While you wait patiently for tonight’s game seven of the Calder Cup Finals to start, welcome to today’s edition of the Ontario Reign mailbag.

Last week a few of you submitted your questions, and I will gladly answer them the best I can. Let’s get started!

“Do you think the Kings give up on Turcotte? I personally would. Get whatever you can for him, unfortunately.” – @MakarsCookie

That’s a great question. Alex Turcotte has been a prospect that Kings fans have been waiting for to break out but hasn’t done so with injuries the past two seasons. I don’t see the Kings giving up on Turcotte, just yet. When speaking with Luc Robitaille at a season ticket member event in March, I sensed that they are still high on their 5th overall pick from the 2019 draft. The most important thing for Turcotte this season is availability. However, it doesn’t mean he’s untouchable in any potential trade packages that make the Kings better.

“Does Villalta get re-signed? If so, does he split time with Portillo, or is he the automatic starter?” – @MakarsCookie

That is another great question by @MakarsCookie. If you’re not following him on Twitter, I recommend you do so. For the first part of the question, I think Matthew Villalta gets re-signed. If he doesn’t, I think there could be a potential target if they look elsewhere. If Villalta is re-signed, he could provide veteran leadership for Erik Portillo. In each of the last three seasons, the organization has brought in a veteran goalie to help mentor Villalta. Heading into next season, it could be the other way around this time.

To answer the second question, I like to see head coach Marco Sturm split the goaltending duties. Last season saw the Ontario Reign use Cal Petersen as the number-one goalie from December on as the Kings tried to fix their $5 million investment netminder and get him back to the NHL, which didn’t work. I like to see the goaltending duties be divided around 55-45. For me, it doesn’t matter who gets the 45% or 55% of the starts, just as long as they both get games.

“Will Portillo live up to the hype? And will Andre Lee take another step forward in his development? Will Laferriere and Pinelli?” – @SonofCar26

These questions are from a good buddy of mine,¬†@SonofCar26.¬†He’s another person I recommend you should follow on Twitter. To answer the first question, I won’t have a definitive answer because goalies are so hard to judge nowadays. I don’t want to put too much pressure on Portillo, but I believe he can live up to the hype. We’ll see how he does this season. Regarding the second question, I thought Andre Lee made some good strides this year, especially adding some grit to his game. This upcoming season, I believe the next part of his game should be his defensive game. And for your last question, Francesco Pinelli has excellent vision and Alex Laferriere has one heck of a shot. I definitely would like to see how they play together. I believe their games complement one another.

“On the last Hockey Royalty podcast, they quoted you saying Toby wasn’t impressive. What does he need to do this offseason to be ready for the 6/7 spot?” – @DavidBerkovich

Excellent question here. With Tobias Bjornfot, I see him as a “tweener” right now. I don’t know if he’s an offensive-minded or defensive-minded defenseman and he seems to be stuck in the middle. At the beginning of the season, he looked solid, but the bad habits crept back in as the season progressed. I want Bjornfot to focus more on the defensive side of the game as Brandt Clarke, Jordan Spence, and Sean Durzi all provide offense.

“’24-’25, will Sammy Helenius be able to make the NHL roster as the starting 4C?” – @DavidBerkovich

Great question, David! Again, if you are not following @DavidBerkovich on Twitter, please do so. This question is a tough one to answer. Samuel Helenius is still very young as he’ll be 21 years old in November. While I liked what I saw from him this year, he is still a work in progress and isn’t NHL-ready. I want to see him work on using his size more, the forecheck, and faceoffs. The earliest I can see him becoming a 4C is by 2025. Either 2025 or 2026 would be a reasonable time frame.

“I’m interested in an evaluation of Martin Chromiak. How was his season? And what does he need to work on?” – @Ninerboy14

Great question here from @Ninerboy14. Make sure to give him a follow as well. It was a rough offseason for Martin Chromiak last year as he had an illness that forced him to miss training camp. Then, unfortunately, on the morning of the Ontario Reign season opener, he had to be rushed to the emergency room where he needed surgery on his appendix. The surgery forced him to miss a month.

He struggled early on but caught fire in January as he had 22 points in 20 games. Unfortunately, in the remaining 35 games he only recorded six points. He showed flashes of why Kings fans are excited about him and also showed he can improve in certain areas. First off, I believe getting stronger will be huge for him this offseason as he wasn’t able to do so last Summer because of his illness. While I like his offensive game, defensively, he’ll need to be better. Going from juniors to professional is a different ball game, I’m sure he is aware of that too. It’ll be fun to see what he can do this coming season.

Thank you to those who submitted their questions.  

Photo credit: Ontario Reign 

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