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 Brandon Wheat Kings

Murray Sees Hope for Future in Lessons from 2023-24

April 9, 2024 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
Brandon Wheat Kings News Release

Now that 2023-24 is in the rearview mirror, the Wheat Kings' coaching staff are hoping the lessons from it will sink in for the many potential returning players. (photo by Scramble Studio).

Murray Sees Hope For Future In Lessons From 2023-24

The handshakes are done, the lockers are cleaned out, and the members of the 2023-24 Brandon Wheat Kings have begun to go their separate ways. What is always one of the most bittersweet weeks of the season is well underway, and now the Wheat Kings can look back on what they accomplished this season, and speculate about what it means for the future.

Though they were eliminated in four games in the first round by the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Wheat Kings took plenty of positives from their season and saw some promising signs for the future. Mathematically, the Wheat Kings must lose five players from this season, which means plenty of potentially returning players.

"I can't say it was a great success but we certainly made some strides," said Wheat Kings head coach and GM Marty Murray. "When we traded Nate (Danielson) at the deadline, we thought we would compete for a playoff spot. We had our ups and downs, our injury troubles, and guys fought hard through that and we were able to secure a playoff spot. Under the circumstances, we're proud of the guys for that."

That playoff spot turned out to be 6th overall, which meant a first round showdown with the Warriors. Each individual game brought its share of high notes, but a veteran and heavily favored Warriors squad taught the Wheat Kings some harsh lessons.

"At the end of the day, it's a 60-minute game and we never put together a 60 minute effort," Murray said. "That's what hurts you in this league, especially when you're up against elite players."

If there's a silver lining to that cloud, however, it's that so many of the players who learned that lesson (including quite a few key pieces) will return for the team in 2024-25. When they battle for a playoff spot and go into the postseason again, they won't be rookies to the playoffs anymore.

"It's beneficial, for sure, it's now up to the individual on what he takes out of it," Murray said. "Some guys got to play a lot and in situations where they were under pressure, overtime for instance. It's up to the player what he takes out of the experience, to draw from the positives and learn from the negatives."

With that experience under their belts, there will be greater expectations for the Wheat Kings in 2024-25. Much of that heightened expectation will come from the class of 2006-born players, which includes three first-round picks from the 2021 Prospects Draft in Caleb Hadland, Roger McQueen, and Charlie Elick.

"Everybody looks at our team and recognizes our 06 group is kind of our sweet spot," said Murray. "I think all of them made some strides. There were some times where they looked their age a little bit, but overall I think there's some excitement with them. Hopefully they can all have a good summer and be prepared to take their game to that next level."

"We're not happy just being a playoff team," Murray added. "Our next phase of it should be pushing for home ice in the first round of the playoffs and preparing to have a run. That's the goal."

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