Luke Philp and Jon Martin know what is at stake for them this season.
The two overage Kootenay Ice veterans, both undrafted by NHL clubs, have done enough in their respective junior careers to spike curiosity amongst a variety of pro clubs.
Philp, a 5-foot-10 native of Canmore, Alta., attended Toronto Maple Leafs rookie camp last season, before taking a tour through Philadelphia Flyers main camp this fall.
Martin, a 6-foot-1 native of Winnipeg, Man., attended the annual Young Stars tournament in each of the past two seasons, representing the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite the opportunities to market their skills to big-league brass, both Philp and Martin find themselves without any concrete professional path awaiting them upon the completion of their WHL careers.
“It motivates me a lot,” said Philp, the 2014-15 leading scorer for the Ice. “I know I’ve got to have a really good year if I want to get an opportunity to play pro in the following year. I’m going to use it as motivation to have a big year.”
Philp was a dynamic force for the Ice last season, leading the team with 82 points in 71 games. With roster turnover bringing about a much younger squad this year, Philp will be leaned on as a catalyst for the offense and a leader on and off the ice.
As one of six remaining overage players in Cranbrook, Philp remains a likely lock to stay with the Ice through the WHL’s 50th anniversary season.
The future in Cranbrook for Martin is stable for now, but could change any day should veteran scorer Jaedon Descheneau, another overage forward, be returned from the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.
In the meantime, the veteran Martin, who tallied 24 points along with 86 penalty minutes in 56 games last season, is just as motivated as his teammate Philp.
“[The Canucks] mentioned they needed a guy like myself in their organization, but other than that, nothing really [in terms of contract opportunities],” Martin said.
“It’s definitely in the back of your mind, but I’m just going to focus on the team we have right now. We’re a young team, so we’ve got to focus on that.
“Through my five years — it’s been a long time — I’ve experienced pretty much everything these guys are going through, so I’ll help them out in that way.”
In 246 careers games with the Ice, Martin has brought a blend of punishing physical presence and moments of offensive flair, scoring 32 goals and 68 points hammered home by 340 minutes in penalties.
It’s that imposing play that earned him recognition from the Canucks and will ultimately be his path to pro hockey.
On the other hand, Philp’s calling card comes complete with a smooth stride, soft hands and a creative eye on the ice.
In 225 career games with the Ice, Philp has amassed 82 goals and 206 points.
Philp, Martin and the Kootenay Ice open the 2015-16 WHL season Friday night at 7 p.m. when they welcome their long-standing Central Division rivals, the Calgary Hitmen, to Western Financial Place in Cranbrook.