The future is bright for the Fort Saskatchewan Midget AAA Rangers.
Despite moving eight players up into junior hockey from last year's squad, the returnees have no shortage of experience in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League.
The strong core starts upfront with the return of Jacob Boucher from the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Alex Thacker from the Swift Current Broncos. Thacker was second on the team in scoring last season with 37 points, while Boucher chipped in with 21.
David Dach and Daron Cyr will wear the Ranger red and blue once again. Cyr, a 7th round draft pick of the Swift Current Broncos, spent last season with the Northern Alberta Elite 15s.
"They're all guys that played a big part of this team last year," said head coach Ty Valin. "We're going to rely on those guys especially early as we get into the season since they're familiar with everything."
Blair Boulerice and Nate Ibraheem will bring energy to a group that will need some forwards to step into top-six roles.
The Rangers are expected to get Sebastian Cossa back between the pipes this season. During the Fort's playoff run last year, Cossa posted a stellar .943 save percentage.
From the Fort Sask Minor Midget Rangers, leading scorer Blake Hammel will make the jump. Hammel had 35 points in 36 games last season.
The Fort went 1-2-2 in the preseason, with their lone win coming at home against the Knights of Columbus Pats.
"It's the start of the year so there's lots of things to work on, but we're going to focus on keep playing a solid defensive game," added Valin.
Valin will be joined behind the bench by assistants Brett Cox, Wendell Hodgson and Jordan Sinatynski.
Fort Saskatchewan will kick off the regular season Saturday (Sept.29) against the Sherwood Park Kings, face off from the JRC is 7:45 p.m.