Blades Sign 11 Vets, 3 Rookies

Brayden Hopkins

Brayden Hopkins is one of 11 veterans signed to the Blenheim Blades 2016-17 roster | Photo by Kelsey Vermeersch/

On Friday night the Blenheim Blades will host the Wallaceburg Lakers in a Provincial Junior Hockey League Stobbs Division exhibition game at 7:15 at the Blenheim Memorial Arena.

The game will be the first of four exhibition contests before the Blades begin the regular PJHL season Sept. 18 when they host the Petrolia Flyers (formerly the Alvinston Flyers) at 7 p.m. Note the new starting time.

The following night the Blades will be in Wheatley to face the Sharks at 7 p.m.

The other three exhibition games will be Tuesday, Aug. 30 at Blenheim at 7:15 against Lakeshore Canadiens, Friday, Sept. 9 in Dresden against the Kings at 7:30 and Sunday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in Blenheim.

Through Tuesday’s skate the Blades have signed veteran forwards Brayden Hopkins, Drew Marlatt, Kier Cumming, Zach Horvath, Bryce Broad, Nick Delyzer, Ryan Gruszka and Matt Clark, goalie Eric Stewardson and defencemen Brayden Seliga and Patrick Wright, who played with Alvinston last year.

Veterans Dustin Maines, Chris Hall (who rejoins the Blades after finishing the season with the Lakers last year), George Wood, Braeden Allore and Owen Bateman will be here after Labour Day.

Word is that forward Brendan Ritchie, a former Wallaceburg Laker, has signed with the Chatham Maroons.

The Blades last Saturday signed Gruszka, 19, of Belle River. Gruszka is no stranger for Stobbs Division fans as he played 26 games with the Wallaceburg Lakers scoring 15 goals and adding 23 assists in 2013-14 before moving on to the Junior ‘B’ Lambton Shores Predators where in 16 games he had two goals and five assists.

He started the 2014-15 season in Wallaceburg scoring four goals and helping out on five others in nine games before joining three Junior ‘A’ teams – the Cochrane Crunch, the Campbellton Tigers and the Fort McMurray Oil Barons picking up another four goals and five assists in 31 games.

Last season Gruszka played for the Kingsville Kings in the Great Metro Junior ‘A’ Hockey League. In 28 games he scored 22 goals and added 20 assists for 42 points.

Since the spring Gruzka has been playing with the Dunedin Thunder of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. In 13 games he scored eight goals and added 14 assists for 22 points while serving 75 penalty minutes. The eight goals put him third on his team in goals while his 14 assists and 22 points put him in a tie for second.

When asked about the caliber of the league Gruszka said, “it is somewhere between Junior ‘B’ and NCAA Division 1.”

Only three rookies have inked cards to date – forward Carter Wright, 17, who played last year with the Chatham-Kent AA Major Midgets, defenceman Derek Hueni, 18, the captain of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association champion Dresden Midgets, and defenceman/forward Nathan Broek, 18, of Tweed, who was the captain of the Tweed team that lost out to Hueni and Dresden in the finals.

The Blades have also added longtime Chatham Maroons goalie coach Bino Pereira to the staff, as well as former Chatham Maroons and Dresden Kings trainer Stu Fletcher who will help Mike Barton look after the team’s equipment.

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