Published August 29, 2023

Colts ready to get offensive at OHL training camp

Colts ready to get offensive at OHL training camp

As the Barrie Colts hit the ice Tuesday morning at Sadlon Arena, the biggest question coming into their 2023-24 training camp is where the scoring will come from this year.

The departure of offensive stalwarts Ethan Cardwell and Evan Vierling to the pro ranks and Declan McDonnell to Saint Mary’s University has left a huge offensive gap up front to the tune of 91 goals and 228 points, but general manager and head coach Marty Williamson is excited about his crop of returning forwards and new additions and seeing who steps up in their absence beginning this morning.

“It’s a lot different without Cardwell and Vierling and McDonnell and those kinds of guys,” admitted Williamson after a day of weigh-ins and fitness testing on Monday. “It’s a different kind of camp, but the Cole Beaudoins, (Beau) Jelsmas, (Jacob) Frascas, Riley Pattersons and when (Eduard) Sale gets here (expected to arrive at camp on Sept. 5) and Endo Mejer, it’s going to be a (scoring) by-committee type of group.

“We’ll see who provides our Cardwell-type numbers and where the goals come from. It’s an exciting group, it’s a big group, and it’s a good first day.”

One thing is certain, said Williamson, the more than 50 players at this year’s training camp will have an opportunity to make a statement.

“In every position, there’s a lot of opportunity and there’s a lot of competition,” said the Colts head coach. “Some of our vets have to make sure that they earn their spot and that some rookie doesn’t come take it from them because we got a pretty interesting group of young players.

“Where everybody slots in is kind of the chore for the next little bit until the season starts.”

Patterson will certainly draw a lot of attention at camp after the Colts acquired his rights from Flint in the off-season. The talented centre committed to Michigan State University, but has now signed with the Colts.

The North York Rangers forward had 30 goals and 43 assists for 73 points last season and was named both the Ontario Junior Hockey League top rookie and Canadian Junior Hockey League top rookie.

The 17-year-old has all the tools to be a No. 1 centre.

“Patterson is a guy who is going to be talked about an awful lot,” said Williamson. “He looks big and strong, and we’re interested to see how his game goes.”

While much has been said, and for good reason, of Sale, the Seattle Kraken’s first-round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Williamson was also glowing about another Euro import pick in this year’s draft.

“Endo Mejer looks really interesting,” he said. “He’s a very skilled kid, and he looks like he can score, but he’s a great passer. He looks like he’s going to be a real nice hockey player.”

Williamson is also looking forward to seeing a healthy Grayson Tiller on the backend. The tough defender tried to play through a shoulder injury before having surgery late in the season.

“It really hammered him last year, and we kind of lost Grayson for most of last year. He couldn’t play his game,” said Williamson. “He’s feeling really good. He’s still got a couple of weeks, but he’s going to be cleared to play the last three exhibition games and I’m really interested to see how hard he’s worked this summer.”

The Colts will wait to see what happens with No. 1 goalie Anson Thornton and Arizona to determine just who will be the three overagers this season.

Sam Hillebrandt got into just a couple of games last season with the club, but the Colts believe he’s ready to see much more action this season.

“He showed us little flashes in a couple of games last year and will take on a bigger role,” said Williamson. “That’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out. Obviously, we’re established with Thornton in net, but we still don’t know what’s happening with Arizona."

“So, there are a lot of questions and a lot of excitement around some of these players.”

Williamson is also thrilled to have familiar faces returning with him this season on the bench. Phillip Barski has been promoted to associate coach, while assistants Dylan Smoskowitz and Dennis Martindale along with director of goaltending coach David Belitski are all back.

For me, having my coaching staff all back, is pretty exciting,” said Williamson. “The last few summers I’ve had to do Zoom calls and hiring people and to have the entire staff top to bottom back is just a lot more comfortable going into a training camp and our season.

“So, we’re ready to hit the ground running.”

 Scrimmaging begins Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.

Here’s a look at this year’s training camp schedule, which is open to the public:

Tue. Aug. 29th:

9:00am-10:30am (Navy vs Red)

10:45am-12:15pm (White vs Gold)

2:00pm-3:30pm (Navy vs White)

3:45pm-5:30pm (Red vs Gold)

Wed. Aug. 30th:

9:00am-10:30am (White vs Red)

10:45am-12:15pm (Navy vs Gold)

2:00pm-3:30pm (3rd vs 4th)

3:45pm-5:30pm (1st vs 2nd)

Thur. Aug. 31st:

6:00pm Annual Blue vs White Game

(Free entry & free hotdogs)

All sessions are open to the public to attend.


  • Where will the scoring come from?
  • Who will be the three overagers? Tyler Savard, Connor Punnett, Jacob Frasca, Anson Thornton, Artur Cholach and Josh Kavanagh are in camp.
  •  Will No. 1 goalie Anson Thornton return? Will Sam Hillebrandt be able to step into a much bigger role in goal?
  • Who will step up on blueline with departure of Brandt Clarke and Braden Hache? Beau Akey and Punnett should play key roles, but Colts will be looking for much more from a healthy Grayson Tiller and second-year defender Kashawn Aitcheson.
  • Can Cole Beaudoin take a leading role up front after a strong showing in leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Breclav, Czechia.


(Player analysis by our friends at Neutral Zone Scouting)

  • Round 1, Pick 19 RW Shamar Moses, Don Mills Flyers U16 (Neutral Zone #42 in Top 300 Rankings, 4.25 star). A big, strong player who isn’t afraid to use his body and battle in tight areas and was one of the most feared players we saw. He has a very heavy shot and quick release that often catches goalies off-guard. He has a good skating stride powerful first few steps.
  • Round 2, Pick 26 C Jaidan Newton, Whitby Wildcats U16 (Neutral Zone #136 in Top 300 Rankings, 3.75 star). Newton centred the Wildcats top line and plays at top speed, creating offense on entries into the offensive zone by either pushing defenders back or pulling them towards him to open up ice for his linemates. He competes hard at both ends and plays a tidy 200-foot game. 
  • Round 3, Pick 59 C Mason Goodfellow, Kingston Jr. Gaels U16 (Neutral Zone #22 in Top 300 Rankings, 4.25 star). Goodfellow uses his size to gain an advantage and has a high compete level. He battles through traffic to get the puck for a quick shot on net. He has quick hands and is quick in his left to right movement using his good feet to make plays. He showed excellent defensive responsibility as the low forward in defensive zone.
  • Round 3, Pick 60 LD Justin Handsor, York-Simcoe Express U16 (Neutral Zone #128 in Top 300 Rankings, 3.75 star). Handsor is a big defender who continued to show good development in his pace and skating as the year progressed. Most impressive is his ability to make things happen in his own unique style. He’s a big player with the ability to make the game look easy. He doesn’t back down physically.
  • Round 4, Pick 73 LW Sam Black, Waterloo Wolves U16 (Neutral Zone #94 in Top 300 Rankings, 4.00 star). Black is a big, physical player who has a good offensive game. He puts out a strong effort each game and he has moments when he is a real force as a power forward. He is a high-energy player and has added potential to be a good two-way shutdown player as he matures. 

banner image: file photo

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