It is a natural transition, based on geography. That is, the Great North Under 18 Hockey League serving as a logical, legitimate feeder system for the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
The teams of the NOJHL will again this season feature a litter of homegrown players who are alumni of the Great North. Many are veterans who will be into their second, third and fourth seasons in the NOJHL. Others are recent graduates of the Great North who have signed up to be rookies with various teams in the NOJHL ahead of the 2023-2024 season.
Following is a Hockey News North list of a dozen notable youngsters of the many more than them who played in the Great North in 2022-2023 and who are poised to debut in the NOJHL in ’23-24. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Carter Carriere. A medium size, 2007 birth defenseman who will not turn 16 until November, Carriere has signed with the Elliot Lake Vikings. He played the ’22-23 season with the Sudbury Under 16 Nickel Capitals and in 31 games, playoffs included, he netted six goals, 10 assists, 16 points as a high end defender.
Brendan Cooke. A 2007 birth year forward with prime puck skills, Cooke will suit up for the Blind River Beavers this coming NOJHL season. Cooke was a force to be reckoned with in the Great North in ’22-23 with 19 goals, 18 assists, 37 points in 28 regular season games for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds. He then lit up even further by exploding for nine goals, six assists, 15 points in five playoff outings. Hailing from the small Highway 17 town of Thessalon, Cooke was subsequently taken by the Flint Firebirds in the eighth round of the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft. With a December ’07 birthdate, Cooke, along with the above mentioned Carter Carriere, will be among the youngest of the young blood in the NOJHL this season.
Caleb Dawson. Dawson lit the lamp to the tune of 23 goals, 25 assists, 48 points in 27 games, regular season and playoffs included, for the Great North playoff champion North Bay U18 Trappers in ’22-23. The 6-foot-2, 175 pound Dawson, who has a 2006 birth date, was subsequently selected by the North Bay Battalion in the second round of the 2023 OHL supplemental draft. He has since signed an NOJHL card with the Powassan Voodoos.
Connor Desbois. A 2006 birth year forward, Desbois has signed with his hometown Elliot Lake Vikings of the NOJHL. Desbois has spent the past two seasons in the Great North with the Sudbury Nickel Capitals. In total, the 5-foot-7, 160 pound Desbois produced 10 goals, eight assists, 18 points in 58 games, playoffs included, for the Nickel Capitals.
Caden Dubreuil. A power size skater at 6 feet, 190 pounds with a 2006 birth date, Dubreuil is all signed up with Powassan, a mainstay NOJHL franchise that always pays close attention to the Great North. Dubreuil netted 18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points in 30 Great North games for the Sudbury U18 Nickel Capitals in ’22-23, regular season and playoffs included.
Declan Gallivan. Gallivan will stay at home to play in the NOJHL for the Soo Thunderbirds in ’23-24. The 6-foot-1, 2007 birth date defender was taken by the North Bay Battalion in the seventh round of the 2023 OHL priority selections draft. He had nine goals, 16 assists, 25 points in 28 regular season games for the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North in ’22-23 and then added five points in five playoff outings.
Callum McAuley. Chalk up another newcomer of the NOJHL Thunderbirds. McAuley, who has a 2006 birth date, came through with 11 goals, 24 assists, 35 points in 33 games as a dependable forward for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23.
Candon O’Neill. O’Neill, who has a 2007 birth date, will also stay home to play for the Thunderbirds and again team up with the aforementioned Declan Gallivan and Callum McAuley in ’23-24. Regular season and playoffs included for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23, O’Neill had four goals, 30 assists, 34 points in 33 games as an under-rated defender. He was snagged by the Saginaw Spirit in the 12th round of this year’s OHL priority selections draft.
Brant Romaniuk. A 5-foot-7, 155 pound pepper pot, Romaniuk led the lowly North Bay U16 Trappers with 16 goals in ’22-23. The U16 Trappers won only four of 31 games within the Great North but the skilled forward, who has a 2007 birth date, was a standout for the last place North Bay youngsters. He has just recently signed an NOJHL card with his hometown Timmins Rock. Romaniuk actually got into seven NOJHL games with the league and playoff champion Rock as an affiliate player last season and netted three points, including a goal.
Justin Rousseau. This is yet another gain for Powassan. Rousseau, who was the Great North’s most valuable player, best defensive forward and a first team all star with the North Bay U18 Trappers in ’22-23, will again play alongside the aforementioned Caleb Dawson in ’23-24, this time in the NOJHL with the Voodoos. Rousseau netted 11 goals, 16 assists, 27 points in 23 regular season games for North Bay in ’22-23 and then potted two goals in five playoff outings as the second seed Trappers stunned the top seed Soo Jr. Greyhounds to take home the Great North crown.
Nicolas Saucier. A speedy forward, Saucier has signed his NOJHL card with the Espanola Paper Kings. With a 2005 birth date, the 5-foot-9, 145 pound Saucier, scored 15 goals, 11 assists, 26 points in 30 games for the Kapuskasing Flyers of the Great North in ’22-23.
Harley Wardell. This is yet another player who is staying in the Soo and moving up from the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North to the Thunderbirds of the NOJHL. A small size forward with a 2006 birth date, Wardell totalled 10 goals, 13 assists, 23 points in 33 games for the Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23.