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You need more than youth to be a rebuilding hockey team

The Guelph Storm will be a very young team this year but still needs guidance and leadership
Saxon on the Storm

How young is too young?

The Guelph Storm was obviously going to be a younger team this year, given that they are rebuilding after a veteran-laden run to an OHL championship.

But the question remains, how young do you go and does rebuilding mean going as young as possible? 

No, because being a young team does not automatically mean you are a rebuilding team.

Rebuilding includes developing  young players and throwing them to the wolves isn’t necessarily developing them. They need guidance. They need role models. They need leadership.

The Storm might is carrying three 16 year olds, but that doesn’t tell the whole picture of its inexperience as with there are a total of 12 rookies on this year’s roster of 24 (one forward still has to be dealt with).

I am including those who played just a few games last year, such as Ben McFarlane and Matt Papais, but doesn’t include a guy like Zack Terry who was with the team all year but for all intents and purposes could be considered a rookie given his lack of ice time last year.

That’s eight rookie forwards, three rookie defencemen and a rookie goaltender.

A couple of those rookies have some decent competition under their belts (forward Jacob Roach is 19 and has a year of tier II and a year of junior B experience and Andrei Bakanov played in the USHL last season) but they are still new to the OHL.

Liam Hawel, if he doesn’t get signed and play in the minors this season, would almost certainly be traded. Big centres coming off 78-point seasons with last year’s playoff run on his resume would attract a tonne of attention, even if he is an overage.

Given the fact there is still one forward to move, barring injury, Hawel could be gone before the season starts.

Then there’s Owen Lalonde.

As the team’s lone 19-year-old defenceman, it’s unlikely the team will be looking to trade him, but you can bet the farm that there will be some huge offers for Lalonde before the trade deadline.

Not only is he good and experienced, he’s also 19, meaning you don’t have to create or have an open OA spot like you would for Hawel. Plus, you could have the rights to him for another year if he returns to the OHL next season.

But trading Lalonde could leave you with four 17-year-old defencemen and three 18 year olds, two of who are rookies.

Would the promise of a big return force the team’s hand or would the development of the team be better served by hanging on to Lalonde all season?

That’s a call that will likely have to be made shortly before the Jan. 10 trade deadline. At least the Storm would be in the driver’s seat and, if Lalonde returns for an overage year, they could get a return next year after he has helped nurture this year’s youngsters.

And there will be plenty of nurturing to do. Just make sure you have the right people to do it.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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