Over 100 players hit Cominco ice for the Trail Smoke Eaters Spring Camp on the weekend looking to make an impression on the Smokies coaching staff and get an invite back to the Main Camp in August.
Smokies head coach and GM Cam Keith was very pleased with the number of players that attended and the high-quality talent that competed hard for three days of intense scrimmage.
“We were pleasantly surprised with all the younger talent in this area that came out, the 16 year olds and the kids that played Junior B this year,” said Keith. “All the kids did really well, and we had a good mixture of Kootenay kids and kids from Alberta, Saskatchewan, we even had a kid from Alaska.”
Local players like Ryan Piva, Brandon Costa, Kody Stewart, Colum Mcgauley and Tommie McConnachie stood out as well as 15-year-old Nolan Martini brother of Smoke Eaters defenceman Ethan Martini.
“He (Nolan) skated very well too, he’s an ‘02 player, but he played tough and he earned himself a main camp tryout, not because of his brother but because he earned it.”
Another surprise for Keith was the play of Pursuit of Excellence Prep School forward Nolan Corrado, son of former Beaver Valley Nitehawk coach Pat Corrado, who, for a 15-year-old, was a force on the ice.
The Smoke Eaters coaches track the progress of players who attended last year’s main camp to see how much they’ve improved over the year, and whether they’re ready to take the next step.
“We kind of reassess where they’re at and if they’re going to fit into next year’s depth chart, so-to-speak,” said Keith. “Because as of now, we’re probably only losing four forwards with Kale Howarth most likely returning.”
When newly hired head coach Keith came into the August Main Camp last year, it was with a blank slate and everyone competing for a position. This year’s Smoke Eaters will have a strong core of returning players, particularly with NCAA committed forwards Howarth and Ross Armour expected back. Still the players at the camp made the coaches’ decision all the more harder with their strong performances.
“All the kids that came in made us go, ‘Okay what are we doing here? I haven’t made any major decisions – they played so well, the skill-level was so high that it wasn’t a no-brainer to say one kid or another.”
The Smokies biggest question mark is in the goaltending department; with Linden Marshall committed to RPI, his return to the Smokies is still up in the air. But 17-year-old goalies Tanner Marshall from the Kelowna Chiefs and Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Brandon Peacock were impressive in camp, and 16-year-old Geo Wilson from the Delta Hockey Academy was a surprising standout.
The Smokies coaching staff has yet to commit any players, but invited many to attend Main Camp and gave players a tour of the new facilities with the hope of adding more lustre to the Smokies evolving program.
The recruiting continues as Keith will attend the U16 BC Challenge Cup in Salmon Arm next week.