The most valuable piece of equipment when the Guelph Storm hits the ice next week will very likely be the nametags and marker players use to identify themselves.
The Storm will start with a two-day development camp at the Sleeman Centre Monday and Tuesday for 40 rookies, then open their main camp on Wednesday, with 10 returning players and eventually two imports joining the 30 or so rookies moving on to the main camp.
Given the unprecedented situation of having missed over a season due to the pandemic and having two full draft classes joining the team, 43 of the 55 players on the training camp roster are rookies.
(Returning: Goal: Owen Bennett; Defence: Daniil Chayka, Michael Bianconi, Luka Profaca; Forward: Danny Zhilkin, Cooper Walker, Matt Papais, Ben McFarlane, Marco Sikic, Jacob Maillet)
“At the end of the day there could be 13, 14 or 15 first-time players in the league,” said Storm coach/GM George Burnett of what the final roster might look like this year.
“The simplest way I've tried to explain to everybody is that we’re dealing with two full draft classes and a portion of the ‘03 class as well and we’re trying to be as fair as we possibly can to as many as we possibly can.
“We’re going to have to make some tough choices, but hopefully some fair choices, very quickly.”
The first exhibition game is set for Sept. 4, at home against Mississauga.
“There’s still room for kids to come in and impress and earn themselves a spot,” Burnett said.
Making the team even younger is the fact that none of the 10 returning players are overagers.
“We don’t have any commitments from overage players at this particular time,” Burnett said, although that could change as the Storm camp, and others around the league, progress and teams make decisions on players.
“There’s a lot of moving targets right now,” he said.
Two players, Daniil Chayka (Las Vegas) and newcomer Sasha Pastujov (Anaheim), will be heading to National Hockey League camps prior to likely coming to Guelph and new imports Valentin Zhugin and Leo Hafenrichter (from Russia and Germany) will be arriving later in September.
Burnett said the team has no immediate plans to replace departed assistant coach Ken Peroff and for now he and associate coach Chad Wiseman will handle the bench duties.
Corey Locke, Denver Manderson and Barb Underhill continue to provide skill development assistance and Rob Beatty is the new goaltending coach.
Guelph has five pre-season games lined up prior to the season opener Oct. 8 in Kitchener. The home opener is the next night, a Saturday, at 7 p.m.
Fans are allowed to watch on-ice sessions. They must be fully vaccinated and enter through Gate 6 on the upper level of the mall.
Full schedule can be found here.