Trio of Hamilton Bulldogs head to Toronto Maple Leafs development camp


Published July 14, 2022 at 6:08 pm

Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Marco Costantini. (OHL Images)

Three contributors to the Hamilton Bulldogs’ OHL championship season, including hometown goalie Marco Costantini, are getting an on-ice trial with an NHL team just down the road.

Costantini, high-scoring wing Avery Hayes and defenceman Noah Van Vliet are all on the development camp roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which begins on Saturday. Toronto invited 44 players to the camp, which NHL teams use to evaluate recent draft choices and look at free agents from the Canadian Hockey League, National Collegiate Athletic Association and other feeder leagues.

Hamilton won the Ontario league (OHL) title last month to cap the league’s return from losing the 2020 playoffs and entire 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 pandemic health protections. The Bulldogs were the last league champion to lose at the CHL’s Memorial Cup tournament, falling to the host Saint John Sea Dogs in the final on June 29.

In his first season as a No. 1 netminder for Hamilton, Costantini won a goaltending triple crown by leading the OHL in goals-against average (2.32), save percentage (.917) and shutouts (6). The 19-year-old Hamiltonian had a 2.29 / .913 statline during the league playoffs.

Hayes was a standout during the playoff run, averaging more than two points per game with 34 in 16 contests. The five-foot-10, 175-pound Hayes was also second on the Bulldogs in scoring in the regular season, with 41 goals and 79 points across 66 games.

The Westland, Mich., native’s brother, Gavin Hayes, was chosen in the third round of the NHL draft by Chicago last week. The younger Hayes plays in the OHL with the Flint Firebirds.

Van Vliet, a defender with a projectable frame at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, became a regular for Hamilton in the playoffs. The 18-year-old Toronto native actually played in more postseason games (17) than he did in the regular season (11).

Winterton gets Kraken deal

As well, Bulldogs forward Ryan Winterton has inked his NHL entry-level deal with the Seattle Kraken, the second-year expansion team. Winterton, who is going into his age-19 season, is also in the talent pool for Canada’s entry in the 2023 world under-20 men’s hockey championship.

Winterton was drafted by Seattle last summer, then had an more extended wait for a return to competitive hockey after injuring his shoulder during the Bulldogs’ training camp. Once he returned, he got up to speed by tallying 20 goals and 46 points across 37 regular-season games. The Whitby native stayed above a point-per-game pace in the OHL playoffs, with seven goals and 19 points across 18 contests.

Seattle has drafted six players from OHL Eastern Conference teams in its first two drafts. That, of course, includes Burlington’s Shane Wright, whom the Kraken chose No. 4 overall on July 7.

Some other Bulldogs are getting looks from NHL teams. Top scorer Logan Morrison, is at the development camp of the Dallas Stars. Dallas has also drafted two Bulldogs defencemen, Artem Grushnikov and Gavin Hayes.

Defenceman Jorian Donovan is also in a development camp with his hometown team, the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa drafted Donovan in the fifth round.

Costantini, Morrison and Avery Hayes are among the large cohort of nine championship-winning Bulldogs who are entering their 20-year-old seasons in the fall. An OHL team can only have three 20-year-olds in the lineup for a game, which means the Bulldogs face a roster makeover before the season starts in about two months.

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