The Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard will most certainly be out for vengeance this coming 2020-21 season. Following a 2019-20 season that saw the team go 17-39-5, Billy Keane was brought on to take over the managerial and coaching duties on July 16. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of signings and trades in preparation for the coming hockey season.
After putting up just 37 points in 60 games, while finishing second-last and outside of the playoff picture last season, the Blizzard will look much different than the team that last saw the ice on March 1, in Winnipeg against the Blues.
OCN’s latest moves are the trade-and-sign deal with 2003-born defenceman Magnus Einarson and the signing of 2001-born forward Hunter Rambow.
Einarson, 17, was drafted 17th overall in the 2018 MJHL Draft by the Winnipeg Blues, to which Keane acquired him for forward Mike Svenson on August 30, which somehow happened to be OCN’s only move of the week. The Winnipeg-born defenceman spent the past two seasons with the U-18 Winnipeg Thrashers, where he collected 15 goals, 50 points and 124 penalty minutes in 104 combined regular season and playoff games from 2018-20.
Rambow, 19, had himself a very interesting past 12 months. Following the conclusion of his U-18 AAA career in the 2018-19 season, the product of The Pas spent the 2019-20 season between four different CJHL leagues, suiting up with the Battlefords North Stars (SJHL), the Waywayseecappo Wolverines (MJHL), the Carrot River Outback Thunder (PJHL) and the Columbia Valley Rockies (KIJHL). He had eight goals, 22 points and 30 penalty minutes in 35 combined regular season games, before going a point-per-game in six postseason contests with the Rockies.
After already parting with the rights to 2003-born forward Owen Wiehs, in exchange for veteran centreman David Queree and a Player Development Fee from the Steinbach Pistons, Keane and Co. got the wheels turning on a deal with the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Campbellton Tigers. The following day, the Blizzard sent Quebec-born forward Tobias Commanda-Odjick out East, in exchange for 2001-born defenceman Thomas Dodds, as well as a Player Development Fee.
Two days later, OCN announced a third deal which saw forward Kobe Campbell shipped to the Waywayseecappo Wolverines for a Player Development Fee. Although cutting costs in all three deals, Keane knew that the option to bring back 18 of the members of the 2019-20 squad was not a desirable one, so deals have been made. Shortly thereafter, two more pieces were added to the puzzle, as the Blizzard signed forwards Michael Hlady (2002) and Trenton Morriseau (2002) to standard MJHL agreements.
Keane, 57, opted to take in the 2019-20 MJHL season from the sidelines, cutting ties with the Winnipeg Blues following the ownership change last offseason. His coaching experience includes 11 years as an assistant with the University of Manitoba Bisons before another 11 seasons within the MJHL. This is his second shared head coach/GM position.