TRAINING CAMP OPENS THURSDAY; ROSTER SPOTS UP FOR GRABS

The Guelph Storm look to begin their Championship-defending campaign when Training Camp opens at the Sleeman Centre on Thursday, August 28th. The three-day camp features a series of scrimmage and gives coaches a chance to evaluate the new mix of talent they’ll get to work with for the next nine months.

Along with this announcement, the team has also released their initial roster which is comprised of the 12 forwards, 8 defencemen, and 2 goaltenders who will at the very least kick off the preseason as the Storm’s first team roster. While most of these players will make Storm City their home this year, there are a few on this roster who will not be on this roster come playoffs. The reason for this being that we must also factor returning players into the equation: players who are currently pursuing opportunities at NHL development camps and may or may not be cut in the opening months of the season. I am of course referring to star forwards Kerby Rychel and Brock McGinn, as well as offensive-defenceman Nick Ebert. Whether or not we’ll see any of these three this season is yet to be determined. That being said, let’s take a look at the 20 names GM Mike Kelly has rolled out there to battle for spots on this year’s roster.

Up front, forwards Jason Dickinson, Tyler Bertuzzi, Pius Suter and Marc Stevens are all a given. None of these players were making an NHL squad this season, nor were any of them in jeopardy of being cut.

After a breakout campaign in 2013/14 Robby Fabbri is also on the list, which means he will most likely not be attending any St. Louis Blues functions this fall. As many know, Fabbri was drafted 21st overall by the Blues in this year’s NHL Entry Draft and is a sure bet to become a dominant force in the NHL soon enough. But for now it looks like he will spend this year in Guelph.

Sophomore Adam Craievich will also look to improve upon the 10 points he put up in 41 games last season. Being a second-year player, and with more spots opening up on the team, Craievich will get the chance this season to showcase more of his offensive tools. A third round pick of the 2013 OHL Priority Draft, Craievich has been described by GM Kelly as the “purest goal-scorer in his draft”. Keep an eye on this guy.

1997-born forwards James McEwan and Tyler Boston will also get a shot to prove themselves to the coaching staff this season. Both players were eligible to play for the Storm last season, but only figured into five games between the two of them.

Power forward Justin Auger is also a name to watch. Having accumulated 70 points over three seasons with the Storm he is now in his final season of eligibility and it appears has claimed one of the three 20-year old spots, at least to start. The same goes for 3rd/4th-line specialist Stephen Pierog. Both players will need to perform over the next couple of months to secure themselves a spot.

That leaves rookie forwards, and Guelph’s first two overall picks in the 2014 OHL Priority Draft, Matthew Hotchkiss and Evan Brown. The highly-touted Hotchkiss has been widely spoken of ever since the Storm signed him a few short weeks back. Assumedly, he’ll see similar minutes to that of Craievich’s a year ago. 2014 third-round pick Brown, who many thought was overlooked in this year’s draft, will have his work cut out for him if he has any hopes of making the team given his rookie-status.

This year’s back end, which I will be preview further in the second half of “The Storm Forecast” later this week, is going to be looking for a new face come opening night. Matt Finn, who served as captain of the Storm over the past few seasons, will be wearing a different jersey this fall as he progresses through the Maple Leafs farm system. The 20-year old defensive stalwart likely figures into Toronto’s long-term future, and as such he will spend the majority of his season with the AHL’s Marlies.

Ben Harpur and Zac Leslie will look to anchor a back-end and provide some veteran leadership to a blueline in search of some, now that Finn is out of the picture. Harpur, the Ottawa Senators fourth-round pick in 2013, is looking to impress in his fourth OHL campaign after going a +34 in 67 games last season. Like Auger, Leslie also looks to have secured himself a 20-year old spot for the time being, so long as he continues his all-around defensive play.

Also back on defence are blueliners Phil Baltisberger and Chad Baumann. Both players will be looked at to contribute and fill the voids left behind by departing players.

Rounding out the back end are a quartet of 17-year olds; Kyle Rhodes, Noah Carroll, Austin Hall, and 2013 Storm 1st round pick Garrett McFadden. Seeing as Rhodes, Carroll and Hall did not find playing time in any Storm games last season, McFadden is a lock for a defensive spot. McFadden played in 42 games last season and will be counted on to log significant minutes this year.

Change is inevitable, especially in a major junior hockey setting. Players come and go and it is up to management to continually reinvent their hockey club. With guys like Matt Finn expecting to find homes somewhere else this season, it’s easy to forget the amazing crop young talent following right in their footsteps. Despite seeing many new faces at this year’s Training Camp, there’s every reason to believe the Guelph Storm can be as dominant as they were in 2013/14.

Joe Krizman

In 2013, Joe graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in Physical and Health Education. During his years in school, he spent his summers off working with kids at a summer camp; an experience he credits as being highly influential in shaping who he is today.

Joe followed up his university degree by moving out to Calgary for the 2013/14 hockey season, where he served as the Coordinator of Player Development & Recruitment for the Western Hockey League (WHL) in their head office. Having developed a love for major junior hockey with the WHL, he is excited to be getting involved with it again this season back in his hometown of Guelph.

A self-proclaimed “sports enthusiast”, Joe is thrilled about getting the opportunity to share his thoughts and sports insights in a new way.