Wolves of resurgence

October 20, 2016

They lost 100 games over the past two Ontario Hockey League seasons, finishing 20th and 19th overall in missing the Eastern Conference playoffs by a wide margin both times.

But these are the new Sudbury Wolves.

From a combined record of 28-100-8 over the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, the Wolves have a 7-3-1 mark to begin the 2016-2017 campaign while sitting atop the Central Division.

With players drafted and traded for by former general manager (and now president) Blaine Smith and current GM Barclay Branch, Wolves head coach David Matsos finally has a balanced, competitive roster to work with and it shows in the results.

While there are star players such as fourth-year defenseman Kyle Capobianco and second-year Russian forward Dmitry Sokolov, it is the depth of the Wolves that is impressive and in a big way the result of the player-evaluation ability of Branch, the second-year GM who also doubles as the Wolves head scout.

Parlaying future draft picks, Branch and/or Smith made three separate trades with the defending Memorial Cup champion — and perennial OHL contender — London Knights to bring in 19-year old forward Ryan Valentini, overage forward C.J. Yakimowicz and overage defenseman Aiden Jamieson, who are all valuable, dependable and serviceable in their own way.

Defenseman Reagan O’Grady, already pegged as a prime prospect for the 2017 National Hockey League draft, was heisted by Smith in a trade with the Kingston Frontenacs.

Relentless, robust, rookie forwards Darian Pilon and Drake Pilon have brought twin-torch energy to the Wolves as diamond-in-the-rough, free-agent finds from the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League via the erstwhile Batchewana Attack of the defunct Canadian International Hockey League.

And both goalies — veteran Zack Bowman and rookie Jake McGrath — came to Sudbury on the cheap. The 19-year old Bowman cost the Wolves an excess, future fourth-round draft pick while the 17-year old McGrath has proven to be a shrewd selection as an eighth-round steal in 2015.

In McGrath, the Wolves have a slender, albeit legitimate stopper for the present and future, a cool, calm youngster who has won four of five starts to begin this season, including big-save victories over the Hamilton Bulldogs and Soo Greyhounds.

The above-mentioned players represent a fraction of how the ’16-17 edition of the Wolves has come together.

The 100 losses of the past two seasons are indeed the past in Sudbury.

Just as the present tense of the Wolves can be defined as looking good.

PHOTO: Wolves rookie goalie Jake McGrath.

What you think about “Wolves of resurgence”

  1. Hopefuly now the Wolves can win the Central an at least finish ahead of North Bay for a change now that would be sweet.

  2. The Troops looked forward to the two points in their first three seasons in the Bay – this year – maybe not.

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