Over the past few years, many AJHL players have been drafted into the NHL with Cale Maker and Jacob Bernard-Docker both being taken in the first round in back to back seasons. Last week in Camrose, the AJHL put on its third consecutive development camp for Midget players from across Alberta. The purpose of the camp is to give the players a chance to showcase their skills in front of General Managers, Coaches, and Scouts from around the league; as well as help the players prepare for the junior hockey level.
The camp is invitational only with 80 players receiving the call this summer. The camp features 2002-born athletes who played in the AMMHL in 2017-18, and who are not currently on the protected list of a Western Hockey League team.
While in Camrose, the players are introduced to many of the best coaches in the province with group leaders coming from both Hockey Alberta and the AJHL. Throughout the week, they are put through multiple on ice sessions which include 8 games and 24 practices.
“For the players, it is definitely a very challenging week. Typically each team will practice in the morning and then play a game in the evening”, said Adam Manah, Head Coach of the Sherwood Park Crusaders and also a High Performance I coach at the camp. “Throughout each day they may have a team building, yoga session, and AJHL coach presentations mixed in between their practices/games. Some mandatory rest time is also included for the players to recharge their batteries”.
The development camp has been hugely successful with the league being extremely proud of what it has been able to accomplish so far. Teams from around the league have utilized the week to recruit players for their organizations. Staff members from the teams can set up meetings with both players and parents to discuss their potential future together.
“Our staff consistently attends the camp every year checking out the upcoming talent that will be moving up to Midget AAA for the following season,” said Manah. “We find it's a very effective way to scout, and be able to see these players in a controlled setting at one rink. We then can follow up with them after the week concludes, and start building relationships with these players. All in all, the camp is a great thing for the AJHL, and most importantly, these players.”
Since the camp began in 2016, 33 of the original camp invitees are now full-time members of an AJHL roster. While 14 players from the 2017 camp played – as affiliates – in the league last season, with that number expected to increase in 2019.
Players from the 2018 camp could next be seen at AJHL main camps which can begin on August 17th.
Story by Liam Horrobin