As the Barrie Colts are being pegged as top contenders in the Eastern Conference of the Ontario Hockey League for the 2021-2022 season, their new general manager and coach is hoping for a breakout campaign from 20-year old left winger Nick Porco.
Marty Williamson, who is back in the OHL after a five-year hiatus, has high expectations for the 20-year old Porco, who is a Sault Ste. Marie product.
“He can’t be an average player,” Williamson said of Porco. “He needs to be a player that makes an impact every night.
“He has the speed, he has got the physical game to do it … I think he just needs some confidence. Maybe that, a lack of confidence, is what has been lacking for Nick the last little while.”
A first pound pick by Saginaw at the 2017 OHL priority selections draft, the 6-foot, 180 pound Porco netted five goals, nine assists, 14 points in 57 games for the Spirit as a rookie during the 2017-2018 season. He then potted 20 goals, 16 assists, 36 points for Saginaw during the 2018-2019 campaign and was picked by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round of the 2019 National Hockey League draft.
But Porco struggled with a variety of serious injuries and ailments during the 2019-2020 season and was traded by Saginaw to Barrie. All together, he totaled nine goals, 11 assists, 20 points in what was a trying season.
Now with the OHL back in play after it spent the entire 2020-2021 campaign on the shelf relative to COVID-19, Porco is into his fourth season in the league and his first full one in Barrie — and with the 58-year old Williamson taking over at the helm.
Prior to having coached at the Ontario university level the past few seasons, Williamson spent 12 years as an OHL head coach — six with Barrie and six with the Niagara Ice Dogs — and twice took teams to the league finals.
Now back in Barrie and with a Colts team that is primed for a big season, Williamson has a top line in mind of Porco alongside San Jose Sharks prospect Ethan Cardwell and New York Rangers prospect Evan Vierling.
“We’ll count on Cardwell, Vierling and Porco to really set the example for this team and this forward group. I think we’ll be able to score goals,” said Williamson.
Porco will fit into a good role on the first line alongside Vierling and Cardwell, Williamson noted.
“With Porco on the wing there, we believe that line of two 19-year-olds and a 20-year-old should be awfully good,” Williamson said. “We are excited about those guys playing together.”
Having not been signed by Dallas, Porco is now a free agent as far as the NHL is concerned. And a big final season in the OHL should only serve to make him attractive to another NHL team.
Porco seems to have all the tools — now it is a matter of putting it together in what could be a Barrie good season for the likeable lad from the Soo.