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Tough Decisions in Barrie

The Barrie Colts had the worst record in franchise history in 2010/2011, so to expect some of the returning players from that team may find themselves on the outs isn’t a shocker, but it’s become clear that more than a couple of last year’s players will find themselves leaving town. To date, Tyler Mort, John Padulo and Mitch Bursey have all been cut. More are expected to come.

Josh Macdonald and Brendan Bell, both 1994 birthdays, are proving to be competent OHL players this exhibition season after a year of seasoning in Junior B and Junior A respectively. They appear to have earned a spot, making Padulo expendable.

The top 9 forward spots are all claimed as long as Mark Scheifele (pictured above) is sent back by the Winnipeg Jets. But, the last 3 spots are going to be interesting. Over-ager Norm Ezekiel looks to have a spot, but he is able to play Forward and Defense and it is unclear where head coach, Dale Hawerchuk, wants to play him. The last two spots should be filled with the aforementioned 17 year-olds; Macdonald and Bell. There are decisions to be made as far as line combinations, but it looks like Pearson and Behenna will flank Scheifele on the big line. Steven Beyers and Eric Locke should flank big Ivan Telegin on the second line and Smoskowits should have Ray Huether and Zach Hall. Victor Terreri and Erik Bradford will battle for the 4th line center spot. Where Ezekiel fits in here remains to be seen.

On defense there seem to be 8 guys, plus Ezekiel, still in competition for 7 spots. First overall selection, Aaron Ekblad, is a sure thing to get top 4 minutes this season along with Alex Lepkowski, Brandon Devlin, Derek Hartwick and Chris Buonomo. This leaves 2 spots left to fight for. The main contenders seem to be the newly acquired Reid McNeill, Alex Yuill, and Kyler Nixon. McNeill has yet to play, but was brought in as a 19 year old veteran. Yuill was a first round pick last season and has impressed, although he has a very small stature. The last man in competition for one of the spots is Kyler Nixon. He was injured a lot last season but he has impressed in the exhibition season thus far, even recording 3 assists in a single contest against Sudbury this past week.

In goal, second round pick Alex Fotinos looks to be the man between the pipes in the future, but the present looks to be incumbent Clint Windsor and new import Mathias Niederberger. They will battle it out to see who gets more reps. Right now it appears to be Clint Windsor’s job to lose.

There are two exhibition games left before all of the calls have to be made, but one thing is for certain; Hawerchuk has a lot of hard decisions to make and they may not be favourable for the players whom he is most familiar. The new kids are playing well and making things tough on the hall-of-famer.

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