Lumber Kings see into the future with Prospects camp 0
Pembroke Lumber Kings fans got a chance to see the future of the storied franchise over the weekend.
Fresh from exiting in the second round of the Central Hockey League playoffs, the team held its sixth annual open prospects camp at the Pembroke Memorial Centre.
The camp is used by the Lumber Kings' coaching staff as a launching point for recruiting for the upcoming season as well as preparation for the CHL draft for players playing within the Ottawa District Hockey Association (ODHA).
Lumber Kings head coach and general manager Sheldon Keefe said he and his coaching staff were impressed with the talent they saw on the ice.
"This has been one of our better camps as far as the calibre," he said.
The camp was open for any player born in 1993-1997. While every year produces a small group of stand-out players, Keefe noted that there is always a larger group of players with potential but still need development. This spring's session brought 65 players with the top 40 prospects selected by the close of the camp Sunday.
The coach acknowledged the team has never officially entered a rebuild after their successful RBC national championship win in 2011 which was followed by the departure of 16 players in the off-season.
"We're still in that mode," he said.
The main focus is to get better offensively as scoring goals was a struggle for the Kings this past season, but also filling the holes left by the departure of number one goalie Francis Dupuis and defence-men Tom Hilbrich, Will Seeber and Justin Stevens.
"We are continuing to look to add to that young core but at the same time we are looking for the older impact player that can get us back to where we want to be," explained Keefe. "We certainly weren't happy with a sixth place finish. Despite our playoff success, our regular season didn't go the way we wanted it to so we are looking to improve in a lot of different areas."
Out of this evaluation process, the team anticipates recruiting six and seven new players who could end up at training camp prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign. Previous camps have resulted in 45 players either earning their way to being drafted or making the Lumber Kings roster.
"We have a lot of holes to fill at every position," said Keefe. "There are some standouts everywhere from goaltender to defence and with the forwards. We're think we are off to a good start with what will hopefully be a productive summer."
The 40 top prospects were divided into two teams which faced off with one final 90-minute game Sunday afternoon at the PMC. A small collection of fans and parents sat in the stands to get their first look at some potential Lumber Kings. Whether they make it or not, Keefe remarked that it takes a lot of dedication by these minor hockey prospects, along with the tireless support of their families, to reach the junior 'A' level.
"Any of the kids who make it to this level are serious and they've put a lot of time and effort into it," he said. "It really takes that kind of commitment for players to really separate themselves from the pack."
Another prospect camp is slated for either June or July dependent on what rinks are available, the coach concluded.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist