Zack Stringer may be joining other 2003 and 2004-born players at Lethbridge Hurricanes’ rookie camp this week, but the 16-year-old Lethbridge native is facing heightened expectations after some WHL experience last season.
When his season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes Midget AAA team came to an end in the spring, Stringer made the jump to join the Hurricanes as they prepared for the WHL playoffs.
In 14 games with the ‘Canes — eight in the regular season and six in the playoffs — Stringer put up seven points (two goals, five assists); before Lethbridge was eliminated from the post-season by the Calgary Hitmen, in Game 7 of their opening round series.
Those 14 appearances for the Hurricanes make Stringer the grizzled veteran of the two-day rookie camp — on Wednesday and Thursday at the Enmax Centre — as he and fellow 2018 draft-pick Joe Arntsen enter as the only two rookies with WHL experience.
“Obviously there’s a little more added pressure on Stringer to come in and do what he did in playoffs, and obviously he’s got to make the team and come in and show real well; but he’s a young kid — he’s 16 years old — so there’s going to be some ups and downs.”
Kisio also recognized the added element of Stringer being born and raised in the city.
“Obviously he has his buddies in town and family around him,” Kisio said, “but there’s added pressure too; it’s not easy playing in front of your family every night and your friends.”
“Being a local kid, there’s some challenges there. But it’s great to have. They grew up Hurricanes fans, they wanted to play for us — it’s exciting, but there’s a little bit more added pressure.”
Stringer is one of more than 70 players at rookie camp, and it’s expected that less than a third will continue on to the Hurricanes’ main camp which begins Friday.
But Kisio said Wednesday that the door is open for new players to make an impression and compete for spots.
“You know there’s an opportunity there, and there is some spots available for sure, but there is some tough competition at the same time,” he said.
Rookie camp features 15- and 16-year-old players, as well as a handful of 14 year olds who won’t be eligible to make the team.
“They’ll just come in, get the experience, have fun, enjoy it, see what Lethbridge is about,” said Kisio. “It’s a lot at first for these guys. So it’s getting comfortable and getting ready for next year when they have a chance to make the team.”
Headlining the group of 2004-born players is Logan McCutcheon; drafted in the 3rd round — 60th overall — in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft.
The defenseman — from Saskatoon — was Lethbridge’s highest draft pick in 2019, and signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement with the ‘Canes in July.
“It’s really cool. I’ve been working as hard as I can to get here,” said McCutcheon. “It’s really exciting now that I’m here and I want to show what I can do.”
“I think I’m a good puck-mover, can jump into the rush lots, and create lots of offense from the back-end,” said the 15 year old.
Rookie camp continues Thursday before Hurricanes’ main camp begins Friday.