No regular season games are won in late May, but the preparation has to begin sometime.
The Sudbury Wolves will start the process for the new season this weekend with the annual Orientation Camp. Seventeen players, sixteen 2014 draft picks and one free agent, will gather for off-ice conditioning at Laurentian University and RHP Training Centre on Saturday along with on-ice drills and a scrimmage on Sunday at the Countryside Arena.
All eyes will be on first-round draft pick Michael Pezzetta, taken 11th overall in April. He is a 6-0, 200-pound forward, the kind of player the Wolves feel is needed to make them a little harder to play against. That’s the case for a number of players who will get their first chance to skate on Sudbury ice this weekend.
The consensus is the Wolves struggled down the stretch and in the playoffs because they lacked the grit to compete when the going got tough.
It was obvious on draft day the Pack took the first step to address that concern.
Team GM Blain Smith told me they needed to be more like the North Bay Battalion, a team with no superstars, but chock full of character players who worked as a team, a recipe that took them all the way to the OHL finals.
If you think that was tough for Smith to admit, you are 100-per-cent correct, but it is the truth.
Instead of going with the big names at the trade deadline, the Battalion tinkered with their line-up for the first half of the season and then used the second half to mould the team into an impressive force down the stretch.
That's the kind of formula the Wolves want to get back to and this weekend we’ll get a look at some of the players who may be relied upon to get that done moving forward.
Also taking steps to get ready for the 2014-15 season is Wolves rookie goaltender Troy Timpano.
With Franky Palazzese graduating after last season, Timpano is No. 1 on the depth chart when it’s comes to the Wolves starting goaltending position in the fall. He went 6-1-1-1 with a 3.43 goals against average and an .894 save percentage as last year's backup.
The 16-year-old heads to Calgary from June 11-14 for Hockey Canada’s Elite Goaltending Camp, which is designed to prepare Canada’s top young goaltenders for future international competition.
What better way to get ready a much heavier work load than Timpano experienced last season?
Timpano has already performed internationally at the U17 level, so more exposure to top quality hockey will not only help his development and keep him on the Team Canada radar, but it will also give him an edge heading into the upcoming season.
In this age of year-round hockey, Timpano’s efforts to keep improving his skills can only good news for the Wolves.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92.