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2014-01-14 at 15:09

The next level

By Matt Vis,
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When Zach Grzelewski decided to suit up for the Thunder Bay North Stars, it was with the hopes it would help launch him toward the next level of his hockey career.

He has since taken a major step on that path.

“It was definitely in the thought process that playing older and stronger guys would help me prepare for the next level,” he said after the team’s 4-3 overtime win against the Dryden Ice Dogs last Saturday.

The 16-year-old forward signed an agreement with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights at the end of December. Grzelewski, who was selected by the Knights in the sixth round of this past year’s draft, is eligible to play up to nine games with London this year.

“It was definitely exciting when they called in November and said they wanted to take a look at me around Christmas,” he said. “I was excited to get there and show them what I had and three days in they wanted me to commit to them.”

He made his Knights debut in a Dec. 31 game against the Sarnia Sting and has played in three contests with the club as a result of regulars being unavailable due to injuries and world junior commitments.

First year head coach Jeremy Adduono said at the beginning of his tenure that he wanted to make his team a place where players could hone their skills while looking to move up to the next level.

He just didn’t expect such an early return.

“I’m a big believer in this city and this community and I know there are a lot of great players still coming out of it. We wanted to add stability to this junior program and show kids that leaving town maybe isn’t the best option,” Adduono said.

“When he signed with us at the start of the year I told him our goal was to get him playing in London next year. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon but it’s a testament to him. Not only has he performed well on the ice and delivered beyond expectations but he’s very mature for a 16-year-old.”

Having Grzelewski catch the attention of a major junior club already might open the door for other players, Adduono added.
Playing in his first Superior International Junior Hockey League season, Grzelewski has played a large role in the team sitting in second place with a 23-6-4 mark. The club was riding a six-game winning streak heading into their Tuesday showdown with the Fort Frances Lakers.

Heading into that matchup, Grzelewski has recorded 23 goals and 42 points in 31 games.
Since his return, he has played in three of the North Stars’ second half games and has recorded a goal in each of them.

“It definitely gives confidence coming back here and gives you the capability of being a better player with that experience,” Grzelewski said.



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