An injury to a second year defenceman with five points to his name shouldn’t be that much cause for concern.
But when that defenceman is Mark Woolley, it is.
The Guelph Storm blueliner suffered an undisclosed lower body injury a couple of weeks ago and has missed the team’s past three games.
On Friday Storm coach/GM George Burnett said that the team was hoping Woolley, who had an ultrasound earlier this week, would only be out another week or two, but that it was still uncertain if it might be longer.
That is not good news for the Guelph Storm.
In just a short time Woolley has established himself to be arguably the team’s most consistent defensive defenceman.
Despite his limited offensive production, he leads the team with a plus-7 rating, is a physical presence, makes a great first outlet pass and doesn’t take a lot of bad penalties.
Losing Woolley for any length of time would be a huge blow to the team.
Particularly since the Storm already chose to go with two 16-year-olds on the roster this year in Daniil Chayka and Zack Terry. A third, Luka Profaca, has also seen some call-up duty.
Profaca is likely to see some more time with the team in the near future, with Dmitri Samorukov expected to make the Russian team for the world juniors.
While Profaca is only allowed to play 10 games as a call-up, Burnett said the five he has already played don’t count because he was filling in for Terry and Chayka while they were away at the under-17 tournament.
Any games Profaca is called up for during the world juniors also wouldn’t count against that 10-game limit, Burnett said, because he would be filling in for Samorukov if he makes the team.
Still, no contender wants to go with three 16-year-old defencemen in the lineup for very long.
It would put a huge strain on the team’s other four veteran defenceman, something that was highlighted last weekend in a close game against London, where Chayka saw just a handful of shifts and the four veterans pretty much played the rest of the game.
Woolley is a key part of the Storm, a younger player other team’s would normally be asking for in exchange for a veteran as Guelph tinkers with the lineup for a run at a conference title.
But the fact is Woolley plays like a veteran and is already an integral part of that run.
Other teams might want him. But the Storm needs him.
Now they just have to keep their fingers crossed the injury is short term.