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There’s no place quite like home for Frontenacs player Gabriel Vilardi

OSHAWA, Ont. — Gabriel Vilardi is once again enjoying the benefits of living at home.

Vilardi left Kingston, Ont., at age 16 to begin his OHL career in Windsor, Ont. But a Jan. 1 trade between the Frontenacs and Spitfires has the L.A. Kings prospect sleeping in his own bed once again.

“It’s really special just getting to live at home, that’s pretty cool for me,” said Vilardi. “Haven’t had much time to do that lately.

“They brought me here for down the stretch and once playoff time comes around hopefully I can produce points. That’s what I want to do and hopefully help this team win.”

An off-season back injury forced the six-foot-three, 201-pound forward to miss the first four months of the season. Vilardi made his debut with Kingston on Jan. 5 and has two goals and seven assists through his first six games.

“The back has been good, I just got to get back into shape,” Vilardi said. “I think that’s the main problem right now: I’m not in game shape yet.

“I need to (be) by now; it’s been two weeks. I need to keep on working hard in practice and make sure I’m doing the right things in the gym so I’m ready to play the three in threes.”

Vilardi was one of five players acquired by Kingston prior to last week’s OHL trade deadline. The 18-year-old centre, along with forwards Cliff Pu and Max Jones and defencemen Mitchell Byrne and Sean Day, were all added to bolster the lineup.

The five players have combined to win four Memorial Cups and three OHL championships.

General manager Darren Keily, who sees a window for Kingston to make a deep run in the OHL playoffs, made the moves with past experience in mind.

Two years ago, a loaded Frontenacs team led by Spencer Watson, Lawson Crouse and Michael Dal Colle was expected to contend for a Memorial Cup. But Kingston ran into a hot goaltender in Niagara’s Alex Nedeljkovic and was swept in the second round.

With Jeremy Helvig among the league leaders in goals against (2.58) and save percentage (.920), Keily believes Kingston now has the goaltending to build a contender around.

“One of the reasons (for the trades) was we felt we had the goaltending, particularly in the Eastern Conference, with Jeremy Helvig,” said Keily. “Goaltending is very hard to come by these days in the OHL without the import goalies.

“Goaltending has become a premium and we just felt that if we could add to our team this would be the time to do it.”

Playoff success isn’t something the limestone city has enjoyed over the years. It wasn’t until 2016 that the Frontenacs ended a 17-year stretch without a post-season series win.

Now Kingston (21-15-6) is looking to get over the hump of the second round after being swept in consecutive seasons. The Frontenacs haven’t reached the third round since the 1992-93 season.

The Frontenacs are 1-2-0 following last Wednesday’s deadline as they look to chase their division rivals from Hamilton (27-9-6) for top spot in the conference.

Day, a member of the 2017 Memorial Cup-champion Spitfires, believes Kingston has the right pieces to be successful this spring.

“You have to get the chemistry, I think, off the ice and on the ice,” Day said. “It’s obviously difficult.

“It’s a deep team, I think our defensive core is six strong, even our young guys are really good. Then we have three-to-four really good lines that can all produce.”

Dhiren Mahiban , The Canadian Press

The post There’s no place quite like home for Frontenacs player Gabriel Vilardi appeared first on The Canadian Parvasi.



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