The summer is generally a time to prepare for players in the Ontario Hockey League.
For a trio of youngsters, the 2016-17 OHL season was a learning experience and soak in everything they could as the youngest players on the Soo Greyhounds.
For forwards Barrett Hayton and Alex Gritz and defenceman Jacob LeGuerrier, the Greyhounds recently completed summer development camp was an opportunity to take on a leadership role as the trio participated in the two-day camp in a position to mentor some of the Greyhounds prospects.
“You try to talk to people about being a good leader and it’s something that great teams always have but you can’t develop leadership overnight,” said Greyhounds General Manager Kyle Raftis. “Those guys did a really good job. They didn’t get a lot of instruction from us but we talked a little bit about what we expected from them and they talked about their experience last year and how they could help out. They did a great job. They were extremely engaged and worked hard.”
For Hayton, the Greyhounds first round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, the opportunity to be around the Greyhounds veterans allowed him to gain an understanding of what elite players in the league do on a daily basis.
“Learning from (Blake) Speers, Colton White and guys like that, they really teach you the work that you have to put in and what it really takes (to play in the league),” Hayton said.
Hayton said the summer will be an opportunity to work on his skating and speed in addition to continuing to improve his entire game as he moves into his second season with the Greyhounds in 2017-18.
“Every aspect of my game has to improve and I’m really going to push myself hard,” Hayton said.
LeGuerrier said his first season in the OHL was a chance to learn and use that experience moving forward to help new players joining the Greyhounds.
“It was great,” LeGuerrier said of the experience of his rookie season with the Greyhounds. “It was the best experience of my life. I learned a lot from the older guys and now I can help teach the younger guys.”
LeGuerrier said participating in the development camp after a full season in the league “an honour to be called to help out the younger guys and show them the ropes.”
The summer will be about making improvements for the young blueliner.
“I just want to build on my confidence,” LeGuerrier said, adding he hopes to continue to develop the offensive side of his game as well.
In playing for Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister, LeGuerrier called the opportunity a learning experience.
“He taught me a lot about staying more composed in the defensive zone,” LeGuerrier said of playing for the former Greyhounds defenceman.
Gritz called his first season with the Greyhounds a “great experience.”
“Being on the ice every day and being around great players was a great experience and I thought I developed a lot,” Gritz said.
“I just learned what it takes to become a top player in this league,” Gritz also said. “Our team had a lot of really good and talented players. To be around them every day and learn things from them like it showed me what I have to do and what it takes to become an impact player in this league.”
With a year of OHL experience under their belts and a summer of training, the 2017-18 OHL season will be one of new challenges for three players who are no longer the young pups on the Greyhounds roster.