The Trail Smoke Eaters summer identification camp in Coeur d’Alene reaped rewards as the Smokies committed three players to its 2016-17 line up.
The Idaho camp hit the ice at the Frontier Arena at the Coeur d’Alene Hockey Academy this past weekend giving Trail coaching staff an opportunity to identify potential Smokies. The camp attracted players from BC, Alberta, Skatchewan, Colorado, California, Idaho, Washington, and Ukraine as well as BCHL and Junior B scouts who identified players ready to move on to the next level.
About 70 players participated in a practice and four games, highlighted by an All Star Game on Sunday afternoon that showcased the camp’s top prospects.
The Smokies coaching staff were looking for something out of the ordinary and ended up getting committments from U18 Anaheim Jr. Ducks forwards Andre Ghantous and Jack Sitzman, as well as 19-year-old defenceman Trevor Bottomley formerly of the Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL).
“Bottomley we kind of have had our eye on for a while,” said Smokies assistant coach Craig Clare. “He wanted to come out and show Cam (Keith) what he was about, and he was on our radar. The other two California kids just came out, and there’s nothing else they could have done, they’re very impressive and played well together.”
Bottomley is a five-foot-11, 165 pound defenceman who scored nine goals and 55 points in 96 games over two seasons with the Campbell River Storm. The Kelowna product was a key piece of the 2014-15 Storm team that captured the Keystone Cup (Junior B Western Canadian Championship) in Cold Lake, Alta. Bottomley scored the winning goal in the dying seconds of the championship game beating Kimberley Dynamiters goalie Tyson Brower with a slapshot from the point to give the Storm a 6-5 victory. Bottomley returned this past season and the team had another successful campaign making it to the Cyclone Taylor Cup (BC Junior B Championship). Bottomley is a two-way defenceman who sees the ice well and will be relied upon to play in all situations.
Ghantous, a five-foot-eight 155 pound forward, led the Jr. Ducks in scoring and finished in the top-20 in the U.S. Major Midget League last year with 15 goals and 32 points in 32 games. Size-wise he is a bit of a contrast to Sitzman, a five-foot-11, 190-pound forward, who netted 17 points in 32 matches. Ghantous promises to be a slick playmaker in the mould of Colorado College commit and former Smokie Nick Halloran, while Sitzman is a physical power forward that plays with an edge. Despite their differences, the California natives have developed good chemistry playing together and should provide the Smokies with some punch and polish.
A release on the Smoke Eater website says, “Ghantous and Sitzman come highly regarded by their coach and former Smoke Eater August Aiken, and impressed new Trail Smoke Eater head coach, Cam Keith, with their vision, character, and compete level.”
The Trail main camp will go in August and Clare says the Smokies players will have a new challenge when they come to camp.
“Guys are going to have to come in and prove themselves to the new coach. Even the guys we’ve committed to, we want a team where the guys are going to compete. We’re making the commitment to them and they have to make the same commitment and come in and work hard and earn that spot on the team as well.”