BARRIE - Brenden Locke made a big impression at the Barrie Colts rookie development camp held at Allandale Recreation Centre on April 26.
The 16-year-old Iroquois Falls native, drafted in the 14th round of the 2013 OHL Priority Selection by the Colts, had a goal and an assist to lead Team White to a 5-4 victory over Team Blue in the contest.
“He kind of showed us during our rookie skate that he has a knack,” said Jason Ford, general manager and head scout of the Colts.
“It’s one game and it’s April, so some of those kids haven’t played in a while, but we will get a better indication in training camp to see where he fits in in the overall scheme of things, but he is a guy who will come in here in August (25) when we start our training camp and there will be a handful of spots open up front, roughly, and he will have a good shot to compete for one.”
Locke admitted he was a little bit nervous when the rookie development camp got underway, but it didn’t take him long to settle in.
“It was a good experience,” he said.
“Playing at a higher level is a bit harder, but I just wanted to stay positive and when I got on the ice I just left everything out there, gave it my all.
“After the game, everyone had a meeting with the coaches and they said last year, obviously, I was a little bit smaller and didn’t have the confidence, but playing Junior ‘A’ this year helped me to develop as a player and have more confidence playing with the puck.
“Playing with the Eskis really helped me improve my game and hopefully I can get to the next level.”
The Colts staff provided some guidance about what Locke should be doing over the summer to get ready for the team’s training camp in August.
“Obviously I can’t control my height, but they told me to just try and gain a few extra pounds so I can be a bit more solid on the ice and to also work on my legs and my core stability,” he said.
“They also said to work on sprints and getting quicker and more explosive on the ice.”
Locke feels he was much more prepared for the Colts rookie development camp this year than he was last year.
“Obviously, the first year you are nervous because you just got drafted and you don’t know what to expect,” he said.
“After that first camp, though, you can see what you are up against and see what you need to do to get to that next level and to succeed.”
There is no question that Locke made a positive impression on the Colts staff at this year’s rookie development camp.
“He is a goal scorer and a point producer, so he has got to show that he is going to be able to do that when he plays with returning players,” Ford said.
“Last year, at his first camp, he was young … he still had a good camp, but we knew he needed another year, or maybe two to develop and work on his game, but he has shown he is going to be able to produce and put up some numbers.
“He seemed to have more confidence this time around. Some of the kids, after they are drafted, they come into camp and they are a little in awe and that is kind of how he was a little bit in his first camp, which is natural, but this year he came in and he just seemed to be more focused, a lot more confident.
“You could tell, there is a kid who has been through a camp already and it showed.
“He is a skilled player. He is a good skater, good with the puck on his stick. He has got a good shot and he can score goals.”
The Colts are pleased with the way Locke progressed during the 2013-14 season, playing for former NHLer Paul Gagne with the Abitibi Eskimos, of the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey League.
“We are happy with where he is going since we drafted him,” Ford said.
“Whether or not he is going to come in and make the team in training camp is another thing, but his development curve is definitely trending upwards.”
Certainly Locke made big strides during the 2013-14 campaign.
During the regular season, he averaged almost a point per game — 55, 27-28-55, 10 — and he was also one of the club’s top snipers during the playoffs — 11, 3-8-11, 4.
“The No. 1 thing for us is we want our prospects, who are not playing on our team, we want them to in situations where they are going to be able to succeed and they are going to be able to play … where they are going to be able to make mistakes and not be benched every time they do something wrong,” Ford said.
“And all the information we were able to gather suggested he was able to do that with Abitibi and it showed. He was what, fourth on their team in scoring and he had a good playoff for them.
“He did very well for a 16 year old playing in a Junior ‘A’ league.”
While Ford feels Locke has a good shot at cracking the Colts’ roster this season, he would not be opposed to the idea of him playing another year with the Eskimos if isn’t able to make the cut in training camp.
“That is something we would have to work through with his parents,” he said.
“Obviously you would have to get a release to play on another team, which could be done, but we would have to talk to his parents and see if they would be up for him coming to play either Junior ‘A’, or Junior ‘B’ closer to us, or maybe going back to Abitibi.
“It would just depend on what they would have in store for him. I would think he would be one of the better players on the team if he went back there and he would be a go-to guy, so it could be a real good situation for him, but we would just have to see how it plays out, get more information from Abitibi.”
The Colts realized early on that they might have something special in Locke.
“He is a late birth date kid, so for his age group he is still young on the calendar, but we liked him in his draft year,” Ford said.
“We saw him play up here in a few tournaments and we liked his skill level. He had a knack for scoring goals. He was a little under sized when we drafted him, but he has grown a little bit over the course of the last year and who knows where he will end up when he is done growing. I have a feeling he might grow a little bit more, but time will tell.”
Locke made a positive impression on the Colts’ staff on and off the ice.
“He is a great kid,” Ford said.
“We met him at the OHL Cup and talked to him for a half hour, or 45 minutes.
“He is a kid who was a little off the radar. He comes from a smaller town and I am sure there are some OHL teams that probably didn’t see him as much in his draft year, but we did our homework on him and his name was always popping up. We were in the late rounds of the OHL draft and you are taking a bit of a shot with players, but Brenden is a skilled kid. If he was a little bit bigger in his draft year I am sure he would have gone higher, that is what a lot of it comes down to.”
Locke plans to work hard in the off season to ensure he is at his best when the Colts main training camp rolls around in August.
“I am going to be working out with Harvey Leroux again this year, doing his program, and working with guys like Brody Silk (Sudbury Wolves, OHL), Ryan Kujawinski (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL), Jordan Delaurier (Kitchener Dutchmen, GOJHL), all those guys and put in some time at the gym, put in some time at the pool,” he said.
“I have also been invited out to Erik Robichaud’s (Eskimos) to train with him and Mark Katic (Medvescak Zagreb, KHL) on the artificial ice … get some time on the ice there … it’s not the same, but having no ice up here, I will be able to get on and skate around a little bit.”