67's check into Killer's camp

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Thank Judy Kilrea that the legend continues to grow.

A few years back, when her husband seriously pondered becoming a full-time hockey scout, Judy advised against it.

"I'd rather you were travelling the highways on the team bus," she told him, "than travelling the highways alone."

Last month, Judy and Brian Kilrea celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. People don't stay together that long without having a special love that includes great respect for each other's opinion.

This morning, Brian Kilrea will officially begin his 32nd season as coach/GM of the Ottawa 67's when the team opens training camp at the Civic Centre. Many more bus rides are in his future.

"I love scouting," Kilrea, who turns 74 in October, said yesterday. "Before I get too old, I'd like to put some time in as a scout."

As per usual, the winningest coach in junior hockey history says how long he stays behind the bench will depend on his health. Beaten soundly are his two bouts with cancer, kidney stones, shingles and any other ailment that threatened to force his retirement.

All things considered, Killer looks like a million bucks.

"It'll be how I feel," he said, "and if I find I can't do as much as I should. That would be a sign."

As for giving notice, Kilrea has always kept owner Jeff Hunt up to speed on his status. Would he tell the rest of the hockey world if this was to be his final year? Probably not.

"If it was up to me, I wouldn't say a word until the door was closed and I was out of the arena," said Kilrea, who realizes the league would prefer him to announce his farewell tour.

"We could be talking about the same thing next year, or five years from now. Who knows? I could be talking (next August) as the (general) manager or a scout."

Almost as uncertain is what kind of team he'll have this season. Of the 47 players reporting to camp, 16 wore the barber poles in 2007-08, when Ottawa finished 29-32-2-3 for sixth place in the conference, then was eliminated from the playoffs in a first-round, four-game sweep by Oshawa.

"I've had camps where there've been three decisions we've had to make," said Kilrea. "This year there's probably eight. We have some talent and some depth."

Missed will be graduating captain Jamie McGinn, especially as he was the leading scorer (29 goals) on a team that had significant offensive struggles last season. The 67's hope that import draft pick Yakov Vorobyov will help pick up the slack, but they really don't know for sure. Vorobyov was recommended by former 67 and current Windsor Spitfires GM Warren Rychel, who liked the winger, but opted for Los Angeles Kings draft pick Andrei Loktionov instead.

Vorobyov, a 19-year-old left winger, scored four goals for Kazakhstan at the 2008 world junior championships. He arrives from Russia today and will join camp in progress tomorrow. Czech defenceman Martin Paryzek returns for a second season as Ottawa's other European, although he won't land in the capital until next week.

THICKEST DOWN MIDDLE

Meanwhile, the 67's will be thickest down the middle, with San Jose first-rounder Logan Couture leading a group of centres that includes Thomas Kiriakou, Ryan Martindale, Cody Lindsay and Michael Latta. Sophomores Martindale and Latta are expected to have big seasons.

First-round pick Tyler Toffoli, who had 68 goals and 174 points as a midget last year, also plays some centre. So does second-rounder Pieter Schinkelshoek. Both 16-year-olds, however, are likely to spend more of their rookie season on the 67's right wing.

The right side will also include 19-year-old veteran Matt Lahey, if he overcomes the knee injury that represents the latest of the health problems that have plagued his career. Lahey, who has the potential to score 30 goals, is expected to watch the first couple of weeks of camp from the sidelines. Thomas Nesbitt and Jon Carnevale are the other two returning right wingers.

Bringing some size (6-foot-2, 195 lbs.) and toughness to the left side will be Corey Cowick, a 19-year-old Gloucester product obtained in an off-season trade from the Oshawa Generals. Tyler McGinn and Adam Zamec are the returning left wingers.

The defence will be led by the sturdy duo of Tyler Cuma and Julien Demers, with veteran Sean Ryan and Paryzek rounding out the Top 4.

Guaranteed a blue-line spot is Derek Hartwick, Ottawa's first pick in the second round. The highly touted 6-foot-1, 180-pounder doesn't turn 16 until December. Marc-Anthony Zanetti and Cameron McLean, both selected in the 2007 draft, are expected to contend for jobs.

The goaltending will be left in the hands of Adam Courchaine and Chris Perugini, both back for their second season with the 67's.

"Last year I told Adam he'd be No. 1," said Kilrea.

"This year I told him, with the way Perugini came in and played last year, the two of them will be fighting for the No. 1 job. I know they're both going to be good."

Ice times today are 9 a.m.-11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.-4. The public is welcome.


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