FLINT — After playing their first preseason games in team history, the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League have a gap in their preseason schedule to allow some of their players to attend National Hockey League training camps.
In fact, 155 OHL players were invited to NHL training camps, six of which are currently on the Firebirds’ roster. Those include Connor Chatham with the New Jersey Devils, Sonny Milano with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Alex Nedeljkovic with the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Peters with the Dallas Stars, Vili Saarijarvi with the Detroit Red Wings and Josh Wesley with the Carolina Hurricanes.
All of the players are eligible to return to their OHL teams for the upcoming season. Of the 155 OHL players to compete at NHL camps, 104 have been selected in the NHL draft while 47 are free agent invitees and four are undrafted free agent signed prospects. Fiftyeight of the players have already signed entry-level contracts.
The players will return to Flint for their final preseason game on Sunday against the Sarnia Sting, which will take place at McMorran Arena in Port Huron. So far, the Firebirds are 0-2 in the preseason with losses at Saginaw and at Windsor. The regular season begins on Thursday, Sept. 24 at Saginaw before returning home two nights later to host the Spirit in the inaugural renewal of the 1-75 rivalry.
Also, renovations at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center seem to be moving along at a steady pace, according to the Firebirds’ official Twitter account. It seems as though the extension to the press area is close to done and the ice has been laid with lines and logos, as well. The page also showed the disassembling of the old scoreboard to prepare for a new, state-of-the-art LED video scoreboard.
Earlier this month, Flint executed a trade that had been expected since the OHL Draft several months ago, dealing first round pick Ryan McLeod to the Mississauga Steelheads in exchange for eight different draft picks over the next four years.
“This is a very important day for the future of the Firebirds,” general manager Terry Christensen said in a press release. “We are now in a position to build our hockey club through the draft and, as well, we have an inventory of high draft picks to make a trade if needed.”
The Firebirds have also launched their own radio show on Sports Xtra 1330 AM WTRX. Radio broadcaster Dominic Hennig hosts the show along with Firebirds’ head coach John Gruden. The weekly show takes place every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m.