Canucks move quickly to fill holes
Goaltender Zach Moore, seen in action last season versus the St. Catharines Falcons, is set to return to the Niagara Falls Canucks. Photo Special to BPSN.
It has been a busy off season so far for the Niagara Falls Canucks.
The Canucks have added several newcomers and have also been working at retaining as many eligible players from last season’s squad as possible.
The Canucks Monday picked up forward Matt Maidens from the Thorold Blackhawks in a deal for cash.
The 18-year-old Niagara Falls native led the Hawks in scoring last season with 15 goals and 45 points and should provide depth up front.
“We’re excited to have Matt here and have him on board,” Canucks coach Frank Pietrangelo said. “He had a good year with Thorold and he was their leading scorer.”
The Canucks also added former Hamilton Bulldogs forward and ex-Blackhawk Mitchell Mendonca.
“He’s going to be one of the top players in the league this year,” Pietrangelo said. “He has plenty of experience.
“He’s a local kid of top of everything else so we’re happy to have him on board.”
Mendonca, a 20-year-old, 6-foot, 175-pound centre, had 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 44 games in his second season with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Former Canuck Patrick McCabe has also returned after splitting time last year with Niagara Falls and the Woodstock Slammers of the Metro Junior A Hockey League.
The 20-year-old St. Catharines native is another former Blackhawk. He is known for his physical play and ability to get under the skin of the opposition.
“I always like Pat. He’s an elite player at this level so we’re looking forward to working with him again this year,” Pietrangelo said.
The Canucks also bolstered their blueline with the addition of Mississauga native Brandon Bastasin. The big rearguard, who turns 20 on Nov. 5, had five assists in nine games for the Burlington Cougars followed by six assists in 42 games with the Markham Royals.
Bastasin had two goals in 32 games for the Sudbury Wolves during the 2015-16 OHL season.
As well, Niagara-on-the-Lake native David D’Agostino, 20, has also been added. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder had six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in 49 games with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 2016-17. He began his junior career with the Thorold Blackhawks.
Pietrangelo has also been able to bring back about a dozen players from last season who were eligible to return, including forwards Justin Kyle, Garrett Downie, defencemen Eric Becker, Justin Schneider and Dillon Hill, and goaltender Josh Moore.
“We’re hoping we can continue on what we built on last year,” Pietrangelo said. “Moore back in net is a big thing. He had a tremendous season last year and he’s a 20-year-old.
“We like the way our team is looking now. It’s still early but things are falling into place nicely.”
Pietrangelo said new changes in the way players can move between centres played into his decision to move quickly on talent.
“All centres are open. It’s really changed the dynamics of recruiting,” he said. “In the past, you had your whole midget team that belonged to you. They couldn’t even go anywhere else. There was no urgency. You bring everyone back in August and September and look at everybody and take the players you want.
“Those days are gone.”
Pietrangelo feels there are pros and cons to the new legislation.
“Kids aren’t going to wait. They all want to find places to play and if you have a kid you are interested in, you better sign him or he’s gone.
“You might make some mistakes because you have only seen a player on a limited basis. For the player, it’s a great thing because they can go wherever they want. It gives the opportunity for players and parents the best fit for them that particular season.”
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