Butler eyes recruits at Gold Cup event

NORTH BAY, Ont. – Stan Butler recently got a look at some of the North Bay Battalion’s newest recruits.

Butler, the Ontario Hockey League club’s general manager and head coach, traveled to Kitchener last Thursday with assistant GM Matt Rabideau to take in the first day of the OHL Gold Cup, a four-day tournament that serves as part of the selection process for the Ontario under-17 program.

Six of 15 players chosen by the Battalion in the OHL Priority Selection on April 6 were among 160 players, all born in 1997, who participated in the eight-team event.

Brett McKenzie, Mike Baird, Adam Eastman and Evan Cormier played for the Ontario Minor Hockey Associations White team, one of two entries from that organization. Defenceman Riley Bruce skated with the Ottawa District Hockey Association team, and right winger Brody Brunet played for the Northern Ontario Hockey Association entry.

“I saw all of our guys play,” Butler said via telephone. “From what I see, it looks like our scouts did a good job once again. I didn’t watch the games for their competitiveness. It was like scouting; I was just watching the individual players. I didn’t want to speak to the players, because their focus should be on what theyre doing.”

Centre McKenzie, the Troops first-round pick, and left winger Eastman, a sixth-round choice, each recorded six points for OMHA White, which finished with a 4-1 won-lost record. Eastman contributed two goals, while McKenzie had one. Left winger Baird, a second-round selection, failed to record a point but collected 18 penalty minutes. Goaltender Cormier, chosen in the fifth round, played three games, recording one win and one loss with a 2.80 goals-against average and an .860 save percentage.

Bruce, a third-round choice, was assessed four penalty minutes in five games for the ODHA, which won the tournament with a 6-2 victory over the Greater Toronto Hockey Leagues Blue squad.

Brunet, a 12th-round pick, contributed two points, including one goal, in five games for the NOHA, which lost each of its five games, two in overtime.

Butler said he kept a close eye on McKenzie, Baird and Bruce in anticipation of the 2013-14 season, the Battalions first in North Bay.

“Those are kids we think have a chance to make our team. We were looking to see what they can and can’t do. I wanted to be more familiar with their style of play and what they can do out there.”

The Battalion holds its orientation camp, including prospects and holdovers, May 25-26 at Pete Palangio Arena. On-ice sessions from 3-5 p.m. the first day and 9-11 a.m. the second are free and open to the public.

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