After the dust settled from three days of the Trail Smoke Eaters Spring Camp, Bill Birks sat back with a big smile on his face.
The new head coach and general manager of the Smokies gushed about the talent level displayed by over 100 young players who were hoping to catch evaluators’ eyes over the course of the weekend.
“There was a ton of talent there,” he said. “Out of the 100 kids I would say 90 per cent of them were very good players. And that’s all due to our scouting.
“There were some hard decisions but we have a bunch of kids coming back for main camp in August.”
Players were put through the paces in a series of scrimmages and Birks said approximately 30 of the players have been invited to the team’s main camp.
What had Birks really smiling were some verbal camp commitments from highly regarded West Kootenay players.
“We committed to Luke Bertolucci, we’re very happy to get him on board. And Chris Derochie from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.”
Bertolucci, whose Western Hockey League rights belong to the Edmonton Oil Kings, won a gold medal with Team B.C. at the recent Canada Winter Games.
“I told Luke he’s going to get every opportunity to play here and play a lot of minutes.”
Derochie, an 18-year-old Rossland native, played a starring role with the Nitehawks and led the team in scoring during the playoffs.
Birks added Nelson’s Dryden Hunt, who played with the Smokies as a 14-year-old last season, and Castlegar’s Jesse Knowler, who captain the Major Midget Kootenay Ice, also committed to the team for next season.
The Trail coach explained it’s a bonus having four very talented players who are also local boys.
“When they’re that good of a player and they’re in your backyard, you make every effort to put them in your uniform. I’m extremely excited to get them.”
While the ice leaves the Cominco Arena this week, Birks will head to Fernie to watch more hockey as the Junior B Cyclone Taylor Cup gets under way Thursday.