Teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League are known for making good use of affiliate players from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League in the case of injury and shortened lineups.
Then there is the extraordinary instance of 16-year old forward Cayden Kowal of the North Bay U18 Trappers of the GNU18HL who is an AP for the Espanola Paper Kings of the NOJHL. A hulking forward at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Kowal has played in five games for Espanola this season and has two goals, three assists, five points. More impressively, Kowal had four of those points — two goals and two assists — in a pair of recent victories by the Paper Kings over the French River Rapids.
“As a 16-year old Cayden has stepped right in when called upon and has played really for us,” Espanola head coach Jason Rapcewicz told Hockey News North. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Meanwhile, as a member of North Bay’s U18 team, Kowal is fourth in the Great North in scoring with 10 goals, 15 assists, 25 points in 16 games. Kowal is in his second season in the GNU18HL. He played for the U16 Trappers in 2021-2022 and had five goals, six assists, 11 points in 19 games.
Kowal is just one player from the GNU18HL that Espanola has utilized as an AP this season. Three younger players, all 15-year olds from the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals, have suited up in one game apiece for the NOJHL Paper Kings. They are forwards Coulson Bell and Anthony Bertrand and defenseman Carter Makasoff.
And to be sure, Espanola general manager Marc Gagnon appreciates the affiliation that the NOJHL Paper Kings have with players from teams in the GNU18HL.
“We are happy with our relationship with Great North teams such as the U16 Sudbury Nickel Caps as well with the U18 North Bay Trappers. This enables us to AP local northern talent (including Kowal, Bell, Bertrand, Makasoff and goalie Nick Marson.) Our program is about development and moving players on to the next level,” Gagnon told Hockey News North.