There is a sense of renewal in the Trail Smoke Eaters dressing room, as the coaching staff and players prepare to embark on its 2012-13 BCHL season.
Hot on the heels of its rookie camp, the Smoke Eaters main camp rattles the boards today and runs through Sunday at the Cominco Arena.
Smokies Coach Bill Birks was impressed with the crop of 50 rookies looking to crack the squad this week.
“They’re young, but there’s a few that are going to come through the main camp for sure.”
Returning players include new captain Garrett McMullen, goalie Lyndon Stanwood, Shane Poulsen, Joren Johnson, Marley Keca, Brandon Egli, Brent Baltus, Tanner Clarkson, and Adam Wheeldon – a good foundation to build on considering last year there were only a handful of returning Smokies.
“Last year we didn’t have much coming back, maybe three guys, but this year we have a pretty solid eight to 10 guys coming back that, number one, are good kids, two, they’re skilled and they’re all hungry,” said Smokies coach and GM Bill Birks.
The Smokies coaching staff of Birks, Brent Haven, and Barry Zanier were also busy recruiting and making trades in the off season and expect most to be at the camp.
Among those acquired are former Vees forward Alex Holland, defenceman Djordje Leposavic, Tyler Berkholz from the Alberni Bulldogs, 19-year-old Austin Adduono, Bryce Knapp, rookie Anthony Conti, and goalie Braden Krogfoss, 17, MVP in the major midget league last year.
“We got bigger, older, and a lot more skilled, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The camp is much pared down from last year’s training camp when close to 80 players laced them up.
Whether its the talent coming in, or the talent returning from last year, or a combination of both, coach Birks already seems more confident in the potential of this year’s team.
This camp will see around 40 skaters, with Team 1 practicing from 3:45 to 5 p.m. today and Team 2 from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m.
On Saturday, the two teams will open with a scrimmage from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. followed by fitness testing and another game at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday will see the best skaters take the ice for the Black vs Orange game at 11 a.m.
The 2012-13 BCHL season opener takes place Sept. 8th at the Save-On Foods BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The first home game goes Sept. 21 against Westside Warriors.
Smoke signals: The Smoke Eaters are still seeking billets to join the team. If you have an extra room or two, please contact Scott McKinnon at 368-5750.