DeGray thinks goaltending and depth will be key if and when the Attack hit the ice

Mack Guzda will be back for his fourth year in the Attack jersey this season and the Knoxville native will be leaned on to lead the club from between the pipes. File photo. Owen Sound Sun Times.

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In better times the Owen Sound Attack’s season would be underway and there would be stories written and debates had about the team on the ice.

Now there’s little we know, a bit we can expect, and a whole lot we’ll figure out as we move along.

Training camps are set to begin Nov. 15 in the OHL with games to follow Dec. 1. However, with Ontario reporting the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the start of the outbreak on Monday, and arenas still being prepared as field hospitals and recovery centres, those dates are increasingly being seen as hopeful.

So what do we know?

We know Aidan Dudas has played his last game in an Owen Sound Attack jersey. The Attack’s captain has been loaned to a German professional club by his NHL team the Los Angeles Kings. His offence and leadership will have to be replaced from within. Attack General Manager Dale DeGray is confident that will happen but knows the team will miss the Parry Sound native’s drive.

“It’s about replacing what he brings shift-in and shift-out,” DeGray said. “He played a lot of minutes for us . . . it’s about replacing the engine.”

We know goaltenders Mack Guzda and Nick Chenard will be relied on this season to be the backbone of the club.

“Arguably maybe the best one-two punch in goal in the league,” DeGray called the Attack’s goaltending tandem.

A quick look around the rest of the Western Conference does little to damage that notion, but DeGray entered last season with Andrew MacLean and Mack Guzda and dealt the Port Huron backstop to Oshawa. Surely OHL teams are calling about the Attack’s current duo, but DeGray said he’s not an active participant in those conversations.

“That’s not on my list of things to do quite honestly,” he said.

Finally, we know the Attack expect to have their European-born players in Owen Sound when camp begins. Igor Chibrikov and Sergey Popov are already in Owen Sound, and DeGray said Stepan Machacek, Joshua Samanski and newly drafted import Noah Delémont are on stand-by in Europe waiting for the call.

“They’re just waiting for me to say these are when your flights are booked, these are the camp dates, let’s get going,” DeGray said.

What do we sort of know?

Mark Woolley may be the next captain of this team. When Dale DeGray acquired the d-man in the trade that saw franchise cornerstones Nick Suzuki and Sean Durzi leave for Guelph, he said the St. Thomas native had a potential captainship in his future.

Since then, Woolley has worn an “A” for the Attack, been a top-pairing defender, and created a successful not-for-profit in support of Diabetes Canada. It’s the coaches’ decision, and DeGray will weigh in, he said, but it’s not a stretch to envision Woolley wearing the “C” for the Attack if and when hockey returns this season.

Another over-age logjam in Owen Sound will most likely end with a trio of forwards breaking with the team.

Dale DeGray said Monday he thinks Barret Kirwin, who netted 30 goals last year, is on the cusp of a breakout campaign while Sergey Popov led the team in points last season and will surely be back. That leaves Adam McMaster, Kaleb Pearson and defenceman Carter Robertson fighting for the last 2000-birth-year spot on the team (barring rule changes or trades). DeGray had good things to say about all of the “OAs”, but it’s hard not to see Pearson’s goal-scoring ability not winning out in that race. Trade offers, roster composition and a litany of other scenarios can occur before the puck drops of course.

We know the Attack’s camp roster will be trimmed down this season, but we don’t know exactly how many players will be in Owen Sound when camp opens.

Josh Brown recently reported in the Waterloo Region Record that the Kitchener Rangers will only invite signed players to camp this year.

DeGray said he heard that could be a league-wide rule they’re kicking around, but he’s also heard the number 30 or 35 floated out there. Whatever the case, he’ll bring the maximum allotted number of players to Owen Sound’s training camp.

“If they say it’s 35 I’ll have 35. I think you owe it to everybody to have them in at least for a look and give them the opportunity to show us,” he said.

He noted since training camp this year will be in the middle of the school year it complicates matters.

“It’s not just what Dale Degray thinks,” he said. “There is just so much still up in the air.”

And we know Dale DeGray is looking to add at least one free agent to the roster ahead of camp, but we don’t know the identity of that player.

We don’t know if camp will start on Nov. 15, or where it will be held. The Bayshore is the top choice, but it’s currently occupied for potential use by the community as a field hospital. We don’t know if fans will be allowed in the stands for the games. DeGray said he doesn’t know how his staff will scout minor hockey players this season. Minor hockey leagues are looking at three-on-three hockey or non-contact hockey amid the pandemic. He said there’s very little value in scouting either of those options, but that’s what they’ll do it they are made to.

On the ice, DeGray said he doesn’t know how the team will come together, but in that regard, he’s at least looking forward to finding out.

“I like our group. What’s not to like?” He asked. “The most exciting thing from my end moving into this year is do those kids get to take that next step? And to watch that happen is always fun. When it does.”

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