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Camp offers benefits for both sides of the bench

The Oshawa Generals held their annual orientation camp at the end of April. Here, Nick Wong, left, and Mason McMahon battle for the puck. The team’s GM says the camp was a great opportunity not only for players, but for coaches to get a first glimpse at the talent that may be on the bench in the coming seasons. (Photo by Ian Goodall).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The Oshawa Generals Orientation Camp atmosphere is one of openness, giving the young Gens rookies an opportunity to learn about the organization they may soon be a part of. It’s also useful for the guys behind the bench as well.

“It’s great for the coaching staff,” says Roger Hunt, the club’s general manager. “They coach our team. They don’t get the opportunity to scout and see many of these players during the season, so it’s a great opportunity for them.”

The recent camp allowed incoming rookies such as Joe Ruploi, first-round pick Mitchell Brewer and Nick Wong a chance to hit the ice with current rookie Generals like Alan McShane, Danil Antropov and Serron Noel and perhaps get an idea of what it takes to take that next step to becoming a full-fledged Oshawa General.

“It’s a great measuring stick to see where your returning players are and it’s a great measuring stick for aspiring players to see where you have to get to,” Hunt says.

The camp is the bookend to a season that saw the Gens exceed many fans’ expectations after the trade deadline saw them trade away two of the club’s most valuable players in captain Anthony Cirelli (currently preparing for the OHL final with the Erie Otters) and Mitch Vande Sompel. However, the trades seemed to have little impact on the club, who strung together a fairly successful second half of the season and nearly finishing first place in the Eastern Conference, a feat that was foiled by a late-season slide.

The 2016/2017 season came to an end on April 15 when they were eliminated from the OHL playoffs by the Mississauga Steelheads, losing the series 4-1. The elimination came after a hard-fought battle with the Sudbury Wolves in the first round that saw Oshawa come out on top in six games. Those same Steelheads are set to face off against the Otters, starting on Thursday.

Looking ahead to next season, Hunt says the orientation weekend was a good chance to see where the team could be in the coming years.

“It was everything we’d hoped, so it was a real worthwhile weekend for us going forward,” he says.

Along with the classic Red vs. White match-ups that peg the rookies against one another, the camp is also an opportunity to get many of the practical elements of joining the Gens out of the way. This includes getting head shots taken, fitness testing, training seminars and medical screenings for all the new players.