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The two-time Ontario Hockey League coach of the year is gone. He is also the last player to win the Canadian Hockey League defender of the year and the last skater to claim OHL’s MVP.

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So it’s probably no wonder the younger, new-looking Ottawa 67s aren’t quite sure what they’re all about just yet.

Starting the 2021-22 season with three games in four days, including Friday’s opener in Kingston against the Frontenacs, they are willing to accept some growing pains before figuring it all out.

“There are unknowns in not playing for a full year,” said 18-year-old defender Jack Matier, who has gone from a rookie to a relatively older man in the 19 months since the 67 last played a regular season game. .

“There are a lot of new guys in the league and Ottawa has a lot of new faces, but I’m sure we have a really good group of young guys and we’re going to be a competitive team.”

Matier, who was part of Canada’s U-18 world championship team in May and was selected by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round of the NHL draft in July, is ready for the personal and team challenge.

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“A big part of it is confidence, and that comes with age,” he said. “I did a lot of preparation in the last 18 months. I knew coming in (this season), I was going to be a leader on this team. With many young people, it is important to have good leaders, be positive and show the way ”.

The 67 turned the page long ago on disappointment to see COVID-19 obliterated their chances of a prolonged playoff run in 2019-20 after their 50-win season.

They are not getting ahead of themselves now, avoiding making bold predictions about expectations.

“It’s a process,” said incoming coach Dave Cameron, who took over after former coach Andre Tourigny left to coach the Arizona Coyotes.

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“There is a great opportunity here because of the rotation we have had, because this team was a real powerhouse. Usually when you are a powerhouse (in junior), your players are older and move on.

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“Until we have 20-25 games under our belt against really good competition, it’s hard to read.”

While the 67 have played six exhibition games, Cameron acknowledges that pace and physical play will improve significantly now that the regular season has arrived.

“We’re certainly ready because I know the style we want to play and I’m comfortable with that, but I’m not sure how the firing will affect these guys,” he said.

“You always worry about the physical part. The passes, the shots, everyone did a little bit of that during the break and that’s like riding a bike. Come back very quickly. But now you have to ride your bike in traffic, so it’s a completely different concept. “

While Cameron and Tourigny share similar approaches and are close friends (they served together on the Ottawa Senators coaching staff in 2015-16), it’s a fresh look behind the bench. Tourigny also took assistant coach Mario Duhamel into the desert. Veteran Ottawa Jr. Senators coach Marcel Dagenais now serves as Cameron’s assistant.

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The top six scorers of the 2019-20 team have graduated, including player of the year Marco Rossi, Joseph Gareffa, Jack Quinn and Austin Keating.

In defense, the 67 also said goodbye to Noel Hoefenmayer, who left the junior after being honored as the best in the country, along with Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotyuk. Alec Belanger’s return could be months out with a hand injury.

Cedrick Andree, who carried the load in goal 19 months ago, is now with the ECHL.

OHL’s one-season loss also prompted Nicholas Moldenhauer, the first-round pick of 67 in the 2020 Priority Pick draft, to switch gears to develop in the United States.

Now, in addition to Matier, the 67 are hoping that veterans like Adam Varga, Cameron Tolnai, Jack Beck and Brendan Sirizzotti can help groom newcomers, including Chris Barlas and Luca Pinelli. Barlas and Pinelli start the season on the disabled list.

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The Flying Vs, Russian Vsevelod Gaidamak and Austrian Vinzenz Rohrer, were also impressive offensively during the preseason.

Will Cranley, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, is expected to see most of the work in goal.

“One of the things about training young people is also the responsibility to protect them,” said Cameron. “It’s all very well to say knock out a young team, but at the end of the day, can we face some of the older teams? We will start young and evaluate as we go. I want everyone to bring to the table what got them recruited and we have some older guys who have to lead the way. “

With all of the above in mind, Cameron is taking his time before appointing a captain.

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Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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