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A new season taking shape in Rayside-Balfour

Canadians open training camp in less than two weeks

It's nearing the beginning of August which means it's time to try and figure out exactly what is going on with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the NOJHL. 

Based on recent history, status quo from the completion of the previous campaign seldom holds true to the beginning of the next.

In many ways, that appears to be the case again for the 2019-20 season, and first year General Manager Jeff Forsyth is just fine with that.

"Our entire staff could not be more excited about the future and the direction of the team, with the Burgess family firmly supporting not only the Canadians, but also the local community," said Forsyth, referencing the ownership change from what was a league-run franchise last year.

"Mark Burgess brings a wealth of experience from his time with the Sudbury Wolves and it's something that we, as a staff, could not be more grateful for."

While the business side of the operation has seen some turnover, much of the on-ice product, and those who work closely with it, remain intact. Long-time European scout and Levack native Dan Cuomo returns for his second year behind the bench, having led the team to a second round playoff appearance last March.

"I got to know Danny a little bit towards the end of last year and in to this season, and I really like the way he coaches," said Forsyth. "He's very calm, very passive, and he's all about skill. I think all players are going to benefit from that."

And though no less than 50 per cent of the players that are currently signed have earned at least a tryout at OHL camps next month, Forsyth foresees a scenario whereby the Canadians could return as many as a dozen or so of the players who finished the season in Rayside-Balfour.

The reality, for Forsyth and others in his position, is that there will be a need to pivot quickly, as things unfold over the course of the next six weeks. 

"There are seven of our 14 players going to OHL camps and the message to each one of them is very clear: you're going to that camp to make the hockey team, and we accept and understand that we are your plan B," said Forsyth.

With the caveat that some of the individuals mentioned could stick at the next level, Forsyth acknowledges that he would be more than happy to open the new year with David Bowen as his clear-cut number one goaltender, playing behind a defence-corps that would include Zachary Snow, Christopher Clark, Joel Mongeon and rookie Avery Chisholm. 

All of which means that there will be at least one spot, between the pipes, up for grabs with the Chelmsford Habitants, and a small handful of spots on the blue-line.

Up front, the team appears to have a nice mix, with veterans such as Brady Maltais, Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, Carson MacMillan (closed out the 2018-2019 season with RB), Jett Leishman, Ben Hatanaka, Gio Biondi, Alexandre Fowke, Zachary Hauseman and possibly Brett McGlade (looking at possibly attending university in Ottawa) welcoming in a 2003 trio of Oliver Smith, Zacharie Giroux and Mitchell Martin.

One final interesting commitment to note as Forsyth confirmed that the team has signed former St. Charles College Cardinals sniper Matty Belanger who, by all accounts, showed extremely well at spring camp.

"There is something there, and if we can turn that rock over, I really think that he is going to put himself on a watch list somewhere," said Forsyth. 

Some of the remaining questions will be answered, at least partially, on the weekend of Aug. 10 and 11, when the Canadian host their initial training camp weekend at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.

Rayside-Balfour will open their 2019-2020 schedule at home on Thursday, Sept. 5, facing off against the Powassan Voodoos in Chelmsford, before completing the home and home in Powassan the next night, and closing off that weekend on Sunday, with the Soo Eagles coming in to visit.