Second year skater Cole Delarosbil is taking to the approach of his new coach.
Delarosbil, a 2001 birth year forward from Sault Ste. Marie, was responding to being asked by Hockey News North how the first week of the skills and drills camp of the Espanola Express went under new bench boss Brent Hughes.
The 38-year old Hughes was hired as head coach of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League team earlier this summer after three straight winning seasons as an assistant with the Cape Breton Eagles of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League.
Delarosbil, who said he enjoyed playing for former Espanola head coach Dave Clancy, was more than positive when asked how the first week of the Express fall camp proceeded with new head honcho Hughes running the show.
“It went really good,” Delarosbil began. “The skill sessions were high tempo. The team looks good … we are young but have a lot of skill and drive.
“Coach Hughes is intense, he runs a tight ship and expects only the best from us. And he wants to win just as much as the rest of us. He also really knows his stuff,” Delarosbil added.
From his end, Hughes was rather short versed when asked by Hockey News North how his first week as the drill sergeant on the Express went.
“It went well,” Hughes relayed. “It is still too early to say but we are progressing each day.”
A small market franchise, Espanola is coming off of a 2019-2020 season in which it posted a record of 17-34-5 in sneaking into the West Division playoffs for the first time since its inaugural 2015-2016 NOJHL campaign as the Express.
Meanwhile, barring the unforeseen, following are a collection of incoming and returning players — as signed by hard-working Espanola president and general manager Jason Rapcewicz — who could play significant roles in the Express posting its first winning season in franchise history in 2020-2021 with Hughes at the helm as the new head coach. (They are listed in alphabetical order.)
Luke Bibby. A 15-year old left winger who was chosen at the 2020 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft, Bibby was a 13th round pick of the Owen Sound Attack from the Brantford 99ers under-16 team. Bibby was a point per game performer for Brantford during the 2019-2020 campaign, totaling 24 goals, 18 assists, 42 points in 42 games, regular season and league playoffs included. At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Bibby has a late 2004 birth date, having been born on October 29.
Wade Bolton. A big defenseman with a 2003 birth date, Bolton spent the 2019-2020 season with the Central Ontario Wolves midgets. The 6-foot-2, 185 pound Bolton was an 11th round pick of the Mississauga Steelheads at the 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.
Josh Boucher. A 2001 birth year forward, the 6-foot, 175 pound Boucher came through with 10 goals, 16 assists, 26 points in 55 games for the Express last season after playing high school hockey the previous campaign. He hails from Lively, which is just outside Sudbury.
Carson Boutin. A 2002 birth year goalie, the 6-foot, 185 pound Boutin finished the 2019-2020 season in Espanola after beginning it with the Cochrane Crunch. Boutin had a 3-1-0 record with a 1.56 goals against average and .945 save percentage with Cochrane. And, facing a whopping 636 shots in 932 minutes of play in Espanola, Boutin had a 4-7-0 record with a 4.32 goals against average and .895 save percentage. He is from Iroquois Falls.
Robert Brisson. An Eastern Ontario product from the town of Embrun, Brisson appeared in 26 games for Espanola in 2019-2020 and had three goals, seven assists, 10 points from his blue line position. A 6-foot-1, 190 pounder with a 2002 birth date, Brisson also has 16 games of prior NOJHL experience with the Rayside Balfour Canadians.
Bradley Brunet. A 2003 birth year forward, the 6-foot, 165 pound Brunet got into 45 games for the Express in 2019-2020 and produced eight goals, four assists, 12 points. A Sudbury product, Brunet is an Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Niagara Ice Dogs.
Cole Delarosbil. A late blooming, 2001 birth year forward, Delarosbil was limited to just 27 games as a rookie last season due to a broken ankle. But despite playing mostly on the third and fourth lines, the 6-foot-1, 190 pound Delarosbil nonetheless managed six goals, three assists, nine points. Known for his relentless work ethic and year round commitment to fitness and conditioning, Delarosbil is a Sault Ste. Marie product.
James Eng. A 2001 birth year forward from the Greater Toronto Area and acquired during the summer in a trade with French River, the energetic Eng netted six goals, 15 assists, 21 points in 56 NOJHL games for the Rapids last season.
A.J. Favot. A smart, puck moving defenseman with a 2002 birth date, the 5-foot-11, 165 pound Favot netted four goals, 20 assists, 24 points in 51 games for the Express last season. He was particularly effective on the Espanola power play, netting 16 points, including 15 assists. To be sure, Favot figures to be among the top defensemen in the West Division this season. Like the aforementioned Brunet, Favot is an OHL draft pick of Niagara who also calls Sudbury his home. Of further note, he is a son of Tim Favot, who patrolled the left wing for three full OHL seasons from 1989 to 1992, suiting up for both the North Bay Centennials and Sudbury Wolves as a hard toiling skater.
Devon Savignac. Skilled and smart and a 5-foot-11, 175 pound forward with a 2003 birth date, Savignac potted 22 goals, 13 assists, 35 points in 49 games for the rival Blind River Beavers last season. The 22 goals that Savignac tallied for the Beavers as a 16-year old rookie last season were the second most on Blind River, trailing only league scoring champion Caleb Serre. Recently acquired by Espanola from Blind River in a trade of major significance, Savignac is an OHL draft pick of the North Bay Battalion who hails from Sudbury. There is little doubt that if Savignac plays the full season in Espanola, he should be among the top scorers in the entire NOJHL.
Cameron Walker. A 5-foot-11, 165 pound, all around forward with a 2003 birth date, Walker produced 11 goals, 15 assists, 26 points in 55 games for the Express last season. A Sudbury product, Walker is an OHL draft pick of the Kingston Frontenacs.
William Whelton. A 2003 birth year defenseman who played in 53 games as a 16-year old rookie for Espanola in 2019-2020, the 5-foot-10, 175 pound Whelton managed a goal, five assists, six points while also seeing duty on the forward lines. He is from Whitby, Ontario.
Owen Willis. A 2018 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft pick of the London Knights, Willis is a newcomer to the Express. Willis, who has a late 2002 birth date, was London’s 13th round pick in 2018. A big goalie, the 6-foot-3, 175 pound Willis tended twine for the Toronto Titans under-18 team in 2019-2020.