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New Recruits Turning Heads at Backs Camp

Salmon Arm, B.C. — Following their first 30-win season in nearly a decade, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks will be looking to build on last season’s success with a ton of fresh faces in their lineup.

Just six players from last season return, in the form of forwards Drew Bennett, Sam Schofield, Logan Shaw and Simon Tassy, plus two defencemen: towering Kieran Ruscheinski and newly named captain Hunter Sansbury.

While that means there are plenty of new recruits and off-season acquisitions, one thing has been clear since day one of training camp: the skill level and potential the young players possess is off the charts.

The amount of talent we were able to acquire and get in recruiting this year has been phenomenal,” assistant coach Tanner Cochrane said. “If you look at some younger guys like Noah Serdachny, Mathieu Bourgault — 17-year-old guys that can come in, [they’re] very high-end recruits. Lots of high hopes for them and we think that they can step in and make an immediate impact.”

The team’s blue line recruits have also definitely caught the eye of the coaching staff, especially when it comes to mobility.

Three of the five incoming defencemen already carry NCAA Div-I scholarships: Jagger Benson to the University of Vermont, Joaquim Lemay to the University of Omaha-Nebraska and Lucas Matta to Northern Michigan University. Cochrane pointed out that the remaining two d-men also went to prestigious prep schools — Tucker Hartmann to St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts and Will Lavigne to Notre Dame in Saskatchewan.

“I think all of our recruits on the back-end skate really well. All puck-moving defencemen,” Cochrane said. “I think the whole blue line there is going to be fun to watch. Guys that can skate well and create offence from the back end.”

Up front, there may be plenty of youth, but that doesn’t mean they’re all short on Junior A experience. Braden Fischer and Carter Loney — each 2002-born forwards — are coming off standout rookie seasons in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and were traded for this summer, while Daniel Panetta, 19, brings three years of Junior A experience from the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

“Even though they haven’t been Silverbacks before, they’re acclimated to Junior A and on what it takes to be winners at the level that they’re at,” Cochrane said. “The acquisitions of Loney, Fisher and Panetta, those are three guys that all bring something a little bit different to our forward group. Loney is as impactful a forward as I’ve seen in the league in recent years.”

The tremendous crop of new blood is bolstered by the fact that all six returning players have come back stronger and faster than last year.

We’re going to expect all those guys to be leaders in the dressing room and leaders on the ice and establish the culture that we want for Silverbacks now and in the future as well,” Cochrane said. “Hunter Sanbsury, who’s going to be our captain this year, he…obviously was able to put the work in during the quarantine down in California. [He] looks bigger, stronger, faster; ready to lead. Simon Tassy has been phenomenal all camp. He’s a guy that through the second half of [last] season, you could really see the progression in his game. We expect him to take great strides and think he can be a top player in the league right away.”

With an extended training camp due to COVID-19, the key will now be to find chemistry between the veterans and the rookies.

Although the BCHL has targeted a Dec. 1 start date to the regular season, the good news for the Silverbacks is they’ll be able to test their chemistry against someone other than themselves as early as the end of the month, when exhibition action is expected to get underway.