The Elmira Sugar Kings’ new head coach got a good look at some young players with a shot at making the team next season, as the hockey club held its spring prospect camp at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Four squads of 20 prospects took to the ice throughout the day on April 20 and April 21 while coaching staff looked on. For new head coach Jeff Flanagan, the goal is to find players who work well together and exhibit key skills.
“The best players come in any shape or form. We’re looking for players that, number one, are the best personality types for the Sugar Kings organization and really want to be a member of the Sugar Kings. And, second, we’re looking for players, both forwards and defence, that have various skills, from being scorers or great passers to players who are not afraid to go into tough areas to be successful,” he said.After a first-round exit from the playoffs to cap the 2012-13 season, with losses largely chalked up to a slew of late-season injuries, the Kings execs chose Flanagan to lead the charge next fall. He is looking for determination and a team attitude in prospective players who showed up to the camp. As well, staff are looking to scout during future tournament games.
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So far coaches have a ghost roster of 18 possible returning players, some of whom are still sorting out their plans for post-secondary education and other options, Flanagan said.
On the ice over the weekend staff were presented with a large number of younger players. The prospect camp invites players from the 1997 birth year (16-years-old) up to and including 20-year-olds who may have played for Junior C teams in previous years. But the large turnout of the youngest players will make the decision tough on both coaching staff and Sugar King hopefuls.
“Some of them were OHL draft picks, some of them were free agents and unfortunately for us at our level we are only allowed to sign two 16-year-olds, so it’s a very difficult position,” Flanagan said.
Coaches also saw a lot of potential talent that might be gracing the ice this coming season, most of it coming from the area, including Woolwich, Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.
Flanagan added, “We definitely saw some players who could end up playing in our league, either for the Sugar Kings or another team this year, and definitely some players who we’ll keep our eye on for next year. It makes our decision extremely hard, but it’s also good to know that we’ve got a lot of talent to choose from and talent that’s going to be available for the future.”
With 18 eligible returning players it’s too early to tell what form the team will take, and coaches are going to take their time making difficult decisions on the right players.
A number of standouts from last weekend were invited to the Sugar Kings’ main camp in August. In the meantime, the team’s scouts will be attending a number of upcoming tournaments in search of prospects.
All prospective players, new and returning, were instructed to come to camp in top shape, as the coaching staff will be expecting them to work hard, whether they’re fighting for a spot on the team or working to retain one.
“That keeps everybody on their toes and hopefully striving to be the best they can be.”
Flanagan was happy with what he saw last weekend.
“We’re glad to see that there’s going to be some tough decisions for us, because it shows the talent of our local players and looks to be a good future on the way.”