Kings prospects get a taste of what’s in store at major midget level

Dave Kearsey
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Matt Colbourne, right, tries to work his way around defender Ryan Gillam Friday night at the Kinsmen Arena II during the Colemans Western Kings spring identification camp for potential prospects for the 2014-15 provincial major midget hockey league season. A total of 21 players were on the ice Friday, with only eight of them returnees from this past season. Further sessions were held Saturday from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

CORNER BROOK  Puckstopper Luke House will have a new group of teammates this year and he already likes some of the prospects in the mix for a spot on the 2014 edition of the Western Kings.

House, who earned a spot with the Kings last season in his rookie year, was one of the 23 players in attendance for the Colemans Western Kings identification camp for prospects this past weekend at the Kinsmen Arena II in Corner Brook.

“Lots of young guys out, which is good,” House said when asked of the turnout at the prospects camp.

The 23 players in camp didn’t include nine returnees who had prior commitments and weren’t required in camp because it was more about recruiting new blood for this year’s team. There were also a number of first-year players unavailable for the camp because they were attending a provincial Under-16 hockey camp and there were several players who expressed interest who couldn’t commit to the weekend but want a chance to crack the roster when the Kings holds its main camp in late August. There are also a couple of players from Ontario who will be moving to Corner Brook in the fall with hopes of playing major midget hockey in the province, according to Art Skinner, the team’s director of hockey operations for the past five seasons under general manager Leonard Smith.

House liked the group of players assembled at the camp.

“There’s some good young players coming up,” House said. “I think it’s going to be hard to replace some of the third-year guys from off the start, and I say some of the younger guys it will be a big adjustment for them but I say they’ll be able to do it.”

House shared the puckstopping duties with Ian Woolfrey last season as the Kings bowed out in the final to the Central IcePak. It appears he’s ready to fight for the No. 1 job with Woolfrey again, but it’s a challenge he says both guys really have fun with and derive motivation from so it’s a healthy relationship.

“I think we’re a little bit hard on each other, but I think we’re good for each other. We push each other hard which is good,” he said, noting himself and Woolfrey had fun ribbing each other from time to time over their performances last year.

Skinner, meanwhile, said he was pleasantly surprised at the numbers in camp and believes that bodes well for the new franchisee for the Kings. Kings general manager Leonard Smith has stepped down from a role he held for five seasons so the search is on for another person or group to take over the major midget hockey franchise on the west coast. Skinner said he will help in any way he can to get the new franchisee on track for this season, but then he’s going to take a breath from hockey.

“I will still stay on board to help get the transition done, but after that it’s my intention to retire,” he said. “My work commitments are just too much.”

The commitment shown to the team by both Smith and Skinner hasn’t been lost on House by any means.

“It’s going to be different, but I say whoever takes over the team will do a good job with it,” he said. “They did a lot for our team last year and we really appreciate it.”

Skinner believes the players have a better understanding of what’s at stake now that they’ ve participated in a training camp.

“Get them in here, have a look at them and let them know what the process is on what’s going to happen between now and the fall,” he said of his focus over the weekend.

Skinner hopes whoever takes over the franchise has the interest of the players first and foremost on their minds. He also encouraged them to get on top of things early to ensure a smooth season.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work that you don’t see behind the scenes,” he said. “All that prep work has to be done as soon as somebody gets on board. So earlier preparation and earlier work done up front would save you a lot of aggravation on the end.”

Organizations: Kings, CORNER BROOK Puckstopper Luke House

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Ontario

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