It is Barry Dewar's job to be optimistic about the Kamloops Storm, but he seems genuinely excited about this KIJHL season.
Dewar, the owner and general manager of the junior B team, said Monday that head coach Ed Patterson had trimmed the roster down to 30 players. Those 30 will lead Kamloops into its first exhibition game, scheduled for Wednesday, 7 p.m., against the 100 Mile House Wranglers at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
"We have a very, very strong team," Dewar said. "We are very good up front (at forward)."
The Storm is scheduled to play four exhibition games before opening the KIJHL regular season on Sept. 13 against the Grizzlies in Revelstoke. The Storm's home-opener is scheduled for Sept. 14, against the Sicamous Eagles.
A lot can - and most likely, will - change between now and then, but Dewar said the Storm, which held its camp last week, will be a contender. The Storm went 18-28-2-4 and finished fourth in the Doug Birks Division last season, before losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Dewar said the Storm has three returning defencemen, one returning goaltender and at least nine returning forwards.
Dewar also confirmed that Brock Balson, who spent parts of three seasons in the WHL before playing in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees last season, has been skating with the Storm.
Dewar said Balson, a Kamloops native, is on the Vees' suspended list, and that the Storm is in "discussions" with Penticton about acquiring his rights.
"I can comfortably say that Brock does want to play for us," Dewar said.
The Storm did announce the signing of Luke Gordon, a 19-year-old forward who spent last season in the BCHL. Gordon, from Terrace, had 21 points in 50 games in splitting 2012-13 between the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Nanaimo Clippers. In 101 career BCHL games, he has 42 points, including 23 goals.
"He wanted to be here so he could go to Thompson Rivers University," Dewar said.
If Gordon and the forwards have Dewar excited, he's equally so for the defencemen.
"We have six of the best defencemen (we've ever had)," Dewar said. "Probably all six of them could be playing junior A."
Three of those defencemen - Stefan Wood, Daniel Buchanan and Jason Anderson - played for the Storm last season. Dewar didn't reveal the names of the other three, saying he has yet to finalize their paperwork.
As for the goaltending, well, that appears to be a question mark. Wade Moyls, whom the Storm acquired last season, is back, but the rest of the situation is up in the air.
"To be honest," Dewar said, "goaltending is our biggest concern."
It will be up to Patterson to get the Storm down to 23 players before the regular season starts.
Dewar said a few moves might be made after Wednesday's opener. Kamloops also is scheduled to play host to the Chase Heat on Friday, 7 p.m., before playing in Chase on Sunday and in 100 Mile House on Sept. 11.
The Heat will open the preseason on Wednesday, 7 p.m., against the North Okanagan Knights at Art Holding Memorial Arena. After playing the Storm on Friday and Sunday, Chase will head to Armstrong to play the Knights on Sept. 9.
The Wranglers will only play three exhibition games - the two with Kamloops (Wednesday and Sept. 11) and one against the Posse in Princeton on Sept. 7.