The D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals will open training camp at Credit Union Place in preparation for the 2017-18 MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) season.
“We are excited to get going,” said Capitals general manager Pat McIver. “It seems like it’s been a short summer, but there’s a buzz around.”
Registration, fitness testing and on-ice sessions are all part of Day 1, and McIver expects “around 40 players” at camp.
“Most of our draft picks from this year are coming,” said McIver. “(Forward) Thomas Harper, (defencemen Matt) Templeman, (Jordan) Spence and (forward Josh) MacDonald, our top four picks, are going to be at camp.”
The Caps have three possible returnees – forwards Brodie MacArthur (Moncton) and Marc-Andre LeCouffe (Acadie-Bathurst), along with goaltender Matt Williams (Saint John) – at Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) camps. Summerside also owns the MHL rights of three players – forwards Zach Thususka, Thomas Casey and Sam Meisenheimer – at Charlottetown’s QMJHL camp.
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McIver explained the Team Cameron and Team Gallant rosters will be comprised of rookies, prospects and walk-ons for the first week. Those teams are named after two former Caps head coaches now coaching in the National Hockey League. Dave Cameron is an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames, and Gerard (Turk) Gallant is head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.
“For the first couple of days the veterans will skate on their own, and we will get a good look at the new guys,” explained McIver. “Honestly, we have a good taste of (returnees) TJ Shea, Hunter McIntyre and those guys, and we want to give these guys a good look.”
The Caps play back-to-back exhibition games in Amherst and Pictou County next week.
“It will be all rookies playing in the games Wednesday and Thursday,” added McIver. “Then we’ll cut it down, and mix in the veterans.”
The first round of cuts are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 1.
“If we can get down to 30 guys competing for 22 spots, that would be a manageable number,” added McIver. “We have five exhibition games, so it still gives us three more (games) to get a good look at everybody and mix in some veterans.”
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With Summerside graduating nine players and the possibility of some returnees playing at different levels this year, there are lots of jobs open.
One position in particular is defence. The Caps traded Jacob Levesque to Campbellton, Alex McQuaid and Tanner McCabe, who McIver feels was the league’s best defenceman last season, graduated and Jesse Annear is playing in the United States.
Defenceman Matt O’Leary, who was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and was acquired over the summer as future considerations of the Casey Fox trade, arrived in Summerside on Wednesday.
“We feel we had a good summer on the back end,” said McIver. “We recruited Scott Bagby out of Chicago, Cole Ouellette out of Maine, Templeman is committed to coming and I think he is going to surprise some people.”
Western Capitals’ training camp schedule:
At Credit Union Place:
Monday, Aug. 28
3 p.m. – Registration.
4 p.m. – Fitness testing.
5:15 p.m. – Goaltending session.
5:45 p.m. – Returning players.
6:45 p.m. – Team Cameron vs. Team Gallant.
Tuesday, Aug. 29
6 p.m. – Returning players.
7:15 p.m. – Team Gallant vs. Team Cameron.
Wednesday, Aug. 30
3 p.m. – Practice for players not in lineup that night.
7 p.m. – Exhibition game in Amherst.
Thursday, Aug. 31
Noon – Practice for players not in lineup that night.
7 p.m. – Exhibition game in Pictou County.
Friday, Sept. 1
7 p.m. – First cuts.
Saturday, Sept. 2
4:30 p.m. – Practice for players not in lineup that night.
7 p.m. – Home exhibition game vs. Pictou County.
Monday, Sept. 4
Tuesday, Sept. 5
7 p.m. – Home exhibition game vs. Amherst.
Note: Ticket prices for exhibition games will be $5 adults and $2 for youth 17 and under.