The recipe for this season’s Fort Frances Lakers still has a few ingredients to sort out.
Head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan, along with his coaching staff, got an eyeful of the talent available to them during the team’s three-day training camp last week at the Ice For Kids Arena.
“At this point, we have 19 players on cards and a few more left in camp to get more of a look at them in practice this week and possibly pre-season action,” noted Strachan.
The Lakers play their first pre-season contest here this Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Minnesota Iron Rangers in the first of a home-and-home series that wraps up Saturday down in Hoyt Lakes.
“We will still be evaluating through the next two weeks and adding to the roster before we finalize things before the regular season [which begins Sept. 22 at home against the Thief River Falls Norskies].”
Strachan saw strengths and weaknesses among the forwards, defencemen, and goalies on hand.
“Forwards, I like our speed and skill level,” he remarked. “[But] I believe we need to have more of a physical presence from our forwards.
“Defence, I like their work ethic and puck-moving ability,” Strachan added.
“We will work on our net front coverage.
“Goaltending was solid, I thought. Square to pucks and challenging,” he noted.
“We will work on the puck-moving side of things with them.”
Strachan saw plenty of promising signs to draw from when it came to both his veterans and the newcomers at camp.
“I was happy with the overall performance of our veterans,” he said. “Most of them came into camp in good shape and with good attitudes.
“They worked hard through camp and led the way on the ice.
“It’s always a bit of an unknown with the new guys as it is a feeling-out process for everyone involved,” Strachan conceded.
“We saw a lot of good positive things out on the ice,” he lauded.
“In talking with most of them, they seem to be well-mannered and respectful.
“As camp went on, most of them had some positive impact in the games to show what they can bring to the team.”
Strachan did have to deal with the news that one veteran from last season, who could have returned, won’t be doing so.
Meanwhile, a former Laker who has been re-acquired remains undecided about his future.
“Jaden [Gustafson] told me last week that he would not be joining the team for the season,” Strachan said of the soon-to-be 20-year-old forward from Rainy River, who had 20 points in 41 regular-season games last season before adding four more in seven post-season outings.
Strachan also confirmed the team dealt for another Rainy River native, Carter Chorney, who had 67 points in 75 regular-season games over two seasons from 2014-16.
Chorney played last season with the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons, notching 19 points in 41 regular-season games while going pointless in 10 playoff ones.
“I have not had the opportunity to speak with [Chorney] yet so I am not sure of his intentions at this time,” Strachan said of the 20-year-old.
In related news, the injury bug took a bite out of two first-time attendees at the Lakers’ camp.
Former Muskie sniper James Gushulak suffered a broken nose in the first intrasquad scrimmage of the camp and had surgery Monday, which will sideline him indefinitely.
“We will see how long he will be out as he is a player we would like to see more of,” noted Strachan.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old forward Damien Caringi of Mississauga was felled by a charley horse and is listed as “day-to-day.”
Caringi split last season between the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL) and the Brantford Jr. ‘B’ 99ers (GOJHL).
Strachan has simple expectations heading into Friday night’s pre-season showdown with Minnesota.
“It’s a good opportunity to get a good read on what we have as a team,” he reasoned.
“I am hoping the boys will be hungry, competitive, and want to get a good jump on the season.”