Final tuneup for bantam players
By Craig Slater, Leader-Post
April 20, 2012
It's the final audition weekend for dozens of bantam aged hockey players across the province.
The Sask First bantam tournament starts today at the Co-perators Centre and promises to be a hub for high-end hockey, in addition to some intriguing conversations and analysis among players, coaches and scouts alike.
"This is our premier event of the season," said Scott Frizzell, the manager of hockey development for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association. "You're going to have the best 160 athletes that have been identified from across the province in all eight zones. It doesn't get much more higher profile than this."
The Western Hockey League bantam draft is slated for May 3 in Calgary. This weekend provides an ideal opportunity for many of the players at the Sask First tournament to make a last-minute impression and improve their stock for the dozens of WHL coaches and scouts who are expected to be in attendance.
Frizzell said it's never too late for a player to show off his skills, and this year is more advantageous to players than previous years. In 2011, the Sask First bantam showcase event was held March 18-20.
"It does play to the advantage of the player just because they will be fresher in the minds of the coaches and scouts that will see them this weekend," he said. "So, what they do this weekend will play a bigger role in the decision-making process for a lot of people."
Frizzell anticipates close to 150 coaches and scouts from the WHL, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and various midget AAA leagues will be in attendance this weekend, including WHL commissioner Ron Robison. Head scouts and area scouts - perhaps three or four representatives from each team - will have pens to notepads gauging certain players of interest.
Several NHL players have their fingerprints on the Sask First bantam program. Professional stars like Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Dwight King and Jarret Stoll (Los Angeles Kings), Brayden Schenn (Philadelphia Flyers) and Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks) all suited up as teenagers and played in this tournament at one point in their young careers.
"This is a life experience for these kids this weekend," Frizzell explained. "Not all of these kids will get drafted, and not all of them will go on to play in the NHL. But some of them will and that's what makes this an exciting time for these kids. Get to know your teammates and the guys you're sitting next to because you never know who might be the next big name."
Games are scheduled to begin today at 4: 30 p.m. and run through Sunday afternoon. The A final is slated for 12: 30 p.m. on Sunday.
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