Victoria Royals main camp opened Monday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with perhaps this season’s one indispensable player.
Over-age 20-year-old goaltender Griffen Outhouse could be facing a hailstorm of rubber this Western Hockey League season on a young, rebuilding Royals team.
“The last time they said we were rebuilding, was my rookie season in 2015-16, and we accumulated 116 points and won the Scotty Munro Trophy as regular-season champions,” said a defiant Outhouse.
“We have some good players, veterans and younger players, and working together we can be successful.”
But this is still a business. If the Royals are lower pack and not looking to make a challenge come January, and decide to look to the future with young prospects, Outhouse suddenly becomes highly coveted by teams on the verge who believe they are a goaltender away from making a Memorial Cup charge in the spring.
“I can’t worry about things like that. My mind is on being here,” said Outhouse, a fan favourite in his previous three seasons on Blanshard Street.
Again, remember his rookie season.
“The last time outside people thought we would struggle to make the playoffs, we won the Scotty Munro,” said Royals GM Cameron Hope, driving home a plotline fans and media will hear a lot in Royals training camp.
Whatever the outcome, Outhouse is going to savour every minute of his final junior season.
“When I was a rookie, 20-year-olds back then told me it goes by so fast,” he said.
“But you don’t fully understand it when you are a younger junior player.”
Outhouse said he was disappointed not to receive an invitation to an NHL rookie camp this fall.
“I can’t do anything about that except try to work harder,” he said.
That he is vowing to do. This is already not a guy who has shirked from hard work, usually spending as much time on the ice as he can before the Zamboni chases him off.
Over the summer, Outhouse worked in a mine near his hometown of Williams Lake while also instructing at hockey goalie camps in the Interior, Port Alberni and Richmond Oval. His own improvement path is clear in his mind: “I want to play more of a pro game, which means being more simple and clean in the crease.”
Battling for the backup role behind Outhouse are the incumbent Dean McNabb with a challenge from Brock Gould. Other goalies in camp include Keegan Maddocks, Joel Grzybowski and Connor Martin.
“There’s a real battle in the crease [for backup]. I support all of them,” said Outhouse.
Training camp, open to the public, continues today at the Memorial Centre with scrimmage games at 2 p.m., 3:45 and 5:30.
The annual Blue-White intra-squad game is Wednesday at 7 p.m., followed by the first exhibition game Friday in Kelowna against the Rockets.