July 2018 – TheOilKnight.ca
 

Month: July 2018

 

Guelph Storm

Coach: George Burnett (30-29-0-9)

 

2017-18 Season

Guelph entered last season looking to drastically improve on their abysmal 2016-17 season where they finished last in the Western Conference with a 21-20-5-2 record (they were even worse the year before).They also gave up an abysmal 297 goals against (worst in the OHL) that year and were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. While they made a few strides offensively last season they still gave up an alarming 6 goals or more 16 times in 68 games including a 10-3 beatdown at home to Kitchener back in December. They had some quality talent led by hulking winger Isaac Ratcliffe (PHI, 2nd rd) but too often looked lost defensively with several atrocious defensive performances. The reality is unless a few of their key players (Ryan Merkley Dmitri Samorukov in particular) don’t dramatically up their intensity & commitment to that side of the puck this team will continue to struggle keeping the puck out of their net and should not be considered a real contender because of it. 

 

#6 Ryan Merkley (Courtesy of guelphstorm.com)

 

2018-19 Outlook

After winning the OHL Championship in 2013-2014 the Storm gradually bottomed out finishing worst in the league 2 years later in 2015-16. It’s been a slow process back but this year’s unit has the makings of being a very solid club. The silver lining in being near the bottom of the league is you get good draft picks and Guelph has done a great job at making those picks count. Ratcliffe was drafted 15th overall in 2015, then the highly coveted Ryan Merkley (SJ, 1st rd) was taken 1st overall in 2016 along with Cam Hillis who went 28th. In the CHL Import draft that same year the Storm selected Dmitri Samorukov 2nd overall. In 2017, Guelph selected Tag Bertuzzi with the 2nd overall pick and Mason Primeau 22nd while in the import draft they nabbed Alexei Toropchenko 4th. That pretty much sums up who this team is. They have a lot of guys who were highly touted players before coming to the OHL who now have to prove as a team that they can put it together and achieve success. This team has plenty of question marks but there is no questioning the raw talent on paper.  

21 yr olds D Garrett McFadden and C James McEwan are the two overagers who move on. Both were useful players but not irreplaceable. The one loss that could hurt is Alexei Toropchenko who was drafted by St. Louis in the NHL before being drafted by Guelph in the OHL which means if St. Louis chooses – they could sent him to their AHL affiliate San Antonio instead of Guelph. 3rd pairing defenceman Mark Shoemaker could also make the jump to the minors.

 

Captain Matt Finn of the OHL champions Guelph Storm. (CHL Images)

 

Offensively how good could they be?

Guelph has the potential to be very good offensively. Merkley creates so much offence from the back end he’s like an extra forward out there. He only had 2 PPG’s all year but led the OHL with 32 Powerplay assists. He’s a threat to join the rush every time he’s on the ice and he has the ability to set his teammates up for tap-ins if the opposing defence isn’t paying attention. The forward group should be much stronger this year as long as Isaac Ratcliffe doesn’t make the Philadelphia Flyers. He had 41 goals last season and could get 50 easily this year if healthy. At 6’6″, 200+ lbs he is a matchup nightmare for many OHL defencemen. He’s supported by C Cam Hillis (MTL, 3rd rd) who was a 17 yr old rookie that scored 59 points in 60 games last season. Hillis, is a small but creative Center should have a breakout season in year two. After that, the Storm have a trio of 19 yr old’s capable of chipping in some offence in Nate Schnarr (ARZ, 3rd rd), Liam Hawel (DAL, 4th rd) & Cedric Ralph (undrafted). All 3 are good at faceoffs too. The real key to this offence exploding however is a couple of 2017 draftees – Tag Bertuzzi Mason Primeau.  

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

Tag Bertuzzi is the son of former NHL Todd Bertuzzi and brings a lot of the same characteristics as his father did. The #2 overall pick in the 2017 OHL draft is big, strong and highly skilled.  Blessed with a wonderful set of hands, big shot and an array of slick moves I expect Bertuzzi to take a giant leap forward this year for Guelph and probably end up being a 1st round pick. Bertuzzi is also a hard working, high character player who has great leadership traits. Potential future Captain material.

 

C Mason Primeau is the son of another former NHL’er – Wayne Primeau. The big, hulking center moves around well for a big man and should be able to contribute more offensively this year after registering 7 goals & 13 points last season. He’s smart and reliable defensively so he should also help on the penalty kill. 

 

 

This team should be able to score but can they defend?

That’s the million dollar question. For as good as Merkley is offensively, he is just as bad defensively. He had 67 points as a defenceman but was also a team low -29. He appears to want nothing to do with playing defence instead just waits to transition to offence thus putting his team in trouble way too often in their own zone. He can look downright AWFUL defensively on a nightly basis with his lackadaisical efforts. Extremely frustrating player to watch. 

 

Samorukov (EDM, 3rd rd) is an offensively talented defenceman in his own right but he too lacks the intensity & overall commitment to defence that is required of this team if they are going to take the next step. Too often he looks to stick check instead of taking the man and needs to do a better job of not letting the opposition get behind him. The physical part of his game that he showed in his draft year practically disappeared last season. While he and Merkley are both good at anticipating passes and getting sticks in lanes, they really struggle when they’re hemmed in their own zone and lose way too many puck battles along the boards that keep plays alive for the opposition. Both must do a much better job this season to give their team a chance defensively. 

 

The defenceman I thought did the best job in his own zone winning puck battles and clearing guys from in front of the net was Owen Lalonde (undrafted). Lalonde, was actually the #2 overall pick in the 2016 OHL draft behind Ryan Merkley but was traded to Guelph after refusing to sign with the team that drafted him – the Sudbury Wolves. I thought he really came into his own in the 2nd half of the season and although he wasn’t drafted he is still a talented 2 way RHD that could still go next year in his draft+1 season. He won’t play Top pair with RHD Merkley ahead of him but should get Top 4 minutes and will be relied on heavily to provide some stability in the defensive zone. 

16 yr old LD Mark Woolley started last season as a 15 yr old and managed to play 66 games. He is not draft eligible till 2020 due to a late birthday but he has tremendous poise for a 16 yr old and is a good puck mover.

The rest of the defensive core is a question mark though 17 yrd old Anthony Aguanno who got into 7 games in the regular season and 4 in the playoffs last year has a shot again to make the team. The team’s 1st rd pick in 2018 Daniil Chayka also will be in the mix and as mentioned, Matt Shoemaker may or may not move on to play minor pro.

So it looks like Guelph barring a trade is going to be extremely young on the blueline which is all the more reason for guys likes Merkley and Samorukov to step and set the tone defensively. If they don’t, it’s conceivable this team’s goals against could go up even further than last year which means they might have to outscore teams 7-6 every night to win. 

 

Goaltending

The one saving grace Guelph might have even if the defence is subpar defensively is their goalie Anthony Popovich. He wasn’t drafted by an NHL team this summer but with him back between the pipes the team at least has a chance each and every night. His numbers weren’t gaudy 29-21-3, 3.44 GAA, .902 SV% but considering the team’s numbers in the 10 games he wasn’t in 1-8-1, 4.39 GAA, .865 SV% he at least allows them to compete. He is inconsistent and will let in the odd bad goal but the team at least appears to have confidence in him. Backup Nico Daws is big and looks the part but really struggled last year albeit as a 16 yr old. 

 

Summary

Guelph is a still a young team especially on the back end and will likely still have their share of blowout losses. They should be able to score more though which could ultimately lead to high scoring games on both ends which if nothing else should be entertaining to watch. They have a shot at the Midwest Division but it appears they are still a ways away from making a run at an OHL title unless they improve dramatically on defence. Don’t be surprised if they make a trade or two to try and solidify their back end early. It’s possible this season could go the other way and they end up dumping guys they figure will be gone next year but it’s too early to tell on that. Regardless, I expect to see a wildly inconsistent but highly eventful team show up each and every night with mixed results……again. 

 

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

London Knights

Coach: Dale Hunter (39-25-0-4)

2017-18 Season

London entered last season as a usual OHL contender having made at least the 2nd round of the playoffs for 6 straight years including three OHL titles (2012, 2013 & 2016). It is almost a guarantee it seems that they are bound to lose a player or two to the NHL early and last year was no different though the losses hit harder than expected. LD Olli Juolevi (VAN, 1st rd) decided to bolt to Finland instead of returning to London and to make matters worse LD Victor Mete (MTL, 4th rd) surprisingly made Montreal out of camp and never returned. That left London without their Top 2 Defencemen for the year (they were expecting to maybe lose one but not both). F Jesper Bratt (NJ, 6th rd) an import player the Knights were hoping could come in and add some more scoring punch up front also surprisingly made New Jersey. Alex Formenton (OTT, 2nd rd) made Ottawa too but was returned after 9 games. 

Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak of London (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

So last season was a bit of a transition one for London as once the trade deadline period approached they found themselves as rare sellers as opposed to buyers. The thought was they weren’t good enough to make a serious run & would likely lose several guys next year as well so instead of loading up for a perennial playoff run they would unload a bunch of talented players in order to get younger and build for the future. So Robert Thomas (STL, 1st rd), Cliff Pu (BUF, 3rd rd),Max Jones (ANH, 1st rd) and Sam Miletic (Pit, FA) were all subsequently moved for younger players. Despite the loss of several talented veterans the Knights were still able to make the playoffs but were outmatched by the late surging Owen Sound Attack – losing 4 straight in the opening round ending their season. It was a small step back for London that would ultimately help them take a large leap forward this year….they hope. 

 

2018-19 Outlook

While last year the team looked loaded up front but weak on the back end, the opposite argument could be made this year. The team’s leading goal scorer Alex Formenton could very well stick with Ottawa permanently this year and the team’s best player and Captain Evan Bouchard is no guarantee to be back either. London scored 233 goals last year but traded away 73 of those at the deadline and another 54 of those were from Formenton and Bouchard alone. That’s a lot of offence to try and make up with a young lineup if both don’t return. 21 yr olds F Tyler Rollo and D Shane Collins move on and overager G Joseph Raaymakers status remains unknown at this time. 

 

Where’s the Offence going to come from?

Despite all the offensive firepower London has lost the last couple of seasons they are still a talented group up front albeit a young one. C Liam Foudy (CLB, 1st rd) will likely be the Top line Center and be relied upon to build on his stellar second half last season where he scored 33 pts in 30 games down the stretch. F Nathan Dunkley who was acquired in the Cliff Pu trade, netted 24 points in 29 games for London and will be relied on heavily to build on his solid 2nd half. Cole Tymkin, 19, needs to step up in a more offensive role and cut down on his selfish penalties.

Billy Moskal who is one of the best faceoff guys and penalty killers in the league also returns. Moskal has tremendous speed & more offence to give. The rest of the returning group is young and inexperienced. LW Sergei Popov showed some flash after coming over in the Max Jones deal.

It is possible Brady Tkachuk chooses to play in London over Boston University if he doesn’t make the Ottawa Senators but at this point that looks unlikely. 

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

#11 Connor McMichael. Courtesy of Matt Hiscox Photography

The biggest key to London’s offence this year might be 17 yr old C Connor McMichael. The main piece in the Robert Thomas trade, McMichael is extremely gifted offensively and is blessed with terrific vision & exceptional hockey sense. The fact he only got 16 points last year in a limited role isn’t really a concern as London has a history of their draft eligibles breaking out in their draft year (2nd half of season in particular). Just a couple of recent examples:

 

Robert Thomas as 16 yr old – 15 points in 40 games. As 17 yr old – 66 points in 66 games. 1st round pick.

Liam Foudy as a 16 yr old – 15 points in 58 games. As a 17 yr old – 40 points in 65 games. 1st round pick.

Connor McMichael as 16 yr old – 16 points in 60 games. As 17 yr old – ????????

Now while McMichael may not have the blazing speed that Thomas or Foudy has he may have the highest offensive ceiling and will be counted on to contribute right away. He is also defensively sound, plays a terrific 2 way game already and makes so many smart plays he just reminds you of Thomas. The key will be to unlocking his offensive potential which I imagine should happen midway through the season as he takes on more responsibility and gains confidence. 

Newly signed 1st rd import C Matvei Guskov  also looks to make an immediate impact.  He had 4 goals in 5 games for Russia in the U17’s last year and is billed as the complete package – highly skilled, smart, physical, 2 way forward with high character. He is eligible for this year’s NHL draft. Other 2019 draft eligibles Lucas Rowe & Dalton Duhart need to take big steps forward as well.

 

How will the defence hold up if Bouchard sticks in the NHL?

Without question, the biggest news of the offseason for the Knights was the signing of RD Adam Boqvist. Not only does it mean London is getting a dynamic offensive defenceman to add to their blueline but he is insurance in case Evan Bouchard is an Edmonton Oiler full-time. 

Boqvist (CHI, 1st rd) should tear up the OHL with his terrific skating & dynamic playmaking ability and will be absolute treat to watch on a nightly basis. He should have no problems stepping right in and running the Powerplay from Day 1 if need be and should be a nightmare for other team’s to matchup against. If Bouchard does indeed return too expect Coach Hunter to find creative ways to keep both RHD on the ice at the same time. 

The rest of the defensive core looks stronger than last year as everyone is a year older and more experienced having been thru a round of the playoffs. Alec Regula (DET, 3rd rd) will be be back and will be looking to build on his strong second half where he cut down the turnovers and really looked to come into his own defensively. He has sneaky offensive upside too.

Andrew Perrott is one of my favourite 2019 draft eligible prospects. The kid is fearless, is a total pain in the ass to play against and he too has untapped offensive potential. He is the son of former NHL’er Nathan Perrott and played middle linebacker in high school. Could very well be a 1st round this summer.

Jacob Golden (MIN, 5th rd) returns to provide another steady presence on the blueline while 19 yr old’s Riley Coome & Tim Fallowfield round out the group. Youngsters Ryan Bangs & Liam Whittaker could also be in the mix.

 

So even without Bouchard I think this is a deeper group overall than last year’s group and would instantly be the best in the OHL if and when Bouchard were to return to London. Interesting to note that he along with Boqvist, Regula, Perrott, & Fallowfield are all right shot defencemen. Expect Coach Hunter to get creative and use both Evan & Adam together at times especially on the Powerplay if he gets the chance. Good luck to the rest of the OHL trying to stop that. 

 

Goaltending

Joseph Raaymakers (undrafted) was excellent last year and really solidified the position posting a .910 sv% in 46 games for London. He will be an overager this year if he returns but had some offseason trouble with the law so there’s no guarantee he’ll be back. Regardless of what happens with Raaymakers, Jordan Kooy (LV, 7th rd) appears ready to step in and man the crease full-time if need be. He appeared in 24 games last year and while he was a bit inconsistent at times his athleticism really stood out and he had some terrific performances. He shut out Kingston late in the year in Kingston and had an unbelievable performance in Kitchener where he absolute stole the game:

 

Summary

London should be in good shape no matter who mans the pipes this year. The Defence as mentioned has the potential to be the best in the league and the forwards while still very young have the potential to break out this season. Connor McMichaelMatvei Guskov and Andrew Perrott all have 1st round NHL talent and with Coach Hunter behind the bench you know the Knights will be well prepared. This is a very strong London team one capable of making a run at the Midwest Division title again and if a few of the veterans return they have a chance of going all the way for the 4th time in 7 years.

 

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

 

 

 

If you don’t follow Junior hockey or support your local CHL team then I’m here to tell you – you are missing out. I’ve been following it for the better part of 20 years at least and have watched many of the greatest players in the NHL – as 16 & 17 yr olds grow and develop their games in Junior and it has been an absolute pleasure to do so. Why wait till these guys get to the NHL? Why not go out and support your local team and get to watch them as young talented kids for a measly $20 or so? Even if your team isn’t very good you could still get an opportunity to watch some elite players from the opposition who may one day make their mark in the Pros. 

Junior hockey has been a staple in our country in what seems like forever and is the backbone for the National Hockey League. Just look at the NHL rosters and look at how many players started their careers out in the small cities scattered all over Canada: Crosby, McDavid, Stamkos, Tavares, Benn, MacKinnon, Draisaitl, Hall, Giroux, Doughty, Price, Fleury etc…. all played in the CHL. The level of competition is just as intense in Junior with many heated rivalries and the Memorial Cup is a wonderful tournament where we get to see the country’s best versus the best. With the addition of the CHL Import Draft in 1992, the Canadian Hockey League is not only made up of Canadians and Americans but some of the most talented young International players as well making it truly the best Junior developmental leagues in the world.  

I was having a conversation the other day with someone who was trying to tell me who Evan Bouchard was and what the scouts were saying about him. What this person failed to realize is this wasn’t my first viewing of Evan, in fact it was probably my 150th or so and I had been unofficially scouting him throughout the year already. That certainly doesn’t automatically make me an expert but it does at least give me the luxury of delivering an informed opinion if nothing else. That’s the beauty of following Junior hockey so closely. 

If you’re a hockey fan like myself who is becoming increasingly interested in Prospects and the draft in general I highly recommend you attend a local Junior game or two and take in hockey in it’s purest form. Not only does it help the local community it also gives you the pleasure of viewing a lot of these kids before other people do. Watching these kids grow and develop as they try to catch the eye of their future employers is a sight to behold and captures the essence of hockey in this nation. The reality is, many of this kids will never get drafted let alone make it to the pros but the heart, passion & determination they play with makes it a real treat to watch. Junior Hockey is fantastic and best of all it is very inexpensive to do so. It doesn’t have to be just the CHL either. There are many amateur leagues for all ages throughout Canada that help capture the moment of kids just playing for the love of the game. If you’re already all-in for your favourite NHL team I suggest leaving a bit of room for a local Junior team too if you can – if nothing else it gives you a fallback hockey option if and when your Pro team falters.  🙂

With that being said, here is a breakdown of the Edmonton Oilers and how many of their players played in the CHL. Listed is the point totals they accrued in their draft years and who they played for. 

                             

                          Ontario Hockey League

Aaron Bell / OHL images

’14 -’15 Connor McDavid (Erie) 47 GP – 44 G, 76A, 120 Pts 

’10 -’11 Ryan Strome (Niagara) 65 GP – 33 G, 73A, 103 Pts

12 -’13 Zack Kassian (Peterborough) 61 GP – 24 G, 39A, 63 Pts

’10 -’11 Tobias Rieder (Kitchener) 65 GP – 23 G, 26A, 49 Pts

’12 -’13 Darnell Nurse (The Soo) 68 GP – 12 G, 29A, 41 Pts

’17 -’18 Evan Bouchard (London) 67 GP – 25 G, 62A, 87 Pts

’17 -’18 Ryan McLeod (Mississauga) 68 GP – 26 G, 44A, 70 Pts

’16 -’17 Kirill Maksimov (Niagara) 66 GP – 21 G, 17A, 38 Pts

’16 -’17 Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph) 67 GP – 4 G, 16A, 20 Pts

 

                                 

                           Western Hockey League

Image: WHL.ca

’10 – ’11 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) 69 GP – 31G, 75A, 106 Pts 

’13 – ’14 Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert) 64 GP – 38G, 67A, 105 Pts

’10 – ’11 Ty Rattie (Portland) 67 GP – 28G, 51A, 79 Pts

’04 – ’05 Kris Russell (Medicine Hat) 72 GP – 26G, 35A, 61 Pts

’02 – ’03 Kyle Brodziak (Moose Jaw) 72 GP – 32G, 30A, 62 Pts

’05 – ’06 Milan Lucic (Vancouver) 62 GP – 9G, 10A, 19 Pts

’16 – ’17 Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane) 65 GP – 42G, 57A, 99 Pts 

’14 – ’15 Ethan Bear (Seattle) 69 GP – 13G, 25A, 38 Pts

’15 – ’16 Tyler Benson (Vancouver) 30 GP – 9G, 19A, 28 Pts

 

sprucekingcrusader.blogspot.com     

                  British Columbia Hockey League

11 – ’12 Jujhar Khaira (Prince George) 54 GP – 29G, 50A, 79 Pts

 

                    Alberta Junior Hockey League

’11 – ’12 Matthew Benning (Spruce Grove) 44 GP – 4G, 14A, 18 Pts

 

 

 

Courtesy: sport.sme.sk

Players who joined CHL after being drafted:

’04-’05 Andrej Sekera (Owen Sound – OHL

’15-’16 Caleb Jones (Portland – WHL

’13-’14 Jujhar Khaira (Everett – WHL

’17-’18 Ostap Safin (Saint John – QMJHL)

 

 

 

So that’s my pitch on why you should watch & follow Junior hockey. You get to see young and future Oilers years before they even make it to the Pros……Did I sway you at all? 🙂

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

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