Although the results look similar to last season, the team does not. The Blazers had an absolute roster overhaul in the past year, with 14 new faces occupying full-time roster spots.
The group has also been deployed in a different way, with all four lines rolling out on a regular shift, which has provided a balanced offensive attack.
“You need to have depth given that it’s a physical league,” said head coach Scott Scissons. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, you know, Carter Stebbings for a bit; Nolan Flammand’s been a little banged up and we’ve missed all sorts (of players). So, the fact that guys are comfortable playing in all sorts of positions just makes us a little deeper.”
“It’s a very great positive because you want to be able to roll all four lines,” forward Nolan Flammand added. “Last year, we had to roll two, but it was alright. This year it feels really good to always get your rest and come out even stronger.”
Another noticeable change with this group is their physicality, having gotten both younger and smaller this season.
“Last year we were a bit bigger of a team, so this year we have to put more work in as we’re not as strong as last year. But, we’re working very hard, and I think we have better mental health prep than last year,” Flammand said.
“Well again, it’s an evolution,” Scissons stated. “We’re young and that’s part of learning how to play. It’s learning when to take contact, and when to try and get away from it.
“Sometimes you just have to take that hit to make a play. We’ve learned that, and it’s something we’re proud of.”
No matter the differences between last year’s league finalist and this year’s installment of the Blazers, their captain, Carter Stebbings, sees some resemblance between the two teams.
“You know, I see a lot of similarities,” Stebbings said. “Our young guys are playing good, and everybody is working as a team.”
Both Stebbings and Flammand have been pivotal components of the Blazers offence this year combining for 58-points thus far. However, it’s Flammand’s work on the defensive side of the puck that has earned him high praise, and lofty comparisons from his coach.
“He’s a 200-foot hockey player, very good on his faceoffs, very conscientious,” Scissons said.
“He’s like a Pavel Datsyuk for me. He’s a thief on the ice; he knocks a lot of pucks down.”