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Smoke Eaters scout new recruits in competitive spring camp

Trail Smoke Eaters coaching staff optimistic following their Spring Camp on the weekend
Defenceman Mason Dixon looks for an open man as he breaks out of his own end at the Smoke Eaters ID Camp Sunday. Photo: Jim Bailey

The future looks bright for the Trail Smoke Eaters after icing its spring ID Camp at the Trail Memorial Centre this weekend, April 19-21.

About 100 skaters ages 16-19 attended the camp looking to skate onto the radar of the Smoke Eaters hockey staff and be invited back to the Main Camp in August.

“I thought overall it was a good weekend,” said Smoke Eaters coach and assistant GM Dallas Calvin. “There were lots of good players there, and the competition got better as the weekend went.

“I think the nerves go away a little after the start. With lots of young guys attending their first junior camps, definitely lots of talent and a lot of good young local kids there too, so hopefully some guys that we can pull for the future.”

The camp ran over three days, with the players divided into six teams. The teams faced off against each other throughout the weekend in an effort to match the intensity and competitive play of BCHL hockey.

Calvin says the coaches try to keep it as competitive as they can but there are limits.

“We talk to them about being smart, we still want guys to be competitive and part of the game is hitting and being physical. Guys play different roles … and there is a fine line there. But the officials did a good job too of making sure the guys weren’t crossing that line for the most part.

“We definitely want to see them compete and don’t want to take that away from their game.”

A strong turnout of Greater Trail players were among the attendees, including standouts from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in Will Caputo, Nathan Simm, and Connor Drake.

CSSHL Rink Academy defenceman and Trail product Owen McCarthy committed to the Smoke Eaters in December and attended camp with high expectations.

“He just has to keep getting stronger,” said Calvin. “I think he had a good showing this weekend. He can skate, he’s got a good brain, but as an undersized guy playing defence at this level, you have to be hard to play against, and you got to be strong, and he knows that. We’re confident that he’s going to show up to camp ready to go in August.”

Okanagan Academy defenceman and Fruitvale product Brayden Tremblay is also high on the depth chart, as both McCarthy and Tremblay were drafted in the 2023 WHL U16 Prospects Draft last May.

“He is a really solid player and he’s part of that group of younger of guys that can play, if not next year in the next couple years for sure.”

Among Trail’s other commits, Cooper Moore, Cash Carter, Cohen Carter and Deacon Drummond all skated at the camp, and looked ready to step into a Smoke Eaters uniform.

“They all looked good, and they are obviously in our plans for next year for the upcoming season, so happy with the way those guys showed.”

The Smoke Eaters are also trying to extend its reach and increase its exposure. The team will host a camp in New Hope, Minn. from May 31 to June 2 with the hope of attracting a different and deeper pool of players.

“Trail being more remote than some of the other teams in our league, it’s harder to draw players. It’s something we are trying to see if we can draw some more exposure, not just for our team but the league in general. Our owner (Rich Murphy) is always trying to better our league as a whole.”

The Smoke Eaters will have a strong contingent of returning players next season, and selecting young players with the right combination of skill, desire, work ethic, and attitude is key to team building.

The Smoke Eaters staff held a meeting on the weekend and analyzed the potential line up for 2024-25. Calvin says the whole hockey operations staff is excited about the returning and emerging talent and look forward to the Smoke Eaters future.

“We are in a better spot now than we’ve been in a lot of years,” added Calvin. “Tim (coach and GM Tim Fragle) made a comment saying ‘this is the furthest he’s been in his five years here, as far as building depth and building a team that can win.’

“So we are really optimistic about where we are going to go.”

Jim Bailey

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