The Trail Smoke Eaters are more than pleased with the calibre of players that attended the Smokies Summer Camp in Delta last weekend.
“It went really well,” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “We had some of our veteran guys come back, and then all our recruited guys came in and they actually played fantastic.”
Smokies veterans like Tyler Ghirardosi, Kent Johnson, Trevor Isaksson, and Kieran O’Hearn skated with the more than 100 recruits invited to the camp.
“I was really impressed with a couple guys who took a big step. We actually found some chemistry with players, we didn’t think we’d have.”
The camp provided an opportunity for committed Smoke Eaters like Chase Dafoe, Colby Elmer, Walker Erickson, Jordan Hendry, Corey McCann, Jaden Senkoe and Logan Terness to show why they’re commits and also become more familiar with the Smoke Eaters veteran players.
“It was the first time that we got the group of young commits in the same building together,” said Tambellini. “But it’s something we try to do a lot of, is bring them into Trail as much as possible, get them around each other at camp so when they do show up in August they’re very comfortable with each other, and they start to build that friendship. Usually that leads to early success just because they’re comfortable being around each other at the start of camp.”
One of the main functions of a summer camp is for the coaching staff to monitor the development of young players and how they compete against others with a similar skill set. There is often a diversity in age from 15 to 19, but it often proves a good testing ground for evaluations and gives the Smoke Eaters an opportunity to introduce young players to the team and its culture.
“It was a really good weekend overall, and we got to see a really good ‘03, ‘04 group, kids down the line that we’ll be looking at.”
The summer camp is also the last opportunity for players to make an impression leading up to the Smoke Eaters Main Camp in August. In the past, new and often unexpected recruits have played their way on to the Smokies roster, while others have played their way off it.
“It was really the last chance for people to show us what they were going to bring,” said Tambellini. “We had a couple players that we see down the road as potential affiliates, but we want our fall camp to be our recruited players, our returning players, our affiliates for next year, and a couple young local kids that we believe are going to be very good hockey players.”
The Main Camp will look different this year than in the past. Tambellini says they plan to keep the numbers low inviting about 40 players to ramp up the intensity and make the camp even more competitive. No position is guaranteed, but the coach is confident that the spring and summer recruiting will pay off and the Smokies will have not just the most talented players but those that are the right fit for the Smoke Eaters.
“We’re going to do it different than previous years, because we just want to get to work right away, and that camp will be very competitive come August … My biggest thing early on is finding the right guys that want to be a part of what we’re building for next season.”