Your Belleville Bulls are back in town.  Its not the same Belleville Bulls team from 2012-13 that won the East Division title, and that made to the Eastern Conference final only to lose to the Barrie Colts in Game 7. This is the 2013-14 version  

We're not going to talk to much about who's gone from last years club, by now everyone should know that Malcolm Subban (Boston Bruins), Tyler Graovac (Minnesota Wild), Joseph Cramarossa (Anaheim Ducks) and Austen rassard (Winnipeg Jets) have all moved on to the pro ranks. Moving on to CIS careers are Stephen Silas (Waterloo) and Jake Cardwell (Carlton).  In the off season the Bulls traded Carter Sandlak to Plymouth and Michael Curtis to Erie.  And we can't forget Russian import Daniil Zharkov (Edmonton Oilers) who has left the Bulls and has a two-year deal with Torpedo Nizhny Novogorod of the KHL.  Belleville will keep Zharkov on the protect list, just encase but they are moving forward as if he's not returning.  

The Bulls started Camp with 54 bodies, 31 Forwards, 18 Defence men and 5 Goalies.  That's the biggest number to attend since Coach and General Manager George Burnett took over in 2004.  As of today (Sept 4) that number has been reduced, with the Bulls having 24 players listed on their roster.  This a new team but this will be a strong group.  

There is no reason to think that Charlie Graham can't carry the load in goal, year after year the Bulls and goal-tending Coach Sebastien Farrese continue to develop elite OHL goal tenders, Graham is no different.  Its Charlie's time, Coach Burnett has already said that Graham is the number one guy this season.  Charlie has earned it, he was very strong for the Bulls last season going 15-5-5 with a 2.59 GAA and a .922 SV% with 3 SO in 25 games played.  Graham prepared himself very well, coming in to last season he knew he wasn't going to play a whole lot and when Malcolm was away with Team Canada he showed everyone that he is ready to be a starter in the OHL.  Braydon Banitsiotis will be the understudy.  He's a big kid at 6'4".  Last season he played with with Stouffville Spirit of the OJHL.  Banitsiotis will get games but unless he goes on a Cory Campbell type run, Graham will get the bulk of starts.     

Five Bulls will attend NHL camps this Captain Brendan Gaunce (Vancouver),  Jordan Subban (Vancouver),  Alan Quine (NY Islanders), Brady Austin (Buffalo) and Scott Simmonds (Pittsburgh).

The feeling seems to be that Brendan Gaunce will be given every opportunity to crack the Canucks line up.  An other option for the Bulls Captain would be to come back to the Jr ranks and try and make Team Canada's World Jr team.  Gaunce is very capable of ether option and the Bulls will wait to see what happens.  Jordan Subban will return and could set the Bulls record for goals in a season by a D-Man that currently sits at 19 set by Shawn Lalonde in 2008-09.  Last season Jordan had 16 goals and netted the 1st hat-trick by a defense men in club history.  Scott Simmonds, Brady Austin, Alan Quine and Jake Worrard can all return but only as over age players and as we know each club can only carry 3 OAs.  Simmonds fits Burnett's mold to a tee, the only way he's not back is if he makes the Penguins.  Austin just keeps getting better and better, he will be a force this season.  At times in training camp Alan Quine looked like the best player on the ice because he was, saying that it might get him a ticket to Bridgeport.  Seeing that,  you might think that Worrard is the odd man out and yeah he might be, but Jake plays good minutes and is due to break out offensively.  |

We just mentioned 3 blue liners.  The group will also include Daniel De Sousa, who is ready for a bigger role. Daniel is smart and skilled defensively, he can skate and likes to move the puck.

We expect Coach Burnett will not rush 2013 1st round pick Justin Lemcke but he will use him.  Lemcke is a beauty who has the chance to be a big minute player.  Justin is a complete defenseman that does a lot of things very well.  Justin is a safe smart defender, he's a good decision maker, with great size, who seems to do well under adversity.  Lemcke can skate well and hit hard, he is very good down low and should have no problem adjusting to the big ice at the Yardman Arena.  Justin has good hockey sense and sees the ice well, he comes to plays every night and has been called "one of the most physically intimidating players to play against in the OMHA".   Justin is a complete player defenseman that does a lot of things well. He was one of the leaders on his team.  Lemcke can move the puck, has a good wrist shot, he shoots the puck quickly, hard and low, making big rebounds for his forwards.  Justin is calm and shows poise when making plays, whether it's clearing the puck, making the closest pass to a forward or hitting an open man on the fly, nothing appears to phase him.  He holds on to the point as long as he can, making the opposition fight that much harder to clear the zone. As Captain of the Whitby Wildcats Justin had 6G & 23 points in 36 ETA games this season.   He has continued to develop since the beginning of last season and the coaching staff will use him in all situations.  Lemcke is a great lacrosse player, and is a stud midfielder and has been called the best player lacrosse in his class, he communicates well with teammates, he can set up plays, drives the cage hard and seems unfazed by checks.  He harasses ball carriers and is an outstanding feeder from any spot.  All skills that he can bring to the Bulls as well.  On the ice Justin sees himself as a shut-down type D-man.  He believes the strongest part of his game is being able to shut down the other teams first line and the ability to generating offense on the power play and penalty kill.  

Burnett has had success over the years using his 1st round pick on defenseman (Shawn Lalonde 2006, Stephen Silas 2008, Jordan Subban 2011).  So far the feel good story of camp belongs to Brody Morris A hometown boy, who spent last season with the Wellington Dukes Jr. A club and was the Bulls' ninth round pick in 2012 out of the Quinte Red Devils program.  Morris is hard to play against and very capable in his own zone. He's a stay at home type defense man. he is tough to beat out of the corners and will do whatever it takes to win, like block shots, and battle for pucks. Nothing flashy, he just moves the puck up the ice.

Also joining the back end is Central Ontario's Jr C rookie of the year Justin Bean, who was a 9th round pick last season and played for the Uxbridge Bruins.  He plays a smart game and can really skate.   Justin is an offensive-type skilled defenseman who has good ability. He’s a puck handler who creates offense off the rush and quarterbacks the power play. He can distribute the puck really well.  

Don't worry we didn't forget "Gilly" award winner Adam Bignell.  We know Adam will bring his work ethic and team 1st attitude to the club.  There is a reason the fans voted Bignell the Jake Gilmour Award winner.  It was well deserved.

Up front the Bulls will need big years from sophomore's Niki Petti, Michael Cramarossa and Aaron Berisha.  Garrett Hooey should be counted on for a few more goals then last seasons 11.  Newly acquired Luke Crains comes to Belleville from Erie in the Michael Curtis trade.  Crains has seen his point and goal totals raise every year he has been in the OHL and the Bulls will give him every chance to improve them even more.  Rookie Adam Laishram has good speed and was a teammate of 1st round pick Justin Lemcke with the Whitby Wildcats.  Laishram had 14 G and 19 A in 35 games with the Wildcats last season.   Second round pick Jake Bricknell has good size and skill and plays a hard style, he's sure to be a fan favourite.  Speaking of fan favourites Chad Heffernan is out with a shoulder injury but will return.  Andrew Ming is the younger brother of Kitchener Rangers forward Eric Ming.  

A few players we are excited about on a personal level are Griffin McCarty and Jake Marchment.  We haven't seen a lot of Griffin as he suffered an injury early in training camp.  He is the son of former Bulls Captain Darren McCarty and was a teammate of Bulls Czech import David Tomasek last season with the Oakland Jr, Grizzlies U16 program out of Troy, Michigan.  Also new to the line up will be Jake Marchment  who is the nephew of an other former Bulls Captain Bryan Marchment.  Jake can play in both ends of the rink.  He also played in Wellington last season.

 

Yes its early, and yes we know the Bulls are in a rebuild mode, and yes a lot of things will have to go right but don't count the Bulls out.  George Burnett is as good as Coach as there is in the CHL. The East Division is up for grabs and The Belleville Bulls will be in the hunt.