Success leads to challenges

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The good news for the Brampton Battalion is it continues to thrive at sending players to the pro ranks.

The bad news is that trend could hurt the Ontario Hockey League team on the ice this season.

Eligible returnees Wojtek Wolski and Luch Aquino, the team's top scorers last season, seem poised to play professionally this season. Wolski signed with the Colorado Avalanche last week and is making a strong bid to crack the roster, while Aquino, a potential OHL overager, is on the verge of signing with the New York Islanders and could play in the American Hockey League.

"The way I have always coached is you coach players who are here today and you can't worry about players who might or might not be here tomorrow," said Battalion director of hockey operations/coach Stan Butler, whose team leads the OHL with 24 NHL draft selections in the past seven years.

While overagers never are sure things (Aquino's agent, Jeff Solomon, said his client's deal is all but finalized), Wolski was expected to be a big part of the Battalion this season. However, he has impressed Avs coach Joel Quenneville.

"He's a very nice prospect to watch," Quenneville told the Rocky Mountain News. "There's usually a surprise at camp -- somebody will jump out at you -- and he's certainly been that guy. We're going to keep watching this guy and see how he handles it going forward."

With question marks up front, the Battalion will look to six returning defencemen and goalie Daren Machesney to carry the club. Brampton's season opener is Friday against the visiting Barrie Colts.

Down the road in Mississauga, IceDogs coach Greg Gilbert is close to signing a contract extension. Gilbert led the team to the OHL final in 2004.

"I think it will get done," the third-year coach said.

The Central Division champs will have 11 new players this season and also will lose their top two scorers, including the dynamic Patrick O'Sullivan.

"Guys who got 10 goals last year are going to be expected to get 15-20," Gilbert said. "In the long run, we'll be a better team."

The St. Michael's Majors, meanwhile, enter their second season under director of hockey operations/coach Bud Stefanski. They open the season Friday against the visiting IceDogs, the same club the Majors upset in the first round of the playoffs last season.

"We have a lot of skill up front," Stefanski said. "(The team's fortunes) depend (on) how we play defensively."


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