CORNER BROOK Ross Coates is planning on making life tough on teams coming to the Hodder this winter.
The president of the Western Royals is focused on building a roster that will bring a physical brand of hockey to the smaller venue in Deer Lake the team now calls home in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
The signing of six-foot-four defenceman Nathan Saunders — a native of Charlottetown, P.E.I with an abundance of pro experience — is a sign of things to come. Saunders becomes the first import signed by the team for the 2012-13 season. He is a hard-nosed defenceman who played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and spent last season playing senior hockey in the rough and tumble Quebec league.
Believing size matters, the president also beefed up the team through the trade route by acquiring rugged forward Ryan Penney from the Gander Flyers in exchange for offensive-minded forward Andrew White. Penney is known around the league as an agitator who plays with grit, and somebody Coates says will fit in with the team’s desire to punish opposing teams.
“I think Penney can bring us as much as Whitey did, probably a bit more,” he said, noting the team also traded defenceman Brad Slaney to the Flyers for slick-skating rearguard Stephen Simms, a former Deer Lake Red Wing who toiled in the college hockey ranks earlier in his career.
City native Andrew Smith, a six-foot-five, 240-pound forward, is one of the team’s territorial picks, and Coates is hoping to talk hockey with him when he returns from St. John’s next week. The president said Smith is staying home this year to attend university and has expressed an interest in playing senior hockey with the Western Royals.
Allowed to sign a maximum of four imports, he has three import cards open and is involved in talks with six players, two of whom had import status with the team last year — Brad Woods and Jordan Bonneville. He has a group assembled to deal with the recruitment of players, including Western Royals winger and National Hockey League veteran Darren Langdon.
To shore up the blue-line Coates has added former Royal Ashley Coles, the team’s other territorial pick. Coates said Coles, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is being transferred to Baie Verte later this month.
Brad Dyke was given the No. 1 goalie job with the Royals last season, and there were critics who felt the team needs to have a better No. 1 to compete in a league with elite-level netminders like Jason Churchill of the Clarenville Caribous and Mark Yetman of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
Coates isn’t among those who lost faith in Dyke. He confirmed Wednesday that Dyke would be the No. 1 goalie again this year.