Being captain of the Kamloops Blazers is a big deal for Matt Needham, but he isn't planning on changing anything.
Needham, 18, was named captain for the 2013-14 season. The Blazers didn't announce any alternate captains, as the A's are expected to rotate between players early in the season.
For Needham, a Penticton native, it's a big honour. But his approach - on or off the ice - isn't going to change.
"This is my third year in the league, and I was looking to take more of a leadership role anyway," Needham said following a Wednesday practice. "It's nice to be recognized, but nothing really changes."
Kamloops is scheduled to open its WHL regular season on Friday, 7 p.m., against the Kelowna Rockets at Interior Savings Centre.
The Blazers are showing a lot of faith in their first-round selection in the 2010 bantam draft. Needham has put up nearly identical numbers in each of his WHL seasons - in 2011-12, he had 34 points, including 12 goals, along with 49 penalty minutes and was plus-9; in 2012-13, he picked up 33 points, 12 of them goals, 50 penalty minutes and was plus-10.
"He's been a very good soldier for us the last two years," said Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak. "He's done all the right things, he's well respected by his teammates. . . . He's a guy who commands respect by how hard he works and how hard he competes.
"He's got a vocal side to him too."
Each of the captains off of last season's team are gone. Captain Dylan Willick and alternate Brendan Ranford were 20 last season, and alternate Tyler Hansen decided not to return for his 20-year-old season so he could go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other alternate at the end of last season, Colin Smith, is expected to play in the AHL this season.
That leaves Needham at the head of a young group of Blazers, although he will have help from his alternates. The Blazers weren't ready to announce them Wednesday.
"At this point, it's going to be a rotating system," Hunchak said. "We've got a number of guys who can wear letters at this point. We just want to take our time and see who comes to the forefront and establishes themselves as guys who have earned the right to wear a permanent 'A.' "
JUST NOTES: F Tyson Ness, whom the Blazers acquired from the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday, practised Wednesday. He played left wing on a line with RW Chase Souto and C Aspen Sterzer. . . . The Blazers still have 25 players, including 16 forwards. A complete list is in Scoreboard. . . . The Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors traded forwards on Wednesday - the Pats shipped Jack Rodewald, 19, and a conditional pick in the 2016 bantam draft, to Warriors for Carter Hansen, 18. Hansen was the 10th overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft, chosen two spots after Needham. . . . The Pats and Swift Current Broncos will open the regular season tonight in Regina. The game is scheduled to be televised on Shaw TV, at 6 p.m. . . The Seattle Thunderbirds claimed F Erik Benoit, 20, off waivers from the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday. Benoit had 34 points in 64 games split between the Blades and Kootenay Ice last season.