Kodiaks add bantams to spring camp
Kodiaks head coach Boris Rybalka, right, chats with bantam aged players during the team’s annual spring camp April 1. More than 200 bantam and midget players attended this year’s camp. Sarah O. Swenson/Postmedia Network
Sarah O. Swenson
Spring has sprung but most of Canada is still caught in the throes of hockey fever. For some teams, it’s the post-season, but for others, they’re already gearing up for next season.
After wrapping up the AJHL season, the Camrose Kodiaks are already looking towards the future and planning ways to bolster their roster as the club hosted a spring camp for 220 bantam and midget-aged skaters from across Canada and the U.S. at Encana Arena March 30-April 1.
This is the first time bantams have been invited to camp. Inviting the 13 and 14-year-old players to spring camp gives them a glimpse at the possibilities of their future playing careers, the players, coaches, facilities, and hopefully serves as an enticement to aim to join the Kodiaks program.
“We get to see them, they do a fit test, they see the midgets play and see how much they have to improve to even be invited back,” said Kodiaks coach and manager Boris Rybalka.
The team’s scouting team is extensive and is part of the backbone of the club’s success. The Kodiaks have scouts across Western Canada and the U.S.
“You won’t survive as a junior team without a good scouting team in place. Time’s have changed,” said Rybalka.
“If you don’t (actively scout), these kids will go somewhere else. Scouting and recruiting is the most important thing in hockey now.”
While wooing elite players from far away lands is part of the job, the other side of the coin is knowing your local talent and trying to identify the best hometown players available to help give the team a proper sense of place in the community.
It’s a fine line for any team’s management: you can’t just sign local players because they’re local. They have to be good enough.
Fortunately, the Camrose talent pool has proven to be pretty deep.
“We had five local kids make the Kodiaks this year and that was big,” said Rybalka, adding the spring camp had a large turn out from Camrose city and county players.
Of the invited players, about 40 midgets will be invited back to the Kodiaks’ summer camp.
Between now and then, the invited players will have three months to work on the fitness and training advice given to them during post-spring camp interviews and the expectation of the coaching staff is to see an improvement.
The Kodiaks only had four players return to play this season and Rybalka won’t guess how many will be back in the fall. That uncertainty mean players will have to compete hard to earn their spot in the line-up.
One local player who benefited from the spring camp and joined the Kodiaks as a rookie last year was defenceman Brennan Davis.
“It was a good experience,” said the 17-year-old. “I was given a lot of stuff to work on (after camp), to get stronger, get my foot speed up, increase my confidence.”
Davis skated with the younger players at this year’s camp and was impressed with the talent level he saw on the ice.
“Some of those guys have a bright future and they could do well in this organization for sure,” he said.
Camrose Bantam AAA Red Wings centre Carson Taylor is one of those young skaters hoping to impress his local Junior A club. This was actually Taylor’s second year at camp; he was invited to play with the midgets last year.
“I like getting a bit of exposure to the coaches and the camp is really motivating,” said Taylor, adding he would like to play the fast-paced, hard-hitting type of game he frequently watches at the Encana Arena.
“I actually felt a lot more confidence playing against my peers this year.”