The 2011-2012 NOJHL season for Kirkland Lake was one of struggle and eventual growth. With an ownership change mid season, and a renaming of the team with it, many wondered what would come of those players on the roster. As it turns out three years later, there is always a silver lining to storm clouds after all.
1995 birthdate goaltender Ken Appleby was a second round selection of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals coming out of the North Bay Trappers Midget program in 2011. Assigned to Kirkland Lake that fall, Appleby did his best as a young goaltender on a struggling team. Those struggle did nothing but make him stronger, most of the good ones a fueled in trials by fire.
The 2012 season saw Appleby make limited starts for Oshawa, fine tuning his skills with an organization that was showing patience in the young netminder.
2013 saw Appleby be relied upon just a little bit more, and his goals against average of 2.48 with a save percentage of .920 began to show everyone else what Oshawa saw when they drafted him, including NHL scouts.
Passed on by the NHL in the last two NHL drafts, disappointed, but undeterred Appleby was determined to work harder than ever to make that NHL dream come true.
Just minutes after the last name of the 2014 Entry Draft was called, Appleby received a call from his agent saysing the Arizona Coyotes had officially invited him to their prospects development camp.
Appleby joined 26 skaters, including former first-round picks Brendan Perlini, Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson, and two other goalies in Phoenix for the three-day camp.
Immediately following the conclusion of the Coyotes camp, Appleby was on a flight to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ rookie camp. This time earning a spot on the Blackhawks NHL rookie tournament team. Having the opportunity to put on the Blackhawks jersey from September 13-16 in London, Ont., while playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators rookie squads.
Experience allows for learning, learning equates to growth. Appleby started gaining his experience in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
If the NOJHL were a school, it would be considered a small school. Small schools tend to offer more student to teacher interactions, smaller class sizes are almost always equated with greater learning. Greater learning almost always equates to more growth, and growth is what makes students successful.
Appleby is just another in what is a growing list of players coming from the NOJHL moving on to new heights in his hockey career. The question many are now starting to ask is who will be the next great player coming out of the NOJHL. That question may be answered this year with a fresh group of highly skilled recruits.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher