Young guns firing well

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

One of Stan Butler's main objectives has been to develop players with the Brampton Battalion and he's getting a two-for-one deal with a couple of his youngest defencemen.

The Battalion's two most recent first-round picks, John de Gray and Phil Oreskovic, have been paired together for most of the season and Butler is satisfied with their progress.

"They're going to make some mistakes just because of their ages but for the most part they have been consistent," the Brampton coach said after the club practised yesterday in preparation for Game 4 of their OHL playoff series against the Sudbury Wolves tonight in the Nickel City. "You have to be careful when you put young guys together because confidence can be a tough thing, but they are mentally strong."

The Battalion's scholastic player of the year, de Gray was chosen sixth overall in the OHL priority selection last May and slid comfortably into a spot on the Brampton blue line. The adjustment has been made easier because Oreskovic, taken 15th overall in 2003, was in the same spot a year ago.

"Watching Phil's physical play and battling in the corners helps me drive to the same things," the 6-foot-3, 188-pound de Gray said. "My focus has been strictly on the simple plays. Because I was excited to play in the league the nervousness went away (soon after he made his debut last fall)."

Neither de Gray, 17, nor Oreskovic, 18, will fill the net. Oreskovic had one goal and six assists in 61 regular season games and de Gray had two goals and eight assists. But they've proven to be capable in other areas and both realize they could be together for at least a couple of more seasons.

"He seems to improve every time I get out there with him," the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Oreskovic said. "I just think we have good trust in each other. It probably has been tough for him, but I have tried to make him comfortable."

The best-of-seven quarter-final with the physical Wolves has been a good test for the two. Sudbury leads the series 2-1.

"It's almost like a new league out there with the intensity," Oreskovic said. "(The team)has been off to a slow start but I think all the boys will be firing (tonight)."


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