The BCHL featured the Trail Smoke Eaters in its ongoing ‘Next Generation’ feature at BCHL.ca and the bchlnetwork.ca last month.
The online supplement introduced the new faces in the Smokies lineup, and is an informative aid for hockey fans in Trail.
Edmonton native Tim Fragle leads the Smoke Eaters into the new season, taking over from former head coach and GM, Jeff Tambellini.
Tambellini had a knack for recruiting top players like Philippe Lapointe, Michael Collela, Chase Dafoe, Connor Sweeney, and Jaden Senkoe as well as many of the up and coming rookies this year.
Fragle has a similar mindset combined with a wealth of experience. After leading the NAIT Bulldogs to four consecutive ACAC championships, and coaching several years in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, he is focused on building a fast, well-rounded and disciplined Smoke Eaters team, with a commitment to winning.
“I love for my teams to play the game fast and play it right in all three zones,” Fragle said in the BCHL release. “We want to play with some structure, but also still allow the players to make some creative plays. At the end of the day, you have to work and you have to compete. Those are two cornerstones for any team that I’ve been involved with.”
To follow is a summary on the ‘Next Generation’ of Smoke Eaters Rookies (in no particular order), including scouting insights from Trail head coach and GM Tim Fragle and assistant GM Jeff Urekar.
1. The Smokies committed Massachusetts native, Liam Connors back in March. The 19-year-old forward hails from Southborough, and played for St. Sebastian High School of the US High School-Prep league in Needham for the past four years where he racked up 137 points in 116 games.
“He’s an offensive player who really caught the eye of our staff here,” said Fragle. “He’s a high-end, skilled player.”
The St. Sebastian Arrows captain tallied 41 points in 28 games last season and is commited to Boston College for 2021-22.
“With the guys we’ve lost from last year, he’s someone that we’re hopeful can come in and help with that offensive punch we had last season.”
2. David Sacco committed to the Smoke Eaters in early April. An 18-year-old forward from Middleton, Mass. Sacco was the second-leading scorer at Lawrence Academy last season, finishing the year with 40 points in 24 games.
The nephew of former NHLer Joe Sacco is ranked 141 among North American prospects heading into the NHL Draft this year, and has commited to the University of New Hampshire for 2021-22.
According to Fragle: “David is a big, strong power forward who can shoot it pretty well. He’s a guy that was highly regarded. He’s coming in as committed player. He’s a guy that can do everything.”
3. Fort St. John native, Quinn Disher, was a 16-year-old standout for the Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Team last season.
The talented forward led his team in all offensive categories, including points with 42, goals with 18 and assists with 24.
“He’s a really smart, heady player,” said Fragle. “He’s a young guy, but has a really high IQ. We’re excited to see how he develops. When you’re a young player, you have to believe in yourself. We see a lot of upside in Quinn.”
4. One of Trail’s biggest commits will undoubtedly be defenceman Cameron Moger.
The Vernon native played for the Okanagan Rockets of the BC U18 AAA league last season, and led all defencemen in points with 47 in 40 games.
Moger was also the recipient of the BC U18 AAA Player of the Year for his impressive season, and committed to the Smoke Eaters back in February.
“Cameron was a highly sought-after recruit,” said Fragle. “I think he’s a guy that’s going to provide some offence down the road. He brings a lot to the table – a lot of different variables. I’m excited to get the chance to work with him.”
The six-foot-two, 17-year-old blueliner played in two games with Trail as an affiliate in 2019-20.
Smoke Eaters assistant GM, Jeff Urekar, watched Moger play at the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary and was extremely impressed.
“His mix of physicality and vision with the puck made it easy to watch him control the play when he was on the ice. When you look at the past players to have been selected MVP or player of the year in the MML (BCU18 AAA), it is a very distinguished list so we are very proud to see a future Smoke Eater join that list.”
5. Zack Feaver is another BC U18 AAA product whose playmaking skills and command of the puck are reminiscent of a young Kent Johnson.
The Chilliwack native played for the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds the past three seasons, and led the team in points, 52, last year, earning team MVP and Players’ Choice Awards.
The 18-year-old forward skated in a pair of games with Trail as an affiliate in 2019-20.
“We just like his overall game,” said Fragle. “He does a lot of things well. His cornerstone is his work ethic, so that caught the attention of our staff. We’re excited to have him.”
6. Forward Connor Michaud, 18, attended the Okanagan Hockey Academy of the CSSHL for two years, and had the opportunity to work out with the Trail Smoke Eaters last season.
The chemistry worked for both parties, as Smokies assistant GM Urekar was impressed with the Moncton, N.B. native.
“We had Connor join our program for some practices this season and he really fit in alongside the talent we had on last years team and got to learn about his character at that time,” said Urekar in a Smoke Eaters release. “He’s a kid that has really put work in the last few years to push himself to where he is right now, you really appreciate that type of drive and commitment as a coach.”
Michaud led the Black Prep team in scoring with 33 points in 36 games as an assistant captain.
7. The Smokies committed 18-year-old goalie Domink Wasik to potentially share duties with starter Logan Terness this season.
Wasik is from Superior, Col. and played at the South Florida Hockey Academy U18 AAA last year. He played in 39 total games and posted a 2.42 goals-against average.
Fragle’s scouting report: “He’s a guy that our staff has watched for a substantial amount of time. We’re really convinced that he’s going to come in and be able to push for playing time. He’s a guy that we can see developing into a starter down the road.”
8. Ethan Willoughby, 18, is a character defenceman who played for the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds last season, and was honoured with the Coach’s Choice Award.
The six-foot-two Chilliwack native tallied 15 points in 40 games and prior to that, suited up for the Junior B Abbotsford Pilots of the PJHL in 2018-19.
Urekar compared Willoughby to Trail defenceman Powell Connor, not flashy but “you have to appreciate the details in his game to see just how much of an impact on the game he has. He makes a great first pass, defends extremely well and logs a lot of hard minutes.”