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Scheifele, Ekblad lead way on Barrie Colts all-time roster

The number of superstars to play for the Barrie Colts is quite remarkable, but there were also players who made their biggest impression during their junior careers and did not go on to NHL stardom

Over their 25 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, the Barrie Colts have had an impressive crop of hockey talent suit up at the old Barrie Molson Centre.

Watch NHL action today and you'd see plenty of familiar faces that you watched develop as teenagers here, with the likes of Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little, Andrew Mangiapane, Mackenzie Blackwood and Aaron Ekblad doing their thing with the top hockey players in the world.

Picking an all-time Colts roster isn't an easy thing to do and that says a lot about the players that have come through the city through the years. While there'll be some names below on my roster that are clear choices, the names left off my 23-man roster will more than likely spark debate for some.

My thought process here was to take the Colts who shined in their time in Barrie, first and foremost. Succeeding at the next level weighs in some, but one clear necessity to make this roster was that a player must have played at least a full season in Barrie.

Alex Pietrangelo and T.J. Brodie spent just half a season here, eliminating them from my list. Andrei Svechnikov missed a big chunk of his only year in Barrie with injuries, but he was a Colt from training camp through to the end of the playoffs and meets the requirements.    

This was an enjoyable task, but one that required some serious thought. I'm still not sure I should have left David Chant off this list after that outstanding year he led Barrie to the 2002 OHL final against Erie.

Anyways, here we go. Let me know who you think should have been on the all-time Colts roster via my Twitter at @GenePereira1 or in the comments below the story. 

GOALIES

Brian Finley gets the nod as the No. 1 starter. Injuries derailed the Nashville prospect's NHL career, but he led the Colts to their lone OHL championship (winner of Wayne Gretzky 99 Playoff MVP Award) and Memorial Cup appearance in 2000. He was also named the OHL's goaltender of the year in 1999.

Dave Chant had the best OHL season of any Colts goalie when he led the underdog team to a berth in the OHL final in 2002, but impressive back-to-back seasons by German import Mathias Niederberger gives him the nod as the backup. The 'Bergler' had two outstanding seasons and led Barrie to an appearance in the OHL final against London in 2013.

DEFENCE

FIRST PAIRING: Aaron Ekblad — Luch Nasato

Aaron Ekblad lived up to all the hype when the Colts made him the first-overall pick. The 2011 OHL rookie of the year was a standout and is now a big factor on the back end for the Florida Panthers after they made him the NHL's first-pick overall in 2014.

Luch Nasato instantly became a fan favourite with Colts fans for his rugged play and willingness to stand up for teammates, but make no mistake, he could play and finished his last season with 10 goals and 45 points in 1997.

SECOND PAIRING: Martin Skoula — Erik Reitz

What a shutdown duo these two would make.

Skoula never came off the ice for Bert Templeton and his ability to play in any situation helped him have a solid NHL career over 10 seasons, primarily with Colorado and Minnesota.

Reitz faced down the opposing team's best players through his junior career and, to this day, is the best body-checker to have ever sported a Barrie jersey. As a rookie, he was named to the Memorial Cup all-star team before going on to play several years of professional hockey.

THIRD PAIRING: Jeremy Swanson — Rasmus Andersson

Swanson came to Barrie from the Soo Greyhounds in a steal of a deal and the Florida draft pick went on to be a captain and a force on the blue-line defensively.

Andersson was solid on defence, but the current Calgary Flames blue-liner made his mark on offence, especially as the quarterback on Barrie's power play.

FORWARDS

1ST LINE: Andrei Svechnikov — Mark Scheifele — Kevin Labanc

Svechnikov was only here a season, but it was easy to see why he's on his way to NHL stardom with Carolina. The Russian may be the most gifted player to ever sport a Colts jersey, though his centre here gives him a good run for that title.

Scheifele led Barrie to the OHL final in 2013. And who can forget his four-goal effort in the third period of Game 4 in that series? It's no surprise he's an NHL star with Winnipeg.

No player in Colts history was more tenacious than Labanc when it came to getting the puck. An OHL scoring champion, he's now become an important part of San Jose's future.

2ND LINE: Denis Shvidki — Bryan Little — Sheldon Keefe

Little has gone on to have a solid career with Winnipeg, but in Barrie it's clear why he became the first Colt to have his jersey retired. The all-time Barrie scoring leader was named the OHL rookie of the year and was a difference maker every shift.

All Shvidki  aka 'The Ukraine Train'  did in his two seasons with the Colts was produce offence. The Florida first-rounder finished with 76 goals and 200 points in just 122 OHL games.

Keefe's time in Barrie wasn't without controversy, but he was a big factor in leading the Colts to an OHL title in 2000 after winning the league scoring title.

3RD LINE: Andrew Mangiapane — Daniel Tkaczuk — Andreas Athanasiou

Tkaczuk was the franchise's first draft pick and the Calgary Flame went on to have four big years in Barrie, while also suiting up for Canada's national junior team twice.

Mangiapane remains the best free-agent player invite in franchise history. He's one of only three Colts to hit the 50-goal mark (51 in 2016) in a season and the Calgary Flames winger finished with 261 points in just 195 games with Barrie.

Athanasiou was as dangerous with the puck on his stick as any player in franchise history and is now a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

4TH LINE: Brendan Lemieux — Blaine Down — Hunter Tremblay

Down edges out Joseph Blandisi to centre the fourth line. The underrated Colts star helped Barrie win an OHL title in 2000 and then led them to a berth in the final just two years later. A heart-and-soul player, who can forget him scoring in 10-straight playoff games in 2002?

An emotional player, Lemieux is known for his rugged play, but the current New York Ranger winger recorded 68 goals and 113 points over 122 games in his last season-and-a-half before being traded to Windsor.

A rare five-year Colt, Tremblay was a force along the boards and paired up with Little to make up one of Barrie's top dynamic duos. He scored 30 goals in each of his final three seasons.

EXTRAS: Joe Blandisi, Brandt Clarke, Kyle Clifford

Nicknamed 'The Magic Bullet', Blandisi was dynamic with the puck on his stick. Who can forget that spin-o-rama goal he scored in Kingston?

Clifford would go through a wall for his team. He did that in Barrie and then in helping the Los Angeles Kings win a pair of Stanley Cups.

I know Clarke has only been in Barrie one shortened season, but if there's a sure bet, it's this kid. He'll be the best Colts defenceman to roam the ice by the time his junior career ends. It's no surprise he's being considered a top-five NHL draft pick in 2021. Wait until he starts quarterbacking the power play.

GENERAL MANAGER: Bert Templeton

Templeton built the Colts from the ground up and became the first coach to ever lead a CHL expansion team to the playoffs. A hard-line coach, he was a fantastic judge of talent and a better general manager, and made the club a powerhouse in the early years. He seldom lost a trade in Barrie.

COACH: Dale Hawerchuk

He guided the Colts to a berth in the OHL final in 2013, but most importantly Hawerchuk has helped develop several NHL stars over his nine seasons in Barrie, including Scheifele, Mangiapane, Ekblad and Labanc. Here's hoping the coach is completely healthy after his battle with stomach cancer and can return behind the bench this season. 

Gene Pereira has been covering sports in Barrie since the early 1990s and the Barrie Colts since their inception. He is also the longtime colour analyst of the OHL Barrie Colts on Rogers TV.




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Gene Pereira

About the Author: Gene Pereira

An award-winning journalist, Gene is former sports editor of the Barrie Examiner and his byline has appeared in several newspapers. He is also the longtime colour analyst of the OHL Barrie Colts on Rogers TV
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