Bulldogs Roster Projections 2017/18: Wingers
The greatest volume of change on the Hamilton Bulldogs roster between March and September 2017 is on the wing. Between graduating players and potential shifting centres, both right and left wing are going to be depleted of depth. There is plenty of space for Hamilton’s prospect pool to draw attention to themselves in camp next week.
Offensively, Will Bitten (MTL-3rd, #70) is most dynamic when he doesn’t need to worry about the coverage responsibilities you expect from your centre. Bitten will be fed ice-time throughout the season. For a really fantastic and detailed writeup on the incredibly positive effect that Bitten has on his linemates, check out Mitch Brown’s WOWY breakdown article over at All About The Habs. Hamilton fans will have their fingers crossed that he explodes offensively to start the season and forces his way onto Team Canada’s roster in December.
Matthew Strome (PHI-4th, #106) is arguably the team’s best finisher, and will factor heavily into the offensive writeup for Coach Gruden. His experience at the NHL Draft, sliding out of the top 100 picks, is ideally going to cause him to play with a chip on his shoulder. Being snatched by Philly might inspire him to play a more punishing game in the OHL. With his size, he could truly develop into a Broadstreet Bully / Legion of Doom throwback.
Marian Studenič (NJD-5th, #143) will be the main benefactor of Cramarossa’s graduation, as he will be relied on to slide into his top six role. Studenič has the offensive flair that should really be on display in the Bulldogs power play opportunities this season. The Devils are surely hoping he not only receive gravy minutes on the man advantage, but that he capitalizes on them as well. He’ll miss time in December to represent Slovakia again at the IIHF World Juniors.
Hamilton will be chalk full of fresh new faces on the wings during the preseason and the first 10 games of the season.
As the days were winding down on the 2016-2017 season, I was getting the sense that Isaac Nurse’s run with the Bulldogs was coming to a close. Nurse saw very similar minutes as Joesph Mizzi and Mitchell Mendonca two years ago, and both were quietly released from the team last summer. With that in mind, Hamilton has experienced more turnover up front than they did last summer, leaving space for Nurse to earn more confidence from the coaching staff. Thanks to his gritty game and the ability to play chip and chase, he’ll likely stay a bottom 9 winger, but will possibly see some ice on the penalty kill.
The Bulldogs organization has yet to see a pure goal scorer of the likes of Arthur Kaliyev. This young man was touted by many scouts to be a top 5 player in the 2017 OHL draft, but slipped to the second round due to fears that he would commit to college. His scoring prowess will be on full display with the Bulldogs, who may be forced to play him on the top power play unit simply due to results. Over the past two seasons, Hamilton has slow-played their development with underage rookies. Bulldogs fans should be prepared for Kaliyev to come into the OHL ready to make his presence known throughout the league right from day one.
Jake Murray’s road to the OHL is one that will make him automatically endearing to fans. No child should have to experience the battle against cancer first hand. His resilience will always be apart of the story of his career and life, but you can bet that he’s eager for the day when his name is brought up in the papers regarding how he helped the team win the game the night before. Murray is a skilled offensive specialist, and will be one of the true playmakers on the team should he win a spot on the roster in camp. He was almost a point per game player in the GOJHL, not an easy feat for a 16 year old. Look for him to play up and down the lineup on the right side, with some power play time throughout the year.
John Gruden isn’t the type of coach who will simply gift players ice time based on pedigree alone. Connor McMichael will join the roster from the under appreciated Eastern Triple A Minor Midget Hockey League, the same league that helped develop Steven Stamkos and Taylor Hall. What might cause McMichael some adjustment time won’t be the skill and speed of the OHL, but going from being the offensive catalyst on his midget team to being a depth forward. There is hope that he’ll be able to bring his two-way ability to the Bulldogs and one day be a top 6 centre, but for now he’ll likely be given bottom 9 minutes on the wing to learn the nuances of the country’s highest level of junior hockey.
Hard to say if Hamilton will clear the way for a youth movement giving Narvin Mutter the chance to make the team after impressing at Hockey Canada’s U17 Development Camp. There are prospects from previous seasons who might make the push and impress in training camp, such as Kyle Fisher or Brian Bygrave, who was surprisingly one of the final cuts at camp last season.
JACOB PIVONKA of Chicago Mission Bantam Major (2000) team commits to Notre Dame. CONGRATULATIONS JACOB!!http://t.co/wlitjeakm8
— Chicago Mission AAA (@ChicagoMission) October 31, 2014
General Manager Steve Staios took a few risks during the 2016 OHL Priority Selection taking young adults associated with the US National Development Program. Jacob Pivonka finished his first year with the program on a high note, gaining valuable experience in the USHL and international tournaments. As the son of former Washington Capital Michal Pivonka, he’ll be receiving superior guidance on what he needs to do in order to stand out to scouts in his draft season. One thing that is clear is if he decides to commit to the OHL, he’ll be a feature player on this roster, greatly benefiting the team and likely his career. If not, there is always next year.