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NOJHL preseason preview: Soo Eagles

SUDBURY, Ont. – After splitting a two-game home-and-home exhibition set earlier this week with the rival Soo Thunderbirds the Soo Eagles will now get set to meet that same side Friday in their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season opener.

With new head coach Doug Laprade being brought on board to guide the club into the campaign, the Eagles look to be in good hands behind the bench.

Having won titles at numerous levels as both a player and coach over the years, Laprade’s experience should bode well for the Pullar Stadium faithful.

He played four years of NCAA Division I hockey at Lake Superior State University, also in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., after a successful Jr. A career in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont.

While with the Lakers he was part of the school’s national championship-winning squad back in 1987-88.

The Los Angeles Kings NHL draft pick was also on the coaching staff of LSSU’s NCAA crown won in 1991-92.

He takes over an Eagles’ team that finished 15 games over .500 last season where they went 35-20-0-1 and finished fifth overall in the 12-team NOJHL.

Teaming up with Laprade, here’s the latest NOJHL team preseason preview compiled by the league, which today features the Soo Eagles.

NOJHL: What are your expectations for the Eagles as you prepare for the upcoming 2018-19 season?

DOUG LAPRADE: We want to have a very fast, physical and disciplined team that gets better every day.

NOJHL: What have you seen from your team early on?

D.L.: I see a team that is learning and continues to work very hard to get better.

NOJHL: Who are a couple of returning players you expect big things from?

D.L.: Kyle Quinn, Brendan Blair and Alec Schwab are three of our key returnees. All three were rookies last season with Quinn picking up 23 points at forward. Blair and Schwab are both defencemen and combined for 29 points and helped the team have the third-best goals-against ratio in the league, allowing just 147 goals in 56 games.

NOJHL: Who are some of your newcomers you’ve signed that have impressed?

D.L.: Raf Praysner is a center that comes to us from the Soo Greyhounds midget AAA program. Left wing Caleb Wood also played on the same major midget team over in the Soo. Praysner had nine goals and 17 assists while Wood was second on the Greyhounds in goals with 17 and added 10 assists. We have also added defenceman Richard Boulware, who played high school hockey in Trenton, Michigan.

NOJHL: What style of play do you expect to instill into your players heading into your first season as a head coach in the NOJHL?

D.L.: I expect a hard-working team that is very good defensively.

NOJHL: What goals do you have heading into the start of the regular season and beyond?

D.L.: The goal is to be on stride by the playoffs.