Leading up to the start of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2020-21 season, which started Nov. 13, 2020, the league is publishing team previews.
The Steam finished 12th overall in the KIJHL’s regular season standings with 21 wins. They were swept from the Teck Cup first round playoffs by the Princeton Posse. Entering his first season behind the bench, Nick Deschenes has rebuilt the roster as several players seeked a change or stepped away from the game.
Deschenes says the results of those trades are to be seen.
“Every player we have wants to be in Summerland and that is a positive,” says Deschenes. “Having players that want to be here and are motivated to get better is sometimes a bigger asset to a program and makes for a more enjoyable team experience.”
The Steam began preparing for the season on Sept. 1 with on and off-ice training. In having a young team, Deschenes knew it would be important to take advantage of this developmental time. HIs experience with practice and skills work and having a off-ice training business also allows him to use that skill set to help develop the players athletically.
“Combine that with seminars on talent, mindset, leadership and systems reviews, we are taking advantage of this early start,” he says.
Keeping players motivated hasn’t been an issue as they each have their goals and aspirations. Deschenes says it is also on the coaching staff to show the players the meaning and purpose of doing certain things, as well as the progress that is being made.
“With Covid I feel some players were less prepared than they would have liked to have been, and no fault of their own,” he says. “We are getting caught up in some areas and ahead in others.”
Easton Moore – Bentley, Alta. – USPHL Florida Eels
A very smart two-way player that is capable of playing at the junior A level. He is accountable and hardworking and with some additional strength and power as an athlete, he will make the jump next season.
Kayde Budgell – Sylvan Lake, Alta., AB – Midget AA West Central Tigers
Budgell possesses high-end skill. He has a strong awareness level which makes him an offensive threat. He has a lot of tools and needs to get stronger and more explosive on the ice to have a more significant impact and make the jump to junior A.
Konnor Green – Rimbey, B.C. – Olds Midget AA
Green is a very powerful player. With a season of AAA under his belt at 16, he has a solid foundation to work with. His work ethic and compete will bring him success at this level and beyond.
Damon Kiyawasew – Sherwood Park, Alta.,- Sherwood Park AA
Kiyawasew was player identified early in the off-season and the Steam maintained a relationship throughout the summer and consider themselves lucky to have landed him. He attended the Penticton Vees ID Camp and was offered an affiliate player spot. Kiyawasew has a very high IQ and uses it to his advantage along with good puck skills and offensive instincts.
Tristan Weill – West Kelowna – Minor Midget Okanagan
Weill impressed at the ID camp and then on to main camp. With the depth of the Okanagan major midget program, Weill opted to join the Steam this season. Being a rebuild year, Weill will find opportunity in the lineup. He is the type of player you underestimate, but always notice him on the puck. After leading the main camp in goals, and showing he wouldn’t back down when confronted, made this an obvious choice for the organization.
“We feel both players are able to provide some leadership and show our incoming group what’s needed to be successful at this level,” says Deschenes. “We also believe these players are poised to have breakout seasons.
On the back end, we have Cole Waldbillig and Jarrett Watson. Waldbillig and Watson played on Deschenes West Kelowna Bantam Tier 2 in 2016-17. Both players will be looked to grow their role and help anchor the back end.
“With increased opportunity come increased responsibility and these two players are ready to take on more,” he says. “We have acquired several players that have played junior hockey.”
Deschenes wants his team to play smart and understand and execute the game at a high level.
“As you climb the ladder in hockey, how you think and play the game is a huge seperator,” he explains. “To just skate around really fast and pressure while hitting anything that moves can be an effective short term strategy, but won’t help players looking to play at higher levels. We want to be a five-man unit in all three zones that is focused on strong play without the puck and being dynamic and creative with the puck.”