When the puck drops on the 2023-24 OHL regular season next week, Cole Beaudoin will take to the ice with a bigger role and facing higher expectations.
For the second-year Barrie Colts centre, that’s all just fine.
A 10th overall selection in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, the Kanata native spent most of his rookie season last year playing a supporting role on a veteran club that looked to the likes of Evan Vierling, Ethan Cardwell, and Brandt Clarke to carry the offensive load.
With Barrie’s big three moving on to the pro ranks, Beaudoin isn’t just looking to part of the team this season. The hulking forward is determined to step into a leading role.
“Yeah, definitely. I want to be the guy the coaches look to; the players look to,” said the 17-year-old, who is already showing it with a team-leading four goals and four assists in three games heading into Saturday night’s preseason finale at home against the Sudbury Wolves. “I want to be a leader. I want to be the player that makes plays, creates chances when the game is narrowing down.
“I want to be that player and I think I can be going into my draft year. I’ve done all the work over this offseason, so heading into the season I’m really pumped and I’m thinking good things.”
Beaudoin has plenty of reason to be thinking of good things. The six-foot-two, 206-pound Kanata native is coming off a heck of a summer. One that saw him win a gold medal with Canada at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup held in early August in Trencin, Slovakia and Breclav, Czechia.
Canada defeated Czechia 3-2 in overtime in the final.
“It was a crazy experience, something I definitely won’t forget,” said Beaudoin, who finished the tournament with three goals and six points in five games. “I met lots of new guys and met up with guys I already knew, but it was a crazy, crazy tournament.
Obviously, winning gold tops it off. I’m still kind of speechless. It was something the guys will never forget.”
Beaudoin thought he had a pretty good tournament.
“I played my role,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was going to have to do going into the tournament. Once I got the call, I was just like, ‘OK, I’ll take it step-by-step and work as hard as I can and see where I fit into this lineup.”
Beaudoin started on the fourth line and took only 10 seconds to score his first goal in a game against Finland.
“Then I moved up to second-line winger and played with Roger McQueen and Ryder Ritchie, and it was really, really fun,” he said. “I kind of got things rolling there, stuck with them all the way and it was a really good line to help the team out.”
But perhaps just as big was the work Beaudoin put in on and off the ice to improve his strength and especially his skating.
If you notice the big forward moving a little quicker out there, he is.
“That was kind of my main goal going into this offseason,” said Beaudoin. “I’ve been working with my trainer in the gym, and I talked to him before we started training and my main focus was, I really wanted to work on my foot speed, my coordination, my agility. He’s like, ‘OK, sounds good. We could definitely do that.’
“We’ve been doing lots of lateral work, footwork, agility, quickness, so it’s helped me a lot.”
Beaudoin also spent a good deal of time working with power skating coach Ashley Jones and skating coach Shelley Kettles, who has been working with the Ottawa Senators.
“Just getting my first steps way better and I feel it on the ice, and I feel my skating is getting way better,” he said. “So, offensive improvements come.”
Beaudoin also knew if he wanted to take that next step in his game, he had to get stronger.
He spent a ton of time in the gym, working with his trainer five times a week. With a home gym, Beaudoin said he was in there sometimes twice on Saturdays and Sundays.
“I feel I’m pretty strong, but obviously to keep the strength and just get quicker,” he said. “I’ve gained a little muscle over this offseason, so I feel good. On ice, I took a little break after the season just to relax a bit, but then once summer got going, I got on four or five times a week on the ice. I felt really good.”
Beaudoin is also looking to build off a strong finish to last season. An injury in the playoffs to Vierling in the second round against the North Bay Battalion led coach Marty Williamson to move Beaudoin up to the top lines between Jacob Frasca and Cardwell.
“It was super exciting for me,” said the young forward who finished his rookie season with eight goals, 12 assists in 63 games. “Obviously tough injury for Vierling there, but I was able to try and take his place there and play with Cards and Frasca during the playoffs. It was just really cool.
“Just the confidence of playing with them, I thought, was really good for myself and going into (this) year. It was a tough loss there in Game 7, but it was good to play with some really good players.”
Beaudoin said he learned a lot from veteran players like Cardwell, Vierling and Frasca and now he wants to step into that role this season for his younger teammates.
“I’m trying to help them out as well,” he said. “I know when I came in, all the leaders like Cardwell were really helping me as things went along. So, I think I’ll try to help them out.”
Beaudoin said he did get some time to have a little fun this summer, heading to his parents’ cottage and doing a little wakeboarding, waterskiing, and playing a few rounds of golf with family and friends.
The summer work is over, and Beaudoin is anxious to get the season going and put all that good work to use.
“I want to get going. I’m excited,” he said. “This team can do good things and I can do good things as well. I’m just counting down the days until that first regular season game.”
Game time tonight at Sadlon Arena is 7:30 p.m.
Banner image via OHL Images