There is a pillar of parity in the Great North Under 18 Hockey League even as the first place Soo Jr. Greyhounds are a prolific powerhouse. That is, five of the eight teams in the Great North will sport records above the .500 mark when pucks hit the ice for the 2023 segment of the regular season schedule.
The five over .500 are the Soo Jr. Greyhounds (12-1-0), Kapuskasing Flyers (9-3-1), Timmins Majors (8-6-2), Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals (8-5-1) and North Bay U18 Trappers (8-5-0.) Below the .500 mark are the New Liskeard Cubs (5-10-0), Sudbury U18 Nickel Capitals (4-11-0) and North Bay U16 Trappers (2-9-2.)
On an individual basis there is no shortage of shining lights in the Great North.
TOP DOGS: The Jr. Greyhounds boast eight players among the top 25 point getters in the Great North. They include league scoring leader Hudson Chitaroni, who has 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points in 13 games. Chitaroni has scored a number of highlight reels goals that has scouts taking notes.
Following Chitaroni on the Jr. Greyhounds scoring chart are Gabe Palumbo (10-8-18), Cole Cond (7-10-17), Brendan Cooke (9-7-16), Deven Jones McDonald (7-7-14), the ever-improving Callum McAuley (2-11-13), Candon O’Neill (0-12-12) and the hard-working Jacob Smith (5-17-12.) O’Neill is the lone defenseman from among the group. And of note, Chitaroni’s 11 goals are second in the league only to Nate Gravelle of the North Bay U18 Trappers. Gravelle has scored 14 goals in 13 games for the U18 Trappers.
The Jr. Hounds also showcase the top goalie in the GNU18HL in Sudbury product Maverick Fletcher. Fletcher, who has a 2006 birth date, has a record of 7-0-0 with a microscopic 0.71 goals against average and four shutouts. To be sure, Fletcher is a worthy candidate to be picked at the 2023 Ontario Hockey League supplemental draft. After Fletcher, Michael McIvor of the North Bay U18 Trappers has the next best goals against average in the Great North at 1.88.
Meanwhile, of the no less than 12 Jr. Greyhound players who have 2007 birth dates, projections are that between four and six of them could be picked at the 2023 OHL priority selections draft. The list of potential OHL draft picks from the Soo includes forwards Hudson Chitaroni, Brendan Cooke and Deven Jones McDonald and defensemen Candon O’Neill, Declan Gallivan and Rylan Fellinger.
HIGH FLYERS: Kapuskasing has five veteran forwards among the top 25 scorers in the league. The high scoring Flyers are J.P. Audras, Xavier Boulanger, Kasey Chevalier, Nicolas Saucier and Damien Lemoyne. Boulanger, Chevalier and Saucier are among the older players in the league with 2005 birth dates while Audras and Lemoyne were both born in 2006.
CAPITAL GAINS: They are one of two Under 16 teams that compete against the older clubs of the Great North. And specifically, not only are they youthful but the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals have a splendid record of 8-5-1 in the eight team Great North.
Among the many key performers for the U16 Nickel Capitals — and there is a team full of talent — the list includes goalie Nick Marson, defensemen Carter Carriere, Carter Makasoff, Cale Prpic and Alexandre Valade and forwards Max Campbell, Cole Dubowsky, Keynan Kydd, Anthony Bertrand, Cameron Vehkala and Coulson Bell.
Campbell — who is considered the top OHL prospect among the U16 Nickel Capitals — is near the top of the Great North scoring chart with nine goals, 12 assists, 21 points. Meanwhile, Dubowsky is a point per game player and Bertrand and Kydd have each potted seven goals.
MAJOR DEVELOPMENT: Timmins has seven players with 2007 birth dates and among the higher performing ones have been goalie Alex Hall, defenseman Cole Ellis and forwards Ian Lachance and Tyson Scott.
Ellis, a 6-foot-2, 165 pound defenceman who hails from the remote northern Ontario town of Chapleau, is being tabbed as an intriguing prospect for the 2023 OHL priority selections draft. He has four goals, three assists, seven points from his blue line post in 16 league games for the Majors.
Other top performers for the Majors through the 2022 portion of the schedule have been older players such as goalie Sam Rudner and forwards Patrice Lafontaine, Shawn Gagnon, Travis Poan and Ryan Armitage.
And leading the way for the Majors is 58-year old head coach Steve Polyblank. A respectable person who garners respect, Polyblank is in his first season with Timmins after previous Great North experience with the New LIskeard Cubs and his old hometown team, the erstwhile Kirkland Lake Legion 87s.
SOO BOYS IN SUDBURY: Three Sault Ste. Marie products continue to make an impact away from home in Sudbury with the Nickel Capitals program.
Goalie Nick Marson and forward Coulson Bell, who were both cut by their hometown Soo Jr. Greyhounds prior to the start of this season, are key players for head coach Jordan Cheechoo and the U16 Nickel Capitals. Marson has a 5-1-1 record and a 3.11 goals against average for the U16 Nickel Capitals while Bell has three goals, three assists, six points in 11 games.
And both Marson and Bell played very well at the recent Waterloo Gold Puck Tournament. Marson won both of his starts and allowed just two goals for a 1.00 GAA while Bell rang up four assists in five games at the prestigious tournament.
Meanwhile, 2006 birth year goalie A.J. Borrelli has stood tall in the nets for the lowly U18 Nickel Capitals. Borrelli has a 2-4-0 record and a 3.17 goals against average for a U18 Nickel Capitals team that has a 4-11-0 record and a team goals against average of 4.00.
Borrelli’s most recent outing came in a 3-1 road decision by Sudbury over New Liskeard. It was his first regular season action for the U18 Nickel Capitals since mid November after missing five games with a severe case of pneumonia.