Young draft pick already feeling 'at home'

WES GILBERTSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

At least he won't have to worry about being bogged down by travel-weary legs.

Nerves? Well, that could be another story.

A Calgary product selected by the hometown Hitmen in the first round of the Western Hockey League bantam draft in March, Peter Kosterman is getting his first taste of major junior hockey this week.

"It feels really good to get going," said Kosterman, 15, a lanky blueliner with a bright future. "There's been all this build-up to it and we're finally getting going, getting rolling.

"(The draft) is past news. I know I've got a lot of work to do. I've just got to keep working hard. I owe it to them to work hard. I owe it to myself to work hard."

The Hitmen opened rookie camp yesterday, with fitness testing for more than 70 newcomers at the Don Hartman North East Sportsplex. Veterans will report for main camp tomorrow.

There's no question Kosterman needs some more seasoning before making the jump to major junior -- he'll try to earn a spot with the Calgary midget AAA Buffaloes -- but he's excited to showcase his skills for Hitmen brass.

A self-described "shutdown defender," he's eager to test his mettle against the other hopefuls in what promises to be an intense series of scrimmages and on-ice sessions.

"I've just got to be myself and bring to the team what I can bring," he said. "Everybody is striving to be the best and prove themselves, so it's a good environment to be in."

Kosterman suited up with the Calgary bantam AAA Bisons last season, which meant plenty of time to audition for Hitmen assistant-coach-turned-bench boss Dave Lowry, whose son Adam captained the team.

That's who everybody will be trying to impress today, when the rookies hit the ice for the first time.

The Hitmen (47-20-1-4) posted the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference in 2007-08, but were swept by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the third round of the playoffs and are left looking for replacements for several key contributors.

Karl Alzner, being touted as the next big thing on the Washington Capitals blueline, and soon-to-be pro forwards Ryan White (Montreal Canadiens) and T.J. Galiardi (Colorado Avalanche) leave some big shoes to fill, while Brock Nixon, who averaged more than a point per game after being shipped to Calgary just before the trade deadline, has graduated from the junior ranks and will skate with the U of C Dinos.

While the rookies are fighting for roster spots, it's the returnees who will be counted on to log more minutes in place of the departed stars.

"That weight and responsibility is going to have to come from the older guys -- the guys that have been here and have been waiting for that opportunity," Lowry said.

The top performers from rookie camp will be invited to stick around to attend main camp. The Hitmen drop the puck on their exhibition slate Tuesday, when they host Red Deer at Centennial Arena.


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