Great Lakes Junior C Team-By-Team Preview

Zach Horvath Blenheim Blades

Zach Horvath will be an offensive leader for the Blenheim Blades this season – Photo by Kelsey Vermeersch

With Great Lakes Junior C regular season days away, CKSN is taking an early look at the 2014-2015 Great Lakes season. We’re running down what’s new with each of Chatham-Kent’s teams from the offseason.

Blenheim Blades

The Blenheim Blades have lost a lot of scoring for 2014-2015. With leading scorer Cam Aitken signing with the Welland Jr. Canadians, Blenheim already has a hole to fill. Great Lakes rookie of the year Drew Marlatt, who was the team’s only other 20 goal scorer aside from Aitken, and the team’s third leading scorer is also gone, signing with the Lambton Shores Predators. The team’s fourth leading scorer, Justin Rossignol was an overager last season, and won’t be back either.

So where will the goals come from? The Blades have signed some of the better available 1998 players from Chatham-Kent, including Austin Bentley, who was an AP last year, but had 6 points in 9 games, and could make an impact. Blenheim also grabbed Justin Baker out of Chatham, and signed Blenheim resident Dylan Smith, who was playing Junior C near Ottawa. Veterans Zach Horvath, Tyler Boughner, and Jarrod Oliphant will need to be counted upon more heavily this season as well.

Despite losing veteran Dylan Bonner on the blueline, this is one position the Blades have improved at. After three season of Junior B with the Lambton Shores Predators, Ridgetown’s Bryan Boersma is coming home to finish his career. As well, overager Ben Pataki, who came to the team midseason last year after multiple season with the Chatham Maroons, will give Blenheim one of the best shutdown pairings in the league alongside Boersma. Add in veterans Corbin Hagerman and Mackenzie Dick, and new signing Lucas Hickey, who played Junior C with the Little Britain Merchants last season, and the Blades are very, very, deep on the blueline. Brayden Seliga decided to focus on school and not return, but attending St. Clair in Chatham, don’t count him out of a stretch run.

In net, the Blades have one of the league’s better one-two punches. They acquired Klinton Kenney from Amhersburg, and welcome back Eric Stewardson. Both will battle for playing time, and give the Blades a chance to win.

Dresden Kings

The Kings have said goodbye to captain and top defenseman Jeff Vanrabaeys as an overager, as well as budding star defender Dede Cato, who signed in Junior A. Tack on the loss of starting goalie Brent Paxton, also as an overager, and the Kings are weaker in their own end. Jim McKinlay, who returned from the GOJHL’s Lambton Shores Predators will be a huge addition in his overage season. If the Kings lose either John Montgomery, who came back from the Chatham Maroons late in the season, or Wade Esselment, who has also had Junior B stints, to the next level, they’ll be in trouble on the point.

Up front, the Kings look good, minus the loss of James Shelton. With Dillon Liberty back in the fold, and youngster Kevin Ritzer, their co-rookie of the year back, along with Macks Holmes, the team should still be able to score.

Dresden did add Steve Funk, who played a handful of games with Blenheim last year, and is a long time ‘AAA’ player in Chatham to their blueline, and nabbed Ross Krieger as their 16-year-old, who lit up the preseason. As well, Derrick Van Every was the best player on the Ridgetown-Blenheim Chiefs, leading them to a Juvenile OMHA title, and he returns to the Kings after a season away. Van Every was unstoppable in the preseason for the Kings.

The Kings don’t necessarily look worse this season, but they don’t necessarily look better either.

Wallaceburg Lakers

It seems like a broken record, but expect the Lakers to finish at the bottom of the Great Lakes loop. Last year fans of the Lakers threw fire at us for predicting a last place finish. In fact, we heard some new words and insults we’d never heard before. Unfortunately, the Lakers have done little to improve their roster, and missed out on a number of the areas top young prospects. Instead they decided to go young and local.

The Lakers have a mix of veterans back, but haven’t been able to develop and retain top players. Jacob Theoret, Mike Kindrachuck, and Connor Johnston return on the blueline, however, the rest of their preseason pointmen were forwards last year. Wallaceburg lost Mike Zottl to the Lambton Shores Predators.

Lucais Meyskens and Evan Weidenbach are the teams top two returning forwards and will be counted on for leadership and scoring.

How will the team win? Joel Sowinksi. He’ll be counted on heavily to stop a lot of rubber in net. Sowinski could be in for 40 plus shots every game, and he’ll need to stop almost all of those for what is sure to be a low scoring Lakers team.

Wheatley Sharks

The Sharks look good. Perhaps good enough to beat the Lakeshore Canadiens, who many are picking as the team to usurp the Essex 73s as the Great Lakes’ top dogs. They’ll be tough to beat, as they are deep at all positions. Wheatley returns veterans Cale Phibbs, Austin Thompson, Scott Florence, Brett Bowman, Brendan Anger, Mike Reid, Shawn Hope, and the list goes on. In other words, deep.

In net, the Sharks are expecting Connor MacKinnon and Adam Lebeouf to be one of the leagues top tandems.

In terms of rookies, Wheatley always has a strong minor hockey system in Essex County to draw from, and snagged Ottawa 67s draft pick Nolan Gardiner, a tenacious worker, who came on strong in the playoffs last year for the Chatham-Kent Cyclones Minor Midget ‘AAA’ team. He had a strong preseason and can contribute immediately.


There you have it. If you want a pick, the Blenheim Blades will finish atop these teams, and have the best chance to win it all of Chatham-Kent’s teams, but don’t count out the Wheatley Sharks either, who know how to win, especially in the playoffs.


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