The youth of the Medicine Hat Tigers was in the spotlight Sunday at the Canalta Centre.
With only a handful of vacancies on the pre-season roster, and even fewer remaining for the opening day lineup, 16-year-old Gary Haden understands just how crucial each opportunity can be. So when given a chance during the second period of Sunday’s training camp intra squad game, he sprung free from the pack and put himself on the scoreboard with a fancy breakaway goal.
“You’ve got to work hard every day and you can’t take a day off because, who knows, that day off could be the difference between you making it and being sent somewhere else. So you’ve got to bring it every day, it’s great,” said Haden, whose Team Black picked up a 5-3 victory over Team White to close out camp. “It’s great competition and that’s what you really want to make a hockey team.”
The Tabbies acquired Haden in January’s trade that sent former captain Cole Sanford to the Regina Pats to close in exchange for the young Airdrie native, plus departed overage forward Brian Williams and three draft picks.
“It’s great to be back here. I’m kind of a rookie at (training camp) because I haven’t done this here before,” said Haden, who will compete with the Tigers on their 40-man pre-season roster. “It’s kind of cool, the Cypress thing was really good and it’s a whole new experience to meet everybody — because I hadn’t met any of the prospects yet.”
Haden’s big marker to close out the middle frame was complimented by a two-goal effort from sophomore forward Caleb Fantillo. With so many young sticks in the mix, Fantillo was one of only eight returning players to suit up for the intrasquad game, and he says it was a treat to see catch at glimpse at what the next generation has in store.
“We have a lot of skill coming from the younger guys, especially Josh Williams,” Fantillo said of the fifth overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft, who will be eligible to crack the roster next year. “He’s one of the most skilled guys I’ve ever seen play. We’ve got a lot of talent coming through in the next couple of years so we’re excited.”
The 58-man training camp roster has been trimmed to 40 for pre-season action, but Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston he was impressed with the level of competition shown by all the young men in attendance.
“We were pleased with the way things went,” he said. “In the next week here we’ll continue the process of evaluation as we work toward our first couple of exhibition games against Lethbridge.”
Pre-season action kicks off Friday when the Tigers and Hurricanes host a game in Coaldale before the two-game set shifts to Taber on Saturday evening.