By: Lanny Stewart
The MJHL Prospect Development Camp is set to take place later this month.
This will be the second camp of its kind – the inaugural camp was held last year – and it’ll take place in Winnipeg at the Seven Oaks Arena Complex, July 26-29.
Kevin Saurette, director of operations for the MJHL, says the upcoming event is important in the sense that it’s designed to provide the 70-plus players participating with the necessary knowledge and resources to be successful as they prepare to transition to junior hockey.
“The main goal of the camp is to prepare them for what is expected at the junior level along with what it takes to reach higher levels in their development path – whether that’s the NCAA, WHL, USHL, U Sports or pro hockey.”
Similar to last year’s camp, the upcoming four-day affair, slated for 2001 and 2002-born players, will be detailed and informative, Saurette says, as players will receive on and off-ice skill development led by experienced professionals in their respective fields.
The 70+ players will be broken up into four teams, with each squad being assigned a current or graduating MJHL player as a group leader for the duration of the event. James McIsaac of the Portage Terriers will lead Team White, while Will Koop of the Steinbach Pistons will help lead Team Grey. Chase Brakel of the Terriers (who recently committed to Cornell University) will help direct Team Red, while Jeremey Leipsic of the Terriers (committed to University of Manitoba) will help guide Team Black.
The on-ice portion will consist of practice, skill, and full game sessions. The practice sessions will be led by current MJHL coaches and are designed to demonstrate to the prospects what they can expect on a daily basis at the junior level. Position specific skill sessions will be led by skill professionals intended to cover several specific areas that we feel are important for players to continue to work on as they make the jump to junior hockey. The games will give the prospects a chance to play in an elite competitive environment against the top players their age in Manitoba and who they will be possibly competing with and against in the MJHL shortly. It also gives them a chance see where they stand and to showcase themselves to the MJHL Coaches and Scouts that will be in attendance.
The off-ice portion meanwhile, will cover elements related to athleticism and mental skills, as well as the technical and tactical skills required to play in the MJHL and beyond.
During the off-ice portion, an MJHL presentation is scheduled, which is expected to highlight what the league and culture is all about, the many benefits and exposure opportunities that are provided, along with examples of the many players that have moved on to higher levels of hockey.
Other off-ice programs slated to take place include a mental preparation presentation, led by Dr. Dean Kriellars, who will cover the techniques and overall importance of mental preparation and mental health for elite athletes, as well as a college hockey presentation, which will highlight the NCAA option that playing junior A hockey provides to players, while also covering important playing and education eligibility guidelines.
Meanwhile, Paul Edmonds, the Winnipeg Jets play-by-play announcer for TSN 1290, will be attending the camp and will be leading a discussion panel, along with three panel members during an MJHL hotstove session, designed to provide players with first-hand advice and information on what it takes to be a successful hockey player.
The camp will also include some former MJHL’ers who have since graduated from the league, including Zach Whitecloud, a former member of the Virden Oil Capitals who signed an entry-level deal with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights back in March, eventually making his NHL debut in April.
Colby Jaquet, a Selkirk Steelers prospect, attended last year’s event and is looking forward to learning that much more this time around.
“You get a taste of what it’s like to play in the MJHL and also how much hard work that goes into getting to the next level,” said the 2001-born player, who this past season, played for the AAA midget Winnipeg Bruins. “Obviously my goal ever since I was drafted by Selkirk was to one day be able to put on a Steelers jersey and wear it with pride. I’m hoping the camp will give me the opportunity to showcase myself but also allow me to see where I’m at in my development and what I need to improve on.”
Max Neill, who also attended last year’s camp, says he’s expecting four days of high-end competitiveness and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m really looking forward to the scrimmages,” said the ’01-born Steinbach Pistons prospect, who spent this past season with the AAA midget Central Plains Capitals. “It will be a good indicator of where I’m at and where I want to be come camp time.”