To be sure, the step up from minor midget hockey to the major junior level is a big one.
But thus far, 1998 birth-year centre Zack Dorval has been making a good impression as he climbs the ladder from the Soo Thunder midgets to the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
The first player from northern Ontario to be selected at the 2014 OHL draft — he was taken by Kingston in the second round, 35th overall — Dorval, a 5-foot-11, 167 pound pivot who mixes speed with spunk, has earned a 2014-2015 roster spot with the Frontenacs as one of three 16-year olds.
Frontenacs head scout Jeff McKercher, a former OHL defenceman from the late 1990s, told HockeyNewsNorth.com that Dorval “has impressed everyone” so far.
“It’s tough to come into camp as a 16-year old and play with an edge but he has. He has not backed down. His speed and grit really stand out,” McKercher added in his assessment of Dorval, who hails from the northeastern Ontario town of Hearst.
John Goodwin, the former Soo Greyhounds star centre and OHL scoring champion from the 1980-1981 season, likes what he has seen of Dorval thus far.
The 52-year old Goodwin, who is in his first season as the Frontenacs top assistant under 28-year old rookie head coach Paul McFarland, has taken note of Dorval.
“He is looking good. He skates well and seems like a really good kid,” Goodwin said of Dorval, who led the Thunder minor midgets with 48 goals, 33 assists, 81 points and also had a team-leading 122 penalty minutes in 75 games in 2013-2014.
As for Goodwin, who piled up 133 goals, 256 assists, 389 points in 201 regular-season OHL games with the Greyhounds from 1978 to 1981, he himself is settling into Kingston after spending the 2013-2014 campaign as an assistant with the North Bay Battalion.
Nicknamed the “Snake” during his OHL playing days because of his ability to slither through the defence and make a perfect pass to one of his wingers, Goodwin returned to the game in 2013 after a 13-year absence.
He previously had a five-year association as a successful coach with the Oshawa Generals — including three seasons as the head guy — before stepping aside to concentrate on his job with Ontario Power Generation. He retired from OPG last year.
In leaving North Bay to take the job in Kingston as the highly-regarded McFarland’s hand-picked assistant, Goodwin did so to be closer to his family. He and his wife Joanne — who is from Sault Ste. Marie — own a home in Whitby, have three grown children and are grandparents.
PHOTO: Zack Dorval (white jersey, middle) in action at the OHL training camp of the Kingston Frontenacs. (Photo by John Harman.)