Still some questions to be answered in Chelmsford
by Randy Pascal
The 2017-2018 version of the Rayside-Balfour Canadians is slowly starting to take form.
Sure, there will be the inevitable trickle down effect following the first few weeks of OHL camps, with players returning and others sticking with the
big clubs. And there is always some early season shuffling in the ranks.
But for owner and team manager Adrian Gedye, the pieces for year two of his tenure are starting to come together. The goaltending situation was
only partly solidified recently with the team's signing of local product Matty Mayhew, the 17 year old who split time with Alex Vendette before
missing the later stages of the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves' season with an injury.
"I've been back on the ice now close to three and a half months, the complications are all gone and it's been much better," said Mayhew this week. Though the door
was certainly open for the local puckstopper to return to the Great North Midget League, the long-time Nickel City standout was looking to test
himself against the older players of the NOJHL.
"I had a good year with the midgets, though I didn't play a ton because of the injury," he said. "I think the jump to junior "A" will be huge for me,
just from development wise. Mentally, it's going to be huge. You have to be confident that you can play at the next level."
With the 52 game regular season for the Canadians now only six weeks or so away, Mayhew is not about to get too fixated on a specific workload that he
requires in his rookie campaign with Rayside-Balfour.
"I don't think it's going to be the number of games for me, it's more what I produce with the number of games that I get," stated Mayhew. "I want to go
in there and step into a role, be a part of the club, and whenever I get the opportunity, kind of seize the moment and play well."
Netminders Owen Johansson (1997) and Cameron Lamour (2000) are both eligible to return, though there is some definate uncertainty in both cases. "For
Owen, his hometown of St-Lazare is starting a team and has shown some interest," Gedye explained. "But he would like to be here so right now, he is coming
to camp and battling for a spot."
"As for Cameron, both he and Saginaw (3rd rd - 2016) would prefer him to be closer to there. So at this point, we are still searching for a goalie,
preferably older or high end."
On the blueline, both Ronson Odjig (1997) and André Frappier (1998) have apparently indicated they will be back, while Jordan Spadafore
(2000) is hoping to translate a solid rookie junior season into a jump to the next level to the team which selected him in the 9th round in 2016.
"My hope for him is that he makes the (North Bay) Battalion and he's taken some really good strides, but he would be a real anchor back there for
us," said Gedye. "That said, I think he's got a real good opportunity to make the Battalion."
In the meantime, Rayside has signed Sudbury native Brandon Atkins (2000) and Dawson Garcia from Oakville, a 5'9" 1999-born rearguard who
racked up eight goals and 15 assists while playing for the Ancaster Avalanche (Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League - Golden Horseshoe Conference)
The Canadians are sure to miss the multi-threat that was smooth-skating defenceman/forward Brett Whitehead, who has been accepted at business
school and will not be returning this fall. Whitehead finished tied for fifth in team scoring last year with 36 points.
Mid-season acquisition Bryce O'Brien is attending tryouts in the QMJHL, though Gedye does not expect the 6'5" Belle River native to return, either
way, while Dakotah Woods has been traded to Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League.
Up front, Gedye is hopeful of icing a top line that would include last year's team leading scorer Kyle Liinamaa (53 points), along with his
teammates who finished third (Matthew Neault - 44 pts) and fourth (Cayse Ton - 43 pts) respectively.
With 30 points in 37 games, Evan Krassey (1998) will be looking to take another step forward offensively, with Kaleb Peldjak (1999) and
Noah Serré (1998) also both benefitting from a year of NOJHL experience under their belts.
The folks in Rayside are also looking to some new faces to add some immediate punch, as incoming 16 year olds include Jacob Patridge (5'8" -
Barrie Jr Colts) and Cole Craft (North Bay Midget AAA Trappers), while 1st round 2017 OHL under-18 priority draft selection James White
(Flint Firebirds) adds size (6'3" - 215) and a scoring touch.
Seventeen year old Brady Maltais (41 pts in 34 games) makes the move up form the Nickel Capital Wolves, while Thunder Bay native and 2016 14th
round selection of the London Knights Jett Leishman makes his way a little further south after spending the 2016-2017 campaign with the
Thunder Bay North Stars of the SIJHL (3G - 10A - 45GP).
Dave Clancy is back behind the bench this year, working with Vagelli Sakellaris, once again, and bringing aboard long-time acquaintance
Clay Bertrand to the fold. Also making his NOJHL debut in the coaching ranks is former Sudbury Wolves' forward Kyle Tarini, who will fill a
mixed role with the team, including breaking down game tape.
The Rayside-Balfour Canadians and Elliot Lake Wildcats will actually open the coming NOJHL season on September 7th at 7:00 p.m. in Chelmsford,
as Gedye and company revert back to the traditional home ice slot for the franchise, moving from Saturdays to Thursday night home games.