The Smoke Eaters AGM also provided insight into the up-and-coming on-ice product as the coaching staff prepares for the Smokies Spring Training Camp in Whistler this weekend.
Trail will look to improve on a year that began filled with promise, but crucial injuries and an extended mid-season slump ended the Smoke Eaters hopes at a playoff run. Still, the team was successful off the ice graduating a number of players to play college hockey including Greater Trail products Scott Davidson, Craig Martin, Jake Lucchini, and Dallas Calvin.
“Looking at the past year we had 10 NCAA committed players come through our program, which as Trail and its history and as a small market team that angle is very beneficial to parents, it’s what players play for, so to have that this past season is definitely a positive,” head coach Nick Deschenes.
However, Deschenes predicts there will be less than half that number of committed players in the line up to start the season, and believes that may be beneficial to creating a new dynamic.
“We’re not going to have as many scholarships, I’m guessing three to five scholarships to start the year, which will lend itself to a lot of players who are on that cusp are really going to be hungry and will push for those opportunities.”
While only five other BCHL teams scored more goals than Trail, 208, last season, the Smoke Eaters had the second worst goals against, 249, in the league. Deschenes would like to see that disparity of a high-octane offence and a not-so-effective defence and goaltending become more balanced.
“It’s really going to be a different team, it’s not going to be the Dallas Calvins, or Jake Lucchinis or any of those offensive threats, but overall it’s going to be a balanced attack,” said Deschenes. “It’s going to be a different look. It’s going to be balanced, gritty, physical, and hungry team. We’re going to be tough to play against, and be better defensively and in goal.”
Approximately 100 players have signed up for the camp, with many talented Lower Mainland prospects ready to hit the ice.Many of the players attending have been identified as future prospects and on the coach’s radar for upcoming years.
“It’s hard to evaluate a kid over four days, but if you see him over the course of a year, that says a lot,” said Deschenes. “I can see him have a great game, but I’m wondering if that’s all the time, we’re you better than last month . . . We committed a kid last camp because we saw that progression.”
Deschenes is also looking forward to consulting with new assistant coach Ryan Donald who will join the coaching staff in Whistler this weekend.
The Smoke Eater Booster Club will also be back to help with fundraising and nutrition and maintain the excellent community relations developed by last year’s club.