67's already have high hopes

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

The 67's will be loaded with experience and expectations when they report to camp this week at the Civic Centre.

There will still be a little breath holding, however, until they find out what they have in goal.

A total of 17 players from last year's team -- the only one to win two games in a playoff series from the eventual OHL-champion Peterborough Petes -- will be among the 43 expected for physicals tomorrow and the first of three, two-a-day practice sessions starting Thursday at 9 a.m.

"I think there will probably be a fight for first place," 67's GM/coach Brian Kilrea -- set to walk with assistants Bert O'Brien and Chris Byrne as he heads behind the bench for his 30th season -- said of the 2006-07 division race. "And I think we'll probably be a part of it."

The defence should be the strength of the club, especially if Joe Grimaldi comes back as an overager after a tryout with the New York Islanders AHL team in Bridgeport.

Up front, the multi-faceted offence will be led by second-year centre Logan Couture, who is merely rated the top prospect in the 2007 NHL entry draft and a threat to win the OHL scoring crown.

Replacing Danny Battochio in goal, though, will be another matter. Attempting to do so will be Lukas Flueler, a 6-foot-4 rookie from Switzerland, and Brady Morrison, who had a 5-10 record with the 67's last year.

Trying to grab some attention for themselves will be Max Strang, who's coming here from the United States Hockey League, and Jodie O'Neil, who played last year for the CJHL's Smiths Falls Bears.

But it's Flueler who is being viewed as the eventual answer. Still almost two months shy of his 18th birthday, he was selected in the European draft after first being brought to the team's attention by former 67's great Doug Wilson, who's now the GM of the San Jose Sharks. Everything else the 67's have heard about Flueler is good.

"You don't want to put too much pressure on him," Kilrea said. "The key is Brady Morrison and if he can come in and play like he did the second half last year to allow Flueler time to come in a be part of a great tandem.

'NEED TWO GOALTENDERS'

"It's always proven you need two goaltenders. There are always injuries, hot streaks and bad streaks."

Kilrea says first-round pick Tyler Cuma, a 6-foot-2, 16-year-old from Pickering, will settle into a spot among Ottawa's top-six blueline rotation. Along with Grimaldi, the back row will also include the likes of overager Brodie Beard and fellow returnees Elgin Reid, Derek Joselin, Jakub Vojta and Sean Reid.

The 67's could start the season with a first line of Couture between Jamie McGinn and Matt Lahey. They have other favourable forward options, including Thomas Kiriakou, Joe Pleckaitis, Brett Liscomb, Pat Ouellette, Arron Alphonso, Shea Kerwin and Pat Daley, plus the promise of second-round picks Cody Lindsay, Thomas Nesbitt and Matt Ribeiro.

But make no mistake, Couture will be the go-to guy.

As a 16-year-old last season, the London native not only scored 25 goals and 39 assists in 65 games but also emerged as one of Ottawa's top all-around players.

Asked what he expects of his star this season, Kilrea quickly replied: "Everything."

Not worried about heaping pressure on him , eh Coach?

"He had it last year and he handled it all so well," said Kilrea. "He'll have no problem with all the draft stuff. It'll all take care of itself."

ICE CHIPS: The 67's will be on the ice from 9-10:15 a.m., then from 2:30-4 p.m on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the sessions will be from 9-11 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. There will be a final scrimmage on Sunday from 10 a.m.-noon. Final cuts will be made Sunday afternoon. All sessions are open and free of charge to the public ... Former Nepean Raiders forward Brandon Edge requires wrist surgery has discovered he requires wrist surgery and will miss 67's camp ... The list of local rookies trying to crack the 67's lineup along with O'Neil and Nesbitt includes centres Scott Pitt and Brandon Timm, wingers Damien Cross and Michael Rowbotham, defencemen Matthew MacDougall, Julien Demers and Rene Lamoureux ... Rowbotham is the nephew of former 67's star (1984-1988) Dave Rowbotham.


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