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NAHL tryouts an essential part of the roster building process

July 31, 2012

The Odessa Jackalopes are one of many NAHL teams that are completing their tryouts in the next few weeks. (Cover Photo: Peter Thompson, LaCrosse Tribune).

It is an important part of the player selection process for all North American Hockey League (NAHL) teams… tryouts.

This summer, all 24 NAHL teams have been busy putting together the final pieces of their roster puzzles and each team’s tryout camps provide a necessary and essential part of the player selection process.

It has been another successful summer for NAHL tryout camps and coaches are again reporting that both the quality of competition and skill level are at a very high level.

With the majority of NAHL tryout camps wrapping up in the next week, it is now time for coaches to make the tough decisions as they look to submit their 25-man rosters by September 1st.

An NAHL roster is created and composed of several types of players: veterans, tenders, draft picks and those ‘free agents’ that are spotted at tryout camps.  In the end, tryout camps are a necessary component of developing an NAHL roster. 

It is thanks in large part to the high intensity a tryout camp environment is often played at.  Not only does a tryout camp provide an opportunity for a player to showcase his skills in game situations, but it provides the player the opportunity to compete against a high level of competition.

One of the methods coaches in the NAHL use during tryout camp to evaluate potential players to their fullest is to bring veteran players and even sometimes high level alumni to the camps.  This allows them to see how the young, prospective players stack up against players with NAHL experience.

It all continues to prove why tryout camps are an important part of the process and have their place in the NAHL. sat down with some NAHL coaches to get their opinions on tryout camps and the philosophies behind them.

Layne Sedevie, Head Coach, Bismarck Bobcats:  “It is important to remember that there are very few constants from a year-to-year roster in the NAHL.  You don’t have a guy for four years like in college hockey, so the turnover rate and rate at which you are searching for new players is pretty high.  Any year you come to a tryout camp, it could vary in the positions that are available and what we may be looking for, so that’s why camps are so valuable.  It is a reality that sometimes there are veteran guys, tenders and draft picks who don’t make the team because we have had a particularly good tryout camp.  We are trying to build the best roster we can.  We want a mix of skilled guys, role players and guys who simply want to win.  You never know, you could come and have a great weekend at a tryout camp and the next thing you know, you are playing in the NAHL.  I think as coaches we are looking for players who will seize that type of opportunity.  Everyone that gets a tryout with a team in the NAHL has a chance to take that next step in their hockey careers and realize the continuing dream of playing in a league like the NAHL where they are exposed to NCAA and professional scouts.  It is all part of an important developmental process.

Rob Proffitt, General Manager, Fairbanks Ice Dogs: “Hockey has grown as a sport exponentially in the last 10 years.  Every part of the country has an established program and players that can play at our level.  I think it is impossible for any team in the NAHL to scout and get a look at every prospect during the season and inevitably some will get missed or overlooked, which is why tryout camps are such an important piece of the puzzle.  We have to have tryout camps because of the growth of the game, the amount of players out there and to make sure that we don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to finding players that can play at this level.”  Trevor Stewart, Head Coach, Fairbanks Ice Dogs:  “We had eight players that made our team from tryout camp last season playing in the National Semi-Final game in the Robertson Cup Tournament this past season.  What we are finding out from year to year from our tryout camps is that there may be players that come there and some may perform better than those we have tendered or drafted, so it makes the roster decisions very difficult.  Ultimately, that type of competition and parity is exactly what you want to see because it makes us a better team, making tryout camps an extremely important part of the roster selection process.”

Jason Spence, Head Coach, Johnstown Tomahawks:  “As a new team in a new NAHL market, we wanted to get our name out there, so holding tryout camps in different regions of the country is key because you get a look at different players, with different styles from different areas.  Tryout camps are a unique opportunity for some of these players because it may be the only opportunity they have had to really showcase what they can do on the ice.  It is a step outside their normal comfort level of a regular game where they may or may not know that someone is watching them.  At a tryout camp, you know exactly who is watching and why you are there and players may respond differently to that.  I tell the players on Day 1 of tryout camp before they step on the ice that they are there to do their specific job and showcase what they feel they can do best.  Don’t try to go out there and do someone else’s job.  I want to see what type of players they are because that may be the right fit at the right time.  I can’t take 30 of the same type of player.  You find out real quick at a tryout camp who is for real and who is not, because with the amount of eyes watching them they can’t take a shift off.  I like the tryout process as a whole because not only do you get to see what type of skills and player has but it tells you a lot about his personality on and off the ice.”

Justin Quenneville, Head Coach, Corpus Christi IceRays:  “I think it is important to make people understand why we have tryout camps in the first place.  It is one of, if not the most important way we evaluate and obtain players who not only are ready to play in the NAHL, but who can take advantage of the 2-3 day opportunity when we are watching them.  We like to keep our camps smaller, so we have more opportunity to really evaluate and watch the players.  I know a lot of teams are placing an importance of strategically placing the camps across the country, so they provide as many chances as possible for players to get a shot and trying out for an NAHL team because you never know.  Our goalie this past season, Anthony Stolarz, is a perfect example.  We noticed him at a tryout in New York and the rest became history.  Almost half our team last season came out of our main tryout camp.  A tryout camp is unique because it really puts the pressure on the players to perform and take advantage of the opportunity in front of them. We know if they do that, they are likely to do it in a game situation in the NAHL with an entirely different set of eyes looking at them with NCAA and professional scouts.  We want them to come in and play their game.  In all likelihood, we have an idea of what the player can do because of scouting throughout the season, but we want to see who can come in and take advantage and make the most of an opportunity like a tryout camp.

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