The Cowichan Valley Capitals still have more than two weeks until their first regular season games at the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack, but things have already started coming together for the club.
The Caps’ main training camp last weekend wrapped up on Monday with an intrasquad game, one last chance for some of the players to make an impression on the coaching staff. By and large, the coaches have been pleased with the talent level as they work to build a competitive team.
"We’re pretty happy with the kids we’ve brought in, whether it was through recruiting or guys our scouts brought to our attention," assistant coach Darren Rodney said.
Naturally, the veteran players, including returning forwards Colton Kehler, Brayden Gelsinger, Kyle Horsman, Jesse Neher and Daniel Wanner, and defenceman Rylan Bechtel have looked good, Rodney said, as have the two veterans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League that the Caps added in the off-season: defenceman Julien Lepage and forward Thomas Gobeil. Gobeil in particular has fit in well on a line with Kehler and Gelsinger.
Among young hopefuls, Cowichan Valley product Ryan Hogg, a 15-year-old forward who spent last season with the Burnaby Winter Club Elite 15 midget team after helping the bantam A Capitals to a bronze medal at the provincial championships, stood out among the crowd.
"He made an impression on everyone there, fans and staff alike," Rodney admitted.
That doesn’t mean he’s got a roster spot locked down, the coach cautioned. He needs to show what he can do in exhibition games first.
"Keep in mind that this is training camp," Rodney said. "When the puck drops for real, things change; it gets more intense. But he has certainly made an impression to start with."
One position where the Caps appeared to be set was at goaltender, where Lane Michasiw and Alex Corley were expected to battle for the starting job. That hasn’t changed, although, as with Hogg, the coaches want to see what they can do in game situations.
"I think at this point, we’ll give these guys the opportunity to show that they can manage the nets for us," Rodney said. "We’re relatively happy with what we’ve seen, but training camp is training camp. Things have been true to form so far."
Missing from Monday’s intrasquad game, but still very much in the mix, are veteran defencemen Charlie Pelnik and Skylar Pacheco, who the Caps traded for in the off-season. Both players were dealing with injuries in camp, and with their level of skill and experience, the coaches decided they didn’t need to see more, and rested them on Monday.
The Caps are still waiting to see what happens at some Western Hockey League camps, which are in turn impacted by pro camps, with a trickledown effect through the junior ranks. One player they aren’t expecting back is Jordan Topping, who had 10 goals in 51 games as a 16-year-old last year. He is in camp with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans and is likely to stay there.
"We had a pretty good indication when he left, based on conversations with the guys in Tri-City that they were pretty happy with him," Rodney said.
The Caps will take a young squad into Wednesday’s exhibition against the Victoria Grizzlies, which faces off at 7 p.m. "It will be an opportunity to evaluate the younger guys that we’ve had in camp and let them experience the Island Savings Centre atmosphere," Rodney said.