Sports Hockey

Camrose Kodiaks add scouts in the U.S.

By Ryan Stelter, Camrose Canadian

 

The Camrose Kodiaks have expanded their scouting network south of the border. 

The club announced Cory Lonke and Bryan Fuss will scout for the Kodiaks in the Minnesota area. Lonke has strong connections to newly named assistant coach Nigel Dube, as the pair worked together when Dube was with the Minot Minotauraus of the North American Hockey League.  

Lonke is a high school hockey coach in Minneapolis currently and will scout primarily Minnesota high school players. Fuss is the lead skill instructor for Minnesota Made Hockey based in Edina, Minn. Fuss takes top end talent to elite tournaments in the spring and summer, so he spends a lot of time with highly skilled hockey players. 

Lonke said the high school programs in Minnesota are relatively the same to midget hockey in Canada. 

"I think the bigger programs here [in the U.S.] are a similar calibre," he said. "I think that up there [in Canada] the players are quite a bit younger and might be just as good. There are very good, what would be considered U18 players or midget, that are really good in high school." 

Minnesota loves its high school hockey, it is known as the "State of Hockey" and a lot of Canadians may not know just how serious Minnesota takes its hockey. The AA high school final can fill the Xcel Energy Centre, where the Minnesota Wild play.  

"They're really into it, especially high school hockey. I don't think there's another state that rivals it," Lonke said. "The nice thing about high school hockey is that unlike other states that it's not so much of a tradition, it's part of the high school, so they don’t have to pay crazy fees to play hockey like the they may have to in California or these non-traditional states." 

Despite being similar in so many different aspects, Lonke says Canadians and Americans play hockey differently, and Americans who play a Canadian style can find success up north. 

"Canadians, they play the game the right way and they respect the game and the tradition of it," he said. "I think the right kids down here that might play a pro style already or play a physical game I think those type of players down here can really thrive up north of the border." 

Junior A hockey in Canada may not be as well-known with the NAHL and the United States Hockey League have become legitimate routes to college hockey, both leagues having a laundry list of kids heading off to various U.S. colleges.  

"The USHL is an unbelievable league, same with the NAHL. The USHL is a very young league and it's a very fast game," Lonke said. "I think some of the late bloomers, if you can catch them, if they haven't already been noticed by those two leagues can do well in Canada, especially the Alberta league." 

Getting American kids to come play in Canada could prove to be a bit of a challenge with the USHL and NAHL becoming attractive options.  

"I do think they know about [Canadian junior A], I think the road block they run into is they just see that the NAHL and the USHL have kind of turned into marketing machines and they really have done a good job in promoting every college commitment," Lonke said. "I think if the players are educated they know the same thing is possible by going up to Canada."  

Lonke says Americans are more drawn to making it to college, while in Canada it is not as important. 

"I think the American players have always been more drawn to college after playing junior," he said. "I think Canadian players are raised where college hockey is not such a big deal so what they're striving for is to be a pro hockey player someday." 

Dube says with the Kodiaks' pedigree of moving players on to the NCAA level, it will be a draw to attract American talent.  

"It's definitely a stepping stone to get to the next level, the NCAA. The Kodiak organization has done a great job in moving players on to that," he said. "I think that's going to be a highlighted spotlight for players wanting to come up here. Not only the organization but the city as well, with the rich culture and history with the program here." 

 

rstelter@postmedia.com   



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