The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) AAA hockey schedule started this week, and there’s a whole slew of reasons why keeping a tab on some of the players in this league is a good idea. Guys like Travis Barron, Victor Mete, and Jakob Chychrun are all GTHL alumni recipients of the 2013-14 Kraft Cup who ended up being drafted by NHL teams this past June at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Their successes in AAA hockey go a long way to show just how talented players in this league truly are, and how playing here provided them with a great opportunity. That’s one of the reasons why the Kraft Cup was introduced back in 2008. Awarded to the team that wins its division at the end of the regular season, the Kraft Cup aims to reinforce active, healthy lifestyles. For the GTHL, the 2016-17 regular season started on Monday, and that means the race to the Kraft Cup literally just started.
AAA Hockey Coaches Benefit League Players
The number of Kraft Cup champions continues to grow each season, and consequently, so does the number of Kraft Cup champs getting drafted into the National Hockey League. They’re getting noticed by the big boys, and that’s because their coaches are good at what they do.
There’s a number of different attributes that makes a good hockey player, and it’s the scout’s job to assess each one of these attributes. Scouts look at the player’s size and strength, skating, puck skills, shot, offensive, defensive, and physical play, competitiveness, and hockey sense. They want to know if he has good vision. Does he make his linemates better? How well-developed is his 200-foot game? Can he play both ways?
Ever since the NHL’s first game of hockey was ever played, these are the things that have mattered most when it comes to talent. Since then, the game’s experienced a lot of changes, and these changes have had a ripple effect all the way down to the minor leagues, including the GTHL. Equally important as skills are the unseen attributes – things like character, work ethic, perseverance, and leadership. These are some of the harder-to-spot attributes that create repeat champions.
Fortunato (Lucky) Degrazia, Head Coach of the Minor Bantam AAA Mississauga Rebels has been coaching hockey for about 14 years now. “I’ve seen a lot of players coaching hockey,” he tells The Hockey Writers. “Hockey is a very good sport to teach players a lot more about themselves.” For Lucky, the most important thing is teaching perseverance. Owning a hockey business for 27 years makes it safe to say, Lucky knows a thing or two about hockey. “Through the years, I’ve seen a lot of hockey players succeed,” he added. “What defines these young men is how they handle themselves… It’s how we handle ourselves through the adverse moment… As coaches, we guide them through these times.” By guiding players through adversity off the ice, Coach Lucky is teaching them perseverance, and this perseverance is showing up on the ice.
Here’s the product of six, AAA hockey GTHL teams in various divisions with games this week:
September 12-17, 2016
1. Atom AAA Toronto Marlboros
The Atom AAA team that won the 2015-16 Kraft Cup Championship: The Toronto Marlboros. Their first game this season is against the Toronto Red Wings on Friday, September 16, 2016, at 6:40 p.m. at the MasterCard Centre 2 arena. During the regular season last year, they lost only one game, tallying 28-1-4, for a total of 60 points.
2. Minor Peewee AAA Don Mills Flyers
The Minor Peewee AAA team that ranked third overall in their division for the 2015-16 season: The Don Mills Flyers. Their first game is on Saturday, September 17, 2016, at 3:25 p.m. against the Vaughan Kings at the Scarborough Ice Sports 3 arena.
3. Peewee AAA Toronto Jr. Canadiens
The Peewee AAA Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Their first game is on Saturday, September 17, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. They’re playing against the Vaughan Kings at the Scarborough Ice Sports 4 arena.
4. Minor Bantam AAA Mississauga Rebels
The Minor Bantam AAA team that won the 2014-15 Kraft Cup: The Mississauga Rebels. Their first game was on Monday, September 12th, 2016 at 8:05 p.m., against the Toronto Young Nationals at the Westwood 2 arena.
5. Bantam AAA Mississauga Reps
The Bantam AAA team that ranked second overall in their division for the 2015-16 season: The Mississauga Reps. Their first game is on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 9:15 p.m. at the Westwood 2 arena against the Toronto Red Wings.
6. Minor Midget AAA Toronto Marlboros
The Minor Midget AAA team that will have close eyes on them as they try to win their OHL Cup title back: The Toronto Marlboros. Most recently, the Marlboros won the OHL Cup back in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons and then became OHL Cup finalists last March. Unfortunately, the York Simcoe Express won it in the end.
— York Simcoe Express (@YSExpress) March 22, 2016
With a win-loss-tie record of 27-4-2 last year and a history of getting what they want, this season is expected to be pretty intense, to say the least. Their first game is on Friday, September 16, 2016, at 8:55 p.m. at the MasterCard Centre 2 arena against the Don Mills Flyers. At the 2016 OHL Cup, both these AAA hockey teams ranked first in their divisions – the Marlies ranked first in the Nash Division and the Flyers ranked first in the Shanahan division.
So who’s going to come out on top this year? Perseverance will tell.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.