Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whalers' newcomers fitting in nicely

Courtesy Plymouth Whalers

Josh Brittain’s day last Friday started like most days, but things have a way of changing quickly in the Ontario Hockey League.

“I was half-dressed for practice when I got called into the office and was told I was going to Plymouth, so sign some paperwork,” Brittain said. “I’m definitely excited to put on a good show for the fans this year and to help this team out as much as possible.”

The Whalers acquired Brittain from Barrie in exchange for Sudbury’s third-round choice in the 2010 OHL draft and Oshawa’s second-round choice in the 2011 draft.

Brittain didn’t waste any time after the trade was confirmed. He drove from Barrie to Kitchener in time for Plymouth’s game against the Rangers on Friday, beating the Whalers team bus by a good 30 minutes.

Not long after that, he was skating on a line with Tyler Seguin and Myles McCauley and contributed to the Whalers’ 2-0 win in Kitchener.

Although the Colts are considered contenders in the Eastern Conference race with a record of 9-4-0-1, they have an eye for the future, so acquiring the draft choices in the deal may help them in the long run.

The Whalers are looking for help right now in acquiring Brittain, who was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round (71st overall) of the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

“Brittain is a proven veteran in this league,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “He’s a power forward who has scored goals wherever he’s played. He brings a veteran presence to our team.”

Originally selected by the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round (14th overall) in the 2006 OHL draft, Brittain was traded to Barrie last season. Brittain has scored 68 goals with 60 assists for 128 points and 269 penalty minutes in 202 career games at the time of the trade. He enjoyed his best offensive season last year when he scored 32 goals with 20 assists for 52 points in 68 games split between Kingston and Barrie.

Brittain was asked to describe his style of play.

“I think I’ll bring a big frame to the rink every night, taking pucks to the net and doing all the little things, along with scoring some goals,” he said. “Hard work is my main characteristic, like the rest of this team. That’s one thing I like to bring every night. Obviously, I’m a big power forward, physical. I show a little creative upside, too.”

Brittain has a positive early impression of his new team.

“It’s really nice to see that everyone’s a hard worker,” Brittain said. “Everyone competes. We have a great coaching staff and a great organization. All the guys are very tight-knit. We had a huge group in the back of the bus last night (after the Kitchener game) and it was great.”

What’s it like playing on a line with Seguin?

“It’s pretty cool,” Brittain said Saturday night during an intermission interview. “He’s wicked fast – it’s hard to keep up with him sometimes and he’s got great vision. Every shift, we’re coming off and talking to each other, just getting familiar with each other and how we play."

Ironically, a few moments after answering the question about Seguin, he scored his first goal with Plymouth in the Whalers’ 6-1 victory over Belleville. Seguin skated to the slot, cut to the left side of the Belleville net and found Brittain on the other side of the goal.

“Brittain’s a great player and a great person off the ice,” Seguin said of his new line mate. “He just goes in there, bashes bodies and gets the puck. He can bury the puck and did that tonight. He played real well for us.”

The Whalers have had good success in bringing in veteran players from other teams. Evan Brophey, Wes Cunningham, Patrick Lee, Steve Ward, Joe McCann, Ryan Ramsay and Jeff Weber are all positive examples of veteran OHL players who found new life with the Whalers.

Brittain is looking to help his team in the short-term and his career in the longer view.

“One of the reasons I’m glad I’m in Plymouth is I’ll develop into how the Ducks want me to play," said Brittain. "It’s just a great fit overall.”


When you come to Compuware Arena on Friday to watch the Whalers play the Owen Sound Attack, you’ll see another new name of the Plymouth roster – although it’s the same player.

James Marsden – acquired by the Whalers from Kingston on September 30 – wants to be known as JR Marsden.

“When I was young, my mom (Sandra) called me JR,” Marsden explained. “I always thought about changing my name to JR – a lot of my friends (in Exeter, Ont.) still call me JR. I just think a new name means a fresh start.”

Marsden is an honest grinder who enjoys playing in Plymouth.

“I think with Coach Vellucci’s style of aggressive forecheck, it’s been great so far here,” Marsden said. “I’m just looking forward to this year. I’m having a lot of fun.”

The current Plymouth Whaler often gets compared to the actor James Marsden.

“Always,” Marsden said with a smile. “So many people are always confusing him with me and vice-versa.”

Marsden sees a lot of potential in Plymouth.

“You look at this squad and we have a lot of depth,” Marsden said. “With Seguin as hot as he is and (AJ) Jenks and everyone else, I think we can give Windsor a go. I’m just hoping to play a part as a third-line grinder and help us get there.”

Photos by Walt Dmoch

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