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NHL camping season comes a little earlier for these Newfoundlanders

Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick is heading to his second rookie training camp with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, while fellow Newfoundlander Cody Donaghey (background), Fitzpatrick’s former teammate with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, will attend rookie camp with the Ottawa Senators.
Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick is heading to his second rookie training camp with the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, while fellow Newfoundlander Cody Donaghey (background), Fitzpatrick’s former teammate with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, will attend rookie camp with the Ottawa Senators.

National Hockey League training camps won’t kick into gear until Monday with team physicals, but there are four Newfoundlanders who will be getting a taste of NHL action starting today.

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Evan Fitzpatrick and Nathan Noel of St. John’s are attending their second rookie camps with the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, respectively, while Cody Donaghey, another St. John’s product, is an old hand at the rookie camp thing, making his fourth such appearance this weekend. Donaghey, from St. John’s, will skate with the Ottawa Senators’ rookies.
In Winnipeg, Tyler Boland, also from the capital city, is vying for a pro contract after being invited to the Jets’ rookie camp as a free agent following a splendid 2016-17 campaign in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Each of the four will be playing in rookie tournaments involving entries from other NHL organizations.
Fitzpatrick and Noel will be suiting up for teams representing the Blues and Blackhawks in a prospect tournament at Traverse City, Mich., against representatives from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers organizations.
Boland is in Penticton, B.C., where the Jets’ rookies will be playing in the Young Stars Classic against Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks rookies.
At the Ricoh Centre in Toronto, home to the AHL’s Marlies, prospects from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators — including Donaghey — will gather for yet another tourney.
Of the four, Donaghey, a 21-year-old defenceman, has had the most interesting career. This is his fourth rookie camp, having attended the 2014 and 2015 camps with the Leafs and last year with the Senators.
Toronto signed Donaghey to a free-agent contract in 2014 following his second season with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.
Since then, Donaghey was traded to the Senators, a throw-in in the Dion Phaneuf-to-Ottawa deal in 2016.
That was before he wrecked his knee, tearing the ACL and MCL, which were repaired by Maple Leafs’ surgeons in Toronto.
Of course, trades are nothing new to Donaghey. During his five years in the QMJHL, Donaghey has skated for six teams, and has been traded seven times (including the Leafs-Senators deal).
He split the 2016-17 season — his overage year — between the Charlottetown Islanders and Sherbrooke Phoenix, registering 11 goals and 29 assists in 52 games.
Speaking of Sherbrooke, Phoenix netminder Fitzpatrick — a St. John’s native who now resides in Lower Sackville, N.S. — is in Traverse City for the second straight year, hoping for an invitation to the Blues’ main camp.
It’s his first camp under contract, having signed an entry-level deal with the Blues in March.
St. Louis drafted Fitzpatrick 59th overall in 2016. The 19-year-old is coming off his third season in Sherbrooke, and he will likely return to that QMJH club.
This is Noel’s second rookie camp, but first as official property of the Blackhawks after also signing an entry-level contract during the QMJHL playoffs last spring.
Noel’s Saint John Sea Dogs went on to win the league championship.
The 20-year-old Noel will in all likelihood turn pro this season with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
Noel was the Blackhawks’ fourth-round pick (113th overall) in the 2016 Entry Draft. He had 24 goals and 50 points in 52 games with the Sea Dogs last season. Overall, Noel registered 85 goals and 208 points in 252 regular-season games in Saint John.
Boland is an attractive free agent to the Jets after piling up 48 goals and 55 assists for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic last season. He finished runner-up in the league’s scoring race to Gatineau’s Vitali Abramov by a single point.
Boland’s performance in Penticton will determine if he receives an invitation to Winnipeg’s main camp next week.
If not, Boland has a nice Plan B. He’s enrolled at the University of New Brunswick and has a spot waiting for him on the Varsity Reds, the two-time defending Canadian intercollegiate hockey champs.
Before leaving for Winnipeg and Penticton, Boland worked at the Varsity Reds’ hockey school and skated with the varsity team in Fredericton, N.B.
Four other Newfoundlanders on pro contracts will be off to camps next week. Clark Bishop of St. John’s is back in the Carolina Hurricanes organization after splitting the 2016-17 season with AHL Charlotte Checkers and the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Colin Greening of St. John’s signed a one-year free agent contract with the Leafs in July, but will play with the AHL’s Marlies again this season.
Zach O’Brien and James Melindy of St. John’s are both on AHL contracts, O’Brien with the Bakersfield Condors and Melindy with the San Diego Gulls.
Adam Pardy of Bonavista and Teddy Purcell of St. John’s, who split time in the NHL and the minors last season, are unrestricted free agents and have yet to sign new deals.

After finishing second in QMJHL scoring last season, St. John’s native Tyler Boland is looking to earn a pro contract with the Winnipeg Jets. If that doesn’t work out. Boland has a very good hockey team waiting to use his talents.

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