Am impressive crop of young players convened at the Big Stick over the weekend as the Cowichan Valley Capitals unofficially kicked off the 2020-21 B.C. Hockey League season with their annual rookie ID camp.
The camp typically takes place in April or May, but had to be rescheduled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That didn’t seem to affect the quality.
“We were really happy with it,” said Caps head coach Geoff Grimwood, who is beginning his first campaign at the helm of the club. “It was exciting to put the first step forward toward the season. We were happy with the turnout. We’re excited about the quality of players. We’re pleased with the start to the season, for sure.”
A handful of standout players earned invitations to the Caps’ main camp next month, including Jackseen Hungle, Matt Wood and Braden Blace, all of whom played in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League last year.
Hungle is a 2004-born forward from Victoria who put up 27 points in 34 games for the Yale Hockey Academy Elite 15s last season.
“He’s still on the young side.” Grimwood noted. “We expect him to play junior B this year, but we’d like to see him in a Capitals uniform down the road.”
Wood is a 2005-born forward from Nanaimo who finished fourth in the CSSHL bantam prep scoring race with 71 points in 30 contests last season.
“He’s also on the young side,” the coach commented. “But he’s a guy we’d like to start bringing in to the program gradually.”
Blace is a 2003-born defenceman from the Cowichan Valley who posted 10 points in 36 games for the Delta Hockey Academy prep team last year and recently signed to play junior B this coming season with the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“We see a lot of upside with him and we’re excited to bring him into the program,” Grimwood said.
All three will get a chance to show the Caps brass what they can do in the main training camp.
“They’ll come back for main camp in September,” Grimwood said. “They’ve got youth on their side, so there’s no rush. They’re guys we’d love to see in a Cowichan uniform for sure.”
Also at the rookie camp was Brendan Kerr, a 2002-born forward the Caps signed in the offseason from the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds. Kerr came out for a skate with the hopefuls, and impressed his new coaches.
“He showed high character and a lot of leadership,” Grimwood said. “This isn’t an easy league to come into; he’ll have to make a big adaptation, and we expect he’ll make that just fine.”
The Caps will start their main camp on Sept. 14 with about 30 players, and skate for 10 days before they start paring down the numbers to the final roster.
“It’s all a little new to us and we’re excited about getting going again,” Grimwood said.
The Caps will play an extended preseason with exhibition games against Island teams, with a Dec. 1 target for the start of the regular season.
“Just like everything else in the world right now, it’s day by day,” Grimwood said. “We’re planning as if there’s a season. It’s full steam ahead. It will come down to what the governments and health authorities are going to do.”