Alzner skates into lead D role

CAM MAXWELL, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

For the first time in recent memory, the Calgary Hitmen defence corps has some big holes to fill.

With the loss of Brett Carson and Jeff Schultz, both of whom turned pro, this season and Craig Lineker to the expansion draft, the WHL club will have plenty of new faces on the back end.

But one familiar face is third-year-veteran Karl Alzner, who will play a major role on the blueline this season and eat up many of the minutes Carson and Schultz used to skate.

"So far it's going to be mostly doing what Cars and Schultz did last year: Getting time on the first powerplay unit and playing plenty of minutes," said Alzner, who turns 18 later this month.

"Also, I've got to take on more of a leadership role this year, especially with all the young guys we've got coming in.

"I've got to take them under my wing."

Not only is it Alzner's third year with the club but it's also his draft year because of his late September 1988 birthday.

"I've been waiting for this ever since the bantam draft," said the 6-ft. 2-in. 200-pounder from Burnaby, B.C., who almost certainly is high on plenty of scouts' lists.

"I can't wait to get the season going and show that I've got what it takes to make the jump to the next level, which has been a goal of mine for years."

Hitmen assistant coach Dave Lowry, who handles the defence corps, knows Alzner's going to be counted on in a big way this season.

"I expect him to be a leader and I know he's very capable of that," said Lowry. "I expect him to put a little more risk in his game and grow as a player.

"Last year he was counted on very heavily and we expect him to continue to develop."

In terms of being more risky, Lowry wants to see Alzner use his good skating ability and jump into the rush a little more when the opportunity presents itself.

That's something the young player was hesitant to do the last two seasons with the team.

Last season, Alzner potted four goals, including the first of his WHL career, and added 20 assists last season but expect him to increase those numbers this year.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old defenceman Dylan Yeo is skating with the club again after breaking a bone in his wrist late last season.

He still doesn't have much range of motion, so Lowry expects it'll be a while yet before Yeo will be able to see any action.


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