It became more apparent than ever last weekend that there will be some very tough decisions to make at the Estevan Bruins’ training camp this fall.
The Bruins’ annual spring camp wrapped up on Sunday, with many youngsters giving the team lots to think about over the summer.
The crop of defencemen at camp turned in a particularly strong showing, with several 18- and 17-year-olds serving notice that they intend to make the club in September.
Bruins director of player personnel Rick Oakes said he was impressed with many of the rearguards at camp.
“This young group of defencemen coming up is definitely a reason for optimism in the fall. They will push some veterans and maybe supplant them for spots,” he said.
Oakes noted that 1994-borns Jordan Greig, David Robertson and Sean Whelan as well as 1995s Zach Douglas and Edwin Hookenson all looked good.
He added that 18-year-old Calgary native Brett Dumaine was perhaps the biggest surprise in camp.
“Brett Dumaine was very strong. He came in as an unknown to a certain degree; he has some family in the area and decided to come to camp. The beauty of him is he can play forward or defence. To have a swingman like that bodes well for our hockey club.
“I think he made a very big impression. One of the key things moving forward is we want to be a bigger hockey club and be tougher to play against. We’re very excited about him.”
Another member of the team’s pipeline on defence is Blake McMillen of Carievale, a late 1994 birthday who played a game with the Bruins this season and will be looking to crack the team.
“You go in every year to hopefully make the team, but when it’s this year that really counts, you really gotta play well right from the start and try to play your best,” he said.
There are also some goalies who will push 19-year-olds Steven Glass and Tyler Ross in the crease over the next year or two.
Oakes said he was impressed with 1994 Travis Pelletier, who will push for a backup job this fall, as well as ’95s Braven MacPherson and Ryland Pashovitz — who was only at the camp for one day — as well as ’96 goalie Cody Murray of the Estevan midget AA team.
Up front, there are several 18-year-olds who will have their sights set on a roster spot, including Wyatt Garagan, Dayton Picard, Brandon Halbgewachs and recent pickup Hudson Morrison, who spent time with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines last year.
Garagan tied the final game of the tournament for Team Gold with 36 seconds remaining, but his squad lost 5-4 to Team Black on a penalty shot. He said he’s confident about his chances of making the team, but he knows he has to put in the effort.
“You know what you’re doing, so you just come in, work hard and show what you can do. It’s not really a different mindset, not a cocky mindset at all, but I guess it gives you that extra boost of confidence to work a little harder to get that spot.”
Picard said he was happy with his camp and believes he can be of value to the Bruins.
“I (went into) the offensive zone and tried to create some plays. That’s what I did best in Moose Jaw, so I tried to continue what I did,” said Picard. “I think I can bring a little bit of offence and also take on a bit of a grinding role on a shutdown line.”
But the 18-year-olds will not be alone in their pursuit of roster spots, as Oakes believes several midget-aged players have a good shot at making the team.
That group could include 17-year-old forwards Darcy Deroose, Adam Osczevski and Daniel Wanner, as well as Douglas and Hookenson on the back end.
Osczevski was listed by the Bruins in mid-season after being dropped by the Kindersley Klippers.
“He definitely made a good impression,” Oakes said. “He had a good year with the Prince Albert Mintos and peaked in the playoffs. He’s got a great opportunity as a 17-year-old to step in and contribute.”
Osczevski was satisfied with his showing and wants to step up his game for fall camp.
“I thought I gave them all I could for now. Next fall I’m going to bring even more to the table.”
Oakes also believes Bienfait product Lynnden Pastachak — widely regarded as one of the top forwards at the spring camp — could make the Bruins as a 16-year-old, something of a rarity in the SJHL these days.
For a 15-year-old to step in and show what he showed this weekend is very impressive,” Oakes said.
“When you have a guy like Lynnden Pastachak leading the pack (of 1996-born players), it’s definitely a reason for optimism.”
He added that Pastachak will play in some exhibition games and, if he doesn’t make the team, will be used as an affiliated player during the season.