Going into their main training camp at the end of August, the Merritt Centennials had a total of 14 players eligible to return from last year’s squad that finished third in the highly-competitive Interior division of the BCHL.

The long list of potential returnees represented a substantial and impressive core group around which to build towards another successful season in the best Junior A league in the country.

Fast forward six weeks, and the number of veterans still with the Merritt team has shrunk to just six. The current  Cents’ roster now sports no fewer than 16 new faces – — several of them very recent arrivals.

The half dozen vets are forwards Gavin Gould (born 1996), Colin Grannary (97), Zak Bowles (95) and Nick Fidanza (96), along with defencemen Malik Kaila (96) and Tyrell Buckley (97).

The list of players who either never showed at traininig camp, or were shown the door includes forwards Devin Oakes (retired), James Neil (long-term injury), Cole Chorney and Sephan Seeger (returned to major junior) and American Brandon Duhaime (gone to the USHL).

On the blueline, Matt Foley also chose to go the USHL route, while Cole Arcuri was traded to the Trail Smoke Eaters for future considerations two weeks ago.

Between the pipes, incumbent netminder Anthony Pupplo was released after struggling in his first few starts in September.

In anticipation of some of the no-shows and departures, the Cents coaching staff spent the off-season intensely recruiting — both close to home and across the continent. Their pair of spring evaluation camps yielded several promising young prospects — most notably forward Michael Regush (98), defenseman Tyler Wickman (98) and netminder Colten Lancaster (98).

Further afield, the Centennials managed to land a quartet of  skilled players from south of the border in forwards Nick Jermain (96) and Ryan Finnegan (97) and blueliners Michael Faulkner (96) and Nick Fiorentino (96).

The Cents main camp in Merritt saw Tyler Ward (99) from Kamloops, Vernon’s Brett Jewell (96) and Zach Zorn (97) from Yellowknife earn places on this year’s Merritt team.

The exhibition season resulted in still more player movements as Cents head coach and GM Joe Martin and his assistant Matt Samson tried to find the final pieces of the puzzle.

The Centennials plucked forward Mitch Lipon (96) and goaltender Cole Kehler (97) from the Kamloops Blazers organization as well as West Vancouver defenceman Mark O’Shaughnessy (97) from the WHL’s Kootenay Ice (which is now coached by former Centennials bench boss Luke Pierce).

Merritt also acquired three players from other BCHL clubs. A pair of 20-year-olds — forward Ryan Forbes and defenceman Ryan Coghlan — became available from the Nanaimo Clippers, while Tyler Holz (97) from Osoyoos was a late blueline cut of the Penticton Vees.

To make room for Coghlan and Holz on the backend, the Cents released Wickman so that he could get more playing time at the Junior B level.

The present Centennials roster sees four 1995-born players (one under the limit), five import players (one under the limit), 10 rookies (six more than the required minimum) and 10 players 17-years-of-age or younger (eight more than the rquired minimum).

Only time will tell if the chemistry is there for another successful BCHL season.