Conner Bruggen-Cate is coming home.
The Kelowna Rockets rookie left winger is set to play in his hometown Friday, Sept. 18, when the Rockets meet the Vancouver Giants in a Western Hockey League pre-season contest at the Langley Events Centre.
Bruggen-Cate, 16, who played all his minor hockey with the Langley Minor Hockey Association from initiation to second-year bantam, is looking to make an impression with the Rockets after being drafted by Kelowna in the sixth round of the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
“It’s a big transition,” Bruggen-Cate told the Langley Advance Sunday afternoon, the day after he and the Rockets edged the Kamloops Blazers 4-3 in pre-season action. “It’s a lot faster.”
In his final year of bantam in 2013/14, Bruggen-Cate scored 31 times and added 47 assists to go along with 80 penalty minutes in 72 games.
Last season, with Yale Academy in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League’s Prep Division, he found the net three times along with five assists in 19 games.
So far in the WHL pre-season, Bruggen-Cate picked up a primary assist in the Rockets’ 3-2 win over the Prince George Cougars on Sept. 5, and will be looking to record his second WHL point Friday versus the Giants.
Helping him make the step to major junior is “lots of training and support” from his Yale Hockey Academy instructer Brad Bowen.
Now, Bruggen-Cate is adjusting the rigours of the fast and competitive league nicknamed “The Dub.”
“Mainly, you have to be mentally prepared,” Bruggen-Cate said. “I have to keep my head up and keep my feet moving, and don’t get down on myself.”
With three pre-season games under his belt going into Friday’s contest, Bruggen-Cate, who describes himself as a “playmaking power forward,” has embraced the challenge.
And he knows there’s lots of room for development.
“I have to get faster,” said Bruggen-Cate, who hopes to build upon his 6’1” 185-pound frame. “I’d like to get bigger in the weight room.”
Playing in the greatest professional league in the world is a dream of Bruggen-Cate’s.
“Like every kid, I’d like to get drafted into the NHL,” he said. “I’d love to play there, eventually.”
For the here and now, Bruggen-Cate wants to play well in front of friends and family in Langley.
“You’re always nervous,” he said. “I just hope everything goes well.”
Game time at the LEC on Friday is 7 p.m.
FINAL BUZZER: Friday’s game is part of home-and-home weekend series between the Rockets and Giants. The teams meet again Saturday in Kelowna.