Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Strachan sees positives at Lakers camp

Not bad for starters.
General manager and head coach Wayne Strachan and his coaching staff got their first look at some of the potential pieces to fill out the puzzle that is currently the 2014-15 Fort Frances Lakers at the team’s open camp at Bronco Arena in International Falls this past weekend.

Despite some large holes to fill thanks to those who have departed since last year’s run to the Bill Salonen Cup, the SIJHL’s reigning Coach of the Year felt positive coming out of the experience.
“In the end, I believe our staff was impressed with what we had at camp,” said Strachan about the group which included 39 players altogether.
“The goalies all showed what they were capable of,” he added.
“We’re very interested in about five defencemen and the top 12 forwards in camp all showed us something in the way of wanting to be at main camp (next month).
“It was a younger group with only three 20-year-olds, so for the age group overall, I liked what I saw and thought for the most part camp was intense and featured some good hockey,” said Strachan.
While evaluations of the camp are ongoing, three forwards and three defencemen have already received offers to the team’s main camp.
Strachan announced on Tuesday one of those, blueliner George Roblin from Winnipeg, has officially signed with the team.
The 17-year-old played with the St. Vital Victorias of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League last year.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder posted 10 points in 42 games and stood out at this past weekend’s camp.
“(Roblin) showed poise in his play, hard work and moved the puck well,” said Strachan.
“He has a physical side to his game and understands when to jump into the play to join offensively,” added the coach.
“We believe he will be a strong defensive defenceman.”
Each positional group at the camp had its strengths and weaknesses, starting with what looks like another lethal group of skaters up front.
“With the forwards, I liked the speed and skill that was shown, with many players finishing checks,” noted Strachan.
“I disliked a lot of the stick work, a bit of selfishness and the lack of backchecking at times.
As for the blue-liners, Strachan praised their ability to finish their checks in the corners and how well they moved the puck.
“I was happy with how they joined the rush and made simple plays to get out of their end,” he declared.
“But there were some bad decisions on putting pucks up the middle and some soft plays along the wall resulting in turnovers. Those can all be corrected through coaching and demonstration.”
When it came to the masked men, Strachan applauded their positioning which helped them the netminders stay square to the puck, as well as their puck movement.
But those roses were accompanied by a few thorns.
“They had trouble remaining focused when they were coming in for the second part of games,” detailed Strachan.
“I know it is hard on them, but you never know when you may get the chance to enter the game.
“There were also some weak goals five-hole and some shots that found the top of the net.”
The players were split into Team White and Team Black for four intrasquad games.
After winning 6-3 on Friday and 5-0 on Saturday morning, Team White rallied for a 3-2 victory Saturday night and then completed the sweep on Sunday with a 6-2 triumph.
Leading the way for Team White was a familiar face for Laker fans.
“Veteran (forward) Bryson Jasper, I would say, led the camp in scoring,” stated Strachan.
“It was good to see him playing so well and hopefully he brings that intensity to the main camp and into the season.”
Some new players also caught the eye of Strachan, including a local product.
“(Forward) Graeme Kitt had a solid camp making some nice plays,” said Strachan about one of the key players in the Muskies’ run to the quarter-finals of the all-Ontario championships this past spring.
The Kenora tandem of forward Rhyse Mandamin (Beaver Brae Broncos) and defenceman Jordan Olsen (St. Thomas Aquinas Saints) were others that drew praise from Strachan.
“Rhyse is a slick-skating skilled forward,” said the coach.
“Jordan stepped up and showed skill and toughness throughout the camp.”
Strachan added to the group of promising prospects with the mention of Manitouwadge product Brandon Janveau, a defenceman who played with the Junior ‘B’ Schreiber Filane’s Falcons last year.
“Brandon was crunching bodies and finishing checks on the back end,” pointed out Strachan.
The bench boss estimated between 20-22 players from the weekend camp will eventually be invited to the main camp, including two unnamed forwards who are contemplating OHL offers at this time.
Though it’s felt more like actual summer the past few days, with the first bit of on-ice hockey business out of the way, Strachan already has a taste for the winter grind ahead.
“Even though we are a ways away, this camp always puts you in hockey mode,” he said.
“We call, text and e-mail recruits all summer. But once you actually see them on the ice, that’s when the interest sparks, the blood gets rushing and you start to mold the team entering into main camp,” noted Strachan.
In other Lakers news, overage defenceman Riley Daly has found his landing spot for the fall.
The 20-year-old Winnipeg native who finished off his junior eligibility with the Fort last year, will suit up for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks based in Oshawa.
Last season, Daly posted four goals and 17 assists in 52 regular-season games and added one goal and three assists in 13 SIJHL playoff games. He also had one assist in four games at the Dudley Hewitt Cup in Wellington.

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