Guelph Storm head coach and general manager George Burnett has sent a message to his young team as they head into the summer before September’s training camp.
“If you’re wanting to be here, you better have a great four months and come prepared because there is somebody that wants your job,” Burnett said in a phone call over the weekend during the Ontario Hockey League’s 2021 priority draft.
The Storm have not played a hockey game since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but since then Burnett has still been adding new prospects via two drafts.
The team selected defenceman Cameron Allen with the third overall pick on Friday and then took winger Charlie Paquette with the 31st pick.
Burnett said his new blueliner is among the elite players in his age group.
“We went with who we thought was the best player but also a D that can become, we think, a number one D in a short period of time,” he said. “Certainly in our mind the most ready to play in our league.”
Burnett said Paquette also comes highly regarded. His father Andy was the 32nd pick in the 1985 OHL Draft and played with the Sudbury Wolves.
But with this new batch of players and the players drafted in 2020, Burnett said how the roster will look for opening night in October is very uncertain right now.
Usually, OHL teams carry anywhere from two to four first-year players, but COVID-19 will change that for the 2021-22 season.
“There were seven first-year players scheduled to be on our team this past year,” Burnett said of the cancelled 2020-21 season.
“If you include a couple of young guys from the last time we played in (Marko) Sikic and (Jacob) Maillet who played but were still young guys and you add a couple of ’05s, now you’re at 11.”
Burnett said there are still import selections and he hasn’t even included anyone from last year’s draft or a couple more players from this year’s draft in addition to Allen and Paquette.
“Conceivably, more than half of your roster could be first-year players, which is unheard, of,” Burnett said.
“There’s going to be some tough decisions and I’m going to tell everybody that I am going to try and be as fair as I possibly can to everybody, whether you are young or old.”
Players are scheduled to report to training camp on Sept. 4 before the leagues embarks on a conventional 68-game schedule, starting on Oct. 7.
The league is expected to announce a schedule of games in the coming weeks.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.