When the Saskatoon Blades announced their first and second set of cuts this past weekend at their training camp, Turner Ottenbreit was thrilled that his name wasn’t on the lists.
“I really want to spend the entire season with the Blades,” said Ottenbreit, who was selected 261st overall by the Blades in the 2012 bantam draft. “It would be great to get to play in the Western Hockey League. It’s a great league and would be a great opportunity. I think I’m ready to make the jump.”
Ottenbreit hasn’t cracked the Blades just yet, though. The major junior club will make more cuts throughout pre-season. The 16-year-old Yorkton native is fully aware of this and knows he has to keep the pedal to the metal to stick in the City of Bridges.
“It’s very competitive here,” said the 6-foot-1, 170-pound defenceman. “A lot of guys are looking to make the team, so there is a lot of competition. I just have to keep on working hard and hopefully things will work out for me.”
There is plenty of opportunity on Saskatoon’s back end in their MasterCard Memorial Cup hangover season. They only have two defenders, Graeme Craig and Nelson Nogier, returning from last season. They also only had two other blueliners, Ayrton Nikkel and Kevin Pochuk, at camp with WHL experience.
“Everyone knows there are lots of spots up for grabs,” said Ottenbreit. “They just hosted the Memorial Cup and had a lot of players graduate from junior.”
Ottenbreit put himself on the map at Blades camp by playing a physical game. He stayed in position well while having an active stick and throwing his weight around.
“I think I played to my strengths well,” he said. “I tried to be physical and just keep it simple out there. I want to be a defenceman that is known for being really good in my own end.”
In the nerve-racking process of trying to stick with the Blades, Ottenbreit doesn’t have to look far for puck advice. His father, Grant Ottenbreit, had a successful professional hockey career, spending three seasons in the East Coast Hockey League.
“I always lean on my dad for advice and tips,” he said. “He always has helpful tips and knows how to explain to me areas of my game that I need to work on. It’s great to have a dad that knows the game.”
In his 15-year-old season last year, Ottenbreit played for the Yorkton Harvest in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. He took significant steps in his game as a rookie, going on to be named the club’s most improved player.
“I was really happy with how my season went with the Harvest,” said Ottenbreit, who scored four goals and 16 points in 42 games. “I thought I improved a lot and started to make a big impact in the second half of the season.”