Braxton Whitehead and Parker Berge are among the players that are expected to lead the Regina Pats in 2023-24

When the Regina Pats begin their season on Friday, September 23, in Brandon, there will be plenty of changes with the squad.

Behind the bench, Brad Herauf is the new man in charge after he took over from John Paddock as the hockey club’s head coach earlier this summer.

Inside the locker room, there will be new voices representing the leadership of the team as Captain Connor Bedard(Chicago), defenceman Stanislav Svozil (Columbus) and Alexander Suzdalev (Washington) are all expected to move on to the professional ranks.

One player who is ready to become a leader for what is shaping to be a young Pats squad is Braxton Whitehead.

Pats Braxton Whitehead. Photo: Keith Hershmiller

Whitehead felt much better in this year’s training camp after recovering from an appendectomy last summer just before the 2022-23 training camp began.

“I’m really blessed to be skating right now, I really missed out last year and it sucked and I’m glad that I’m here.”

Last season, Whitehead wore an “A” as an assistant and said he gained valuable information from last year’s leadership group led by Bedard.

“Having Connor (Bedard) on our team was a once-in-a-lifetime event, he’s an exceptional player and he lives up to the hype.” Whitehead added, “I think he taught us a lot about how he plays and how to be creative on the ice, I think each one and every one of us is going to implement those things on the ice into our own game just to make us a better team overall.”

One of the 20-year-old players in camp with the Pats is defenceman Parker Berge.

Pats Parker Berge. Photo: Keith Hershmiller

Just like his handshake, the Edmonton native will try to get a firm grasp on a leadership role in Regina.

Berge commented at camp on how quickly time had passed, as he is entering his final season in the Western Hockey League.

“Spent all of this kind of working up the chain and then when you finally get up here, it feels weird being the oldest guy in camp.”

Joining Berge as the other 20-year-old in camp is forward Zack Stringer. 2003-born goalie Drew Sim will be out indefinitely to begin the 2023-24 regular season as he recovers from a lower-body injury.

Berge believes guiding younger players is a shared responsibility among the 20-year-olds and experienced team members.

“The main thing is that they (veterans) come and show the leadership and kind of instill that into the young guys and try to create a kind of passion for the game that we all have.”

Whitehead is ready to take the initiative of setting an example for the Pats.

“I’m one of the older guys, I’m 19 now, I think it’s important that I step up, especially off the ice, you know getting everybody feeling happy and excited, be a big locker room guy, and then on the ice, I need to perform and show leadership.”

Tuesday night will mark the end of training camp as they hold their annual Blue and White scrimmage at the Brandt Centre at 6:00.

The Pats will host the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday evening in the first game of their exhibition game. The two teams will meet in Brandon the following night.

Next week, Regina will host Saskatoon on Wednesday, September 13, before they finish the preseason in Prince Albert on Friday, September 15.

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