© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
Minto defenseman Bryton Sayers traded his hockey gear for coaching attire as he was behind one of the benches for the annual intrasquad game on Sunday. Sayers, who could return to the Mintos as a 17-year-old, will be trying out for the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes shortly and it is expected they will take a long look at the gifted blueliner. Sayers, however, was on the short end of the coaching challenge with teammate Lance Yaremchuk as his squad lost 5-1 to Yaremchuk, another potential returnee who will try and crack the line-up of the Prince Albert Raiders when that camp begins in just over a week.
There are a lot of “ifs”, “buts” and “maybes” to be answered, but the Prince Albert Mintos have a somewhat better idea of what they are dealing with following their annual training camp on the weekend at the Art Hauser Centre.
While a number of players from last year’s team have graduated and moved on to the next phase in their respective careers, several key players who could return will be attending Western Hockey League camps in the next couple of weeks and others still will likely try out for a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League squad.
That leaves the club in a state of limbo, but this weekend gave head coach Ken Morrison and his staff an opportunity to see what other talent is available and he was pretty pleased with what he saw.
“We have to wait and see what happens at other camps, but we feel pretty good with the guys out here,” said Morrison after the annual Green and Black intrasquad game on Sunday. “Every year we seem to get a pretty good crop of guys.”
The Mintos, who have been league finalists in each of the last three seasons and will be hosting the Telus Cup western regional qualifying tournament in April, could have as many as a dozen spots to fill, but that number won’t be firmed up until the WHL teams make decisions on players who could return to the club.
Lance Yaremchuk, the Mintos leading scorer last year, will be looking to crack the line-up with the Prince Albert Raiders while Bryton Sayers was a late cut with the Lethbridge Hurricanes a year ago and is expected to get a long look at that camp. Both are 17 years old and in their final year of midget eligibility.
Lochlan Morrison is a 16-year-old defenseman who will get a good look with the Calgary Hitmen and with his size and strength could quite possibly crack that squad in his first year of eligibility. Matthew Campese is another 16-year-old who was at camp this weekend and after spending last year in Penticton will play for the Mintos if the Victoria Royals don’t have a spot for him. Campese, the son of Raiders’ general manager Bruno Campese, played a couple of games with Victoria last year as a 15-year-old so the Royals are very aware of his talents.
Those are some big holes to fill, but Morrison says hosting the western regional event didn’t hurt in attracting players to the camp this weekend.
“Where it might help is in a situation where a player might sit on the bench in the SJ (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League) or play a lot here,” says Morrison. “In that respect it might make a difference.”
Campese was the only one of those four to play in the intrasquad game while a number of returning players didn’t dress as injuries to Ryan Duret and Teal Sobkowicz kept them on the sidelines and goaltender Lane Michasiw also sat in the stands to let the other goaltenders audition for a spot on the team.
The final 40 players who participated in the intrasquad game featured a lot of promising talent with about half of those players being from Prince Albert. Morrison says, for now, what the coaching staff will do is talk to all the players and try and get some of them listed as affiliate players. The remaining players will then have two weeks off before the team gets back on the ice in preparation for the exhibition season.
MINTO NOTES: Yaremchuk coached the green team while Sayers was behind the bench for the Black squad. Yaremchuk had the last laugh with his club winning 5-1…On Saturday the Mintos had a nice surprise when long-time equipment manager Dan “Cobra” Taylor made an appearance at camp. Cobra suffered a debilitating stroke last Christmas when the team was en route to Calgary for the annual Mac’s Invitational tournament and had not seen the team in action since then. Cobra is still recovering from the setback, but the team was buoyed by his appearance…One noted no-show at the camp was Prince Albert product Drew Warkentine, the captain of the Venice House Raiders last year. Warkentine, drafted by the Kootenay Ice in the WHL bantam draft, is apparently heading to the Tisdale Trojans camp…The Mintos play their first exhibition game on Sept. 7 when they host Tisdale at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.