Pursuit is sports feature series highlighting Athletes, Coaches and Staff from North Bay and the surrounding area.
The North Bay Trappers U16 Triple A program gained prominent recognition during the 2022 Ontario Hockey League priority selection in April. Five Trappers players were selected between the 3rd and 13th rounds. Many more draft eligible players are hoping one of 20 teams will call their name this year including a new crop of players with the local Trappers squad. Among them is Mason Rotondo. He’s listed at 5’8” and 150lbs and described as an elite skating, skilled defenceman.
“I would say I am a very two-way defenceman who likes to play in the offensive zone, run the power play; quarterback it but also be a shutdown defenceman when needed,” says Rotondo. “I can block that pass through the seam or anything like that, make that hit but also be that offensive guy”
The 2007 birth year defenceman is a key contributor to his club which plays its games at a higher age level, competing in the Great North U18 Triple A Hockey League,
Rotondo believes the best part of his game is his speed and his hockey IQ.
“I feel over the summer I have gotten a lot faster, and my hockey IQ has gotten a lot better,” he says, which is evident in watching the games the Trappers have played this season as he has garnered a lot of respect around the league for being one of the up and coming draft-eligible players
The North Bay, Ontario product looks up to a number of skilled defencemen including an elite one on the New York Rangers.
“Ty Nelson of the North Bay Battalion is a guy locally I like to watch and take some things from his game, but l like to play like the Ranger's Adam Fox, because he is a very good two-way defenceman and I feel I play exactly as he does,” says Rotondo.
Former Battalion forward Zach Bratina is currently a Skills Coach with the U16 Trappers and says he likes what he says from Rotondo’s play.
“Mason has a ton of upside to his game. Barring any significant injury, I think Mason is going to be an extremely talented player at the next level. He is, in my opinion, one of the most offensively gifted defencemen that I have had the opportunity to work with and see play,” says Bratina who played alongside some locally well-known names of blue line standouts such as Brenden Miller, Marcus McIvor and Kyle Wood.
“Every time I watch Mason play, he creates something, and he is so reliable when it comes to that first pass. He is a dream for any organization at the next level because you can trust he is going to make the right play coming out of the corner,” says Bratina.
Rotondo says, “I like working with Zach, he does a lot of quick game-like speed stuff.”
Rotondo, an affiliate player with the NOJHL’s Powassan Voodoos, had a wrist injury in pre-season that forced him to miss some significant time at the start of the season. He feels that the injury has not set his development back.
“Just keep working, just keep grinding. I feel like once that happened it was something I had to overcome and work past it, and I feel like I have gotten my game back,” says Rotondo
Those who work with Rotondo feel the same way. Rotondo, trained with Hamilton Bulldogs forward Masen Wray and his father Scott Wray in the summer.
“If there is something I could say about Mason for people to pay attention to is, he has such an upside to his game," adds Bratina.
"For a defenceman to be as gifted offensively as he is, it is extremely rare. He is undersized and he is playing on a team that may not be ranked in the top 10 this year, but every time he is on the ice, he creates opportunities for his players on the offensive end.”
Bratina adds, “I would really say come and watch him play and see what he does because it is quite amazing to watch in person and see the opportunities he creates”
Rotondo says, he has this final message for OHL scouts going into April's draft, “I am just a very hard-working guy and I am coachable. I do what I am asked, and I put the team before myself. I think that I would be a good fit for any team and can fill any role on a team in the OHL.”
The 2023 OHL Priority Selection will take place on Friday, April 21st starting at 7 p.m. for rounds 1-3 and continuing Saturday, April 22 at 9 a.m.
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