Around the rinks in early May:
…Whenever I am asked who my favourite Soo Greyhounds are from the 40 years that I have been covering the Ontario Hockey League I always rhyme off the ones who immediately come to mind: goalies David Legree, Dave Jennings and Kevin Hodson, defenceman Mike Rusin and forwards Mike Kaszycki, Brian Gualazzi, Jim Aldred and Brad Baber. Not only were they good players in their day but they are all really good guys — the kind of guys who I would have a beer with any day of the week. In fact, I do believe that I have had a few beers with each and every one of them over the years.
…There are high-end bench bosses such as Sheldon Keefe of the Soo Greyhounds and Kris Knoblauch of the Erie Otters and D.J. Smith of the Oshawa Generals but for my money, the best development coach in the OHL is Stan Butler of the North Bay Battalion.
…With the Canadian International Hockey League having folded after just one season there are some quality players from the champion Batchewana Attack who will have opportunities aplenty to play elsewhere in 2015-2016 including defenceman Adam Baggs and forwards Jacob Palmerio, Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon.
…Under primary owner Allan Donnan, Toronto-based TPA Sports will own three teams in the Greater Metro Jr. Hockey League and two more in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in 2015-2016. TPA owns the Bracebridge Blues, Toronto Attack and the Toronto Predators in the GMJHL and the Iroquois Falls Eskimos and the French River Rapids in the NOJHL.
…Goalie George Hill, who tended twine in the Midwest Jr. Hockey League with the Detroit Fighting Irish in 2014-2015, is looking to move up and play in the NOJHL in 2015-2016. Hill, who has a 1995 birth date, attended the recent spring tryout session of the Soo Thunderbirds and earned an invitation to return to the August main camp of the NOJHL and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champions. Hill has also talked to coach-general manager Moe Mantha of the new French River Rapids, who will begin their first NOJHL season in 2015-2016. Part of a rather-odd, four-goalie rotation with the Fighting Irish in 2014-2015, Hill had a record of 6-5-1 to go with a 3.66 goals against average and team-best .902 save percentage.
…Besides Hill, two much-younger, 1998 birth-year goalies who I would like to see move up to the NOJHL in 2015-2016 are Joey Roberts of the Soo Thunderbirds and Colton Point of the North Bay Trappers, both of the Great North Midget Hockey League.
…If there is a forward-in-waiting who has size, who can score, who can skate and who can play the physical game — and who is made for the tough grind of the NOJHL — he is hulking, 1995 birth-year Jacob Hernandez, who spent almost two full seasons with the aforementioned Detroit Fighting Irish of the MWJHL before moving all the way up to the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League late in the 2015-2016 season. While Hernandez definitely has the ability to be an effective third-line player in the NAHL, he would be a dominant, second-line player in the NOJHL — and a kid who could no doubt move up to a top Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association school in 2016-2017. The Eagles, of course, have departed the NAHL and are poised to return to the NOJHL in 2015-2016.