Spring camp provides optimism

A few familiar faces and some fresh talent donned Nelson Junior Leafs jerseys this weekend for the Junior B team’s first camp of the season.

Leaf hopefuls compete in camp this past weekend at the Nelson and District Community Complex.

Leaf hopefuls compete in camp this past weekend at the Nelson and District Community Complex.

A few familiar faces and some fresh talent donned Nelson Junior Leafs jerseys this weekend for the Junior B team’s first camp of the season.

Along with local major-midget notables, a handful of Leafs including Cody Abbey, Marcus Dahl and Adam Wheeldon were on hand for the weekend recruiting session.

“All the local guys and the guys who were in Kelowna too came out to skate, just wanted to keep their conditioning up and help out with the camp,” head coach Chris Shaw told the Star between round robin games.

Though Nelson’s spring camp had its share of competition from nearby Junior A outfits, which have also kicked off their on-ice recruitment as of late, Shaw says he got a better-than-expected turnout for the weekend.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way the camp’s been going,” he said. “We’ve got 80 kids here, it’s the first time the Leafs have done a spring camp and the first time for me to put one together, and I’m pretty impressed with the talent level out here.”

In addition to the Leafs’ vets, players vying for an invite to the team’s main camp this summer came from East and West Kootenay, the Lower Mainland and, in several cases, the U.S.

But when asked who’d caught his eye, Shaw mostly focused on the local talent — especially players from the Midget AAA Kootenay Ice.

“Carsen Willans looks really good up front,” he added. “Ben Betker looks really good on the back end, and Nolan Taylor looks pretty good on the back end too.”

Named to the bench in May of last year, Shaw didn’t have a chance to start recruiting for the team’s 2011 season until June.

“It’s six months ahead of where I was at last year,” he says.

“I’m a lot more confident than I would’ve been at this time last year.”