Taylor Raddysh has been here before.
And if playoff experience helps win championships, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds could do no better when they acquired ‘The Big Dog’ in January to help boost their post-season drive in May.
“My three years (in Erie) we had some pretty special teams,” Raddysh said. “With the guys we had from my first year through my third year we had the mindset of winning and that’s what coach Knoblauch brought to us.”
A first round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, Raddysh spent more than three seasons with the Erie Otters who set a Canadian Hockey League record with four consecutive 50-win campaigns. He was part of the last three which included two Wayne Gretzky Trophy wins and Rogers OHL Championship Series appearances culminating with the Robertson Cup title one year ago.
“My third year there, finally overcoming the losses, was a pretty special time for our team. For us to do that, and with my brother (Darren) on the team, was a pretty special moment for us and the city of Erie.”
The Otters came close in 2015 before falling to the eventual Mastercard Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals in a five-game final, then were swept by the 2016 champion London Knights the following year in a Western Conference showdown. Last season, alongside captain Dylan Strome and CHL Player of the Year Alex DeBrincat, they delivered the club’s first OHL banner to the Erie Insurance Arena in 15 years winning on home ice in five games over the Mississauga Steelheads.
“It was kind of both relief and excitement just knowing that the previous two years we lost to the Memorial Cup champs (London and Oshawa). To go that far and get over the hump and finally win it was a cool time for all of us.”
With the Greyhounds, Raddysh and teammate Jordan Sambrook have the opportunity to win a second OHL title with a new team. A rare feat, but one achieved a year ago when Anthony Cirelli joined the Otters after starring with the 2015 Generals.
“I lived with him (Cirelli) down in Erie and just from World Juniors I guess we became friends,” Raddysh said. “Seeing what he did every day, he had that pedigree of winning a Memorial Cup, and he’s been successful throughout his junior hockey career.
“He’s a guy that just comes to the rink every day and works hard. He’s a leader on and off the ice, and that’s something I’ve tried to be here. Just learning from him and seeing what he did and what he brought to our team, how valuable he was to us in Erie, I just want to do the same here in the Soo.”
While Cirelli is currently making waves with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Raddysh, a fellow Bolts prospect chosen in the second round in 2016, is approaching an OHL record.
He entered the 2018 Rogers OHL Championship Series with 72 career post-season games under his belt, just four shy of Bryan Cameron’s all-time mark of 76 played between Belleville and Barrie from 2006-10.
“It’s kind of a big honour to have deep runs with such good teams,” Raddysh said. “It’s not all on me it’s on the players and the teams I’ve had as well. To keep playing deep in the playoffs it’s what everyone wants to do and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of that success.”
In order for the 20-year-old from Caledon, Ont., to etch his name in the record books, and on the Robertson Cup for a second straight year, the Greyhounds will have to bounce back from a Game 1 overtime loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“The past two series going to Game 7, you’re on such a high there, especially with the one against Kitchener in double overtime,” he said. “Going into Game 1, it was such a quick turnaround. It’s tough to lose but things like that are going to happen and you just need to stick to playing your game.
“I know we have a good team here in the Soo to be able to win. We just need to rebound (Saturday) and get back on a roll.”