Future looks bright for Neepawa Natives



Photo by Eoin Devereux. 

A combination of returning players and young prospects participated in the Neepawa Natives annual summer development camp.


By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner

There was a different attitude both on and off the ice for the Neepawa Natives during the club’s annual summer development camp. Fifty-three players, including both returning members of the roster and the team’s top prospects, participated in the event on Monday, July 10 and Tuesday, July 11, at the Canada Games Sportsplex in Brandon.

The two days, were an opportunity for Natives coaches, scouts and management to evaluate players from the team’s protected list and decide which ones warrant a closer look during the MJHL club’s training camp, scheduled for late August. 

Neepawa Natives head coach Dustin Howden said there appeared to be a noticeable shift in the overall mindset of the players.

“Last year, we finished the season in a positive manner and that has really carried over to the returning players who participated in the two day camp. With the exception of a few who were unable to attend due to other commitments or circumstances, almost all of last year’s roster was here. They came into the camp and you could see it. They’ve been working hard in the off-season. The ones that needed to bulk up, have. Those who were looking to improve their conditioning, appear to have done so. From a coaching standpoint, managing standpoint, we were pleased with what we saw, because it shows [the players] are taking their preparations seriously and committed to the team,” stated Howden.

General manager Myles Cathcart agreed with Howden’s assessment and added that he noticed that type of improvement in several of the young prospects.

“The skill set out there on the ice was definitely improved. To get to this point, it’s been a process, but the pieces are coming together. The newest prospects, as well the kids that have been a part of our list for a couple years, came out to prove something. To prove that they were ready to step up,” stressed Cathcart. “The scouting staff has done so much work throughout the entire year to put us in this position. Now it’s paying off, because you can see the players that have been part of our [prospects] list for a few years are starting to come into their own. And we’ve been saying for the last three years that ‘it’s coming’ and now it’s here.”

Byron Billett, head scout and director of player personnel said that the talent seen out on the ice over the course of the two days, should get people excited about what’s to come.

“This was one of the best camps we’ve had in a while, and a big reason for that was just the depth out there on the ice in every position. With many of the returning players, you could see that they’ve been putting the work in to prepare for the upcoming season. There are going to be some interesting positional battles for this roster come [the fall training camp],” noted Billet. “It’s taken a bit of time for the team to get to this position, but the hard work of Dustin, Myles and the entire scouting staff is really starting to pay off.”

Many of these players will continue to work through the summer in preparation for the fall camp, which is currently scheduled for Aug 30-Sept. 2 at the Yellowhead Centre in Neepawa. Pre-season for the MJHL will begin on Sept. 4, while the beginning of the MJHL’s regular season has been scheduled for Sept. 22.