NORTH BAY, Ont. – Zach Poirier’s journey with the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Battalion began on the weekend.
Poirier, the club’s first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection in April, was one of more than 40 players, including six goaltenders, who attended the Battalion’s orientation camp. They took part in fitness testing, with prospects and invitees squaring off in four 45-minute, four-on-four on-ice sessions at Memorial Gardens.
“I liked it,” said Poirier, a centre from Mountain, Ont., who turned 16 on May 12. “I had been in tournaments, like the OHL Gold Cup, where they talk to you about what life in the OHL is like, but this is really exciting. I was happy to be here.”
Poirier, who received a Battalion sweater marking his first-round status from owner Scott Abbott, returned to North Bay for the first time since watching the Troops defeat the Barrie Colts 4-1 before a crowd of 4,151 in the second game of an Eastern Conference semifinal April 6, one day after the OHL Priority Selection.
“The building was so loud, and it was really exciting here,” said Poirier, the 14th overall pick and one of 10 Battalion prospects who took in the playoff game.
Poirier was unofficially credited with two goals for Team Green, which won three of the four games against Team White.
“The games in the OHL will be much faster. But the games this weekend were competitive and played at a good tempo. The guys I’ll be playing against will be bigger and stronger than most of the guys out there, and that will be a challenge.”
With the Battalion losing wingers Barclay Goodrow, Matt MacLeod and Ben Thomson to graduation, Poirier figures to be among those who can find a spot among the forward contingent.
“I’ll do my best to fill whatever role they give me,” said Poirier, who scored 21 goals and earned 17 assists for 38 points in 29 games with the Upper Canada Cyclones minor midgets before adding 16 points, including eight goals, in seven playoff games.
“You need to be confident but not overconfident, and you can’t expect too much of yourself. You need to be realistic about it.”
Poirier, five-foot-11 and 186 pounds, admitted he has a lot of work to get ready for an OHL season.
“I need to be in the gym and training a lot. I’m prepared for that. I just need to work hard this summer. I’ll need to make some improvements and come back in August and see if I’ve got better.”
Green, with assistant coach John Goodwin behind the bench, won the first two camp games Saturday, skating to a 5-2 victory in the opener before posting a 5-3 decision. Green won 4-2 in the first game Sunday before White, coached by scout Mark Davis, took the finale 10-4.