The Beaver Valley Nitehawks coaching staff got a good look at its future on the weekend, as the Nitehawks held their spring camp at the Beaver Valley Arena.
The camp started Friday and wrapped up Sunday with four teams competing in high-paced scrimmages over the three days.
“It was really successful,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “We had some really good young players and we were lucky to get lots of alumni and some of our veteran players out, so it just brought the level of the camp up to a really good speed.”
The Nitehawks also held a spring camp in Okotoks last month, and between the two camps, the young prospects provide the recruiting basis for their main camp in August.
Some at the Fruitvale camp were also Bantam age players, which gives the Nitehawks a chance to familiarize themselves with the young talent, and gives the players an opportunity to make an impression.
“Our local camp we always look at local players, and see where the development is from year to year, and it was great to see some of the young guys step up and play well, and really show improvement and growth in their game,” said Jones. “They had a lot of ice time, and I thought the guys worked really hard and that was the thing that stood out to me.”
The camp also saw a strong contingent of last year’s GTMHA Midget Smoke Eaters and Major Midget Kootenay Ice players turn out and skaters like Jaxen Waterstreet, Nate and Marty Ingram, Lucas Anselmo, Quaid Anderson and Simon Nemethy were camp standouts.
Kootenay Ice defenceman Kody Stewart was a rock on the blue line in the 10 games he AP’d with the Hawks last season, and coach Jones expects the Fruitvale native to step up his game and play an even bigger role for the Nitehawks this season.
Yet, with no returning goalies, an excess of 20-year-olds, and losing a number of key players, the Nitehawks have their work cut out for them, and it begins with identifying the last line of defence.
“We’ve had 14 goalies attend both camps, and we’ve taken good data on them, and watched really closely. So we feel like we’ve got a really good bead on it, and now we’re sorting them out and deciding who we’re going to invite to our main camp.”
Last year, the Nitehawks iced 11 local players, and would like to see a similar number this year, but Jones confirmed that first-year standouts Connor Seib, Tommy McConnachie, and Christian Macasso are moving on to university, and 20-year-old d-men Karsten Jang and Jake Yuris remain two looming question marks.
“We’ve got a couple questions, but hopefully we’ll get an answer in the next couple of weeks to be honest with you.”
Part of the difficulty of recruiting for the Nitehawks is that a good number of their top prospects also attend Junior A camps, so their availability is often unknown until the beginning of the season or later.
Last year Kevan McBean, Dylan Kent, and Blake Sidoni were late cuts from their respective Junior A teams, but all returned to the Nitehawks despite missing the beginning of the season – Sidoni was ultimately signed by the Trail Smoke Eaters midway through the campaign.
The spring camps are a vital step towards team building, and although the challenges are myriad for Jones, his coaching staff, and GM Jamie Cominotto, the results are always worth the price of admission.
“It’s a really good opportunity to identify the players but also that the players know what we’re made of, that they know what our team is about,” said Jones. “Once they go away to other programs and Jr. A camps, they know what their second choice is. That’s what we set that foundation for, hopefully at our local camp, a lot of those kids say, ‘I want to play for this team in a couple years.'”