CANMORE – The fight to be noticed is underway at the Canmore Eagles’ training camp.
About 70 recruits, prospects and veteran hockey players are showing off their stuff this week in hopes of being selected to the local junior A club’s AJHL roster.
After two home exhibition games Friday (Aug. 31) and Tuesday (Sept. 4) at Alex Kaleta Arena, the Eagles expect to name the top 23 most skilled players to the team.
“It sounds cliché, but it is what it is,” said assistant coach Evan McFeeters. “We need a skilled hockey club here because our league is so good and we need players that are going to go the extra mile for us.
“I think we’ve done a good job recruiting this year and hopefully in the next two weeks we’ll have the team that is going to compete.”
McFeeters said the annual training camp is the “deepest” he’s seen in four years with the Eagles, with players 15-20 years old from as far as Quebec attending.
Over the camp, coaching staff tests for on-ice skill, fitness testing like running sprints and vertical jumps, and how the young men present themselves as professionals off-ice.
The camp started with nearly 70 players hungry for a roster spot on Tuesday (Aug. 28) and will be whittled down to about 30 by Thursday (Aug. 30).
“We have a great returning core from last season and that was part of our plan,” McFeeters said. “We had a lot of young, fresh faces last year and we feel like we’ve built a solid foundation with that group. We got our core built and now we’re looking to adding depth pieces, so if someone comes out and wins a spot from one of our veterans, that just makes us a better team.”
Goaltender Logan Dyck, 18, is returning to the Eagles camp. The Calgarian expects a competitive group this year and aims to stand out and get more starts in his second season with Canmore.
“Just do what I do best and that’s stop pucks,” Dyck said.
With Canmore’s first exhibition game Friday at 7 p.m. against the visiting Olds Grizzlys, Dyck said fitness testing is great for getting players in a competitive mindset.
While the returning goalie expects to have a spot on the 2018-19 roster, 15-year-old defenceman Jaden Kim is fighting to get noticed in his first-ever junior A camp.
“It’s good for me because I’m one of the younger guys and I can take after the older guys and watch what they do and follow along,” said the prospect from Calgary.
“I just need to play my game and help out in the offensive area, be strong on pucks and make a good first pass.”
Andrew Milne, Eagles head coach and general manager, had a busy summer in acquiring veteran depth on the blueline in Mark Drohan, Jared Bowman and Aiden West through trades and signings.
The busy offseason for the Eagles includes the constant search for billet homes, which has become a major concern for the team.
McFeeters said it’s a situation Eagles staff is working on day-to-day.
“It’s still a process for us,” McFeeters said. “We’re still about five or six beds away and you can see a lot of players want to play here, but if we can’t house them then we can’t have them staying here … People are stepping up, but we need people to commit.”
The Eagles start the regular season on the road while the Canmore rec centre is under renovations.
On Sept. 14, the Eagles travel to Calgary and take on the Canucks to kick off the 2018-19 season.
BY JORDAN SMALL AUG 30, 2018
Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Outlook photo