Far more than usual, the Sudbury U18 AAA Wolves will have a North Bay flavour to their lineup this year.
Sure, at various times in the past, the local Great North U18 League have welcomed the occasional athlete who had opted to head west along Highway 17 rather than don the Trappers' jersey.
But in signing goaltender Jackson Curran, defencemen Jackson Culin and André Mondoux and forwards Ryan Dazé and Bryden Shank, the Wolves have immersed not only quantity, but quality, the NB quintet sure to be at the forefront of the Sudbury efforts in 2023-2024.
Throw in Sault Ste Marie native Carter Nadon, rounding out the tandem in the crease, and it's become crystal clear that Wolves' head coach Brian Dickinson was not about to leave any stone unturned in seeking to reclaim a GNML title that has eluded the franchise since the 2017-2018 campaign.
And it's not like Dickinson is steering his way clear of AAA talent that has ascended through the ranks of either the NCHA (Nickel City Hockey Associatio) or the SMHA (Sudbury Minor Hockey Association).
Captain and returning forward Aleksander Duguay headlines a local contingent that, to date, also includes Félix St Onge, Nate Lazarus and Carter Makasoff on the blueline and Carter Drigo, Benoit Hogue and Cain Savage up front.
"I think it's the first year that we've had drafted guys on the team, so I am really excited about that," said Duguay, the 17 year-old preparing for his final year of secondary school studies at St Charles College.
"I think we have a really strong offensive team," he added. "I think it can be a special year this year."
Though a few slots remain to be filled - Dickinson has indicated there could be another two or three signings as early as tonight (August 30th) - Duguay is anxious to help show the way for one and all who will share the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex dressing room this year.
"I'm not always the most vocal guy - but I want to be a role model to others, have them follow in my steps," said the young man who put up 22 points in 28 games one year ago. "I think I'm a good leader in that sense."
The team opens play on September 29th, kicking off one of Duguay's most favourite hockey excursions.
"We start off the year in New Liskeard, and then Kap (Kapuskasing) and Timmins," said Duguay. "Those trips are a good way to bond with the with the team, a good way to start the year."
The AAA Wolves will also be in Waterloo on the weekend of September 8th to the 10th, part of a four-team showcase event to get a little game action in before the launch of league play.