The battle promises to be fierce as about 40 players fight for places on the Cowichan Valley Capitals roster when training camp begins next week.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty competitive camp,” head coach Bob Beatty said. “We’ll have a lot of new faces with the trades we’ve made and players moving on.”
Between several 20-year-olds who aged out of junior hockey, others who left early for scholarship opportunities, and other departures, the Caps will have openings for new faces on this year’s squad.
“We have holes to fill,” said Beatty, who is starting his fourth season with Cowichan. “I believe that our defence corps is pretty solid, and our goaltending is pretty much set, but there will certainly be a lot of new faces up front, and some younger guys.”
Returning from last year are forwards Ryan Hogg, Kyle Topping, Ayden MacDonald and Jared Domin, defencemen Ben Verrall, Chris Harpur and Josh Owings, and goalie Lane Michasiw. Matt Hudie, who led the team in goals last year, was expected to come back, but has opted to play for Green Bay in the U.S. Hockey League.
Joining the returnees are a handful of players with B.C. Hockey League experience that the team acquired in trades, such as forwards Darren Hards and Max Newton and blueliner Nii Noi Tetteh.
On-ice sessions at the Island Savings Centre are open to the public. The Caps will skate on Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and 7-9 p.m., and on Wednesday from 10-11:45 a.m.
On Thursday, they have a morning session and a home exhibition game against the Victoria Grizzlies at 7 p.m., and on Friday, the morning session will be followed by a road game in Victoria. Finally, they have a morning skate on Saturday and a home game against the Nanaimo Clippers at 7 p.m.
It’s beneficial for everyone to get into action quickly, Beatty said.
“I think we’ve got to pare down and get ready to prepare for the season, and if players aren’t going to fit in here this year, they’ve got to get where they are going to play,” he explained. “It’s efficient for everybody to make decisions sooner.”