Young defencemen stepping up for Saskatoon Blades

When the Saskatoon Blades traded Libor Zabransky to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Nov. 6, it left the team with just six defencemen on their roster.

With over-agers Nolan Kneen and Scott Walford playing together on the top pairing, it’s created more ice time for some of the Blades’ younger blueliners, and they’re taking full advantage.

The four have just 151 games of WHL experience between them, including rookies Radek Kucerik and Charlie Wright.

Both have impressed the Blades coaching staff with their ability to hold their own against bigger, older players.

“They’ve done a good job of picking up the teaching points that we’ve had, both on and off the ice, and then they’ve both shown the ability to apply those in games,” said associate coach Ryan Marsh.

“There’s just been a ton of growth when you think about the start of the year until now.”

Wright said he is just keeping it simple for the moment.

“My offence will come, but for this year I’m just keeping it a little simple and moving pucks well,” said Wright, who has two assists in 11 games.

The Blades have moved their operation to Warman for the week while the Canada-Russia series takes over SaskTel Centre.

They’re also shorthanded with head coach Mitch Love, captain Chase Wouters and goaltender Nolan Maier all occupied with Team WHL.

Despite the change in routine, however, it’s business as usual for the Blades.

“We’re out of our rink, but we’re embracing that and so far it’s been a really good week of practice,” Marsh said.

The Blades have two home games before they embark on their biannual U.S. road trip.

“It’s really important that we take care of our home games before we hop on that bus for essentially two weeks,” Marsh said.

“That’s been our focus … get as prepared as we can to play two really good games this weekend at home.”

The Blades take on the Calgary Hitmen at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, and the Moose Jaw Warriors the following afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

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