Orientation Camp: Making an Impact
The Hamilton Bulldogs spent the weekend hosting players selected by the team in both the 2015 and 2016 OHL Priority Selection drafts at a three day orientation camp that featured practices, fitness training and three full game scrimmages. It was an interesting opportunity for fans, friends/family and especially team management to see the players hit the ice and strut their stuff. For a lot of people it was the first chance in more than seven months to see some of the players who tried out for the team back in September. It was also the first (and last time) we’ll see Connor Roberts wearing the old Bulldogs blue & red colour scheme. There was some interesting aspects of both scrimmage teams:
Zachary Jackson, who spent time with the Bulldogs’ Jr. B affiliate, the Ancaster Avalanche, was on the first line with Mackenzie Entwistle and Fedor Gordeev. Gordeev had a very successful season with the Avalanche, only missing a few games when he was spotted into the Bulldogs lineup when injuries required. He seems to be caught in an awkward situation with the team. The organization is very deep defensively, and it’s looking very possible they convert him into a winger. He did score a fantastic goal in the preseason against the Erie Otters while playing up on the left wing.
Considering how deep and difficult it looks like it will be to crack the defensive ranks, we interviewed Reilly Webb this week for Bulldogs Banter, and he was straightforward about how much he needs to impress this weekend. He was mostly paired with free agent Tim Fallowfield.
— TI (@izzies44) April 16, 2016
A lot of eyes were focused on the players wearing red, as there is a lot of excitement around the idea of Roberts playing on a line with Matthew Strome one day in the future. They were on a line with Isaac Nurse, who along with other ’15 pick Brandon Scanlin each had a really strong season with the Brantford 99ers. Nurse really stood out for me, every time he was on the ice he was skating at top gear, and was always involved in the play. He could be one of those players who was really an afterthought when he was drafted, who may force himself into the line up. We all know about his successful cousins Darnell and Kia, but he really looks to be the type of player who has the desire to write his own story.
Late round gems
There has been a lot of talk surrounding this team in the last few weeks about the need to find players deeper in the Priority Selection than the first three rounds. Fans and media have been gifted with a shining example of a late pick who is critical to the success of the team in Matt Luff, who was taken in the seventh round in 2013. After watching the players hit the ice on Saturday, the player that I’d bet money on making the team as a 17 year old is Kristopher LaLonde, who spent most of the last season playing the Pembroke Lumber Kings (CCHL, Junior A).
Rewind to this time one year ago, and it was incredibly difficult to find information about any of the players the Bulldogs selected unless you were a paid subscriber to scouting services. That is for most players aside from LaLonde. He had set himself up with a website that not only showcased his statistics, but also his workout regime. He’s removed some of his online content since last April, but hasn’t stopped working toward the goal of playing professional hockey. When asked how he’s going to stand out to the new coaching staff, LaLonde veered away from being a stereotype.
“I think most guys give the cliche answer of ‘working hard in the gym and on the ice’. I go to a private school, so I’ll be on the ice every day and working out in the gym every day. I have a saying I tell myself, ‘it’s what you do when no one’s watching’. I just push myself even if there’s no one is watching and I just keep going and going all summer until I give the coach no other option but to put me on the team“.
Watching him play, you could really see the strength in his game coming through. He’s easily one of the most complete forwards of the ’99 crop of players, someone who can skate hard, hit hard and pop in some offense. When asked how he sees the OHL and what kind of role he would have on the Bulldogs team, he described an aspect that honestly is missing in the top six end of the roster. “I know it’s a talented league but it’s also a physical league so I feel like I could be a strong power forward who takes pucks to the net, drives to the net, makes plays and gets the goals when he needs to”. With Fox and Luff, we have forwards to fit this description, but it doesn’t hurt to have big, strong forwards willing to play the power game. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if Lalonde survives beyond training camp in September.
Check out other feature stories about orientation camp:
- Scott Radley focuses on the strong season defender Brandon Scanlin had. (Link)
- Teri Pecoskie highlights the strength and courage of new prospect Jake Murray, who’s battling a rare form of cancer. (Link)
Feature Image: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator via specphotos.ca