New Chiefs coach Dan Lambert praises players for quick adjustment
It’s only been a few days, but first-year Spokane Chiefs coach Dan Lambert is already impressed by what he’s seen from his young squad.
On Thursday, Spokane’s 62-man roster split into three teams for training camp, with each team competing against the other two twice. The three-day camp was just enough for Lambert to get his first good look at this year’s talent and to implement a few of his coaching strategies, some of which have already been tested out on the ice.
“It’s like you’ve barely had a chance to sell the system you’re trying to play and they’re already buying in, and that’s encouraging,” Lambert said.
What’s even more encouraging is the intensity he saw from his 21 returners, including Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick Kailer Yamamoto.
The Chiefs failed to get to postseason last season after going 27-33-8-4 in the Western Hockey League.
“The veteran players, we’re a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year … and they’re not happy about that,” Lambert said. “It hurt a little bit that they didn’t make the playoffs because there’s a lot of skill in that dressing room and they believe they’re capable of more.”
After Saturday’s final practice game between Team Ryan and Team Johnson – named after former Chiefs standouts and current NHL players Derek Ryan and Tyler Johnson – Lambert began making cuts.
The Chiefs will cut the roster to about 40 ahead of Sunday’s annual Red-White Game, which could feature quite a few younger prospects who have stood out to Lambert throughout the week.
“There’s a couple of 16-year-olds that I think have shown real well and now it’s just a matter of them having another good scrimmage against a better lineup. Hopefully, they can push some of our vets,” Lambert said.
The Chiefs plan to cut roughly 10 more players after the scrimmage game, giving Lambert enough to work with before Spokane’s exhibition games in Everett next weekend.
Lambert expects the scrimmage will be a “highly competitive” showing of young talent vying for roster spots.
“(It’s) going to be a fast-paced game,” Lambert said. “You’re going to see players now realizing that, ‘Hey, I’m not that far away from playing in the Western Hockey League and for the Spokane Chiefs.’ Hopefully, they approach it that way.”