Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Guelph Storm add Justin Nichols, avoid goalie bidding war in OHL’s Memorial Cup year

The Guelph Storm, with 11 forwards who attended NHL camps this month, have a strong shot at a special season, so GM Mike Kelly has decided to nab an experienced goalie sooner rather than later.

Perhaps there were other approaches for the Storm, whose two goalies in camp had never started an OHL game. But GM Mike Kelly's options were twofold: give 18-year-old Justin Nichols a chance to nail down being a No. 1 goalie after he paid his dues last season as Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Matt Murray with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, or get pay a ransom later in the season should the club need a goalie.

The Storm picked up Nichols for a song, relatively speaking.

The 18-year-old Nichols kept his NCAA option two years ago, playing Salisbury prep school in Connecticut before being coaxed join the 'Hounds last season. The lithe 5-foot-11 puckstopper had his moments on a Soo team which was sometimes inconsistent defensively, posting a 3.52 average and .892 save percentage across 24 games. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but a goalie's 17-year-old season is often just about acquiring the confidence to play in the OHL. Other goalies have been in the sub-.900 club, so-called, at age 17 and gone on to do well.

Sure, Guelph could have let the situation with the inexperienced Jason DaSilva and Matt Mancina play out. But that would amount to Kelly tipping his hand if they faltered and he went inquiring after an accomplished veteran goalie, such as Oshawa Generals starter Daniel Altshuller, a 19-year-old Carolina Hurricanes pick. The dangling carrot of the OHL having two teams in the Memorial Cup could also drive up bidding for an available goalie.

The 'Hounds faithful is likely to howl (I'm so, so sorry for that pun) over GM Kyle Dubas breaking the anticipated Murray-Nichols line of succession in goal. The Soo is bound to have Murray be the man this season. Moving Nichols opens the backup job in Sault Ste. Marie for 6-foot-4 Brandon Halverson, a 17-year-old from Michigan. If he pans out, Halverson could be a two-year starter without using up an overage slot, which Nichols conceivably would have to do.

Guelph's former backup, Jason DaSilva, bound for the Belleville Bulls as a backup.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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