By Aedan Helmer, Ottawa Sun
If you can’t beat him, trade for him.
That variation on an old classic must have been swirling around Chris Byrne’s head when the 67’s coach and GM swung a mid-summer deal for overage goaltender Keegan Wilson, sending Brampton native Nicholas Foglia to the Battalion in return.
Wilson began last season wondering whether he’d stick with Stan Butler’s Troops or bounce back to Jr. C, where he’d been plying his trade for the Stayner Siskins of the Georgian Mid-Ontario Hockey League, where Butler plucked him with the 179th pick of the 2011 draft.
He was already three years older than the kids in his draft class when he made his rookie debut coming on in relief of Battalion starter Matej Machovsky. After winning his first career start against Nail Yakupov’s Sarnia Sting, Wilson got the nod when the Battalion bus rolled into Ottawa, and rolled out as 4-1 winners with Wilson the game’s first star.
Wilson earned first-star honours again with a dazzling 38-save win in December, and went on to start, and win, all four matchups against the 67’s.
“He played extremely well against us, he was very solid and I think that’s a big part of why we wanted to talk to him,” said Ottawa goaltending guru Tom Dempsey. “When (Byrne) called me and said he was thinking about acquiring him, right away I thought back to those games. A goalie that plays that well against you certainly sticks in your mind. It was a nice acquisition. The Brampton organization gave a really good word about him and we’re really pleased with what we see.”
Wilson is equally pleased with the opportunity to seize the starter’s job in Ottawa, a chance he wouldn’t have gotten in Brampton with Machovsky firmly embedded in the Battalion crease.
“I always loved playing against the 67’s, loved coming up here to Ottawa, so I’m really happy to be playing here,” said Wilson.
“Last year they were, obviously, an offensive threat, but I think this year we’ll have a strong defensive team with some offensive powerhouses up front. We’ll see how every-one works into their role and hopefully we can jump out of the gate right away.”
With Petr Mrazek graduating to the Detroit Red Wings system, Wilson knows the job is his to lose.
“I’m definitely pushing for it, but I’m just going to play my best and hopefully that’s enough,” he said. “I just want to get a bunch of wins under my belt, that’s the name of the game. I set the bar really high, making the playoffs is huge, but we want to push far in the playoffs, and it all starts that first game.”
As training camp comes to a close, Byrne has liked what he’s seen of Wilson so far. As well as stopping pucks on a regular basis during scrimmage, Wilson was among the top performers in pre-camp fitness testing.
“I met him in Toronto over the summer and he seems to be a very good character kid,” Byrne said. “He certainly played well against us (and) he had a good first season in the OHL, so we look for him to lead the way here.”
The tension inside the Fred Barrett Arena was so thick Saturday you could slice it with a skate blade.
After a brisk morning scrimmage on the final day of 67’s training camp, players fidgeted in line outside the team’s makeshift offices, their hockey hopes hanging on an audience with Chris Byrne and his staff.
When the dust settled, only 26 players remained from the 46 hopefuls who earned invites:
CENTRE: Sean Monahan, Tyler Graovac, Remy Giftopoulos, Andrew Abou-Assaly, Dante Salituro
LEFT WING: Brett Gustavsen, Ryan Van Stralen, Daniel Walsh, Connor Brown
RIGHT WING: Steven Janes, Taylor Fielding, Richard Mraz, Ladislav Zikmund
DEFENCE: Cody Ceci, Jake Cardwell, Michal Cajkovsky, Mike Vlajkov, Sean Callaghan, Ryan Shipley, Matthieu Desautels, Jonathan Duchesne, Nevin Guy, Taylor Davis
GOAL: Keegan Wilson, Michael Nishi, Jacob Blair
AMONG THE CUTS
Adam Dauda (Senica HK91), Noah Delmas (York Simcoe Express), Trevor Dulong (London Knights Gold), Dallas Farr (Ottawa Valley Titans), Mark Golberg (Cumberland Grads), Kevin Groulx (Ottawa Valley Titans), Stephen Jablonski (Burlington Eagles), Niko Kovachis (Mississauga Rebels), Blake Lemoine (Renfrew Timberwolves), Theo Lewis (Oakville), Lawson MacDonald (Char-Lan Rebels), Ryan MacLean (Nepean Raiders), Andrew Mullen (Toronto Jr. Canadiens), Nicholas Ngwafusi (Ottawa Jr. 67’s), Daniel Potter (Toronto Young Nats), Cameron Roth (Athens Aeros), Brandon Seatter (Carleton Place Canadians), Maxime St. Pierre (E. Ontario Wild), Broydon Stufko (Shattuck St. Mary’s), Justin Wain (York Simcoe Express).