Ryan Gropp, the BCHLs reigning Interior Conference Rookie of the Year, wants to take his game to another level.
“I definitely want to be a go-to guy. I think I can be relied upon for lots of the offence,” said Gropp, who last season scored 12 goals and finished with 31 points in 50 games. “I’m expecting big things out of myself.”
The Vees coaching staff have the same expectations. Fred Harbinson had a chat with the 17-year-old and said the goal for Gropp should be to be one elite players in the BCHL.
“He’s going to have to ramp up his intensity every single shift. When he’s on, he is one of the best players in the league,” said Harbinson. “He’s willing to do that. He wants that. I fully expect him to accomplish the goal of being one of the best players in the league. If he does that, that’s going to help us win a lot of hockey games.”
During a 2-0 win Monday night against the West Kelowna Warriors in the South Okanagan Events Centre, Gropp displayed a few of the moves he’s known for. During the second period, he beat Warriors goalie Steve Myland five-hole with a wrist shot.
Gropp, an alumni of the Okanagan Hockey Academy, said training camp was good for him. He’s found early chemistry playing alongside captain Brad McClure and Ben Dalpe, brother of former Vee Zac Dalpe.
“We’re good friends off the ice so it helps us going onto the ice,” said Gropp.
The Kamloops minor hockey product said he felt good against the Warriors in his exhibition debut. As the game went on, he felt he got better.
“I thought I played pretty well, was getting chances and getting the puck deep,” said Gropp, who over the summer made it his goal to get stronger and faster.
The Vees wrapped up their training camp on Aug. 24, playing their first exhibition game, a 3-3 tie with the Warriors on Aug. 25 in West Kelowna. Harbinson said camp went well and liked how the players came together. Harbinson also said the pace was good.
“I think we learned a lot about our team. We have a few more tough decisions to make after tomorrow (Wednesday) night,” said Harbinson, whose team is dealing with player illness as Cody DePourcq, Matt Serratore and Shane Bennett, brother of Beau Bennett, all have the flu.
“There wasn’t really any disappointments that came to camp,” said Harbinson. “Sometimes it’s not about what you didn’t do, it’s maybe what somebody else did. Everybody has given their best shot at trying to make the team.”
In other Vees news, the current roster shows that Brock Balson has been suspended as of Aug.13 for failure to report to training camp. Harbinson, also the Vees general manager, clarified that the team decided to move him. While Balson was a good player for the Vees last season, the Vees coaching staff decided to go with a younger player. Balson informed the Vees of the teams he had interest in joining, but they were full.
“He made a decision that he was going to go to school,” said Harbinson. “You put him on a list just so that if he changes his mind, we can add him again and move him to where he wants to go. It’s not like he did anything wrong.”