It’s no secret across the OHL that North Bay Battalion head coach and director of hockey operations Stan Butler likes big bodies that will battle for space and puck possession in his lineup.
One shining example of such a player has been 13th round pick turned single season franchise goal scoring leader Justin Brazeau, who at 6-foot-6 lit the lamp 61 times last season and earned himself an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies.
With Brazeau moving on to the bright lights and big city, 6-foot-5 defender Theo Calvas graduating and overage candidate Daniel Walker joining the Oshawa Generals via trade there’s a new big man in the Gateway to the North as 6-foot-5 centreman Mason Primeau prepares for his third OHL season.
The son of former OHL standout and long-time NHL forward Wayne Primeau, Mason joined the Battalion in a November trade with the eventual league champion Guelph Storm. His ice time and opportunities immediately improved on a younger Battalion team as he went on to put up 26 of his 33 points in green.
“I thought he had a breakout season,” Battalion assistant general manager and assistant coach Adam Dennis told BayToday’s Kortney Kenney.
“He came from a Guelph team that was stacked with older players and that can be tough for a younger guy. We were thrilled to get him and as soon as he came over he had an immediate impact. I thought the leaps he took was just a fraction of what he is going to do in the next couple of years here.”
Reunited with former Toronto Nationals Minor Midget teammate Brandon Coe, Primeau fit right in with the Battalion and was rewarded for his strong play when the Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the fifth round of June’s NHL Draft in Vancouver.
“When my name popped up on the screen (during the draft), there was lots of yelling and hugging and tears,” he shared with Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Their first year in the league, I really enjoyed watching them play and I liked their style of game a lot,” he said of the Golden Knights and their magical journey as the NHL’s newest club. “That Cup run was pretty memorable. I’ve heard it’s one of the best organizations in the NHL even though it has only been around a couple years. I think I’m in really good hands here.”
Incoming Golden Knights general manager and former Brandon Wheat Kings bench boss Kelly McCrimmon told Hill that he likes Primeau’s size and acknowledges his strong bloodlines, but said that wasn’t a deciding factor in drafting him.
“The one advantage that sons of former players have is they’ve grown up in the environment,” said McCrimmon,”but at the end of the day you’ve got to be ready to be the best player you can be, irrespective of any of that.”
Primeau got a taste of the next level at Golden Knights Development Camp in late June. Typically accustomed to being a big body in the faceoff circle, he was faced with going one-on-one against free agent invite Keenan Suthers, a 6-foot-8, 245Ib. pivot.
“It’s definitely different,” he told knightsonice.com of the experience. “I was talking to a couple of the boys on the bench and was saying I feel pretty small out there. It’s honestly a pretty funny experience because I have never played against somebody who is three or four inches taller than me.”
After his experience in Vegas, Primeau returns to North Bay where he’ll be leaned upon to help the Troops in all situations. He’ll join overage forwards Matthew Struthers and Brad Chenier along with a supporting cast of Coe, Mitchell Russell and several other returning attackers in looking to give the Battalion the offensive firepower to climb the Central Division standings.
Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs. See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.