'Real Season' Set to Start
NORTH BAY, Ont. - A young and hungry North Bay Battalion opens its 2019-20 Ontario Hockey League season at 7 p.m. Friday when the Central Division rival Barrie Colts invade Memorial Gardens.
"You beat each other up in training camp for a couple of weeks and you get a couple of exhibition games in, so you're ready for the real season," Adam Dennis, an assistant general manager and assistant coach with the Battalion, said Wednesday.
"I think the players feel that as well. It's been a lot of prep work. Now you want to get going."
The Battalion, which finished seventh in the Eastern Conference last season, looks to an array of veterans and nine rookies to improve on that result. There are 24 on the roster, numbering 15 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders.
The forwards are centres Matthew Struthers, Mason Primeau, Luke Moncada, Cameron Peters and Liam Arnsby. Left wingers are Brad Chenier, Harrison Caines, Niki Korpialho, Kyle Jackson, David Campbell and Josh Currie, while right wingers are Brandon Coe, Mitchell Russell, Patrick Brown and Alex Christopoulos.
The defencemen are Nick King, Braden Henderson, Simon Rose, Pacey Schlueting, Paul Christopoulos, James Mayotte and Ryan Thompson, and Joe Vrbetic and Christian Cicigoi are the goaltenders.
Right winger Kurtis Evans, at home in Uxbridge, Ont., still recovering from a concussion that limited him to 21 games last season, is not included in the number.
Arnsby and the Christopoulos twins were the Troops' top three picks in the OHL Priority Selection last June, all from the Don Mills Flyers minor midgets.
Both goaltenders, veterans of the formerly affiliated junior A Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, are rookies, as are, in addition to Christopoulos, both Mayotte and Thompson, who's sidelined with a wrist injury.
The OHL experience in goal consists of 33 relief minutes Vrbetic played last season. Overager Christian Propp was traded to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on June 12 and Christian Purboo to the Sudbury Wolves on Sept. 4.
"We're going to have a young defence and young goaltending, so there are going to be mistakes made early on," acknowledged Dennis. "We just have to make sure we stay positive, correct them and make sure there are improvements along the way."
With regard to the crease tandem, Dennis, a onetime OHL goaltender who won a Memorial Cup in 2005 with the London Knights, said "stopping pucks" sums up the role.
"You can complicate the position all you want but, at the end of the day, it's stopping more pucks than the guy at the other end."
Offensively, the Battalion faces the task of scoring without Justin Brazeau, the graduated overager who set a franchise record with 61 goals and amassed 113 points, second in league scoring last season, in 68 games.
Struthers was second on the team with 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points in 61 games, and Chenier produced 30 goals and 35 assists for 65 points in 61 games. King paced defencemen with eight goals and 32 assists for 40 points in 67 games, while Coe contributed 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points in 65 games.
"We expect him back fully healthy shortly," Dennis said of Struthers, who attended the rookie camp of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens but returned promptly to North Bay after failing a physical examination because of an upper-body injury.
Primeau, who has been at the Vegas Golden Knights' training camp after the club made him a fifth-round choice in the NHL Draft in June, is expected to be back in time for the Battalion's opener.
"It's a hungry group," noted Struthers. "I think everybody has aspirations and goals, which is key when you're making a team. It's very competitive.
"The practices have been good, so I'm excited for the season to start Friday."
Dennis suggested the Troops possess a good base for future success.
"We're confident that we have a really good core here. They come from a winning pedigree, especially those Don Mills boys, so it's up to us to put them in a position to do so."
That said, the work ethic will be important.
"We have to be a hardworking team. We can't be a team that takes nights off, takes shifts off."
The captain and alternates are to be announced Thursday, said Stan Butler, director of hockey operations and head coach. Brazeau served as captain last season.
The league schedule is to open Thursday night, when Sudbury visits the Niagara IceDogs.
• Discuss this story on the Ontario Hockey League message board...
Ontario Hockey League Stories from September 18, 2019
- Frontenacs Acquire Lucas Peric from 67's - Kingston Frontenacs
- 67's Acquire Pair of Draft Picks from Kingston for Lucas Peric - Ottawa 67's
- 'Real Season' Set to Start - North Bay Battalion
- Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings Unveiled - OHL
- Petes Sending Fan Bus to Ottawa on Sunday, September 29 - Peterborough Petes
- Wolves Announce 2019-20 Leadership Team - Sudbury Wolves
- Petes Announce Player Re-Assignments Ahead of Regular Season - Peterborough Petes
- OHL 20 in 20 Season Preview: Saginaw Spirit - Saginaw Spirit
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.