Hitting the weights

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

The youngsters on the Calgary Hitmen know what lies ahead in the off-season: Train, train, and train some more. The goal for the kids next season is to come into the WHL team's training camp, which starts in four months, in the best possible shape.

But first, said forward Ryan White, comes a little rest and relaxation.

"I'm going to lay around for a couple of weeks, look back on the season and see what I can improve on for next year," said White, one of the promising Hitmen rookies in 2004

"I just want to come into camp in a lot better shape and ready to go. It's a 72-game season and it's a grind, plus hopefully four rounds in the playoffs and that's another 28 games.

"Playing against bigger, older guys the whole season has been a grind. If I could tell any other 16-year-old coming in, I'd say come in a lot better shape than I did, because they won't know how tough it is until they actually get here."

White, who is from Brandon, scored nine goals and added 14 assists in 2004-05, decent rookie numbers, but he really tailed off in the final two and a half months of the campaign when he failed to bulge the twine.

"I didn't come into this year in as good a shape as I should have," said White, adding he's still recuperating from the WHL playoff run, which ended earlier this week with a loss to his hometown Wheat Kings in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.

"So it's going to be a lot of hard work this summer and hopefully I can come in really good shape for camp and get a good start to the season."

Rookie blueliner Alex Plante, who doesn't turn 16 until May 9 but played more like a 17-year-old throughout the playoffs, echoed White's thoughts.

"The guys here are much stronger than in midget and I'm going to train a lot harder and work as a hard as I can just to be ready for my first year," said the Brandon product, who is still smarting because his older brother, Tyler, backstopped the Wheat Kings to the series win over the Hitmen.

Many young Hitmen players, like centre Riley Merkley, a gangly, 6-ft. 3-in., 178-lb. 18-year-old, will need to get stronger for next season, said Hitmen GM and co-coach Kelly Kisio.

With his first two lines ending their junior careers this season, Kisio is going to need guys like Merkley (15g, 12a) and Brodie (Moose) Dupont (14g, 11a) to step up and provide more scoring next year.

"Merkley definitely has the talent and the smarts to score 20 or 30 goals but he can't do that unless he's stronger. He's a tall kid but he's all bones," Kisio said.


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