All aboard the Express! Destination: Espanola.
Espanola Express president and general manager Jason Rapcewicz has confirmed the commitment of four more returning players for the 2020-2021 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League season.
The planned returned of the four skaters — three defensemen and a forward — brings to eight the number of players that Rapcewicz already has commitments from for the upcoming NOJHL season.
The latest players to commit to return to Espanola for the 2020-2021 campaign are defensemen Jackson Legro, Robert Brisson and William Whelton and forward Josh Boucher.
Legro, who has a 2000 birth date and is from the American state of New Hampshire, netted two goals, 11 assists, 13 points in 35 games for Espanola in 2019-2020 after being obtained from the Blind River Beavers. He has a future commitment to play at Lebanon Valley College — a Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association school — for the 2021-2022 season.
Brisson, an Eastern Ontario product who has a 2002 birth date, got into 26 games for Espanola in 2019-2020 and had three goals, seven assists, 10 points from his blue line position.
Whelton, a youngster with a 2003 birth date, played in 53 games as a 16-year old rookie for the Express this past season and managed a goal, five assists, six points. He is from Whitby, Ontario.
And Boucher, who hails from the Greater Sudbury town of Lively, came through with 10 goals, 16 assists, 26 points in 55 games for the Express in 2019-2020. He has a 2001 birth date.
“We have big expectations for them as returning players,” Rapcewicz relayed to Hockey News North. “We would like the older players to provide solid leadership roles.”
Previous commitments, as first reported by Hockey News North, were made by returning forwards Cole Delarosbil and Brennen Martel, holdover goalie Carson Boutin and rookie goalie Connor Lemieux.
All four are northern Ontario products with Delarosbil being from Sault Ste. Marie, Martel from Timmins, Boutin from Iroquois Falls and Lemieux from the Thunder Bay area.
Delarosbil and Martel both have 2001 birth dates. Boutin and Lemieux were both born in 2002.
The commitments from Boutin and Lemieux indicate that the Express will be in a position to trade 2001 birth year goalie Joel Rainville, a Sturgeon Falls product who has played the past two seasons in Espanola.
Espanola is coming off of a 2019-2020 season in which it finished in fifth place in the West Division of the NOJHL with 39 points from a record of 17-34-5.