Kootenay has had some younger reinforcements in the lineup for the last few games, as Austin Wellsby and Dylan Overdyk have been getting their feet wet in the WHL.
The two 1997-born prospects were called up after the Christmas break to help alleviate the absences of Sam Reinhart and Troy Murray, both of whom are away competing in international tournaments.
With Reinhart and Murray gone, the Ice are currently carrying eight defencemen and 12 forwards.
Wellsby is a forward with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget League, while Overdyk patrols the blue line for MLAC United Cycle Maple Leafs out of Edmonton in the AMHL.
They were prospects out of the 2013 bantam draft; Overdyk was taken in the second round while Wellsby was later chosen in the fourth round.
The two survived the first round of cuts at training camp and got in some exhibition games before getting released back to Midget hockey with a laundry list of things to work on.
Both came in on Boxing Day and will take off after Sunday’s game against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“I got the call about two weeks before I came here,” said Wellsby. “I was pretty excited, really looked forward to it, and it’s been really exciting so far.”
Wellsby has played in the bottom-six of the forward corps and appeared in two games, while Overdyk has had to step into all three games on the back end.
With the absence of Tanner Faith, who will miss the rest of the season to injury, Overdyk has had to take on a bigger role.
“You definitely got to raise your level of compete to fit the roles that need to be fit,” Overdyk said. “With Faith being gone, he’s a huge part of the team, he plays all positions and being called up to fill those roles is definitely a big honour, too.”
Both Overdyk and Wellsby note the challenges of stepping up from Midget into the WHL as the pace is faster and players are stronger.
That being said, both have adapted well and received positive feedback from coaches Jay Henderson and Mike Dyck.
“They like how we’re playing so far, so just keep going, keep better every game, try to learn something new every practice, and I’ve definitely learned a lot so far during my experience up here,” said Wellsby.
Both have yet to make an impact on the scoresheet, however, the coaching staff have given them an idea of what they’re looking for.
“Just gotta play with a power forward role—just get pucks deep,” continued Wellsby. “They [coaches] were talking with me earlier, just got to try and draw penalties, battle down low, make plays.”
Said Overdyk: “Definitely want to be a shutdown defenceman—need to be a shutdown defenceman—but also want to chip in offensively. I feel like I have a lot of potential and can grow, I just need to learn more about the game.”
Henderson noted that though both are young, they are learning what it takes to compete in the WHL full-time.
“They’ve been fine,” said Henderson. “With Austin Wellsby, obviously it’s his first taste of it and he’s all eyes and ears right now soaking it all in and that’s the whole point of being here.
“Dylan Overdyk, same thing—I thought he’s been fine. The game is still a little faster than the level that he’s been used to, but they seem to be fine and in practice they seem to be great as well.”