Conor Stokes is a four-year Ontario Hockey League veteran who is primed for a couple of new experiences.
Stokes, 20, will play his final junior season as an overage forward for the Kingston Frontenacs.
Before getting deep into that leadership role, Stokes will be heading to Boston next week to take part in the rookie camp for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins.
Stokes, from Lansing, N.Y., which is south of Syracuse, is eager to experience his first taste at the professional level.
Undrafted, Stokes is going as a free-agent invite. He will fly out Wednesday from Ottawa with Frontenacs teammate Ryan Spooner.
“I’ve more than picked his brain enough,” Stokes said this week at Fronts training camp.
“Barely a few minutes go by when we’re together that we aren’t talking about it.
“He’s been extremely helpful. I more than welcome any little tips.”
Spooner, selected in the second round of the 2010 Entry Draft by Boston, advanced to the main camp last year. Stokes said going to the pro camp with Spooner is beneficial.
“Absolutely. Somebody like that who has not just been to the rookie camp but has been to the main camp. He’s got good advice,” Stokes said.
Former Kingston scout Wayne Smith, now with the Bruins, has been at the Frontenacs’ camp helping out and keeping tabs on prospect Spooner. Stokes also took in some advice from Smith.
“A pro camp has been a long time coming for me. I’m just going to see if I can turn some heads and get more attention,” Stokes said.
“I’ve talked (to Boston staff) about what to expect and what they expect out of me. I believe I can get more than a quick look.”
Stokes said that while he is fine with playing his overage junior season for the Frontenacs, he will remain open to playing professional if the Bruins indicate they prefer him playing at a higher level.
“I am going in open to anything,” Stokes said. “Basically, no one has told me I would be there five days and then home. I take that as a positive.
“If I play up to my potential, I think it could work out. I’m not looking past the five days right now. We’ll see what happens.”
The fallback, of course, is that Stokes will return to the Frontenacs and be a valuable two-way player with more OHL experience than anyone else on the team.
Stokes was an assistant captain at times last season. He had a career-high 29 points and 157 penalty minutes.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound left winger had OHL stops in Guelph and Oshawa before coming to Kingston for the 2010-11 season.
In what has been a summer of change under new general manager Doug Gilmour and coach Todd Gill, Stokes is one of the few familiar faces.
Thirteen starters are gone from last year. Joining Stokes as an overage player is Tyler Brown, an addition last January in a trade with the London Knights.
Spooner, Derek Froats and Ryan Davidson are the remaining forwards with more than a year’s experience in the league.
“I’m looking forward to a fresh start,” Stokes said. “The new (management) wanted to take steps in the right direction. It’s positive.”
Stokes sees some good young talent on the team, The Frontenacs will have the maximum of four 16-year-olds — Mitchell Fitzmorris, Jacob Smith, Braydon Blight and Ryan Hutchinson — and the possibility of eight 17-year-olds.
“(The overagers) have to set some examples, show them how to act off the ice,” Stokes said.
“I’m looking forward to showing the young guys what to do. Sort of guiding them,” he said.
“At the same time I want to finish my OHL career strongly and prepare for playing pro.”