More than 50 players will hit the ice at Sudbury Arena Thursday in hopes of securing a spot on the Wolves roster for the 2014-2015 season.
A year after few decisions had to be made, Head Coach Paul Fixter, Associate Coach Dave Matsos and the team’s management have more than their fare share of decisions to make this time around.
Almost half of the team’s roster that ended last season won’t be back: Palazzesse, Carrick, Faksa, Crisp, Kahun, Duininck, Raine and Cull are all moving on the next phase of their lives.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a solid base of talent to work with.
That starts with Nick Baptiste. He took over as the team’s offensive leader last season with a career year, notching 45 goals and 44 assists for 89 points. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick took his game to a new level and I fully expect him to continue that rise to become one the league’s premier players.
Baptiste won't do it alone though, and will have a strong supporting cast of forwards available to him. Nathan Pancel, Brody Silk, Jacob Harris, Danny Desrochers, Ray Huether, Matt Schmalz and Connor Burgess all expected back and all expected to play a bigger role on the team for the upcoming season.
The Wolves blueline may be what many consider a big cause for concern. Overage candidate Jeff Corbett along with third-year defencemen Evan de Haan and Conor Cummins, as well as sophomore Kyle Capobianco, will go into the season as the most experienced on the back end.
Goaltending will also be under close scrutiny. It’s expected Troy Timpano heads into training camp as the perceived No. 1 starter. In limited playing time during his rookie year, Timpano looked good and posted a 6-1-1-1 record with a 3.43 goals against average and a .894 save percentage.
There is no doubt he has the potential be a top OHL goalie, but Timpano will have to prove to he has what it takes to get the job done.
Also up for discussion will be the back-up goaltending position. No clear-cut candidates come to mind, so training camp and the pre-season will be needed to fill that spot.
It will also be interesting to see if the two players the Wolves selected in the CHL Import Draft will have an impact. Eighteen-year-old forward Pavel Jenys, a Minnesota Wild prospect, and 17-year-old Russian forward Ivan Kashtanov both come with impressive credentials.
Besides the imports, fans will have to familiarize themselves with a few new names, too, always a source of anticipation for Wolves fans.
First-round draft pick Michael Pezzetta will get a lot of attention. He fits the mould of what management wants the team to look like — bigger and stronger.
Pezzetta, at 6-1 and 200 pounds, is described as skilled and a worker with good character and a strong work ethic.
Pezzetta had a busy off-season, earning good reports out of the 2014 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge camp, as he looks to secure a spot on the team in November.
Other players who have committed to the Wolves include third-round draft pick Trenton Bourque, fourth-round pick Brady Pataki and 17-year-old defenceman Devon Paliani, who was acquired in a trade with Kingston in early June.
So there are plenty of decisions to make, decisions that will come fast and furious. Training camp officially lasts two days, with the annual Blue and White game goes Saturday morning. The first of seven exhibition games begin Sunday afternoon.
I won’t be shocked if there are a number of surprises before the roster is announced for opening night Sept. 26.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the News Director at KiSS 105.3 and Q92. This column appears every other week in Northern Life.