BRYAN WILSON – 09.12.2023

It’s time for the rubber to hit the road.

Or, more specifically, the rubber to hit the ice.

The countdown to the Flames and Wranglers seasons kicks into drive with the 2023 Prospects camp, which gets underway at Winsport on Thursday before transferring to Penticton, B.C. for the annual Young Stars Classic tournament.

After a bustling offseason for new Wranglers head coach, Trent Cull, one that included relocating to Calgary with his family, getting his kids settled into school, and familiarizing himself with his new digs, it’s finally time to hang the whistle back around his neck.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s just nice for us to get back together and get the hockey juices flowing. You just look forward to getting out on the ice, those first steps back out on the ice for that first practice; it’s fun and I’m looking forward to that again this year.”

With the start to the Wranglers’ sophomore season only a month away, Cull is confident there will be plenty of time to focus on the X’s and O’s for the upcoming campaign, once the roster is set.

For now, he views the Young Stars Classic as an opportunity for himself and his coaches to tighten up and get back into a rhythm, while getting to know the fresh-faced group of Flames’ hopefuls and spend more time with the returnees.

“It’s good to get back behind the bench,” he explained. “It’s not a tournament where you’re overloading the players with systems, it’s more just about getting the group on the same page. It happens quick. You have practice, pregame skate, and then you’re playing games, so it’s about making sure everybody is comfortable.”

This week marks the first time since July’s development camp that the players will skate together as a full group. It comes with an added competitive element, with games slated against the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets prospects.

While Cull expects to see some rust early on, he’s confident the players will be prepared after the off-season and come into camp ready to impress.

“This is what they’ve been training and preparing for all summer,” he explained. “We want everybody to be aggressive and want them to get out there and feel good about themselves.

“Whether at main camp or Penticton, we want to see the guys putting their best foot forward, putting themselves in the best position to make the Calgary Flames.”

When it comes to the Wranglers, specifically, Cull is clear about how he’ll want his group to play this season, which will mirror new Flames’ bench boss Ryan Huska’s philosophy.

“We want to play fast; we want to be an ‘in-your-face team’. We want to be a team that’s exciting to watch, for sure, but also a team that’s stingy,” Cull described.

“We are going to have to create ways to score goals and we’ll need to find ways to be dynamic and create offence.”