Hitmen eye net gains

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Goal judges will need to wake up and dust off that seldom-used button.

The Calgary Hitmen are going to score some goals this year.

And they'll need to.

The Justin Pogge era is over. Named the top goaltender in all of junior hockey last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who re-wrote the Hitmen record book has moved on to the pro ranks.

Gone, too, are twin towers Brett Carson and Jeff Schultz, who logged nearly 30 minutes a game on the blueline during last spring's playoffs.

The 2006-07 Hitmen will have a new starter between the pipes -- likely two-year backup Daniel Spence -- and several new faces on the back end.

But the forward ranks haven't been this deep in years, said GM/head coach Kelly Kisio.

"Hopefully, we won't have to win the 2-1 and 3-2 games this year," Kisio said prior to rookie camp kicking off this morning.

"We should be able to bust loose a little more often this year.

"The guys are a year older and they're stronger so I think we'll score our share of goals."

The club returns four full lines of veteran forwards but Kisio cautioned not all of them are guaranteed to be around when the regular season opens Sept. 22.

"You have to have some turnover all the time," he said. "If you don't bring in any guys this year, you'll be in a tough situation next year.

"There might have to be some changes. We'll see what happens at training camp."

Four overagers will compete for three spots.

Blueliner Dylan Yeo has one sewn up. Returnees Derek LeBlanc and Steve Covington will battle it out with Matt Isbister (younger brother of Boston Bruins forward, Brad), who played the past two seasons in the NCAA with Clarkson University.

New York Rangers prospect Brodie Dupont, 19, will be counted on to lead the charge offensively and he's looking forward to playing more of an up-tempo game.

"I always like to score goals," said Dupont, who scored a team-high 30 markers last season.

"If we can score five goals a game, it's a lot more fun than winning 1-0.

"But you still have to play defence to win in this league."

Swedish winger Freddie Pettersson will also be relied on to provide an offensive spark as will countryman Robin Figren, selected in last spring's CHL import draft.

TOP PICK ABSENT: Rookie camp gets underway this morning with intrasquad games slated for this afternoon at the Don Hartman Northeast Sportsplex.

But the coaching staff will have to wait a while before it gets a look at Brendon Rowinski, the club's top pick (13th overall) in the '05 bantam draft.

Due to a number of injuries, Rowinski played in just 13 games with the AAA midget Winnipeg Thrashers (four goals, 12 points) in '05-06.

He had shoulder surgery Aug. 15 and isn't expected back until at least November.

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FIVE HITMEN TO WATCH:

BRODIE DUPONT -- The third-year winger led the Hitmen with 30 goals last year.

KARL ALZNER -- A third-year blueliner, Alzner is the best of the team's u-20 defenceman and could be an NHL first-rounder.

RYAN WHITE -- The hard-working centre was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens this summer.

BRETT SONNE -- He'll be playing in his second season and can put the puck in the net.

DYLAN YEO -- Playing in his final WHL season, the 20-year-old defenceman should provide plenty of huge hits and some offence.


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