Their prior association to Sault Ste. Marie is not a deep one.
But Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League are now strongly linked to the Soo through a high-end draft pick, not to mention their head scout and new assistant coach.
From a plum prospect player standpoint, Kingston used its second-round selection at the 2014 OHL draft to snag speedy centre Zack Dorval from the Soo Thunder minor midgets.
The 5-foot-11, 167 pound Dorval, who had 48 goals, 33 assists, 81 points and 122 penalty minutes in 75 games with the Thunder in 2013-2014, was a prime pick of Frontenacs head scout Jeff McKercher.
As a player, the now-35-year old McKercher spent three seasons as an OHL defencemen, suiting up for the Barrie Colts, Peterborough Petes and Soo Greyhounds.
Speaking of former Greyhounds, John Goodwin was recently hired by Kingston as an assistant coach after spending the 2013-2014 OHL season as a top aide with the North Bay Battalion.
A star centre during his playing days, Goodwin won the OHL scoring championship in 1980-1981 in his third-and-final season with the Greyhounds.
Having been hired away from North Bay by Kingston just last month, Goodwin completes the Frontenacs hat trick of Soo connections with the rookie forward Dorval and head scout McKercher.
Dorval, to be sure, has the makings of a second-year steal by McKercher and the Frontenacs from the 2014 OHL draft.
More than one NHL scout and general manager told me they had Dorval on their draft board as a third-round pick, believing the youngster would last until then if only because players from northern Ontario tend to get overlooked early.
But Kingston did not have a pick in the third round and with McKercher calling the shots, the Frontenacs simply decided that Dorval was too good to pass up in the second round, 35th overall.
Indeed, a scout from a rival Eastern Conference team told me that in his opinion, Kingston got “an absolute steal” in Dorval, who grew up in the northeastern Ontario town of Hearst and played a season in Kapuskasing before moving to the Soo to play for the Thunder as a 15-year old in 2013-2014.
From his end, McKercher, a York Region police officer who has been Kingston’s head scout since May of 2011, can’t wait to see Dorval in a Frontenacs uniform.
“He has high-end skills and what really separates him from others is his compete level,” McKercher said of Dorval, who led the Thunder in both goals and penalty minutes in 2013-2014.
“We feel Zack has what it takes to step into our lineup (in 2014-2015) and contribute. He is going to be a lot of fun to watch in the coming years,” McKercher added.
McKercher is not the only member of the Frontenacs to have such a high opinion of Dorval.
Kingston general manager Doug Gilmour — who was a small-but-gritty centre over a spectacular National Hockey League career that spanned more than 1,600 games and produced more than 500 goals and 1,500-plus penalty minutes — is ecstatic to have Dorval with the Frontenacs.
“Let me just say that we are excited to have added Zack’s speed, energy and never-quit-attitude to our lineup,” Gilmour said after the Frontenacs announced a few weeks back that Dorval had signed a standard player agreement with them.
PHOTO: Zack Dorval in action with the Soo Thunder minor midgets in 2013-2014.