Looking to stick

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 5:25 PM ET

Dylan Bellmore nearly cracked the Hitmen lineup a year ago.

After being one of the club's final cuts, he turned his disappointment into determination.

"It was disappointing but, in a way, it was a good thing," Bellmore says. "(The coaches) knew I wasn't prepared to play at this level and I felt the same way.

"I didn't feel I could play to my full potential. So it was good to go back, work on my skills and come back stronger for this year."

The Winnipeg product was selected in the third round of the 2003 bantam draft and is the only player among the top-six Hitmen picks from that year who has yet to nail down a spot with the club.

But with the Hitmen losing their top six forwards from last year's squad, Bellmore should have a good shot this season.

Calgary will be an offensively challenged team this season and the 17-year-old could provide a spark in that area. He scored 22 goals in 32 games last season with the Winnipeg Thrashers AAA midgets.

"I like to get the shot off," Bellmore says. "I think I can put my fair share of pucks in the net but I can also set guys up.

"It's going to be a young team but all the guys are skilled. Guys like (Ryan) White and (Keegan) Dansereau, who played here last year, will lead us rookies into the season."

Bellmore's skating and puck skills were never an issue. It was how he played in his own end that was holding him back.

He says he has worked on the shortcoming.

"The biggest thing I worked on was defence," he says. "I wasn't a strong defensive player because that's just the way I was taught growing up.

"But I learned a lot from my coach last year and it's really helped me progressing through camp this year. It's really paying off for me right now."

Assistant coach Dave Lowry says the jury is still out on Bellmore and the other youngsters hoping to stick with the WHL team.

"He's a guy who has to come in and earn a job," Lowry says. "For him to do that, he has to play to his strengths. If you're a goal scorer and you come in here, you have to score goals.

"But just scoring goals isn't good enough. You have to develop all aspects of your game."

Lowry, who was named to the Hitmen staff last month, didn't see Bellmore at last year's camp. He's reserving judgement until he sees the prospects compete during the exhibition schedule.

"I've only seen him for a week but I think he's starting to make a concentrated effort," Lowry says. "But he has a lot to learn, so he needs to take in the advice he's being given and watch the other guys and see how they work.

"Training camp is one thing. The intensity is there but when you get into playing exhibition the speed gets quicker. And when you get into the regular season, it picks up even more."

The Hitmen open their pre-season schedule in Airdrie Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against Red Deer.


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