Dukes to start title defences this weekend

NORTHWARD BOUND- Wellington Dukes captain Colin Doyle smiles during a practice at Essroc Arnea earlier this month following the team's 2018 Dudley Hewitt Cup triumph. The Campbellford native will attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks later this fall. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



What offseason?

You can forgive most in the Wellington Dukes organization (and those haggard media types that cover the team regularly) if they great this weekend’s festivities with something of a collective groan.

The 2018 Royal Bank Cup finalists (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?) will try and put together a mini camp this weekend at the Belleville Sports and Wellness Centre as the process of restocking the club’s talent stores and defence of the 2018 Buckland and Dudley Hewitt Cups starts to take early formation.

Yes, there are still prospects to identify and connections to make lest the Dukes organization wants to take a pass at reloading for long and lengthy title defence that starts with the 2018-19 Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Eastern Division title and ends with at least 2019 Dudley-Hewitt Cup defence in Cochrane, ON next spring.

Originally slated for last month at the comfy confines of Essroc Arena, a lengthy post season run that ended well after the ice had been removed in Wellington necessitated a postponement of an annual rite of spring in these parts-a mini camp that draws prospects from all over North America.

The Wellington Dukes brain trust already realized whilst in the midst of their lengthy post season the mini-camp would have to be put off.

New Wellington Dukes General Manager Todd Reid expects a smaller gathering than normal in Belleville this weekend but with plenty of intensity.

“we have a good number of local players coming out this weekend and a couple of other guys from outside the area that we are excited about but we’ve run into some dates issues with other camps in the US we are going against and it’s affected the numbers overall,” Reid said.

In past-years, Wellington has attracted enough players to staff anywhere from four to six teams for a full, two-day session.

This year it sounds like the club will be doing well to accumulate three teams of prospects.

Reid expects practices, drills and small area games to fill up most of the Saturday morning session with scrimmages taking place on Saturday afternoon from 1:30 p.m to 3 p.m. And Sunday from noon until 1:30 p.m.

Wellington Dukes Coach John Druce. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

If one was to look at the graduating roster of the Wellington Dukes, there would be no vacancy more glaring than net as Wellington will lose starter Jonah Capriotti to Trinity College of the NCAA ranks and backup Tyler Richardson will age out of the OJHL.

“We’ve got some great returning players but some significant holes to fill as well there’s a lot of work

to be done and compliment the core coming back,” Reid said. “We all got a taste of what we had in Dryden and Chilliwack and we all want to go back. We are going to need some experience in net but there are some really good quality netminders that are local that we need to identify and place and that starts this weekend.”

Up front, Wellington obviously loses much of the offensive depth at the Jr. B affiliated players in Frank Pucci, Bryce Yetman and Josh Supryka all graduate.

Captain Colin Doyle will also not return after accepting a scholarship package to play at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks this fall.

“We are so excited for him to have this opportunity but that’s a big piece we are losing and we need to look at our options,” Reid added.

In terms of coaching, it appears barring any sudden development, ex-NHLer John Druce will return for 2018-19 season.

Reid said that he and the Peterborough native sat down together with ownership while at the 2018 Royal Bank Cup in Chilliwack and discussed the upcoming year.

“He and assistant Derek Smith worked tremendously well together this season and there’s every intention they will return. Obviously with a coach of this calibre and having been to two straight RBC championships, John is a coach that could be in great demand at higher levels but at this point, he’s definitely expressed an interest in returning and that’s what we are planning on,” Reid said.

The 2017-18 Wellington Dukes will gather one more time this weekend for their annual banquet at Highline Hall on Saturday evening.