The Estevan Bruins wasted no time after SJHL teams were issued player cards for the 2012-13 season, getting nine of their listed players signed to cards in two days.
Forward prospects Wyatt Garagan, Dylan Johner, Brandon Halbgewachs, Ben Williams and Dayton Picard, defence prospects David Robertson, Brett Dumaine and Sean Whelan, and goalie prospect Travis Pelletier were all signed.
The larger group was inked last Monday while commitments from Picard and Whelan came on Tuesday. All nine players were born in 1994 and will be entering their 18-year-old seasons.
"We've signed these guys for a reason. We think they can be players," said Bruins head coach and general manager Keith Cassidy. "We're making a commitment to them. They're making a commitment to us. Now it's up to them to come in and prove that they belong as a Bruin.
"There are going to be some huge battles at different positions. Regardless of the player age or status or anything like that, we're looking for the best group of guys that can represent Estevan at the highest level. That's going to be the theme going into camp and coming out of it," he added.
Cassidy said he was expecting more imminent signings, likely from a group of players including forwards Hudson Morrison and Darcy Deroose and defencemen Jordan Greig and Blake McMillen.
Greig, who is generally considered the team's top defence prospect, recently had his Manitoba rights traded from the Swan Valley Stampeders to his hometown Virden Oil Capitals, and now has a decision to make.
Cassidy said the group recently signed is bigger, on average, than the banner crop of recruits brought in last summer.
"We did have a very good recruiting class last year," he said. "I think this year we've got a little bit more in terms of the size department, but other than that, they're all good kids and certainly are going to add to the success of our hockey club."
Garagan is a local product who had 36 points last year with the midget AAA Tisdale Trojans. He is expected to make the adjustment to junior hockey quickly.
"He's obviously a very talented individual, somebody that I think can have a pretty immediate impact on the team," said Cassidy. "He's a big body with a tremendous skill set."
Johner is another Estevan native who had 24 points with the Moose Jaw Generals.
"The main attraction for us to him is he's a very smart individual, plays within a team system very well and picked up on things very quickly (during his one-game call-up to the team)," said Cassidy.
Halbgewachs played seven games with the Bruins last season, including five in the playoffs. He had 27 points with the Regina Pat Canadians.
"He certainly showed some of the characterisitics that we love in a teammate," said Cassidy. "He's a hard-working, dependable winger who, if he continues to develop, is going to be a pretty relied-upon individual."
Williams is a Manitoba product who impressed at the team's spring camp in April. He had 30 points with the midget AAA Southwest Cougars last year.
Cassidy described him as "a character kid who we expect to come in and provide a lot of energy for us. He's a passionate individual, a little on the smaller side, but somebody who would relish any role that we throw at him."
Dumaine was likely the biggest surprise of spring camp who impressed with his size and ability to play both defence and forward. He played midget with the Calgary Royals last year.
"Dumaine is somebody who came in and blew the doors off and caught everybody's attention at spring camp," said Cassidy. "Obviously he's a bigger body, lots of durability there and versatility as well. He'll certainly add size and grit to our team."
Robertson was also among a large group of impressive defencemen at spring camp. He posted 23 points with the Cougars last year.
"He's a big solid stay-at-home defenceman who had a good camp with us here in the spring, and we're expecting him to come in and build upon what he's shown us over the last little while. Another big body on the back end is certainly going to help," said Cassidy.
Pelletier practised with the Bruins over the Christmas break and, after the departure of Tyler Ross, will be the favourite to back up returning starter Steven Glass going into training camp.
"He's somebody who we can see developing into a solid starting netminder in the future and somebody who'll work well with Steven Glass. He's a bigger body back there, covers a lot of net and just has a tremendous attitude and (is) very excited to be a Bruin," said Cassidy.
Whelan had 26 points with the Moose Jaw Generals. The Bruins had attempted to sign him last fall, but he chose to return to midget AAA. Cassidy described him as a high-end talent.
"He's a good puck-moving defenceman, a smart kid and he wants to be a player and that's important."
Picard was third on the Generals in scoring with 20 goals and 38 points. The Stoughton native also suited up for three games with the Bruins.
"I think we're continuing down the path of identifying character individuals and guys that want to be Bruins for the right reasons," said Cassidy. "That's key to building a stable, solid dressing room where guys want to play for each other."