Shane Ott certainly wanted to reciprocate the strong first impression the Dubuque Fighting Saints made on him this week.
The Saints wrapped up their annual four-day tryout camp on Saturday morning at Mystique Community Ice Center with the second of two all-star games.
“They’ve definitely made a great first impression,” said Ott, a 5-foot-11, 161-pound forward from Centennial, Colo., who tallied 16 goals and 56 points in 58 games for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Jr. Hockey League before being selected by Dubuque in the 10th round of the USHL Draft. “I love the environment they have here and how they run things. The impressions they’ve made on me are going to stick with me for the rest of my career.
“When an organization makes that kind of impression on you, it pushes you to make just as good of an impression on them. You want to showcase your talent and help them make a decision on their team. I want to help make their team better and develop my game as well.”
The four-day camp provided the Saints with an opportunity to give players a first-hand look at a USHL franchise with a solid reputation. The Saints have finished above .500, qualified for the playoffs and won a playoff series in each of the past nine seasons — a feat unmatched in the league.
“I talked with their staff a little before the draft and learned a lot about the organization, so it was really exciting to have them call my name,” said Matthew Kopperud, a 5-10, 170-pound forward from Denver who tallied 27 goals and 51 points in 49 games for the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League. “I couldn’t wait to get to camp and see what they’re all about.
“The facilities are super nice and it’s been a really fast-paced camp. It gives you a really good idea of the things you have to work on before the start of the season.”
The camp, which included 160 prospects from all over the world, serves as a critical component to determining the roster for the coming season.
“It was a very productive camp, and the level of skill here was pretty exciting to watch,” Saints coach Oliver David said. “We also had a really good mix of depth guys to draw from, so there are some tough decisions ahead of us.
“A lot of those decisions work themselves out. We have four or five guys who could make the team but are a little too young and will decide to stay closer to home for another year of development before joining us.”
That includes 15-year-old Riley Rosenthal, a 6-2, 220-pound defenseman from Boca Raton, Fla., who tallied 11 goals and 54 points in 60 games for the South Florida Hockey Academy U16 team. Dubuque selected him in the fifth round of the USHL Futures Draft.
“It’s a challenge to compete against guys who are a lot older than me, because they’re playing at faster speeds and are more developed,” Rosenthal said. “You have to step up and learn to play at a faster pace.
“After the first game, you get used to it. You just have to be more precise with your decision making and be stronger on your stick.”