Wolves making headlines in early June
by Randy Pascal
On a day that bore far more resemblance to pre-season fall hockey weather than early June "fun in the sun", the Sudbury Wolves were making
The local juniors held a media reception Friday to introduce four newly-signed members of the team to the press, as well as providing further details about
their involvement in the 2nd annual Junior Club World Cup.
A trio of 2012 OHL draft selections that included Conor Cummins (1st rd), Francesco (Frankie) Vilardi (3rd rd) and Connor Burgess
(3rd rd) joined 2011 pick Evan de Haan, with the quartet inking their OHL contracts at the ceremony.
Looking to crack a defense-corps that is likely to include Frank Corrado, Justin Sefton, Charlie Dodero and Jeff Corbett, Cummins caught
the eye of Wolves scouts with his size and ability to handle the puck.
"Definitely a big part of my game is playing the offensive side of the puck, making the right plays," noted the 6'2" rearguard out of Whitby. "If there
was an opportunity to jump into the play, I did."
Working out alongside both pro athletes and OHL skaters in Oakville this summer, Cummins understands that the returning core of blueliners in Sudbury
provides a valuable source of information for a rookie to the league.
"I want to learn as much as I can from them, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well," said Cummins. Selected 14th overall this past April, Cummins
was not terribly surprised to be heading to Northern Ontario.
"I was in contact with some of the Sudbury staff - they had shown the most interest of any team." For Burgess, the likelihood of being drafted by his
father's team was seldom in doubt as the hard-working young man prepares for the focus of his efforts over the next few months.
"Skating and getting stronger," said Burgess. "I've always said that and there's always room to improve, so that's what I am going to be working on this
Playing almost 80 games this past year as a member of the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves team that advanced to the Telus Cup national
championship, the 16 year-old winger noted that feedback from his father, who also happens to own the team, has always been very supportive.
"He's been great," said Burgess. "He's never been too hard on me, just trying to help me as much as possible. Really, just being a dad." Selected five
slots before Burgess, Vilardi brings an offensive skill-set that he worked hard to balance with a more two-way game this past winter.
A native of Kingston, the 5'11" centerman has no issues about moving some six hours away from home. "Sudbury had called me about a week or so before
the draft," Vilardi said. "Being drafted to Sudbury is a perfect fit for me. It was a surprise, but a happy surprise."
A second round pick one year ago, de Haan suited up with the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Junior Hockey League this past year,
fine-tuning the skill-set needed in making the jump to the Ontario Hockey League.
"Mostly my defensive game," said de Haan. "My offensive skill kind of just comes to me. Playing against 20 year-olds this year helped." De Haan is the
younger brother of former Oshawa Generals defenseman and 1st round NY Islanders draft pick, Calvin de Haan.
A long-time hockey acquaintance of Sudbury forward Nick Baptiste, de Haan had little to no reservations about following in his brother's footsteps.
"OHL was always my first choice, especially with my brother playing in the league," he said.
"He told me that he had the best time of his life, and that Sudbury was one of his favourite places to play, a town that really rallies around the
team," said de Haan.
All four newly-signed rookies are hopeful to be among the 22 player roster that coach Trent Cull and the Wolves will bring along when the team
leaves for Moscow and Omsk later this summer, taking part in the Junior Club World Cup from August 18th to the 26th.
The ten team event includes squads representing Belarus (Dynamo Shinnik), the Czech Republic (HC Energie), Finland (HIFK - Junior
Champions), Latvia (HC Riga), Russia (Omsk Hawks - Junior Champions), Sweden (Linkoping HC - Junior Champions), the United States
(a USHL team to be named in mid-June) and the national junior teams from both Denmark and Norway.
Adding an additional two weeks of hockey to an already lengthy junior hockey schedule might be a concern, though Cull is very realistic. "I don't think
it's going to be the same as in season play," said the third year coach.
"I, as a coach, can't go over there with my foot completely on the gas. This is going to be a learning experience, a team bonding experience." From the
moment the Wolves 2011-2012 campaign ended with a first round playoff sweep at the hands of the Brampton Battalion, the focus for Cull shifted to
the following season.
"We lost two overage forwards and (OHL leading scorer) Michael Sgarbossa," said Cull. "We're going to need guys to make the right progression to
fill those roles. These are big shoes to fill, but this happens with every team."
"I think we have some really good pieces in place, but it's going to be how much these guys take that next step of actually being guys to be counted
upon," added Cull.
In other news on Friday, the Wolves traded goaltender Riley Corbin, drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 OHL draft, to the Plymouth Whalers.
In return for the Thunder Bay native, who was also drafted by the Sioux City Muskateers with the 70th pick of the USHL draft in 2011, Sudbury
receives the 5th and 11th round picks of the Whalers for the 2013 OHL draft.