The Lone Star Brahmas conducted an Open Tryout Camp at the NyTex Sports Centre this past weekend. The camp was the final tryout prior to the Main Camp scheduled for July 24 – 27 at the Taylor Sportsplex in Detroit, MI.
There were over 70 prospective players in camp divided into four teams looking to catch the eye of the coaching staff. “It is nice to get our feet wet with these camps as we were unable to field the competition last season due to our late start,” said Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong. “We are getting excited about the upcoming season and look forward to main camp next month in Detroit.”
Texas is becoming a hotbed of hockey in a state long known for its love of football. There are currently six NAHL teams calling Texas home and five of the past 11 Champions have come from Texas. The Allen Americans have claimed back-to-back CHL titles and the Texas Stars won the AHL Calder Cup this past season.
When the Dallas Stars moved to North Texas from Minnesota in the early 1990s there were about 1,000 players in the state. According to Chris Peters, USA Hockey Official Membership Records show that number had grown to 11,861 for the 2012/13 season. Over a 10 year period from 2003, the number of registered players in the state jumped 82%, more than any other state other than Florida. So, it was no surprise that roughly 70% of the players on the ice being evaluated by the Brahmas staff had ties to the area. That fact was not lost on Wildfong. “It was great to produce a camp where both local and out of town athletes could attend. This area’s talent pool is growing, so it is promising to have several homegrown players come out.”
One of the players who made his presence known during the camp was the Brahmas’ third round selection in the 2014 NAHL Entry Draft and 53rd pick overall, Caleb Thompson. Thompson is a 6’ 0” / 180 pound defenseman born in Edmond, OK on 04/07/1994.
Thompson played two seasons in the Dallas Stars MM system and will now return to the DFW Metroplex as a member of the Brahmas organization. After wrapping up his two seasons with the Dallas Stars, Caleb was invited to the Prince George Spruce Kings Prospect Camp and signed with the BCHL program. In announcing Thompson’s signing, Spruce Kings GM Mike Hawes told 250 News “It’s an exciting day for the organization when we can add a player of Caleb’s ability to our lineup. He is a tremendous two-way defenseman who sees the ice very well, can contribute offensively and is very good defensively.” Hawes went on to add, “Caleb also plays the body very well and will provide a physical presence for us from the blueline.”
After scoring five points in 27 games with Prince George, Thompson was dealt to the Chilliwack Chiefs for the Chiefs fifth leading scorer at the time of the trade. “It was tough to give up Thompson in the trade, but he wasn’t getting enough icetime with us, especially as a 19-year-old. With the Chiefs, he should have more time on the ice,” Spruce Kings Head Coach Dave Dupas told the Price George Free Press. Thompson went on to play 18 more games with Chilliwack wrapping up his BCHL season with 10 points in 45 games played.
Caleb chose to return to Texas to play this coming season because of the positive reports he had received about the Brahmas organization. “I know they didn’t get off to such a good start, but I heard a lot of good things about the coaching staff and team.”
I asked Caleb what he considered to be the strengths of his game and if there was any player that he modeled his game after. “I’m a strong skater, have good vision, can join the rush up ice and am good at defending in our end.” He went on to add “I learned a lot from my hometown coach Mike McEwen (3 Time Stanley Cup Champion). One of my idols was Matt Donovan who is now in the NHL, but I have my own game. I am a Red Wings fan so I focused a lot around Nicklas Lidstrom.”
Thompson has had the opportunity to discuss his goals for the season with Wildfong. Rather than coming up with numbers related targets, he is determined to work on things that will help him improve his overall game and contribute to the success of the Brahmas as a team. “I’m going to work on leadership and to be the player that I am rather than the player other people want me to be. Another thing I am going to work on this year is to become more defensively structured and become more physical.” If his play during the Tryout Camp is any indication, opposing forwards are going to have long nights ahead of them when they step on the ice against the Brahmas this season.
Caleb is not sure yet of his aspirations once his season with the Brahmas comes to an end. He sees a lot of different paths that he could take, but said his number one goal is to go to college weather that is as a member of an NCAA hockey program or not. Right now he is just looking forward to the opportunity to play closer to home and having his family be able to watch him play.