Vees players excited about Bauer BCHL Showcase

Mitch Meek and Nolan Hildebrand are among nine Penticton Vees looking to earn college scholarships this season.

WITH THE HELP of teammate David Eccles (64) Penticton Vees goalie Nolan Hildebrand focuses on clearing the puck from his crease against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Hildebrand is one of nine Vees hoping to impress hundreds of scouts at the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack

WITH THE HELP of teammate David Eccles (64) Penticton Vees goalie Nolan Hildebrand focuses on clearing the puck from his crease against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Hildebrand is one of nine Vees hoping to impress hundreds of scouts at the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack

Mitch Meek circled Sept. 22 and 23 on his calendar.

Those dates are special because the Penticton Vees play in the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack, an event that attracts upwards of 150 scouts.

“Just because of the extra attention of people in the building,” said Meek, one of nine Vees without scholarships. “When it comes down to it, it’s two games and four points that we need.”

The Victoria native, who has played for his hometown Grizzlies, Cowichan Valley Capitals and Vernon Vipers, said he’s spoken to interested National Collegiate Athletic Association schools, but his mindset is on playing hockey. He leaves the task of earning a scholarship to coach-general manager Fred Harbinson and his family advisor. Meek blocks the scouts out while playing and said it is something players get used to. Otherwise, it can affect their game.

“Some people like it. I take it as a normal game and just go out there and work hard,” said Meek, who has played 235 BCHL regular and playoff games combined.

Meek has liked how he has played in defending the Vees’ zone with David Eccles and Johnny Tychonick.

“We haven’t allowed a lot of goals. We take pride in that,” said Meek, who is six-foot-one, 190 pounds. “We have a really strong defence core. We’re confident to play with anyone. We’re all good, puck-moving d-men. We play well with each other.”

Another Vee hoping to land a scholarship is rookie goalie Nolan Hildebrand. The 18-year-old heard about the Showcase from being around the Vees as an affiliate player.

“The magnitude for scouts makes it easy. All in one spot seeing every single team,” said Hildebrand, who picked up his first career BCHL win against Cowichan Valley. “It’s a good chance for guys to get noticed by a team maybe they wouldn’t have been seen by throughout the year.”

Hildebrand sees the Showcase as a great opportunity, however, his focus on the ice is on the team.

“I’m going into the next two games just thinking of four points,” said Hildebrand, who backed up Mat Robson in a 6-4 win over the Langley Rivermen Thursday morning. “If a team comes and talks to me afterwards, that’s great. I got to focus on the Vees first. I think if you’re focused on your team and what you are doing right now, then all that other stuff will fall in place. Whether or not it’s from the Showcase or later in the year.”

The Calgary native, who moved to Summerland last September, has spoken to some schools, but said it isn’t anything serious at the moment.

“It’s real nice. It’s exciting,” he said of being approached. “To start realizing the dream of eventually playing in the NCAA is cool to see that starting to unfold. I got a lot of stuff to prove in the BCHL before too many guys give the opportunity to go prove it in the NCAA.”

There are upwards of 150 scouts from college hockey and the pro ranks at the Showcase. In his commissioner’s message to fans, John Grisdale said response from scouts has been overwhelming. In the last 12 years, the BCHL has averaged 103 players with scholarships each season. That translates to more than $2 million for players headed to hockey programs.

“The Bauer BCHL Showcase continues to drive the number of opportunities available to our players,” wrote Grisdale in his message.

The Vees, who have 12 players on their roster committed to schools, play their final game of the Showcase Friday at 4 p.m. against the Prince George Spruce Kings.