Maybe it was for the free popcorn, or maybe it was to see the future talent of the Sudbury Wolves.
Whatever the reason, the fans really turned out this weekend and the excitement was palpable at the Sudbury Arena as the Wolves held two free scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday.
Players from the 2018 OHL draft like first overall pick Quinton Byfield were mixed with 2017 draft picks, U18 draft picks and free agents looking to make an impression on the organization.
It was a cold weekend, but that’s not what the players will remember as a number praised the organization for the way it was organized and for getting the fans involved in the excitement.
“Our goal is to be a model franchise and a preferred destination, and with that, we think we can build a Memorial Cup contender, and it starts from these types of weekends,” Rob Papineau, Wolves general manager said.
On the ice, the rookies dazzled, as fans got to see the 2018 draft picks in action for the first time.
“I liked the skill level, the speed and the competition from these kids. Obviously, Quinton was pretty special and had some moments that took you out of your seat, but the entire group I thought really competed well. It’s going to be a fun training camp because these guys are going to take the level of skill and everything up, all of our existing team has to come back ready to compete for their spots,” Papineau said.
The final score was 5-2 for Team Blue over Team White.
Team White featured Quinton Byfield, yes, his team lost, but he showed why he was the first overall pick.
Size, speed and a never give up attitude that saw him create turnovers and offensive chances for his team.
The second goal, Byfield won a puck battle behind the net by lifting the stick of the defender, he quickly centred the puck out to Anthony Tabak who made no mistake.
Tabak was one of the returning Wolves who took part, he and Emmett Serensits were the two on Team White.
White featured fourth-round pick Nathan Ribau who played physical and calm on the back-end.
He and two free agents impressed.
Alexander Dameski who spent last season with the Welland Jr. Canadians showed that he has some great hands in the shootout portion following the scrimmage.
He scored one of the two goals for Team White.
Patrick Larkin is an interesting story.
He is a dual citizen from England and played 31 games for the Canadian International Hockey Academy Midget Green AAA team, with 32 points.
He was the assistant captain of the CIHA team based in Canada which features players from around the world like Belgium, Russia, Germany, Japan and England.
He also had three points in five games with Great Britain’s U18 team.
Over on the winning Team Blue, Blake Murray and Liam Ross were the two returning players.
They made their mark as Ross scored twice while Murray had two assists.
Second-round pick Jack Thompson didn’t make the scoreboard but was noticeably steady on the back-end for Team Blue.
Wolves third-round pick Blake Butler opened the scoring for Blue.
The surprise standouts for Team Blue came from the 2018 U18 draft.
Ryan McAllister had two assists and was moving the puck around very nicely, while goalie Mitchell Weeks was solid in net.
Outside of a few late turnovers 11th round pick Ryan Smith was a clear playmaker.
This will be the last we see of the Sudbury Wolves for some time as these players have a long Spring and Summer ahead of them if they want to crack that OHL roster.
Some may have left lasting impressions on the GM, while some still have a lot to prove.
“I had a few people say, maybe your draft was too good, because of the decisions that have to be made with some of these players but that’s a good place for our program to get to. Where we’ve got competition and guys competing for those jobs there was a lot of skill on the ice, and that’s something that we’re excited about,” Papineau said.
Either way, the excitement is evident around Sudbury Wolves hockey, and it will be interesting to see where this roster goes from here.