Espanola Express of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has made a flurry of player moves with the small market team making notable additions ahead of the 2021-2022 season.
The transactions involve teams in the Superior International Jr. Hockey League and Ontario Jr. Hockey League as well as the signings of three players from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League and another incoming rookie from Brantford.
Here is a recap of the recent hockey traffic on the Express route.
• Looking to add a veteran presence to the young Express, Espanola has acquired a trio of 2001 birth year skaters from the Kam River Fighting Walleye of the SIJHL in a cash exchange.
Heading from Kam River to Espanola are big defensemen Zachary Fulton and Caleb Resch and hulking forward Ben Couvier.
All three players are from Western Canada and will be looking to be impact players in their final season of junior hockey.
• Espanola has signed 2004 birth year forwards Brayden LaFrance and Ryan Rubic from the under 18 Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves.
LaFrance is an aggressive forward with a nice scoring touch and a son of former Ontario Hockey League scoring star Darryl LaFrance. Over four seasons with the Oshawa Generals from 1991 to 1995, the elder LaFrance lit up OHL goalies by scoring 162 goals.
Rubic has good size and also plays an aggressive game. He also has hockey bloodlines from his father, Robin Rubic, who played in the OHL from 1984 to 1987 as a hard-nosed winger who suited up for the Kitchener Rangers, Toronto Marlboros, Sudbury Wolves and Soo Greyhounds.
• Rookie goalie Patrick Boivin is staying close to his roots to sign with the Express.
The well regarded, 2003 birth year net-minder has considerable experience at the Great North Under 18 Hockey League level, having tended twine for both the Sudbury Minor Wolves and the Kapuskasing Flyers.
Boivin is a product of the Highway 17, northern Ontario town of Blind River.
• Also signing with Espanola is 2005 birth year defenseman Owen Harris. Harris heads to the Express from the under 18 Brantford 99ers.
• And the Express has traded 2003 birth year forward Bradley Brunet to the new Haliburton County Huskies of the OJHL. Brunet, who played two seasons for Espanola, had requested a trade to the OJHL.
• Earlier, as was first reported by Hockey News North, the Express traded 2001 birth year forward Cole Delarosbil to the Soo Thunderbirds. Delarosbil, who played two seasons in Espanola, had requested to be dealt to his hometown Thunderbirds.
Express president and head coach Jason Rapcewicz commented on the number of moves he made in response to Hockey News North.
“First off, we are excited to acquire the services of three veteran junior players that we picked up from the Kam River Walleye. We feel that the addition of a veteran presence from Resch, Fulton and Couvier will give us a healthy balance in our lineup this year,” Rapcewicz began.
“The addition of Brayden Lafrance and Ryan Rubic will be extremely welcomed as we are always trying to find quality high level hockey players from northern Ontario to add to our roster. The addition of Patrick Boivin to the net will be a key piece to the success of the Express this season. We are expecting Patrick to play well and allow us the ability to win hockey games,” Rapcewicz noted of the three incoming rookies from the Great North under 18 loop.
“As for Owen Harris, he is a highly skilled smooth skating d-man out of the the Brantford 99ers under 16 program. Coach Scott Rex has done a great job with the under 16 program over the past few years and we have been extremely successful with players we have taken from his program. One key piece to our success last year was former Brantford 99ers forward Luke Bibby. I trust and value the opinion of Scott Rex and I know he will always turn us on to quality junior ready and capable hockey players.
“Lastly we would like to thank Bradley Brunet for his dedication and contribution to the Express organization over the last two seasons. We weren’t set on moving Bradley, however after conversations with his advisor, family and Bradley, they felt that the opportunity to live down in Haliburton was the best choice for the upcoming season,” summed up Rapcewicz.