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NOJHL preseason preview: French River Rapids

NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

NOJHL NETWORK MEDIA UPDATE

Release Date: Monday, August 22, 2016

NOJHL preseason preview: French River Rapids

SUDBURY, Ont. – While wins were hard to come by as an expansion team in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League last season, optimism abounds in Noelville, Ont., heading into the 2016-17 campaign.

With Jessy Landry moving up to serve as the club’s president and general manager and the return of head coach, in former NHLer Moe Matha following a stint serving behind the bench of the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, the Rapids will look to improve in all areas this season.

The eighth NOJHL team preseason preview features the French River Rapids.

Head Coach – Moe Mantha
President/GM – Jessy Landry

NOJHL: What was one of the keys you hoped to improve on heading into the season?

JESSY LANDRY: Our off-season goal was to address goaltending, which we did with the acquisition of Al Rogers from Elliot Lake. He’s a 20-year-old who will be one of our leaders on and off the ice. We also signed 16-year-old Scott Adams from the minor midget AAA program in Thunder Bay.  Adams is a Sudbury native who moved away from home as a 14-year-old to play in Timmins and as a 15-year-old playing in Thunder Bay. He is very mature for his age. Although he went undrafted last season he has caught the eye of a few OHL teams and we expect both goaltenders to push each other.

NOJHL: Who is one of your returning players that you want to see have a solid season?

JL: We expect big things from Brennan Kelly. He’s one of only seven returning players from last season. Kelly is entering his final season of junior and he has the skill set, maturity and leadership that will play a big role on and off the ice.

NOJHL: Who are some of the other returning players you expect big things from?

JL: Along with Kelly up front, we expect a lot from Dew Tobobandung on the back end. Among our other returning players battling for roster spots are Chris Atanas, Eric Paquette and Marc-Andre Quevillion. Quevillion was the youngest player in the league last year and possible the youngest player in all of the CJHL being born in late December. He always had very good hands, but has grown and filled out nicely to the point that I think he will emerge as a scoring threat in our league.

NOJHL: What other update can you provide on some of your prospects?

JL: We have some skaters heading into OHL camps that have a very good shot of cracking a spot on the major junior club and personally I think it’s a great story considering we were able to move players to the next level after our first season.

NOJHL: Are there any newcomers you’ve signed that you’ve been impressed with?

JL: Brayden Crowe is a 16-year-old puck-moving defenceman from the Quinte Red Devils minor midget AAA team. Another-fellow 16-year-old is Christian Gaudreau. The six-foot-four-inch forward is a Sudbury Wolves draft pick from Val Caron, who played minor midget in Mississauga last season. They will be among some of the best 16-year-olds in the league. We’re lucky to have three 16-year-olds with a lot of talent in Adams, Crowe and Gaudreau.

NOJHL: Who are some others that will don the French River jersey this season?

JL: We’re excited to have four players from Team Ontario’s National Aboriginal championship team joining our club in Brayden Crowe, Will Michaud, Bernell Hughie and Randal Friday.

NOJHL: Are there any other prospects that have caught the attention of the Rapids team staff?

JL: Matt Verrault is a 1998 birth-year and is already entering his third full season of Jr. hockey. He split time between Sturgeon Falls and Dallas last season. He has great vision and comes from a respectful hockey family. We are also expecting big things from Greg Trudeau-Paquette who won the scoring title and was the MVP of the Sudbury & District High School Hockey Association last season.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into training camp, the preseason and the start of the regular season?

JL: Last season we put together a team in July. This season we had a full year to put this together. Everyone has to battle for a spot on our roster. We have four exhibition games in 19 days to piece together a roster. We are not desperate to make moves to better our team, but I won’t be afraid to do so to ensure we are very competitive league wide. It is my first year as president and general manager and we will get noticed this season for all the good reasons this time around. We have a lot of good respectable coaches in the NOJHL, but our team is in especially good hands with Moe Mantha behind the bench and Dan Tremblay and Denis Commanda in supporting roles as assistants.

NOJHL: What do you look to build upon heading into your second season in Noelville?

JL: Again, being the youngest team in Canada last season and finishing with two wins and a tie we still had a lot of community. We are looking to ice a bigger, stronger and older team. Again goaltending was a priority and we took care of that early into the off-season. We have the tools to make our team successful and we won’t back down from making moves early in the season if need be.

NOJHL: Do you have any final thoughts or comments you’d like to provide?

JL: I think a lot of teams may not take us seriously considering last year’s record, but we plan on being that team that no one wants to play and we want to outwork everyone day in and day out. I look forward to putting my stamp on this team after serving as player director and scout last season.

RAPIDS’ PRESEASON GAMES

Friday, Aug. 26 @ Espanola 7:30 p.m. (Regional Rec. Complex)
Saturday, Aug. 27 vs. Espanola 7:30 p.m. (Sturgeon Falls)
Wednesday, Aug. 31 @ Powassan 2:30 p.m. (Sports Complex)
Thursday, Sept. 1 vs. Powassan 7:30 p.m. (Noelville Arena)