While I do think it gives the team a huge advantage on the rest of the league when it comes to getting “game ready,” hitting the ice this past Saturday was a bit of a wake-up call.
The Junior Club World Cup in Russia was a six-game tournament against some top-notch junior talent from around the world, but the OHL is a 68-game, six-month marathon that will see many ups and downs along the way.
It was two weeks the entire organization will never forget, and the players got experience that will be a big help to them throughout the season, but it’s time to put the celebration behind them and look forward to the challenges that lay ahead.
The way I saw it, there were three main decision areas that needed to be addressed heading into camp: defencemen, goaltending and overage players — issues that have a lot of cross-over ramifications.
The Wolves started camp with six blueliners from last year’s team eligible to come back this year: Mackenzie Braid, Jeff Corbett, Frank Corrado, Charlie Dodero, Ryan Hanes and Justin Sefton.
Add 2012 first-round draft pick Conor Cummins, 2011 draft pick Evan De Haan and 2010 draft pick Tyler Prong and that makes nine defencemen that all have the talent to play in the league, but wouldn’t all find a spot on the team.
Number two on the list is overage players. You can only dress three OAs for games and the Wolves went to Russia and started training camp with five 20-year-olds — forwards Michael Kantor and Derek Schoenmakers, defencemen Dodero and Hanes and goalie Joel Vieunneau.
The third decision area is goaltending with three puck stoppers currently in camp — overager Vienneau, newly acquired John Chartrand and 18-year-old Taylor Dupuis, who was signed in the off-season.
The team has since made a couple of moves that at least on paper has solved two of the above areas.
On Sunday, the Wolves made the decision to move forward without defenceman Ryan Hanes, who was sent home to Ottawa to await reassignment by the club.
I am not surprised that Hanes was the odd man out, but was still disappointed to see him go. He was a steady influence that always made his end of the ice a priority.
He is also a good kid that always seemed to realize what a privilege it is to play in the OHL and represent the city of Sudbury.
Tuesday came the news that Derek Schoenmakers had been dealt to Windsor for a couple of draft picks.
This move did surprise me a bit. I thought with the loss of players like Michael Sgarbossa and Andrey Kuchin, the Wolves would be anxious to hang on to some veteran scoring.
After all, Schoenmakers did put up 12 goals and 12 assists in the 33 games he played in a Wolves uniform, added some grit to the lineup, along with providing some leadership to the younger players.
But the Wolves did get two high draft picks (a third-round pick in 2013 and a second in 2016) for a player who was only going to be around for one season.
These moves mean the team will start the season with three quality overage players.
Kantor was outstanding in Russia and was named the tournament’s top forward. Dodero brings a little more offence to the blueline compared to Ryan Hanes. Vienneau also played well in Russia, but don’t be surprised to see the team start the year with three goaltenders.
The moves also mean there won’t be an older player forced to sit on the sidelines, which could create a distraction.
It was another competitive training camp over the weekend and you couldn’t help but see the smile on the faces of coach Trent Cull, the assistant coaches and the management.
They had some tough decisions to make to get the numbers down from 53 to 27 players, leaving them with 15 forwards, nine defencemen and three goalies. But having plenty of talent to choose from is a problem you want because it means you have that all important depth in your organization.
Now the work begins and the battle for roster spots intensifies with the pre-season beginning tonight in the Soo leading up to opening night at the Sudbury Arena versus the Oshawa Generals Sept. 21.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.