Patrick Saini will lead a new-look Haliburton County Huskies into the 2023/24 OJHL season after head coach, Ryan Ramsay, said he was the standout choice to become the third captain in franchise history.

The 20-year-old has high hopes as he returns to the Highlands for his final year of junior hockey. He’ll do so with a white ‘C’ stitched to his chest, a just reward for his years of unrivalled work and commitment to the Huskies’ cause, Ramsay said.

“I really didn’t have to think too much about this, it was an easy decision… everyone sees Patty’s work ethic. On and off the ice, he’s probably the best I’ve seen in my coaching career. He has always led by example,” Ramsay told The Highlander.

In 98 games with the Huskies, across the regular season and playoffs, Saini has contributed 48 goals and 81 assists for 129 points.

He said he always envisioned ending his junior hockey career in his adopted home, saying having the opportunity to do so while following in the footsteps of Nathan Porter and Christian Stevens, the organization’s two previous team captains, was a dream come true.

“It’s a huge honour… I’ve played here a long time and I absolutely love this team. I love the town and the community,” Saini said. “I learned a lot from Nate (Porter) and Stevens – seeing how they were as captains; I couldn’t have had two better guys to learn from.”

While Saini has long been revered for his buzzsaw approach on the ice, he cuts more of a reserved character in the locker room. He said he’s excited, and ready to take on the challenge of leading this team into the new season.

Returning alongside Saini are forwards Lucas Stevenson and Lucas Marshall and blueliners Jack Staniland and Zack Morissette. Ramsay confirmed July 31 Staniland will serve as one of the team’s assistant captains.

Ramsay has been busy bringing in some extra OJHL experience to round out the team’s opening day roster, trading for Jaden Reyers and Nolan Ling of the Toronto Patriots, blueliner Raine Nadeau from the Stouffville Spirit, goaltender Vlad Visan from the Georgetown Raiders, and Ethan Wright from the St. Michael’s Buzzers. The Huskies have also added defenceman Ian Phillips, who played in the OHL last season with the Saginaw Spirit, and forward Luke Hill, who played in the NOJHL with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.

After back-to-back second round playoff exits in recent seasons, Saini said he’s got an eye on ending his junior hockey career as an OJHL champion.

“We’re trying to win it all this year. Knowing it’s my final season and I’ll have the ‘C’ on my chest, it definitely means a little bit extra. I’m all in,” he said.

Players are due to report Aug. 17, with the Huskies first exhibition game away against the Stouffville Spirit Aug. 24. They will welcome the Renfrew Wolves to S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena for a home exhibition Aug. 27, before the Spirit visit Sept. 2.

The Huskies will kick off the regular season Sept. 8 with a road tilt with the Lindsay Muskies, in the ‘Battle of Hwy. 35’. The team’s home opener is Sept. 9 against the Pickering Panthers. Puck drop in Minden is 4 p.m.