The Elmira Sugar Kings’ roster is quickly filling up, with seven new players signed for the 2016-17 season, and another seven from last year’s team set to return.
They’ve added local players Keanan Stewart, Tyler McBay, Zack Cameron and Mason Sinkeldam, all of whom played at least one game with the team last year.
Stewart’s from Conestogo and was a fifth round pick by the Owen Sound Attack. Sugar Kings director of hockey operations Jeff Snyder says Stewart skated well at their rookie camp.
“We think he’s a really good prospect and so does Owen Sound that drafted him, maybe just needs a year of Junior B before he’s ready for the OHL, but it looks like if he can keep improving and working on his game, should be a really good player as well,” Snyder said.
McBay is from Elmira and was drafted by the Saginaw Spirit. He’s in a similar situation as Stewart.
“We’re really excited about his potential. He’s a really good skater and smart defenseman,” Snyder said.
He says the Kings are really fortunate this year to be able to add so many good local players to the team. This includes Cameron who was called up by the Kings a couple times last season.
“Zack Cameron we think is going to be a really good player, good offensive player, brings a lot of speed. He’s local so we’re really excited about him as well,” Snyder said.
Snyder notes he’s always said if there’s a player from Woolwich who’s good enough to play Junior B hockey then they need to ensure there’s a spot for him. It just so happens this year there’s a number of local 16-year-olds who fit into that category.
“Mason Sinkeldam is also from West Montrose, we signed him as well. So you’ve got him, you’ve got Zack Cameron, you’ve got Keanan Stewart, you’ve got Tyler McBay. Not sure what’s going to happen with Mitch Hoelscher yet, he was drafted by Ottawa in the third round. We’re not sure if he’s going to make their team or not. We’re really lucky to have that many quality players in our backyard,” Snyder said.
Completely new to the team are Jake Brown, Blair Butchart and Matt Murray.
Brown comes to the team from the Caledonia Corvairs. He scored 41 goals last season, 26 goals the year before that, and won the Sutherland Cup three years in a row.
“It’s very tough to add a player like that, so we’re thrilled to get him onboard. He can really help lead our offense and I think also bring a lot of leadership. He obviously knows how to win. I think he’s a real key pickup for us, should really help us in a lot of areas,” Snyder said.
Butchart was rookie of the year in the Western Junior C league for the Mount Forest Patriots last season and practiced with the Kings this year. He tallied 18 goals and 30 assists for the Patriots last season. Murray’s a defenseman from the Northern Ontario Hockey League. He played Junior A in Sault St. Marie and Blind River and Snyder sees him filling out Elmira’s defense.
“We’ve got a good group of returnees and then we think we’ve got some real good young players and then an older player in Jake Brown that we think can really help us and we’re trying to work on a couple other deals to try to add another defenseman or two and another forward or two,” Snyder said.
It’s unclear if Alex Peterson will be returning to Elmira since the Kitchener Rangers drafted him earlier this year.
Returning to the Kings are Klayton Hoelscher, Jon Reinhart, Ty Biles, Dawson Shackelton, Kyle Soper, Jeff Jordan, and Quinten Bruce.
He’s hopeful the returnees and newly signed players will be able to fill some big shoes left by Rob Kohli, Zac Coulter, and Mackenzie MacSorley.
“We just need the returning guys to step up and carry the torch and help lead. And I think we’ve got some good guys to do that. I think the guys that are coming back from last year really benefited from learning from guys like Rob Kohli and Coulter and MacSorley,” Snyder said.
He adds that sometimes you don’t think of the goaltender, but Reinhart brings strong leadership to the team too.
They’ve still searching for a backup goalie and a couple forwards and defensemen to round out the squad.
“We think we’ll have a real competitive team. We think we’re going to be a little bit quicker than last year and maybe a little more mobile on defense, on the back end. Those are two good things. We wanted to get a little bit faster, so we’re trying to address that,” Snyder said.
Recruiting efforts will continue this summer, and players have another chance to impress the coaching staff at the Kings’ open camp on Aug. 20.
“We feel good about the way things are going so far.”