Waddick working his way up
Niagara IceDogs forward Declan Waddick has scored goals in four straight games. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
Declan Waddick is on a roll.
The 17-year-old centre for the Niagara IceDogs is on a four-game goal scoring streak and has already tied his output from his rookie campaign just 19 games into the 2022/23 Ontario Hockey League season.
“Honestly, it’s nice, especially coming from last year where I only scored eight goals all season and I already have eight,” Waddick said. “It’s fun. It’s enjoyable.”
Waddick, who was selected in the second round (39th overall) of the 2021 OHL Priority Selection, has made the most of his increased ice time and is fifth in team scoring with 12 points.
“I think it’s my confidence and obviously opportunity,” he said. “I’m comfortable and this summer practicing and always being on the ice with extra touches, I feel a lot better on the ice this year than last year.
“Coming in as a younger guy it’s hard to adjust to the speed to the skill. Obviously since last year I felt a lot better.”
Waddick’s output has caught the eye of interim coach Jeff Angelidis.
“I have him pegged on the third line, so if you want to call him a bottom six forward for now, but he’s also the hottest stick on the team,” Angelidis said. “I’m big on, force my hand, force who I have to play, so if he continues to score at this pace he’ll work his way up the lineup, for sure.”
Angelidis said Waddick will see some time on the power play in the next two games.
“He’s earned his way on to one of the power play units,” Angelidis said. “I’m giving him the opportunity to continue with that hot stick. If he continues to score, he forces his way up the lineup. That’s how it works.”
Angelidis feels it is imperative players are rewarded.
“I think (Anthony) Agostinelli was very good in Saginaw last week and was a bright spot in a frustrating night in Guelph. He’s already moved up the lineup. He’s forced my hand,” Angelidis said. “They’re little carrots and you have to give them a nibble. If they’re buying in and executing, it’s everything to reward them. As a new coach, it’s important to establish that. That’s a must.”
Angelidis admitted he is still putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
“You don’t want to pigeon-hole any specific player but they need direction, they need to identify what they’re role is and who and what they are,” he said. “A lot of that is done in training camp so it’s a little bit different for me a new coach coming in. We’re trying to identify specific roles.”
Angelidis has tweaked the forward lines in practice this week but isn’t tipping his hand as to the specific combinations.
“Everyone talks about top six, bottom six. I think you need four balanced lines coming in waves,” he said. “Lines have been juggled a little bit — I’m not going to give the four lines away quite yet — but the way we’ve structured the lineup is we’ve got a player who can retrieve pucks and do the heavy lifting, we’ve got a so-called skilled guy and a trigger guy on each line. I’m trying to get away from the top six and bottom six stereotype.”
Waddick doesn’t sound as though he is caught up on what number line he is on.
“Our third line has been scoring goals lately and is a good line to be on. As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be fine,” he said.
The IceDogs sit in the basement, 20th overall in the league with a 4-12-3 record, and have dropped five in a row and 10 of their last 11 games. They are home to former coach/general manager Marty Williamson and the Barrie Colts Friday and the North Bay Battalion Saturday.
“Hopefully we get four points this weekend,” Waddick said. “This weekend is going to be huge for us. We want to make the playoffs this year and we have the ability to do that.
“We have to stay positive, not go against each other, and be a team and play for each other. It all comes down to that.”
Ice cubes: Forward Evan Klein is close to returning to action while defenceman Andrew Wycisk is skating but there is still no timetable for his return . . . Forward Kevin He was under the weather Thursday and given the day off but is expected to play Friday . . . Defenceman Rodwin Dionicio (six-game suspension) is eligible to return Dec. 2 in London.
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