SUMMERSIDE – Following a run to the RBC Cup finals last season, management of the Summerside Western Capitals knew they would have to rely on young talent in 2013/14.
Although wins have been hard to come by for the rebuilding Capitals, it looks as though the future is bright for the Maritime Hockey League team.
At the end of the season, Summerside could have three players nominated for Rookie of the Year honours.
The Caps duo of Alex Bradley and Brad Power are first and second respectively in rookie scoring.
Bradley has amassed 29 points, with Power close behind with 28. Add on top of that the Capitals also have the top scoring rookie defenseman in Cavan Fitzgerald, who is close to a point per game player.
This comes as no surprise to GM Pat McIver.
"We knew coming into this year that our young players were going to have to step up and fill big roles and play big minutes," said the veteran general manager Pat McIver. "So far, they have exceeded our expectations."
This past month, Power was named the MHL’s Rookie of the Month. In December, he scored six goals in six games including a pair of goals in the Capitals' 5-2 win over Yarmouth at home, which earned him first star of the night.
So far this season the St. John's, Newfoundland native has racked up 15 goals and 13 assists in 30 games this season. Nine of those games were multiple-point games. Many of his assists come from setting up linemate and fellow rookie, Bradley.
With 13 goals and 16 assists on the season, Bradley has almost identical numbers. The winger from Lower Coverdale, New Brunswick and stays in Summerside with his grandmother, Valerie Brown, has caught fire since a late October home game against Woodstock, where he paced his team to a 4-3 win with a four-point night and first star honours. Since then he has nine multiple point games and six points in the last three games.
Bradley admitted that being friends as well as teammates helps with their chemistry. "Me and Brad, we're good buddies on and off the ice. We always help each other to try and stay positive. I love playing with Brad, he's a great player and we're doing a pretty good job together."
The forward, who wears 81, tells how he came to wear that number.
"I wanted to wear 18, but obviously with (J.P.) Harvey here at the start of season that wasn't possible, so I choose to get the number inverted," said Bradley. "I wear it in appreciation to my cousin, Nathan DesRoches, who was one of the great Western Capitals and who played a big part in getting me to come to Summerside to play for the Caps."
The third player that could be in the mix at the end of the season for the league's top rookie is Cavan Fitzgerald. He leads all rookie defenseman in points with 19 points in 25 games. Currently, the Cape Breton native plays big minutes for the Caps and plays on the top power-play unit alongside Joey Colatarci.
The Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL called Fitzgerald up in late December and he was able to score the game winning goal in a game against Cape Breton.
McIver is looking forward to the future.
"I think we have a great core of young players that could lead this team for three years. We are especially pleased with the rapid development of all our young talent. In total this year we have had 15 rookies suit up for the caps."
The Western Capitals have two home games this weekend at Eastlink Arena, Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. hosting the Pictou County Crushers, followed by a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Amherst Ramblers at 2 p.m.
The Summerside Western Capitals on Monday traded defenseman Harrison Wood to the Pictou County Crushers for a 2015 fourth round draft pick and future considerations.
So far this season Wood has 10 points
Wood had played in all 30 games for the Caps this season.
McIver reflected on Wood’s time with the team, “Harrison has been a great player both on and off the ice for the past 2.5 years.”
He added that sometimes change is needed.
“When meeting with Harrison after Christmas we both felt change would be good for Harrison. We wish him all the best.”
The Charlottetown native was one of the few returnee’s from last year’s RBC cup runner-up squad.
The trade came at a good time as Lucas Blomquest is arriving tonight. Blomquest will immediately fill the void left by Wood’s departure.