2018-19 GTHL Season Preview

The GTHL is loaded with elite young talent, and this year’s crop of minor midget players are no different. Expected to comprise the majority of the 2019 OHL Draft’s first round, meet this year’s best GTHL talent.

2018-19 GTHL Season Preview

The 2018-19 GTHL Minor Midget season is looming just around the corner, with the first games of league action beginning on Monday, September 10th. This year’s crop of prospects come from the 2003-born age group, who will undoubtedly make up a great portion of the top selections at the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Overall, it appears to be yet another strong season for GTHL draft talent, led by a select few elite teams. In the 2017-18 GTHL Bantam season, it was the Don Mills Flyers who walked away as the Regular Season Champions with a 30-2-1 record. Following close behind were the Toronto Marlboros at 27-6-0 and the Toronto Young Nationals at 26-6-1.

In playoff action, the three aforementioned teams cruised to the semi-final round, along with the North York Rangers. The Rangers faced off against the Flyers and gave them a tough run, eventually falling 8-4 in points to Don Mills. On the other side, the Marlboros overcame a 7-3 point deficit against the Nationals, eventually capping off the series with a memorable 3-2 win in a game eight.

The final round featured two high-powered teams with tremendous depth at both ends of the ice, but in the end it was the Don Mills Flyers who proved too much to handle for the Toronto Marlboros, capturing the Playoff Championship in a 9-1 points series win.

Heading into their Minor Midget season, Don Mills brings with it three consecutive Regular Season Championships, three consecutive Playoff Championships, as well as OHL Provincial Championships in 2016 and 2018. They also captured the 2018 Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament in a dominant performance, rolling to an 8-0-0 record with 48 goals for and just 7 against.

Perhaps most notably, and most tragically, was the passing of their goaltender, Roy Pejcinovski, in the middle of their playoff run. Roy was an imperative cog within the Don Mills organization, both on and off the ice, and will be missed dearly by all who knew him.

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, the Inaugural Pejcinovski Legacy Gala will take place at the Hazelton manor in support of The Pejcinovski Family Memorial Fund in an event which will honour the lives of Krissy, Roy, and Vana, all of whom were taken from us too soon. Donations, ticket information and opportunities to help their legacy live on forever are available at krvgala.com.

– Teams to Watch –

Don Mills Flyers

Coming off of yet another dominant season in the GTHL, the Flyers appear destined to be a front-runner for the league championships once again. They’ve re-stocked their roster and appear to be stronger than ever in ’17-18 with key additions of Francesco Arcuri, Cole Eichler, and Roman Schmidt, as well as a new goaltending tandem in Sergei Litvinov and Anson Thornton.

Led by Shane Wright, who hopes to attain Exceptional Status by Hockey Canada in order to be eligible for the upcoming OHL Draft, the Flyers roll three evenly-distributed lines of offence, all of which are capable of generating goals. On the back end, Brandt Clarke and Roman Schmidt lead the charge of five defencemen who can be trusted to play in all situations.

There are simply no holes to this roster, who enter the ’18-19 season as favourites in the GTHL.

Players to Watch:

Shane Wright – C – The Flyers’ top center, Wright combines an exemplary skating ability with incredible hockey sense to be a threat each time he takes the ice. The early favourite to go 1st overall at the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Brennan Othmann – LW – A winger, Othmann has an electric and powerful release. He skates well and has impressive puck skills. A trigger-man on the powerplay.

Francesco Arcuri – C – A highly-skilled puck handler, Arcuri has speed to burn and is an impressive playmaker who sees the ice extremely well.

Brandt Clarke – D – An uber-talented, two-way defenceman who skates effortlessly. He can weave through traffic with ease and hold the line under pressure. Excellent offensive upside.

Roman Schmidt – D – A towering defenceman who can throttle opponents with checks, Schmidt is a smooth skater who efficiently transitions the game. He is a threat from the blueline with a bomb of a shot.

Toronto Marlboros

Well, you can’t be surprised here. The Marlboros boast yet another incredibly talented roster with high-end players at all positions. Coming off of a tough loss in the ’17-18 finals to their rival Don Mills, the Marlboros head into the 2018-19 season with a chip on their shoulder.

Backed by some strong acquisitions, including Danny Zhilkin, Tucker Robertson, and Artem Guryev, the team appears to have more upside than it’s ’17-18 version. Their defensive corps is massive, with everyone lining up over 6-feet tall. Up front, returnees Wyatt Johnston and Jake Beck lead an offence that oozes with speed and skill.

Players to Watch:

Danil Zhilkin – C – A natural goal-scorer, Zhilkin has an elite shot and a nose for the net. He skates well and has a knack for being in the right position at the right time. Overall, the league’s most potent shooter.

Wyatt Johnston – C – An excellent skater with a smooth stride and good edgework, Johnston showcases some of the highest hockey sense in the league. A playmaker by nature, he can thread passes with ease.

Tucker Robertson – LW – A pair of silky smooth hands lead to Robertson turning heads each time he takes the ice. A gifted puck-handler with good speed, Robertson has exciting offensive upside.

Ethan Del Mastro – D – A towering defenceman, Del Mastro plays a calm and poised game at both ends of the ice. He forces opponents to the outside with his body and stick, and outlets passes to transition the game.

Artem Guryev – D – Another strong defender, Guryev loves to throw booming open-ice checks before jumping into the rush to generate offence. He has the potential to play to over a point-per-game rate.

Toronto Nationals

After a heartbreaking loss to the Marlboros in game eight of the semi-finals last year, the Nationals are back to prove they have what it takes to be mentioned among the top tier of the ’03 age group. The Nats play a smart game with an emphasis on a strong, 200-foot game. They delivered both regular season losses to Don Mills.

Led up front by the likes of Ryan Del Monte, Josh Bloom, and Zachary Dean, the Nats have high-end scoring backed by depth on all three lines. On the blue line, they play a responsible and efficient game by limiting the time of attack by their opponents and constantly hounding the puck.

Players to Watch:

Ryan Del Monte – C – Committed to Harvard University, Del Monte plays an intelligent game backed by a strong snap shot and incredible vision of the ice. He backchecks deep into the defensive zone to support his defenders.

Josh Bloom – LW – Led by noteworthy offensive instincts, Bloom can do it all. He skates effortlessly and has strong top-end speed along with above average puck skills and a strong shot, making him a constant threat.

Zachary Dean – LW – A natural playmaker, Dean has tremendous vision of the ice and can sense where his teammates are at all times. He can find passing lanes through traffic and throw saucer passes past defenders regularly.

Deven Nagra – D – A smooth skating, puck-moving defenceman, Nagra excels in transitioning the game up ice. He has great lower body strength that allow him to separate opponents from the puck.

Owen Forester – D – Forester is a solid, all-around defenceman who makes a difference at both ends of the ice. He uses smart body and stick positioning to limit offence, and also patrols the blue line well.

Mississauga Rebels

After playing to a 17-12-4 record in ’17-18, the Rebels were ousted in a tough first round matchup against the North York Rangers that went to eight games. Heading into the 2018-19 season, the Rebels are motivated to prove that they should be considered a team to beat.

The Rebels play a low-scoring game backed by superior defensive awareness that has been coached into their forward group. With that said, their defensive corps are set free to contribute offensively, so long as they are responsible in their decisions of when to jump into the rush.

Players to Watch:

Maxwell Donohoe – LW – A smart, two-way forward, Donohoe is often looked upon as the trigger-man for the Rebels. He has good vision of the ice and skates well, but also plays a sound positional game as well.

Pasquale Zito – C – Another reliable forward at both ends of the ice, Zito reads the game well and utilizes his vision to be an impressive playmaker. Above average skater with strong top-end speed.

Anthony Russo – D – A two-way defenceman, Russo has a strong shot from the point and works the blue line well on the power play to generate scoring chances. He skates well and isn’t afraid to engage physically.

Jack Guvenal – D – An excellent transition game, Guvenal is a break-out artist who utilizes several options to move the puck up ice, either through a strong outlet pass, or by rushing the puck himself.

North York Rangers

Playing to an identical 17-12-4 as their first round opponent, Mississauga Rebels, the Rangers play a similar style which locks down the neutral zone and makes them a tough team to play against. North York will be looking to build upon a second round appearance by cracking the top-four in the league standings.

Their defence are a puck-moving group who can all skate well and box-out offensive threats in front of their net. However, they will likely need an offensive boost if they hope to compete with the league’s top tier of teams.

Players to Watch:

Christian Campanelli – C – The Rangers’ offensive leader, Campanelli has a quick release that he can get off in tight spaces under pressure. He has the ability to slip behind defenders and create a passing lane for himself.

Patrick Saini – C – A skillful, two-way center, Saini can skate and protect the puck well. He reads the ice well and can weave through traffic or dish out cross-ice passes on the tape to his teammates.

Toronto Red Wings

After playing to a 15-13-5 record last year, the Red Wings are motivated to improve their record through a potentially potent offence. The team plays a fast and heavy game, and have frequently given top teams in their age group a run for their money.

The Red Wings feature a number of big, strong, mobile defencemen who can keep games close. Up front, they boast a few highly-skilled forwards, but lack the depth that the high-end teams are able to roll with over three solid lines.

Players to Watch:

Francesco Pinelli – C – An uber-talented center with a motor that doesn’t quit, Pinelli took over as the team’s captain this year and appears to be their offensive leader as well. He has a strong shot and battles for puck as hard as anyone.

Ryan Gillespie – C – A responsible, two-way center, Gillespie is often relied upon in defensive situations and on the penalty kill. He has some offensive upside, but needs to add some aggression to his game.

Mississauga Senators

The Mississauga Senators may be this year’s candidate for a breakout campaign. The team has promising offensive capabilities but needs to hone it’s defensive game. After playing to a 14-12-7 record in ’17-18, the Sens will look to improve upon their 7th seed finish.

The issue that has been nagging the Sens ’03 group has been a lack of depth at both ends of the ice. They are hoping that the addition of skilled forward, Ethan Esposito, can help to build three solid forward lines.

Players to Watch:

Eric Bonsteel – D – A smooth skating, two-way defenceman, Bonsteel is the backbone of the Sens’ defence corps and is relied upon to chip in offensively as well. He is trusted to play in all situations of the game.

Braeden Kressler – RW – Appears to be the team’s offensive leader, regularly carrying possession of the puck in successful offensive zone entries. Kressler has a quick and accurate shot, and is always willing to battle for loose pucks.

Jacob Frasca – C – Centring the top line, Frasca skates well and is strong on the puck, with impressive hands. He is more of a passer than shooter, and often tags up with Kressler for one-timer goals.

Vaughan Kings

The Kings look poised to significantly build on their 9-22-2 record from last season, which left them out of a playoff spot. The team struggles at both ends of the ice for much of the year, but finished out strong with a 5-5-0 record to cap off the year, including some close losses to the league’s top teams.

Vaughan has two strong offensive lines that can produce offence in any given shift, as well as a nice blend of two-way and defensive defencemen. If the Kings can play a consistently fast-paces game, they should improve upon their record from ’17-18 and potentially crack the playoffs.

Players to Watch:

Sean Clarke – C – A skilled player with quick hands, Clarke has a deceptive and accurate snap shot that can beat goaltenders one-on-one. He skates well and has solid top-end speed.

Jack Price – RW – A big, strong skater who protects the puck well, Price plays an impressive all-around game. He has a strong shot with good power and can also make cross-ice passes through traffic.

Featured photo is credited to Max Lewis.

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