Incoming teams aside, there is one established club that may have more to prove than any other once the 2017-2018 Great North Midget Hockey League season gets underway.
Timmins Majors had a season to forget in 2016-2017 with a record of 2-32-2 and finishing at the bottom of what was then a seven-team Great North.
But as the Great North has a fresh look with new minor midget teams in Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay adding to what is now a nine-member loop, Timmins has new beginnings of its own as the Majors plan a turnaround from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
The Majors took a first step towards redemption when more than 50 players — including returnees — turned out for a three-day weekend camp at McIntyre Arena in Timmins.
In fact, so impressive was the turnout that first-year Majors coach Brandon Perry had to cut several quality younger players with 2001 and 2002 birth dates while opting retain a number of second and third year skaters with 2000 and 2001 birth dates.
Returnees who figure to play major roles with the Majors in 2017-2018 include defensemen Cameron Dutkiewicz, Fred Leclair-Pouw and Cameron Svec and forwards Riley Brousseau, Cameron Chisholm, Austin Holmes and Riley Robitaille.
Some of the above-mentioned could see action as affiliates with the Timmins Rock of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League over the course of the upcoming season.
All in all, Perry any his assistant coaches had plenty of talent to assess at the weekend camp.
“We got a lot of numbers out, which is really good,” Perry told the Timmins Daily Press. “It is always a good problem to have when you have a lot of kids to look at in camp.
“But you can’t keep them all,” Perry added. “We had to let go some really good hockey players but the guys we think are going to be on the team have looked really good and we are excited about it.”
One of the younger players who stood out but didn’t make the cut was 2002 birth-year defender Keaston (Sticks) Blais, who hails from the nearby town of Iroquois Falls.
Just out of bantam hockey, Blais has the option of being an affiliate player with the Majors while suiting up for the Iroquois Falls Stingers midgets. He also plans on attending the Great North main camp of the New Liskeard Cubs, which begins on Thursday of this week.
Following is how the Great North Midget Hockey League will align for the 2017-2018 season.
MAJOR MIDGET DIVISION: Kapuskasing Flyers, New Liskeard Cubs, North Bay Trappers, Soo Greyhounds, Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, Timmins Majors.
MINOR MIDGET DIVISION: North Bay Trappers, Soo Thunderbirds, Sudbury Wolves.
PHOTO: Timmins Majors coaches Darren Thib, Derick Martin and Brandon Perry observe weekend camp activity from up above at McIntyre Arena. (Photo by Timmins Daily Press.)