Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League absolutely made a whopper of a splash with the recent signings of three young high end players — a defenseman, a forward, and a goalie — from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League.
As was first reported by Hockey News North, Blind River has inked defenseman Matthew Kallo, forward Noah Aboflan, and goalie Charlie Burns. To be sure, their signings are a major coup for the Beavers, who are coming off of a 25-17-6 regular season record in 2021-2022 that was followed by two rounds of the playoffs.
• Kallo, who has a 2005 birth date, skated in 21 regular season games with the Great North champion Jr. Greyhounds in 2021-2022 and also suited up with Blind River for five NOJHL matches as an affiliate player. The 6 foot, 180 pound Kallo is an under-rated defender who takes care of his territory.
“Matt is steady, he is going to fit in well on our back end,” relayed Beavers general manager and coach Kyle Brick. “(Assistant coach) Dylan King is excited to start developing Matt into an effective two way defenseman for us.”
• Aboflan, who has a 2005 birth date, tallied 15 goals, six assists, 21 points in 18 regular season games for the Jr. Greyhounds in ’21-22 before finding the range for two goals, three assists, five points in five playoff outings. And Brick said there is much to like about the 6 foot, 170 pound Aboflan.
“Noah is a great addition to our hockey team, his size and compete level will go a long way within the West Division,” Brick told Hockey News North. “Noah has come a long way over the past season and we can’t wait to get him in our line up.”
• Burns, a 6-foot-1, 160 pound, 2006 birth year goalie, was the top goalie in the Great North in 2021-2022 for the Jr. Greyhounds and was subsequently taken by the Niagara Ice Dogs in the ninth round of the 2022 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.
“We are ecstatic to get a talent like Charlie, his numbers speak for themselves, we expect big things from him this season,” Brick told Hockey News North.
Burns had a 1.51 goals against average during the regular season in helping to lead the Jr. Greyhounds to first place in the Great North. He then back-stopped the Soo to the Great North playoff championship with a 1.09 goals against average.
In signing with the NOJHL Beavers, Burns will join 2003 birth year holdover Gavin Disano to form the Beavers goal-tending tandem for the 2022-2023 season. Interestingly, Burns and Disano are step brothers and good friends.
A Sault Ste. Marie boy, Disano had a regular season record of 10-8-4 with a 3.43 goals against average and .898 save percentage in 2021-2022. He then had a 1-2-0 record with a 2.34 goals against average and .923 save percentage in the playoffs as Blind River edged the Elliot Lake Red Wings in the preliminary round before being swept by the eventual champion Soo Thunderbirds in the West Division semi-finals.
• Meanwhile, the Beavers also went to the Great North U18 ranks to sign 2005 birth year defenceman Tucker McConnell-Fritz from the Timmins Majors. McConnell-Fritz showed an offensive upside from his defence position in 23 regular season games for the U18 Majors in 2021-2022 with two goals, 12 assists, 14 points.
BACK ON THE POND
While the Beavers have already traded a number of veteran players to teams in the NOJHL, the Ontario Jr. Hockey League and the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League ahead of the 2022-2023 campaign, several seasoned skaters are slated to return to Blind River in the fall.
Besides aforementioned goalie Gavin Disano, the list of returnees to the Beaver pond includes high scoring defenseman Ethan Pegg, fellow defender Nate Headrick, and forwards Jake Kovacs, Jesse Dupuis, Caleb Minns, Evan Fraccaro and Meguire Naughton.
Notably, regular season and playoffs included over the course of the 2021-2022 season, Pegg potted 10 goals, 34 assists, 44 points in 51 games.
Meanwhile, Minns came through with 22 goals in 55 contests, Naughton managed 17 markers in 47 games, Dupuis tallied 14 times in 49 outings, Fraccaro found range 12 times in 54 games and Kovacs lit the lamp nine times in 26 matches.
As for Headrick, who was a late season signing as a free agent from the St. Mary’s Knights high school team, he played in just six games for Blind River before breaking his ankle — but made an impression as a dependable defender.
Naughton, Minns, Dupuis and Fraccaro all have 2003 birth dates while Pegg, Minns and Headrick were all born in 2002.
Headrick (Garden First River First Nation), Kovacs (Sault Ste. Marie) and Dupuis (Iroquois Falls) are all Northern Ontario products.