Barrie Colts general manager Jason Ford considered it a gamble when he selected Russian goaltender Maksim Zhukov and Czech forward Matej Pekar in this year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft back in late June.
Though both players were looking to go the NCAA college route, that gamble paid off for Ford and the Colts when both players officially signed standard player contracts on May 5.
Along with Zhukov and Pekar, the Colts also officially inked rookie prospect forwards Connor LePage, Peter Fleming and Alliston native Tyson Foerster.
“Each of these players bring different attributes and skill-sets we feel will make the hockey club better immediately and into the future,” Ford said.
Zhukov, Barrie’s 43rd overall selection in the first-round of the import draft, was a fourth-round pick (96th overall) of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL entry draft. The 19-year-old Russian, who played with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL last season, is one of three goaltenders currently on the roster.
Pekar, Barrie’s second-round import pick (108th overall), was a surprise addition after previously committing to attend Miami University. The 18-year-old forward, who was fourth-round pick (94) of the Buffalo Sabres in this year’s NHL entry draft, had 14 goals and 49 assists in 56 games last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks to earn USHL rookie-of-the-year honours. Pekar follows in the footsteps of former Colt and current Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, who earned rookie of the year honours with Muskegon the previous season.
Sixteen-year-old Foerster was a third-round selection (55th overall) of the Colts in this year’s OHL priority selection draft after a putting up an impressive 20 goals and 41 assists in 34 games with the Barrie minor midgets last season.
LePage spent last season with the Guelph Hurricanes of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), collecting six goals and eight assists in 38 games. The 16-year-old winger was Barrie’s fifth-round pick in the 2017 OHL draft.
Fleming joins former London Jr. Knight teammate Ryan Suzuki with the Colts. The 17-year-old played with the St. Thomas Stars of the GOJHL last season, racking up 11 goals and 28 assists in 49 games. He was a sixth-round selection (101st overall) of the Colts in the 2017 OHL draft.
Photo: The Barrie Colts lineup for the 2018-19 OHL season is starting to take shape after signing five players, including Alliston native Tyson Foerster, to standard player contracts on Sept. 5. Terry Wilson/OHL Images photo