NOJHL sending plethora of talent to major junior
SUDBURY, Ont. – While the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League continues to send record numbers of its alumni to the NCAA and Canadian university ranks, the same can be said for a large group of alumnus that have made step up to the Canadian Hockey League major junior ranks.
No less than 15 NOJHL alumni are currently with Ontario Hockey League or Quebec Major Junior Hockey League clubs.
Boasting a tremendous affiliation with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, the Powassan Voodoos are the beneficiaries of now having four skaters who have seen time at major junior in North Bay.
That list includes former NOJHL rookie of the year, first team all-star and league most valuable player Steve Harland, who averaged a point-per-game in total with his time with the Voodoos and Battalion in 2015-16 which included 40 points in 53 OHL outings.
Daniel Walker, Eric Allair and David Sherman have also been in the OHL after honing their skills in Powassan.
The North Bay connection also features members of the former local Trappers franchise that saw NHL draft pick Evan Cormier now stand tall in net for the Saginaw Spirit joining defenceman Zachary Shankar who went from the NOJHL to North Bay of the OHL.
You also had last season’s CCM Hockey league first team all-star goalkeeper Garrett Forrest sign with the Flint Firebirds a couple weeks back.
A stable working relationship along with icing one of the premier teams in all of the Canadian Junior Hockey League has aided the Soo Thunderbirds as they continually send their prospects to both the NCAA and OHL.
Learning from one of the elite coaches in the NOJHL in Jordan Smith, along with previous efforts of former general manager Kevin Cain, the Thunderbirds boast a solid core of players competing in the OHL.
Another NHL draft choice, Boris Katchouk, still skates in his home games at Essar Centre, but now for the Soo Greyhounds.
You also have former T-Birds stopper Mario Culina manning the nets for the Windsor Spitfires while the high-energy twins, Darian and Drake Pilon, are preparing for their rookie campaign with the Sudbury Wolves.
There is also Nicolas Sicoly aiming to secure a roster spot with the Guelph Storm.
The OHL isn’t the only major junior loop to secure NOJHL talent as a trio of former NOJHL defenceman are making their respective mark in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Ryan Mooney will enter his first full campaign with the Moncton Wildcats while Ryan O’Bonsawin and Jamey Lauzon have seen games with Gatineau and Baie-Comeau respectively.
Last season saw the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners send Lauzon, along with netminder Marc Audet and forward Arthur Miller to the Q with the latter pair joining the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Miller went on to join the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.
“One of our major goals is to further enhance the development of our players, officials and team staff members as they make the move to the next level while also continuing their education,” offered NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca.
“The ever-increasing talent level from our league that has moved up to the OHL or within the CHL is a testament to a lot of hard-working individuals who are doing the right things, both on the ice and in the class room,” added Mazzuca.
“Be it through solid education packages offered by OHL and CHL clubs, or going through the NCAA or CIS route, our players are to be commended for making thoughtful decisions through careful consideration as they look to forge their path and careers through the next level.”
A number of other current NOJHLers earned tryouts with CHL clubs including goaltender MacKenzie Savard and forward Matthew Neault of Rayside-Balfour along with Shadow Reuben of Iroquois Falls.