And then there were forty.

The finale of the Merritt Centennials fall evaluation camp this week saw the number of hopeful players cut more than in half, from 90 prospects down to 40, as staff looks to fine tune the roster for the upcoming 2020-21 BCHL season.

Head Coach Derek Sweet-Coulter said he was “really proud” of all of the prospects that put in the work.

“They were good people at the rink, and in the town…it’s just great to see kids back in Merritt. Hockey is upon us, it’s great.

It was four days of evaluating players and goalies in all different situations, from drills, to three-on-threes, and four-on-fours. The action wrapped up on Thursday.

“When the level gets higher, some kids they drop off, and some kids excelled,” said Sweet-Coulter after the last day of camp. “And we’re pleased to announce that we’ve committed to a few guys out of here.”

A pair of standout names that emerged from the evaluation camp were that of Josh Olson and Nolan Wall, both forwards that will be hoping to get in their first full seasons in British Columbia’s top minor junior league.

Olson, who will be nineteen this month, brings with him experience with four different junior hockey teams in his short junior career, starting with a short two-game stint with the Revelstoke Grizzlies of the KIJHL in the 2016-17 season.

From there, he spent time with the Princeton Posse and Sicamous Eagles of the same league, and even found himself in a total of six games between two seasons with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Sweet-Coulter said in a release that Olson was a “heavy player, physical, and (with) good skills.”

Wall, who just turned eighteen in August, hails from the Under-18 Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, though he spent eight games in the BCHL with the Coquitlam Express last season.

Though not all of the returning players from last season were at the camp, Sweet-Coulter said about six or seven were on the ice throughout the week. He was happy with their performance, seemingly on and off the ice.

“They’re tasked with leading our culture, and I couldn’t be more happy with them this week. Team building, to the on-ice, leading the stretches, just getting the guys feeling comfortable here in Merritt.

“These camps are about introducing everyone to our program, and what we’re about. How we play on the ice, how we act off the ice, and we’re blessed with guys like (defenseman) Talon Zakall and (forward) Ben Ward…these guys have been here for a while, and they understand the culture we are trying to build. Family first, then let’s go to work for each other, and let’s go and do things the right way.”

Zakall has been a key cog to the Centennial blue line for the past two seasons, breaking out with a 30-point campaign last year. The Kamloops-born Ward is also entering his second year as a Cent, skating in 41 games last season.

As for remaining roster cuts, the 40 players left on the staff’s list have a better chance of making that final list than in year’s past: this year, the BCHL has upped the roster limit to 25.

However, Sweet-Coulter said that by the end-of-day on the last day of the evaluation camp, staff had most likely chosen their 25. Five more spots are yet to be determined to fill in as affiliate players, which in theory brings the roster up to 30.

“All in all, a successful camp, and can’t wait to get on the ice with this group in a couple weeks.”

The team is looking to have the final roster ready by mid-September.