By Andrew McGilligan
With training camp underway, the Saint John Sea Dogs appear to be wide open when it comes to the roster. With several key players gone from the squad’s historic three-year run, several spots, it would seem, are up for grabs.
However, a scan of the roster shows otherwise. In reality, it appears only five spots are in play at camp – two forwards, two defencemen and one goalie.
Let’s start up front where Stephen MacAulay, Ryan Tesink, Aidan Kelly, Oliver Cooper, Devon Oliver-Dares and Jason Cameron should all be in the lineup as regulars for Saint John. Add to those six the names of Stephen Anderson, Mackenzie Brown and first-round pick Matt Highmore (recovering from shoulder surgery) and the available slots narrow. Anderson and Brown played well for the Sea Dogs last season in a combined 39 games. Anderson notched six goals and 10 assists in 26 games while Brown recorded a goal and an assist in 13. Highmore, by virtue of his first-round selection, should be in the lineup once he’s cleared by doctors.
The Sea Dogs selected Czech forward Jakub Izacky 52nd overall in the 2012 CHL import draft, so throw his name on the list and you’ve got 10 forward sports spoken for and maybe 11 if the NHL lockout happens and Jonathan Huberdeau returns to the Port City.
As for who might have the inside track on those remaining two spots, here’s three players to keep an eye on. Brock Morrison had a strong camp last year and solid junior A season in 2011-12, but the team is skewing younger and he may not make the cut by virtue of being in his 19 year-old season. The other two who could end up as mainstays are Noah Zilbert of Fredericton and Spencer Smallman of New Maryland. Both players were selected by the Sea Dogs in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft. As for a dark horse to make the squad, keep an eye on Kraig Pasher.
On defence, Kevin Gagne, Pierre Durepos and 2012 first-rounder Olivier LeBlanc look like locks on the blue line. Add the name of 17-year-old defenceman Jurij Repe of Slovenia - 34th overall in the import draft - to the list and only two spots remain. It would appear Benjamin Hade who suited up for five games last season should have the inside position for one of the two remaining spots, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.
In goal, last season’s back up Sebastien Auger is back and should be the no. 1 netminder coming out of camp. After Auger its wide open, but the best bet to secure the second goalie position should be between Alex Fournier and Richard Tingley.
Photo Credit: Marc Henwood/Station Nation