© Herald photo by Dave Leaderhouse
The Art Hauser Centre was full of Minto hopefuls on the weekend as more than 130 players ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old were auditioning their talents to try and earn an invite to fall camp for the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League franchise. While the current batch of Mintos are anxiously waiting to start the Western Regional championship on Thursday at the Art Hauser Centre, the large contingent on the weekend are hoping to be a part of the winning tradition that has been established by team in the past decade.
While the current crop of Prince Albert Mintos are busy preparing themselves for the Western Regional championship that will be played later this week, the future stars of the club were under the spotlight on the weekend when more than 130 players took part in the spring training camp held at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Mintos, who open the Western Regional event on Thursday at 8 p.m. against Thunder Bay, will have a number of positions open in the fall as more than half the team will graduate and a couple others could move on to a higher level of hockey.
Definitely playing their final games at the Midget AAA level are Lance Yaremchuk, Jared Blaquiere, Rhys Kipling, Ryan Duret, Teal Sobkowicz, Wyatt Grant, Keegan Kjargaard, Carson Cayer, Braden Lozinski, Braxx George and Lane Michasiw. A win at the Western Regionals, however, would postpone their graduation until the end of April, but this week will be the last time they wear Minto colours at the Art Hauser Centre.
Add to the high number of graduates are a pair of 16-year-olds who could very easily move up to the junior ranks. Defenceman Lochlan Morrison had a six-game audition with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen this year and he is expected to secure a spot with that club next year while rookie goaltender Connor Ingram will get a shot with the Kamloops Blazers, but could also end up with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers. Ingram, who was named the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s goaltender of the year in his rookie campaign, dressed one game for the Bombers this year.
That’s a fairly substantial turnover so this weekend the coaching and scouting staff were looking at the large turnout to get a feel for what lies ahead in the talent pool.
A pair of 15-year-olds – Jake Hobson from Prince Albert and Erik Gardiner from Humboldt – will likely get good looks in the fall as both were summoned to help fill in this year when the Mintos were ravaged by injuries.
Derrick Hucul is a 16-year-old netminder from Saskatoon who could be a possible replacement in goal and then there was a bevy of local talent with players from the bantam Venice House Raiders and midget Dmyterko Enterprises Raiders auditioning to try and make a move to the higher level of play.
The large group were split into eight teams with each squad getting four ice sessions to show off their talents. The coaching staff of Ken Morrison, Brad Bergen and Todd Becker - which is expected to be kept intact for next year - was busy with player evaluations on Sunday and were unavailable for comment.
What a camp this size does is offer plenty of options for filling in the roster plus it also supports the knowledge that the Minto program is one of the best in the province. Each year more players want to play here and that shows in the standings as the Mintos continue to challenge for league and national championships.