When the French River Rapids begin on-ice training camp sessions, head coach Shawn Frappier wants to see his charges showcase a relentless work-ethic.
That’s because, as Frappier sees it, training camp is short-term competition.
“You have to go in with the mindset that you have a small amount of time for them to see you, so you have to do something spectacular,” Frappier said. “You have to stick out above the rest. You can’t just play safe. Whether it’s a big hit, whether it’s a nice goal. Whatever it means, you have to stand out. I’m looking for someone to standout and surprise me.”
The Rapids had a 23-point improvement last season. This season, the team decided to continue with their youth movement.
They signed Philippe Daoust, a 16-year-old from Barrie, but whose parents hail from Noelville, home base for the Rapids.
Daoust, a skilled playmaking forward, will be joining Val Caron native Hunter Brazier, a draft pick of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, as well as Bala, Ont., product Ryan Smith, a Sudbury Wolves prospect, and Courtice, Ont., native Cooper Bowman, who fit in neatly with the Rapids’ focus on youth, speed and development under president Paul Frustaglio, hockey operations director Sherry Bassin and Frappier.
In total, the Rapids have 21 players signed heading into training camp.
Frappier, who coached the AAA Sudbury Wolves minor midgets and is known to many local fans as a three-year member of the Sudbury Wolves in the 1990s — was part of the squad that made a conference final in 1995, before he suited up for the Belleville Bulls and Barrie Colts — is preaching development.
It’s what he’s leaned on, as he stepped away from enjoying a five-year pro career before returning to the game as a coach, notably with the Sudbury minor midgets from 2015 to 2017.
“Just because they’re playing junior in the NOJHL doesn’t mean they stop developing,” Frappier said. “I played minor pro, I went to three NHL camps, and the lifestyle is, you know, you’re a rock star.
“I played in the deep south for Bruce Boudreau (with the Mississippi Sea Wolves), and it was the first year they had a hockey team and it was ridiculous. They had no idea about the game, but I want these guys to get a taste of that. I really do. And if that’s something they wish, that they want to continue on with their hockey career, that’s what I want. The guys who don’t want to go on usually land up being a parasite on your team. I have a short fuse for guys like that. I want to make sure guys want to move on and keep playing, getting a chance to do what I did.”
That’s the type of mentality and never-quit attitude Frappier and the Rapids looked for when considering which players to sign for the 2018-19 season.
“Kids these days are pretty smart,” Frappier said. “They Google everything. I can (BS) as much as I want, but everything is there. It shows I tried out for the men’s national team. I don’t have to say anything. They know.”
Frappier likes his charges to play with speed and pressure.
“You look at an OHL team, and you’re hard-pressed to see them make three hard passes in a- row,” Frappier said. “If they’re having a hard time at that level, well, these guys shouldn’t be able to make three passes in a- row, so we need to pressure. Giving them too much respect, too much time, that’s all I want to take away. I want to be a fun guy to play for, run-and-gun, and my penalty kill, I’m not kidding you, I love scoring on the penalty kill. My penalty kill is ‘boys, we’re getting a goal’.”
Whether it’s pewee, minor midget, junior hockey, majority of players of players have talent and the ability to quality skate, Frappier said.
“And when it comes to kids moving on, it’s about mindset and habits,” Frappier said. “Who will stop and start, who will finish a check, who will block a shot. I told all the kids I met already that Sidney Crosby is the most elite player today. Does he block shots? Damn right he does. Does he get hammered in front of the net? Yes. So, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for you.”
The NOJHL’s preseason begins Saturday.