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Returnees bolster ranks

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion’s Ontario Hockey League roster continues to firm up, with two members returning Sunday from National Hockey League camps and two more due Tuesday.

Goaltender Joe Vrbetic has returned from the main camp of the Montreal Canadiens, while Russian import forward Matvey Petrov is back from the Edmonton Oilers.

Due Tuesday are Russian defenceman Alexander Lukin and Brandon Coe, reassigned by the San Jose Sharks and the Battalion’s third overager, with fellow right winger Mitchell Russell and defenceman Simon Rose.

“It was such an amazing experience being at an NHL camp and being part of such a great organization, and I learned so much in the two weeks that I was there,” Vrbetic said Monday of his time with the Canadiens, who made him a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

“What I learned in Montreal the most was how to act like a pro every day, everything with how they practise, work out, how they treat their bodies with nutrition and cool-downs after practice or games in order to play at their best performance every time they go to the rink.

“I’m planning on bringing that big skill back to North Bay so that it can be beneficial for our team this season.”

Vrbetic, a six-foot-six, 186-pound resident of Dunvegan, Ont., who was a second-round pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection and who turns 19 on Oct. 24, said the work with Montreal figures to stand him in good stead with the Battalion.

“Having high-tempo practices with players at that level made it very competitive, and you had to be on your A game every minute on the ice. Bringing that back to North Bay with me can set myself and the team up for success this season.”

Petrov was the Battalion’s first-overall selection in the 2020 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft from the Moscow Krylya Sovetov, or Soviet Wings, but the coronavirus pandemic cost him his first season with the Troops. Edmonton took him in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL Draft.

A right shot who plays left wing, Petrov, who turned 18 on March 12, is a six-foot-two, 178-pound native of Gus-Khrustalny, 230 kilometres east of Moscow. He played 58 games in 2020-21 with the junior Soviet Wings, scoring 22 goals and adding 20 assists for 42 points.

“Camp went great,” said Petrov. “I got a tremendous experience in training with NHL players. Now I know that I need to give my dream, play NHL.”

He said he has his eyes firmly on the start of the OHL regular season, when the Peterborough Petes visit Memorial Gardens on Oct. 7.

“At North Bay, I feel good. The guys always support the team.

“We are preparing. In 10 days we have the beginning of the season. I’m looking forward to the start of the season in North Bay.”

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