As a new season approaches for the North Bay Battalion, the spotlight out of the gate inevitably turns to the newcomers.
Fans will get their first real look at the youngsters who were drafted over the spring and will be stepping into their first games at the Major Junior Level. Carter Kostuch was North Bay’s 1st round (23rd overall) selection in the 2023 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection this past April and is adjusting well to this next level of hockey.
“It's a lot faster,” he said after a pre-season game last week in North Bay.
“I think I try to utilize my time and space a little bit more. The game's fast, but you have a lot of time so not throwing up the puck and just keeping that calm and composure throughout the game I think will really help me transition well.”
Battalion Head Coach Ryan Oulahen says they were excited to see Kostuch was still available when their turn came up at the draft.
“General Manager Adam Dennis likes to use the term ‘real hockey player’ and those are the guys that have those unteachable things. Someone who shows that they want to get better day in and day out. He’s been awesome to have here, he comes from a wonderful family and we love bringing those types of players into our program.”
The left winger from Richmond Hill, Ont., scored 29 goals and had 59 points in 59 games with the Vaughn Kings U16s in the Greater Toronto Hockey League one year ago. He also had an impressive OHL Cup tournament with six goals and 11 points in seven games.
He says he’s hoping to bring that scoring touch to the Troops this season.
“I think I'm definitely a 200-foot player, but more an offensive player. I like putting the puck in the back of the net and then setting up my teammates,” he says.
Having that ability to find your linemates on the ice is something that will earn you high praise really quickly in the locker room and Kostuch says the Batallion, and North Bay in general, is a place he feels comfortable being in already.
“It's it's a really good group. A lot of guys are there to lead me and help me achieve my goals in life and obviously, we have a great coaching staff and our GM, Adam Dennis has really helped me so far and made that transition easy. I knew North Bay was one of the teams that was interested in drafting me and ultimately that was the team I wanted to go to. I came up here for a visit and I automatically fell in love with this organization and I knew it was a good group of guys and that's where I want to surround myself with. This organization sees something in me and hopefully, I can bring something to the table for them.”
Listed at five-foot-11 and 150 pounds, Kostuch says he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. “I can also bring that physical aspect to the game and you finish some checks out there. I’ve got to do that to help my team if I can't put the puck in the back of the net, but ultimately my game is focusing on scoring and then setting up my team.”
“We’re still learning about Carter and he’s still learning about us here to,” says Oulahen. “He’s somebody that can skate really well and that’s something that draws me to a player right away, the compete effort, the skating ability and the willingness to go into the dirty areas. He’s got those Battalion qualities and we’re really looking forward to working with him and seeing that maturity grow in his game.”
Kostuch and the Battalion have one more tune-up this weekend, as they play the Attack in Owen Sound on Saturday afternoon. They will then open the season on Thursday, September 28 when they visit Barrie and the Colts will then head north and be the guests on Friday, September 29 as the Troops hold their home opener at 7 p.m. at Memorial Gardens.