Victoria Royals GM Cam Hope is already looking forward to a great season with the team.
The Royals will open their fifth WHL season at home against the Portland Winterhawks on Friday, Sept. 25 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
For now though, Hope is concentrating on the import draft.
“Last year we had two Russians, Alexey Sleptsov and Marsel Ibragimov. The older, Sleptsov will stay in Russia to play professional,” said Hope. “We’ll go back to the draft for one player this year. We’re eyeing a couple of guys. There are a few 16, 17 year-old Swedes and Russians – it’s like the wild west – we’ll see how it goes.”
The 2015 Royals will not have the benefit of stalwarts Greg Chase, who has been assigned to the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons by the Edmonton Oilers; Austin Carroll, who was signed by the Calgary Flames; and 20-year-old Brandon Magee.
“We’ll miss the experienced guys who keep the team ticking but that’s the way it is in juniors, guys move up and make room for new leaders to emerge,” said Hope.
Victoria will have two separate six-game homestands next season that mark the longest home stretches for the club. The first set begins on Sept. 25 and concludes on Oct. 7. During that span, the team will host the Portland Winterhawks, Kamloops Blazers and Spokane Chiefs. The second homestand consists of visits from the Kelowna Rockets, Medicine Hat Tigers, Vancouver Giants and Lethbridge Hurricanes between Jan. 15 and 29.
The Royals embark on their longest road trip of the year early in the season when they swing through Saskatchewan and Manitoba for six games in nine days. The Eastern Division swing starts Oct. 30 against the Prince Albert Raiders. Victoria will also visit the Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings before wrapping up the trip Nov. 7 vs. the Regina Pats.
“We start at home then have a longer road trip, it’s the best of both worlds,” said Hope. “It’s the first time in franchise history we’re at home for the first six games in a row. They can settle into the billets, settle into the city, get the first half-dozen junior games under their belts, then later in October we’ll have the longest road trip. It’s a good opportunity for them to bond free of distractions. They get their feet under them before they’re battle tested on the road.”
The entire coaching staff will return, however Dave Lowry, who was named bench boss for the national team earlier this year, will leave mid-season to prep that team for the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships.
“In my view, he’s the best coach in junior hockey,” said Hope. “Again, he’ll be coaching the world juniors and that means he has to leave in the middle of the season, as he did last year as assistant coach, so we have to be able to adapt to that. We’re lucky really, to have all of our coaching staff back.”
The Royals’ staff have their work cut out for them as Hope predicts a hot contest at this year’s training camp.
“There’s a whole group of young guys who want to make the line up this year. It will be an extremely interesting training camp – probably the most competitive one since we started.”
Training camp starts Aug. 25 with first chance for the public to take a look at the new Victoria Royals on Sept. 2.
The new guy
Shortly after the News spoke to Victoria Royals GM Cam Hope for this story, the Royals announced the selection of 18-year-old Russian winger Vladimir Bobylev, 38th overall in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft
“We are happy to have been able to select Vladimir,” Hope said. “His size, strength and skating will make him a good fit with our group. He got his feet wet as a WHL rookie last year and we don’t think he has shown yet what he is capable of in this league.”
A native of Lipetsk, Russia, Bobylev spent the 2014-15 season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants where he recorded nine points (3g-6a) and 39 penalty minutes in 52 games.
During 2013-14, Bobylev played for Mytischi Atlant of the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL). In 35 games, he collected four goals, four assists and 36 minutes in penalties.
The 6-2, 206 lb forward suited up for the Russian National Junior Team on two occasions. Last year, Bobylev took part in the Under-17 Five Nations Cup and registered two points in three games. Bobylev also represented his country at the 2014 Under-17 Four Nations Cup, where he notched one goal in three contests.