The Soo Jr. Greyhounds U18 team has been named and there’s plenty of excitement as the team prepares for a return to game action.
The team has been on the ice throughout the fall and there’s lots to like early on.
“What stands out early on is the pace of practice has been really high, right from the time we basically started our COVID bubble group has been really motivated,” said Jr. Greyhounds coach Jamie Henderson. “The tone has really been set by our ’03 (birth year) returning players and the ‘04’s. A couple (’04’s) were close to being drafted (into the OHL). They’re really motivated to show that they maybe should have been. And just the motivation to be better players. They understand that it’s a process and they’ve really set the tone.”
The hope is that the team will begin play with games on the weekend against Sudbury under modified rules.
With the roster set, Henderson spoke of the team looking to veteran players to lead the way.
“The strength of any U18 is those third-year players,” Henderson said. “We saw it last year. A prime example with Ty Zachary and Michael Chaffay using that final year of eligibility to really have the opportunity to have an expanded role and to get comfortable being the go-to guy. This year, Stephen Pszeniczny is going to be a third-year player in our program, and he knows what we’re all about and we know what he’s all about. He’s been just unbelievable since the start. He had a great attitude. He made the decision that he wanted to be with us right from the beginning of the summer. He hasn’t wavered back-and-forth. He’s just focused on becoming a better player at our level.”
Another player Henderson feels could have a major impact on the team is second year forward Calem Mangone.
“He’s got the opportunity to be maybe the best undrafted 16-year-old in the province,” Henderson said. “His skillset and his upside is really up there.”
2005 birth year Cooper Foster earned praise from Henderson as well.
“Cooper Forster is a really high-end prospect,” Henderson said. “He’s probably as good as any prospect we’ve had with our program in the last four years. He just wants to be a hockey player. He brings it every day. He’s really consistent in practice, asking the right questions in how he can get better. He’s really committed.”
Noah Aboflan, a 2005 birth-year forward from Elliot Lake, has turned some heads as well during the Jr. Greyhounds sessions on the ice.
“He came to us from Elliot Lake and had never played AAA hockey before, not having that opportunity in Elliot Lake,” Henderson said. “Right off the radar this summer, he showed up at one of our camps and he’s been a really pleasant surprise.”
Returning 2004 birth year defencemen Adam Barone and Michael Beltrano as well as newcomers Luca Spadafora and Creo Solomon bring stability to the team.
Spadafora spent last season in southern Ontario while Solomon played with the North Bay Trappers.
“Those are some players we’re definitely going to rely on,” Henderson said. “The great thing about them is they came in with great attitudes and they really want to be hockey players. I’m sure there is some part of them that wishes that they were drafted, but they understand that sometimes it’s a process.”
In goal, the Jr. Greyhounds see Noah Metivier return to the fold for a second season. Terry See, a 2005 birth year, will be the other goaltender for the squad this season.
“It’s nice to have an ’04 back there with some experience,” Henderson said.
“We’ve had three inter-squad games so far and we’ve had two ties and an overtime, so the goaltending has been really solid in those games,” Henderson said. “Whether it’s Noah or Terry, the group is going to have confidence in whomever is back there.”
“For Noah, consistency is going to be the key and for Terry, it’s just coming into a different level of hockey and when you’re playing against players a year or two older for the first time, he just has to keep bringing a great attitude to practice every day,” Henderson said. “They’ve both been working hard so it will be exciting to see how they both develop this season.”
Henderson said in an interview on Sunday that the team is hopeful to have confirmation of upcoming games this week.
Update: The Jr. Greyhounds received confirmation on Monday morning that the team will play games against the Sudbury U18 team, beginning this weekend. The Jr. Greyhounds will host Sudbury on Dec. 5 at the John Rhodes Community Centre. Each roster will be split into smaller teams of 11 players (10 skaters and one goaltender). Saturday’s games are schedule for 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. then return to the ice for games at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The teams are scheduled to meet in Sudbury at Countryside Arena on Dec. 12.