The Picton Pirates have made some headway in solidifying their roster for the upcoming PJHL season.
Last week the club signed forwards Landon McLellan and Owen Dever, as well as defenceman Derrick Vos.
McLellan, a 2001-born centre, joins the Pirates from Kingston Midget AAA where he had seven goals and 10 assists last season. General manager Chris Masterson said McLellan would bring size, playmaking, and hockey sense to the lineup.
“You’re always looking for a player who can skate and play at this level that has a little bit of size and strength and he has that,” he said. “He’s very athletic and solidly built and that will help us, particularly up the middle.”
Masterson said McLellan is a smart player and was in the running to be the club’s 16-year-old last season.
“We can only take one and he was the next one, it was a very close battle between he and Bailey (Matthews),” he said. “We liked him because of his intelligence on the ice, he’s a pass first kind of player and we’ll need that for sure.”
Belleville native Dever scored six goals and added seven assists for Kingston Midget AAA last season. Masterson said the 18-year-old would bring high-end skill and speed to the club.
“Owen brings a lot of speed, really good hands, he works hard and he’s strong on the puck,” he said. “When he has the puck it’s tough to get it away from him.”
Dever is a solid all-around player, Masterson said.
“He fits in perfectly, he’s that complete player,” he said. “He’s not overly big, but he’s not afraid to be physical, he has skill, he has speed, and he plays well defensively.”
Hailing from Deseronto, 2001-born Vos is also graduating from Kingston Midget AAA. He tallied seven goals and 13 assists last season and brings physicality and some offence to the backend.
“He’s a bit of an intimidating presence in the open ice,”said Masterson. “If he has an opportunity to lay the body on someone in the neutral zone, he does that and he does it repeatedly.”
That’s a skill set every team would like to have, he said. Offensively, Vos added a lot of points in AAA last year and that’s something the Pirates lacked on the blue line last season.
“We have most or all of the D returning, but Derrick offers us more offensive capability from the point,” Masterson said. “That’s something we were looking to add and we think he does that.”
In addition to the signings, the club announced goaltender Wes Werner has committed to play for the McKendree University Bearcats next season. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because former Pirates Ryan Sizer and Steve Csanyi joined the Bearcats following their fourth and final year with the Pirates. Sizer tallied 146 points over three seasons with the Bearcats while Csanyi collected 71 points in 72 games over three seasons.
Masterson said when Werner came in at the start of last season it was immediately apparent how mature the young goaltender was.
“He is mature beyond his years, he’s a great kid,” said Masterson. “He’s a good goalie, he’s big, he’s strong, and he works his tail off — he’s probably one of the hardest-working goalies I’ve seen at practice.”
Masterson said that work ethic would go a long way at McKendree. More important, he said, is the character and attitude Werner brings.
“He’s extremely well-spoken, mature, team-first, very positive — I can’t say enough about him off the ice and what a great kid he is,” said Masterson.
Overall, Masterson said the Pirates are well-staffed on the backend and feel secure in that area. The club will be actively seeking goaltenders over the next few months and, while there are some forward pieces returning, the club will still have to wait on some players who are trying out for higher levels.
“Right now I would say forward and goaltending are the two areas we’re really looking at, particularly on the right side up front,” he said.
There’ll be another new wrinkle when the puck drops next season. The PJHL will feature some inter-divisional games between the Tod and Orr divisions. That means local fans will see teams like the Schmalz Cup-champion Lakefield Chiefs, as well as the Clarington Eagles, North Kawartha Knights, and Port Perry Mojacks. The Pirates will face six games against Tod Division rivals, three home and three away, along with a home-and-home series against teams in the Orr Division. The season will increase to 44 games.
“That’s something new and exciting and we’re hoping it renews a little bit of energy for the fans,” said Masterson.