The Trail Smoke Eaters might just gobble up some Yukon hockey players.
Scouts from the British Columbia Hockey League club were impressed by what they saw at a prospect camp held at the Canada Games Centre, May 19-21, said Smoke Eaters operations manager Steve Robinson.
“The way we look at any camp, if you can identify one player who you can bring to the main camp, or a couple players for a year down the road, it’s a success,” said Robinson.
“We were very pleasantly surprised with the players who are up there. And the one thing we can say is that the coaches, the volunteers, who are up there coaching them are obviously doing a really good job because based on numbers there, there are definitely some really good hockey players.”
In addition to the Smoke Eaters, a Junior A team, the camp had out scouts from the Beaver Valley Nighthawks from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a Junior B league, and the Kootenay Ice from B.C. Hockey’s Major Midget League.
About 60 Yukon players, as well as one from N.W.T. and one from northern B.C., took the opportunity to showcase their skills.
“We weren’t really sure what to expect on this trip, but once we got there we knew right away that it was going to turn out OK,” said Robinson. “People coming in were pretty enthusiastic and excited that we were there. When we got on the ice with the kids we thought it was great.”
The camp, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Yukon, was held with the cooperation of Hockey Yukon.
About 30 of the 60 players were born between 1998 and 2002 — the age range in which the Smoke Eaters are most interested. A “few” were given invitations to move on to the Smoke Eaters’ next stage of selection, a camp in Trail at the end of August, but declined to give names. About 40 players in total from western North America will be invited to the camp.
Impressed by the skill of Yukoners playing on teams down south, Robinson reached out to Hockey Yukon coach Martin Lawrie to see if he thought a camp was a good idea and Lawrie did. Whitehorse’s Johnny Elias, Matthew Cooper, Niall Lawrie, for instance, all played for the Kootenay Ice major midget team this past season.
“As an organization you’re always looking for different places where you could potentially identify players, find talent that maybe other teams have overlooked,” said Robinson.
The camp also included development skills sessions for younger players born 2003 and up. Some skated their way onto the radar of scouts, said Robinson.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if five or seven are playing junior in the next couple of years,” he said. “Hopefully we build a relationship because in a few years they might turn out to be really good hockey players.
“As long as people say they want us to come back, we want to come back. We’re going to go a few weeks earlier next year and I’ll be booking hotels and flights as soon as we can.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org