With 2018-19 training camp in full swing, the Surrey Eagles will be forced to make some challenging roster decisions soon. The team has jumped out to a 2-1-0-0 record in the pre-season thus far, with only two games remaining against the Coquitlam Express before the season begins in earnest on September 7th – a game in which they also play the Express.
There are 30 players left in camp, which means there is still some work to be done to reduce the roster to the max size of 23 players before the season begins. According to Eagles head coach Brandon West, the competition for the final spots has been incredibly intense.
“We still have some jobs up for grabs. We’re going to see some guys compete for spots. Overall we’ve been impressed with the conditioning and the dedication that the returning guys have put in. It’s a competitive roster right now, and we’re continuing to push our guys to showcase their talents.”
The Eagles roster will feature as many as seven returnees from last season, but took significant losses to their forward group in the summer. Five of the top six point producers from last season’s squad have moved on – including Desi Burgart, Jeff Stewart, and Owen Norton who all received NCAA division I scholarships. John Wesley, who was tied for the league lead in goal scoring last season with 37, aged out and will play this upcoming season with the University of Windsor.
The five top scorers from last season that are moving on accounted for 104 total goals. Replacing that offense weighed heavily on the mind of the coaching staff this offseason.
“I think we’ve gained some really talented players like Chase Stevenson and Eric Linell, first and foremost. Those guys add a lot of speed to our lineup. That was something we wanted to focus on, being a little bit quicker. They also add veteran leadership and a ton of skill.”
There is excitement surrounding the goaltending duo of Seth Eisele and Daniel Davidson heading into the 2018-19 season. The Eagles acquired Eisele, who is fresh off a Fred Page Cup BCHL championship season with Wenatchee, for future considerations during the offseason. Davidson is coming off the best season of his BCHL career, after posting a .901 save percentage in 32 games. Having both goaltenders gives the team stability between the pipes with two veterans.
Davidson picked up the 6-3 win for Surrey on Thursday night in Langley, and Eisele stopped 25 of 28 in a 3-2 loss in his pre-season debut on Saturday night.
“We’ve had a competitive camp in goal,” West commented. “Seth and Danny have both had tremendous camps. We talked as a staff and we feel it’s important to get these guys into full games, not the half-game stuff that you see some teams doing.”
One other pleasant note from camp has been the play of Brendan Winslow. The sophomore defenceman has made quite the impression during inter-squad games and drills, showing a more composed and physical presence on the ice.
Winslow, from Richland, Washington, appeared in 46 regular season games and 13 post-season games as a rookie – amassing one goal and six assists.
“[Winslow] was rock solid for us in the playoffs last season. His entire second half was good, but I feel like he took his game to another level in the playoffs. We’re really happy where he’s at. We put everyone on notice that there are 23 jobs up for grabs, and he’s a guy that we’ve been really impressed with. We need guys to step up, and he’s taken it upon himself to show up and have a great training camp.”
The Eagles have two pre-season tune-ups left, one at home and one on the road. You can catch the final home exhibition on Friday, August 31st vs the Coquitlam Express. Admission will be free for all that would like to attend!