Sunday, June 2, 2013

B³ Preview: 2013 Lincoln Stars Tryout Camp

Ridder Arena - Minneapolis, MN
With the Lincoln Stars' 2013 tryout camp just a few days away, I thought it might be a good idea to do a quick preview for those interested.  Last year at the 2012 tryout camp, 119 players were in attendance, all divided into six teams.  The 2013 camp will also have six teams, so I am assuming another group of 110+ players will be competing.  Click here to view the camp schedule.

Let's first look briefly at the Lincoln players from last season who *could* be in attendance:

From 2012-13 season:
F - Zach Aston-Reese
F - Garrett Brossart
F - Max Humitz
D - Zach Frye 
D - Zack Pittman
D - Daniel Willett 

As you can plainly see, there are not a lot of players returning from last season, which makes this tryout camp so important.  There will be a LOT of roster spots up for grabs.  Last year, there were 15 returning Stars players at the 2012 tryout camp.  I'm not sure I can remember a camp where so few players (six) are returning from the season before.   

There are some rumors floating around that goaltender Michael Bitzer ('93 - Bemidji State commit) could return next season, but I'm not going to post his name above until I see him at Lincoln's tryout camp.  Stating the obvious here, but having Bitzer return would be HUGE for the Stars.  He would be considered by many as the top goaltender in the entire USHL if he does decide to return.  

Just because a player spent last season with the Stars doesn't mean that they automatically have a spot on the roster for next season.  We have seen veteran players in the past get cut after the tryout camp, so nothing is guaranteed.  Everyone has to earn a spot.

Per the USHL, the Stars and every other team in the league must cut down to 30 players on its main roster and another 18 on its affiliate roster by July 10.  Then just before the 2013-14 regular season starts, the coaches will cut down to 23 players on the main roster.  Players protected on the affiliate list, to my knowledge, had to have been previously drafted by the Stars, and not "free agents." 

Once the 2013-14 USHL regular season begins, the Stars and every other team in the league will have to cut down to 23 rostered players.   For the majority of the 2012-13 regular season, the Stars rostered a total of 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders (23 total).  So when you consider the number of veteran players coming back, all of the former draft picks, and then all of the free agent invites, there will be a lot of competition for a good number of spots on the roster.  

Tryout camp can definitely be an intimidating atmosphere for a new player.  If a player shows up and has a bad couple of days, there's good reason to believe that they might not make it on the roster, or even worse, not get protected by the Stars..  It doesn't mean that player is bad, or isn't deserving, but the camp can be a pressure cooker.  If you don't impress the coaches in those couple of days at camp, you can easily find yourself on the outside looking in.

One of the things I enjoy most about the tryout camp every year is watching the invited non-drafted players who come out of nowhere and perform very well.  Last year, it was forward Michael Neville from Canada.  Two years ago it was forward Will Suter and goaltender Charles Williams.  Suter and Williams were undrafted by Lincoln coming into 2011 camp and were considered "free agents," so to speak.  Suter was easily the best forward at camp while Williams was the best goaltender.  Both used their strong efforts at camp to make the team and eventually contribute a lot to the 2011-12 Lincoln Stars.  Suter went on to have a great 2012-13 season with Lincoln and was named alternate captain.  

Three years ago it was an unknown defenseman by the name of Matt Prapavessis who impressed a lot of folks at the 2010 camp and eventually made the team.  Each year it seems like a few players appear at camp as relative unknowns to make the team.  Can't wait to see those players in action.  It is definitely a lot harder for a non-drafted player to make the team, and I enjoy rooting for those "underdog" players.

I don't want to get too wordy with this, so I'll just end it here.  The above is just one fan's opinion.  I'll post a quick article on Tuesday before I leave for Minnesota on Thursday morning.  

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