Riley Sheahan will play for the University of Notre Dame or the Erie Otters.
That’s what Sherry Bassin, Otters managing partner and general manager, told Sheahan, his father, Mike, and his agent, Pat Brisson, of Los Angeles-based CAA Sports LLC, during a conversation a few weeks ago. Bassin plans to speak with them again on Wednesday.
Bassin, who picked Sheahan in the fourth round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, said Tuesday that he won’t trade his rights to another OHL club. Sheahan didn’t divulge if he’s interested in signing with the Otters, Bassin said.
Sheahan, 18, has never attended an Otters’ camp. The center played two seasons in Junior B with the St. Catharines (Ontario) Falcons to maintain his NCAA eligibility. Sheahan had six goals and 17 points in 37 games as a freshman at Notre Dame last season.
Yet speculation arose about his hockey future after reportedly being arrested with then-teammate Kyle Palmieri in April for underage drinking. In June, Sheahan said in a USCHO.com story that he didn’t foresee those legal issues to affect his future. He’s currently listed on the Fighting Irish’s roster for the 2010-11 season.
The Detroit Red Wings selected Sheahan in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in June. But he remains unsigned. Bassin declined to comment on if the Red Wings would have influence over Sheahan’s playing future.
* Sidwell headlines no-shows: Forward Josh Sidwell, who played with the Otters from 2007-09, chose not attend camp after originally committing to the club. He has an opportunity to join the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.
Sidwell headlined the list of players that failed to report for the opening day of camp on Tuesday.
Bassin said defenseman Keegan Harper, a 2009 OHL draft pick, was told by officials from a Tier II club in Ottawa, Ontario, that his spot wouldn’t be guaranteed if he attended Otters’ camp. “I’m very disturbed about that,” Bassin said. “I’m really surprised that coaches wouldn’t encourage (players) to go to the highest level.”
Fellow 2009 pick Kevin Zugec, who played for the Pittsburgh Hornets U16 team last season, didn’t report for an unknown reason, Bassin said. Defenseman Chad Bednar was the only prospect in the club’s 2010 draft class not to report.
Other no-shows were 2008 picks Stuart Brownell and Tyler McCarthy (both defensemen) and free-agent invites Stevie Ray Adams and Pittsburgh native Mason Murovich (younger brother of former Saginaw Spirit forward Tyler Murovich).
* Not settling for second best: Goaltender Chris Festarini arrived at camp behind Ramis Sadikov, last season’s backup to now departed Jaroslav Janus and Adam Courchaine, on the depth chart. But Festarini isn’t giving up the No. 1 job without a fight. “You can’t back down that way,” he said. “I have an opportunity at camp.”
Festarini struggled in his only appearance last season. He allowed five goals on 21 shots in one-plus periods in an 8-7 shootout loss at London on Jan. 9. He uses his OHL debut as motivation to succeed.
“You have to battle through tough times,” he said.
* Long days: Forward Tim Tankeev, the club’s top pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft, spent 21 hours traveling from his native Moscow, Russia, to Erie on Monday – a trip that included stops in New York City and Detroit. Yet he finished third in the team’s three-mile run Monday night. Then on Tuesday, he experienced his first workouts with the team. “I’m so tired,” he said Tuesday. “(It’s) so hard.”
Bassin has attempted to make his transition to Erie and the OHL smoother. They spoke about Russia, which is the native country of Bassin’s parents, Mal and Molly. “I just wanted him to be comfortable,” Bassin said of Tankeev.
* An eye-opening experience: Harborcreek Township native Billy Wager, 16, entered his first OHL camp on Tuesday with a simple approach. “I’m just out there to stop the puck,” said Wager, who joins Harbor Creek High School defenseman Hunter Conboy as the lone local players invited to camp.
He fared well in his first workouts. He fared even better at the Adrian College Showcase in Adrian, Mich. – his opening games with his new junior team, Victory Honda U16 in Plymouth, Mich. He made 35 saves in a 4-0 win against the Lansing (Mich.) Capitals. Then he stopped 29-of-31 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit’s Little Caesars in the championship game.
Wager has moved to Michigan with his father, Bill, for the upcoming season. After consistently traveling two hours to Pittsburgh for practices the past three years, he’s looking forward to shorter trips from his new home. He also appreciates having Dad at his side.
“He makes you do the right things,” Billy said.
* Effective use of time: Walt Wingfield, the club’s director of scouting, watched many of the top 2011 OHL draft prospects this summer without having to travel far.
He scouted players at a Under-15 tournament in Rochester, N.Y., in July. He traveled to Kitchener, Ontario, a 20-minute ride from his Dundas, Ontario, home for a Under-16 tournament. “Now I’ve got a good look at them,” Wingfield said. “We’re getting ready for next year.”
* Two thumbs up for two refs: The OHL will use a two-referee system full time for the first time during the 2010-11 season – a couple of seasons after introducing it a couple of years ago. The league needed time to accumulate enough quality referees to handle every regular-season and playoff game, Bassin said. But the time has finally arrived, and Bassin is happy about it.
“It’s a different game when you have two (referees) versus 1,” he said. “Players are more conscious of it.”
* News and notes: Forwards Andrew Yogan (sore back) and Chris Marchese (groin), the club’s 2010 first-round pick, missed Tuesday’s workouts. … Club officials moved Thursday’s scrimmage to 3:30 p.m. from 4:30 p.m.
– Victor Fernandes