Up in Toronto, the St.Michael's Buzzers have restocked for another season in the Junior A circuit. The proud franchise has a long history as a feeder to the NCAA and to the OHL, going back to the 40s. The franchise operated in the old Metro Toronto Jr.B circuit back in the 70s and 80s, producing a host of college players such as Bryan Deasley, Ken Klee, Jason Muzatti, Mike Pikul, John Samanski, Jason Woolley, Wes Macauley, Andrew Will, Vince Bellisimo, Joe Cooper, Brian Ihanacek, Kevin Schmidt and Dan Pegoraro, and NHLers such as Tony Tanti, Eric Lindros, Sean Burke. The franchise took a year off in 1989 and again in 1997, but returned to the Ontario Junior A ranks. Since then NHL first rounders Wojtek Wolski and Andrew Cogliano have skated with the team.
This year's team carries on the strong tradition. The squad is led by winger Mike McKenzie, who already has secured a spot with St.Lawrence for next season. After skating in Cogliano's shadow last season, McKenzie has exploded out of the gate this year. In 15 games he has 32 points to lead the league in scoring. Among his 15 goals were a natural hattrick against Oshawa on the 12th. Making the feat even more remarkable -- indeed a record -- was that the goals were scored within 32 second, and two of the tallies were shorthanded.
Also on the forward lines is hulking 6'4 winger Brayden Irwin, who also has a scholarship tucked away for next year. The Vermont recruit has a good all-around game, and his developing his scoring touch.
Riding in the shadows this year is rookie Louie Caporusso, a 16 year old from Toronto. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 21 points, and his exciting play already has garned him a scholarship offer from, among others, UNH.
On defense two veterans lead the charge, with 6'4 Stephen Duffy and Western Michigan bound Julian Zamparo holding the fort. The young star is Brendon Smith. A first round OHL pick by the St.Mike's Major Junior team, Smith held true to his pre-draft statements that he wanted to explore the college route. After being turned away by the Sioux City USHL team because of his '89 age (his fellow Toronto Marlie midget teammate Sam Gagner was allowed to play because of his dual citizenship), Smith returned to Toronto to suit up for the Jr. A squad. With 10 points in his first 15 games, he has shown his offensive strength and skating abilities, and programs such as Michigan, BU, Wisconsin and Miami-Ohio have lined up to make their offers. Finally, Harry Taylor is another sturdy 6'3 defenseman who can move the puck up to the forwards.
The final line of defense is goalie Kain Tisi, who will accompany McKenzie to St.Lawrence next fall. Tisi holds all of the franchise goaltending records, and gets the majority of the playing time ahead of a capable backup Mike Binnington, who is himself an NCAA prospect.