For Lorne Frey and his scouting staff, one of the more intriguing aspects of rookie camp is seeing how the Kelowna Rockets’ youngest prospects have progressed over the summer.
Based on the way minor hockey programs have been developing players in recent years, Frey said there’s more parity and competition than ever before.
“There’s not a lot of difference in many of these kids now, drafted or non-drafted,” said Frey, the Rockets’ director of player personnel.
“The coaching and the way they’re developing these players at the minor levels is pretty much the same across the board. Most of the players are pretty close to each other, skill-wise. The quality is very good.”
All 11 players chosen by the Rockets in the 2017 WHL bantam draft are at camp this week, including centres Ethan Bowen, Chilliwack (2nd round), Ethan Ernst, Weyburn (3rd round) and Cole Carrier, Sherwood Park (4th round).
Other drafted players to watch include 6-foot-5 defenceman Kaeden Watkins, Saskatoon (5th round), forward Stephen Kesserling, Yorkton (9th round) and centre Brody Wilson, Birtle, MB (10th round).
Among the 95 or so undrafted players, Frey expects to see at least a few pleasant surprises.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of non-drafted kids step up and and show us something,” he added.
“The level of talent is pretty good at this camp, so we’re looking forward to seeing what these kids can do.”
Frey said all drafted players along with a few other invitees will be asked to stay on for the beginning of main training camp this weekend.
Split into six teams, Rockets rookies will take part in six on-ice sessions today, Wednesday and Thursday, before wrapping up camp on Friday afternoon.
Main training camp, featuring around 50 players, begins with registration on Friday afternoon.
The first practise goes Saturday at 9 a.m. at Prospera Place.
The Rockets will play four pre-season games, starting at home on Sept. 2 against the Victoria Royals.
Kelowna opens the WHL regular season Saturday, Sept. 22 at Prospera Place against the Kamloops Blazers.