The Port Perry MoJacks took their first steps toward the 2015-16 COJHL season last week, when the team hosted their annual Prospect Evaluation Camp at Oshawa’s Campus Ice Centre.
Through three days, potential MoJacks took to the ice in the hopes of impressing the team’s staff enough to move on to eventually suit up for the local Junior ‘C’ hockey team.
MoJacks head coach Clair Cornish noted that there was a lot of talent on the ice, with tough decisions facing his staff as they continue with the evaluation process, made more difficult by the fact that Junior ‘C’ teams are only eligible to have one 16-year-old player signed to their roster.
“Every year, the younger guys seem to be getting better,” Cornish told The Standard. “As a staff, we were pleasantly surprised with the 16-year-old players in camp. It made us wish that we’re able to take more than just one.”
As well, Cornish noted that there notable players from the area taking part in camp.
“There are definitely some local players that have the skills to play in our league,” commented Cornish, who is heading into his second season as head coach of the team he starred for in the early 1990’s.
The next stage for the MoJacks’ prospects will be another evaluation and fitness testing camp - also involving the team’s returning players from last season - at the end of the month.
“This will really give our prospects a full experience of junior hockey with fitness testing to set the bar for the summer, before we host our main training camp,” added Cornish. “We have been trying to consistently elevate our program, and this is the next step. We want Midget players to see Junior ‘C’ as a destination where they can continue their development to possibly move on to higher levels of hockey.”
Amongst the prospects, Cornish explained that he was looking for the team to upgrade their speed and skill following their playoff exit in the preliminary round last year against the Little Britain Merchants.
“I think that we have to get faster. Looking around at the top teams, even beyond our league, they seemed to have more team speed. Also, we have to get more skillful and try and integrate these guys in with the guys that we have coming back.
Cornish noted that depth will ultimately be the key to the MoJacks making a run at a league championship, and success at the provincial level.
“To go deep in the playoffs you have to have depth in your roster and a big part of that, is finding the right players who can play roles all through your lineup.”
Cornish also said that the team was pleased to be able to offer their assistance to the community at the recent compost giveaway, and added that more projects to have the team involved in various ways within the Scugog community are currently being planned by the team.
Meanwhile, the Uxbridge Bruins also started their journey towards the 2015-16 COJHL season last week, as they hosted their annual Prospect Evaluation Camp over four nights at Uxbridge Arena.
Bruins head coach Geoff Hodgkinson was impressed with the talent assembled, and noted that his staff may have some tough choices to make as the evaluation process continues this summer, especially with turnover expected on the Bruins’ roster through age graduation, as well as with some players poised to jump to the Junior ‘A’ level.
“The speed and calibre of play have been very good,” the Bruins’ bench boss told The Standard. “There are a lot of kids impressing us, and with what we potentially will have to replace there are some players here who might be able to make an impact for us this season.”
The Bruins’ camp attracted players from across the GTA, heavily dominated by 16-year-old players that have just completed their minor midget season and 18-year-olds that have exhausted their eligibility at the Midget age group.
“There is a lot of diversity in skills, and we’ve been able to bring in players from a lot of different towns such as Whitby, Markham and Pickering. As usual, there is a strong number of Uxbridge kids in camp, which is always a bonus to be able to draw from the local association,” added Hodgkinson.
The coach also noted that some players have been directed to the team through existing and recent players, which, as Hodgkinson explained, is a valuable recruiting method for the local Junior ‘C’ hockey club.
“It seems like our guys have been doing a really good job of pushing our program, and it’s starting to show up at our camps” said Hodgkinson. “Word of mouth and having our veterans say that their time here was enjoyable is the easiest form of recruiting for us. Our players sending us players is the best thing we can hope for as a staff.”
The next stage in the evaluation process for the Bruins will be a late-June trip to the TEP Showcase Tournament at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
“Right now we are looking for someone who can play with ability and determination and showing that he can compete and play at this level with his peers. Then we will move on to the tournament and eventually our main camp,” added Hodgkinson.