Kootenay Ice training camp officially underway

Veterans and prospects hit the ice with five days to earn a spot on the WHL squad.

Kootenay Ice training camp has officially begun as prospects and veterans begin a five-day process to convince management that they deserve a spot on the 2012/13 roster.

The Ice have 17 returning players at camp but 47 prospects will also be hanging around the arena to showcase their abilities to head coach Ryan McGill and his assistants.

The day started with registration in the morning, before veterans and prospects took to the ice in separate sessions. Goaltending coach Justin Cardinal took a look at his six netminders in the afternoon before another prospects scrimmage wrapped things up.

McGill led the veteran practice, which included a few alumni pros such as Cody Eakin, Adam Cracknell and Brayden McNabb, who’ve made the trip to Cranbrook to get in some ice time before their AHL pro camps begin.

Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth joined his head coach and a few scouts during the goaltending session to observe the six stoppers, which included Mackenzie Skapski, the heir apparent to Nathan Lieuwen’s starting job.

While camp officially began on Wednesday, many players have been in town for the last week or so getting adjusted to their new surroundings and billet families. One such player is Jordyn Boyd, an 18-year-old left winger who was traded to the Ice for a draft pick at the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.

Boyd is coming off his inaugural season in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, where he played 53 games and tallied seven goals and four assists for 11 points.

Boyd, a Winnipegger, got familiar with the Ice through the help of Jon Martin, as the two grew up in the same part of the city in Manitoba. Boyd’s roommate, Tanner Muth, has also helped him acclimatize to his new atmosphere.

Chynoweth said at the time of the trade that the Ice had their eye on Boyd in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, but Everett got to him first before Kootenay could select him.

However, the trade, which brought Boyd to the Ice for their fifth-round pick gives Boyd a fresh start and bolsters the experience of a young forward core.

“I was actually pretty excited,” Boyd said, of the trade. “Last year in Everett, it was a kind of getting my feet wet kind of year and knowing that we weren’t having many forwards leaving, it was good coming in here knowing that I can maybe play a top three line so I was happy with the trade.

“It was a learning year for myself and hopefully I can come in here and be an impact player.”

While much ado has been made about the 20-year-old situation, with five players competing for three spots, there is also a solid group of 19-year-olds in Erik Benoit, Muth and Jagger Dirk who will look to step into leadership roles.

“We’re going to have a younger group of guys this year,” Benoit said. “We’re going to have a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds coming in and we just got to try to lead the way for them and to step into that leadership role is key.”

Benoit, a left winger, is entering his third year with the Ice, and will push hard for a top-six position after spending last year on the third unit.

“A new coaching staff, you have to make an impression,” said Benoit. “You don’t know what they’re going to be like and you don’t know what they’re going to be like on you so there’s always that big first impression.”

The first intrasquad game of the camp begins on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Western Financial Place. All games and practices over the next few days are open to the public.

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