By Lorne Webster | @LDub023
The Saint John Sea Dogs' training camp is off and running at Harbour Station. Besides the cool 10th anniversary logo at centre ice, the first impression of camp is that the team is bigger and faster than last year's squad. Most of the returning players were ready to prove that they deserve to stay and several of Darrell Young's free agents gave good first impressions.
First, of the returning players, Nathan Noel and Matt Highmore really set the tone with strong skating and a few impressive rushes and moves. They truly will be counted on to carry a heavy load on offense. Spencer Smallman, Sam Dove-McFalls and Mathieu Joseph showed flashes as well. In one of the key battles for a spot upfront, both Marcus Cuomo and Kelly Bent were especially aggressive on the puck and generally made life hard on their opponents. It does not appear that defense will be an issue this season. Olivier LeBlanc, Thomas Chabot and Alex McQuaid all looked very strong and poised on day one. Of the returning D, only Will Thompson had what could be called "a tough day at the office" today.
Of the free agents, Adam Bateman and Mitchell Dempsey looked strong and ready to play significant roles this season. Other free agents that provided good first impressions were; Jack Van Boekel (not only a huge young man at 6'7" but also a strong skater), Isaac Ceh (small for 5'10" but quick and often found open ice), Drew Gross (fast and hard on the puck), Jared Ostroski (solid on D and kept things simple) and Reid Murphy (good size, hard on the puck and worked well with Matt Highmore). In goal, Jonathan Reinhart was a late addition to camp from Ontario but showed that he can challenge for the back-up spot behind Sebastien Auger. Reinhart moves well, battles for saves and only allowed one goal in 60 minutes of action.
Regarding the recent draft picks, Luke and Matt Green showed signs of the skill that led the Sea Dogs to select them highly in this year’s QMJHL Entry Draft. Luke is a fluid, effortless skater who showed he can join a rush in a flash. Matt also skated very well, moved the puck nicely and made several heads up plays. Julien Tessier was not as noticeable as the Greens but stepped up in the second scrimmage and scored a lovely goal with a quick release. Juraj Siska made a fine first impression and showed that he is ready to challenge Nikita Lee (Li) for a spot in the 'top 6'. While Juraj's timing may have been a tad off, he is a strong skater and used his large frame well along the boards. Other rookies that showed well today were Ryan Kenny (strong skater with size who was aggressive and involved in many plays), Chris Sarault (played well on right wing with Sam Dove-McFalls) and Bailey Webster (another large young man - nearly 6'5" - and was strong on the puck). Also, Blade Mann-Dixon showed he not only has an awesome name but looked a lot like a very young Sebastien Auger (i.e. small, very quick and extremely poised in the crease). Blade did not allow a goal in his 30 minutes of action.
- Mark Tremaine was held out of the first scrimmage but showed in the afternoon that he will be a strong leader for the young Sea Dogs.
- Daniel Del Paggio did not make an appearance in the scrimmages, since he arrived late last night and the team felt he needed a day to settle in.
- Neither Monte Graham nor Caleb Stairs arrived as expected. Many were counting on Graham to battle for a spot. It will be interesting to see if he arrives for main camp.
- Joel Daccord did not come to Saint John either and it appears that he is playing in a tournament in the US this week.
- Besides Jonathan Reinhart, other last minute additions to camp were goalie Jacob Blair (formerly with the OHL's Ottawa 67's) and Alexander Pouliot.
- Team Cowan (white) beat Team Leland (blue) 4-1 in the morning session with goals from Smallman, Ceh, Murphy and Gross. Sam Dove-McFalls replied for Team Leland. In the afternoon, Team Leland really turned things around and won by a 9-1 score. Nathan Noel lead the way with two goals.