The Trail Smoke Eaters travel to Chilliwack this weekend for the Bauer BCHL Showcase at Prospera Centre and will look to impress as more than 150 scouts from the college and pro ranks will be on hand to test the temperature of the talent pool.
The Smokies play two Island Division teams on different ends of the early spectrum in the 1-4 Powell River Kings and the 4-1 Victoria Grizzlies. A surprise given their standings last season, but the Smokies coach isn’t going to take either team lightly, particularly Powell River, which finished second in their division and had a 33-20-4-1 record last year.
“I don’t think Powell River’s record is an indication of how strong they are,” said Trail coach and GM Cam Keith. “The also have a really good veteran group coming back, and I have a great deal of respect for Kent Lewis and what he’s done in Powell River.”
After finishing last in the Island Division in the 2015-16 campaign, Victoria is off to a promising start, and loaded with veterans up front and on the back end, including current BCHL leading scorer Cole Pickup with five goals and four assists in five games.
“They’re an older group, with high-level players, highly skilled in their first couple lines. We’re going to have to focus on playing good defensively, minimize those Grade A chances and try to grind out a couple road victories.”
Trail is coming off two close losses to Merritt Centennials last weekend, and while the 5-3 and 3-2 losses were disappointing, coach Cam Keith is focusing on the bright side.
“We’re taking the positive that we kept games close. We know that we need a better start on both nights, we weren’t happy how we came out, we put ourselves behind the eight ball on both situations, but the positives were that we were able to battle back.”
The Bauer Showcase is an opportunity for Trail players to get on the radar of university and pro scouts. Like Ross Armour, who recently comitted to Bemidji State University, Smoke Eater players will look for the same opportunity over the course of the season. The BCHL averages over 100 player commits per season, with last year’s number of three first-round draft picks and 148 college commits its most ever.
Players may feel added pressure on the ice, but Keith says the best way to get recognized is to be a good teammate, play well together, and win games.
“There are scouts outside the room, and it is a bit of a quick transformation from each game. But we’ll tell our guys that the best way to display your individual skills is to play well as a team, support each other, and when the team has success, individuals have success.”
The Smoke Eaters face off against Powell River on Saturday at 1 p.m. and versus Victoria Sunday at 10 a.m.