Sports

The Provincial Junior Hockey League will hold their inaugural Prospects Day games Saturday in Baden

By Greg Colgan, Sentinel-Review

Woodstock Navy Vets goalie Keaghan Brett kicks out the puck with a pad save in their game against the Wellesley Applejacks. The Provincial Junior Hockey League will have their first league wide Prospects Day game Saturday at the Wilmot Recreation Complex in Baden. Oxford County will have 14 players take part, including three from the Navy Vets. Bill Polzin/Special to the Sentinel-Review

Woodstock Navy Vets goalie Keaghan Brett kicks out the puck with a pad save in their game against the Wellesley Applejacks. The Provincial Junior Hockey League will have their first league wide Prospects Day game Saturday at the Wilmot Recreation Complex in Baden. Oxford County will have 14 players take part, including three from the Navy Vets. Bill Polzin/Special to the Sentinel-Review

When the Provincial Junior Hockey League was created for the 2016-17 season, a goal of promoting players to higher leagues and organizing the eight Junior C leagues under one umbrella was paramount.

Early success has seen rules made unison across all eight leagues and communication improved, but the league will take another step forward Saturday. The 63-team PJHL will hold its first league wide Prospects Day in Baden at the Wilmot Recreation Complex. The inaugural Prospects Day will have roughly 160 players participate on eight teams in four sets of games for scouts and fans.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the league’s top young players to be exposed to scouts from higher levels of hockey and learn about future opportunities in hockey from the guest speakers,” Ontario Hockey Association president Karen Phibbs said in a release.

The concept came from previous prospects games played between the Western Junior Hockey League and the Georgian Bay Mid-Ontario Hockey League - now the Pollock and Carruthers divisions in North Conference.

“We always had luck showcasing 16 and 17 year olds (players) and we knew it could be done on a bigger scale,” Doug Kennedy, the general manager of the Kincardine Bulldogs and head of the PJHL committee, said in a release. “This is a great showcase for the players and for the league.”

Other divisions have previously done showcase games as part of annual all-star celebrations. The Doherty division, formerly the Midwest Junior Hockey League, has held an annual prospects game the same day as its all-star game. The league’s also shown success at moving players to higher levels in recent years with Woodstock Navy Vets Andrew Bruder making the jump to the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, Ayr Centennials Eric Uba going to the Wellington Dukes in Junior A along with Woodstock locals and former Norwich Merchants Matt Caskanette and Oliver Wieringa and several others moving into Junior B roster spots.

With Junior C being the start of most players junior careers, the games are an opportunity for scouts, coaches and executives to view potential future players, New Hamburg Firebirds president and one of the Prospects Day organizers Bernie Shantz said in a phone interview.

“He (Doug) mentioned it (prospects game) and said how successful it was and this idea sprung out of trying to get all divisions in one place on one day to showcase all of our young players, so OHL, universities, Jr. B, Jr. A, anyone looking to get players can see them at once.”

New Hamburg was selected due to their two NHL sized rinks, proximity to all eight leagues and the PJHL committee holding their every other month meetings there, Shantz said.

Shantz noted the planning began in the spring and the different New Hamburg user groups gave up ice time to help the games work. Shantz, Kennedy and the OHA’s executive director Mark Ellis making up the main organizing committee with countless others to help during the game day.

“It’s a lot of coordinating and a lot of hard work, but it’s a good cause,” Shantz said, adding they’d reached out to higher level teams throughout the summer and season to ensure scouts had notice. “It’s a huge amount of people ultimately involved.”

The aim is to make it an annual event as any kinks or bumps get ironed out for future games.

“It’s only until we operate until we can find how to make it better,” Shantz said. “It’s the first time, so not everything’s going to go right but we can fix those going forward. We’d like to see it be an annual event.”

All players are playing at no charge, Shantz said, with a 50/50 and silent auction being run to help cover costs. Admission for adults is $8, students and seniors are $7, while public school aged kids are $5. All games will feature three 20 minute periods and if needed, a three-on-three seven minute overtime will be played.

The ultimate effort is to help any player hoping to advance in hockey to take another step towards their goal.

“I hope the players look at is as a day of a great experience. Playing with young men their same age, showcasing their skill, being noticed by upper level teams and talking with scouts about possibly going higher is what you want,” Shantz said. “We’re hoping it’ll grow each year.”

For a full roster of all eight teams and to follow the games live, visit: http://prospects.pjhlontario.ca

SCHEDULE

Game 1: 10:30 a.m. - Stobbs vs Yeck Divisions

Game 2: 11:30 a.m. - Bloomfield vs. Carruthers Divisions

Game 3: 1 p.m. - Doherty Division vs. PJHL red aces

Game 4: 2 p.m. - Pollock Division vs. PJHL black aces

OXFORD COUNTY LOCALS IN THE PROSPECTS GAME

NORWICH MERCHANTS

Brandon Odorjan

Sam Davies

Liam Munro

Zack Jankovic

TAVISTOCK BRAVES

Josh Schindler

Mitch McKay

Ryan Donat

THAMESFORD TROJANS

Cody Brock

Kolbe Doxtator

WOODSTOCK NAVY VETS

Josh Wright

Keaghan Brett

Troy Vandenbussche

- Brady Van Ymeren and Carter DeJong are both from Norwich and play for the Delhi Travellers

gcolgan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/GregatWSR