Great Lakes Junior C: Prospects Report
This report looks at the 1997 and 1998 born players from Chatham-Kent suiting up for the Dresden Kings, Blenheim Blades, and Wheatley Sharks, and also takes a peek into next seasons 1999 group.
Ross Krieger (1998), the Great Lakes Rookie of the Year highlights Dresden’s group. Krieger is a gifted playmaker who will have Junior B and A teams from across the province knocking at his door. He scored at more than a point per game pace in both the regular season and playoffs, and his vision and playmaking abilities are well above the Junior C level. Playing alongside Krieger, one of the hidden gems in the Great Lakes this season may turn out to be hometown boy Will Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff scored at more than a point per game in the playoffs, and is a reliable two way player, who makes smart decisions and is tenacious on the forecheck. Alongside Krieger, he’d make a nice package deal for a Junior B club. Steven Funk is another King who will likely make the Junior B jump next season. A puck moving defender, Funk will slide nicely into a team’s 5-6 slots on the point and will likely develop into a top tier Junior B defender. If he’s not there, it’s a numbers game. Dede Cato is the wild card of the bunch. Should have been in Junior A, and then Junior B, and was, but returned to C. He will likely find a B team, but could end up back with the Kings. Another player worthy of mention is Kyle Dawson. A 1998, Dawson was a call up to the Kings, and led the local high school team to a LKSSAA championship. Slick hands stemming from a lacrosse background, Dawson will be a big time contributor for the Kings next season, that is, if he doesn’t surprise people with a jump to the next level. Finally, Derek Shaw was a midseason addition to the Kings after the Kings acquired an extra underage card. The former Elgin-Middlesex player never grabbed a prime time roll in Dresden, but will be a key contributor next season.
Teddy McGeen is the mot surefire Junior B player among the Blades’ youth. McGeen was dynamic at times for the Blades, and was able to produce when called up to the Chatham Maroons, the team he started, and ended the season with. Small but skilled, McGeen should be able to produce in B next season if surrounded by the right players. Blair Derynck was Blenheim’s underage player. He battled for the spot with fellow former Chatham-Kent Cyclone Nick Delyzer who ended up in Junior B with Lambton Shores. Derynck showed steady progression throughout the year. He needs to develop consistency and footspeed to succeed at the next level. A big bodied player, don’t be surprised to see the Chatham Maroons give him a shot on their bottom two lines next season as they rebuild. Nolan Vandenboorn is an enigma. He looked uninspired and at times timid to start the season. As he acclimitized the the Junior game though and began confidently asserting himself, the offense started pouring in, as he notched a point per game, and nearly matched his regular season totals in the playoffs. He’ll be one of Blenheim’s go to scorers next season if he chooses to stay rather than trying the Junior B route. Justin Baker was pure energy for the Blades this season. His work ethic and defensive role were crucial for the Blades this year. If Baker returns next season, he’ll be one of the leagues top two-way forwards. Blenheim has two wild card prospects in the bunch. Zach Horvath could and should be playing Junior B based on his skills. It’s his intangibles many question after he left his team early in the year. Finally, Philip Clarke, a call up this season and ‘AAA’ alumni, would have been a welcomed addition to any local Junior C team this season. Look for him to step in next year and earn a prime time opportunity.
It was hard to find a silver lining in the Lakers’ season this year, but the fact most, if not all of their prospects will return is as good as it gets. The team’s rookie of the year Brendan Ritchie played a regular shift, and as time goes on, will likely develop into one of Wallaceburg’s top scorers. Look for his totals at the C level to double next season as he plays on Wallaceburg’s top two lines. Brock Daugherty showed creativity, as well as a two-way responsibility. He will be counted on next year to lift Wallaceburg out of the basement. The lone player who could project onto a Junior B roster is former OHL pick Mike Zottl, who played half a season in B this year. The big blueliner has holes in his game, but a strong summer could change that. If he returns, he is a premier Junior C defender in the waiting. Cory Lucier, another local 1997, looks to be Wallaceburg’s top scoring defenseman for years to come. If his skating improves, he’ll be a true catalyst from the back end. Finally, looking at players coming in, hometown boy Brad Maxim would be a coup for the Lakers, if they can steal him away from Dresden where he played a pair of games. With players avoiding Wallaceburg these days, Maxim might be a lost cause, but would add an excellent mix of energy, two-way play, and the potential for offense to their lineup.
Nolan Gardiner didn’t put up big numbers in his rookie campaign, but that’s not his game. The Ottawa 67s pick is a grinder, and agitator, who scouts went so far as to describe as “tough” after the draft. He should make the jump to B and punish opposing scorers all season. With a good start to next season, he could earn a call up to the O. If not, opportunities will remain for this prospect who is still following an upward trajectory. Scott Florence, Austin Thompson, and Riley Enns are candidate to move to B as well.
Next Year’s Crop
Along with the aforementioned Dawson, Clarke, and Maxim, a group of remaining 1998 players including Ben Nicholls, Kyle Fife, and Nolan Hakr, who would all be welcomed additions to a C team next season.
As for 1999 players, Chatham-Kent’s incoming crop is not as strong as the 1998’s. Kier Cumming will likely make the move to Junior B with Chatham where he auditioned this season. Tyler Hotham and Kadin Ritchie are a pair to watch out of Dresden, both of whom could step into Junior C positions. Zach Lindley projects as one of the groups best, but will need the right opportunity as underage netminders are uncommon. Brady Hogg and Drew Vandehogen had strong second halfs, and are South Kent locals who will vie for a spot with the Blades. Carter Wright is an offensive talent who could step in and score immediately for a Junior C team. As well, the group boasts a large number of locals who will undoubtedly enter the Junior ranks in the coming seasons including Logan Calhoun, Kyle Hachey, Cullen Bowles, and Geoffrey Vandenboorn.