There is lots of work still do for the 2016-2017 season - nine more games and then, hopefully, a nice playoff run for the Grande Prairie Storm - but it's never too early to start thinking about next year.
With next year in mind the Storm have announced their first commitment for the 2017-2018 campaign.
Storm head coach/general manager Matt Keillor is proud to announce that first commitment is local product Eric Sorensen, who has signed a Letter of Intent with the Alberta Junior Hockey League team.
Sorensen, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, is the leading scorer and assistant captain for the GPAC Ernie's Experts Midget AAA Storm. In 30 games so for he has 10 goals and 16 assists 26pts. Sorensen has played seven games this year with the AJHL Storm scoring in his fifth game as an affiliate player.
This is the first year the AJHL has rolled out the new Letter of Intent recruiting format. It is much like the NCAA programe where the LOI creates a stronger partnership between the athlete and the team. Players that sign a letter of intent will be carded on June 1.
"This new LOI format recruiting takes on an entire new life," said Keillor. "You have to identify players earlier who you feel will make you better.
"The great news is it's a two-way street. By offering a prospect an LOI we are saying we want you to play your junior hockey carrier in a Storm jersey and the player agreeing is accepting that responsibility."
Keillor is very familiar with the Midget AAA forward.
"I have coached Eric through Bantam AAA and the past two seasons at Midget AAA," said Keillor. "At first glance you see his offensive production and absolutely we could use that, but the biggest thing for me is character.
"We can teach skill and we can teach strength but we can't teach character. I'm excited to see how much Eric can improve this off season and excited to see him fulfill his hockey goals in a Storm jersey."
There was little debate between Keillor and new head scout/assistant coach Mark Bombersback about Sorensen.
"When or staff (which includes assistant coach Dennis Rix) sat down along with Mark it was a quick decision that our first LOI needed to be Eric."
The Sorensen signing is just the start.
"The hard work never stops," says Keillor. "Mark is busy identifying potential prospects and we are not done committing players. We know we need to improve and Eric is a great start to that process."
The on-ice work continues this weekend. The Storm host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in games Friday and Saturday (7:30 p.m. start times) in Revolution Arena.
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