Knights ready to make noise as ’16-17 WSHL season approaches
Phoenix Knights first-year coach-GM Mike Bowman knows he’ll have a young team take the ice for the 2016-17 Western States Hockey League (WSHL) season.
And that’s just fine with him.
“The team this year will be mostly new players – some first-year junior players and other vets new to the WSHL,” said Bowman. “It will be a primarily younger team – team that is ripe for development and full of players trying to get to the next level.”
Entering September, the lone returnee from the 2015-16 season was forward Teighan Keller, who will be joined in Phoenix this year by his younger brother, Damion, who will patrol the back end for the Knights.
“For one reason or another, most of the players from last year’s squad chose not to return and that’s something that we aim to change for the better,” Bowman said. “It’s important that what they are being told by the coaching staff is what is offered and delivered. That’s key to establishing that trust and relationship where players want to return for a second year of development, on and off the ice.”
Bowman added that while the game continues to grow in Phoenix, “hockey is here in the desert, and here to stay.”
“Kids can join the junior program at 17 and 18, get their feet wet, then try to move on to the NAHL and beyond,” explained Bowman. “You don’t have to put up great numbers as a young player – it’s an adjustment year. Get used to the level, then go out the next summer to camps and showcases and put into play what you learned all season. That’s the plan for development and advancement.
“Our focus here is on player development. If that’s good enough for playoffs or to win the league, then so be it. We will not sacrifice development and teaching the game to those who are dedicated to take shortcuts to simply win. That’s not what this level of hockey is supposed to be about.”
– Matt Mackinder