With veteran players set to join scrimmages on Wednesday, the early days of training camp have seen some of the Soo Greyhounds top draft picks prove their worth.
Bryce McConnell-Barker, selected fourth overall in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, and Justin Cloutier, selected 18th overall in the 2021 draft, have left their mark with team brass.
“Bryce has been great,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “What really attracts me to Bryce is his work ethic and his compete level. There’s no doubt that the skill level is there. To combine both of those is what makes players special at this level and the next. He’s got a pretty clear drive to succeed, and he enjoys to compete. That’s the special part about Bryce is he clearly likes the competitive side of the game. He’s got a little edge to him.”
Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis said McConnell-Barker “is someone that competes so hard, it’s a good bar to set for everybody else on the ice.”
“He’s done exactly everything you could ask for,” Raftis added.
In Cloutier, the 2021 first rounder has settled into camp and impressed as a 16-year-old.
“Justin Cloutier doesn’t know how big he is,” Dean joked.
“The way he plays, clearly he’s not concerned about his size, and neither are we,” Dean added. “He’s a very competitive kid. He likes to get involved. What our management has done a really good job of is bringing in guys that have that engine, want to play, enjoy being on the ice and enjoy being in this atmosphere. When you have that, it’s a recipe for success.”
“He’s not intimidated by any situation,” Raftis said of Cloutier. “It’s good because some players come into their first training camp and they look around a little bit too much. He has hit the ground running.”
Tuesday’s scrimmages saw an improvement over day one as well for both Dean and Raftis.
“This morning’s game, you could see that the nerves were out from day one,” Dean said. “Right from the drop of the puck, the pace was significantly better. The guys looked a little bit more comfortable and started to show their best selves.”
Following Monday’s scrimmage, Raftis said opening day showed improvements after what was a bit of a sloppy start to the game and on Tuesday, the Greyhounds general manager said day two’s scrimmages “picked up from where they left off (Monday) night.”
Rookie forward Tyler Savard, who didn’t take part in scrimmages due to injury, could return to game action on Wednesday.
The 18-year-old has practiced this week, but not seen any game action.
Defenceman Matthew Halushak, who is among the veteran players in camp, recently had shoulder surgery.
Raftis said that 19-year-old blueliner will miss significant time as a result.
The Greyhounds veteran players are slated to see scrimmage action on Wednesday after only practicing on the opening two days of camp.