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Warriors development camp a success as team turns attention toward next season

Total of 27 players take part in event designed to familiarize young up-and-coming players with WHL team
Action from the Moose Jaw Warriors development camp this past weekend at the Barkman Arena in Caronport.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- It just might have been the shortest off-season in history.

It was on Sunday, June 2 that the Moose Jaw Warriors held their final event of the 2023-24 Western Hockey League season -- a massive parade and celebration for the first-ever WHL championship.

A mere four days later, it was time to officially start getting ready for the 2024-25 campaign.

The Warriors held their first development camp since 2019 this past weekend in Moose Jaw and at the Barkman Arena in Caronport, offering a chance for 27 of the team’s up-and-coming youngsters and their families to familiarize themselves with the club.

It was also a chance for Warriors general manager Jason Ripplinger and his coaching staff to get a look at how older players have developed and see what their class from the 2024 Prospects Draft looks like.

And on that note, things couldn’t have gone better.

“It was great, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm and the future looks bright,” Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary said in an interview with the Warriors’ Marc Smith. “Coming off a season like we did, it’s nice to have a weekend like this where you can turn the page and look to see there’s more coming.”

One of the main themes of camp was everyone getting to know one another, from the players to the coaching staff, in order to make the transition to the WHL that much smoother.

“When we bring these players in, it’s a chance to get them familiar with the staff, the organization and the city, and then when they come back for camp they’re familiar with everything,” Ripplniger said during a break from watching the Moose Jaw Miller Express on Saturday night. “But you don’t want them to be comfortable, you want them to be a little bit uncomfortable so they know that if you play here, you have to earn what you get.”

Some of that was accomplished through meetings with players and their parents, and players were also put through fitness testing in order to get a baseline on the youngest and to see how the older ones had progressed.

“When these guys come in in the fall, they’re going to be playing older players and this gives them an idea of where they are,” Ripplinger said.

“You look at fitness testing as an example, some guys might not have done well on the beep test, so they know come fall they have to be in better shape and show they’ve made some improvements. That’s why we keep a database, so in year one, year two and year three, if they keep on improving we know they’re putting the work in during the summer.”

As for the on-ice sessions -- the players and coaches hit the ice on Friday afternoon and twice on Saturday -- it was a matter of just getting a feel for what to expect.

“The first session was the first session, the guys were rusty and most of them hadn’t been on skates for awhile, but overall, I thought guys competed hard,” Ripplinger said. “They looked good, they have some skills, guys who can skate really well, so the future looks good.”

O’Leary himself was happy with what he saw from his future troops and their first steps into the Warriors organization.

“That’s what it’s all about, getting them familiar with what we value as an organization,” O’Leary said. “Taking pride in passing, angling skills, taking pucks around the boards, races and battles are always first and foremost. It was a good weekend for that and we had a lot of fun doing it.”

The next order of business for the Warriors will be the CHL Import Draft on July 3, after which there will be a chance to take a bit of actual time off before training camp begins in early September.

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