Flint Firebirds: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2018-19

The Flint Firebirds are a team on the rise, as an influx of young talent and top prospects could see the organization push for considerable OHL success in the 2019-20 season and beyond.

The future is blindingly bright in Flint, Michigan, as the Firebirds stand poised to evolve into a true contender in the 2019-20 season. Sure, the past in Flint has been rough and tumultuous, however, a slew of wildly talented young players stand destined to change the Firebirds’ fate in the coming campaigns.

Long led by Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea in a single-handed fashion, the Firebirds will feature a much broader and deep roster when they take to the ice this coming season. Boasting a number of young players poised to breakout as well as incoming prospects sure to leave a lasting impression, a once remarkably thin Firebirds roster is suddenly beaming with high-end talent eager to do damage on a game-by game basis.

Flint Firebirds Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Depth, consistency, and character could lead to dramatic success for the Firebirds in 2019-20. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Led by head coach Eric Wellwood, the Firebirds will look to quickly cast aside the negative energy which has — at times — consumed Flint’s direction as a team in years past. The key to achieving this positive state will be to receive consistent contributions from throughout the entire Firebirds roster. Sure, the team’s returning players will be looked upon to carry the majority of the load, however, the time has come for a number of the organization’s younger player to take significant steps in the right direction.

Ultimately, if the Firebirds can receive consistent goaltending alongside contributions from their defence core and bottom-six forwards, Flint could quickly evolve into a legitimate contender with justified aspirations of postseason glory.

5 Storylines to Follow

As follows are our five storylines to watch as the Flint Firebirds embark upon their fifth OHL season in franchise history. Having only reached the postseason on one occasion thus far, positive outcomes in the areas below will prove crucial to Flint’s playoff hopes. If the Firebirds can receive optimal outcomes in all of the situations below, the team could become a true contender rather than simply a competitor.

1. Can Ethan Keppen Continue to Ascend?

As the Firebirds’ first round choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, greatness has long been expected from Ethan Keppen. Now, following a solid rookie season in the OHL and a breakout campaign in 2018-19, it appears as though Keppen is poised the achieve the greatness which his specific skill-set commands. An imposing physical force given his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, Keppen has quickly developed into an overwhelming force at both ends of the ice — all at the age of just 18-years.

Ethan Keppen of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Based upon his current trajectory, Keppen should lead the Firebirds’ offence. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

The key to Keppen’s breakout this past season were improvements to his shot, an increase in overall confidence, and a sense of authority once in possession of the puck. Although long in possession of a deadly shot, Keppen has refined his rocket and now features a quick release, remarkable accuracy, and ample velocity. These improvements resulted in a 30-goal campaign for Keppen in his first season of NHL Draft-eligibility — a major reason why he stands as a highly valuable prospect and one who should continue to improve and lift the Firebirds in the coming seasons.

2. Will Cody Morgan Reach his Potential?

Despite having completed just two seasons of play in the OHL, Cody Morgan has already skated for three different franchises. Initially drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Morgan was dealt to the Windsor Spitfires on New Year’s day of 2018 before being shipped to the Firebirds exactly one year later. Needless to say, Morgan’s on-going movement throughout the OHL has had a direct impact on his development and his ability to find a sense of calm and belonging at the major-junior level.

Cody Morgan of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
The Firebirds hold a gem in Cody Morgan if he can continue his torrent offensive pace. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

However, it appears as though Morgan’s latest stop has him poised for significant success. In his 30 games played for Flint in 2018-19, Morgan recorded 13 goals and 30 total points — two marks which stood as career-highs in only half a season of play. Taking to the ice as a more confident player sure of his abilities, Morgan could be set to explode in a major way come the 2019-20 campaign given the current trajectory of his on-ice productivity. Eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, a surprisingly high-selection in the upcoming event could be all the motivation Morgan needs to lead the Firebirds’ offensive attack this coming season.

3. Is Evan Vierling Primed to Explode?

After battling through a somewhat slow start in his rookie season in the OHL, Evan Vierling rounded out the 2018-19 campaign in fine form — posting six goals and 27 points in his 60 games played. The second overall choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Vierling has the skill set of an elite prospect and the drive necessary to formulate a long and successful career in the professional ranks.

Evan Vierling of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Former second overall selection Evan Vierling stands poised to impress in his NHL Draft eligible season.

As we head into the 2019-20 season, expect Vierling to improve significantly upon the play which he displayed as a rookie. Alongside a steadily developing Firebirds squad, Vierling should come to play an impactful role at both ends of the ice and one which will see him rewarded with valuable playing time as a direct result. Further, with the breakout play of Keppen, the potential return of Ty Dellandrea, and the arrival of Brennan Othmann, Vierling will skate within what will arguably be the greatest Firebirds roster in franchise history.

4. Can Luke Cavallin Command the Crease?

Luke Cavallin was the first goaltender chosen in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection for a reason — the young netminder is incredibly athletic, technical, and intense. Blessed with great size to boot, Cavallin has all the makings of a star goaltender at the OHL-level and beyond. However, owing to the Firebirds’ lack of team success in recent years, Cavallin’s perception in the eyes of NHL scouts has been significantly hampered — so much so, in fact, that Cavallin is ranked as the 23rd-best North American goaltender according to NHL Central scouting.

Luke Cavallin of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Cavallin has all the makings of a star goaltender — in 2019-20, he’ll have an opportunity to seize the crease. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

With this being said, the team which selects Cavallin in the 2019 NHL Draft will be extremely fortunate. Of immense potential, Cavallin boasts the skill set necessary to become a consistent and effective netminder at the OHL-level and beyond. If Cavallin can seize and dominate Flint’s crease this upcoming season, his presence would not only make the Firebirds an instant contender but increase his stock as an NHL prospect as well. With overage goaltender Emanuel Vella at the end of his OHL career, the door is wide open for Cavallin to assert his presence.

5. Will Eric Wellwood Awaken the Firebirds?

Despite a disastrous 0-16-1 start to the 2018-19 campaign, the Flint Firebirds closed out their most recent season in strong form. In their final 11 games played, the Firebirds recorded five wins and — in doing so — they were able to leapfrog the Kingston Frontenacs who had previously sat in 19th overall in the league standings.

Eric Wellwood of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Wellwood’s OHL experience will aid in his direction of Flint in his second season with the team. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

Although they missed out on the opportunity to draft Shane Wright in the process, it has become clear that Wellwood and the Firebirds are determined to build a winning culture in Flint. Now boasting a wealth of incredibly talented young players, Wellwood will be able to use his breadth of playing experience to drive his team into a successful and potentially dominant future in the OHL. As an individual who has both played and coached in the OHL for a number of years, Wellwood’s familiarity with the league and its requirements for success should bode well for his young core of players steadily growing both on and off of the ice.


NHL Prospect Profile: Vladislav Kolyachonok

Vladislav Kolyachonok of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds is a lethal two-way defenceman eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. A native of Belarus, Kolyachonok could be chosen in the first round owing to his combined natural offensive instincts and impressive size.

– Vladislav Kolyachonok –

Flint Firebirds (OHL) | Defence| 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Minsk, Belarus| May 26th, 2001 | 6-foot-2, 185-pounds

The 2018-19 OHL campaign was an extremely trying one for the Flint Firebirds, who struggled mightily out of the gate and were never able to turn their season around. However, there were rays of hope throughout the season, as a number of Firebirds players began to establish themselves as capable contributors in spite of the team’s struggles.

Of the lot, perhaps the most impressive of which is 2019 NHL Draft eligible defenceman Vladislav Kolyachonok. A natural two-way defender, Kolyachonok’s speed and offensive instincts shine bright on a game-by-game basis, while his ability to adapt under pressure while remaining confident speaks wonders with regards to his potential at the next-level.

With a stellar rookie OHL campaign in-hand, Kolyachonok will enter the 2019 NHL Draft as a potential first-round selection.


  • Skating Speed and Agility
  • Confidence in Possession
  • Offensive Instincts
  • Play Processing

As mentioned above, Kolyachonok is an impressive skater who utilizes his explosive speed and ample agility in order to rush the puck up ice or smother attackers within his defensive zone. Once in possession of the puck is when Kolyachonok’s skating shines the brightest, as the native of Minsk, Belarus can blow past opposing players and his endlessly confident in his ability to do so.

Related: 2019 NHL Draft Rankings

This confidence while in possession of the puck is one of Kolyachonok’s greatest qualities, as it allows the youngster to secure breakouts and transport the puck with an impressive level of consistency. Amplified by Kolyachonok’s puck confidence is the youngster’s offensive capabilities and instincts, as an unparalleled trust in his abilities allows Kolyachonok to play a devastating role in the attacking zone — whether it be from the blue line or below the goal line.

This ability to dominate the offensive zone has an immense influence on Kolyachonok’s approach defensively. While he is a sturdy defender of ample ability who plays well within his own zone, Kolyachonok loves to possess the puck and will not hesitate to skate the puck out of trouble rather than simply clear it off of the glass — an ability which drives possession and offensive opportunities for his team.

Areas of Improvement:

  • Defensive Positioning
  • Physicality

Although Kolyachonok’s skating abilities and confidence with the puck stand as two of the youngster’s most impressive traits, they can — at times — lead to significant defensive lapses. Owing to his natural offensive instincts and drive, Kolyachonok can be caught out of position at times due to his attempts to single-handedly generate scoring chances.

In the years ahead, Kolyachonok will do well to solidify his own zone before attempting to utilize his unique skill set at the opposite end of the ice. One able to do so effectively and with consistency, Kolyachonok will become a truly lethal two-way defender — the mould of defenceman widely sought after by NHL organizations.

Related: 2019 NHL Draft Profiles

In order to immediately improve his defensive game, Kolyachonok would do well to utilize his physicality on a more regular basis. Standing 6-foot-2 and 185-pounds, Kolyachonok features stellar size yet isn’t always willing to use it in order to separate his opponents from the puck.

Future Potential:

Come the 2019 NHL Draft, Kolyachonok may very well be chosen within the top-31 overall owing to his natural offensive instincts and rangy defensive play.

Sure, there is a great deal of room for improvement within Kolyachonok’s game, however, the youngster’s raw skill set is simply undeniable and will be of immense potential once further polished. Although he will likely prove to be a long-term project not ready for NHL action until at least the 2021-22 campaign, Kolyachonok is an intriguing prospect who could ascend much sooner if able to adapt to the North American professional-level.