The Trail Smoke Eaters had a productive weekend, as coaches put over 100 players through their paces at their Spring Camp at the Cominco Arena in an effort to identify future Smoke Eaters.
The Spring Camp saw one of the best turnouts in recent history as 108 players attended the three-day camp, with the majority of players between 15 and 18 years old.
“It went really well, it was well attended, and I thought everyone competed hard,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes.
“It was a wide range of ages and for the younger players, for a lot of them, it was their first camp and it was neat to see the progression through camp over the course of four games.”
The players were split into six teams with a focus on scrimmaging over three days giving Smokie coaches Nick Deschenes, Barry Zanier, and Craig Clare an opportunity to see players in simulated game situations.
“I’m fortunate, Barry Zanier has been with the team 11 years now and he’s seen a lot of camps and rosters evolve; so to have that wealth of knowledge, and for it to be my second year – at this stage in the season, you look at last year, and it’s enjoyable. It’s a different segment to the year, where we’re just trying to find the best players possible.”
With a camp in Whistler scheduled for May 29-31, Deschenes hesitated to name standouts at the spring camp, although he was suitably impressed with a number of potential Smokies.
“I thought there were a couple defenceman in the group that were pretty strong, and up front as well. Because of our camp in Whistler, it’s like part 1 of the evaluation is completed but we still have part 2.
“The way that things transpired this season, we really want to make the right decision and right calls on players and be as open and honest with them and allow them to also make the right decision in choosing Trail versus another opportunity. ”
The camp was supplemented by veteran Smoke Eater players like Kienan Scott, Jeremy Lucchini, Dallas Calvin, Craig Martin, Robbie Johnson and recent acquisition Rhett Willcox.
With last year’s starters Jake Lucchini, Martin, Calvin, Ryan Swanson, Harlan Orr, Bryan Basilico, Adam Todd, Bryan Gerstenfeld and Connor Wynne either graduating from Junior or moving on to play NCAA, the Smokies will look to fill those holes left in the line up by the departing players.
The camp also included two goalie clinics and an NCAA presentation that informed players on their opportunities and expectations to play at an elite level, while extending their hockey career and receiving an education.
The spring segment included players from the Kootenays, Okanagan, Alberta, and the U.S., as well as a few from out east, while Deschenes expects the Whistler camp to have a large presence from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The mix made for entertaining hockey on the weekend as the players battled to leave a lasting impression on the Smoke Eater coaches, while playing in front of a good sized contingent of fans, scouts, and coaches in the Cominco stands.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act, trying to maintain interest in players, and try to project where they might be, and follow up with coaches,” said Deschenes. “But all-in-all I think it was one of the better attended (camps) that Trail’s had, and I thought, for the most part, everyone really showcased themselves well. It was good hockey and we had a couple hundred people in the building so I think people got a good snapshot of some hopefully future Smoke Eaters.”