Jr. A hockey returns to Haliburton County this month as the hometown Haliburton County Huskies prepare for their sophomore season in the Highlands.

Head coach and general manager Ryan Ramsay said he’s excited about the 23-man roster he’s put together over the summer, which includes nine returning players and four other junior hockey veterans acquired via trade.

Winger Christian Stevens, who recorded 48 points in 45 games for the Dogs during their debut season, is coming back as captain, with defenceman Isaak Sooklal forming part of the Huskies’ leadership team.

Forwards Patrick Saini, Lucas Stevenson, Sam Solarino and Cameron Kosurko will also be back, as will blueliners Jack Staniland and Will Gourgouvelis. Goaltender Christian Linton is also returning.

That core will be bolstered by the addition of Alex Cunningham, a big-bodied forward who registered 29 points in 45 games playing with the Brantford 49ers last season.

Nineteen-year-old centre Nicholas Dowling has also signed with the Dogs after playing last year with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League. This will be a homecoming for Dowling, who grew up in nearby Bracebridge.

There’s excitement surrounding the addition of skilled winger Myles Perry, who recently won an OJHL championship with the Pickering Panthers. Acquired in a trade that saw popular forward Nicholas Athanasakos move to Pickering, Perry will be looking to make an impact during his final year of junior hockey.

The team this week announced the signing of Chase Lefebvre out of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. He put up 66 points in 46 games with the French River Rapids last season, finishing second in league scoring.

“I think our team is better on paper right now than it was this time last year,” Ramsay said.

The players will be reporting for practice Aug. 18. An intra-squad scrimmage has been organized for Aug. 21 at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena (1 p.m. puck drop, free admission), with three exhibition games lined up against OJHL rivals the following week.

The Stouffville Spirit will visit Aug. 28 (2 p.m. puck drop, $5 admission) before a double header with the Pickering Panthers Sept. 2 (7:30 p.m. puck drop, $5 admission) and Sept. 4 (2 p.m. puck drop, $5 admission).

The new OJHL season kicks off Sept. 10 with a home tilt against the Cobourg Cougars.

After guiding the Huskies to the division finals last season, Ramsay said he’s anticipating another strong showing in 2022/23.

“You’re always trying to win. It usually takes about 10 games to see where you’re at, how you stack up with other teams and to make a decision if you’re going to go for it. We have a good core coming back and I expect we’re going to be really competitive again,” Ramsay said.