Ethan Torkos made the Thorold Blackhawks out of training camp the old fashioned way.
He earned it.
The 18-year-old Port Colborne resident worked out diligently in the summer and impressed Blackhawks coach Scott Barnes enough to make the final cut.
“I always knew I was good enough to play,” Torkos said. “All summer I was working hard on the ice. Had to sacrifice a little bit.
“I thought I would definitely have a chance.”
Torkos not only skated with Barnes three to four times a week, but he also hit the gym.
“Lots of weight training and working out on my own in the gym just trying to get better,” he said. “Probably what kept me motivated was seeing the other people around me get better. That really pushes everybody.”
Barnes took notice.
“He really progressed. I knew he was going to be close and then in training camp he won a spot with his work ethic, size and strength,” Barnes said. “He was a smaller defenceman growing up but played hard and physical and tough. He had his growth spurt and he’s a pretty decent-sized kid and he still has to good feet and the strength and still plays hard.”
Barnes said Torkos has become a key on the blueline for the Blackhawks.
“It’s kind of nice that he’s put it all together,” Barnes said. “He’s become a big part of our team. He plays on the penalty kill and he’s a guy you trust to get pucks out and not many guys are getting by on him on entry.”
Torkos injured his ankle in the last pre-season game and didn’t make his junior debut until late October.
“It’s obviously a big jump for him,” Barnes said. “We brought him along slowly, which I can say for a lot of our guys, and then he was maybe a scratch here and there. He was out for a bit and then came back and progressively got back into it and got on a roll. We moved some guys out and created spots for these young guys to play a little bit more and they’ve taken advantage.”
Torkos feels much more confident now with almost a full season under his belt.
“I feel like it’s a night-and-day difference,” he said. “At the start it’s rough and you get beat up a little but after a while your body conditions itself to play through it.
“(It’s) going to the rink everyday and just giving that full commitment.”
Torkos has five assists in 34 games, but Barnes feels there is room to grow on from an offensive standpoint.
“He’s got the wheels and the hands,” Barnes said. “I really think the offence will definitely come wth him. He can shoot and make plays. He hasn’t been given a whole lot of offensive opportunities this year but as an 18-or 19-year-old, they will definitely come.”
Torkos, who played AAA with the Southern Tier Admirals until he was 15 when the injury bug took its toll, feels his bread and butter is his strong play in his own end.
“I was always a stay-at-home guy,” he said. “I was a smaller defenceman and relied on my smarts and predicting the play and trying to see success out of that. I was never a stud offensive defenceman.”
Torkos, a Grade 12 student at Lakeshore Catholic High School, has been accepted to Queen’s University for engineering, but isn’t sure if he will attend next year or take a year off.
The Blackhawks dropped a 3-0 decision to the Fort Erie Meteors in Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference action Monday at Thorold Arena.
The win was the fifth straight for the Meteors.
Hawk talk: Nathan Kelly (upper body), Wyatt Gibson (wrist) and Robert Polillo did not dress for the Hawks . . . Rylan Masterson, Noah Clugston, Nathan Zadorozy, Matthew Czalij and Joshua Czalij were scratched for the Mets.
Meteors 3 Hawks 0
Fort Erie rookie Sam Barrett with his first GOJHL goal and an assist.
Thorold Blackhawks: No scoring.
Fort Erie Meteors: Barrett (1); Joseph Macchione (12); Thomas Gualtieri (4).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Thorold on Duncan Nichols-Delay (31), by Fort Erie on Noah Fortuna (49); Power plays: Thorold 0/2, Fort Erie 0/1; Penalty minutes: Thorold 2, Fort Erie 4.
Up next: The Blackhawks visit the Meteors Saturday.
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