October 09, 2016

The Missing Middleton; replacing Ottawa's linchpin

How do you replace a defenceman who, six months ago, at the most important point of your last season, logged almost half an hour of icetime per game?

In the interim, it'll have to be some combination of 19-year old Ryan Orban, early standout sophomore Noel Hoefenmayer and recently acquired Kyle Auger who will likely have to anchor a young Ottawa blue line by committee, something the 67's brass are making preparations for.

"We'd certainly welcome him back with open arms," says Jeff Brown on Jake Middleton, his go-to on D last season.  "We have to prepare like he's not coming back."

Middleton, the 2014 NHL draft's "Mr. Irrelevant", has been anything but, garnering interest as an unsigned free agent in the summer.

After being left without a contract by the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted him with their last selection following a Stanley Cup win, their division rivals in San Jose were all too happy to pluck the rugged minute-eater, before assigning him to their AHL affiliate this past week.

"So far he's made it and that's all we're hearing.  If he doesn't come back, that's great for Jake Middleton, nobody would deserve it more than him," adds Brown.


Keaton Middleton calls himself @BabyMiddz on Twitter, which he may be age-wise in relation to brother Jake, but the tough minutes he logs, his 6'5 frame and his evolving "leadership role" as he alludes to with the Saginaw Spirit are anything but baby-sized.

If the younger of the two brothers makes the pro ranks -- he was the 101st overall pick to Toronto this past summer -- the guidance of Jake will probably play a hand in it.

"I've really been able to learn from him, I think I do have an advantage over other guys just having a brother with all the experience he has," says the younger Keaton.

"We're together from about 6 a.m. on usually during the summers.  There are a lot of things he's been able to teach me."


Shortly after letting towering blueliner Stepan Falkovsky go, allowing him to join the AHL's Stockton Heat, another Slavic defender has fallen out of favour with the 67's.

Andrei Golikov, selected in the 2016 Import Draft, has yet to play a regular season game with the Barberpoles, and appears to have been released from the team.

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