After two consecutive seasons with Bantam as the highest level of male hockey, the Central Plains Capitals have a place for their older players to play once again. The organization will have a U17 AAA team, and tryouts are less than a month away.
Head coach Len Dupasquier says they've had this program in the past but notes they found it hard to run it alongside the U18 squad. He describes why they decided to go this route instead of jumping right back into U18.
"We're going to use this as a stepping stone. We've lacked a bit of development over the last three years. COVID was a major reason why," Dupasquier continues. "We'll have a core group of kids that have been together since U15, and that'll speak volumes. In the past, we've seen guys like Ryan Botterill and Riley Borody move up the ranks after starting with a solid group in U15. We kept that group together and had some success in their graduating year."
Dupasquier adds he was also a part of the U15 coaching staff last year, so many of the players on this team will already be familiar with his style. He believes this type of continuity will be a huge benefit.
"For one, you're not starting from scratch with a whole new group. We'll have a group of about eight or nine kids from last year. Because we don't have a U18 program, there are kids that will give it a shot at U18 programs out of the region, which is fine. If they're not fortunate enough to crack those lineups, there's a possibility of having maybe a couple more guys from that core group. We could have ten, and then, that's half of the team."
The head coach says having the oldest players at the U18 level can sometimes be playing MJHL minutes.
"The biggest difference between U17 and U18 is that one year, but it is huge in a lot of cases. You might have kids that play part of the year in Junior A and then get sent back down to their U18 program. With the U17, you might get a kid that could move up and play a few games with the U18 group, but it's probably not going to go any further than that."
Dupasquier notes they are focused on the development of this group and believe the U17 AAA league will be the best place for them to learn and excel.
"Going forward, the importance is going to be to maintain good coaching at the U15 level and even prior to that. Even as the minor hockey systems within our associations, we need to step up and see what we can do to get these kids more prepared for the AAA level."
The U17 AAA Central Plains Capitals tryouts begin on September 15.