Sonne all set to shine

SCOTT FISHER

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

With both Ryan White and T.J. Galiardi turning pro, there's a massive hole in the middle of the Calgary Hitmen lineup.

But head coach Dave Lowry likely won't have to look far to find his new No. 1 centre.

Brett Sonne looks like he'll be a perfect fit for those oversized skates.

"Obviously, his role is going to expand," Lowry said before adding, "if he can stay healthy."

Sonne's health appears to be the only roadblock standing in his way of becoming a premier player in the WHL.

After following up his 12-goal rookie campaign with 21 tallies in his sophomore season, the Maple Ridge, B.C., product was expected to take another step forward last season.

He did just that, potting six goals and a dozen points in the first 10 games.

But he busted his leg Nov. 2 in Cranbrook and didn't return to the lineup until Feb. 8. Another injury later that month put him back on the shelf. He ended up missing 43 games in all and finished with just eight goals and 20 points in 29 games.

"Before he got hurt last year, he was one of the top scorers in the league," Lowry said.

"We expect him to get back to that level."

If yesterday was any indication, it appears Sonne is ready to pick up the torch.

He scored a hat-trick, including the game-winner, as he led Team White to a 4-3 win in the annual Black & White Game.

Justin Moir also scored for the victors while Justin Rose potted a pair and Mackenzie Royer chipped in with a single for the black squad.

Sonne, a third-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, says he's ready to be the club's go-to guy.

"That's what I'm working for," he said of being the No. 1 centre.

"It's been a long process, but I've put the work in and I'm ready to take a leadership role, not just off the ice but on the scoreboard."

Sonne didn't look like the same player after he returned from the two injuries.

Lowry said the 6-foot, 187-pounder wasn't able to get back to full stride after sitting in the pressbox for more than half the season.

"When you break your leg and you don't play for three months, it takes some time," Lowry said.

"But I think it was a valuable lesson learned that when you're hurt, there's a lot of rehab and conditioning you have to do.

"When you miss a large part of the season, everyone else is moving forward and you're stuck for a while. You're playing catch-up the whole year."

Sonne, who had a goal and four points during the Hitmen's 16-game run to the Eastern Conference final, said the injury woes made him mentally tough and hungrier.

"It was tough, but I think you learn from things like that," Sonne said. "I think I got mentally stronger.

"It was tough to get back on skates in the playoffs, but I'm not using that as an excuse.

"Things could have went better for us."

Sonne and older brother Brennan, as well as teammate Ian Schultz, will leave for the Blues camp Sept. 11.

Hit Parade

Four goaltenders suited up for yesterday's camp-ending intra-squad game.

Returnee Marty Jones and Michael Snider surrendered one goal in 30 minutes of work. David Aime (two goals) and Chase Komistek (three goals) also played.

Dan Spence sat out as did the other four overage candidates.

The Hitmen host the Red Deer Rebels tomorrow (7 p.m., Centennial Arena).


Photos