NORTH BAY, Ont. — With Luke Burghardt preparing to return to action, the North Bay Battalion traded Cole Cameron to the Kitchener Rangers on Wednesday, to keep the Ontario Hockey League club’s overage contingent at the maximum of three.
Left winger Burghardt has skated at practice this week as he prepares to come back despite a spinal condition that saw him quit hockey last summer before seeking further medical opinions and being cleared to play.
Defenceman Cameron, who was dealt to the Rangers for an eighth-round pick in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, may play against his former teammates Friday night when the Battalion visits Kitchener to open a three-game weekend road trip. Acquired in a Sept. 13 trade from the Owen Sound Attack, Cameron played 28 games with North Bay, earning three assists and drawing 33 minutes in penalties.
“He was on the ice Monday; he was on the ice yesterday,” assistant coach Adam Dennis said of Burghardt. “He’s tending to some personal matters today, but he’s progressing nicely, and we’ve been happy with what we’ve seen so far.”
Dennis said the timing of Burghardt’s return to action will depend on discussions after another on-ice session.
“There’s a possibility this weekend, but we’re not going to jump the gun. We’d like to get him on the ice again tomorrow and then reevaluate.”
Stan Butler, director of hockey operations and head coach, said that Cameron “did a great job in the time he was here.”
“He played very well for us and he stabilized our young defence. It’s good that he can go to a quality organization like Kitchener.”
Butler, who’s been on medical leave since Sept. 30, has resumed his managerial duties this week and is expected to be back on the ice and the bench soon. Dennis and fellow assistant Scott Wray have run the bench in Butler’s absence.
Centre Luke Moncada, who joined the Troops with Burghardt in a June 27, 2017, trade from the Guelph Storm, said his teammate with two clubs has looked good.
“Obviously, when you miss a lot of time like that, you’re going to come back a little out of shape, but he’s done a really good job to work at it and get back into the form he needs to be playing games. Yesterday he was on the ice with us, and I thought he looked great, so we’re excited to have him back.”
The return of Burghardt, North Bay’s second-ranked scorer last season, will fill out the Battalion’s allotment of overagers, which includes right winger Justin Brazeau and defenceman Theo Calvas.
After visiting Kitchener, the Battalion faces the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday night and the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday to complete a run of six road games. The Troops, with a won-lost-extended record of 11-15-2 for 24 points and fifth place in the Central Division, have lost four straight games and are 1-7-1 in their last nine.
The Battalion lost 6-3 Sunday to the Ottawa 67’s after battling back to a tie from a 3-0 first-period deficit before Tye Felhaber scored three third-period goals for the 67’s, who sport the OHL’s best record.
“I thought the Ottawa game was probably our best of the weekend,” said Dennis. “Any time you can take a team like that tied going to the third, you give yourself a chance to win games. Having said that, we came back empty-handed and we just have to put our work boots on this week and fix it.
“There’s no way around it. We’re not where we want to be right now, and we feel like we have a better team than our record shows, and that’s something that we’re going to have to fix.”
Dennis reiterated that the Battalion has played somewhat better than the current streak suggests.
“The score and the points that we’ve brought back haven’t been where we want them to be, but I think we’ve out-chanced some pretty good teams in the stretch. A couple of things happen differently here and there and we could have a couple of more points. Having said that, we’ve left it too close and we’ve left it up to chance, so that’s on us and that’s where we’ve got to step it on up even a little bit more.”
Goaltender Christian Propp has started the last five games, with the Troops losing 4-1 last Thursday night to the Peterborough Petes and 7-6 Friday night to the Kingston Frontenacs. Christian Purboo, who relieved Propp at Kingston, took the loss there.
“I’ve got to bring a consistency element back,” said Propp. “I’ve had some really great games this year and I’ve had some lacklustre ones too, so for me I think I’ve just got to get consistency back into my game and I think I’m going to turn this around.”
The game at Kitchener starts at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.