Experience helpful as Greyhounds round out coaching staff

Former OHL player Brendan Taylor has joined the Soo Greyhounds as an assistant coach

There wasn’t a lot of time to fill the spot left open when Jordan Smith took a coaching job with the American Hockey League’s Springfield Thunderbirds earlier this month.

When all was said and done, it took the Soo Greyhounds 10 days to fill the open coaching spot and they did so with someone familiar with coaching in the league, announcing Brendan Taylor as its new assistant coach on Thursday with less than two weeks to go ahead of training camp.

Taylor, 33, is coming off three seasons as an assistant coach with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads, a role he took over after spending a season as a video coach with the organization.

For Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis, it came down to a mix of experience and motivation that prompted the hiring.

“He’s done a great job in Mississauga over the past couple of years,” Raftis said. “He’s brought some defencemen that, whether it’s a CHL defenceman of the year (Nicolas Hague) or lots of draft picks that have come through there, sometimes those guys aren’t high picks and he deserves a lot of credit for that.”

“We wanted to bring someone in that was hungry for the position and was really motivated, but at the same time, it’s someone that has some coaching reps under them,” Raftis added.

Raftis said a sizeable number of people reached out about the open position.

“It didn’t necessarily have to be someone that played the position, but somebody that had experience with it,” Raftis said. “Far too often now, there are lots of goalie coaches that you go through as a specialized spot. There’s lots of skills people that can work with forwards. A lot of times, the defense development spot in coaching, there’s such a nuance and such a speciality there that you have to be careful who you bring in.”

With a trio of key defensemen graduating from last winter in Robert Calisti, Ryan O’Rourke, and Jack Thompson, Raftis said the more inexperienced group returning makes it a good time for a new coach to settle into the spot.

“It’s a mix of a couple veteran players and some young players coming through,” Raftis said. “It’s a good time for them to come in and put their own stamp on it, but at the same time, continue what we’ve done and take it to the next level.”

Taylor’s playing career saw him spend two seasons in the OHL, beginning in 2006 when he joined the Peterborough Petes, where he and Raftis were teammates during the latter’s overage season in the league.

After his rookie season in Peterborough, Taylor split the 2007-08 season between the Belleville Bulls and Saginaw Spirit.

Taylor retired from playing following the 2013 season.

His coaching career began in 2014 when he was hired as an assistant coach with the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Oakville Blades.

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