The Minot Minotauros brought 100 players to their camp in Vadnais Heights, Minn., on Friday and after three days of exhibitions, getting down to a 25-man roster by Sept. 1 will be an arduous task.
The Tauros camp featured veterans, tendered players, draft picks and tryout hopefuls separated into six teams. Each team played three exhibition games - one on Friday and two on Saturday - before the top players were chosen for an all-star game Sunday to close out camp.
"I was pretty impressed with the talent pool we had at the camp," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "Some of the guys we drafted did real well. Our veterans performed well and we had a few surprises that came out and opened our eyes."
Five of Minot's nine draft picks were selected to the all-star festivities, including forward Bo Gronseth, the 172nd overall pick out of Hermantown, Minn. Third-round draft pick Rylan Cratsenberg from Team Seattle U16 netted his team's only goal in the all-star game.
The veterans showed their skills during the three-day camp as well. Forward Wes Iverson tallied a goal and four assists in one game and captain Tim Donohue and forward Mason Morelli registered multiple goals throughout the weekend.
Goaltender Ryan Ruck made a strong case to start opening night, holding opponents scoreless in each of his final two halfs of play. The Tauros drafted goaltender Hayden Hawkey in the fourth round and brought in several other netminders to challenge Ruck for the starting spot. But Ruck's hard work on and off the ice is paying dividends for the 6-foot-1 goalie.
"I've been working in the gym four times a week and on the ice at least three times a week," Ruck said. "I'm ready to carry the team physically and mentally."
Tyler Parks, who appeared in 39 games last season and was the Tauros No. 1 goaltender, signed with NCAA Division I St. Lawrence University. Ruck played in 25 games, sporting an 8-11-1 record with two shutouts. Ruck said he learned a lot from backing up Parks, most notably how to carry a team.
Ruck's performance in camp has Murray feeling upbeat about his goalie options.
"Ryan looked real solid," Murray said. "He looked like a guy that had a year of junior hockey under his belt. We're satisfied with our goaltending situation."
The Tauros will have Matt Seidel in the lineup after the former Kenai River (Alaska) forward didn't make the first round of cuts with the United States Hockey League's Chicago Steel. The Steel drafted Seidel in the fifth round in this year's draft. Minot traded four picks to acquire Seidel.
The Tauros won't know whether they will have Morelli or defenseman Scott Dornbrock on the opening-night roster as they both made the first-round cut for their respective USHL teams. The Fargo Force own the rights to Morelli and Dornbrock was drafted by the Omaha (Neb.) Lancers in 2011.
Murray said he plans to bring 30 to 35 players to Minot when the Tauros open camp again in August at Maysa Arena. The decision won't be easy. Murray said.
"Not everyone is going to make it. There are some kids we had to turn away and that's the worst part of the job. Most of them realize at this level that it's a bit more business."
Mike Kraft covers the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.