In the words of the Spruce Kings assistant general manager and director of player personnel, Mike Hawes, it was a good camp that showed off a lot of talented players that are looking for a roster spot on the 2010-11 Spruce Kings team. There were the players that met pre-camp expectations and there were those that exceeded and others still that surprised leaving scouts, coaches and fans asking "who is that?"
Now that the camp is done, the boys behind closed doors have a better idea of who they want to see at the team's main camp and the picture that is the 2010-11 team is coming in to focus. It is safe to say that most of those thoughts and conversations will remain behind closed doors until at least June 1st when teams receive their allotment of player cards and players can officially commit to a team for the coming season.
But if I can be so bold as to say that what I saw has left me excited for the possibilities that lay in wait starting in the month of September. I'm sure the fans that had an opportunity to take in the camp have their eyes set on a few new prospects as well considering the number of players that were on hand this weekend. Over 140 players started the weekend by being assigned to one of eight teams that were each coached by team representatives not normally found on the bench. I had the privilege of coaching Team Orange that featured RJay Berra as the only Spruce Kings veteran player.
Other vets included Sam Muchalla (Team Blue), Jeff Datoff (Team Maroon), Reid Blinkhorn (Team Red), Nic deSousa (Team Green), Kyle Manlow (Team Red), Justin Fillion (Team Green), Jeremy Wiebe (Team Blue) and Luke Hannas (Team Grey). There was a large group of players that were AP'ed with the team through the season and players that have been seen at previous camps. Along with the familiar faces, there was also a few recognizable family names on the list. Rounding it out, was a large group of players that were new to the Spruce Kings. All of them had one objective of standing out from the crowd and attracting the attention of the coaching and scouting staff.
As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity of coaching Team Orange through the round robin portion of the Spring Prospects Camp. I'm happy to report back that the team finished second with a record of three wins and one loss and with a positive goal differential of seven. That's important because the coaching record for at least a few of us was fuel for bragging rights in the camp. The Spruce Kings marketing manager, Jim Young won those rights going undefeated in the camp including a win over Team Orange. Although Team Grey was the only team to have two coaches on the bench; Young enlisted the help of Randy Buffie, a scout with the team based on Vancouver Island.
Team Orange battled hard in their final game on Sunday morning giving me the chance to brag a little bit too with a win over Team White. Coached by Spruce Kings alumni Garry Vallentgoed, Team White had a 3-0 record heading into their final game and had a 2-0 lead after the first period of play. Standing on the bench normally occupied by the Spruce Kings in the regular season, I must have absorbed some of the magic from over the years and said something profoundly inspirational.
Team Orange scored three times in the second and three more times in the third while keeping Team White off the score sheet in those final forty minutes. What did I say you ask, well the answer is "one word. shots!" Seriously, that's what I told them while standing on that bench looking down at them as they rehydrated themselves. The players did the rest and rallied themselves on. One player in particular that impressed me was 6' 1" 200lbs Charlie Lake resident, Beaudon Lancaster.
Here was a kid that came to work hard as a sixteen year old and earn a look and maybe pick up an idea of what he would need to do to improve his game. Well if I can speak candidly, Beaudon showed that he had the right attitude. After the first game, Team Orange lost two of its five defencemen to minor injuries and Beaudon was the first to step up and offer to play on the back end.
Of all the pictures I took this weekend, the one I wish I could have captured came after Beaudon scored in the second period of that final game to open the scoring for Team Orange. I had been giving this big forward, who was filling in on defence, a couple of shifts up front with the instruction to go to the net and make it difficult for the other team. On this particular play, I told him again to go to the net off the faceoff. Winning the offensive draw, Dylan Lynum shot the puck towards the net and, after a short battle in front of the net, the puck found its way in to the back of the net off Lancaster's stick.
The lasting image I have is of a this big guy letting out a quiet "yes" and giving a short draw fist pump; it was the loudness of his smile that made it all worthwhile. With his job accomplished, he came back to the bench; when the ref came by to confirm who scored the goal, it was his teammates that all chimed in with his jersey number. Beaudon Lancaster never made it to the Top Prospects Game, but that one moment will be his lasting memory of the camp and made it all worthwhile. That one moment also bonded a group of players in to a team and provided the spark that resulted in the team picking up its third win of the weekend.