To say that the Kingston Frontenacs struggled mightily during their 2018-19 campaign would be a vast understatement.
In the Frontenacs’ 30th season of play in the Ontario Hockey League, the team skated to its worst team record in franchise history. In posting a dismal 14-52-2 record, Kingston earned a mere 30 points in the OHL standings — a mark which stood as the worst total in the league by a wide margin. Amplifying the Frontenacs’ struggles was the team’s decision to trade a number of its veteran players ahead of the deadline — a painful commitment yet one which was necessary given the trajectory of the team.
Fortunately for Kingston and its fans, this short-term pain should lead to considerable long-term gain in the years ahead. Despite enduring their worst season to date, the Frontenacs now stand loaded with a bounty of elite young talent eager to leave a lasting impression at the OHL-level. In fact, Kingston’s group of prospects is so strong and deep that the team should develop into a legitimate contender in the years ahead — if not in 2019-20.
So, what will need to go right for the Frontenacs if they wish to build a sustainable and competitive roster? And, perhaps more importantly, what aspects of Kingston’s roster will require immediate attention ahead of the upcoming 2019-20 season? Well, let’s examine five key Frontenacs storylines to follow this coming campaign.
Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20
Team depth, goaltending, and the play of Kingston’s young prospects will determine the level of success which the Frontenacs will enjoy this coming season. If able to receive favourable outcomes in the cases outlined below — a reality which could realistically be unattainable — Kingston could stand as a surprise contender within the OHL’s Eastern Conference.
1. Who Will Tend to the Frontenacs’ Crease?
The Frontenacs’ crease was dominated by Brendan Bonello throughout the 2018-19 season, as the 1999-born netminder appeared in a whopping 48 regular season games for Kingston. In those games played, Bonello earned a 4.28 GAA and .884% SVP — totals impacted greatly by the poor play of the Frontenacs as a whole. However, Bonello’s play, and the play of all three Kingston goaltenders last season, begs the question of who will take the reigns in goal come the 2019-20 season.
Given the young age of the Frontenacs’ upcoming roster and the franchise’s rebuilding nature, it could make a great deal of sense to afford both Ryan Dugas and Marshall Frappier with the majority of the starts in goal. Dugas, a 2001-born goaltender, was nabbed by the Frontenacs in the fourth-round of the 2017 OHL Draft and could be ready to assume the starter’s role based upon his size, strength, and success in years passed. The second option to seize the crease is Frappier, a slightly older goaltender given his 2000 birth year yet one who holds a decent amount of experience given his previous tenure with the Sudbury Wolves.
In short, it would make a great deal of sense to entrust Dugas with the majority of the playing time in goal this coming campaign. Given the great deal of young prospects set to be inserted into the Frontenacs’ lineup, it would make sense to play a younger goaltender who can develop alongside the franchise’s top prospects in the years to come.
2. Will Kingston’s 2019 Draft Class Make an Impact?
The Frontenacs enjoyed a wildly successful 2019 OHL Draft, as the franchise was able to secure a number of young players with the potential to impact the outcome of any given game. First and foremost was the selection of Shane Wright, a dynamic centre-man who was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada based upon his abilities on the ice as well as his maturity off of it. However, it was the selections made after that of Wright which has placed Kingston in excellent form.
All of Francesco Arcuri — a teammate of Wright with the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers — Maddox Callens, Braden Hache, and Owen Watson are stable yet game-breaking players who will undoubtedly come to play significant roles for Kingston in the not-so-distant future. Of varying position, these four youngsters were all nabbed within the opening six rounds of the Priority Selection and have the potential to become star players. Although it remains unclear which of those listed above will crack Kingston’s opening night roster, all of which will surely make an impact in the OHL in 2019-20 if able to secure highly valuable playing time.
3. What Can Shane Wright Bring to the Table in 2019-20?
We all know that Shane Wright was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada, and we know that the Fronteancs were fortunate enough to select the budding phenom with the first overall selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Yet, with this being said, what exactly should we expect from Wright in his rookie OHL campaign? In order to better answer this question, let’s make a quick comparison to Connor McDavid.
Although they are not necessarily equals, both McDavid and Wright entered the OHL in similar situations. Like Wright, McDavid was also chosen by a bottom-feeding team in the form of the Erie Otters — a club who had struggled considerably prior to selecting him. Despite the weakness of the Otters in his rookie season, McDavid was still able to record 25 goals and 66 points in his 63 regular season contests as an underage player.
So, will Wright be able to produce at a similar pace in his rookie season? Well, this is fairly difficult to determine, as Wright’s supporting cast could prove to be far less supportive than that which McDavid enjoyed as a rookie. One pairing which could prove to be extremely effective for Wright and the Frontenacs in 2019-20, however, revolves around the presence of Nicholas Wong. Although he is a natural centre, shifting Wong to the wing alongside Wright could afford Kingston with one of the OHL’s most dynamic young lines.
4. Who Will Anchor the Frontenacs’ Blue Line?
Despite its difficulties throughout the 2018-19 season, the Frontenacs’ blue line should be dramatically improved come the 2019-20 campaign. Although a number of the team’s top defenders were traded at the deadline or have since moved on to professional careers, Kingston’s defence-core remains significantly promising owing to the presence and continued development of its young blue liners. Jacob Murray, Evan Brand, and Anthony Aguanno all took significant steps in the right direction last season and now stand poised to consume major minutes in a variety of situations.
The most intriguing defender of all, however, is none other than Billy Constantinou. Acquired from the Niagara IceDogs last season, Constantinou is a 2001-born defender who is absolutely dynamic when in possession of the puck. A stellar skater and composed playmaker, Constantinou can lead offensive rushes and is no stranger to quarter-backing his team’s power play. In fact, expect him to do exactly such for the Frontenacs this coming season, as Constantinou’s poise with the puck and creativity will allow him to anchor Kingston’s attacking game. Sure, his defensive game requires refining, yet the fact remains that Constantinou will play a starring role for the Frontenacs in 2019-20.
5. Does Kingston Have the Depth Necessary to Contend?
As we have discussed, Kingston’s future is blindingly bright owing to the presence and impending arrival of the franchise’s elite young talent. However, no OHL team can be truly successful unless it features a solid mixture of young talent alongside veteran players of ample experience, ability and confidence. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though the Frontenacs will feature this critical component this upcoming season — the franchise holds a slim few players of exceptional ability in the 1999-2000 age range.
Without this key ingredient, Kingston will likely be forced to place far too much pressure upon its young players rather than relying on veterans familiar with the OHL and what it takes to succeed at the major-junior level. Unless the Frontenacs can supplement their roster in the months ahead and remove pressure and expectation from their young talent, Kingston could very well feature an unproductive mixture of players and one incapable of legitimately contending this coming season.