SURREY â€” After a career with guidance under Willie Desjardins and Don Hay, Blaine Neufeld will step behind the Surrey Eagles bench trying to replicate their successes.
Head coach Neufeld and the Eagles kick off pre-season on Friday, Sept. 5 with an exhibition game against the Chiefs at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
The Eagles opened their camp on Labour Day with 70 skaters taking to the ice.
Neufeld said he would take 30 players to Friday’s game and that he will give every player a fair chance to prove they can play in the BCHL.
"We’re definitely getting anxious for the (game)," Neufeld said. "We’re excited to have the opportunity to see the group of kids that we feel will have a really good chance to play here this year or next year."
The head coach said some of the players looked "tentative" at the start of camp, but noticed the competition level came up on Tuesday (Sept. 2) when the veteran players were added to the mix.
"That immediately made it more of a ‘real’ camp. The intensity came up, bodies are starting to check and (there is) a lot of progress now," said Neufeld.
Neufeld, who is filling the position left by former Vancouver Canuck Peter Schaefer, said the camp isn’t just important to the young kids.
It’s also vital for the experienced players, as it will decide what line they play on.
"They want to show the coaches what they improved on all summer long and that’s why they work so hard, to make sure you come to camp, you make that good first impression. It’s crucial in these short weeks."
The coach said he was impressed with Latrell Charleson, a Surrey defenseman who spent last season with the Battlefords North Stars in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
At six-feet four-inches and 220 pounds, the 19-year-old is the largest physical presence on the roster.
"He’s a physical force, and an anchor of our blue line already," said Neufeld. "We’re very excited about him."