While the start of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season remains an unknown, the local Yorkton Terriers are at camp this weekend, albeit with smaller numbers than usual.
Terrier head coach and general manager Mat Hehr said the camp, which officially started today, and will run through the weekend, has 38 in camp.
“We can only have a maximum of 30 on the ice at one time,” he added, so the smaller number works well. “We’ve split the 38 into three small teams.”
With fewer players, and more ice time, coaches will be able to evaluate each hopeful more closely.
“They’ll definitely be tired after the games this weekend,” said Hehr, but adding “they’ll definitely have the opportunity to showcase what they have.”
The most interesting decisions may be on the blueline with two veterans opting not to return. Callum MacDonald has decided to stay in British Columbia and Jordan Mis will be pursuing further education, said Hehr, leaving only seven defencemen in camp. He added that is a position he is likely to be looking to add to moving forward.
In goal, the Terriers look set.
Philippe Bond returns as an expected number one, although Jacob Herman out of Swift Current should push as the number two.
“Both are really good,” offered Hehr.
Local netminder Kael DePape will get a look, but is signed to play AAA Midget in Moose Jaw this season.
”He should be in a Terrier uniform next year,” said Hehr.
Up front the Terriers should be led by a veteran set of twins; Keenan and Kaeden Taphorn.
Hehr said they’ve taken charge of the team in the lead-up to this weekend’s camp and appear “ready to pick up right where they left off last year.”
They are expected to be reunited with Steven Norum to create the team’s top line.
Hehr also expects big things from 16-year-old Vaughn Watterodt who had a cup of coffee with the Terriers in the spring appearing in four playoff games. The Terrier coach said a lot of people are going to be surprised by how good the young forward is.
Once camp wraps up Sunday, Hehr said they’ll prepare as best they can without preseason games yet on the schedule.
“We’ll just continue business as usual with practices and a lot of teaching,” said Hehr, adding they’ll mix in some intersquad games “to keep in game mode.”
As for the outlook for the Terriers, Hehr is optimistic.
“I think realistically we have a team to make another run this season ... The ultimate goal is to win a championship,” he said.
As to when the league might start, Hehr said that is in the hands of the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association. He said the Terriers, along with all other SJ teams have “submitted a return to play document” detailing their plans for player and crowd safety based on their own rink designs.
Hehr added they are also expecting a video meeting to discuss plans further with provincial authorities.