TIMMINS - The Abitibi Eskimos will take a week off before opening their main training camp in preparation for the 2014-15 NOJHL season.
Veterans and a select number of newcomers will be back on the ice at the Whitney Arena on Tuesday, Aug. 19, to get ready for the first of four exhibition games against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
The first of those two home-and-home series will be played on Friday, Aug. 22, in Kirkland Lake and Saturday, Aug. 23, at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
When the Eskimos main training camp gets under way, it is expected that forwards Brady Clouthier (50, 30-36-66, 58) and Ryan Tront (56, 16-37-53, 46) will be on the ice.
Neither player was on the ice for the team’s four-day tryout camp due to work commitments.
They will join fellow veterans Kevin Walker (56, 3-10-13, 44), Kealey Cummings (56, 7-17-24, 53), Brennan Roy (56, 9-23-32, 36), Jamey Lauzon (49, 2-16-18, 82), Ryan Kerr (52, 3-19-22, 42) and Brenden Locke (56, 27-28-55, 10), as well as former Goalie Alex Chandler (4, 2.70, .887, Espanola, NOJHL), who signed with the Eskimos prior to the tryout camp.
Three players who impressed Eskimos management during that camp — defencemen Matt Wilson (1, 0-0-0, 2, Almonte, EOJHL) and Josh DeJulio (30, 8-27-35, 40, Kapuskasing, GNML) and forward Ryan Attwood (55, 9-10-19, 45, Espanola, NOJHL) — will be back for the main camp, as well.
The Eskimos have committed roster spots to all three.
Wilson missed the final day of the tryout camp Friday night, but he should be back in town in time for the start of the main camp.
“He is going to be a great addition, definitely,” said Eskimos coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“Our defensive corps, I was impressed with every one of them,” Gagne said.
The coach and general manager also has high hopes for Attwood.
Attwood, who missed the first two sessions of the tryout camp because of work commitments, was pleased with how things went on Thursday and Friday.
“It was awesome,” he said.
“We have a pretty good looking team and strong goaltending.”
Attwood enjoyed a great deal of success with the Rivermen in 2013-14.
“I had two pretty good linemates who were able to get me the puck,” he said.
“I was able to use my speed, my shot and my quick release.
“That is what I am hoping to bring to the Eskimos.”
Those skills were certainly on display during the two tryout sessions in which he did participate.
Playing for the Rivermen last season, Attwood had a chance to experience the atmosphere at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls.
“I enjoyed the fans. They have a good fan base, like Espanola, the rink is nice and it is a good community, so I think it will be a good fit for me.”
Attwood feels comfortable in both ends of the rink and takes pride in his complete game.
“I like to think I am a two-way hockey player,” he said.
“I try to play well in the defensive zone and I cover the points well.”
Attwood and Chandler were briefly teammates with the Rivermen last season, but they have known each other for a number of years.
“I have known him since I was in high school,” he said.
“We have grown up together. He is a strong goalie and I know he will do well this year.”
Attwood wasn’t too worried about making friends on the ice Friday, as he had a run in with Walker, the captain of the Eskimos.
“When you are on the ice, it doesn’t matter who you are playing against, it is competition,” he said.
“I haven’t met him off the ice yet.”
Attwood is looking forward to the opportunity to play for Gagne after playing for another former NHLer in Tom McCarthy, with the Rivermen.
“I learned a lot from Tom last year,” he said.
“He told me to slow my game down. I was always trying to do everything really fast, so he told me to just keep calm with the puck and it really helped me out.”
It remains to be seen if another player who impressed management during the tryout camp will return for the main camp.
Taylor Bowman (41, 5-13-18, 17, Comox Valley, VIJHL) showed plenty of skill at both ends of the rink.
“We offered him a card, but he hasn’t said yes yet,” Gagne said.
“He is going to camp with Mattawa, but he has not said no yet, either.”
When it comes to puck stoppers, Chandler and Braddock Baalerud (22, 5.53, .866, Bracebridge GMHL) will both be back for the Eskimos main camp.
“Goaltending wise, Alex wasn’t challenged too much tonight, but on this side here, Braddock Baalerud was challenged quite a bit and, you know what, he did well,” Gagne said.
“He had a couple of goals against that he didn’t see, that weren’t his fault, or anything. He competed really well. He stands up outside the blue circle, so he is challenging all the time.”
With Chandler already signed, Gagne was not too sure about Baalerud’s status following the completion of the tryout camp.
“I am going to have to see here what we are going to do with our goaltending,” Gagne said.
“We also have a couple of more coming, on the way, so we will see.”
Bowman was impressive from Day 1 of camp, when he hit the ice shortly after a day-long journey to Timmins from North Vancouver, until his final shift on Day 4.
“Mr. Bowman just does his little things out there,” Gagne said.
“He is really nifty. He was impressive.”
And so were a number of the younger Eskimos hopefuls on the ice at the Whitney Arena.
“One of the young players that impressed me was Dillan Bruce,” Gagne said.
“He played well in the defensive zone, made smart plays and was conscious of his responsibilities. I was impressed.”
Bruce (28, 16-10-26, 28, Timmins, GNML), a forward who hails from Iroquois Falls, is one of three 16 year olds who impressed the coaching staff during the tryout camp.
The other two are also fowards, Timmins native Kyle Levis (Timmins Flyers, TMHL) and Hearst native Raphael Lecours (16, 6-5-11, 24, Kapuskasing, GNML).
“We definitely want Kyle to come to the next level, absolutely,” Gagne said.
“He is a great little player, for a 16 year old. He has shown a lot of skills.
“I would like to see him in a couple of exhibition games.”
Things couldn’t have gone much better from Levis’ perspective.
“Coming in, I just wanted to skate hard and make plays,” he said.
“I just wanted to do my best.”
It was the first Eskimos tryout camp for Levis, who spent the 2013-14 season with the Timmins Flyers of the Timmins Midget Hockey League.
“I have been to a few other camps in the past, but I have got to say this has been the fastest one so far,” he said.
“All the guys were so much bigger and faster, it has been unreal.”
The fact that during the early part of camp there were three OHL players and one QMJHL player on the ice likely contributed to that impression.
“If they were on your team I guess it would make things easier, but I was playing against most of them, so it made it a bit tougher,” Levis said.
“But it was good for development. It was an awesome experience to play against guys at that level.”
Like most of the young players at the Eskimos camp, Levis had an opportunity to learn a lot from players like Brody Silk, Ryan Kujawinski, Aaron Kerr and Olivier Chabot.
“The way that they position themselves, is almost perfect,” he said.
“The way they find the spots, it is almost perfect.”
ESKIMOS NOTES — The Eskimos opted not to sign 19-year-old defenceman Matthew Whidden who attended last week’s tryout camp. Whidden, 5-10, 209 pounds, started the 2013-14 season with the Gold Miners (24, 0 -1-1, 10). He also spent time with the Picton Pirates, of the EBJCHL (6, 0-3-3, 23), and Wellington, of the OJHL, although he did not get into any games with the Dukes. Whidden is a native of Dundalk, Ont.