Carter McLeod and Logan Cunningham already had plenty in common in their lives, right on down to growing up on the same street: Brown Court.
They both also got their first chance to show their respective junior teams what they can do, even if it was nothing more than an audition for a future appearance.
McLeod and Cunningham were at Western Hockey League camps earlier this month; McLeod with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Cunningham with the Spokane Chiefs. Both players were drafted by those teams in the league’s bantam draft earlier this year with Cunningham going in the third round and McLeod in round eight.
McLeod said it went as well as he expected it to.
“All of the main guys were there and it was fast-paced,” he said. “It was a good experience for my first camp.”
This was a chance for McLeod to make a good first impression with his team and while he didn’t advance to the team’s main camp, he said he got himself noticed with his fitness.
“I was focused on my fitness going into camp,” he said. “They had a development camp in the spring and they did baseline testing then so I knew I had to be in better shape and I think I was.”
Once everything was done, the team sat down with McLeod to go over what he needs to work on going forward and he said the message was working on lower-body strength.
“They didn’t think I was ready to be with the bigger players yet but my development was good,” he said. “I’ll get going on building my leg and foot strength, which is where they said I should focus on for this season.”
Cunningham, meanwhile, was part of the big show with Spokane. Unlike most other junior teams, the Chiefs bring every single protected, contracted and drafted player together and splits them into one of three teams for the duration of camp.
Cunningham said he had a great time.
“It was really fun,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect going in but my skill and speed were good. I just have to work on going into the corners to battle for the puck.”
He admitted he had a shaky start to camp but said once he found his feet, it was like any other hockey camp he’s ever been to.
“It was full-contact and some of those guys are big,” he said. “I wanted to show what I could do and I think I did that well.”
Cunningham played well enough to advance to the Red and White Game, which features the 40 players who survived the first part of camp but that’s as far as he got. The team was still impressed with his play, however, and offered him a contract, which would mean he would get all the benefits of a Western Hockey League player.
“They actually offered me a chance to sign right after I got drafted but we decided to hold off for a bit,” he said. “They offered one to me again and we’re just looking at it right now. We had a chance to see the city and get to know the team so we’re considering it.”
Both players are still too young to play in the WHL and will be plying their trade in Alberta this coming season, McLeod with the Edge School in Calgary where he’ll play with the Elite 15 squad and Cunningham with Northern Alberta Xtreme in Edmonton. Both clubs are part of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
There is one other player from Yellowknife at camp and he’s still in with a shot at making his WHL team.
As of press time, Jonah Bevington was set to join the Portland Winterhawks in their first exhibition game of the season versus the Everett Silvertips in Everett, Washington tomorrow evening.
See a future edition of Yellowknifer for an update on Bevington’s progress.