Along with all that bulky goalie gear, Nathan Warren will be carrying the weight of expectations.
The 17-year-old Warren has been designated as the starting goaltender for the Cariboo Cougars as they aim for regular-season and playoff championships in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League. He'll be backed up by 16-year-old Jeremy Matte, and depending on how quickly Matte develops, could find himself busier than a lot of other goalies in the league in terms of minutes played.
And, with Kenny Nordstrom as the only returning blueliner from last season, Warren may be called upon to play even bigger as the youngsters in front of him get comfortable at the major midget level.
"Warren's our No. 1 guy and the most important guy on our team," said Cougars head coach Trevor Sprague. "With the inexperience that we do have on our defence, that means he's going to be needing to win us hockey games more so than ever. He's got to be a No. 1 goalie every night and every time we hit the ice for practices. He's got to work hard every time he's out there."
Warren is entering his second season with the 15- to 17-year-old Cougars. Last season, he split crease time with David Readman and, in 20 games, posted a 2.86 goals-against average.
As for Matte, Sprague said he'll have to show he's ready to play when he gets his chances.
"If he comes in and he's hot, he may get more starts than what he thinks," Sprague said.
Matte earned his spot on the Cariboo roster by being one of the most consistent goalies throughout the team's selection camp and pre-season. The majority of the time, he made the first save and was able to control his rebounds.
"When he did let out rebounds he was able to eat them up on the second shot," Sprague said. "We were pretty happy with the way he played. This gives him an opportunity to jump up to the next level and see what he can do."
Matte has experience in B.C. Hockey's high performance program. In the spring of 2011, he was the only Prince George player chosen to participate in the organization's Under-16 provincial camp.
The Cougars announced their 20-player roster on Tuesday but have some wiggle room on it. Sprague said three players have been signed to "soft cards." That means they could still be moved if other players come back to the Cats from junior hockey.
Sprague also said Riley Hawes, Derek Bulmer, Justin Schwing and Cole Morris were on the bubble of making the team and have been named as affiliated players who can step into the lineup in the event of injuries.
"They're all guys who did outstanding," Sprague said. "They can play at this level. It's just that we needed 20 guys [on the active roster]."
The Cougars will start their 40-game regular season Sept. 22 at CN Centre against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.