IROQUOIS FALLS - The Abitibi Eskimos will open training camp at the Whitney Arena on Tuesday in hopes of finding a few gems to augment their roster for the 2013-14 NOJHL campaign.
“The majority of our team from last year probably won’t be there,” said Eskimos coach and GM Paul Gagne.
“It’s more of a mini camp, more of a rookie camp, we want to see as many of the rookies as we can.”
Some of the players coming from other areas in Canada may also take part in the four-day camp, but Gagne says that is “not confirmed yet.”
“It will be a good eye opener to see what we have,” he said.
“Basically we are looking for goaltenders, a few forwards who could fit in, even though we made some changes there, and it’s always nice to see some surprises.
“Aaron (Kerr), for example, last year he was a surprise to us. We had our rookie camp and he was there and he was just shining. We took a liking to him.
“That’s why we would like to have a couple of surprises.”
Kerr, who will represent the Eskimos at the Ontario Summer Select Showcase, Aug. 10-11, is slated to attend training camp with the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack.
It remains to be seen if he will suit up for a second NOJHL season with the Eskimos.
The three forwards and one defenceman — Brady Cloutier, Marc Dube, Tommy Labrecque and Will Wickersham — added to the roster by the Eskimos in the past couple of weeks are not expected to take part in next week’s rookie camp.
They will not hit the ice with their new team until the Eskimos open their main training camp on Aug. 19 at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
With neither Jackson Winkler, nor Jeremy Laux back between the pipes, the Eskimos will be starting from scratch in goal.
“We will have three, or four goalies, that’s it (at rookie camp),” Gagne said.
“We are looking for a No. 1 … a 19, or 20 year old would be nice to have … that’s what we are looking at.”
The Eskimos have signed Sylvain Miron, an 18-year-old Iroquois Falls native who spent the 2012-13 season with the Great North Midget League’s Kapuskasing Flyers.
Miron, 5-11 and 160 lbs., posted a 2.57 goals against average in 540 minutes of playing times with the Flyers and a 3.22 goals against average in 371 minutes of playing time in the playoffs.
The 2011-12 campaign was Miron’s best season with the Flyers, as he posted a 2.26 goals against average and three shutouts in 1,088 minutes of playing time. He had a 3.22 goals against average in 371 minutes of playing time during the playoffs.
Miron broke into the GNML with the Flyers during the 2010-11 season, posting a 3.48 goals against average and one shutout in 942 minutes of playing time. He posted a 4.07 goals against average in 59 minutes of playing time during the playoffs.
“Last year we had seven or eight goalies at the rookie camp and we are only on the ice for an hour and a half, so they didn’t get too much ice time,” Gagne said.
“That’s why we are trying to limit it to three or four goalies.”
It is estimated the Eskimos rookie camp will feature around 25 players, “three lines a piece, both sides, something like that.”
Gagne and his assistants will be in the stands watching as the players are put through their paces.
“You want to have a few drills to warm up, then get a little scrimmage going and see what they can do,” he said.
“We will have a flood, then go back and do a couple of drills and then get back into five on five.
“That way you can see the speed of the player, see their skills, their competitiveness, their vision.
“When you are on the ice for four days, from Day 1 to Day 4 the players are starting to get a little bit more comfortable, get into better shape and their timing gets a little bit better after the fourth day, so you can see a big difference.”
Gagne does not have a specific number in mind in terms of how many players will graduate from the rookie camp to the main camp on Aug. 19.
“It will all depend on what’s out there on the ice,” he said.
“You want to start the season with 20 players, that’s what we would like.”
That number, of course, will include the veterans and recently signed players who will go directly to the main camp.
Gagne does not anticipate a lot of difference with the rookie camp being held at the Whitney Arena this year instead of one of Timmins’ two main arenas.
“Apparently the ice is a little bit better than the Mac and the Sportsplex at this time of the year,” he said.
“So we are hoping we won’t be having any problems, because we did have problems the last couple of years and even the year before we couldn’t get on the ice on the Friday because the ice was so bad.”