New owner Mark Burgess and incoming general manager Jeff Forsyth have made it a priority to enlist as many Greater Sudbury area products as possible as the roster is assembled for the Rayside Balfour Canadians of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
To date, 11 of the 15 players that Rayside has signed ahead of the 2019-2020 NOJHL season are from the Sudbury area.
The locals include forwards Matthew Belanger, Giordano Biondi, Gavin Brown, Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, Zacharie Giroux, Brady Maltais, Mitchell Martin, Carson McMillan and Oliver Smith and defensemen Avery Chisholm and Chris Clark.
Of that group, Biondi (Sudbury Wolves), Brown (Guelph Storm), Dokis-Dupuis (Niagara IceDogs), Giroux (Flint Firebirds), Martin (Kitchener Rangers), Smith (Barrie Colts) and Clark (Soo Greyhounds) are Ontario Hockey League draft picks.
Should any of the above not play in the OHL this coming season, they will skate in the NOJHL for Rayside.
To be sure, it should come as no surprise that as the new owner of the Canadians, aforementioned Mark Burgess would want to have as many capable locals on the team as possible.
The affable Burgess and his family owned the Sudbury Wolves for 30 years before selling the OHL franchise in 2016. And during that time, the Wolves annually gave dozens of Sudbury area players the opportunity to play in the OHL, either as draft picks or free agents.
As Burgess is a long-time Sudbury businessman, aforementioned general manager Jeff Forsyth also has local ties.
Forsyth coached within the ranks of the Sudbury Nickel Capitals of the Great North Midget Hockey League for a number of years. He has also been the northern Ontario scout for the OHL Wolves.
As Rayside’s new GM, Forsyth took note of what the Canadians aspire to achieve as an NOJHL franchise.
“Our dedication to the community, education and player development will undoubtedly prepare our players for their next step in their journey,” Forsyth told Hockey News North. “We could not be more excited to show our loyal and supportive fans the commitment and passion that our team will possess this season and for the future.”
Meanwhile, besides the local products that Rayside has signed to NOJHL cards, the Canadians have also inked four others to date.
They include goalie David Bowen and defenseman Zachary Snow — who both have OHL experience with the Wolves — and forwards Jeff Leishman and Ben Hatanaka. Of note, Leishman is an OHL draft pick of the London Knights.