As close to 180 young hockey players converge on Prospera Place this week, scouts, coaches and management for the Kelowna Rockets are preparing to evaluate the Western Hockey League club’s latest crop of potential talent.
When the 2013 version of training camp begins Wednesday, it will be one of the Rockets’ biggest rookie camps ever, with players split into 10 teams that will play two games a day for 3 1/2 days.
Rockets scouts from across Western Canada will be in attendance getting reads on the young players, the majority born of whom are born in 1998 and will be heading back to minor hockey.
“Every year we have a big camp and this year is one of the biggest,” said Lorne Frey, the Rockets director of player personnel and head scout. “Our idea with having a big camp is to see as many kids as we can. We try to invite as many local kids as we can and we try to invite the kids that were on the bubble in last year’s draft but didn’t get drafted. We’ve done it this way for years and we’ve been happy with it.”
Included in the players that will be hitting the ice are the majority of the 12 players drafted in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. The only player not coming is second-round pick Cal Foote, the son of former NHLer Adam, who is injured and unable to attend.
Frey says they will be looking for how far kids all of the kids in camp have developed since they were scouted last season.
“We want to see how they’ve progressed,” he said. “Some may have grown two or three inches and that’s all they needed. They are bigger, stronger and faster.”
With 180 kids and 10 teams it will be a busy few days for Rockets scouts as they look at prospects that could be protected on the team’s 50-man list and eventually make the WHL team.
Frey says it all starts at rookie camp.
“Every year at this camp we usually find some players that we are very pleased with and we will either add to our list or certainly follow them through their season,” he said.
Rockets rookie camp begins Wednesday night with player registration, while games will be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting at 7:30 a.m.
Kelowna’s main training camp begins Aug. 26 and the team plays its first WHL exhibition game Aug. 30 at Prospera Place.