Spirit shows at prospect camp

Randy Russon
May 16, 2017

All in all, general manager Dave Drinkill was impressed with the pace that was set at the Saginaw Spirit prospect camp that featured a Sault Ste. Marie pair among the 33 participants.

“It was very fast-paced,” said the youthful GM, who is set to begin his third season at the helm of the rising Ontario Hockey League team. “All in all, it gave the players, the coaching and myself a good taste of what to expect at main camp.”

Drinkill spoke in positive tones when asked about Sault boys Nick Porco and Camaryn Baber, a duo of 2001 birth-year forwards who Saginaw selected at the 2017 OHL minor midget draft.

“Porco showed flashes of what he is going to be,” Drinkill said of his first-round pick (fourth overall) at the April 8 draft. “His skating ability really stands out and the speed that he creates off the rush.”

In three full-length, intra-squad scrimmages at the weekend prospect camp, Porco had 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points.

Baber, the second of two third-round picks (57th overall) that Saginaw had at the 2017 draft, also showed well, according to Drinkill.

“He’s very competitive,” Drinkill said of Baber. “He worked hard, was in position and showed an offensive upside. I thought he did well.”

Baber had 3 goals in the 3 intra-squad matches.

Saginaw’s first of two third-round picks (41st overall), speedy forward Ryan Stepien, netted 5 goals in the 3 games, which did not surprise Drinkill.

“That is his strength, scoring goals,” Drinkill summed up in simple terms.

A standout at the camp was 2000 birth-year forward Blade Jenkins, Saginaw’s first-round pick from the 2016 OHL draft who just signed this year after spending the 2016-2017 campaign with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. The slick centre from Jackson, Michigan put on a skill show with 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points in the 3 games.

“Blade is a year older than the others and his time spent with the NTDP playing against older players really showed,” Drinkill relayed. “He is going to be a very good player for us.”

And Drinkill commented on the play of 2000 birth-year goalie Cameron Lamour, who spent the majority of the 2016-2017 season with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and got into parts of 4 OHL games with Saginaw, posting a 1-2-0 record with a 2.21 goals against average and .901 save percentage.

“He let in a couple of goals that I know he would like to have back,” Drinkill said of Lamour. “But he faced a lot more shots than the other goalies and he looked better as the camp went on.”

To be sure, Saginaw is seen as a team of rising potential as it looks ahead to the 2017-2018 season.

Under Drinkill and first-year head coach Spencer Carbery, Saginaw opted for a full-out youth movement in 2016-2017, dealing off veteran players for younger skaters and a bushel of draft picks.

Still, the Spirit challenged for a Western Conference playoff spot until the latter portion of the regular-season schedule only to finish in ninth place, albeit with a respectable point total of 63.

Indeed, the 63 points that Saginaw put up were more than three teams who made the playoffs in the OHL Eastern Conference — Sudbury Wolves, Ottawa 67’s and Niagara IceDogs.

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