Colts keen on 'D' 0
The Barrie Colts shouldn't have an on-ice identity crisis this season.
A pair of returning goaltenders and a whack of experienced defencemen puts this OHL squad's bread and butter behind the red line.
Boston Bruins draft pick Michael Hutchinson and Peter Di Salvo, both 18, provide a reliable source in net.
Nine defencemen -- eight with at least some OHL experience, the other being Ryan O'Connor, the team's first-round draft pick in 2008 -- gives the team depth on defence.
"Every team's got to have an identity and a strength," Colts head coach Marty Williamson said yesterday. "We think our back end is definitely going to be our identity."
Up at mid-ice, where the goal-scorers gather, is where things become a little murkier.
Two weeks before the regular season kicks in, the team lacks a true centre-man.
Tomas Marcinko filled that role nicely last season, but he's signed by the New York Islanders.
It's unlikely Marcinko will return. Alex Hutchings, coming off a 29-goal campaign, can play the position, but his coach would prefer to keep him on the wing. Adam Payerl and Mitch Lebar are both entering their second season in the league, but asking either to step into the No. 1 spot would be asking a lot. Shawn Frank is another option. He's nursing an injury suffered in training camp, and hasn't proved to be a major scoring threat his previous two seasons.
So, as training camp continues at the Barrie Molson Centre this week, the Colts' coaching staff continues to put together an opening-night roster by process of elimination, keeping in mind the squad's needs down the middle.
Fifty-seven players showed up for training camp. Twenty-eight players remained yesterday. Twenty-four is next week's target.
Forwards are the focus.
"I think our problem right how is who's going to be our natural centreman? We don't have a natural centreman, to some extent," said Williamson, adding that leaves the door wide open for the team's young crop of returning forwards. "We're still extremely young up front, and we need guys like Lebar, (Colton) Kennedy, Payerl and (Kyle) Clifford to really start to make those strides ... (and) show that they're going to be able to handle situations and contribute game in, game out. It's about finding out about those guys -- how they're going to contribute."
One solution to finding that goal-scoring centre would be to make a trade using the surplus on the blue line. Williamson isn't ruling out that option.
"Whether we can move one of them and find him a new place, that's kind of what (could) happen in the next week, week-and-a-half," the coach said. "We've got teams phoning us every day. We could sure add an impact centreman. Who knows?"
While the Colts' first-round pick in the 2008 CHL import draft, Kirill Polozov, could provide a boost up front, Williamson isn't banking on anything just yet. Polozov was scheduled to be in Barrie yesterday, but the Russian's arrival has been pushed back to tomorrow. The coach isn't sure what to think at this point.
"We're hoping for Friday, but I've been hearing this for two weeks now, so I'm not holding up too optimistic," the coach said. "The longer it takes the tougher it gets for us to get guys in the lineup."
The Colts travel to Kitchener for an exhibition game against the Rangers on Friday night at 7:30 p. m. Barrie returns to the BMC to host the Guelph Storm Saturday night at 7:30 p. m.
ICE CHIPS: The injury bug is biting the Colts a little more than a week into training camp. Defencemen Kyle van de Bospoort, Ryan Gottschalk and Stephen Gaskin, as well as forwards Frank and Daniel Michalsky are sidelined with various injuries. Michalsky is expected to be out for six weeks after injuring his shoulder in an exhibition game against the Owen Sound Attack ... Four returning players will likely miss the team's regular-season home opener. Bruins draft pick Hutchinson, Washington Capitals pick Stefan Della Rovere, and defencemen Dalton Prout and Brian Lashoff will be attending NHL training camps. Undrafted Prout has been invited to the Edmonton Oilers camp, while undrafted Lashoff is invited to the Detroit Red Wings camp ... Ryan O'Connor (first round, '08), Dar ren Archibald (seventh round, '08) and Michael Sgarbossa (third round, '08) are among a group of draft picks that enjoying strong training camps. "(Sgarbossa's) been awfully good. Him and O'Connor look like they've already played in the league," Williamson said ... The Colts are more than comfortable entering the season with Hutchinson and Di Salvo manning the crease, according to Williamson, who won't hesitate to use both goalies. "We've got a luxury there, that a lot of teams are calling us on, too," the coach said. "I watched what Plymouth did with (Jeremy) Smith and (Michael) Neuvirth. We feel really good about both of them. It's pretty lucky as a coach having both these guys."