The Fort Frances Lakers' three-day training camp wrapped up Saturday and head coach/general manager Wayne Strachan now is eager for the squad's first pre-season game.
“I'm excited to get the year started, and interested to see where we're going to be this [coming] Saturday in Hoyt Lakes and what we can bring,” he remarked.
“It's going to give us an opportunity to see what we have,” Strachan reiterated.
“And it gives the opportunity for first-year players, or even some of the vets, to get their feet wet and know what to expect going into the first regular-season game.”
Strachan greatly values the pre-season, noting those games give his team good opportunities to get ready for their first league game, which is slated for Sept. 21 in Dryden.
“Out of the league [SIJHL], I think we're playing the most [pre-season] games so we should be game ready and know where we sit,” he reasoned.
“It will give us a chance to feel one another out, get a little chemistry and camaraderie going, and see what we need to do to continue to strengthen our team.”
Strachan was impressed by a handful of players at camp, giving him a positive outlook moving forward.
“Returnee Nick Lucas had a pretty strong camp," he noted. ”I would say he's been most consistent throughout the four games so far.
“He was our leading scorer last year so it's kind of expected, but he's definitely had a good camp.”
Other camp star forwards included Kirk Coppock.
“He's come in and played well," Strachan lauded. ”He works hard and he's created a lot of offence with the guys he's been working with.
“He would be a good fit as a 20-year-old returning to the league.”
As for the team's blueliners, Nate Drobnick has impressed Strachan with his skating and defensive plays.
“He moves the puck well and he scored some nice goals from the back end,” Strachan said.
He's also happy with the work ethic shown by MacKenzie Flett.
“It looks like he has worked hard over the summer to improve and definitely has shown that out here,” Strachan noted.
Newcomer Dane Bateman has shown considerable skills throughout the camp, as well.
“He moves the puck well, skates well, and will be a good addition to the squad,” Strachan lauded.
Strachan, meanwhile, is happy to see so many local players signed with the team during the off-season, which he said is the most the Lakers have ever had.
“I think it's just a good cycle of kids,” he remarked.
“Our minor hockey elite programs and our high school team has done a great job in developing these players.”
Although some players still have room to grow and develop, Strachan is hopeful they'll be able to quickly build up their skills.
“There's a lot of good players from Fort Frances out there so hopefully the 10 [local] guys we have can help contribute to some success this season,” he enthused.
Strachan also is hopeful the increase in local players will help to fill the stands.
“There's lots of buzz right now and people are excited, I think,” he said.
Moving forward, the Lakers will be getting right into practices, where they'll strategize and identify both strengths and weaknesses heading into the first pre-season game.
The team's first pre-season game is set for this Saturday (Sept. 8) against the Minnesota Iron Rangers at the Hoyt Lakes Arena.
The following day (Sept. 9), the Lakers will return to the Ice For Kids Arena to host those same Iron Rangers starting at 7 p.m.