The Hamilton Bulldogs are a team that is looking to build on the success of last season. Making the playoffs in only their second season after moving from Belleville, they faced off against the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round. Despite jumping out a 2-0 series lead, they would eventually fall in seven games.
This season, they want to do more. Even with a failed bid to host the 100th Memorial Cup, they’re still going to fight to get there regardless. It will be a tough road but these five players will play a key role on the journey.
If there is any player that will have a fire under him, it will be Strome. Once thought to be a first-rounder in the 2017 NHL Draft, he slipped all the way until the fourth round when the Philadelphia Flyers took him. For a player that saw his two older brothers go in the top five of their respective drafts, that fall down the draft board had to be disappointing.
Strome is the Bulldogs’ best player and he should be motivated to be even better this season. While knocks on his skating will continue until it gets better, it will be fun to see what he can do in his first year post-draft.
Webb’s story with the Bulldogs has been one filled with bad luck. Injuries have kept him to just 20 regular season games since being drafted by the team in the second round of the 2015 OHL Draft. However, in the 12 games at the tail-end of last season as well as the seven playoff games he appeared in, he was one of the Bulldogs’ best defensemen. There was little sign of rust.
A surprise pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round, Webb will hopefully enjoy his first injury-free season with the Bulldogs. If its anything like we saw in the small sample size last season, the Bulldogs will have a strong building block on defense.
The Bulldogs took Roberts with the third overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft and while his first year with the team wasn’t spectacular, it wasn’t disappointing either. In the 63 games he played, he scored eight goals and 15 points. He scored one goal in the playoffs as well.
This was all while playing further down the depth chart. Playing on the third or fourth line for the majority of the season, he was hidden behind players such as Niki Petti and Michael Cramarossa. Now that those two have moved on, as well as the potential departure of LA Kings prospect Matt Luff, Roberts will move up the lineup. That will see his point totals increase and seeing that this is his draft year, he needs that.
Like Roberts, Studenic was a first-year Bulldog last season. Taken in the import draft, he was a steady contributor for the Bulldogs for most of the season. Just falling short of the 20-goal mark, Studenic scored 18 goals and 30 points in his rookie season. The only Bulldog to represent his country (Slovakia) at the World Juniors last season, he could very well get another chance to do it this year.
Perhaps the Bulldogs most creative player, a second year in North America will only help his game evolve. That’s something the New Jersey Devils hope for as they selected him in the fifth round this past June.
Fulcher has to bounce back this season. In order to better compete for the playoffs last season, the Bulldogs acquired Dawson Carty from the Kitchener Rangers before the traded deadline. Carty eventually won the starter’s job down the stretch and Fulcher didn’t see much action later in the season.
Going undrafted in his first opportunity, Fulcher needs a strong season not just for himself but also for the Bulldogs if they want to make the playoffs for a second season in a row. He did attend development camp with the Red Wings this summer. If he wants a chance to be drafted in his second year, he needs to vastly improve on his previous performance.
In Other News
The Bulldogs made a move on Monday as they sent center Luke Kutkevicius to the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for the Sudbury Wolves’ sixth round pick in 2018 as well as Windsor’s fifth round pick in 2021, which could become a fourth-rounder if certain conditions are met.