As training camp moves on for the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, the progression is something that management has taken note of.
Thursday marked day three of camp and for Greyhounds General Manager Kyle Raftis, some impressions have been make by both veterans and young players alike.
“They’re long days for the guys and they’re getting out nerves but a lot of them were making plays early in the week and it’s progressed as the week has gone on,” said Raftis. “There are a lot of guys that you can see are gaining confidence in their ability and really making skilled plays and doing things to stand out.”
Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister has been pleased with what he has seen through three days of camp.
“I’m really happy with the way camp has gone,” the sophomore bench boss said. “The returning players you can tell have all had really good summers. On the ice we’ve seen some guys take some really big strides and that’s what we needed guys to do over the last four months. That part we’re really happy with. The draft picks have come in and shown really well, which we’re excited about. Overall with the practices, the games and the tempo that we’ve seen, the way we want to play and the way the kids are picking it up very quickly, it’s been a really good camp so far.”
Raftis said seeing some of the veteran players setting an example during the camp has set a tone for the camp.
“Even to see Blake Speers, he’s been playing really well, working 200-feet and backchecking,” Raftis said. “That’s setting the tone when your captain is one of the hardest working players on the team. That’s a guy who is coming into his fourth training camp in the OHL. Not to say guys don’t have to do it but at the same time, it’s a great example that he’s set early.”
“(The veterans) have put a lot of work in in the summer,” Bannister said. “It goes to show the leadership we have in the room and the character.”
Raftis would also credit the young players and their work during the summer to prepare for the new season.
“That was a really strong emphasis from last year,” Raftis said. “We didn’t want them to come back and just have the expectation that it was going to be that easy. There are a lot of good young players that come in every year and they were a good example of that. You have to push for everything you have and continue to evolve your game. As they start to move up in the lineup and push for that ice time, they’re going to be up against tougher players and it’s going to be a tougher challenge for them.”
For goaltender Joseph Raaymakers and centre Hayden Verbeek, training camp is an opportunity to prepare as both are set participate in NHL rookie camps this month, Verbeek with the Chicago Blackhawks and Raaymakers with the New York Rangers.
“It’s a great reward for them because I know they were both disappointed in June,” Raftis said. “It comes to that point where now you have the opportunity. Both of those guys put in a ton of work this summer. You can do a mix of proving some guys wrong that doubted you and prove the group right that saw something in you.”
Raaymakers said he’s looking forward to the Rangers camp where he’ll be reunited with another former Greyhounds goaltender in Brandon Halverson. Greyhounds forward Tim Gettinger, a Rangers draft pick, will also be in the camp.
“Obviously it was disappointing (not getting drafted) but it’s not the end of the world,” Raaymakers said. “I just tried to work hard over the summer and once I got the Rangers invite, it was pretty cool that they gave me an opportunity like that. I’m really looking forward to that, especially going with Timmy and seeing Halvy again.”
Raaymakers said he’s looking forward to working with new goalie coach Dan Stewart.
“It’s been smooth,” Raaymakers said of adjusting to Stewart, who took over for Colin Zulianello. “He said he’s not going to change the way I play, just give me suggestions on different situations and how I play them and things that I can improve.”
As the team prepares for the annual Luke Williams Red/White game on Friday evening, nine players are no longer in camp after the final scrimmage on Thursday evening.
No longer in camp are goaltenders Garrett Boyonoski and Adriano Mamone, defencemen Greg Arnburg, Chris Clark and Will Frustaglio and forwards James Buckley, Justin Yakimishyn, Jake Burton and Justin Vandendool. The moves leaves the Greyhounds roster at 41 players heading into Friday’s game which includes:
Goaltenders: Joseph Raaymakers, Matthew Villalta, Luca Durante, Dougie Newhouse
Defencemen: Colton White, Anthony DeMeo, Isaiah Payne, Theo Calvas, Taylor Carlson, Holden Wale, Jacob Leguerrier, Conor Timmins, Medric Mercier, Zach Taylor, Wyatt Villalta, Mac Hollowell
Forwards: Alex Gritz, Mathew Hayami, Ryan Brown, Morgan Frost, Elijah Nurse, Bobby MacIntyre, Tim Gettinger, Frankie Pucci, Zach Senyshyn, Zack Trott, Boris Katchouk, Calvin Martin, Alex Daigle, Brett Jacklin, Luca Nocita, Otto Makinen, Hayden Verbeek, Wesley Weir, Brad Johnson, Nathan Gooch, Blake Speers, Barrett Hayton, Bryce Yetman, Jack Kopacka, Liam Hawel
Puck drop for Friday’s Red/White game is set for 7:07 p.m. after which the team will make another round of roster moves ahead of Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Saginaw Spirit in Saginaw.
Raftis said he anticipates having the roster set around 23 or 24 players at that time.