Fans of the Elmira Sugar Kings would not have recognized a single face in the lineup when the team took to the ice on Aug. 26 for their first exhibition game of the season against the Kitchener Dutchmen.
Even head coach Dean DeSilva was nowhere to be found at ice level, instead positioning himself at the north end of the arena to get a bird’s eye view of the game and prospects.
“We wanted an opportunity to see what all the rookies at camp were like on the ice playing in a game situation. There are a few of them that won’t be making the hockey club and we wanted to give them an opportunity to play in a Junior B game,” said DeSilva. “I just wanted to be up top to keep an eye on some of the players, as there are about five or six players that we are looking at very closely and I just wanted to get a different perspective on them.”
The veterans have been lacing up and skating in practices with the team’s rookies every day, but this week 12 of those players headed off to OHL camps hoping to earn a spot on a junior A team.
“The difficult part for us right now is trying to figure out which players are coming back from OHL camp,” DeSilva said. “There are a few that this is their second OHL camp and that usually means those clubs will be taking a good, long look at them. There are some options for these kids and they have to make the best decision for themselves.”
The coach is hopeful that he will have the majority of his vets back on the ice for the team’s last exhibition home game against the Waterloo Siskins this Sunday.
“Hopefully we will have all the guys coming back from the OHL camps in the lineup. The last two exhibition games will be much closer to the team that we will be starting the season with, at least 90 to 95 per cent of the players on the ice in our last game will be on the squad for this season.”
The Kings coaching staff has recruited some minor hockey coaches to help during training camp and it was the minor coaches that were on the bench coaching the team during the game.
“I’ll be talking to the minor hockey coaches afterwards to see how the (rookies) were on the bench and their coach ability and whether they listened to instructions. It’s a good perspective to get from somebody else since they know the players as well as we do at this point. It helps me know how players react and respond to a different voice.”
The team has a few spots open in both offence and defence and it will all depend on how well the OHL perspectives hold out as to whether or not more spots open for rookies.
“We have had some real pleasant surprises at camp that have opened our eyes and certainly have made us scratch our heads and made us realize we need to take a closer look at certain players because they have come in and done everything that we have asked.”
The Kings next home exhibition game will be on Sept. 2 at 2 p.m. followed by the official home opener the following Saturday as the team is accommodating an OHL exhibition game to be held at the Woolwich Memorial Centre on Sunday starting at 2 p.m.