With six Victoria Royals away at NHL rookie camps, there is no more opportune time for the younger aspirants to state their cases to make the team. But few of the Royals’ bubble players did much to distinguish themselves Thursday in a 3-0 Western Hockey League pre-season loss to the Vancouver Giants before an announced crowd of 1,339 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“You know the characteristic of our team. We don’t get outworked. Tonight we got outworked,” said Victoria head coach Dave Lowry.
“It’s up to these guys to make our decisions tough. They have to show us they belong in the lineup.”
One of the best Royals player on the ice was one who can only play five games this season because he is 15 years old — 2014 first-round bantam draft pick Scott Walford.
“When a 15-year-old is one of your sharpest defencemen, it tells you something,” said Lowry.
But Lowry also added: “You have to keep things in perspective … we had a relatively young lineup.”
Coleman Vollrath, this season’s acknowledged starter in the nets, went the distance Thursday and made 26 saves. Victoria managed only 17 shots on Ryan Kubic, who recorded the shutout for Vancouver.
“I thought in the previous pre-season games, our record [a Western Conference-worst and WHL second-worst 1-3-2] was not indicative of our work ethic,” said Vollrath.
“But tonight we got outworked in the first two periods. We had a good third period but it was too little, too late. We need to play harder right from puck drop because in the regular season we want to start fast.”
There will be some anxious nights among the bubble boys as the Royals conclude the preseason Saturday in Kelowna against the Rockets.
“We didn’t come out with the best start but we will bounce back against Kelowna,” said Ralph Jarratt, a 16-year-old rookie defenceman trying to make the grade.
“A lot of guys are still battling for spots. You just have to play your game and things will fall where they fall.”
Among the most lauded rookies is 16-year-old forward and 2013 first-round bantam selection Dante Hannoun, who showed some moxie Thursday.
“I thought I had a good game but I have to bear down more on chances,” said the native of Delta.
“We have to battle harder next game.”
Hannoun addressed the uncertainty of being on the bubble.
“I’m trying to put that aside and do what I do best and, hopefully, I will crack the lineup,” he said.
“I do believe I’m ready for this level.”
A pair of young players who the Royals don’t think are ready yet — forwards Matthew Phillips and Matthew Dykstra — were sent home to Alberta on Wednesday where they’ll play midget or Junior A.
Meanwhile, veteran Jack Walker sat out Thursday’s game.
Vancouver head coach Troy Ward, meanwhile, wasn’t reading too much into the result as his team went to 2-2-1.
“It was a typical exhibition game … and they [Royals] are missing more guys [to NHL camps] than we are,” said the former ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings coach.
“In general, I’m happy with how we played. I liked our structure compared to last week, and that’s a huge stride at this [junior] level.”
It starts counting for real when the Royals open the regular season Sept. 19 in Kamloops against the Blazers. The Victoria home opener is Sept. 26 at the Memorial Centre against the Blazers.