Trail Smoke Eaters players will look to impress college and professional scouts from across North America this week as the Bauer BCHL Showcase kicks off in Chilliwack today with all 17 BCHL teams taking to the ice.
The Smoke Eaters take on the Langley Rivermen and Powell River Kings at Prospera Centre, which plays host to the seventh consecutive Showcase, with 18 games going on two ice surfaces over three days.
“It’s a great exposure weekend for a lot of players,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “This is something the players have marked on their calendar. It’s going to garner attention from NHL scouts, all the college teams will be there, and I love that our guys have gotten off to a good start. There’s a lot of momentum behind these players who are looking to go NCAA so it’s an exciting weekend for them.”
Last season, Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman Seth Barton made a huge impression at the BCHL Bauer Showcase, the previous year it was Kale Howarth.
Following a strong performance at the Showcase, Barton went on to commit to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, played in the CJHL Jr. A Challenge and the Top Prospects game, attended the NHL Combine and, ultimately, was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round of the 2018 NHL Draft. It was the same story for Howarth, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This season, a number of Trail players will garner attention from NCAA and NHL scouts. Smokies 17-year-old rookie Sean Donaldson has already committed to the University of Connecticut and, while he recognizes the Showcase as an opportunity, the Vancouver native is not going to let it be a distraction.
“There will be some friends and family there, but every game is the same, there is always someone watching,” said Donaldson. “I’m having fun and working hard, and playing my best anyway, no matter who is in the stands.”
Donaldson started the season playing on a line with Smoke Eater veterans Carter Jones and Tyler Ghirardosi, but found his touch against Salmon Arm on Friday lining up with Bryce Anderson and Mack Byers. Donaldson earned two points including an assist on Byers’ game-winning goal.
“That gave me a little confidence, knowing that I can be a player in this league,” said Donaldson. “It’s an awesome feeling and I’ll definitely build off it.”
At last year’s Showcase, a record number of college and professional scouts registered with well over 200 in attendance.
“It’s a different weekend playing wise, it’s almost a jamboree of sorts,” said Tambellini. “All the guys are excited to get in front of these teams and the guys that have come to watch them.”
Scouts from each of the 31 NHL clubs attended, at least 55 NCAA Div. I programs, and dozens from the Div. III level, USports, and college ranks. Many teams sent multiple coaches and scouts to watch the action. As a result, more than 160 BCHL players committed to play college hockey and seven were selected in the NHL Draft.
“The opportunity the BCHL provides to see all its players in meaningful games at the Showcase is hugely beneficial for NHL Central Scouting and the 31 NHL clubs,” said NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr. “Every year there is a great deal of young talent being developed in the BCHL which helps raise the awareness of prospects eligible for the 2018 and 2019 NHL Draft.”
Trail’s special teams have played a big role in its success this season, which is why defenders Jeremy Smith, Trevor Zins, and Diarmad Dimurro are three of the Smokies top scorers – each putting up five points in four games, one point behind team-leader Braeden Tuck.
“We need defencemen that can really carry the load,” said Tambellini. “Look at all the best teams in the NHL, they’re built through their back end and if they can drive it to get out of the defensive zone then carry on and be able to create offence, you usually have a lot of success, if your best ‘D’ can really manage the puck in all three zones.”
Tambellini built the team for speed and quick puck movement on the backend, with creative and skilled d-men who step up in the play when needed. But the Smokies also balance their offensive-minded guys with dependable stay-at-home defenders like Kyle Chernenkoff and Kyle Budvarson.
“We’ve had a great start from all three of those guys, and our whole defence as a unit has been great,” said Tambellini. “Those guys definitely get the accolades because of the offensive part of their game, but I’ve liked all seven of our guys so far on the back end.”
The Showcase also gives the Smoke Eaters the opportunity to scout out the competition and make notes for the future. One highlight will be a rematch of the RBC Cup semifinal between the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday at 7 p.m. another will be the BCHL Prospects game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“After the games, we’ll have a chance to see multiple teams play, so for us it’s constantly trying to evaluate what is going on around the league, and what are teams doing? It’s a great opportunity to get a look at every team in the league.”
Trail will look to keep their three-game winning streak going when they face off at 1 p.m. today against the 2-2-0-0 Rivermen and at 10 a.m. Friday versus the undefeated 3-0-0-0 Kings.
The games will be broadcast live online by Smoke Eaters broadcaster Trevor Miller and streamed on HockeyTV.
Smoke Eaters goalie Adam Marcoux earned honourable mention for the BCHL Player of the Week. Marcoux stopped 63 of 67 shots in two wins over Salmon Arm and Vernon on the weekend for a 2.00 GAA and a .940 save percentage. The PoW went to Merritt forward Mathieu Gosselin for his five-goal and eight-point week in three Centennial wins.