By Lanny Stewart
The Oil Caps had a strong presence at the MJHL Prospect Development Camp, which took place recently in Winnipeg.
The camp, which consisted of 70-plus 2001 and 2002-born players, included seven Oil Caps prospects in total – Logan Rands, Bray Rookes, Patrick Comeau, Hunter Andrew, Tristan Thompson, Colin Cook and Jesse Tkach – who participated in the four-day event, which was held at the Seven Oaks Arena Complex, July 26-29.
“The MJHL does a great job putting on this event,” said Jamie Hodson, Oil Caps director of business and hockey operations. “It’s first class and professional from start to finish.”
On the ice, the players took part in practices, skill sessions and full-game scrimmages, while off it, they learned about the league and its culture, the many benefits and exposures it provides, mental preparation and much more.
“Our prospects did a great job all weekend,” Hodson added. “They represented our hockey club very well and they should be proud of how they performed.”
The Oil Caps also had two staff members participate in the camp. Head coach and GM Troy Leslie was a guest coach, while CAT certification candidate and equipment manager Hailee Dayman spent time on the benches during on-ice portions as an athletic therapist.
“It’s a really valuable camp for all the team’s prospects in the league,” Leslie said. “It’s nice to touch base with your own prospects that were at the camp and also see where they are in their development against prospects from other teams in the league as well.”
Dayman says it was a great opportunity for her to be involved, to be back in the rink with hockey before the season starts.
“I got to work with the players during off-ice warm ups and also tended to any bumps or bruises they received.”
Hodson says to have the likes of Leslie and Dayman participate in the camp is important for both as the Oil Caps continue to gear up for another season.
“It was a good touch to have Troy as a coach. It’s a good way for him to get to know our prospects more in-depth and vice versa,” Hodson said. “Having Hailee there was a great touch as well. It provided her with valuable experience working with the league and seeing how professionally things were being done.”
Whitecloud a guest speaker at camp
Oil Caps alum Zach Whitecloud, who signed an entry-level deal with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights back in March, eventually making his NHL debut in April, was a guest speaker at the camp. Whitecloud spoke to all the prospects about his story of reaching the NHL and what he did to help him get to where he is today.
“I love helping out the league that originally gave me a chance to hone my skills and help me get to the next level,” he said. “Virden and their organization provided me with countless opportunities that every hockey player strives to jump on. I made tremendous relationships in Virden and I continually go back and keep in touch with people from there because that’s like a second home to me. I enjoy helping out the league and letting kids know that the league does produce good players, but more importantly good people.”
‘A great experience’
All seven Oil Caps prospects chimed in on their experiences from the camp, starting with Hunter Andrew, a 2017 auto-protect.
“It was a great experience for me. I got to learn a lot on and off the ice and it was cool to see some of the paths guys took to get to the pros and NCAA starting in the MJHL.”
Bray Rookes – First round pick, fifth overall – 2017 MJHL Bantam Draft
“I really enjoyed the camp and all the opportunities that came with it. Moving forward I will benefit from the knowledge that I acquired from the various presentations. The MJHL is a first-class league dedicated to developing players to the best of their abilities on and off the ice. I’m grateful for the Oil Caps for giving me this opportunity.”
Logan Rands – First round pick, eighth overall – 2016 MJHL Bantam Draft
“The camp was great. It was an awesome experience getting to work with coaches, prospects, and other staff from around the MJHL. Games and practices were very fast-paced. One thing from camp that will benefit me moving forward was getting to hear from former players about their experiences in the MJHL and how their time in the league helped them reach the next level.”
Tristan Thompson – Fifth round pick, 52nd overall – 2016 MJHL Bantam Draft
“It was a great experience to be surrounded by so many good players that kept the competition high in a mid-summer camp. Everyone was focused and determined to improve, which made for a tense yet fun environment all weekend long. What I took away from the weekend was the amount of hard work and dedication that must start now and going forward. The Oil Caps organization has a good history of getting players where they want to be which is shown through Zach (Whitecloud). It was an honour to be selected for the camp and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Colin Cook – Fourth round pick, 35th overall – 2016 MJHL Bantam Draft
“I enjoyed the camp a lot, playing with good players made it more high-paced, and pushed me to be better. All the presentations helped me better understand all the different routes I can take to achieve my final goal and that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there.”
Jesse Tkach – Sixth round pick, 64th overall – 2016 MJHL Bantam Draft
“I was really inspired by all the talent around me. When Zach (Whitecloud) spoke about his ups and downs during his junior years, it made me know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I’m looking forward to playing in the MJHL and one day being a leader at this very same camp that inspired me.”
Patrick Comeau – Second round, 19th overall – 2016 MJHL Bantam Draft
“It was great meeting other prospects from around the league and playing against them. It gave me a chance to see how I️ compare to them and gives me an idea of what I️ need to keep working on. It also provided me with information about the MJHL and college hockey to help me make better decisions about my future.”
A current player’s take…
Hunter Cloutier, now a veteran Oil Cap who will be entering his second year in the MJHL in the fall, took part in last year’s prospect camp and says he found the event to be very helpful for him. The third round pick in the 2015 MJHL Bantam Draft (31st overall) says the camp provided a glimpse into what the coaches in the league expected on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s a really good camp the MJHL puts on as not many leagues do this type of thing,” he said. “I believe this is why the MJHL is an up-and-coming league.”