ESTEVAN - The new head coach of the Estevan Steelhaus U18 AAA Bears was impressed with the talent he saw on the ice at the club’s annual spring camp.
Ryan Pilon, who was hired by the club late last month, said they were really excited with the talent that was on the ice. Approximately 70 kids turned out and they were divided into four teams for practices on Friday and scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday at both the Power Dodge Arena and Affinity Place.
“The overall pace of play and competition was really strong, and we as a staff were really happy with it,” said Pilon.
Veteran players were mixed in with future Bears for the camp. Pilon said many of those returning players looked like they have already taken a “step in the right direction” from last season, and look like they’ll be part of the team moving forward.
Returning goaltender Kaden Perron impressed, and Pilon believes the defence will be strong with the returning and incoming talent.
“Our top forwards are going to be elite players in the league with some of our returning guys – the (Kole) Keens and the (Carter) Onraits, the (Carter) Tuplins and the Cade Coles – they’re elite players in this league, and we’re going to be leaning on them a lot moving forward,” said Pilon.
He didn’t divulge names of the prospects who stood out at camp, as those won’t be released until they start announcing commitments. Seven or eight of the kids at the camp were from the Estevan area, and Pilon was impressed with what he saw from the local contingent.
“A lot of the kids were hitting up two or three camps, so being one of the later ones, we were still very impressed with the kids and how mature some of the kids were that we were able to evaluate,” said Pilon.
“We were really happy with the pace of play and there are some hard decisions to make now with the coaching staff. With those hard decisions, it’s a good problem to be in.”
The snowstorm that hammered Estevan and other parts of southeast Saskatchewan during the weekend didn’t hinder the camp. Players arrived Friday afternoon and were in Estevan well before the snow started Saturday morning.
Pilon said the Bears are a “first-class” organization. The people have been great to work with, and he is looking forward to building a proud and winning tradition with a team where kids want to come play.
He also praised the Bears’ home rink of Affinity Place.
“I haven’t seen a junior facility of this calibre,” said Pilon. “It’s sure a treat walking into work every day, being able to walk into that rink.”
Everyone he has encountered since coming to Estevan has welcomed him to the community.
The Bears have also announced the return of Jason Johnstone as an assistant coach for the 2022-23 season. Johnstone was part of the organization for the abbreviated inaugural season in 2020-21 as an assistant coach.
He brings a wealth of coaching and scouting experience, the Bears said, from coaching in Weyburn Minor Hockey for many years and scouting with the Melville Millionaires.