The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds opened up their 2003 training camp on August 24th as players drafted in the 2002 and 2003 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selections made their way to the Northern Ontario city to register for the team’s mini camp. It will feature on-ice workouts including four scrimmages over two days prior to the main camp which will open up on Wednesday.
The Hounds are looking to bounce back from a 2002-03 season that was filled with turmoil. They will have a new general manager in Dave Torrie as well as a new coaching staff featuring two former Hounds. Head Coach Marty Abrams was a goaltender for the 1984-85 Greyhound team that went 33-0 on home-ice and 54-11-1 overall, en route to one of the OHL’s best single seasons ever. Assistant Coach Denny Lambert who was a member of the 1990-91 Greyhound team that knocked off Eric Lindros’ Oshawa Generals in the OHL Championship to make it to their first of three straight Memorial Cup appearances.
The Greyhounds will look to repair what went wrong last season, although it will not be easy. Torrie, who was hired around mid-summer to take over the General Manager reigns, has slowly tinkered with his roster in preparation for the upcoming season. The first move Torrie made was bringing in defenseman Mike Looby from Brampton in exchange for a 2005 third round draft pick.
With just two veteran defensemen in Jordan Smith and Brad Staubitz on the roster and eligible to come back without filling one of three overage spots, Torrie went shopping again and brought in blueliner Matt Manias</b> from the Memorial Cup champion Kitchener Rangers, along with a 2004 third round draft pick and future considerations in exchange for the rights to American defenseman Matt Lashoff. The additions of Looby and Manias bring some more stability to the Hounds defensive corps.
The Hounds also moved veteran goaltender Joey Biasucci, trading him to Kitchener for a conditional draft pick. Not long after moving Biasucci, the Hounds pulled the trigger on another trade sending a 2004 seventh round draft pick, along with sophomore right wing Ryan Kitchen to the Oshawa Generals for 19-year-old goaltender Kevin Druce along with another 19-year-old in Matt Maccarone.
The team did receive some disappointing news as American defenseman Mike Van Wagner, who was selected as a 17-year-old in the fourth round of the 2003 OHL Priority Selection, decided to spend the 2003-04 season playing for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League in order to maintain his NCAA college eligibility. Van Wagner remains open to the idea of playing in the OHL at some point but his idea is to weigh his options first.
The Hounds will open training camp with their top three draft picks from the 2003 draft all signed and ready to step in this season. Chris Lawrence, selected in the first round (sixth overall), Matt Leszczynski, selected in the second round (26th overall) and David Jarram, also selected in the second round (28th overall) have all agreed to play with the Hounds this season.
With Lawrence at 6’4″ and 185 lbs, as well as the 6’3″, 195-pound Jarram and Leszczynski, the smaller of the three at 6’1″ and 185 lbs, the Hounds have addressed any concerns over the size of the hockey club.
This year’s training camp wil make for some interesting battles as Torrie has said that he would be willing to take a rookie over a veteran if the possibility arose. Excitement is building among the players and it should make for an interesting season in Sault Ste. Marie.