The Hawks held their training camp on the weekend at the Centennial Arena in preparation of the 2023 – 24 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) season.
Approximately 80 players attended including veterans, draft picks, list players, and walk-on hopefuls. Associate General Manager Dana Dirks said two elements to any training camp are did the veterans improve and get better going into a new season and have recent draft picks continued their development as the organization would have hoped.
“I think the answer to both of those is yes overall, we’re very happy,” Dirks said at the conclusion of camp on Sunday.
After an seventh-place finish and a first-round playoff exit last year, optimism is prevalent around the rink and community. With hopes of hosting game one of the first round playoffs next March, Dirks said the team is strong up front and between the pipes with returnee Damon Cunningham poised to be the Nipawin starting netminder.
“Our goaltending is going to remain strong like we finished the year with last year which is a bonus,” Dirks said. “I think our forward group is definitely going to be able to produce some offence as well.”
The early concern for the club could be defence, the loss of Zander Stewart to the British Columbia Junior Hockey League (BCHL) and Tre Fouquette still in Brandon with the Western Hockey League’s Wheat Kings the defense core will need some tweaking going forward. However the addition of 17-year-old Ohio State University commit Ronan Buckberger on the blueline, Dirks feels the group will mend together led by the young star.
“He’s a special kid, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this year. He did some things that you don’t think a player that age should do but he was doing them at free will. He definitely had a really good showing,” Dirks lamented.
Nipawin will travel to Melfort Monday night to kick off their preseason schedule. The team’s only home preseason game is Wednesday at the Centennial Arena versus Melfort. Admission is free for the game.