finess, seeing the ice, those types of players are going to have success in this league and you’ve seen it over the last several years.”

Certainly having a few big bodies around like a 6’5, 238 lb Keegan Kanzig couldn’t hurt either.

Matthew Phillips
“I don’t worry about the size factor, and we’ve got some big guys that can look after them if something happens.”

While both Hannoun and Phillips are not big in size, they do bring a big game.

“Dante (Hannoun) took on one of our bigger guys here at Rookie Camp at the door and the guy bounced right off him, their was no hesitation.  And Phillips’ been outstanding, everything bounces off him, he’s an electrifying little player – it’s been fun to watch.”

Each Rookie Camp doesn’t come without it’s pleasant surprises.
Ty Westgard

“Both our last two picks have very good here.  Both BC kids, D Carter Stephenson (9th rd) and F Ty Westgard (8th rd) they’ve been really good…I think put in a lot of work from draft day on, and it’s starting to pay off for them.”

Westgard’s father Chuck Westgard, a pitcher, was signed out of high school by the MLB New York Yankees and played with the Single-A Yankees in ‘83 before running into arm problems.

“I played baseball too, he taught me everything about that and most of my hockey too.  He played played a bit of Junior A hockey, but he chose baseball instead.” said Ty Westgard who scored a confident goal while glancing to the rafters on a penalty shot on day 2.

Noah Gregor
According to Armstrong, bloodlines do play their part in the recruiting process.  Along with Westgard’s father playing pro sports, the Royals 3rd round pick F Noah Gregors’ father Colin Gregor played for the Victoria Cougars in the early 90’s.

“Anytime you can pick off genetics and they work, it’s a great thing to have…these kids are carbon copies of what they’re parents put into it…there are no secrets anymore, you just have to look up a few families in terms their history on the internet, and you can get a lot of good information on them.”

The Royals selected to US born players in F Ethan Frank (4th rd) from Omaha, and D Matt Hellickson (5th rd) out of Rogers Minnesota.

“They’re very impressed with (Victoria), it  was a big surprise for them, both coming from the flat lands and all of sudden there’s water, greenery and all the great things we have in the City…”

Ethan Frank
While they got pretty excited seeing the plane with the Royals logo on the side, the hope is for them to choose Victoria like fellow Americans Logan Nelson brothers Ben and Jack Walker, all from Minnesota, Brandon Fushimi out of Colorado, Taylor Crunk from California and Austin Carroll out of Arizona.

Armstrong likes Ethan Franks’ his high end skill, described him as an effortless skater with deception moves, one who can take a player inside or outside with speed, and a player that can get a lot of points.

“It’s a great city so far I love it, it’s beautiful, the rink is really nice…some of the guys are really skilled here.” Frank told CHEK News.

Armstrong also beamed about defenseman Matt Hellickson.
Matt Hellickson

“A tremendous talent, plays the game with tremendous amount of poise, great puck moving defenseman, finishes checks well and has a real good eye envision for the game.”

“It’s a lot more physical than I’m used to in Minnesota but nothing I can’t handle.  It’s pretty fast, I can adjust to it…”  said Hellickson.

With the way the draft is set up, the Royals have to look at the American players a little differently because of the recruiting that goes into it, according to Armstrong.

“They’re really good players, my personal opinion is if they were Canadian players they would’ve gone a lot higher in the draft…we’re going to keep working on the process and hopefully in due time they’ll be members of our team…”

Rookie Camp is underway from Aug 22 – 25th at the SOFMC with the final game scheduled from 11-12:45 Sunday.

Main Camp opens Monday with on-ice sessions for all returning roster players from last season, invited players born between 1994 and 1996 as well as Draft and Rookie Camp participants progressing through.

The Camp concludes with the Royals’ 2013 Intra-Squad Game on Wednesday, August 28th at 7:05 p.m. at SOFMC.  Admission is by donation to the GoodLife Fitness Children’s Foundation.

All on-ice sessions during camp are open to the public.

Victoria’s first 3 exhibition games are in Everett where they face the Silvertips August 30th at 7pm, the Seattle Thunderbirds at 3pm Saturday Aug 31st, and the Tri City Americans Sunday Sept. 1st at 11:30 am.

The Royals have one home exhibition date on Saturday Sept 14th at 1:35 vs Vancouver at the SOFMC.

They conclude the 5 game pre-season the following afternoon in Ladner vs the same Giants at 2 pm.

Opening weekend for Victoria is on the road in Vancouver Friday Sept. 20th, and the home opener the following night against the same Giants.

Catch all the regular season Play by Play action on The Zone @ 91.3 FM

-Marlon Martens