In a normal year, it’s possible that roster spots could be limited for many Ontario Hockey League teams as training camps open up.
This is anything but a normal year and for the Soo Greyhounds, training camp this year is an opportunity for players to leave even more of an impression than other years.
“It’s a chance for everybody to show the work that they’ve put in or not put in over the last year-and-a-half,” said Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis. “In a lot of other years, whether it’s myself or the scouts, we would have tracked them right up until March or April, then you get a development camp in and then they have two months (to training camp). There’s not this huge window to make a lot of growth.”
With the extra time off due to COVID-19 and many players seeing very limited ice time last season, Raftis said it’s possible players take a jump even in their size and strength with the added time to train.
“There’s been a lot of time and it’s not unrealistic to think that some of these things have happened,” Raftis said. “It’s a fresh start for everybody. It’s something that we’re excited about because everyone said they were doing the right things and we’re going to find out this week.”
Training camp is set to begin on Monday and for the Greyhounds, one position which is wide open for the team is in goal.
The team relinquished the rights to Nick Malik prior to the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and has waived potential overage candidate Ethan Taylor and will have two open spots between the pipes heading into the 2021-22 season.
The team has brought in six goaltending prospects to vie for the open spots.
Among the six are 2020 draft picks Charlie Schenkel and Nolan Dunn.
“When you look at all six of them, the first thing that jumps out is size. They’re all a bit bigger-style goalie,” Raftis said.
With experienced goaltenders in the league at a premium overall, Raftis said the new season is an opportunity for younger goaltenders around the league.
“When you look around the league, there are even some ’02 (birth year) goalies that just got a bit of a sniff in their 17-year-old year,” Raftis said. “There’s not a lot of goalies that have played more than 25 or 30 games in the league. It’s a good opportunity for guys to establish themselves a little younger. In a different year, you might have to be a backup or might have to come along as a third guy and make that step gradually. It’s a year where if somebody is ready to take the reins and run with it, it’s important for them to understand that opportunity is there.”
The Greyhounds have 14 veterans in camp, six of which are vying for three overage positions with the club – defencemen Billy Constantinou and Robert Calisti, forwards Tye Kartye, Alex Johnston, Joe Carroll, and Cole MacKay.
With he team set to bid on hosting rights for the Memorial Cup last season, Raftis spoke of how important the group would have been as a part of that team.
“When you’re looking at hosting the Memorial Cup, it’s a lot of times built around 19-year-olds,” Raftis said. “When you look at the OA group, regardless of which way we go, you’re going to have a group of wingers that have scored 25 goals as 18-year-olds, you have two defencemen that were in the top 10 scoring for OHL defencemen at 18. When you start with that group, it’s something to be excited about.”
The veteran group as a whole, which includes NHL draft picks Tanner Dickinson (St. Louis), Rory Kerins (Calgary), Jacob Holmes (Dallas), and Ryan O’Rourke (Minnesota), also leave the team with a good feeling.
“We’re lucky,” Raftis added. “When you look around the league, I don’t think that just because you play in the league makes you that much better, but for us, it’s going to be led by a group that does it every day and that’s the exciting part because sometimes you have guys at 19 that think they’ve outgrown the league. With our guys, they’re excited to be here.”
Camp is set to run throughout the week with the team also set to host the Sudbury Wolves in an exhibition game on Sept. 5 at the GFL Memorial Gardens.