There were 45 skaters and four goalies Monday at Juan de Fuca Arena as training camp opened for the Victoria Grizzlies. But the one missing skater is the glaring issue for the club heading into the B.C. Hockey League season.
The situation has changed dramatically since the Grizzlies’ prize blueline recruit, Jayden Struble of Rhode Island, was selected 46th overall in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft in June by the Montreal Canadiens.
The idea was that Struble would spend his first year out of St. Sebastian’s High School in Needham, Massachusetts, with the Grizzlies this season before joining Northeastern University of the NCAA next season. But that has changed with Struble going so high in the draft.
There is a push on now to get him to Northeastern as a true freshman this season.
“It’s up in the air, but we’ll probably know by next week, so we’ll see what happens,” Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon said.
“His stock just rose heavily. Northeastern realizes he might not have a long college career [before the Habs want him to turn pro], so they want to speed it up. He is still taking courses and they are waiting for his marks.”
The BCHL would provide Struble with a soft landing pad if Northeastern doesn’t work out this season, especially knowing that graduated Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook went 16th overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft to the Colorado Avalanche.
“Jayden Struble [would be] happy to come to play for Victoria,” Didmon said.
“It shows that we know we’re looking at the right guys when recruiting.”
Leading returnees for the Grizzlies include fourth-season Island products Marty Westhaver and Nico Somerville. Forward Westhaver has been named captain and Somerville assistant captain.
Westhaver realizes who he is following as captain and that he will have to fill those skates in his own manner.
“Marty can’t copy Alex [Newhook], but he learned a lot from Alex,” Didmon said.
Training camp is open to the public at Juan de Fuca Arena. Sessions today are from 2:30 p.m. with scrimmages between Team Barrie and Team O’Byrne at 6:30 p.m., between Team Newhook and Team Benn Brothers at 8 p.m., and Team Newhook and Team Bozak at 9 p.m.
The camp continues Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. with Team Benn Brothers and Team Bozak scrimmaging at 7 p.m. and Team Newhook and Team Benn Brothers at 8 p.m.
Sessions begin Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ahead of the Black-White game at 7 p.m.
The first two exhibition games will be against the Nanaimo Clippers, on Friday at 5 p.m. at Juan de Fuca Arena, and Saturday at noon in the Harbour City.