Camp shows Humboldt Broncos will have to make tough decisions

HUMBOLDT — Last weekend was the first chance for the Humboldt Broncos organization and its fans to get a look at its future.

The 2019-20 edition of the Broncos will be young and feature many new faces. Many players aged out or moved on following last season’s successful campaign in which the team rebuilt. At the Humboldt Broncos Main Camp, potential Broncos – for this season and those in the future – showed their stuff.

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“I was really pleased with the overall compete and talent level of all these players,” Humboldt head coach and general manager Scott Barney said. “Every single player came and gave us 110 per cent and are making decisions very difficult for us.”

About 120 players were in camp. Just less than 60 of those were being looked at for the 2020-21 campaign or further on. About 60 players were battling to earn a spot on the roster for the upcoming season. The camp concluded with a Top Prospects game and a Top 40 contest.

“In the Top Prospects game, it was great to see the young players we have drafted playing with and against each other as well as many other prospects who are available and up for the draft in the coming year,” Barney said.

“The Top 40 game was very intense and I’m looking forward to the game versus Kindersley on Monday [Sept. 2] as we are only playing 2001-born players and younger so will give us another great look.

“We definitely have some tough decisions ahead, but that’s what you want as a coaching staff.”

While there will be a lot of talk about youth with the Broncos this season, veterans from last year’s squad will be counted on to help lead the way. A number of veterans displayed their commitment by returning early. Seven players from last season were in the Broncos’ Top 40 game at camp.

Also competing in that contest was Graysen Cameron. The 20-year-old was on the 2018 bus crash that claimed 16 lives. While recovering from a back injury last season, Cameron served as an assistant coach for the Red Deer Midget AAA Optimist Chiefs, who he had played for.

The Broncos’ top five scorers from last season have aged out. That group includes top scorer Michael Clarke, 28 goals and 71 points in 57 games, as well as top defenceman Josh Patrician. Returning players such as Logan Foster (28 points in the SJHL last season), Bryson Cecconi, and Zach McIntyre will be counted on for offence as well former Melville Millionaire Tristan Shewchuk, who was acquired during the summer.

On the blue line, returning players who will be looked at to contribute are Kade Olson, Colin MacPherson, and Chase Felgueiras, who was on the radar for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Arguably one of the most interesting battles will be for the goaltending spots. Last season the Broncos were backstopped by the strong duo of Dane Dow and Rayce Ramsey. Ramsey is with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers. Dow is not returning. Six goaltenders, including Humboldt product Dawson Cochrane, were in camp.

It was Barney’s second Broncos main camp. However, it was his first as the head coach and general manager after taking on those roles on an interim basis partway through last season. Barney is joined on the bench this season by full-time assistant coach Curtis Toneff, who was most recently a head coach and general manager in the B.C. Junior B ranks.

After camp wrapped up on Sunday, the Broncos hosted the Klippers on Monday in an exhibition game. The next night the teams met again in Kindersley. On Friday, the Melfort Mustangs come to town. The Broncos go to Melfort on Saturday. The Humboldt squad opens the regular season at home against Notre Dame on Sept. 14.

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