Timmins native Nick Hautanen, seen here last season with the Great North Midget League’s Timmins Majors, has signed with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for the 2014-2015 season. Daily Press File Photo
TIMMINS - Seventeen-year-old defenseman Nick Hautanen has taken the next step in his hockey career, signing with the defending NOJHL champion Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
The Timmins native spent the past two seasons playing with his hometown Majors in the Great North Midget League (GNML).
Hautanen was affiliated with the Gold Miners last year and said he’s already gotten to know coach Marc Lafleur and Kirkland Lake’s style of play.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season,” said Hautanen shortly after the signing was announced. “Being an AP (affiliated player) last year, I know they have a great system where they are, they’re a great community, they have a great coach, a great staff, and it’s just all-in-all a great team.”
The Gold Miners finished the 56-game 2013-2014 NOJHL regular season in second place with 92 points, seven back of the league-leading Soo Thunderbirds.
But the Gold Miners proved to be the best team in the playoffs, eventually claiming the league title with a 4-2 championship series win over the Thunderbirds. That gave the Miners a berth to the 2014 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championships in Wellington, Ont., where they were eliminated from contention after round-robin play.
Hautanen scored six goals and 22 assists, good for 28 points in 48 games last season with the Majors. He said he’s more than OK with the fact he’s often labelled an “offensive defenseman,” even though he also prides himself on a sound defensive game.
“I’m comfortable with that,” he said. “Hopefully I can just contribute to a winning season (with Kirkland Lake).”
Other than his familiarity with the Gold Miners’ organization, Hautanen said that the recent signing of former Majors’ teammate Tyler Romain only added to his excitement heading into next season.
After scoring 70 points in 48 games in his last season with the Majors in 2012-2013, Romain spent the last campaign playing for the Napanee Raiders of the Empire B Junior ‘C’ Hockey League. In 38 games with the Raiders, Romain scored 30 goals and added 22 assists.
Hautanen said he was looking forward to hitting the ice at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex alongside his friend.
“I know a couple of the players, like Tyler Romain and Alexie Rivet,” said Hautanen. “I’ve talked to Tyler, because I have his phone number. We’re really excited to play together again, and we’re looking forward to the next season.”
Hautanen will be billeting with a family in Kirkland Lake, and he said that being relatively close to Timmins is another perk of signing with the Gold Miners.
Though only the progression of the 2014-2015 season will tell how much playing time Hautanen will get in his first year in the NOJHL, the young defenseman said he was confident in his ability to contribute to his new team.
“I’m not too sure about the defensemen situation over there,” he said. “I just like the fit, I like the coaching staff, and I love the community. I think I’ll be a great fit there, and that’s why I chose Kirkland Lake.”
The Gold Miners drop the puck on the 2014-2015 NOJHL season at home on Friday, Sept. 5 against the Mattawa Blackhawks. Formerly the North Bay Trappers, the Blackhawks are set to play their first season in their new town.
The GNML’s Timmins Majors, Hautanen’s former team, also begin their schedule on Sept. 5, in New Liskeard against the Cubs at 8 p.m.