YORKTON - The champion of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is still to be determined, but locally the Yorkton Terriers looked ahead to next season holding their spring camp last week.
While the Estevan Bruins are leading the Flin Flon Bombers two-games-to-none in the SJ final, Terrier head coach and general manager was liking what he saw for a Yorkton run at the league crown in 2023.
Hehr said this year they kept the camp smaller, focusing on trying to bring in players who can help the team immediately, or in the future, rather than bringing in lots of players.
“We had four teams, probably 60ish, (players). It wasn’t a huge camp but it was a competitive one,” he said.
The Terriers head toward the 2022-23 season with a core of players who appear ready to return to the team that lost in the league semi-final to Estevan.
“As of right now everybody has said they’re planning to come back,” said Hehr.
The Terrier coach then added just wanting to return does not ensure a spot on the roster. He said veterans will need “to earn a spot on the team,” and that will mean competing for those spots at fall camp.
Of those who can return only six will be 20.
“So we have some room to add some vets if we need to,” said Hehr, adding from what he saw at camp “we might not need that veteran presence.”
From what Hehr said he saw at spring camp, the competitions for every spot is likely to be hard fought.
In fact, Hehr said the veterans are likely going “to feel the heat a little bit.”
Hehr said they had recruited players they thought would be good, but added in camp several looked better than they had anticipated.
“We weren’t expecting them to be that good,” he said, adding he was particularly happy to see some players putting a lot of rubber in the net during scrimmages.
Players such as Cade Kennedy, Aiden Knutson, Jackson McDonald, and Brett Butz were among those drawing praise, in part of jelling well through camp.
“There was some really good chemistry already,” said Hehr. “It’s a good start for next year.”
In net the Terriers return Kael DePape who was very solid for the team, but Tresor Wotton, who also looked solid when called up was only on loan from Waywayseecappo of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, so he’ll be headed back to the Wolverines in the fall.
Hehr said they might have found Wotton’s replacement in a very young option, 16-year-old Preston Patenaude, who played with the Rink Hockey Academy in Kelowna last season.
“He didn’t look out of place,” said Hehr.
Sean Norum who played last season with the Sherwood Park Kings U18 AAA team also looked like he will challenge for a spot in net, said the Terrier coach.
Come the fall camp, Hehr said it will again be a small group of about 50 players, half young list players “just there to get some experience, to get their feet wet,” before going back to U18 teams, said Hehr.
The rest will be fighting for final roster spots.
“We want two, or three guys fighting for each spot. It’s going to be a war,” said Hehr.