Pirates take a look into future with mini-camp skates

U18 County Kings forward Ben Smith was one of several local skaters taking part in the Picton Pirates mini camp last week. (Gazette Staff)

The Picton Pirates were busy last week putting prospects through their paces.

And the local Provincial Junior Hockey Club will be busy again next week with another round of mini-camp skates at Lehigh Arena.

Over 40 prospective skaters and netminders took part in four 50 minute games last week. The club honoured previous graduates but naming the four teams after American Hockey League alums Abbot Girduckis, Shaw Boomhower, Darcy Murphy and the East Coast Hockey League’s Jacob Panetta.

Skaters came from as far away as Kingston and the Port Hope area to participate.

Pirates skipper Kyle Hawkins Schulz said the skaters were able to keep up a high tempo despite only having two lines per team.

“I thought the tempo was really good, especially on the second night,” the coach said. “Guys started to develop chemistry which was nice to see.”

Pirates brass looked on as the camp included current Pirates Cole Stevenson, Cole Lavender, Trot Davis and goaltender Nolan Lane.

Pirates General Manager Jason Parks said the camp served two purposes.

“One, we obviously wanted to get a good look at what’s up and coming in terms of the next generation of Pirates and two, those current Pirates all have plans on attending Junior A prospect camps and evaluation/showcase events later this month. As an organization that firmly believes in development, we felt it was imperative to get those guys on the ice and make sure the wore off any rink rust,” Parks said.

Lavender, Stevenson and Lane are expected to skate at the Wellington Dukes Identification camp later this month and the latter pair are heading to La Belle Province next weekend to take part in the Montreal Meltdown tournament.

Stevenson and Lane will be suiting up with an entry crafted by former Pirates coach and Navan Grads Assistant Ryan Woodward.

“Woody has a number of high profile players that were drafted to the Ontario Hockey League in the first round so it’s a real honour for our guys to be identified and included in this major tournament,” Parks noted. 

In terms of prospects, Parks noted Ben Smith and Gerrit Kempers developing some cohesiveness with fellow county skater Ross Maycock.

“In the second night, they combined for a couple of nice goals and they were really starting to click,” he said.

In net, U18 Kings tender Aaron MacMullen along with Brock Sallans and Dylan Prinzen showed mid-season form. 

For the latter pair who previously played in the Quinte West Minor Hockey System, that’s an encouraging sign considering neither donned the pads in an OMHA game last season.

Also taking part in the skate was Jack Dever. The younger brother of Pirates graduate Owen played a handful of games with the Ottawa 67’s last season and is hoping to add more Major Junior contests to his resume this season.

“We don’t have any illusions Jack will be with us next season but it’s good to see him out and getting some skates in. I know the Dever family was extremely happy with the Pirates organization from top to bottom last year and anything we can do to repay that gradated we will always undertake,” Parks added.

The family connection didn’t end at Dever as the son of former 1990’s Patcheye Tony Bird skated on the blue line.

“Owen Bird came to camp in really good shape and he’s a physical defenceman that makes a nice first pass,” Parks said of the Belleville Jr. Bulls AA grad. “Kind of a chip off the old block.”

Owen Dever, along with Landon MacLellan, Jack Dow and Ian Harrison staffed the benches at the skate and Parks said that was by design.

“We want our players to take ownership and pride in the Pirates crest and what it stands for. It’s going to be a new era starting this year and the foundation will be laid by those aforementioned players so having them here, speaking about their experiences in the PJHL, offering some tips, getting to know the 16 and 17-year-olds is a good thing for the hockey club,” the GM added.

The Pirates are back on Lehigh ice on May 16 and 19 from 7-9 p.m. for the second round of skates.

Parks added the club will be bringing in a few new players to test out.

The club is also putting plans in place for its annual awards banquet at Rotary Hall June 18. 

-Staff