Battalion opens training camp
Battalion hosts Kitchener in their exhibition opener
ROBIN INSCOE, Sports Editor
What a difference a year makes!
It was about this time last year that Brampton Battalion head coach
and director of hockey operations Stan Butler was hoping that his
young blueline brigade would be able to hold up for an entire Ontario
Hockey League season.
Well, the troops hit the ice at the Brampton Centre for Sports and
Entertainment last night as training camp opened for 50 hopefuls
hoping to crack this season's squad.
And Butler and defensive coach Kelly Harper don't seem quite as
concerned about the defence.
That's because the troops have seven returnees on the blueline as
camp got under way, and a few more prospects that Butler feels will
compete for jobs.
Gone are overager Marty Lojek, who recently signed with the National
Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, and Stuart Simmons, who has
completed his junior eligibility.
But Butler hopes that the experience that Phil Oreskovic, John
deGray, Michael Vernace, Tomas Stryncl and Kyle Sonnenburg obtained
last year will be insurmountable this season.
Add overager Nick Duff to the mix on the blueline and Scott Boomsma,
who spent time with the Brampton Capitals last season, while playing
five games for the troops, and the Battalion has a strong nucleus.
And Butler feels that he's got three players that were drafted last
year who will challenge for jobs.
Butler and Harper will keep a close eye on 2004 draftees Stephane
Chabot, Miles Cope and Jeremy Claver at camp.
"I'm happy with our depth at defence," admitted Butler. "I think
we've got 10 defencemen in camp who can play in this league."
In goal, the starting job should belong to second-year netminder
Daren Machesney, barring something unforeseen.
Veteran Kevin Couture will be in camp, but Butler will not be keeping
the overage goaltender.
"We'll be trying to work out a trade for Kevin," said the Brampton
The job of backing up Machesney will fall on the shoulders of
Brampton Youth Hockey Association graduate Bryan Pitton or Michael
Nigalis. Pitton was the starter for the Wellington Dukes last season
while Nigalis was with the Bramalea Blues.
"Pitton is the leading candidate," said Butler, of the home-grown
product. "He's got more experience. Nigalis might need a year as a
starter in Tier 2."
Up front there should be plenty of competition for jobs with 10
veterans expected at camp, along with a strong rookie crop and a few
walk-ons that Butler feels might be able to crack the line-up.
One overager Butler doesn't expect back is captain Ryan Oulahen. He
signed with Detroit in the off-season and is expected to be playing
professionally this season.
"He's signed," said Butler. "And I'm assuming he won't be back." He
might, however, show up for a skate with his former teammates.
Overagers Luch Aquino and Brock McPherson were expected at camp,
although Butler is unsure if Aquino will be around when the season
He was recently drafted by the New York Islanders and could also find
himself playing professionally.
Aquino was the second leading scorer for the troops last year with 71
points in 65 games.
If that happens, Butler admits he will be in the market for another
overager. Each team is allowed to carry three 20-year-olds.
In addition to McPherson, who was an assistant captain with the club
last season, Butler will be expecting big things from leading scorer
Wojtek Wolski, a first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche.
Wolski had 73 points in 67 games last year.
Also back at camp looking for jobs for this season will be Howie
Martin, Luke Lynes, Patrick Sweeney, J.F Houle, Aaron Snow, Jason
Cassidy, John Seymour and Graham McNabb. And add first and second
round picks Matt Smyth and Justin Levac to that mix.
Butler also thinks camp invitees like Taylor Raszka, a former first
round OHL pick, Blake Humphrey, Cody Smith and Scott Brown will push
the veterans for starting jobs.
"We've got some good free agents," said Butler. "Every one of them
have a chance to make this team."
The former Team Canada Junior coach knows competition can bring out
the best in players, and that's what he's hoping for.
"We're trying to create a competitive camp," added Butler. "Some guys
who played here could end up playing for other teams."
The Battalion gets its first taste of action on Sunday in Kitchener.
They return home to host the Rangers on Monday.
Game time at the Brampton Centre for Sports and Entertainment is 2
The Battalion is still looking for billets for the upcoming season.