The Trail Smoke Eaters are Yukon-bound this weekend looking to mine for gold at a prospects and development camp in Whitehorse.
Smoke Eaters coach and GM Cam Keith will be joined by scouts from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice in an effort to identify prospects for the three Greater Trail teams.
“Terry (Jones) has a scout up there from Major Midget so we’ll be looking at kids not only for the Smoke Eaters but for potentially kids that might be younger and come to Trail and be a part of what we’re hoping will be the program here – from Major Midget, to Beaver Valley, and on to becoming a Smoke Eater,” said Keith.
The purpose for both Keith and Nitehawks coach and GM Jones is to identify and develop young players in what is a mutually beneficial result for all three teams and a natural progression for the players, who can play in the Greater Trail community throughout their midget and junior careers.
“Right now we have over 60 kids (registered), so for that area it’s really good,” said Keith. “Any time you’re opening a camp for the first time you have to expect it’s not going to get the same numbers as a spring camp in Trail, you have to build. So that was our original philosophy was to just try to establish something up north where not a lot of people look, and try to build on it year-by-year.”
For Hockey-Yukon president Carl Burgess, the camp provides a rare opportunity for northern players to display their talent without travelling out of the area and make an impression that might further their hockey careers.
“I’m not sure there’s been anything like this in Whitehorse before, with three teams interested, with the intention to draw players from all over the North,” Burgess told the Yukon News. “They’re choosing Whitehorse over a lot of other locations in a huge region that includes (the) northwest United States and parts east. That’s how big it is, how potent this opportunity could be.”
The prospect camp will consist of a competitive scrimmage format — a mini-tournament in which players are separated onto teams.
There will also be a development skills camp for younger players born 2003 and up the same weekend.
“It’s new, so we’re not expecting to pack the rafters full of players, but we know there’s lots of interest and this is a huge value for any midget player,” he added. “It would save the cost of all the travel down south. To have one at home is a huge value, especially with three teams involved. There’s rarely camps down south hosted by more than one team.”
Yukon players aren’t new to Trail; the Ice recruited Whitehorse players Johnny Elias, Matthew Cooper, and Niall Lawrie to the team last season, and a “Yukon Line” made up of Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow, and Riley Pettitt skated for the KIJHL’s Summerland Steam.
“It’s nice that people recognize there’s a strong hockey market up here – strong talent-wise, if not huge in numbers,” said Burgess. “Whitehorse is a natural node for players to come in from Alaska, N.W.T. and northern B.C. We expect to see players from all those jurisdictions here.”
The three-day camp goes from Friday to Sunday.