There’s no snow on the ground or ice in the rink but the Wellesley Applejacks management has hockey on the brain.
Heading into the team’s main camp at the end of August head coach Brad Gerber says they’ve signed 11 players this summer, four defencemen and seven forwards.
“They’re guys that played last year, like Cal Jefferies – he’s re-signed – Sean McEwan, both those guys are over-agers. This’ll be their last year, but we’re very excited to have both of those two guys back. They’ve been in the league for quite a few years now and guys like that, you just don’t get those guys very often, so they’re a very big part of our team, so we’re excited about those two,” Gerber said.
Alex Uttley will also return to the Jacks bench. Gerber says it seems like Uttley’s been playing junior hockey for a long time, yet he still has a few more years of eligibility left.
“Just starting with those three players right there that’s three very, very great leaders and also guys that can put points on the board for you, so those three forwards are a big part of our team,” Gerber said.
Defenceman Nick Mercier is also coming back to play for Wellesley. Gerber says the 20-year-old is a great leader and can put the puck in the net on the power play.
“When he plays to his potential we feel he can be one of the better defencemen in the league,” Gerber said.
Shaun Pickering has also signed. He’ll be attending the Junior B Stratford Warriors tryout, so if he doesn’t get picked up by them he’ll return to the Applejacks.
“We’re really looking forward to training camp. It’s going to be a competitive training camp. We do have returning players but we also have some good quality players coming in this year, so we expect a very competitive training camp and we’ll see how things turn out,” Gerber said.
Both of last season’s goalies, Ryan Porter and Ryan Hergott, will be skating at their main camp, along with four other goalies. Gerber notes they haven’t signed any goalies but they’re looking forward to seeing Porter and Hergott skate, along with a couple of younger goalies and a few local ones as well.
They haven’t named a captain or assistant captain yet. He says the coaching staff has talked about it briefly.
“We’ve got so many great leaders in that room. Filling Justin Lebold’s shoes will be a tough thing. He was a great leader on and off the ice, but we feel we’ve got the guys in the room. We just want to make sure we put them in the right situations. We don’t want to put too much pressure on them. Sometimes you’ve just got to let a guy play, but we’re not too worried about that. We’ll definitively announce the letters before the season starts,” Gerber said.
Assistant coaches Brock Gerber and Ted Jefferies have been named as co-GMs. Gerber says they’ve taken on the extra role well.
“Both of these guys have been doing just a fantastic job. They’re both very busy this summer recruiting players and dealing with the OHA. Things are going very smoothly. That is one of the reasons we’re going to have a very competitive training camp is because of the job these guys have been doing,” Gerber said.
The Jacks’ camp opens the same weekend as the Elmira Sugar Kings’ camp and Gerber says they’ll have eyes on the Elmira camp, looking for players who might not be right for the Kings, but could help the Applejacks.
“I think our expectations obviously have to be higher this year going in. With the season we had last year and with the players that we have returning and the hard work the management team has done this summer, obviously our expectations are quite a bit higher. We’re all excited, but at the same time it’s a very tough league. We have to keep working, keep moving ahead. There’s a lot to be done, that’s for sure. But at the same time with what we’ve got on paper, so far everything’s looking good,” Gerber said.