Columbus Cottonmouths head to Canada for free agent camp

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerAugust 22, 2013 

Defenseman Craig Olynick has not played professional hockey since the end of the 2006-2007 season.

Friday and Saturday at the Columbus Cottonmouths free agent camp, Olynick and 34 other hopefuls will give professional hockey a try.

The Snakes held their inaugural free agent camp at the Columbus Ice Rink right before the 2012-2013 season started. This year, they're hitting the road to Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada, hometown of assistant coach Brad Prefontaine.

"After last year, we wanted to find a way to improve the quality of the players coming to camp," Prefontaine said. "After the top three, the skill level dropped significantly. This gives guys a chance to get a look. We have 35 registered, the same as last year, but we expect some late registrations and a couple of walk-ons."

Olynick, who turned 31 on Aug. 21, is not the typical camp participant. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL entry draft, the 218th overall pick. Olynick is a native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, home of former Cottonmouths captain Orrin Hergott.

Olynick played in the ECHL for three seasons with Peoria, Toledo and South Carolina before ending his career with the Rocky Mountain Rage of the CHL. Olynick left the sport to pursue other interests, but is now rethinking that decision.

"I had this bright idea out of nowhere," Olynick said. "I was talking to Orrin and he was talking about getting a little older. I thought that we're the same age, so I may as well try it again before I get too old."

Olynick, who is now a plumber, still plays senior hockey, but has fond memories of his playing days.

"I miss being in the room talking to the guys," Olynick said. "I miss the bus trips, too."

Olynick has been trying to get into shape since making the decision to give hockey another shot.

"I've been going to the gym for about three months," Olynick said. "I'm carrying a few extra pounds. I guess we'll find out what kind of shape I'm in."

Olynick is not making long-term plans.

"I just want to get out there and see if I could have a chance," Olynick said. "I'm not looking any further than this week."

Prefontaine expects a wide range of ability levels at the camp.

"The last level played will range from midget A to the guy who was drafted and everything in between,

Prefontaine said. "Realistically we're looking at bringing three kids down here to camp, including a goalie."

Three players from last season's free agent camp were invited to attend training camp. Forwards Evan MacIntosh and Liam Tully as well as defenseman Andrew Adams began camp, but none made it to the opening night roster.

MacIntosh and Adams brought Division 3 experience and Tully played 8 games for Vermont of the FHL the previous season.

The Snakes have 11 players on the training camp roster with just less than two months before the opening of camp on Oct. 13.

SPHL rookie of the year and Snakes leading scorer Matt Gingera heads the list of eight forwards. Also returning up front are Will Aide, Jordan Braid, Jordan Draper, Levi Lind, and Jason Yuel. Rookie forwards include Tory Allan and Jordan Zalba.

Returning on the blue line are Chris Bailer and Kyle Johnson, along with rookie Jason Gray.

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