By Ron Rop
The Muskegon Lumberjacks’ coaching staff and scouts have a lot to look at over the course of two short days.
With more than 100 young hockey players in town for the USHL team’s annual training camp, Coach Jim McKenzie and his assistants will be closely watching what is transpiring on the ice. The two-part camp opened Monday with Invite Camp. The Main Camp is Wednesday through Saturday.
“You look for kids who compete and the skills to compete,” McKenzie said. “Everyone just needs to play their game.”
Each team played once on Monday and twice on Tuesday before the coaches and scouts decide which players will stick around for the Main Camp, which starts Wednesday afternoon at L.C. Walker Arena.
There is no set number of players who will advance to the Main Camp. Those chosen to stick around will be notified after the final game Tuesday night.
“Last year it was 27,” McKenzie said. “If there are more than that, we’ll keep more. If there are less, we’ll keep less.
“Just set yourself apart from the group in a good way,” McKenzie said. “You will not make it into the Main Camp if you don’t belong.”
After last season’s eighth place finish in the Eastern Conference, and 15th overall in the 16-team league, there are opportunities to make the squad.
“When you finish where we finished and there is a new coach, the door is absolutely wide open,” McKenzie said.
* Camp games consist of a pair of 25-minute periods. If a penalty is called, a penalty shot is awarded instead of a two-minute penalty.
* The Main Camp will begin Wednesday with six teams (about 120 players). Each of those teams will play one game on Wednesday and two on Thursday. Following the 7 p.m. game on Thursday, about 40 players will be trimmed from the roster. The remaining four teams (about 80 players) will place twice on Friday. About 40 players will then stick around for Saturday’s all-star games at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
* The Muskegon area is well represented in the Jacks’ Invite Camp. Local players include Nate Rabbitt, a goaltender, defensemen Austin Buit, Danial Kilinski and Brenden Alderink and forward Harry Braafhart. Kilinski is from Montague and Braafhart is from Fremont. The others are from Greater Muskegon. In all, there are 43 players from Michigan.
* The Lumberjacks’ offer of season tickets for $200 lasts until Saturday. With the league expanding to 64 games, 32 at home, that’s a cost of $6.25 per game.
CAMP SCHEDULE (L.C. Walker Arena)
Tuesday: Games at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.; 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Games at 2, 4 and 6 p.m.
Thursday: Games at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.; 3, 5 and 7 p.m.
Friday: 7:30, 9:30 a.m.; 3 p.m., 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. (All-star games)