Cam Russell uses the word “opportunity” to describe the situation heading into Halifax Mooseheads training camp.
“If I’m a young player, or even a returning veteran, I’m looking at this as a great opportunity to come to camp and impress the coaching staff,” said the Mooseheads head coach and general manager. “We’ve lost a lot of players.”
With a whopping 65 hopefuls reporting to camp at Cole Harbour Place today and only 13 full-time returnees from last season’s basement-dwelling squad, the youngsters don’t need an iPhone app to understand what Russell means.
The only things more or less set in stone are that last season’s scoring leaders, Tomas Knotek and Yuri Cheremetiev, are going to carry the offence up front; Pascal Amyot is going to log No. 1 minutes on defence; and Mathieu Corbeil will be the starting goaltender, barring a pre-season meltdown.
Russell may need a half-dozen whiteboards and a pack of dry-erase markers to sort out the rest. Prime ice time, such as the spot alongside Knotek and Cheremetiev, is up for grabs. At least a half-dozen roster spots are up for grabs, too.
“If guys come into camp in the right frame of mind, in good physical condition, they have an opportunity to play here — and possibly play quite a bit,” Russell said.
Up front, you can safely bank Gabriel Desjardins, 17, and Travis Randell, 18, earning big roles. Gerrad Grant and Charles Bety, both 19, will also factor into the equation, as will 18-year-old right-winger Jessyko Bernard and highly-touted first-round draft choice Brent Andrews.
On the blue-line, good bets are trade acquisitions Alexandre Brunet, Garrett Clarke and Spencer Metcalfe as well as rookies Konrad Abeltshauser and Jamie Bishop.
As for the backup job behind Corbeil, throw a dart — Russell has brought in 10 hopefuls to fight it out.
“The opportunity is here,” Russell said. “I just hope that a lot of kids see that, seize it, and take advantage of it.”