From the Stands
By Paul Osborne
The trade deadline, a new prospect to watch and a two-win weekend meant it was a pretty good last seven days for the Guelph Storm.
Vice-president and general manager Mike Kelly made two moves at the trade deadline last week, picking up overage defenceman Saverio Posa from Windsor for a fourth-round draft pick, and signing 19-year-old goaltender Michael Nishi.
Nishi has bounced around the Ontario Hockey League the past couple of seasons and was most recently with the Ottawa 67’s (2011-2012) and Gatineau in the Quebec league where he played 21 games this year with a 3.59 goals against average. Nishi will see minimal playing time behind Garret Sparks, but offers some insurance for next year if Sparks doesn’t return as an overage player to begin the season.
Goaltender Keegan Wilson was released to make room for Posa as the third overage.
Windsor’s former captain is a nice addition for Kelly. In just two games it is easy to see why he will help the defence. He loves to jump into the rush and even though he is only 5-foot-10, he is very adept at separating his player from the puck. He can’t do it with brawn so he does it with great skating, leverage and the smart use of angles in getting to his man.
“If he was 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 he’d be a really high end guy (when it comes to NHL draft picks),” said Storm coach Scott Walker.
“He still has a chance to be a (good pro) and I have told Zac Leslie to watch the way he does things, because I think they are very similar players.”
Posa gives the Storm five veteran D-men with Leslie, Matt Finn, Brock Beukeboom and Andrey Pedan. Ben Harpur, who has played incredibly well considering he’s been asked to fill third and fourth defencemen minutes as a 17-year-old, will slide in the sixth hole where he should be very effective.
Kelly has stated he thinks the Storm can be competitive in the OHL playoffs with any team this season and thinks it’s very important that they at least get to the second round of the playoffs to give his young core some post-season experience.
However, it is next year and the year after when he feels they can really do some damage. Kelly has also filled his cupboard with draft picks that he can use to take players or use as bargaining chips. Here are the picks he has in the first four rounds over next four seasons: 2013 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 4; 2014: 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4; 2015: 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4; 2016: 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4.
A draft pick from this past June had a chance to impress his future coach last Friday night. Marc Stevens, drafted in the fifth round, was called up to fill in for Tanner Richard who was sitting out a one game suspension. Stevens looked very solid in the Storm 3-2 win over Barrie, even picking up an assist.
He has been signed to a three-year player contract so fans can expect to see him in the line-up next season.
“I see him as being a little like Manny Malhotra,” said Kelly, who feels Stevens would have been drafted as high as the third round had he declared fully his desire to come to the OHL before the draft.
“At the NHL level he will be a good support guy on the first or second line or an outstanding player on the third line. He has some offensive skill but his real strength is his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.”
From the Land of Oz . . . The Storm downed Kingston 4-1 on Sunday behind a very strong effort from 17-year-old Jason Dickinson. The highly regarded potential NHL pick had plateaued over the last month, but over his last two games he has shown the jump in his step that made his such a high prospect . . . Tyler Bertuzzi returned to the line-up on the weekend after a long layoff because of a concussion, and looked solid . . . At the Storm’s Town Hall meeting after Friday’s game, Storm owner Rick Hoyle said the team is looking at the possibility of hosting the Memorial Cup next year. Although he said with larger arenas in the league, which would mean additional revenue for owners, it is becoming more of a challenge for a centre like Guelph to meet the financial guarantees necessary.