WENATCHEE — A big part of the Wild’s on-ice success will hinge on how well the team can gel over the next several months.
The season-opening showcase is still weeks away, but players are already hard at work at training camp, putting in long days at Town Toyota Center. Ideally, this will set the foundation for Wenatchee, which could field the youngest team in the North American Hockey League this year.
“Nobody starts out with a team,” Bliss Littler said after training camp Monday. “They start out with 30 individuals. You have to work to become a team and hopefully at some point that happens here with this group. I know we have a lot of good people, we have a lot of good kids. When they choose to become a team and choose to care about each other, that will be up to them.”
Littler hopes team bonds build throughout training camp and continue to grow throughout the season. Just as important, though, the Wild coaching staff is using the camp to test their players’ will and find out who the high-effort skaters are. Those are the type of players Littler wants suiting up this season.
“We want kids that are going to compete, that are going to battle when they get knocked down, that are going get right back up and get their nose in the battle,” the second-year Wild coach said.
Wenatchee has just over 30 players at the camp. It hopes to cut that number to between 25-27 by Saturday.
The Wild could have up to eight high school players on their roster, which is essentially the exact opposite of last year. The Wild’s 2012-13 squad, which competed in the Robertson Cup Championship, was a cast of veteran players and one of the most experienced teams in the NAHL.
Assistant coaches Tom Rudrud and Chris Clark recruited talent from all over, including prospects from Minnesota, the East Coast and junior hockey players from Canadian leagues.
The players have been competing in drills since Friday. To this point, Littler said he’s been pleasantly surprised with the skill level and skating from the participants.
“I’m very happy with the personnel right now,” the bench boss said. “I think we have a group that has a potential to get better every week. And if we get better every week, it could be a good group by the end.”
As training camp continues this week, the coaching staff will get a better idea of what its roster will look like this season. While talent and effort will play a big part in the team’s success level, Littler knows that good chemistry can go a long way.
“The best teams I’ve been around, they’re the ones where people care about each other,” Littler said. “By the time we get to Minnesota (fort the showcase season-opener), that has to be one of our strengths.”