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Smoke Eaters eye Nelson pair

Dryden Hunt and Adam Wheeldon make the cut at last weekend's Trail Smoke Eaters spring camp.
Dryden Hunt could be wearing Smokies orange next season.

After the dust settled from three days of the Trail Smoke Eaters spring camp, Bill Birks sat back with a big smile on his face.

The new head coach and general manager of the Smokies gushed about the talent level displayed by over 100 young players who were hoping to catch evaluators’ eyes over the course of the weekend.

“There was a ton of talent there,” he said. “Out of the 100 kids I would say 90 per cent of them were very good players. And that’s all due to our scouting.

“There were some hard decisions but we have a bunch of kids coming back for main camp in August.”

Players were put through the paces in a series of scrimmages and Birks said approximately 30 of the players have been invited to the team’s main camp.

What had Birks really smiling were some camp commitments from some highly-regarded West Kootenay players.

Nelson’s Dryden Hunt, who played with the Smokies as a 14-year-old last season while having a stand-out season with the Kootenay Midget Ice, had a soild camp. The Smokies have committed to going local for next season. Ice teammates Luke Bertolucci (Trail) and Jesse Knowler (Castlegar) also received a commitment from Birks.

Nelson Junior Leafs rookie Adam Wheeldon also had an impressive camp and will be back in August to fight for a spot on the Junior A club.

“Adam Wheeldon is definitely coming to our main camp,” said Birks. “I like the look of that kid. He works hard. You notice him every time he’s on the ice.”

The Trail coach explained it’s a bonus having four very talented players who are also local boys.

“When they’re that good of a player and they’re in your back yard, you make every effort to put them in your uniform. I’m extremely excited to get them.”

While the ice was removed from the Cominco Arena this week, Birks headed to Fernie to watch more hockey as the Junior B Cyclone Taylor Cup which got underway Thursday.