The reinforcements started to arrive earlier this week as the North Bay Battalion prepare to open the regular season on the road in Sault Ste. Marie starting this Friday.
Left winger Justin Ertel returned Tuesday from the Dallas Stars, while forwards Liam Arnsby and Kyle Jackson, defenceman Ty Nelson and goaltender Dom DiVincentiis is expected to be at practice returning from Winnipeg Jets training camp.
Three players remained at NHL camps, in left winger Matvey Petrov with the Edmonton Oilers, right winger Kyle McDonald with the Ottawa Senators and defenceman Tnias Mathurin with the Detroit Red Wings.
Petrov would be the highest returning scorer as he notched 40 goals and 50 assists for 90 points in 63 games last season for the Troops. Petrov, who was signed by the Oilers and played in Wednesday's 4-0 pre-season loss to the Calgary Flames, could be placed with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield but with the Oilers deep in forward prospects, Dennis is getting the impression he will be back in junior this season.
“The information we’ve got is that he’s going to be back here,” Dennis said of Petrov, a Russian who was the first overall pick in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft in 2020.
“That doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to be a long camp. They’ve signed him, so he’s a player that’s in their system right now. They’re going to take as long as they need, and we’ll be ready when and if he comes back.”
The Battalion is set to take 21, numbering 13 forwards, six defencemen and two goaltenders, on a two-game trip to face the Greyhounds on back-to-back nights, among five season-opening road dates as a Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event takes over Memorial Gardens.
The forwards are captain Arnsby, Jackson, Ertel, Nikita Tarasevich, Michael Podolioukh, Dalyn Wakely, Anthony Romani, Owen Van Steensel, Brett Bouchard, Chase MacQueen-Spence, Nic Sima, Jacob Therrien and Ethan Procyszyn, a first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection in April.
The defencemen number Nelson, Paul Christopoulos, Cam Gauvreau, Alexander Lukin, Wyatt Kennedy and Brayden Turley, while Charlie Robertson is the No. 2 goaltender behind DiVincentiis.
“This is the first time, I believe, that we’re going to be able to go to Soo and not have had to play the night before,” noted coach Ryan Oulahen during Wednesday's media conference.
“Usually you’re playing at home on a Thursday night and then playing them on Friday. That’s a tough turnaround. Hopefully we can get there a little bit earlier this time, get the legs underneath us, get those bus legs out.”
In recent years, North Bay has played a game, either at home or as part of an extended road trip, the night before a game at Sault Ste. Marie. That was the case for one of two visits in the three seasons culminating in 2016-17 and for both visits in the following three campaigns. In the pandemic-influenced schedule last season, the Troops played three games at Soo in two trips, with the single-game visit after a home date and a back-to-back pair in October following a home game, making for three games in as many nights.
With so many players away at camp, getting lines set early on will likely be a work in progress.
“It will be probably something that we’re going to fiddle with a little bit here,” said Oulahen.
“Until you get to what you really like, sometimes you like one line and that doesn’t really factor into what other lines can do right now.
“So far in exhibition we’ve really liked the Podolioukh line, with Tarasevich and Procyszyn there. They’ve been really good, so that might be something that you see. But other than that, I think there’ll be some combinations that we’ve still got to figure out. We have an idea how we want to start on Friday, but that will likely change as we go forward.”
Defenceman Tyson Rismond has been returned to the affiliated junior A Powassan Voodoos and goaltender Michael McIvor has joined the North Bay Trappers U18 team. Rearguard Avery Winslow, at home in St. Pete Beach, Fla., recuperating from surgery, is expected back Oct. 10.
BayToday will have detailed coverage of the first two games through our sister site SooToday.