Midget Majors keep most of roster open following spring camp

Timmins Daily Press

Two months after their season ended, and more than five months before their next one begins, hopefuls for the 2019-20 Timmins Midget Majors ‘AAA’ team were on the ice this past weekend at spring camp.

Brandon Perry jpg, TD

Two months after their season ended, and more than five months before their next one begins, hopefuls for the 2019-20 Timmins Midget Majors ‘AAA’ team were on the ice this past weekend at spring camp.

When it comes to roster decisions, head coach Brandon Perry said he’d prefer to wait through the summer to see how some players develop for fall camp in August. But the existence of nearby competition necessitates this early assessment.

“In terms of putting weight on (the two-day spring camp), it’s really tough,” Perry said. “Our hand’s kind of forced because there are two other ‘AAA’ teams in our region, in (Kapuskasing) and New Liskeard, so it kind of forces our hand almost to sign kids this early in the summer.”

Hosting a tryout this early doesn’t mean Perry has to make all his personnel decisions so soon, though. In fact, he said he changed his approach this year, leaving more roster spots open for August’s re-evaluation than in the past.

“There’s a lot of work these kids can do to become better athletes in terms of growth, in terms of maturity,” he said. “They could be totally different athletes in the fall.”

In total, 30 kids took the ice for a quartet of two-hour sessions at McIntyre Arena over the weekend. The first session was for practice, while the other three were designated for intrasquad games.

At the close of the weekend, the Majors signed six returnees: forwards Landon Derforge, Jesse Dupuis, Pierre Racicot and Desmond Brazeau, as well as defensemen Mason Berthiaume and Keaston Blais. Three newcomers were added to the mix too, including goalie Julien Lefebvre and forwards Bradly Moore and Harry Clark.

Derforge collected 16 points last year, leading the way for players eligible to return (players at the major midget level must have been born in 2002 or after). Dupuis was one of just two double-digit goal scorers last season, potting 10 goals in 31 games.

Lefebvre went to Thunder Bay to play minor midget last year because that option isn’t available in Timmins. Moore was the last cut from last year’s team, Perry said, but he was young enough to play at the major bantam level. This year, Moore proved himself right away.

Perry also mentioned three 2002-aged players – defensemen Gavin Martel and Jeremy Jeffries, as well as forward Sabastian Sutherland – were in Ottawa over the weekend at the Central Canada Hockey League Junior “A” prospect camp. While the camp served as an opportunity for exposure for the trio, Perry hopes they’ll return to the Majors next season before embarking on careers at the junior level. Their circumstances have not yet been determined.

As it stands now, the Majors have “carded,” or signed, nine of their 20 roster spots. Having more than half the roster space available provides some flexibility, in case there are players who get cut from junior teams and are looking for a place to play at the end of summer.

“By the time August rolls around, you always get two or three surprises,” Perry said. “And then sometimes you don’t have enough cards to take those kids.”

While roster flexibility has been an off-ice focus for Perry, he knows there are ways his team needs to adjust on the ice, too.

Last season, the Majors placed eighth in a nine-team league with a 10-25-1 record. The year before, Perry’s first year at the helm, they finished sixth. When Perry took over, the Majors were coming off a season in which they won just two games.

“Me and a couple guys I grew up with decided, ‘Hey, instead of talking it among ourselves about what’s going on in Timmins minor hockey, why don’t we step up and try and help and make some change?” said Perry, who played for the Majors 15 years ago.

He has a long way to go to catch some of the elite teams in the Great North Midget League. The top item on the to-do list? Improve on last year’s league-worst scoring rate of 2.083 goals per game.

“We just didn’t have a trigger man that could finish and put the puck in the net,” Perry said. “If we can find somebody, great. If not, we gotta develop. Our returning guys have gotta step up and kind of develop that finish, so to speak, and find a way to get the job done and put the puck in the net.”

Perhaps Perry found a trigger man this past weekend to help the Majors climb the standings next year. If not, there’s still time to do so at fall camp – with months of development set to take place in between.

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