By Sam Laskaris
SUDBURY – Troy Lajeunesse had a fairly good inkling he was going to finish off his junior career with a franchise other than the Sarnia Sting, members of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Lajeunesse, a citizen of the Dokis First Nation, had spent the past three seasons with the Sting. But following a trade last week he’s now a member of the Sudbury Wolves.
The 20-year-old centre got caught up in a numbers game in Sarnia. That’s because he was one of four overagers that attended the Sting training camp this season.
OHL clubs can only dress a maximum of three overagers (players who have already turned 20 heading into the season) per game.
“I guess I wasn’t in their plans,” Lajeunesse said of the Sting.
Sarnia’s brass had told Lajeunesse it would be addressing the issue of its surplus of overagers a couple of weeks ago.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” he said, adding the other overagers on the Sting squad were not told to expect any changes. “I kind of figured it was going to be me.”
And when the Sarnia club kicked off its regular season last month, Lajeunesse was a healthy scratch for its first two contests.
Soon thereafter he was traded to Sudbury, in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection draft.
“They didn’t give me an option of where I’d like to go,” Lajeunesse said. “But (Sudbury) is perfect for me.”
Lajeunesse welcomed the trade to the Wolves as he was able to return to northern Ontario and be closer to home.
His family, including mother Renee and father Mark, live in North Bay. The family moved from the Dokis First Nation to North Bay when Lajeunesse was in Grade 4.
Unless the Wolves make some additional trades, Lajeunesse can expect to see his share of playing time in Sudbury.
He’s one of three overagers now on the Wolves’ roster. But one of the team’s other overagers, forward Ryan Valentini, is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury. A date for his return is not known.
The Wolves have been tinkering with their lines in recent games but Lajeunesse has been seeing his share of action. He’s been shifted around on the club’s top two lines and has also seen playing time with Sudbury’s powerplay and penalty-killing units.
“I think I bring a lot of energy and can help the young guys on the team out a lot,” said Lajeunesse, a 5-foot-9, 167-pounder.
Lajeunesse scored a goal in his Wolves’ debut last Wednesday versus the host North Bay Battalion.
“It was nice to get that first one out of the way early,” he said.
With the Wolves, Lajeunesse will be coached by former NHL player Cory Stillman. Lajeunesse was impressed with the way Stillman welcomed him to the squad.
“He just said play your game and if you have a bad game you’ll have a clean slate the next day,” Lajeunesse said.
Lajeunesse has also seen his point production go up steadily throughout his OHL career.
He had 31 points, including 12 goals, in 64 games during his rookie season, 2014-15, in Sarnia.
During his sophomore year he scored 14 goals and earned 36 points in 62 contests. And then last season he collected 40 points (18 goals and 22 assists) in 65 matches.
Though he hasn’t set a goal of how many points he’d like to rack up in his final junior campaign, Lajeunesse will only state that he would like his stats to go up dramatically this year.