“My expectation is that we will be better than we were last year.”
After a big year but a first round exit last season, the Kelowna Rockets are back on the ice ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Training camp has been taking place since Sunday (Sept. 4) at Prospera Place with 56 players.
“Our players returning know what they’re expected of,” said Rockets Head Coach Kris Mallette. “They came in, they’re working hard, they’re ready to go and there’s some guys that are going to have to take some big steps this year.”
Since then, the roster has been reduced to 39 players with 15 players being cut as well as forward Colton Dach (Chicago) and goaltender Tayln Boyko (New York) being sent to their respective NHL training camps.
“If you’re to look at our roster, it’s going to essentially be our team,” said Mallette. “I’d like to see them dominate in their position. The work ethic side of things is the biggest thing for me. If you’re working, you’re going to be rewarded.”
Before camp started last Sunday, rookie camp started on Sept. 1 and Mallette gives credit to not only them but to the team’s scouting staff.
“They came in and worked extremely hard,” said Mallette. “With our draft over the past couple years, we haven’t had an early round draft pick so our scouting staff, credit to them, have done a real good job cause there was some young players that came in and showed very well and therefore got to come through to main camp.”
In his second year as the team’s head coach, the team had a slow start to the year but a strong second half. Mallette led them to a 42-20-1-5 regular season record.
“In my opinion, I think we overachieved, and that’s not a diss towards our players,” said Mallette. “I think looking at the season before it started, our goal was to make the playoffs, we were in playoffs early. I think this season with guys that are back a year older, knowing what my expectation is for them on the ice, I’m expecting us to compete.”
He also noted that the division could be tougher this season with lots of young players in the division.
During the summer, Mallette also had the chance to be behind the bench and win gold as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Two of his Rockets players, forward Andrew Cristall and defenceman Caden Price were on the team.
“Just a real big honour obviously, to be able to represent your country,” said Mallette. “That age group, the 2005 is real special throughout Canada. To have Andrew (Cristall) and Caden (Price) with me was really special. Both faired extremely well. They’re weren’t passengers, they were both guys that our staff leaned on heavily and they had great success because of it and hopefully that confidence transpires as we move forward throughout this season. They’re two very special (players) that have a real bright future.”
On top of winning gold, Price enjoyed the chance just to play at the international level.
“It was super cool, playing international hockey in the middle of summer, having that compete level, it was pretty cool,” said Price. “To top it off with a gold medal with Kris and A.C. (Cristall) there was a really good experience overall.”
Entering his second season as a Rocket, Price is looking to take a step forward and is happy with what he’s seen at training camp.
“I think it’s been good so far, I think there’s a good compete level out there,” said Caden Price. “I like the battle level and chippiness of some of the games that we’re going into. They feel like a real game and the compete level is high out there, everybody is trying to earn their spot and show what they can do out there.”
The 17-year old scored twice and added 19 assists and a +24 rating in 47 games last season and is looking for himself and the team to go further than last season.
“We’re a confident group and if everything falls into line, we have a good pretty good season ahead for out group,” said Price.
Last chance at season tickets
The team has announced that Sunday, Sept. 11 will be the last chance fans have to purchase season tickets as they’re hosting a season ticket open house.
Gate one at Prospera Place will be open from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.