On Sunday, January 24, the Manitoba Moose announced the team’s training camp schedule and roster. Included on the list of players attending camp is Oakbank’s own Brett Davis. Despite the camp information only going public this past week, Davis has known about the AHL tryout offer for some time, but has had to keep that exciting information to himself.
“Yeah, I kind of knew about the tryout for a couple months now for sure, so I was just kind of counting down the days,” the young forward told Game On. “Obviously, I knew when it was going to start and whatnot, but it’s good that I’m finally here and to get out on the ice. It’s been fun.”
Signing a tryout deal is one thing, but actually stepping back onto the ice for a training camp amid a global pandemic is something else completely. But according to Davis, it’s something that he hasn’t been doing on his own.
“It feels really good, you know, it’s been a long time coming,” he said Friday afternoon. “But not only for myself, but pretty much everyone here. To get back on the ice with some competitive practice has been really good.”
Davis, 21, has spent the past five seasons playing within the Western Hockey League, where he suited up for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Kootenay ICE and Red Deer Rebels. His lengthy major junior career saw the former sixth round draft pick of the Dallas Stars (163rd overall in 2017) dress in 309 regular season games, where he put up 93 goals, 200 points and 118 penalty minutes.
“Size and speed are the two biggest things,” the 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward said of the transition from junior to professional hockey. “When you have time off, it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment coming back to competitive practice. But a lot of guys are in the same position. The size of most of the guys here are a lot bigger than junior. So you really don’t have a lot of time and space with the puck. You need to make your plays quick, so that’ the biggest thing that I’ve been working on.”
Having spent five-straight years in various parts of western Canada, the speedy winger has only made momentary stops in Manitoba – those being when his Hurricanes, ICE or Rebels teammates made the trek to Brandon’s Westoba Place for battles with the Wheat Kings, or as of late, taking on the recently-relocated Winnipeg ICE.
According to the former U-17 World Hockey Championship gold medal winner, having the chance to play with the team he used to watch as a child would be nothing short of spectacular.
“It would be amazing,” he said of the opportunity. “It would be a dream come true. Obviously, I feel really honoured to play for the Moose this year. I’m just trying to work my hardest in camp here to earn a spot on the team. I’m just going to work as hard as I can and see what happens.”
“As a kid, I actually did go to a couple Manitoba Moose games,” Davis continued. “I always thought it was so cool watching all the guys out there; I also always thought the arena was so cool. So now to be a part of this team and to wear that crest on the jersey, it’s an honour. It’s been really fun so far.”
Playing hockey within Manitoba would seem pretty typical for a 1999-born Oakbank resident. But interestingly it has been a while. As a matter of fact, it has actually been since Davis’ 2014-15 Midget AAA season with the Eastman Selects since he last suited up for a Manitoba-based team. He’s looking to change that statistic in his first year of professional hockey.
“It means a lot,” he smiled. “Not only for me, but for my family. I have a lot of family close by. To represent my province and to be able to come to a professional tryout that’s in your home province is an honour. It’s something that I’m looking to take advantage of.”
With Moose camp running from this past Monday through Sunday, January 31, Davis’ final opportunity to prove his worth to the coaching and management staff comes in the team’s closing skate on Saturday afternoon from Bell MTS Place.
“I just need to keep working as hard as I can and prove that I’m ready to make the jump from junior to pro,” he said. “Everyone says it’s a big jump when it comes to size and stuff like that, and they’re right. I just need to prove that I’m able to play with the bigger guys out here and I think I’m doing a pretty good job so far.”