For eight Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League players Christmas came a bit early as they were included in the lengthy list of invitees for the Team West training camp slated for early December in Calgary.
Not surprisingly the league’s top club, the Battlefords North Stars, have three players invited to the camp, which will be used to select the 20-man roster that will head to Ontario from Dec. 13-19 for the World Junior “A” Challenge.
Heading to Calgary to audition for the team will be defencemen Connor Sych from the North Stars, Mike Eskra from the Weyburn Red Wings, Regan Seiferling from the Yorkton Terriers and Evan Werle from the Notre Dame Hounds. Forwards on the list are Dakota Boutin of the Melfort Mustangs along with Reed Delainey and Layne Young from the Battlefords. Zac Robidoux from the Flin Flon Bombers is the lone SJHL puckstopper to get a shot at making the team.
All are second-year players in the SJHL with the exception of Young, who is a rookie, and Delainey, who is in his third year in the league despite being just 18 years old. Robidoux is a newcomer to the SJHL, but he has two years of Junior “A” experience with Portage of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in addition to parts of two seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Robidoux, a 19-year-old from Winnipeg, Man., will be competing against five other goaltenders for a spot on the team. In 21 games this year with Flin Flon he has a 2.81 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Eskra, an 18-year-old Regina product, has seen limited action this year playing in just 14 games, but he has accumulated three goals and seven helpers, along with 49 minutes in penalties, when he has been in the line-up.
In 24 games with Yorkton the 18-year-old Seiferling, who hails from Moose Jaw, has 7-6-13 totals while 18-year-old Sych has scored eight times and set up 14 others in 27 games with the Battlefords.
Werle has also missed several games this year, but the 18-year-old from Langenburg, Sask., has five goals and six assists in 19 games with Notre Dame this year.
Boutin, an 18-year-old from Moosomin, Sask., has 11 goals and 17 assists in 24 games with Melfort while Delainey, a product of Edam, Sask., has 9-15-24 totals in 21 games with the North Stars.
Young, an 18-year-old from Frenchman Butte, Sask., is tied for second in league scoring early in his rookie campaign as he has scored 12 times and set up 24 others in 28 games with the Battlefords.
There are a total of 61 players invited to the camp with six of those being goaltenders, 21 on defence and 34 forwards. All four junior “A” leagues from Western Canada will have representation at the camp along with three players from the Superior International Junior Hockey League also being invited.
Flin Flon Bombers’ head coach and general manager Mike Reagan is an assistant coach on the squad so he too will be at the evaluation camp in addition to travelling to Ontario for the championship next month.
Although they finished sixth at the event held last year in Kindersley, Team West battled hard and was in every game they played. The selection process will be difficult, but from looking at the players invited from the SJHL it appears the club will be rich in talent and should challenge once again for a championship, something Team West has done three times before. In fact, in the nine previous championships just two teams have won gold medals – Team West with three and the United States with six.