Advancing from AA to AAA
May 17, 2023
Who says that once a youngster is labeled as an AA level player that he will advance no further? Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the AAA level, Great North Under 18 Hockey League are about to put that halfwitted, ill-considered, thoughtless notion to rest.
Of the 12 rookies who have been signed by the new Jr. Greyhounds decision-making tandem of general manager Darrin Thomsen and head coach Sean Gagnon ahead of the 2023-2024 Great North U18HL season, no less than five will be advancing from the AA ranks of the Sault Major Hockey Association. Four are poised to move up from the U18 AA Jr. Greyhounds and one from the U16 AA Jr. Greyhounds.
Which speaks to the open mind that both Gagnon and Thomsen have when it comes to not prejudging players from where they may have came from. Which puts an exclamation point on the fact that the new staff of the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North represents a clean breath of fresh air to the AAA program.
Bringing in players who did not make the team the first time around worked very well not that long ago when Mike Hall was coaching Soo teams in the Great North. The list of high-end players who Hall moved up from the AA level to AAA in the Great North is both a lengthy and impressive one. And let us not forget that the venerable Hall is the most successful coach in the history of the Soo’s Great North program.
At any rate, back to the soon-to-be ’23-24 edition of the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North. Of the AA players who stood out at the recent tryout camp and eventually made the team from a throng of hopefuls of different ages and backgrounds, two players in particular were outstanding.
They are 2006 birth year forward Sebastian dos Reis and 2007 birth year forward Sammy Caruso. Both have different traits that they will bring to the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North come the ’23-24 season.
dos Reis is a big, hulking, puck-controlling forward who looks like a man among boys on the ice. Not sure why it took him this long to crack the roster of the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North. But that is no longer a question to ask. If the tryout camp is an indication and if dos Reis can improve on his physical conditioning, this is a player who could well be a force to be reckoned with in the Great North come the ’23-24 season.
As for Caruso (pictured above), he is a 6-foot, 140 pounder who needs to get stronger. But an upcoming summer of strength training aside, Caruso is already a player with a high hockey IQ who somehow has been overlooked for several years prior to now. The thing about Caruso is that nothing about him is great but so much about him is good, including his smarts, his positional play without the puck, his dominance as a penalty killer, his relentless attack on the forecheck and the fact that he can also be utilized as a defenseman.
It should not always be about the star players when it comes to putting together a team. It should not always be about the players who were obvious choices to make the team. And it most definitely should not be about players whose parents — or agents — are buddies with the coach.
Hopefully, at least for now with the new regime of the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North, those days are gone.