By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
There were some nervous legs and new faces on the ice of the General Motors Centre on April 24 as Oshawa Generals’ draft picks and a collection of free agents hit the ice for orientation camp.
The weekend included a day of conditioning, physicals and team photos on April 23, followed by the annual Red vs. White game on April 24, which saw a small contingent of dedicated Gens fans in attendance.
Top 2016 OHL draft picks in Danil Antropov (1st round), Serron Noel (2nd round) and goaltender Nathan Torchia (4th round) joined seasons Gens rookies in Jack Studnicka, Robbie Bert, Kyle MaClean and Jaime Allison and a group of free agent invities in a friendly scrimmage to get themselves acquainted.
For Noel, despite his towering size at 6,2’, he admits he was slightly intimidated at the start of the camp.
“I was a little nervous at the start, seeing all the big kids, it was really intimidating, but once you got on the ice and they introduced themselves, they were really nice and they made me feel like I was right at home,” he says.
Antropov, the son of former Toronto Maple Leaf Nic Antropov, says he felt the same.
“They treated me like I was already part of the team, they took me in right away and it was a great atmosphere,” he says.
Despite slow starts, both rookies started to impress as the game went on.
General’s general manager Roger Hunt says both players were exactly what the club had expected, noting Antropov’s vision and skilled passing on the ice and the speed of Noel.
“He is a guy our scouts really touted and wanted to get,” he says of Noel.
For the Gens, Noel was the complete package of size and skill, something highly sought after by the Generals organization.
In the 2016 draft, eight of the team’s first nine picks, with exception of goaltender Torchia, were players over six feet tall.
“We’ve had success here with size,” Hunt says. “But you can’t just have big players you have to have guys that have skills and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
It will be a long summer of training for the young players, who will need to seriously impress if they wish to break onto the club’s roster.
With only one overager in goaltender Justin Nichols gone from roster, technically all of last season’s team is eligible to return, meaning there could be a few battles for positions come training camp in August.
“I think training camp this year is going to be incredible,” Hunt says. “I think they’re going to have to come in and play as well as they can.”
And that goes for rookies and current Oshawa Generals alike, Hunt says.
“The reality of this league is sometimes, some young guy will take your spot.”
It’s a goal that both Antropov and Noel tell The Oshawa Express they have on their to-do list, as they plan to spend the summer gaining strength and speed.
“I’m going to work hard to be there next year and get my spot on the team and perform as well as I can,” Antropov says.
Along with any rookies making the jump to the OHL, a couple roster changes could be coming in the form of the team’s CHL Imports.
According to Hunt, last year’s Import Draft pick Lukas Lofquist will be returning to play in Sweden, while the details about Misha Moor are still being cemented. Hunt says Moor hopes to keep playing in Canada.
Oshawa will also have an early pick in the upcoming 2016 Import Draft on June 28, which could again see strong foreign talent make its way onto the roster.