Monday, March 25, 2013

Off-Season Recruiting Underway

Danny Kiraly (10) fends off a forechecker in a game
from earlier this season with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes

Less than 48 hours after the Annual Spruce Kings Player Awards Banquet officially wrapped up the 2012-13 season, the team was busy putting out a press release announcing a second player commitment for the coming year of hockey. Hockey truly is a year-round sport with players expected to compete on the ice from September until March or longer and then spend the off-season preparing themselves with an aggressive training program for another go.

Likewise the hockey operations staff remain vigilant in their efforts to recruit the best players out there to build up a team capable of winning it all. Having scouts placed strategically around rinks in Western Canada and the United States, allows the Spruce Kings to have eyes on players eligible to make the jump to the next level. Quite often that means sending scouts and even members of the coaching staff to various tournaments no matter where they are being held.

Recently Spruce Kings assistant coach, Colton Buffie headed out to Minnesota to take a look at a Tier I Elite League playoff tournament. There were over 500 players on 24 teams playing in the four day weekend tournament, providing an opportunity for Colton to see a great deal of talent from all over the United States assembled in one area. One of the players that stood out was a 17 year old defenceman with the Phoenix Junior Coyotes.

Danny Kiraly's skating ability was one of the first things that Colton Buffie noticed about the 6-foot-1 180 pound right handed defenceman.

"His ability to control the game made it look like everybody else was standing still," said Colton Buffie. "He was able to skate the puck from one end of the ice to other with ease and create scoring chances almost every time he touched the puck. I was able to talk to Danny after one of his games and got to know a little bit more about him."

Kiraly started as a forward and made the transition to defence two seasons ago, not that that deterred his abilities to be an effective player. For two seasons, he was selected as one of the top two hundred in the nation to attend the US National Team Camp, once as a forward and the following year as a defencman.

"I was a forward and I actually transitioned back to defence two years ago," explained Danny Kiraly. "I mixed the two styles together between forward and defence, so yes, I can say easily that I am an offensive defenceman."

Braiden Epp (24) separates himself from a defender to get
to the puck first in a playoff game with the Spruce Kings

Kiraly becomes the second player to commit to the Prince George Spruce Kings for the 2013-14 season with Braiden Epp having done so himself just last month. Epp played two games for the Spruce Kings during the regular season and another three in the post season scoring a highlight reel goal in game five of the best-of-five series with the Chilliwack Chiefs.

"Playing those playoff games helped my confidence," said Braiden Epp. "That was a great experience and stepping stone for myself. It let me know where I need to be to be ready for next season."

Epp finished second in team scoring with the BC Major Midget League Cariboo Cougars, and third overall in the League itself, scoring 29 goals and setting up 40 more to finish with 69 points in 38 games. That offensive skill from the local Prince George hockey product will be a big asset for his hometown team next year as the Spruce Kings look to add depth and top line scoring with the departure of Coltyn Hansen.

Its all about building for the next season and without question the Spruce Kings are busy doing that right now as they prepare to host over 100 young prospects at the annual Spring Prospects Camp at the Prince George Coliseum from April 12 - 14th.

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