Neepawa Natives ready for Prospects Camp


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By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

Young hockey prospects from across the province are flocking to the Yellowhead Centre this weekend for the Neepawa Natives’ annual spring camp. The three day camp, which begins on Friday, Mar. 23, will have a full roster of 95 players participating, with the potential of a few late additions. It’s currently expected that about 15 or 16 returning players will be involved with the camp, along with 80 other young prospects.

Head coach Dustin Howden noted that the weekend should showcase an impressive amount of on-ice talent.

“Right now, we’re going to have five teams, consisting of at least two goalies, four to six defensemen and about seven or eight forwards. There are a few injuries, so a few players that were going to be here have pulled out, but we’re still expecting a solid number of participants,” Howden noted. “This is going to be a real opportunity to see some talented hockey players, who our scouting staff have been keeping an eye on throughout the year. See just how they’ve progressed and improved themselves over the course of the season. This is also [the prospects’] chance to secure an invite to the fall training camp and take that next step in their hockey career. And for the younger players, who haven’t been involved with previous camps, there’s a lot that they can take away from this weekend. It’s a faster, more intense level of play that will be out there on the ice, and that will push them to improve their game.”

Natives general manager Myles Cathcart indicated that while the management and scouting staff are always keeping an eye out for the most highly skilled players available, there are other intangibles that will ensure they stand out from the pack. Those attributes include a high hockey IQ, along with a strong character and work ethic. Along with that, Cathcart hopes that the participating players and their families get something out of the experience.

“We want players and families to have a fun productive weekend. For many, this camp is their first exposure to the organization, the community and the facility.  It is an evaluation camp and the feedback provided is for improvement and to sell junior “A” hockey to all involved.”

A well regarded part of the weekend is the exit evaluations. These sessions involve the players sitting down with staff from the club and discussing elements of their game that they could work on and suggestions for the best way to improve or refine their game. Cathcart said the response to these player examinations has been very favourable.

The annual spring camp also has a major economic impact on the community. Each year, the team conducts a survey of attending players and families to find out just how much money they spend in local businesses during the weekend. The survey found that a total of $23,378 is spent every year by the attendees for accommodations, meals and local shopping in Neepawa.

In person registrations will begin in the morning on Friday, Mar. 23 at the Yellowhead Arena, with the first on-ice session quickly to follow. All the practice sessions and games are open to the public at no cost. The Neepawa Natives Spring Camp will run until Sunday, Mar. 25.