Eight Spirit players receive invites to NHL training camps

The roster will be thin for a couple weeks as the OHL season kicks off next week....

Posted In: Sports, Saginaw Spirit,   By: Jason Marcoux

17th September, 2016     0

Eight different Saginaw Spirit players received invitations to NHL training camps this year -five were drafted and three will be going as free agents- as the team prepares for the 2016-17 Ontario Hockey League season.
“As an organization, anytime you have a chance to see your players progress in their careers and have a chance to skate at the next level, it is very exciting,” Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill said in a press release. 
“Each and every player in our organization is an extension of our Spirit family and we take great pride in watching them come closer to achieving their goal of making the National Hockey League. This season we were fortunate to have eight of our players skate in NHL training camps and we hope that as we keep building our organization that this number will grow each season.”
The Spirit are set to begin the season with two road games next week; the first on Wednesday in Flint where they will look for a better outcome than last year in the first game of the Coors Light I-75 Divide Cup series. They will then head to Guelph Friday for a home-and-home against the Storm, before returning to Saginaw Saturday for the home opener at the Dow Event Center. 
Mitchell Stephens, a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning (33 overall) in the 2015 NHL draft, is heading to his second camp in Tampa Bay. Stephens was called up to the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch after the end of last year's OHL season, where he saw some time on their playoff run, scoring his first professional goal. He will be looking to make the big jump to the NHL this year. 
Second year Spirit defenseman Markus Niemelainen had a breakout year in the OHL after the Spirit selected him in the 2015 CHL import draft. The 6-foot-6 200-pound 18 year old native of Kuopio, Finland had 27 points in his rookie OHL season, enough to garner the attention of the Edmonton Oilers, who selected him in the third round (63 overall) of the 2016 NHL draft. 
Niemelainen would go on to score his first goal as an Edmonton Oiler, giving them a 1-0 lead at 15:53 of the first period in the 2016 Young Stars rookie Tournament in Penticton, British Columbia Saturday night.

The Spirit added another CHL import this summer when they selected Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic native Filip Hronek (pronounced Roe-Nick) who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round (53 overall) of the 2016 NHL draft. 

Hronek will make a nice addition to an already strong back end in Saginaw. A puck moving defenseman who is always up with the play, he will join former Spirit goal tender's Jake Paterson and Eddie Pasquale along with former Spirit captain Dylan Sadowy in Detroit's camp. 

Keaton Middleton is coming of another summer as a mason-tender in his hometown, and oh yeah, he was also selected by the Toronto Maple Leaf's in the fourth round (101 overall) of the 2016 NHL draft. The 6-foot-6 235-pound Stratford, ON native will bring some stability to the defense. Third year Spirit forward Tye Felhaber will join Middleton in Toronto's camp as a non-drafted free agent. 

Saginaw goal tender Evan Cormier was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL draft as well. The Bowmanville, ON native led the youngest team to ever qualify for the OHL playoffs (when he joined the Spirit) two years ago and took them to the playoffs again last year after appearing in 58 of 68 regular season games with a 3.72 goals against average. Third year Spirit defenseman Marcus Crawford will be joining Cormier in New Jersey's camp as a non-drafted free agent. 

Twenty year old overage forward Kris Bennett is coming off a career year with the Spirit where he scored 24 goals and 15 assists for 39 points. Bennett was invited to the Nashville Predators camp as a non-drafted free agent. 

The Spirit kick off their fifteenth OHL season Saturday Sep 24 as they host the Guelp Storm for a 7:05 pm game where a new state-of-the-art audio-visual experience will be featured at the Dow Event Center. in downtown Saginaw. 

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