Second chance at first season

Nanaimo Clippers forward Zach Martin awaits a pass in the neutral zone during a drill at training camp Tuesday afternoon at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

This time last summer, Zach Martin wasn’t wearing skates.

Instead, the prized recruit was sitting in front of the computer, e-mailing Clippers coach Bill Bestwick almost every day, craving updates about the team.

Things didn’t get much better as the year went on. The 2009-10 season ended up being basically a write-off for Martin. He rushed his comeback from knee surgery and ended up needing two more surgeries. He played only four games in orange and black.

So it’s been a revelation to see his impact through the first two weeks of training camp. He’s working hard, finishing his checks and getting his shots on goal.

“It’s great to be out here in my first junior hockey training camp at 20 years old,” Martin said.

Bestwick said the Montrealer has been perhaps the best all-around forward at camp.

“He’s competing like a man,” said the coach. “Everything he’s doing is at an accelerated pace – passing, skating, shooting, his physique looks great.”

Martin said last summer, he couldn’t do enough cardio while rehabbing. This past summer, though, he changed his trainer and made better use of the off-season.

“I knew we had six or seven 20-year-olds coming in this year,” he said. “So I knew I had to train very hard in the summer and play my way onto this team because all the spots need to be earned.”

In truth, the Clippers never doubted Martin’s ability to come back.

“Zach’s a kid that’s been loyal to us and we’re going to be loyal to him and give him every opportunity,” Bestwick said.

That’s especially important now that Martin is entering his final year of junior eligibility. The U.S. prep school grad still has the goal of gaining an NCAA scholarship.

“He has one season. He has 60 games plus playoffs to make an impression…” Bestwick said. “So he knows how important every shift is.”

The Clippers plan for Martin to start the season with veterans Andrew Gladiuk and Dominic Savoie on a scoring line that is showing promise.

“[Martin] is a whole different player this year,” Gladiuk said. “He’s really lean, strong, he’s looking fast out there, making really smart plays.”

Playing with a brace, Martin has no pain and said he won’t play with any fear of injury. And there’s no point looking back in frustration at last season, he said.

“It just made me want to be out there more,” he said. “Try harder, make up for all the games I lost.”

sports@nanaimobulletin.com