From The Stands
By Paul Osborne
Guelph Storm vice-president and general manager Mike Kelly says he will be more aggressive looking for trades this summer to upgrade his roster than in previous seasons.
“While we can’t do anything until June 1 (when the trade embargo is lifted), we are working towards having serious conversations at that point,” said Kelly.
“We’re being much more proactive at reviewing things. You can also probably get a little better value in the summer months than you can in November or at the Jan. 10 deadline, but the downfall is there are a lot more unknowns.”
This marks a major shift in thinking since Kelly came to the team a few years back, but he says that the team is now to the point where they need to bring in the right players to put them over the hump.
“I usually want to see where everyone aligns in training camp because kids can change so much between now and then,” admitted Kelly. “And it’s hard to project which overage players will be back, or which high end 19-year-olds might sign and stick with the NHL, but we’re going to be pretty aggressive.”
It might sound like Kelly is saying “this is the year we are going for it” but he feels the roster has now matured to the point where they can be a contender every year.
“We do think of the three years (I’ve been here) this is the most logical one,” he said. “But I think we’ll be good the next two or three years as well. This is the first year we’ll be in the top 20th percentile in experience and age. In the past couple of years we were probably only in the top 40 or 50th. I expect we’ll be in the top 20 over the next few seasons.”
The Western Conference will be extremely tough again next year.
The London Knights have six of their top eight scorers back next year and could get one of Seth Griffith (81 points) or Alex Broadhurst (63) back as overage players.
Owen Sound loses Daniel Catenacci and Cody Ceci but will return up to 16 players from this year’s roster, and Erie should be better as well. Kitchener will likely lose their top six scorers in Joshua Leivo, Tobias Rieder, Ryan Murphy, Matt Puempel and Frank Corrado.
But like London, the Rangers always seem to bring in what I like to call their “magic players” who appear out of thin air to always keep them competitive.
The other key element of the Storm’s future is the European Draft, which is coming up in a few weeks.
Guelph has two first round picks looking to replace Andrey Pedan and Tanner Richard, who are expected to move on to professional careers with the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively.
I’ll have more on what Kelly is looking for in that draft in a future column.
From the Land of Oz . . . the Storm held their fitness day for new draft picks on Saturday, and they changed things up quite a bit. Gone were tests like the traditional bench press, and inserted were things that more closely mimicked the game itself. Things like pulling a sled or throwing around heavy bags as if they were pushing for position in front of the net. “I was really impressed with the players,” said coach Scott Walker. “(First round pick Garrett) McFadden is just a natural athlete and (third rounder Adam) Craievich was awesome in the beep test, always looking behind him to see if someone was about to pass.” And both Kelly and Walker commented on how big this draft class is. One player they were glad to see attending was 6-foot-2, 195-pound Kyle Rhodes from Virginia, who won’t turn 16 until Christmas Day. “He was very athletic and is excited to play in the OHL,” said Kelly. That likely won’t be next season, but certainly he’ll have every chance to make it after that.