The Trail Smoke Eaters are taking their recruiting efforts on the road as the team prepares for its Vancouver Spring ID Camp in Delta this weekend.
The Smokies development camp will host about 100 players divided into six teams with a diverse range of talented up-and-comers.
“We have probably the best numbers of all time coming into this camp,” said Tambellini. “Our new assistant GM Jeff Urekar has done a great job recruiting good calibre players.”
The Smokies will look at a handful of ‘04 forwards that were invited to the U16 Provincial Camp in Shawnigan Lake in July, including Trail native Jacob Smith, in addition to older recruits assembled over the year from the Major Midget, Hockey Academies, and Junior B ranks.
“It’s a really good range from guys that age up to some of our current guys like Kent Johnson, (Kieran) O’Hearn, (Trevor) Isaakson, (Jimmy) Darby, (Tyler) Ghirardosi, and our recruits too, so it will be a wide range but a great chance for our older guys to take a leadership role and if there are players that think they can make our team, then this is a good chance to compare themselves to our players.”
The camp opens with three games on Friday night, followed by practices for all teams Saturday morning, then three more games in the afternoon.
“A lot of these camps are great opportunities to build a relationship with these players and get to work with them one-on-one,” said Tambellini. “I like to get on the ice with each player and get to know them a little bit.”
The camp wraps up on Sunday with three more matches and exit interviews to follow. The camp will give new recruits a chance to impress, but also current players and commits an opportunity to show why they belong.
“It’s a pretty wide range. The young kids that won’t be eligible to play, we want to identify the type of player they are, give them exposure to our program and how we run things. The kids that are closer to junior eligibility, we want to see where they’re at, compare them to our current guys and commits for next year, and give a chance to our commits to really establish who they are as players.”
The Smoke Eaters have as many as 10 players returning and have committed to top-end guys like Chase Dafoe, Corey McCann, Jordan Hendry, and, more recently, Philippe Lapointe, Connor Sweeney, and Braden Costello, so the potential room remaining on the roster may be tight.
The camp won’t have all of Trail’s returning players and commits attending, but will showcase many future Smoke Eaters. Finding another Kent Johnson would be ideal. The 16-year-old Port Moody native dominated play at last year’s Vancouver camp and went on to a stellar rookie season scoring 20 goals and 46 points in 57 games, and receiving a BCHL Rookie of the Year nomination.
“We’ve hit a couple home runs with players in trying to build the culture we want here. We think we have a team that’s going to be extremely deep, a lot of competition from within,” added Tambellini. “We’ll see where we get to when camp opens, but we’re a lot further ahead than this time last year.”