Hometown skaters shine at spring camp
Hockey: Sixteen foothills prospects compete for spots on Okotoks Oilers
Wednesday, Apr 09, 2014 06:00 am
The Okotoks Oilers didn’t have to look far in their search for future talent.
A quick glance in their backyard sufficed as 16 prospects from the foothills strut their stuff for their hometown team at the Oilers’ Spring Identification Camp, April 4-6.
“As a little kid I would go to the games and when I was smaller I would think wow these guys are massive,” said Okotokian blueliner Sebastian Kilcommons. “It’s weird to think one day, possibly in a couple years, I could be playing with the team I went to watch when I was just seven years old.”
The UFA Midget AAA Bisons defenceman was making his second tour of duty through spring camp as a comparative veteran at the three-day session.
“You’re that much more comfortable when you know I’m not going to be the smallest guy here,” Kilcommons said. “I was trying to show offensiveness, trying to skate with the puck more and take more shots because that’s usually what my problem is, I play a little too defensively. A camp like this is the perfect time to try do become more well-rounded.
“There were some ups and downs, but I thought it went well.”
The Edge Midget Elite-15 Mountaineers contributed four Okotoks area players to the camp, including blueliner Tanner Foster and forwards Nick Lush, Connor Beebe and Austin LeDuc.
For LeDuc, the three days of scrimmages offered a healthy step up in competition and physicality for the 15-year-old winger.
“It was a lot faster than Midget with a lot more hitting,” said LeDuc, who registered 38 points for the Mountaineers. “You had a lot less time on the walls and you had to keep your head up and make quick passes.”
Jordan McCarthy, a speedy winger from the Okotoks Midget AA Oilers, enjoyed a similar experience.
“It had quite the intensity out there and I thought it was faster than last year,” said McCarthy, after going through his second year at spring camp. “The first experience I realized I had to get bigger to be able to play against the third years and be able to take the big hits.”
Skating in the South Central Alberta Hockey League with an extremely physical Oilers team made for a smoother transition into camp as a sophomore. McCarthy, who potted 16 goals and 32 points with the AA Oilers, is weighing his options for next year.
“They (the scouts) told me to get on those weights and that they can’t believe I’m not a AAA player and to come back next year,” said McCarthy, a Grade 11 student at Holy Trinity Academy. “And that AA players have beaten AAA players for a spot.
“That would be the Junior team I’d want to play for is the hometown team, It will be tough, but that’s the best opportunity to be able to be around my folks and still play hockey.”
Indeed, the future is bright for local prospects and it’s expected to continue to be that way for a number of years, said Oilers head coach and general manager James Poole.
“Austin LeDuc, who’s playing at the Edge School and is a 98, he’s looked impressive and he’s going to be a really good hockey player and Connor Beebe is sort of in the same boat,” Poole said. “Not sure if they’re ready to play next year, but they’re going to be really good Junior A players and that’s exciting to see.
“We think we’ve got some good ones with those two and Kilcommons with the UFA Bisons has had a strong camp and we’re looking to at least have those three back for our main camp.”
The Oilers haven’t featured a long tenured hometown player since former captain Chris Duszynski graduated from the program in 2010. Since then, Okotokian Keaton Lubin and Blackie’s Zach Fowles enjoyed short tenures in Big Rock Country before being moved out of province.
“It’s something we would like to have, our job is still to win, but we’re definitely hoping to get a little more local flavour on our team,” said Poole. “I look at the 98 group and beyond that and I think there are a lot more players coming up through the system that are really strong and hopefully we can talk them into staying home for Junior A instead of going away for it.”
Of note, the highly touted 1999-born group is expected to give the Oilers quite a few options down the road.
“Typically those guys may be one or two years away,” Poole noted. “But we’re starting to get close to the time where there is going to be a lot more of a presence with the local guys on our team.”
To keep track of the latest on the Oilers go to okotoksoilers.ca