Daniel Colabufo, left, Michael Fairfax, right, are two of the Bonnyville Pontiacs’ recruit for the upcoming season that have the coaching staff excited.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs have bolstered their lineup this off-season by signing some highly sought after 18 and 19-year-olds.
In fact, the Pontiacs have found a handful of players from the United States who have committed to coming over for the 2020-21 season.
Forward Michael Fairfax, (Salisbury School, US Prep), and defensemen Will Hilfiker (New Hampton School, US Prep) and Cole Stofflet (Culver Military Academy Prep and Air Force Academy commit) could be household names for the Yaks next season.
The recruiting talent includes 19-year-old Daniel Colabufo from Camillus, New York who had 46 points in 46 games in his final season of high school prep hockey.
He’s committed to the NCAA’s Holy Cross Crusaders for next season, which has seen recent Pontiacs Grayson Constable, Luke Albert and Lucas Thorne go there.
NewsChannel 9 in Syracuse, New York, did a recent profile on Colabufo.
Keep working, Daniel! Looking forward to following you one step at a time #habits @WestGeneseeCSD @NorthwoodSchool @ChaddCassidy @BPontiacs @swan1585 @HCrossMHockey @DavidBerard30 pic.twitter.com/ednQmRWRjl
— West Genesee Hockey (@wgwildcathockey) May 8, 2020
The Pontiacs had a 33-21-4 record last season with only three 20-year-old players on the roster in Joel Ray, Daine Dubois, and Lucas Thorne.
They anticipate being able to field another youthful roster this season–with some experience now–as leading Matt McKim who scored 85 points last season is set to return.
Pontiacs general manager Rick Swan said making contact with many of these prospects early in the season gave them an edge over other junior clubs because the way the pandemic shut down seasons across North America.
“I think it does favor us having so many returning players and then the cancellation of many of the seasons for teams throughout North America favoured the Bonneville Pontiacs, maybe more so than some of the high-end rich teams like the Pentictons, the Vernons, the Brooks Bandits, the Okotoks Oilers, because our recruiting philosophy last year was to make contact with top players early on,” said Swan.
“I say it every year that I get really excited about players that we’re going after with character and ability, but this year, especially that we were getting kids that have never committed to our organization in the past, via the BCHL and via some of the other top teams in our league that seem to have more prestige for them.”
Coach/GM Rich Swan talks about upcoming season
It's a new normal for the Bonnyville Junior A Pontiacs. Head Coach and General Manager Rick Swan talks with Michael Menzies about the cancellation of spring camp, new recruits, and possibilities to returning to play for the 2020-21 season. 1:00–What does the new normal look like for the Pontiacs? 5:00–How has this young core you've already got improved this recruiting season? 10:24–Local players that could become Pontiacs 11:50–AJHL plans for next season14:03–Will the NHL's potential return give you more optimism for next season?
Posted by Lakeland Connect on Monday, May 11, 2020
Trey Funk, Notre Dame Midget AAA Hounds product, and Alex Power, from the same program as Thorne and McKim in St. Andrew’s College, round out the recruiting class that has the Pontiacs’ coaching staff excited.
However, first-year standout Thomas Kramer appears he’ll be taking his talents back south of the border after being selected in the 13th round in the USHL draft, and rookie d-man Cam Newton has committed to Tufts University.
Kramer was undeterred after sustaining a mid-season shoulder injury that saw him miss a third of the season, finishing with 40 points in 39 games.
There are many uncertainties heading into this season as shortly after the Yaks first-round exit to the Drayton Valley, the 2019-20 playoffs were cancelled.
There will be a better indication as the summer progresses on the appetite and sponsorships AJHL franchises can muster up to move forward to operate for the 2020-21 season.
Swan said the Pontiacs are committed making the season work.
“There lies a little bit of a concern with the sustainability of a lot of the organizations in the CJHL, no different than us included.
“We have been given tremendous support from our board. There’s a real motivation to do whatever that we can to operate for the 2020 21 season.
“And we know that there are a lot of teams in our league and teams in Canada and teams in North America, frankly, that may not be in that situation. And so I really understand that we need to get direction from Hockey Canada, obviously Health Canada, and Justin Trudeau of what a return to play is going to look like. But in the meantime, we’re carrying on as if we’re ready to start the season come September.”