The Sudbury Wolves prospects came to orientation camp to make a statement — a clear message there's a youth movement coming to the franchise that is big, strong and ready to play rough.
This was evident in the drills and scrimmages. The battles were fierce and physical for loose pucks. The players didn’t shy away from making serious contact and make sure the first impression they left on team brass was memorable.
“We drafted players who we thought were going to compete,” Sudbury president and GM Blaine Smith said. “The players are exactly what we thought we were getting — big, strong kids who compete hard all the time.
“The bonus for me was the speed the players displayed. They can skate. A lot of these players will be in the mix at our main camp.”
The prospects also left with an impression. Each drill was hotly contested. The scrimmage sizzled at a wicked pace. It opened some eyes.
“There was a lot of physical contact,” 2014 third-round pick Trenton Bourque said. “I didn’t think there was going to be much, but no, there was a lot. It was a great atmosphere.”
This year's first-round pick, Michael Pezzetta, came as advertised. Taken 11th overall, he arrived with some hype and didn’t disappoint. Pezzetta was all business and made no apologies for it.
“Every time I step on the ice, I like to give all I got,” the 6-1, 200-pound forward said. “You don’t get better unless you do that. Everybody was going hard. Everybody was giving it all they got.”
The drills were led by Sudbury associate coach David Matsos, who kept the prospects on their toes at all times. Head coach Paul Fixter was the eagle in the sky, watching from a perch at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Arena.
Fixter liked what he saw. He expects to see a lot more when the Wolves main camp opens in late August.
“It was showing them what we are going to expect,” Fixter said. “These kids came in in great shape. I will say this … there are a few players here that will be in this line up in September.”
A lot of the attention was on Pezzetta, and for good reason. As the team’s top pick in 2014, he is the future face of the franchise.
“He showed who he is and what he can do,” Smith said. “He is big, hard to handle, physical and loves to compete for every puck. These are the players we need.”
The orientation camp is designed to give prospects a taste of the main training camp, when the rookies, the vets and the older prospects all fight for the same jobs.
“(Orientation camp is) about educating the players and parents on the organization and Sudbury,” Smith said. “It is their first step towards becoming a Sudbury Wolves player.”
For some, the steps will end here. For others, they've only begun.