There have been many dynamic duos over the years in the OHL like Galchenyuk & Yakupov, Trocheck & Saad, Ryan Strome & Brett Ritchie, Shane Prince & Tyler Toffoli. Some go on to have great NHL careers while others turn out to be good OHL players but not so good NHL’ers. You can never really tell for sure but one thing I do know is regardless of whether they produce at the next level or not, I enjoy watching these dynamic duos rip up the Ontario Hockey League.
In the last few years 2 perennial powerhouse teams in particular – Erie & London routinely have players at the top of the league’s scoring race each year. Erie has had Connor McDavid, Dane Fox, Connor Brown, Dylan Strome, Taylor Raddysh and Alex DeBrincat all over 100 points in the last 4 seasons. London meanwhile has had Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Max Domi all achieve that mark. Aside from those 2 teams however, there haven’t been many other teams that had 2 players put up 200 points total.
The benchmark for an Elite Duo typically is 200 points. If two teammates can surpass that amount combined it usually makes them the highest scoring pair in the league. The OHL however is usually pretty top heavy with really only 4 or 5 teams generally considered serious contenders each year making it even harder to reach that mark. Here is a list of the top scoring pairs from last year:
Alex DeBrincat & Taylor Raddysh (ERIE) 236 pts combined.
Nick Suzuki & Petrus Palmu (OS) 194
Ryan Moore & Kole Sherwood (FLNT) 175
Michael McLeod & Owen Tippett (MISS) 148
As you can see only one duo managed to surpass the 200 point mark. That’s not to say those other pairs listed did not have great seasons. Two of those players Suzuki and Tippett were Top 15 picks in last year’s NHL draft while MacLeod was 12th overall the year before. It just shows how hard it is to achieve that elusive 200 point mark as a duo in this league. In 2014 & 2015 a few others did manage to surpass it:
Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, Christian Dvorak (LON) 344 combined. (All 3 over 100)
Kevin Labanc & Andrew Mangiapane (BAR) 233
Strome & DeBrincat (ERIE) 212
McDavid, Strome, DeBrincat (ERIE) 355 combined. (All 3 over 100)
Andrew Mangiapane & Joseph Blandisi (BAR) 216
Christian Dvorak & Max Domi (LON) 211
In the 2012 and 2013 seasons however only 2 pairs of teammates achieved that mark:
Dane Fox & Connor Brown (ERIE) 235
Charles Sarault & Reid Boucher (SAR) 203
As you can see, it hasn’t been the easiest mark to hit for 2 players on the same team and even if they do it doesn’t automatically mean those players will be bonafide NHL’ers as we see with guys like Sarault, Boucher & Fox. Regardless, they all managed to do what few others could so they at least deserve the recognition.
This year there is no guarantees any 2 teammates will again achieve that elusive 200 point total but that shouldn’t deter you. There is a load of talent again in the OHL and a bunch of exciting players to keep an eye on.
Without further adieu here are a few deadly duos to watch:
Andrei Svechnikov & Kirill Nizhnikov – Barrie Colts
No forward duo will be more dynamic and exciting to watch this year in the OHL than these two. Svechnikov looks to be the complete package – a forechecking demon with world class moves and elite speed who never gives up. He was drafted 1st overall in the Import draft this year and could go #1 in NHL draft next year. Nizhnikov may be the next Yakupov in that he doesn’t play a lick of defence but when he has the puck he is a wizard with it and has a CANNON of a slap shot. He was traded to Barrie last year from Mississauga for 10 draft picks after being drafted 7th overall in OHL draft.
Now Barrie was in rebuild more last year under Coach Dale Hawerchuk, but he is a proven winner in this league so expect this year’s Barrie team to be much more competitive led by their two dynamic Russians up front. I’d compare them to a Ovechkin & Semin duo.
Nick Suzuki & Petrus Palmu – Owen Sound Attack
Their coach Ryan McGill may be gone but the majority of the Attack….are back. I would expect this year’s team under new coach Todd Gill to not only be as dangerous as last year but even better. C Suzuki (who was a 1st rd pick of Vegas) and RW Palmu (6th rd Vancouver) had 96 & 98 pts respectively last year and both should surpass 200 combined this year with the emergence of LW Jonah Gadjovich (2nd rd Vancouver). That should be the highest scoring line in the OHL this year though Kevin Hancock is a pretty good player in his own right & might get some time there too.
Michael MacLeod & Owen Tippett – Mississauga Ice Dogs
Both high 1st rd picks in NHL draft (MacLeod – 2016 to NJ), (Tippett – 2017 to FLA) would be guaranteed to light it up again in OHL after 158 combined points last year. Problem is, one if not both might make their respective NHL club. Michael’s brother Ryan is also a Center on Mississauga so if Michael does make the Devils a Tippett/Ryan MacLeod duo would be fun to watch. Tippett’s shot is absolutely unreal be interesting to see if he can develop the other aspects of his game while Ryan MacLeod is a 17 yr old eligible for this year’s draft.
Robert Thomas & Cliff Pu – London Knights
Thomas is as complete a player as you will find this year in the OHL. He’s fast, has quick hands, great vision, can play center or wing, is very responsible defensively and plays on the PP & PK. He is also a good faceoff guy. Last year, he started on the 3rd line only to be promoted to the Top line late in the year and in playoffs where he flourished. This year with Mitchell Stephens moving on, Thomas becomes the #1C on a still very talented Knights team. Cliff Pu had 86 points last year and he can fly also. In fact, if Alex Formenton were to also play on that line it might be the fastest line in OHL history. LOL. Thomas & Pu should push 200 points and help lead a very young but talented group challenge again.
Taylor Raddysh & Kyle Maksimovich – Erie Otters
If Alex DeBrincat were to return to the OHL he & Raddysh would jump to the top of this list. However, I expect him to make Chicago and at least hang around till his 20th birthday in December when he can then be sent down to AHL. Maksimovich is an undrafted 19 yr old but has skill. Raddysh is coming off a 106 pt season though without several players from last year playing with him will likely have a drop off. Still a terrific OHLer capable of putting up big numbers.
So who is a sleeper duo to watch out for?
Akil Thomas & Kirill Maksimov – Niagara
Both of these players are loaded with skill and are due for breakout seasons. With overager and newest team Captain Johnny Corneil returning & recent 7th rd pick C Ben Jones also back I would expect Akil Thomas who is a C/RW to start at RW this year as will Maksimov. Jones will likely be the #1C with Corneil on left wing & Thomas on the right. Maksimov played with Justin Brack & Oliver Castleman a lot last year and in the playoffs so I would expect that to be the 2nd line. It remains to be seen how new Head Coach Billy Burke will deploy his two young stars but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that as the season goes along Thomas takes over the #1C role & the dynamic Maksimov ends up on his wing. Jones is a nice player but Thomas is clearly the more talented. Expect Niagara to be a much tougher team to play against especially with Goalie Stephen Dhillon back. Thomas & Maksimov clearly are the two most talented and dynamic players on the team it should just be a matter of time before they end up torching the league together.
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