It has been a little more than a month since the Barrie Colts traded captain Justin Murray to the Saginaw Spirit. Since the deal, there has been a lot of talk regarding the captaincy moving forward.
With the season more than halfway completed, there was uncertainty if the team would rush naming a new captain, or wait until next season. The team has had 19 captains in its history and fans in Barrie were anxious to see the 20th captain named.
Jason Willms Named Captain
Now that the roster is cemented following the passing of the trade deadline, the Colts have made a decision. Jason Willms was named the 20th captain in almost 24 OHL seasons of play. The news was announced in an Instagram post on the team’s official account.
Willms was drafted by the Colts in the third round of the 2015 OHL priority selection draft. Playing in his third season, he is continuing to put up strong points despite the team’s struggles this season. Through 41 games this season, he has nine goals and 17 assists. Last season he set his career high in points with 27 goals and 32 assists in 68 games.
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While it doesn’t appear that he will match the production from his previous campaign, it is worth noting the team doesn’t have the depth it did last season. The current roster is building to be stronger over the next couple of seasons as evident by the trade deadline.
Iron Man & More
Willms is one of the most complete players on the roster. He is praised by the coaching staff for his ability to play a 200-foot game and his willingness to play a physical game. On top of that, he is incredibly durable having not missed a single game in his OHL career. He is also the team leader when it comes to faceoffs, with a 55.1 percent success rate. For comparison’s sake, Ryan Suzuki has the second-highest percentage among players who have taken over 400 faceoffs. Suzuki is 43.4 percent at taking draws and has taken 244 fewer faceoffs than Willms.
Durability and draws are a few attributes that make Willms stand out. However, you can’t evaluate his game without noticing his net-front presence. He does an incredible job screening goaltenders. Majority of his goals, especially last season were off rebounds. He also does an outstanding job generating shots on goal. His 111 shots this season are tied for the team lead with Tyler Tucker and Matej Pekar.
Other Willms Notes
Willms was not drafted by an NHL team in his draft-eligible years but still got noticed by the Chicago Blackhawks. He was invited to and participated in the 2018 Traverse City Prospect Tournament with them. He had a strong showing there and no doubt is on the team’s radar. Expect him to attract NHL scouts this season and he will likely generate additional interest from other teams. Especially with many scouts attending Colts games this season to look at Suzuki, a top prospect.
The Captains Wall
As mentioned already, Willms is the 20th captain in team history. Like his predecessor Murray, Willms’ picture will be added to the captains’ wall at Barrie Molson Centre. He will join players like Aaron Ekblad, Bryan Little, B.J Crombeen, Sheldon Keefe, Daniel Tkaczuk and Erik Reitz.
In addition to the team naming Willms the captain, they also shared who the three alternate captains will be – Tyler Tucker, Ben Hawerchuk and Suzuki. Both Suzuki and Tucker will be returning players next season while Hawerchuk, an overage player, will be moving on. It is team leadership that is built on skill, experience and high energy.
Colts Galloping Forward
While it has been a struggle for the team this season, it is hard not to be excited about their future. With skilled rookies, solidified goaltending and now a leadership core, the team appears to have a bright future. Over the remainder of the season, the team will work to develop current roster players as well as recently-signed prospects.
Ryan Noble has covered the Barrie Colts at A Very Barrie Colts Blog since 2014. In Barrie, he has been included by multiple media outlets like BIG 101 and The Dock to cover the team both in articles and on radio shows. Before starting AVBCB, Ryan covered the Pittsburgh Penguins.