Ontario Hockey League grad Brad Gratton took over the head coaching duties for GamYo d’Epinal in France’s Ligue Magnus in December, 2016. His Ontario influence has brought two OHL grads to the roster for 2017-18. However, another OHL grad from the Czech Republic may be on the outs, despite being under contract for the upcoming season.
Gratton, who wore seven different jerseys over his four years in the OHL (two were the same team, different name), has picked up Matt Carter from the United Kingdom’s EIHL and Ryan McDonough from Denmark’s Metal Ligaen. Vojtech Kloz, who has been with Epinal since 2014-15, may be on his way out of Epinal before the 2017-18 season starts.
Matt Carter played three years in the Ontario Hockey League from 2005-06 to 2007-08 with the Owen Sound Attack. Carter saw limited time in his first two seasons and ended up playing just 72 regular season games over his OHL career. In that time, he scored 31 and added 24 assists for 55 points. Carter appeared in four playoff games for the Attack.
Since 2007-08, Matt has played in the ECHL, CIS (with the University of Prince Edward Island), France’s Ligue Magnus and the EIHL. He last played in France with Gap in 2014-15 and 2015-16. 2016-17 was spent with the Nottingham Panthers in the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Ryan McDonough played four years in the OHL from 2004-05 to 2007-08 with the Sudbury Wolves and Saginaw Spirit. The Wolves drafted McDonough fifth overall in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection. Over his four years, Ryan put up great numbers with 133 goals and 151 assists for 284 points over 258 regular season games. In 26 playoff games, he added eleven points.
Since 2008-09, McDonough has played pro hockey in Austria’s EBEL, Germany’s DEL2, Italy’s LIHG, the ECHL and Denmark’s Metal Ligaen. In 2016-17, Ryan split his season between SC Riessersee in the DEL2 and the Aalborg Pirates in the Metal Ligaen.
Vojtech Kloz played a single season in the Ontario Hockey League, 2003-04, with the Kingston Frontenacs. He played 62 regular season games and put up three assists. In the playoffs, he went pointless in five games. At the 2003 CHL Import Draft, Kloz was the 50th overall pick, going to the Fronts.
Vojtech has spent his pro career in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and France. He has been with Epinal since 2014-15. He is under contract with the team through 2017-18 but doesn’t appear to be in coach Brad Gratton’s plans.
Brad Gratton – Head Coach
Brad Gratton has been coaching in Europe since 2009-10 in Denmark’s Metal Ligaen, the U.K.’s EIHL and France’s Ligue Magnus. He took over the head coaching job with Epinal in December, 2016.
Gratton played four years in the OHL from 1986-87 to 1989-90. His wide resume includes playing for the Hamilton Steelhawks (now Erie Otters), Kingston Canadians (now Frontenacs), Belleville Bulls (now Hamilton Bulldogs), Kingston Raiders (now Frontenacs), Windsor Spitfires, London Knights and Dukes of Hamilton (now Guelph Storm).
At the 1986 OHL Priority Selection, Brad was taken third overall by the Steelhawks. Ahead of him were Troy Mallette (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) who went on to play nine seasons in the NHL, and Jeff Ballantyne, a defenseman drafted by the Ottawa 67’s. Over his four years, Gratton played 223 regular season OHL games, scoring 86 and assisting on 123 for 209 points. In seven playoff games, he added five points.
Playing out of the tiny 1,400 seat Patinoire Poissompre in Epinal, France, a venue that opened in 1970, Epinal was last promoted to the Ligue Magnus for the 2003-04 season. The team has qualified for the post season each year since 2004-05 and reached the finals in 2014-15. In 2016-17, they finished eighth in the 12 team league and lost in the quarter-finals.
Epinal is a city of around 40,000 in the northeast of France. The city is fairly close to the borders with Germany and Switzerland and sits 400 kilometres east of Paris and 426 kilometres south of Cologne, Germany.