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Gens strengthen defensive core

Joe Rupoli (Photo by Ian Goodall).

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The Oshawa Generals are known for hunting out a combination of size and skill, and the team’s latest member definitely fits the bill.

Oshawa’s fifth-round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, defender Joe Rupoli has officially committed to the club for next season. The six-foot-three, 200-pound defenseman will hopefully add further strength to the club’s blueline come next season.

“Certainly, we’re hoping the net step for his development is to come here and play with us,” says Roger Hunt, the team’s general manager.

“I know Joe well enough to know he’s going to be in incredible shape when he comes back to camp and his focus is to be a General and we’re hoping that he can do that.”

Rupoli spent last season with the Mississauga Chargers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, managing three goals and 12 assists with the club along with 53 penalty minutes.

“He is what we like – he’s a big defenseman, he’s got an aggressive steak to him,” Hunt says. “I think he plays within his limitations, so it’s good for him that he’s getting rewarded for the work that he did last year.”

With the trade of Mitch Vande Sompel at the trade deadline, the defense of the Oshawa Generals has been missing its quarterback. And while Hunt admits that players like Vande Sompel don’t come around all that often, he’s hoping the team can begin to form a defensive group that is better all-around.

“Vande’s departure left a big hole and it takes a space player to fill that hole,” Hunt says.

“I think with our returning D…I don’t think we have a Vande Sompel, but maybe a team of guys that can carry that load in a group.”