The Sudbury Wolves future was on display over the weekend during the 2012 Rookie Camp. More than 30 players from the 2012 and 2011 drafts, along with several undrafted players, took part in the two days of orientation, off-ice conditioning and on-ice workouts that included two fast-paced and intense scrimmages.
I took in most of the rookie vs. rookie action at the Countryside Sports Complex and came away thinking the Wolves’ future looks bright. Before you scoff and suggest that’s an easy and somewhat predictable statement to make, give me a chance to pass on some of my observations of what I saw during the four hours of game-like conditions.
Like most in attendance, I was anxious to see 2012 first-round draft pick Conor Cummins. The 6-3, almost 200-pound defenceman came as advertised. A big body who moves well and takes care of his own end, but isn’t afraid to get involved in the offence.
Talking to the Whitby Wildcats product after the final scrimmage on Sunday, he admitted it took a little time to get used to the pace, but once he adjusted, it was all about showcasing his game and showing why he deserves a spot on the Wolves blueline for the 2012-13 season.
A couple of third-round draft picks were next on my list. General manager Blaine Smith spoke highly of Franceso Vilardi on draft day — a kid that couldn’t wait to get to Sudbury. While he got off to a tentative start on Saturday, he upped his game and was more involved on Sunday, showing glimpses of the player that won the OMHA scoring title this past season.
Connor Burgess may have had the spotlight put on him unfairly, being the owner’s son, but he didn’t let that bother him. I spent a lot of time watching Burgess during the first scrimmage on Saturday and I came away pleasantly surprised.
There weren’t too many players that worked as hard as he did, finished his checks and time and time again went, into those dirty areas to create chances. He admitted work is needed on his skating and play in his own zone, but that should progress the more time he’s on the ice with OHL calibre players.
Two 2011 draft picks also caught my eye. It looks like defenceman Evan de Haan and forward Danny Desrochers benefited greatly from plenty of ice time in Junior A this past season. De Haan showed off his skating ability and offensive flare while Desrochers, who we saw a few times in a limited role with the Wolves last season, looked like he has matured as a player.
I also found myself being drawn to a couple of other players time and time again — 2012 draft picks Tyler Peters and Austin Veleke. Peters scored three times in the scrimmage on Saturday while Veleke — at 6-5, was the biggest player on the ice — continued to surprise me with his speed and puck handling abilities for such a big body.
The biggest surprise of the camp had to have been Colton Spicer, the 2011 13th-round pick from Fort Frances. Not only did he score three times in the Saturday scrimmage, but he probably led the way when it came to scoring chances. A couple of scrimmages don’t make a career, but who knows, Spicer could join the likes of Josh Leivo and Benoit Pouliot, as late-round draft picks who went on to play important roles in the hockey club.
Similar rookie camps are taking place in many of the other OHL cities and I am sure fans, coaches and general managers in those centers are also excited. I guess we’ll see over the next couple of years what team gets the most out of their rookies.
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.
Posted by Laurel Myers