2017 Royal Bank Cup
The Royal Bank Cup is in the midst of preliminary rounds at present in Cobourg, Ontario. As the host team, the Cobourg Cougars receive an automatic bye into the championship. There are five teams in the tourney, vying for the prize as the best junior hockey team in Canada (excluding the CHL teams). There are 132 teams at this level, and some fine young hockey players in the mix.
The top five teams, with some very good players are on the ice in Cobourg this week. There are many sets of eyes keenly observing these lads. Included in this group are several scouts from all over North Americapro scouts, amateur scouts, college and university scouts, scouts from various levels of hockey.
More than a hundred former Royal Bank Cup players have had at least a cup of coffee at the National Hockey League level. As far as I can discern, only one Wellington Duke who played at the RBC in Charlottetown, moved on to the NHL. That is Liam Reddox. If you check the list posted at Hockey Canada, you will find the names of some fine players, including four of the Sutter brothers.
Thus, the job of the scouts at the tourney is to assess these young players, to find the gem who just might be a super star in the NHL. On several occasions, I have run into Andre Savard at hockey games in Florida. He is a pro scout for the New Jersey Devils, and he was at the Brooks Bandits game with other personnel from the Devils. It is their job to separate the wheat from the chaff, in terms of hockey talent.
As was the case with several other scouts at that game, they were focusing on a young defenceman for the Bandits, Cale Makar. Makar has already stirred up quite a bit of interest in the scouting hockey circles. Rather small relative to other backliners, (5-foot 10-inch and 175 pounds), he is slated to be a top prospect in this year’s NHL draft. The New jersey Devils won the first pick in the lottery. Makar was the MVP at last year’s RBC, and also the top scorer.
Brooks Bandits coach Ryan Papaioannou is well aware of the situation. “I think a lot of it with him is just his skating ability, his puck skills. He is offensively minded, but because of his feet, he’s able to defend very well. He’s done a really good job establishing his footing in this year’s NHL Draft. We’re always impressed with the way he plays, but like all coaches, we keep encouraging him. There’s more he can do, and we want him to be better.”
I spoke with one of his teammates at the Bandits’ first game against Terrebonne. Orca Wiesblatt and his brother Ocean play with Makar. There were both in the stands for the first game. “Cale is committed to play at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the fall.”
No question that the Bandits are a team to watch. They won the RBC in 2013, and played in the semi-finals last year in Lloydminster. The other teams in this year’s tournament are the Cobras de Terrebonne, and the Penticton Vees.
Round Robin play will continue until Wednesday night, when the host Cougars will play the Bandits at 7:30 p.m. The Cougars started the tourney with an overtime win over the Trenton Golden Hawks; however, as we witnessed in Charlottetown, and in Camrose with the Dukes, until the final buzzer goes, anything can happen.