Ontario Junior Hockey League resident writer Ron Valentine is profiling the 2023-24 team captains across The OJ. (Photo by Shawn Muir / OJHL Images)
BY RON VALENTINE
William Whelton, 20, is the captain of the 2023-24 edition of the Wellington Dukes.
The defenceman from Whitby is in his first season with Wellington. He started his junior hockey career with the NOJHL’s Espanola Express, now the Paper Kings.
In 2021-22, he was assistant captain of the USPHL’s Atlanta Mad Hatters. He spent time last season with the CCHL’s Cornwall Colts before patrolling the blueline for the GOJHL’s Caledonia Corvairs.
Assisting William in his new responsibility is returning forward Connor Hunt, coming off a 40-point rookie season, and defenceman Dmitri-Alexander Tzaferis, who played last season for the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL.
William’s younger brother, Matthew, 18, is also a Duke defenceman.
William picks up the story.
“I’ve played in a lot of places so far in my hockey career including a (U16) team in Sudbury in the 2018-19 season that was very successful and produced a lot of players who have gone on to big things like Mitchell Martin (Kitchener Rangers), Max McCue (London Knights) and Chase Stillman (Peterborough Petes). This is my first OJHL season but I knew of the reputation of the Dukes as one of the top teams in the league so I was very pleased to come here.”
“We have a team that consists of a lot of guys who are new to the team and the league that our GM/head coach, Kent Lewis, has recruited. Having said that, we have managed to gel quickly as a group. What struck me right away was how balanced our team is and how well everyone has bought into the coaching systems. We had a relatively low number of guys at camp, which gave us the chance right away to interact with and get to know each other.”
“Success this season will really be a team effort but I expect that skilled forwards like Nick DiPaolo, Cory Jewitt, Zander Latreille, Liam Lucas and Will Mitchell will all have solid seasons for us. This is really a team of character guys, we do not have one big line but players that put forward strong efforts night after night.”
“I’ve never been a captain before. I don’t believe in a lot of phony yelling. I don’t scream at guys but I feel it’s really important to communicate all the time and let my actions on and off the ice speak for who I am. No matter what happens in games we have to keep our compete level as high as it can be. You don’t stop until it’s over.”
“This season I’m working on my puck possession skills and always being poised on the ice. I want to continue to be seen as a steady defenceman who can play in all situations, a guy who can shut down opposing forward lines but can also contribute with physicality, on special teams and also to never stop learning. Team success will bring personal success for me and hopefully a hockey scholarship.”
“It means a lot to us that the Centennial Cup will be in Oakville in 2024 and, of course, all the clubs are looking to be there. But I really feel that it’s more than just hope in Wellington and as the season progresses we will continue to improve and end up surprising a lot of people as well as other teams.”
“When I’m not at the rink or working out in the gym I like to relax by playing the piano and especially the guitar, which I take on the road with me and play by myself or with other guys.”
Wellington’s head coach Kent Lewis on what the new captain brings to his team: “Right from the very start of training camp, Will has been a leader, first by example and with the confidence he shows around the group. He has a very mature manner. He is well respected by his teammates and he has a solid leadership core around him.”
The ‘wandering minstrel’ has a lot of varied hockey experience and his leadership skills will be a strong factor in the Dukes’ success.
Will sustained an injury early this season but expects to return to the lineup shortly. He has two assists in his first seven games in the OJHL.
Follow Ron Valentine on X @ronandlynda