BELLEVILLE — For Kingston, Ontario native Aaron Luchuk, his professional hockey career couldn’t start any closer to home, something last season’s OHL Over-age Player of the Year couldn’t be more happy about.
‘'Forty-five minutes away from my home in Kingston", said Luchuk, ‘’I can go home for dinners and see my parents. It's nice to be in a familiar setting. Growing up playing hockey in Kingston, it felt like I was playing at the Yardmen Arena or Wally Dever, every other weekend, so I’m pretty familiar with the area. It's a great spot and a comfortable city. I’m looking forward to living here.’’
‘’When I signed with Ottawa, I got my first glimpse of it", said Luchuk of the renovated Yardmen, now the newly-named CAA Arena, I came up here to sign the contract. To see where it is now, to what it was before, other than the green seats, those are pretty iconic, it's a beautiful facility. What they’ve done with it is amazing, top class and all guys really like being here.’’
The City of Belleville's $20.5 million renovations haven't gone unnoticed. The upgrades continue to draw rave reviews from players and supporters alike.
While fans' expectations will be high, following an impressive junior career that saw Luchuk, a skilled forward win a Memorial Cup and OHL Over-age Player of the Year. He also claimed an OHL scoring title, the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy, racking up 115 points and 50 goals with OHL Barrie and Windsor last season. In Junior, Luchuk isn’t placing any expectations on himself just yet.
‘’I don’t think there's specific certain amount of points, or games, or whatever set on myself right now", said Luchuk, ‘’I’m looking forward to going in each day and try to get better and used to the pro level, succeeding at whatever role I’m put in, whether it be an offensive role or defensive role. I just gotta go out there and show the coaching staff than I can be trusted in every situation. I think if I’m able to do that my points and numbers will fall in place.’’
The left shooting, 5-foot-10, 184-pound centre has also been noted for his character, work ethic and two-way play.
''I have to agree with him", said Mann of the 21-year old's tampered expectations, ''We have a lot of forward depth here and he's in a battle, which is great for us because at the end of the day, you have to have depth at the American League to stay and compete for playoff positions. If you don't have that depth, I don't care what type of coaching staff you have, you're not going to win hockey games.
''He is just one of those depth guys that can play with the offence", noted Mann, "he's coming in with a great reputation, but I've certainly coached guys that tore up the OHL, WHL and just couldn't do it because the pace is too good for them at the American League. It's a huge jump from major junior to the American Hockey League''
''Luchuk is one of those guys that certainly has some good puck skills, good vision, another guy that his foot-speed is probably not his biggest strength, unfortunately for us, he didn't get to play in the pre-season games in Ottawa, so this weekend is a big test for him. He's got two games to show us that he belongs on this team come Monday morning''.
Veteran forwards Paul Carey, 30, and Jim O’Brien, 29, have cleared waivers and were assigned to the Belleville Senators.
A familiar face to Senators' fans, O’Brien, a two-way centre impressed in his first season in Belleville, finishing second in team scoring by registering 29 points in 60 games. The Maplewood, MN native returned to the Senators' organization last fall on a professional try-out agreement . After an impressive stint, he earned an AHL contract on Oct. 19, before being locked up on a two-year, two-way contract for the remainder of the 2017-18 season through 2018-19 on February 25th. O’Brien appeared in ten games for Ottawa last season following his new deal.
Carey joins the Senators' organization agreeing to a two-way pact on July 1st, following a season in the Big Apple suiting up in 60 games at the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers last season, tallying 14 points.
The Boston native reconnects with Belleville Senators' head coach, Troy Mann. The pair has had prior success in Hershey in the 2016-2017 season, where Carey scored 55 points in 55 games.