When the Powassan Voodoos joined the NOJHL at the last possible moment, some said it would be too late to recruit a strong team for their September start.
But the team has been making moves at a frantic pace since being inaugurated as the league’s ninth club, with this weekend’s free agent camp just the latest effort in building the franchise.
Players took part in three ice sessions at Pete Palangio throughout the weekend, in both structured practice and four-on-four game formats. Despite the impromptu nature of the camp, the team estimates 30 prospective players were on hand to try and impress management.
“We’re far from where we want to be, but we took a big step in the right direction with this camp, it went very well,” said head coach Scott Wray.
“We didn’t end our search, that’s for sure, but at the same time we found a few guys that we’re very happy with and I’m excited with the way we’re heading.”
While the Voodoos did hint at the signing of players from this weekend’s camp, the team says they can’t make any mention of them just yet.
“We were thrilled to see the great amount of local talent on the ice,” said general manager Chris Dawson. “We needed a camp like this to help stock our roster for the upcoming season. There were some pleasant surprises and we will be announcing some signings throughout the week.”
Those at the camp said they were happy with how competitive the players were. Some of them, but not all, will meet again at the team’s main training camp, which starts on August 22.
“I was very happy with the way the kids adapted to the drills,” said Wray. “They pushed the pace a little bit and they were very teachable.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to preach: we need teachable kids that really want to play,” he continued. “That’s what’s going get you a spot in Powassan.”
While the bulk of the team has still yet to be determined, Wray says the crop of talent that he saw this weekend is encouraging and fits well with the direction he wants to take with the team come September.
“Right now, we’re focusing on having a solid back end; the goals will come from there,” Wray explained. “I’m going to be preaching that it doesn’t matter if you have the best scorers in the world, if you can’t get them the puck then they’re not going to be able to do anything.”
The camp marked the first time the organization has stepped on the ice since being voted into the league last month. And while management is the first to admit there is still a lot of work to do before opening night, Wray said it was exciting to finally see Voodoos jerseys on the ice.
The Voodoos now have a little more than a month to scour the junior ranks and finalize a training camp roster.
Team brass have been busy off the ice in the meantime, signing former Midget AAA Trappers Nathaniel McLeod, Josh Ibbitson and Sudbury Wolves draft pick Michael Silveri last week.
McLeod was the Great North Midget League’s leading scorer last season, Ibbitson was named the league’s top defenseman, while Silveri was third in Great North Midget League scoring.
The Voodoos are set to kick off their regular season on Friday, Sept. 5 in Cochrane before returning for their home opener on Sept. 12 against the Cochrane Crunch.