With only a 24-game schedule in the Regina hub, the Moose Jaw Warriors will be looking to develop their younger talent this WHL season.
The Warriors have eight first-year players and one affiliate player on the roster.
The youngest of those players are 16-year-olds Denton Mateychuk and Jagger Firkus and 15-year-old affiliate player Brayden Yager.
“These 24 games everybody is vying for a spot for next year, so bringing in the two guys, the 16-year-olds, we felt those two guys are the most ready and bringing in Jager, well, he's played a year in a little bit I guess of Midget AAA and we felt that he's ready to come in and contribute,” said Warriors assistant general manager Jason Ripplinger.
Seven of the eight first-year players did spend some time with the Warriors last season with the exception of forward Rily Niven, who signed with Moose Jaw shortly before they went into isolation in Regina.
Ripplinger said playing the younger players is a difficult balance between developing players and winning.
“You want to bring in some of those other younger players that we haven't seen for almost a year now, but at the end of the day, we brought in two quality 20-year-olds in (Brad) Ginell and (Riley) Krane. Obviously (Tate) Popple’s here already, but we brought those guys in just to show some leadership.”
Brett Mirwald is entering his first season in goal for the Warriors alongside veteran Boston Bilous. The Warrior's seventh-round pick in 2018 had a 22-7 record with the Saskatoon U18 Blazers last season and was named the U18 goalie MVP.
Along the blueline, the Warriors have Mateychuk, Lucas Brenton and Max Wanner making their full-time debuts.
A first-round pick for the Warriors, Mateychuk had 30 points in 30 games for the Eastmen Selects in the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League last year. He suited up for seven games with the Warriors in 2020 and had two goals.