Published September 29, 2022

Colts' Beaudoin 'fired up and ready to go' for home opener tonight

"It's definitely something I've been looking forward to"
Colts' Beaudoin 'fired up and ready to go' for home opener tonight

Cole Beaudoin is thrilled the Barrie Colts season opener is finally here.

The rookie centre has thought about this day since the Colts made him the 10th overall pick in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection back in late April.

He just hopes he can get some sleep the night before.

"Hopefully because I need the rest, but we'll see," the 16-year-old said earlier this week ahead of making his OHL debut Thursday night against the Oshawa Generals at Sadlon Arena.

To say the big power forward is excited just might be a bit of an understatement.

"It's definitely something I've been looking forward to," he said. "I've put so much hard work into this and now that the day is coming up I've just been fired up and ready to go."

Colts general manager and head coach Marty Williamson has also been looking forward to his rookie centre's OHL debut.

The longtime OHL bench boss doesn't quite recall having a player talented enough to make an instant impact like he believes Beaudoin will.

"I don't know if I've had a young player like him," said Williamson. "I didn't get Bryan Little in his rookie season, but I don't know if I've had a first-year player who I feel can play anytime, anywhere. I can put (Cole) on the penalty kill, I can put him on the power play. He's just very special. "I wasn't sure. He came out of a midget league, and we weren't quite sure. We knew he was big and strong and how that was going to translate, and he's had the most impressive start for him through the preseason schedule."

At six-foot-two and 199-pounds, Beaudoin believes he has both the size and skills to make an impact. He worked hard over COVID getting stronger and becoming a strong skater.

He feels all that work will pay off.

"That's definitely been my role as I've played hockey," the Kanata native said of being a player the team looks to at key times, be it the power play, penalty kill or at the end of the game. "I'm someone that works hard and puts a lot of emphasis into that. That's just what I do. I work hard no matter what the score is, no matter what is going on in my shift.

"I'll back check. I'll forecheck. I'll do whatever is needed for the team. It's team first, and I'll do whatever I can to get the win."

Beaudoin won't be the only player making a debut tonight. In what can be called the club's biggest off-season move, goaltender Anson Thornton is set to make his own Barrie debut after being acquired from Sarnia earlier this season.

After getting off to a rough start with two untested OHL goalies last season, Williamson believes the Colts have a bona fide No. 1 in the Arizona Coyotes prospect who was returned from NHL camp earlier this week.

"We saw what it did to our start last year and that turned us into a bit of a fragile team," he said of having two goalies with no OHL experience. "Even when we got (Mack) Guzda he did a great job for us, but we got hit with all the injuries and stuff like that. We want to get off to a good start, I think that's important.

"You put another five or six wins into our season last year, and we're close to 40 and that would have been a pretty successful season. It just didn't work out that way. We stumbled out of the gate a little bit, so getting Thornton was a big pick-up for us and was the big move."  

For the second-straight season, the Colts once again head in as one of the preseason favourites to contend. With a trio of high-scoring OHL forwards in Ethan Cardwell, Declan McDonnell and Evan Vierling along with the likely return of captain Brandt Clarke on the blue line and Thornton in goal, Williamson expects his team to compete.

Declan McDonnell
Declan McDonnell - Terry Wilson, OHL Images

"I feel like I got a handle on our guys, and we're very impressed with our young guys," said the Colts head coach. "We've had a good preseason, and it would be nice to get all of our guys back from NHL camp and get a good start to the season, and get off on the right food."

The Colts believe they boast a deep, talented roster, with depth at all key positions and especially if the Los Angeles Kings return Clarke.

The captain was leading all defencemen in scoring last season when a lengthy suspension and injuries forced him to miss several games.

A favourite for not only the top blueliner award and possibly the league's top player, Clarke is not surprisingly turning heads in training camp with Los Angeles.

He should get a long look in California and could even start the year with the Kings before the NHL club is forced to make a final decision before the 10-game mark.

"We've had a couple of conversations with LA and I think that's what their plan is with him," said Williamson. "They've been impressed with him, which I'm not surprised by. I think they'll get a long look at him, and it might come down to contracts and that stuff.

"We've kind of put Clarke on the back burner, and we're working with our group right here. It'll be a nice addition when and if he comes."

Even without Clarke, the Colts are fairly deep on the point. Last year's top pick Beau Akey finished his rookie year strong and will be counted on more this season.

"He really is going to have a big year for us," Williamson said of Akey. "He'll carry a bigger load early and until we find out about the Clarke situation he'll be kind of running our power play and doing things like that.

"I also think it'll be a great situation when we get Brandt back. If we do, he slots in behind him and boy is that a nice one-two punch that can do an awful lot whether it's power play or five-on-five. We think we'll be deep back there, obviously, with Brandt being a big part of that."

Williamson also sees a bigger role for Vegas Knights prospect Arturs Cholach, who will take a large chunk of the ice time left by the departure of Nathan Allensen.

"We expect him to have a big year," said Williamson, who has heard good things from the Knights on Cholach.

Veteran Connor Punnett will also see bigger minutes.

"He's really strong," said Williamson.

Veteran Ian Lemieux is as steady as they come but is one of four overagers on the team and Williamson is going to have to make the tough decision of getting down to the maximum three.

Veteran Josh Kavanagh was acquired from Peterborough in the off-season, while returnee Grayson Tiller appears ready to take the next step.

"Injuries got him into games, but the investment we put into him last year is really going to pay off this year," he said of the physical defender. "I think Grayson learned from last year and took it to a different level this summer, knowing it's a tough league. He got stronger, he got faster."

Williamson is also excited about third-round pick Kashawn Aitcheson, who will break camp with the team.

Last year there was some question about just how much the Colts could score, but that shouldn't be an issue with this club.

Overagers Cardwell, McDonnell and Vierling will all be looking to earn pro deals, while Minnesota Wild prospect Hunter Haight, Beau Jelsma, Connor Matthews and Tai York lead an impressive group of second-year forwards who can score.

Jacob Frasca is finally healthy and could be in for a break-out season.

"I don't think scoring is going to be a problem for us this year, said Williamson. "It was last year. We struggled at times scoring and we didn't take advantage of as many good efforts as our goaltending gave us and it affected us a little bit in the playoffs. Look at Cardwell, he's got six points in two games before he left (to San Jose). He looked dominant out there, so I think we're going to be a better scoring team.

"Hopefully the holdover, too, is we emphasize being a strong defensive team like last year, and we can combine those things. That's when you can really build consistency and try to be a first-place club. That's our goal, to try and be at the top of the pile going into playoffs."

Matthews has added 10 pounds and had a strong pre-season.

"He just looks like a different player," said the head coach.

Chris Grisolia and Roenick Jodoin have also taken big steps.

The depth up front is what's exciting too," said Williamson.

The Colts roster is bigger and more physical, spearhead by the addition of former six-foot-five, 230-pound Mississauga Steelheads forward Callum Chisholm.

"I think that's what we were lacking last year," said Williamson. "Through the pre-season, it's probably been the thing I've been happiest about.

"We look like we can take it to teams and not be the skilled kind of team that has problems breaking through on teams because of physical play. We seem to have a much better balance to our game."

Williamson is also excited with his staff of new assistants that will be on the bench with him this season. Phillip Barski, former Colt Dylan Smoskowitz and Dennis Martindale, the coach said, have all fit in well.

"It was a worry for me over the summer with chemistry and how everyone is going to fit, but it really has been seamless," he said. "They're hardworking and our guys have really responded to it."

Beaudoin will have a good support group from the Ottawa area when he steps on the ice Thursday. His dad, mom, two brothers and an aunt and uncle and their son will be making the trek to Barrie.

"It's definitely an exciting time for me," he said. "I'm going to try and do whatever I can to play well and hopefully get the win at the home opener."

Game time tonight is 7:30 p.m.

banner image: Barrie Colts

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