The Trail Smoke Eaters held their Spring Camp on the weekend with about 70 players competing for a spot at the Main Camp in August. Trail Times file photo.

New recruits impress at Trail Smoke Eaters camp

High-end talent competes for spot in Trail Smoke Eaters main camp in August

The Trail Smoke Eaters future looks even brighter after hosting their Spring Camp the past weekend.

“The weekend was good, we had around 70 kids, and a good range from 14 to 20-year old,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “We’re excited about our recruiting class coming in and we still have a few more, but we’re really excited about our youth this year.”

Related read: Smoke Eaters showcase top recruits at Spring Camp

The weekend camp put the new recruits through a combination of scrimmages and practices with four teams of 15 skaters and nine goalies looking to make an impression.

Smoke Eaters committed players like Corey McCann, Chase Dafoe, and Jordan Hendry were outstanding, as expected, but one young Trail product in particular left an impact on the Smokies head coach and GM, Jeff Tambellini.

“The biggest surprise in camp was Jacob Smith, a 2004 birth date,” said Tambellini. “If there was one surprise, it was him, we thought he was outstanding. He was the best player for his age group, and he’s got great things ahead of him.”

Smith, who’s turning 15 this year, played Bantam Rep last season and was an affiliate player for the Major Midget Kootenay Ice.

Trail expects a strong veteran presence this season, but the biggest question mark remains between the pipes. Trail committed to 16-year-old goalie Logan Terness, however, the Smokies would like a Junior-A veteran to help Terness transition to the BCHL.

Donovan Buskey was outstanding in goal for Smoke Eaters down the stretch, and through the playoffs but he may return to the WHL where he played for two seasons before his release by the Prince Albert Raiders.

“If we can get Donny (Buskey) back that’ll allow us to do different things with our additions in the next couple months. Always need great goaltending, and I think we have a good one with him.”

The Smoke Eaters committed seven first-year players that includes recent commit Connor Sweeney, 18, from North Andover, Mass. The son of former NHLer Bob Sweeney, Connor is a six-foot-two power forward that played with the Lawrence Academy Spartans for the past two seasons, amassing 16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points over that span. The 18-year-old University of New Hampshire commit comes highly touted.

“That was a big one for us. They came and did a recruiting tour through B.C. and went to Chilliwack, Powell River and Coquitlam, so happy that we can get a top guy. He’s an explosive player for a guy that’s six-two, six three, so we’re very excited to get him.”

A pair of talented Beaver Valley Nitehawks forwards were also exceptional at the Smokies camp, and will look for a spot in the Main Camp in August.

“Paul Leroux and Michael Hagen were fantastic,” said Tambellini. “They were two great APs for us this year. We told them both that we that they’re going to have to come and fight to win a job, but both those guys are great kids and we have a lot of time for guys that play that hard and are that good in our dressing room.”

Hagen led all Nitehawks scorers in the KIJHL playoffs and was third overall with six goals and 24 points in just 15 games, while Leroux led the Hawks in the regular season with 22 goals and 57 points.

Related read: Trail Smoke Eaters camp hits Cominco ice

It may come down to a numbers game in the end, but the Smokies coaching staff is encouraged by the compete level and potential on display at the Spring Camp.

“It was great for us, because you always want to go to those camps and have your committed recruits be the best players on the ice, and for us they were,” said Tambellini. “We always want them to come in and take leadership roles in a camp like that and play and show us that those are the right guys.”

The Smoke Eaters will also host a Greater Vancouver ID Camp from May 31-June 2 in Delta, before the final top prospects and veterans convene in Trail at the end of August for the Main Camp.



sports@trailtimes.ca

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