Top prospects play it cool at Natives summer evaluation camp


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Photo by Gord Gilbertson

Young prospects were looking to impress the coaches and scouts for the Neepawa Natives, during the summer evaluation camp in Brandon on July 9-10.

By Eoin Devereux
Neepawa Banner & Press

Considering the recent heat wave that has blanketed most of western Manitoba, Brandon’s Community Sportsplex wasn’t a bad place to be on July 9-10. A chance to see the future of the Neepawa Natives hockey team up close was pretty good incentive to be there as well.

The management and staff for the Natives organization recently hosted just under 60 players at their annual summer evaluation camp. That group included a mix of veterans, draft picks and listed players from across Canada and the United States.

Neepawa head coach Dustin Howden said there was an impressive array of talent out on the ice.

“This camp was geared towards the names on our prospects list. There were some outside prospects involved, but was specific players we had an interest in and who we believe have something to offer. It was a very positive two days,” Howden said. “We were able to see some improvement from several of the players since the last time we saw them hit the ice, either from the spring prospects camp or the regular season.”

Neepawa Natives director of player personnel Byron Billett noted that he was pleased with level of skill showcased over the course of the two days.

“I was very happy with the skill of the players at the camp. We had some good American players come up as well as prospects throughout the province. We were able to meet the recently drafted players face to face who had a great showing. There are many junior caliber young players on our protected player list,” said Billett.

Heading into the summer evaluation camp, it was feared by some that organization’s recent decision to implement a new travel fee would cast a long shadow over the proceedings. The fee will see players paying $267 per month over the course of the season to help cover travel costs. Howden said there was not alot of pushback during the camp.

“There was a little talk about it, it’s kind of old news now. The players know about and if anyone had questions, we were very accessable and [the players or their families] were invited to come and ask questions about it. We, as an organization want to be as open about this as we can. It is what it is and, it is geared towards something positive in transportation.”

The Natives’  main training camp is scheduled for AUg. 29 tp Sept 1 at the Yellowhead Centre in Neepawa. The regular season for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League starts on Sept. 21, with five games on the schedule, including the Neepawa Natives travelling to Winkler to play the Flyers. Neepawa’s home opener will follow the next night on Sept. 22 against Winkler at the Yellowhead Centre.