August 2018 – TheOilKnight.ca
 

Month: August 2018

 

 

WINDSOR SPITFIRESCoach: Trevor Letowski (32-30-0-6)

 

 

2017-18 Season

Windsor won the Memorial Cup in 2016-17 but went into last season without their coach Rocky Thompson who had moved on to the AHL. They also lost several key players like Jeremiah AddisonMikhail SergachevJeremy BraccoGraham Knott and others so last year was a bit of a rebuilding one for the Spitfires. By midseason, they went full rebuild moving vets like Aaron LuchukLogan Brown and Sean Day. Despite all those personnel losses though, Windsor still managed to finish the season with a winning record and 6th in the Conference thanks to their outstanding goaltender Michael DiPietro who was stellar yet again and arguably the best goalie in the league. 

That 6th place finish however set them up with an unfortunate 1st round matchup versus the Sarnia Sting who despite finishing the season with the 2nd most points in the OHL (97 pts) were the #3 seed.  It was a back and forth series initially as Windsor stole Game 1 in Sarnia and it was tied after 4 games.  DiPietro did his best to keep his team in the series posting a fantastic .934 SV% but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Windsor ultimately bowed out in 6 games. 

Considering how many players the Spitfires lost in a short period of time it was actually a pretty good season for them when all was said and done. They didn’t score a lot last season (5th lowest in league) but they didn’t give up a ton of goals either (7th best in OHL). They have an extremely young but talented defence core that got some much needed experience and should be better off for it this year. 

Windsor was also able to re-stock their Draft pick supply by unloading a bunch of veterans while acquiring a couple of talented young forwards to build around in the future in Curtis Douglas Cody Morgan. It has actually been an incredible transformation in such a short period of time as this team went from Memorial Cup Champions one season, unloaded a pile of players the following year while still making the playoffs and now set themselves up for what looks to be another strong season. 

 

2017 Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires. (Courtesy of CHL.ca)

 

 

2018-19 Outlook

This year’s Windsor Spitfires look to be a highly competitive team. Of course, a lot depends on whether their stellar goaltender Michael DiPietro returns. He signed his entry level contract with the Canucks this offseason and is determined to make the team out of camp. While you have to love his determination that is highly unlikely as 19 yr old goalies RARELY make the NHL at that age but you never know….

If he were to stick with Vancouver that would be a huge blow to Windsor as that tweet mentions. He is vital to their success this year and if nothing else they could flip him to another OHL team worst case scenario and get a huge haul for him. However, if he does not return to the OHL at all it will set the Spitfires back considerably. So needless to say whatever happens to DiPietro is the critical component for success in Windsor. 

Assuming he does in fact come back, Windsor is set up nicely to make a nice run with their talented roster. Their defence is really deep and should be even stronger this season with the return of 6 of their Top 7 defencemen from last year (Four 17 yr olds). Up front, they should be able to improve on their Goals For last season which means we’re probably looking at a middle of the pack playoff team again with the potential to go further depending how the preseason shakes out.

Gone is Jake Smith who was a veteran of the QMJHL until last season when he came over and contributed 20 goals & 48 points for the Spits. Zachary Shankar who was acquired midseason from Niagara also moves on. 

 

Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by OHL images

 

 

 

Offensively how good could they be?

Windsor has a couple of big, dominating Centers over the last few years in Gabriel Vilardi and Logan Brown who have had great success under this regime. Curtis Douglas is the next one in line and he is bigger than everyone.

Douglas, is a massive 6’8″, 252 LB center who has some nice hands and good speed for such a big man, came over in the Aaron Luchuk trade and had an immediate impact scoring 15 goals & 28 pts in 38 games. Now, he becomes the main man in the middle looking to build on last season where he ended up getting drafted in the 4th round of the NHL draft. He has the potential to put up 30+ goals in this his 3rd OHL campaign. 

Flanking Douglas on one side will be 19 yr old RW Cole Purboo who returns as the Spits leading scorer from last season. He scored 21 goals & 49 pts in 68 games.  18 yr old LW Mathew MacDougall will likely man the left side of the Top line after coming off a 17 goal campaign. 

That should give Windsor the makings of a pretty solid Top line. The question will be who else will step up and provide this team with some secondary scoring. There are several options including 17 yr olds in Cody MorganDaniel D’Amico and Tyler Angle all who showed promise last season as 16 yr olds. 

Luke Boka is another player who should be able to help contribute more after posting a 15 goal, 40 point season last year. The brother of Nick Boka (6th rd, MIN) is a feisty forward with good size who goes hard to the net. He went undrafted by the NHL in his draft year +1 but works hard and brings experience and leadership to this young team. 

If Igor Larionov jr. returns as an overager it should also help this top 6 tremendously as he had 23 points in 32 games including 3 pts in 4 games in the playoffs. He battled concussion and knee injuries last year but was highly productive when healthy. 

Lastly, Jean-Luc Foudy brother of Liam Foudy (1st rd, CLB) of the London Knights is a blazing fast player like his older brother and is known for his high hockey sense. He is a diminutive player who can fly and who should be able to step in and play regularly right away though likely won’t contribute a lot offensively in his rookie year. 

 

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

#28 Cody Morgan of Windsor

Cory Morgan was acquired in the blockbuster trade with Kingston midseason. He was drafted in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 2017 OHL draft. He is a highly skilled forward who has a tremendous shot and release. His skating is a bit of a concern but he plays a solid 2 way game and is capable of playing in all situations. He scored 6 goals & 14 pts in 32 games with Windsor and will be relied on to increase his productivity significantly in his draft year. Tough to tell what kind of an NHL prospect he will be yet but he has a chance.

LW Daniel D’Amico is a playmaker who sees the ice extremely well and can make some beautiful passes. He scored 12 goals in 59 games last year too so he’s got some offensive skill. Smart, possession type winger who is a nice OHL player but probably won’t be drafted in June due to his lack of size and physicality.

C Tyler Angle, is another smaller forward who plays bigger and has good speed. He appears to be more of a grinder than a natural goal scorer but did manage to chip in 10 goals last season. It’s unlikely he will be drafted by an NHL club.

Overall, there is certainly talent here in this group. Douglas should be a monster up front and he has a few vets to work with but the real key will be how much production they get from their 16 & 17 yr olds. Adding another veteran or two might not be a bad idea either if the kids struggle early. 

 

How good is the defensive unit?

Connor Corcoran. Courtesy Getty Images.

Connor Corcoran (5th rd, DAL) was basically thrown to the wolves last year after Sean Day & Austin McEneny got traded midseason. He was playing with fellow 17 yr old Thomas Stevenson while the Spits had four other 16 yr olds garnering regular ice time. That meant Corcoran had to play big minutes for this club in all situations and against the other team’s top lines regularly. While there were some rough patches at times he managed to hold up remarkably well and was outstanding in the playoffs limiting the OHL‘s most dangerous player Jordan Kyrou to only 1 goal & 1 assist in 6 playoff games

Corcoran was one of the most underrated players in the 2018 NHL draft. He is actually a converted forward who only started playing defence full-time once he got to the OHL in 2016. He is considered a shutdown defenceman right now but skates very well, has good size and mobility and is an excellent puck mover. He’s pretty solid in all areas quite frankly and with his big shot he has sneaky offensive upside as well. He will be leaned on a lot again this year but I suspect will handle it with extreme poise and could break out offensively if given more opportunity. 

Stevenson, as mentioned partnered with Corcoran for the majority of the second half of the season and did an admirably job himself. He has the ability to jump up and join the rush but really worked hard on his defence last season playing top pair. 

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

As mentioned, the Spitfires have four 17 yr olds now patrolling the blue line led by former NHLer Steve Staios‘ son – Nathan Staios.

#44 Nathan Staios. OHL Images.

LD Nathan Staios was the 17th overall pick in the 2017 OHL Draft. He inherits a lot of the same qualities his father had – he’s smart, he’s a leader, he works hard, he’s highly competitive and he plays bigger than his size. The young  Staios also has a big shot and is capable of running a powerplay which should bold well for this team as he is probably the most natural doing so. He’ll need to continue to get stronger and hopefully bigger while also improving his skating along the way. He is a decent skater now with good edgework but lacks top end speed which got him in trouble a bit last year. If he’s able to get stronger in that area he could be a player of interest in the 1st couple rounds of the NHL draft. 

RD Grayson Ladd was also drafted in 2017 OHL draft. In fact, he was selected 5 picks ahead of Nathan Staios by Kitchener (13th overall). He is rangy defender who is a tremendous skater that plays a solid 2 way game. Often referred to as a “toolsy” player he has untapped potential as a mobile puckmover but is highly inconsistent. Ladd should be a staple on the second pair but likely needs to improve his offensive production considerably if he is going to develop into a legit NHL prospect.

LD Lev Starikov is another massive player for the Spitfires. Listed at 6’7″, 190 on hockeydb.com  he is surprisingly mobile for such a big man and actually has some nice puck rushing ability. His combination of size and speed could be tantalizing for some NHL team and his game is somewhat reminiscent of Nikita Zadorov at this stage.

Louka Henault is a 5th rd pick in the 2017 OHL Draft. He is a good skater with good size but has limited offensive ability and will likely not be selected at the NHL draft. 

Overall, this defensive unit was the youngest in the OHL last season after the midseason trades and held up surprisingly well all else considered. It helped they had a stellar goalie behind them but make no mistake this is a talented group. The key obviously will be the maturation and development of their four 17 yr olds but they are much more experienced now and it should show up on the statsheet.

 

 

Goaltending

Michael DiPietro, was all-world for this team last season and pretty much his entire OHL career up to this point. If he does come back to Windsor for his 4th year he is expected to be nothing short of superb yet again. He is extremely athletic and capable of making acrobatic saves. His recovery time is the best in the league and he lateral movement cross crease is outstanding. He’s confident and battles hard each and every night. If he does ultimately come back to the OHL and gets traded to a contender eventually, that team would be an immediate favourite to win the OHL. He’s that good. 

Kari Piiroinen, was drafted in the 2018 Import draft to backup DiPietro. Considered by GM Warren Rychel as “the best goaltender in Finland in his age group” he is expected to eventually replace him and dominate in the OHL. He is touted as a very athletic goalie who is fundamentally sound. He posted a 2.78 GAA & .912 SV% last season for HIFK-U18.  

 

Summary

This is a good Windsor team that is really strong on defence and in net. The development of some of their forwards up front is key as they have a chance to be really good if a couple of them break out. Piiroinen is also a huge wildcard. If he can step into the OHL and have success early it might accelerate a trade of DiPietro and bring back some valuable assets – assuming of course he is even back in the first place. Either way, this is definitely a playoff calibre team who could surprise. 

 

 

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

FLINT FIREBIRDS

Coach: Ryan Ouhelan (20-43-0-6)

 

 

2017-18 Season

Flint was the worst team in the Western Conference and the 2nd worst team in the OHL standings last season finishing with a dismal 45 points despite starting the season 3-0. They scored the least amount of goals in the league and allowed the most so essentially they were the worst team. They only had two players who scored more than 20 goals for the year and they easily boasted the worst save percentage as a team. Their longest unbeaten streak all season was 3 games and they had two separate losing streaks of 11 games and 9 games

Safe to say not much went well for the Firebirds last year but they did make some good trades that have a chance to set them up nicely in the near future. First off, they moved a couple of their veterans in Nick Caamano & Ryan Moore who were traded to Hamilton for 17 yr old Connor Roberts & 3 draft picks. Roberts immediately stepped in and played relatively well for Flint developing some nice chemistry with Ty Dellandrea in particular. 17 yr old Riley McCourt was also acquired from Hamilton in a separate deal for OHL vet Nick Mattinen and he also played well giving Flint two solid 18 yr olds capable of contributing significantly this year. 

So while it was a season to forget as far as the standings go, GM Barclay Branch did manage to set his team up nicely this season with a couple savvy deals to compliment his young roster and has done a nice job drafting the last couple years while also adding some more high draft picks in the process. The Firebirds have rotated bad years (46 pts in 2015, 45 pts in 2017) and good years (72 pts in 2016) since joining the league 3 years ago. They hope that trend continues this season as they appear poised to rebound and make a push for a playoff spot.

 

Ryan Moore is Flint’s all-time leading scorer with 159 pts. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

2018-19 Outlook

This Flint Firebirds team should be better this season the question is – how much better? Much of their success will rely on several young players to take another step forward and the development of their defence will be key as the highest scoring defencemen that returns – Fedor Gordeev – had only 25 points last year. Their Powerplay ranked 17th and their Penalty Kill was 18th so both need to be much better if this team is going to have a chance. 

Goaltending was also an issue and is another question mark going into this season as 17 yr old Luke Cavallin looks to take over the reigns full time. The defence in front of him did a poor job of preventing high quality scoring chances last season so their development will be vital in easing his workload each and every night. 

The strength of this team will be up front led by recent 1st round draft pick Ty Dellandrea. Dellandrea, was terrific last year playing in all situations and should be a lock for at least 30+ goals this season. Whether or not he gets enough help up front to carry this team is the concern. This team is young and has a chance to sneak into the playoffs but will need a lot to go right for that to happen.

Gone are veterans F Maurizio Colella and D Jalen Smereck. Collela, led the team with 61 points & Smereck was a high risk high reward player who led the defence with 10 goals & 34 pts but was also a team worst -41. Both played a lot for this team so their losses will be felt. 

 

Connor Roberts celebrates a goal versus Windsor. Photo by OHL images

 

 

Offensively how good could they be?

Ty Dellandrea of Flint

This is no question this is Ty Dellandrea‘s team. Last season the former 5th overall pick in the 2016 OHL draft posted 27 goals & 59 points and he is expected to improve on that significantly this year. He’s smart, he’s fast and has great offensive instincts. Dellandrea is just a wonderful talent and terrific leader with a great attitude which is something that rubs off on his teammates. The question for Flint is who else can step up and provide some secondary scoring to help him.                                                                                         

Connor Roberts was acquired midseason from Hamilton and ending up scoring 15 goals & 27 pts in 44 games.  Much more will be expected of the 18 yr old now that he is in Flint fulltime. Roberts was actually taken 2 slots ahead of Dellandrea in the 2016 Draft but hasn’t had nearly the career Ty has had so far. He’s big & talented and we saw glimpses of it late last year he just needs to work on being more consistent. He went undrafted in the NHL draft in June. 

The Firebirds also selected Jan Jenik (3rd rd, ARZ) in the 1st round of this year’s Import draft in the hopes he could come in and help take some of the pressure of Dellandrea. He is reportedly in camp but has not officially signed yet so his status for the 2018-19 season is still up in the air at the moment.

A couple of 19 yr olds in Jake Durham and C.J. Clarke also return. Both are experienced vets capable of contributing offensively. Durham had 30 points in 68 games while Clarke had 16 goals in 66 games. Both will be expected to increase their productivity this season.

Hunter Holmes is another player that flashed some potential last season. He was able to chip in 11 goals & 20 points in 40 games. 

So while there is no question who the present leader is for this team, there’s no question the future is 17 yr old Ethan Keppen and the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 OHL draft – Evan Vierling 

Vierling, is a dynamic prospect who is smart, fast and highly skilled. He is also the now former teammate of 1st overall pick Quinton Byfield. He brings a lot of what Dellandrea does already who should be the perfect mentor for the 16 yr old. Vierling has a terrific shot & release while also explosive skating ability. He should have an immediate impact in Flint and is the future of this team. 

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

LW Ethan Keppen was the 10th overall pick in the 2017 OHL draft. He is a prototypical Power forward who has good size and battles hard for loose pucks. He also has nice hands in close and has a very quick release. He played well with Hunter Holmes last season and managed to chip in 10 goals. This season he’ll be looking to double at least. He has the tools to break out in his draft year.

Overall, this forward group has some real nice players capable of putting up some big numbers in the OHL – eventually. Vierling & Keppen are the future while Dellandrea is the leader right now. He should make those around him better but the rest of the group could struggle to score if those two young kids aren’t ready to step up yet. If they are, look out.

 

How good is the defensive unit?

This defensive unit, looks to be better on paper but it’s tough to tell how much better until we see them all on the ice together. 

Fedor Gordeev, is a huge 6’6″ defenceman who is surprising mobile given his size. He also flashed a little offensive flair from time to time and and was named the most improved player for Flint this past season. Defensively, he’s getting better but needs to cut down on his penalties (106 PIMS). He’ll likely compete with Riley McCourt for top pair minutes. 

McCourt, was acquired from Hamilton and really settled in nicely down the stretch. He is a very smart, savvy player and an excellent puck mover. He should be able to provide some more offense to a defense core that really lacks that potent offensive player on the back end. 

Dennis Busby is a fascinating story. He missed virtually all last season with a broken cavicle but was one of the final cuts for Team Canada’s U18 team before that & had a nice season as a 16 yr old the year before. So, the Arizona Coyotes took a chance on him and drafted him in the 5th round of the 2018 Draft. His story is here

With Busby back in the fold, the Firebirds could have their #1 defenceman capable of running the Powerplay and logging a ton of minutes. Before his injury, Busby was billed as a exellent two way player with good leadership qualities and a solid puck mover.  

Marcus Gretz is an intriguing player who played last year as a 15 yr old (late 2001 birthday). He’s a big kid who’s not NHL draft eligible till 2020 but he has some real nice skill and should get more opportunity this year.

Nikita Alexandrov was taken in the 1st round of the 2017 Import draft but he really struggled adapting to the North American game and was only able to net a disappointing 3 points in 58 games while posting an awful -36

19 yr old Hakon Nilsen, 17 yr old Zach Pilon and 16 yr old Michael Bianconi likely round out the group.

Overall, Flint’s defensive core should be much better this year thanks to the return of Dennis Busby from injury, the maturation and development of young Marcus Gretz and Riley McCourt playing a full season now in Flint. Good but not great group.

 

Goaltending

Flint’s starter Garrett Forrest moves on so 17 yr old Luke Cavallin takes over as the full-time starter. 

Cavallin, did manage to get into 31 games last year as a 16 yr old so should be ready to step up and be the man now in Flint. Originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 OHL draft, Cavallin has good size, moves well and tracks the puck extremely well. He’ll need to continue to work on his fundamentals and consistency obviously but he has a chance to be real good for the Firebirds. 

Emanuel Vella, an overager, was recently acquired to backup Cavallin. He posted a 3.28 GAA & .896 SV% last season for Mississauga.  

 

Summary

Flint has the chance to sneak up on teams this year. They’re relatively young but have some talented pieces in the mix. They’re probably not going to challenge for Tops in their division unless they get incredible goaltending but this looks like a 7th or 8th in Conference team with upside. 

 

 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

 

Coach: Drew Bannister (55-7-0-6)

 

2017-18 Season

Sault Ste. Marie was a juggernaut in the Regular season going a ridiculous 55-7-0-6 which was good for 116 points. That put them tied for the most points in the OHL since the London Knights put up 120 points in 2004-05.  From October 28 to December 30th, the Soo won 23 games in a row and had a 29 game unbeaten streak in regulation. Their Powerplay and Penalty kill were both Top 5 in the league pretty much all year and they finished the Regular season with the most goals for (317) and the least goals against (186) in the OHL. You would think a team like that would be unstoppable come playoff time but in the end that was not the case. 

The Soo swept Saginaw in the 1st round of the OHL playoffs but seemed to take their 2nd round opponent Owen Sound lightly and it almost cost them. Up 3 games to 2 the Greyhounds got blown out in Game 6 in Owen Sound 7-1 setting up an all important Game 7 back at home. After giving up the first goal to the Attack, the Soo ended up responding with 6 straight goals and led 6-1 midway thru the 2nd period. It was 8-2 late in the game until Owen Sound made a push with about 6 minutes to go by scoring 5 goals during that span. They ultimately fell short and lost 9-7 but a message was sent to the rest of the OHL that this Greyhound team wasn’t invincible. Owen Sound scored 31 goals in 7 games versus the Soo and limited them to 2 or less goals in 3 of their 7 games but still couldn’t quite knock them out. 

The following round The Soo were facing the Kitchener Rangers who were a big and experienced team full of veterans. They too gave the Greyhounds all they could handle by forcing them to a second straight Game 7. This time the game went into overtime, then a second overtime before Jack Kopacka managed to score the winner for SSM and helped his team advance to the OHL finals. It was another hard fought series that could have went either way but the Greyhounds managed to somehow pull it out in the end….again. In the finals however, their luck ran out. 

Hamilton led by Robert Thomas rolled into town and took Game 1 of the OHL final in Sault Ste. Marie and you could feel this series was going to be it for the Greyhounds. They managed to fight back to even the series at two after four games but in Games 5 and Game 6 they ran out of gas ultimately falling short and being eliminated by the Bulldogs in 6 games. It was a disappointing result for such a talented team who was the best team on paper in the OHL all year. They went for it all in 2017-18 moving several future assets in order to bring in guys that could help them get to the Memorial Cup but they couldn’t quite finish the job. 

 

#52 Jack Kopacka scores OT winner (Courtesy of soogreyhounds.com)

 

2018-19 Outlook

Early last season the Soo trade promising 16 yr old Hayden Fowler & NINE draft picks for Taylor Raddysh and Jordan Sambrook. The after effect of moving future assets for short term gain means this year the player losses are even more severe. The Greyhounds scored 317 goals last year and 211 of those goals were scored by 8 players – Morgan Frost (1st rd, PHI), Boris Katchouk (2nd rd, TB), Taylor Raddysh (2nd rd, TB), Jack Kopacka (4th rd, ANH), Tim Gettinger (5th rd, NYR), Hayden Verbeek (undrafted), Conor Timmins (2nd rd, COLand Noah Carroll (6th rd, CAR) all of whom may not be back. That’s an enormous 67% of their goals potentially gone.

The good news is Morgan Frost and Conor Timmins are eligible to return but it is expected they will get long looks at their NHL camps and may very well get 9 games at least and possibly more. Both are among the best in the OHL at their positions and would be big losses if they didn’t return. In fact, there is a real possibility in the Soo that their top 6 forwards from last year and 3 of their top 5 defencemen all could potentially not return. That’s a ton of offence to replace. 

So while The Soo could lose half their roster from last season there are still some good players returning including a couple of recent 1st rounders in Barrett Hayton (1st rd, ARZ), Rasmus Sandin (1st rd, TOR) and their stellar goalie Matthew Villalta (3rd rd, LA) who should be able to keep them in most games. Overagers Jordan Sambrook (5th rd, DET) and Mac Hollowell (5th rd, TOR) are also options that might return or get potentially traded for immediate help. Regardless, there’s no question a lot of their success rides on whether FrostTimmins return but even if they don’t this team should still be good enough to contend for their division but just don’t expect 116 points again.   

 

Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

Who’s going to pick up the slack?

First of all, if Morgan Frost does indeed return then this team will be in good shape. Frost had 42 goals and 112 points in 67 games last season but was drafted by the Flyers in the 1st round in 2017 and could stick with the team if he has a good camp. It’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t return to the Soo but his absence alone probably eliminates them from Championship contention. 

Barrett Hayton of Soo Greyhounds

Barrett Hayton would become the #1 Center if Frost does in fact move on and has a chance to put up some pretty big numbers in his 3rd OHL season. He is a highly intelligent, slick pivot with a terrific release the question is how productive he will be without a lineup full of future NHL’ers around him. 

F Keegan Howdeshell is one of the few forwards not drafted by an NHL club so he likely has the option to come back and play as an overager this year. He scored 16 goals and 36 points in 61 games last season after coming over from the USHL where he played as an 18 yr old. He will be looked upon heavily to help offset some of the offence lost. 

Ryan Roth is an 18 yr old who chipped in 15 goals along with 33 points mainly in bottom 6 duty last year so he should get more opportunity in the Top 6 this year as well. 

After that, the roster is filled with plenty of questions marks.

F Rasmus Kupari (1st rd, LA) as drafted by the Greyhounds in the 2017 Import Draft and subsequently the LA Kings this June. There is talk he may come over to North America to play which means we could see him in the OHL playing for The Soo. He is reportedly signed for one more year for Karpat in Finland but plans could change. 

F Roman Pucek and F Jaromir Pytlik were both taken in this year’s CHL Import draft and both have intriguing offensive upside. Pytlik in particular looked really good at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament during the Round Robin games. As of now, Pucek is signed and committed to the Soo, Pytlik is not.

 

2019 Draft Eligibles

If there is one sleeper player who could be poised to break out this year for the Soo and provide some much needed secondary scoring it’s 17 yr old LW Joe Carroll.

Carroll, was drafted 78th overall in the 2017 OHL draft. He is a big, strong, gifted player who has a nice combination of size and speed along with a big shot. Last season as a 16 yr old he put up 9 goals & 18 points in 57 games but appears to have much more offence to give. Seeing half the forwards that were ahead of him in the lineup last year are gone he should get ample opportunity this year to boost his draft stock considerably. Sneaky good player who looks the part.

RW Cole MacKay is another 17 yr old who got into some games last year and showed some flashes of potential. He is a smart, reliable player who brings a ton of energy each and every game. He was also a prolific goal scorer in Minor Midget leading Kitchener of the AHMMPL in goals in 2016-17 with 30 in 32 games. He potted 5 goals and 14 points last season for the Soo but should be capable of tripling that at least this year. 

Overall, even if Frost does come back this team is not nearly as deep or balanced as last season. They’re still good up front just not great. 

 

How good is the defensive unit?

Conor Timmins of Soo Greyhounds

Like the forwards, a lot depends on who comes back which is still up in the air at this moment. As mentioned, it’s possible Conor Timmins could return. However, it’s just as possible he makes the Colorado Avalanche full-time as Cale Makar, another Colorado draft pick is likely still a year away from making their team. So the Soo should be prepared for that scenario just in case.

Rasmus Sandin is one player who will be back. He provided a steady influence when Timmins was out last season and could be asked to shoulder the load again this season full-time. He’s such a smart, reliable defender who sees the ice real well and can generate offence from defence quickly with his smooth transitional game. He had 12 goals & 45 points in 51 games

Mac Hollowell and Jordan Sambrook are both overagers who could be back as well though odds are one is moved before the season if that’s the case. Hollowell, is eligible to play in the AHL for Toronto but will likely return to play Top pair if Timmins does in fact move on. He scored 12 goals & 56 points last season. Sambrook, was released from the Detroit Red Wings so is a free agent currently. Surely, he’ll look to improve his stock playing in the OHL somewhere if not in the Soo.

The other two defencemen we know will be back for sure are 19 yr old Anthony DeMeo and 17 yr old Jacob Leguerrier. Neither player will blow your socks off with their offensive flair but are pretty solid defensively and decent puck movers. 

18 yr old Holden Wale got into 37 games last year so he is a possibility to get spot duty again and another 18 yr old Phil Caron appeared in 24 games notching 2 assists

Overall, this unit should be strong again and will likely be the backbone of the team. It is still unknown exactly who will be back but it appears there will be enough talent & experience amongst whoever does return to consider it a strength for the team. 

 

Goaltending

Matthew Villalta (3rd rd, LA) was one of the best goalies in the OHL last season. He led the league amongst starters with a 2.58 GAA and had a respectable .908 SV% in 49 games. He did however really struggle in playoffs finishing with a 3.30 GAA & .893 SV% which frankly wasn’t good enough. He’ll look to shake off that disappointing playoff run this season and will be relied upon to provide more stability in net with a more inexperienced defence core in front of him. His playoff performance shouldn’t be cause for concern but is something to keep in mind if he struggles early. 

Backup Tyler Johnson is an overager who is eligible to return. He was terrific in spot duty last year posting a 14-1-1 record & besting Villalta with a 2.36 GAA & .916 SV%. It is possible with so many overragers on this team that he is in fact the one that gets traded to a team desperate for some goaltending help. 

 

Summary

Sault Ste. Marie went all-in last year knowing full well they were going to lose a pile of players this season up front. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t pan out and now they are somewhat depleted at forward. They traded their 1st round pick from 2017 Hayden Fowler who could have helped filled the void so instead are relying on a couple of Import players to come in and contribute instead. It remains to be seen how much offence they will be able to adequately replace but there is no doubt they still have plenty of talent to work with especially on the back end and in goal. Either way, this is still a really good team who could win their division but a 20-30 point drop in the standings seems very possible. 

 

 

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