Recorder & Times – Jonathon Brodie
Call it the transition game.
Brockville Tikis co-owner Dustin Traylen looks at his CCHL2 club’s model as selling playing time. The hope is that playing time will lead to a promotion.
If the goal is to move players on to the next level above anything else then the Tikis are succeeding at something.
Eight players from last year’s Brockville team have ended up playing in the Canadian Jr. A ranks, while two more have transitioned to the United States Premier Hockey League.
It puts the Tikis among the top clubs in the CCHL2 for moving players on to higher levels, if not the most sent up.
“Everybody plays. You can’t say the same for other teams,” said Traylen, co-owner of the Tikis and Jr. A Brockville Braves.
If you look at where last year’s Tikis players are now they’re quite literally all over the map. Forward Tom Callaghan is suiting up for the Campbellton Tigers, of the Maritime Junior Hockey League, in New Brunswick. Defenceman Alex Agouridis is with the Montreal-Nord Arctic in the QJAAAHL. Goalie Curtis Stewart is seeing time with WayWayseecappo Wolverines in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Dominic Della Civita is getting action with the OJHL’s Cobourg Cougars. Chris Grose is with the Pembroke Lumber Kings. Danny Totten is in Massachusetts with the South Shore Kings, while Thomas Chaulk is in Michigan with the Tri-City IceHawks – both teams in the USPHL.
Adam Van Ettinger, signed with the Brockville Braves, and Trevor Finch and Maxime Durocher, with the St.-Lazare Revolution, are the only players currently within the Traylen and Hani Greiss perimeters as they’re owners of both Jr. A clubs.
Traylen said there are some good players on the Tikis roster right now, despite their lackluster record near the bottom of the CCHL2, and he’s expected to pull some of them up the ladder at some point in the season, whether it’s over to the Braves or Revolution.
“Part of the reason I bought the second Jr. A team (St-Lazare) was to accommodate some of the Tikis,” said Traylen. “The thing is your Tikis players still have to climb the ladder when they get to Jr. A at 18 or 19-years-old.”
On paper the numbers don’t seem to fit. The Tikis were a team that didn’t even come close to making the playoffs last year, but they graduated more than their fair share to a higher level.
In some ways, Traylen said, the Tikis are becoming a franchise for players to go to if they want to get playing time. He pointed to Grose, a Pembroke prospect, particularly as, “a kid who if he doesn’t play 30 minutes a game with the Tikis, does he move up?” “When we market to people this is what we’re selling. You’re going to play, you’re going to develop,” said Traylen. “There’s winning and losing, I’d like to win more than I like to lose like anybody, but the reality is these kids are playing in situations at 17-and-18-years-old that if they were with somebody else in Jr. B they would be a healthy scratch. That’s the way we look at it. What these kids do with the opportunity is up to them.”
Players climbing the ranks has always been the ultimate game plan since the start of the CCHL2’s transition from the EOJHL three seasons ago. The idea was to affiliate Jr. A clubs with Jr. B squads, as well as U18 teams, and have players graduate through the ranks.
The league’s identity is still fluctuating of what it is and should be. While other teams bring in older players, the Tikis have focused on younger athletes that could potentially progress.
According to eliteprospects.com, the average age of last year’s Tikis was 17.08 (the youngest team in the CCHL2), while the Barkley Cup championship Casselman Vikings were 18.85 (the fourth oldest team).
In 2016-17, Brockville was the only team that had a median age of 17-years-old and this season that number has gone up to five clubs. The CCHL2 may be trending in a younger direction, though, with 10 of the league’s 16 clubs deciding to go younger this season compared to last year.
“There’s going to be more changes. There’s going to be more Jr. A teams buying Jr. B teams,” said Traylen. “The league is going to change a little bit more next year and then a little bit more and then a little bit more.”