The Virden Oil Capitals organization feels pretty good about its future after a strong Comfort Inn and Suites Spring Camp.
About 112 players ranging from 14-year-old potential bantam draft picks to 16 to 18-year-old prospects and free agents attended the competitive camp. It was held this year at the Tundra Oil & Gas Place April 5-7.
“We got a cupboard full of prospects who are vying for spots,” said Jamie Hodson, the team’s director of business and hockey operations. “We feel positive with the group we have coming in this year and the next two years.”
The Oil Capitals only have five players who age out after helping a talented and youthful team to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League semifinals this past season. Many of the players at the spring camp are looking to be wearing Oil Caps jerseys in the fall.
“We have a set of guys who are really competing for spots and this weekend was basically a show for them,” said Hodson, who later stated, “We are going to have some tough decisions to make this coming year and that’s a good problem to have.”
Many of the players at the spring camp were drafted by the Oil Caps, local players tabbed as auto protect picks, or signed as prospects. In addition, numerous free agents attended. Marc Berry, an Oil Caps scout and team consultant, said the team was very happy with the skill level of that group.
“The 2001-2003 born players coming out of midget, prep school and high school programs have numerous opportunities and decisions when it comes to furthering their career and taking the next step into junior hockey,” Berry said. “As a staff, we were happy that free agent players we identified throughout this season see Virden as a place they’d like to play.”
The camp also allowed the Oil Capitals to get up close and personal with players eligible for the upcoming MJHL draft.
“A great group of young guys who really turned a lot of eyes in our scouting staff and management staff just with their compete level and the young group that is coming up in the bantam draft that potentially could be draft picks of ours really shined,” Hodson said.
With games, practices, power skating sessions, and dryland work, the Oil Capitals scouts and coaches got to know the players’ skills and personalities a bit better.
“You get a bit of a read on what kind of kid they are. … It is a more comprehensive evaluation,” Virden head coach and general manager Troy Leslie said.
The camp was a total team effort for the Oil Caps organization with current players even helping out. Hodson, Leslie and assistant coach Tyson Ramsey obviously played big roles. Head scout Brian Elder oversees the crucial bantam draft with the help of Scott Coates and Wade Skolney. Berry facilitated the out of province players and some Manitoba free agents.
“All the guys involved with our hockey team off the ice have been tremendous in bringing these players here,” Hodson said.
While Hodson said the local contingent showed well at camp, the event drew players from across the province as well as Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario. Players from the U.S. did not attend as it was the same time as the MJHL Prospect Camp in Grand Forks, which Hodson got to see some of as well as scouts Bryn Chyzyk, a Virden product, and Geno Parrish.
“It is always exciting when kids from far away want to come to small town Virden,” Hodson said. “I think we had a lot of good comments about the town, the rink, and the community. I think it is kudos to the community and everyone involved and also our hockey club.”