Connor McDavid, Dave Brown, OHL, Top Story

Early Erie Otters’ Camp Takeaways

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The Erie Otters opened their orientation camp Saturday morning at Erie Bank Center. It was their first opportunity to see third-overall pick Connor Lockhart take the ice.

Lockhart made news Friday night when he officially committed to the Otters. He and general manager Dave Brown spoke to the media with his parents in attendance. It was an exciting day for all involved.

Brown was happy to get it done before the orientation camp. Lockhart was happy to be committed. It was a dream come true for him. He even got something Connor McDavid never got: a billboard welcoming him to Erie.

There’s an obvious excitement and buzz with Lockhart now in the fold. The Otters can continue to play an up-tempo style as his speed is one of his greatest strengths. Oh and he can show some dazzle in his offense.

Lockhart took the ice for about an hour on Saturday morning. It’s hard to take anything big away from these things. Outside of the speed, two things stood out to me, his edges and his shot.

Lockhart is a good all-around skater. He can turn on the jets. But he also uses his edges well. It’s not quite to the Jamie Drysdale level, but it’s awfully close.

Lockhart also has a great shot. He scored two goals bar down with little room to work with. It shows he has great hands in tight while finding a way to score the goal. It’s clear why the Otters valued him as high as they did. But now the real work is starting and we’ll see how he spends his summer getting ready for the upcoming season. I would expect he starts as a bottom-six center and then works his way up with more experience.

What else did I takeaway from the early part of camp? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a couple quick thoughts for you.

Other Players to Watch

A few names that I have my eyes on this weekend are Christian Kyrou, the brother of St. Louis Blues’ forward Jordan Kyrou, Wil Murphy, Brett Bressette and Jake Mack, the brother of Otters’ forward Joseph Mack.

Kyrou is a right-shot mobile defenseman that uses his speed to create offense. There’s always time for these kind of players. In talking with him, he believes he can play in the OHL this year and is using this camp to show everyone he’s ready. The one thing he doesn’t lack is confidence. With there being a log-jam of defensemen on the Otters, someone is going to have to make a big impression. Kyrou seems ready for that challenge. And you can’t go wrong with the bloodlines.

Murphy somewhat inexplicably fell in the OHL Draft. He said part of that was the overall impression of the league he played in and that his team didn’t do so well. But like Kyrou, he’s a mobile defenseman who has no issues contributing on offense. Also like Kyrou, he feels he can eventually make an impact. This could work out as being some of the smarter moves of the Otters’ draft if they can each play to their potential.

Bressette is recovering from a broken hand and broken femur. Ouch! He spent five and a half months recovering from those horrific injuries. Before this, many thought of him as a first rounder. In his mind, he’s one of the smartest players in his age group. But he’s thankful for the Otters and Brown giving him a chance later in the draft. He’s still recovering, but he did play in the OHL Cup and scored a goal. So he’ll spend the summer getting his strength back in full.

And the Otters continue bringing in siblings of players into camp. Jake Mack went undrafted despite many thinking he would be drafted, but according to Brown can score. This was an opportunity for the Otters to have a look at him to see if there’s a fit. It’s a cool story regardless, but even cooler if he can impress enough at this camp.

Notable Absences

Otters’ fans were hoping to see certain players including Ryan Alexander, Austen Swankler and Colby Saganiuk. Even though all three are not at camp, there’s no reason for panic.

There is nothing to report on Alexander. He is an Arizona State commit. The Otters took a chance on him given his upside. But unless something changes (and it could, never say never), seems like he’s destined for the Sun Devils.

Swankler is eligible for the NHL Draft. He is ranked 109th on the North American final rankings. I believe part of the reason he isn’t at camp is his draft status. He still could end up in Erie eventually depending on circumstance and which NHL team drafts him. Being that he’s from suburban Pittsburgh, there’s always a chance he could dress for Erie at some point.

Dave Brown, OHL, Erie Otters
GM Dave Brown said at the end of season press conference that he had no doubt Colby Saganiuk would eventually become an Otter. (Photo courtesy of the OHL)

As for Saganiuk, he is as of now 100% committed to the US Program. But remember Brown said at the end of season presser that he had no doubt Saganiuk would eventually be in Erie. He’s been to Erie in the past to see games live. His teammate Aidan Campbell is committed to the Otters. It feels like a matter of time on this one, but stay tuned. Nothing to panic over.

Camp continues Saturday with goalies and a full practice in the afternoon. Then on Sunday, there will be a full scrimmage. And also sometime Sunday, stay tuned for an announcement from the Otters that you won’t see coming.

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