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Bruins get glimpse of future at camp

The Estevan Bruins camp will be breaking the ice this weekend.

The Estevan Bruins camp will be breaking the ice this weekend.

For the young hockey players attending this spring's camp, they will be gauging their initial reactions of the club, just as scouts will be taking a very personal look at the hockey talent and off-ice poise.

While junior teams have major face changes just about every year, next year's Bruins will have undergone a particularly drastic cleansing. The team will be minus nine 20-year-old players from this past season. Rick Oakes, Bruins director of player personnel, said that means there are between 10 and 13 positions they are looking to fill.

"Every coach will tell you, moving from one season to the next, we're always looking for the best guys," said Oakes. "A lot of them will tell you there are 23 spots going to be open in the fall. Legitimately we're going to need to fill 10 to 13 holes this year. A lot of those 1993 born kids and some of our '94s are going to be stepping in next year and playing in some prominent roles."

With nine players gone, Oakes said there are six eligible to return next year, but noted there are no guarantees who will be back.

"We're going to be a younger team. We have some pretty high-end '93 kids coming in. We're very happy with our '91-92 group, and if we can add some high-end '93s to play some prominent roles, we're definitely going to be a younger team."

There are about 65 to 70 hockey players that will attend the camp on the weekend, coming from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and the United States.

"The biggest thing we're looking for," said Oakes, "is we want good character guys who want to be part of our program, want to be part of the city of Estevan, want to create a winning tradition, and help our club win a Royal Bank Cup down the road."

For bantam players, and those entering their first year of midget, the camp is mostly an orientation. The camp is meant to see them play in the competitive environment and gain the experience of a junior camp.

"It's to get their feet wet, and see what it's like to attend a junior camp. It gives them a bit of a building block-a base to build toward future camps down the road. A lot of those 14- and 15-year-old kids, as they turn 15, they're eligible to become listed. We want to get a good look at them and make sure we're aware of who's coming up and who's going to be reaching that 15-year-old listing age."

It's important, said Oakes, to identify players at a young in order to have a "leg up" on the opponent.

"It's our job to identify them at a young age and make sure we're getting them shuffled through the Bruin camps, and making them aware of our organization and what we can offer them."

As far as what jobs need to be filled, Oakes said they are looking forward to Shea Cooper coming back next year between the pipes. They will however, be looking for someone to play "in tandem" with him.

"We're going to have some holes to fill on our back end. We had some 20-year-olds that played some prominent roles for us this year. Defence is definitely an area we have to address. That being said, we're going to have to bring in some forwards that can step in and contribute in key areas. We're going to have some 18-year-olds playing some prominent roles and that includes our forward group."

A lot of decisions for next year have already been made, said Oakes.

"We've been following these guys for upwards of three years. We list some of these players as 15-year-olds. We've been following them through their midget careers, and just waiting for them to step up and take on that next step and make the jump to the junior level."

All players will be given an exit interview before leaving and everyone will know where they stand going forward.

While the players will hit the ice at the Civic Auditorium on Friday for the camp, all players and their parents will have guided tours through the new facility at Spectra Place.

Splitting the players into four teams, each team will get a chance to practise Friday afternoon before inter-squad scrimmages begin in the evening.

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