Mississauga Steelheads: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

Although the Mississauga Steelheads are a team in transition, the ‘Trout’ are loaded with elite young talent eager to take their team to the next level. What are the keys to the Steelheads competing in the OHL’s Eastern Conference in 2019-20? Find out, here.

The Mississauga Steelheads are a team in transition, as the club has taken a significant step backwards since it reached the OHL Final during the 2016-17 season.

However, this step backwards is simply cyclical, as the vast majority of the Steelheads’ former top players have now moved on to professional careers or other organizations in the OHL — a reality which has placed considerable emphasis on Mississauga’s top young prospects. Fortunately for the Steelheads, a number of these young prospects have quickly begun to leave lasting impressions at the major-junior level — with Thomas Harley, Keean Washkurak, and Cole Schwindt being the latest of which.

As a result, it should come as little surprise to learn that the Steelheads will likely fit into the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference this coming season. However, if able to receive stellar goaltending, substantial contributions from their incoming prospects, and consistency from their veteran players, the Steelheads could rather easily give an opponent a run for their money in the opening round of the 2020 OHL Playoffs.

Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

If Mississauga wishes to surpass the first round of the playoffs for just the second time in their eight year history, they’ll need to receive overwhelming contributions from a handful of very particular players. If able to draw stellar season’s from the likes of Washkurak, Schwindt, Harley and Ranger, the Steelheads could prove to be somewhat of a surprise in the Eastern Conference in 2019-20.

Let’s dive into more detail.

1. Can Keean Washkurak Take Charge of the Steelheads?

A second round choice of the Steelheads in the 2017 OHL Draft, Keean Washkurak has become a staple within Mississauga’s lineup over the past two OHL seasons. Known for his blistering speed and unrelenting work ethic, Washkurak is the definition of a team player who will do whatever it takes to ensure success for his team on a nightly basis. Whether it is dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate or scoring a timely goal to seal a win, Washkurak is more than capable.

Keean Washkurak of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Washkurak’s hard-working nature and raw ability could land him the captaincy in the years ahead. (Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

It is this broad skill set and wide range of capabilities which led directly to Washkurak’s selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Nabbed by the St. Louis Blues in the fifth-round of the event, Washkurak’s speed, adaptability, and hard-working nature proved far too valuable for the reigning Stanley Cup champions to pass upon. Now, as Washkurak prepares to skate in his third OHL campaign for the Steelheads, Head Coach James Richmond will be looking for the youngster to take the next step as an offensive player as well as as a leader. With premium ice time up for grabs in Mississauga, Washkurak has earned the opportunity to seize the role of first line centre-ice man.

Now, can Washkaruk succeed in the role and overcome his opposition’s top talent on a nightly basis? Only time will tell.

2. Can Cole Schwindt the Next Step?

Although widely projected to be chosen in the later rounds of the 2019 NHL Draft, Cole Schwindt heard his name called in the third round — 81st overall — by the Florida Panthers. While this came as somewhat of a surprise to many, the Panthers were clearly smitten with the package which Schwindt brings to the ice on a nightly basis. Standing 6-foot-2 and tipping the scale at 185-pounds, Schwindt is a sturdy winger who can protect the puck with ease and drive possession for his team.

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In 2019-20, Schwindt will set out to prove why he was chosen in the third-round of the 2019 NHL Draft. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

What’s more is that in addition to his physicality, Schwindt features soft hands, a deceptive shot, and a high level of on-ice intelligence. These abilities led directly to a 31 point improvement for Schwindt in his sophomore season of play with Mississauga, a trend which proved far to valuable for the Panthers to ignore. However, Schwindt’s selection in the third round of the NHL Draft has also created an air of expectation, as the native Kitchener, Ontario will surely return to the Steelheads in 2019-20 with a great deal to prove. If able to continue his upward offensive trend while strengthening his impressive two-way play, Mississauga could very well feature one of the OHL’s most well-rounded players.

3. Will James Hardie Evolve into an Elite Goal Scorer?

James Hardie has long been regarded as a goal-scoring machine, as the youngster scored 40 goals in his Bantam season and 41 goals in his Minor Midget campaign prior to his selection in the first round of the 2018 OHL Draft by the Steelheads. And, not surprisingly, Hardie’s ability to bulge the twine was on full display in his rookie season, as the native of Innisfil, Ontario netted 15 goals in 62 regular season contests despite being provided with sheltered playing time on his team’s fourth-line.

James Hardie of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
An increase in playing time could see Hardie light the lamp with impressive regularity. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Which other Steelheads player scored 15 goals in his rookie season? Owen Tippett.

Now, this is not to say that Hardie and Tippett are similar players — both play different styles — however, Hardie could certainly become as potent as Tippett given his heavy shot and innate nose for the net. What’s more is that given the lack of depth present within Mississauga’s roster this upcoming season, Hardie could very well earn ample playing time in a variety of different on-ice situations — a reality which could lead to a sharp increase in his offensive productivity ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft.

4. Can Mississauga’s 2019 OHL Draft Class Contribute?

Despite not holding a second round pick in the 2019 OHL Draft, the Steelheads were still able to select a number of promising young prospects — a handful of which could play impactful roles at the OHL-level this coming campaign. The most intriguing of which is none other than Ethan Del Mastro, an intimidating young defender who was the team’s first round selection and the 12th overall choice. Of great size and a smooth skater, Del Mastro plays a quiet yet effective two-way game defined by his poise and composure while in possession of the puck.

Del Mastro, Ethan of the Toronto Marlboros. Photo by Dan Hickling OHL Images
Del Mastro has all the makings of a sturdy shut-down defender at the OHL-level — now, can he diversify his game? (Photo by Dan Hickling OHL Images)

In addition to Del Mastro are Luca Del Bel Belluz and Chas Sharpe — two third-round selections who both hold promising futures in Mississauga. Del Bel Belluz — a native of Woodbridge, Ontario — boasts tantalizing one-on-one skill and the smooth hands necessary to dangle defenders and create highlight-reel offensive opportunities. Sharpe — a towering young defender — plays the game with a sense of purpose and has the ability to contribute offence from the blue line when the situation demands. If able to receive somewhat consistent contributions from the likes of Del Mastro, Del Bel Belluz, and Sharpe, Mississauga’s roster could be much deeper than initially thought.

5. Will Joe Ranger Battle for the Starting Role in Goal?

When the Steelheads traded Jacob Ingham to the Kitchener Rangers this offseason, it opened up a significant void in the team’s crease. As a result, General Manager Richmond nabbed Kai Edmonds from the Barrie Colts — a towering goaltender who had battled for playing time in Barrie over his last two seasons in the OHL. Born in 2000 and with over 50 OHL games played under his belt, Edmonds will surely be handed the reigns to begin the 2019-20 campaign.

Joe Ranger of the Mississauga Steelheads Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Joe Ranger could develop into a dependable goaltender for the Steelheads if able to attain consistency. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

However, Edmonds’ status as the starting goaltender is far from set in stone, as the Steelheads boast other young netminders ready to battle for playing time like Ingham did upon his arrival. One of which is Joe Ranger, a fourth-round choice of the Steelheads in the 2018 OHL Draft who played surprisingly well in his 15 appearances with the team last season. A natural athlete whose passion for the game is unmatched, Ranger could very well push Edmonds for the starting role if able to attain consistency early in his sophomore campaign — he, and Justin Dilauro, stand as the future of the team’s crease.

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London Knights: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

To no one’s surprise, the London Knights will be a deadly force within the OHL’s Western Conference in 2019-20. However, they are not perfect by any means. Now, can the team’s young prospects take the team to the next level?

To say that the London Knights are a perennial powerhouse in the Ontario Hockey League would be a vast understatement. In fact, the Knights have clinched a postseason berth in each of their last 19 seasons of play — winning four OHL Championships and two Memorial Cups in the process.

And, ahead of the 2019-20 season, it appears as though the Knights are once again destined for an overwhelming amount of success.

Although a number of the team’s top players have departed the OHL in order to embark upon their respective professional careers, a new crop of wildly talented youngsters stand poised to take their places in 2019-20 — a perennial reality which has allowed London to remain not only competitive but downright deadly for the better part of two decades. Sure, question marks do remain within the team’s roster ahead of the upcoming season, however, London’s immeasurable depth will undoubtedly ensure that the team once again pushes deep into the postseason.

Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

If you are a die-hard fan of the Knights or just a follower of the Ontario Hockey League in general, here are five crucial storylines to follow which will surely revolve around London this upcoming season. If able to receive optimal outcomes from these storylines, expect the Knights to once again dominate their opposition on a nightly basis.

However, if the Knights fail to receive positive outcomes in a number of the areas of interest detailed below, they could stare down an early exit in the 2020 OHL postseason.

1. Is Kooy Ready for the Spotlight?

Over the past two OHL seasons, the Knights came to rely heavily upon the abilities of Joseph Raaymakers — an incredibly competitive goaltender who appeared in a whopping 93 regular season games for London. However, given his 1998-birth, Raaymakers will now move onto the next stage of his playing career — a reality which will afford Jordan Kooy with the opportunity to prove himself as a legitimate starting goaltender at the major-junior level.

Jordan Kooy of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
The Knights will need consistency and ability from Kooy if they wish to succeed in 2019-20. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Fortunately for the Knights, Kooy should enjoy a relatively seamless transition into the starter’s role in 2019-20, as the youngster has already appeared in 50 regular season contests for London on top of 11 postseason appearances as well. As a seventh-round selection of the Vegas Golden Knights dating back to the 2018 NHL Draft, Kooy has the size, confidence, and raw ability to take the OHL by storm this coming campaign. Standing 6-foot-2 in stature, Kooy is an intimidating presence in-goal who has the ability to make highlight-reel saves with ease. If able to play with consistency, Kooy could very well lead a young London squad to considerable playoff success in 2019-20.

2. Will Luke Evangelista Explode?

An injury riddled rookie season limited Luke Evangelista to a mere 27 regular season games played for the Knights in 2018-19, during which he was able to put forth just two assists. However, the former first round choice of the Knights in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection has been widely regarded as a lethal young prospect for quite some time — once healthy and afforded with consistent playing time, the youngster could very well explode offensively for London in his first year of NHL Draft eligibility.

Luke Evangelista of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Luke Evangelista is a prospect beaming with untapped potential. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Although he tips the scale at just 165-pounds and stands 5-foot-11 in height, Evangelista’s game carries significant heft on the ice owing to his raw skill set and innate abilities. Blessed with lightning quick hands, Evangelista makes confident plays without hesitation and has the ability to score goals in addition to creating opportunities for his teammates. What’s more is that Evangelista features tremendous on-ice intelligence as well, as the youngster has a natural feel for the game and can navigate the ice surface with both purpose and efficiency. If able to emerge offensively in 2019-20, Evangelista would add another layer of depth to the Knights’ attack.

3. Is Stranges Set for Stardom?

Antonio Stranges has long been known for his absolutely outrageous puck-handling abilities, as the youngster has scored highlight-reel goals, dished out jaw-dropping passes, and sent fans crazy on social media owing to his advanced abilities on the ice. All of this has come through just his first season of play in the OHL — a fact which has fans and scouts alike buzzing with anticipation as Stranges enters into his first season of NHL Draft eligibility.

 

The main question facing Stranges as he embarks upon his sophomore campaign with the Knights will be just how good can the native of Plymouth, Michigan, become? Owing to his raw skill set, Stranges has drawn considerable comparisons to former London superstar Mitch Marner, and for good reason. Like Marner, Stranges owns devastating on-ice intelligence and the confidence necessary to execute high-percentage scoring plays with apparent ease. However, in his sophomore season with the Knights, Marner scored 44 goals and 126 points — so, only time will tell as to whether or not the Stranges-Marner comparison is accurate.

4. Will the Knights’ 2003-born Rookies Excel?

The Knights drafted a whopping 19 prospects in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, all of which ranging in skill, ability, and position. And, while some will surely take longer to develop than others, it appears as though London’s initial three selections will play a significant role with the team this coming season. Drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively, it appears as though Stuart Rolofs, Logan Mailloux, and Max McCue will all be afforded with considerable opportunities in their rookie OHL campaigns.

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With his size, skill, and speed, 2019 first round pick Stuart Rolofs should have little issue adjusting to the pace of the OHL game. (Photo Credit: CHL Images)

In Rolofs, London boasts a young prospect who should have little issue adjusting to the major-junior level. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 190-pounds, Rolofs has the size necessary to compete with the league’s seasoned veterans and the skating abilities required to become an instant impact player regardless of the playing time which he will receive as a freshman. Further, in Mailloux and McCue, the Knights boast a dynamic defender and a tantalizing playmaker — two prospects who should also adjust relatively easily given their respective sizes and ability to process the pace of play at a high-level.

5. Could London’s Young Blue Line Buckle?

London’s blue line throughout the 2018-19 season was absolutely blistering, as the likes of Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Matt Timms, Will Lochead, and Joey Keane stood as lethal offensive threats in addition to their incredible defensive abilities within their own zone. However, with all of which surely moving on to the next stages in their respective hockey careers in 2019-20, the Knights will now need to rely on a steadily developing core of blueliners who are not only young but relatively inexperienced as well.

Alec Regula of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Standing 6-foot-4 and 205-pounds, Alec Regula must have a big season in order to lead the Knights’ young blue line. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

While Alec Regula will return for his third season of play with the Knights, London must come to rely upon the likes of Mailloux, Hunter Skinner, Bryce Montgomery, and others such as Benjamin Roger and Liam Whittaker to afford them with quality minutes at both ends of the ice throughout the upcoming campaign. Although ensuring such will certainly be a major ask of the Knights, the team could falter quite significantly if unable to attain consistent defending this upcoming season. Loaded offensively and in possession of a solid starting goaltender, London will need sturdy defending if it wishes to reach its potential with the Western Conference in 2019-20.

Kitchener Rangers: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

The Kitchener Rangers are a team saturated with elite talent and remarkable depth. Although a few question marks do remain, expect the Rangers to be as potent and persistent as ever during the 2019-20 OHL season.

The Kitchener Rangers have come to be known as a perennial powerhouse in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, and for good reason.

Over their past fifteen years of play, the Rangers have fallen short of the postseason on just two occasions — an era of success highlighted by the franchise’s OHL championship during the 2007-08 season. And, fortunately for the Rangers and their passionate fanbase, this fact appears destined to remain unchanged in the years ahead.

Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
The Rangers’ crop of seasoned veterans will play a major role in the team’s potential success this coming season. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Currently defined by their ideal mixture of seasoned veterans and highly skilled young prospects, Kitchener boasts a deep and competent roster which should push deep into the playoffs this coming campaign. Although a number of questions marks do remain — the majority of which we will touch on below — the Rangers are poised for success not only this coming season but long into the future to boot.

However, before the Rangers can attain this almost certain success, they will need to answer a handful of questions specific to their current roster.

Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

As mentioned, here are five storylines for fans of Kitchener and the Rangers themselves to follow throughout the upcoming 2019-20 OHL campaign. While it goes without saying that positive outcomes in all of these situations would be ideal, the Rangers stand as a remarkably deep team seemingly capable of overcoming any adversity or shortcomings which it may face.

1. Can Jacob Ingham Stabilize the Rangers’ Crease?

When the Mississauga Steelheads targeted goaltender Kai Edmonds of the Barrie Colts this offseason, it meant that they needed to trade their long-time starting netminder in Jacob Ingham. Long a fan favourite in Mississauga, Ingham has become widely known for his ability to make timely, highlight reel saves with a startling level of consistency. Further, as a prospect of the Los Angeles Kings, Ingham takes to his crease with poise and features the size and raw athleticism necessary to thrive in the OHL-level and beyond.

Jacob Ingham of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jacob Ingham boasts the ability to raise his game to the next level when the situation demands. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

This level of production and effort is exactly what the Rangers coveted when they landed Ingham from the Steelheads, as Kitchener has long lacked a definitive starting goaltender. If able to arrive in Kitchener and put forth a consistent and effective effort on a game-by-game basis, Ingham could very well lead the Rangers upon a deep playoff run despite the perennial strength of the OHL’s Western Conference.

2. Will Valade and Sebrango Take the Next Step?

The Rangers landed two stellar young players in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection.

At 17th overall, Kitchener nabbed Reid Valade — a former standout with the Toronto Marlboros of the GTHL who brought speed, skill, and a total of 20 points to the ice in his rookie OHL campaign. Secondly, the Rangers were able to steal Donovan Sebrango with the 40th overall choice in the event — a selection which paid immediate dividends, as Kitchener received 26 points from the youngster as a freshman.

Reid Valade of the Kitchener Rangers Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
An increase in ice time could lead to a dramatic rise in Valade’s offensive output. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Now, with the 2019-20 OHL season upon us, the Rangers will undoubtedly expect to receive a greater level of production from both Valade and Sebrango. Sure to be rewarded with increased playing time this coming season, Kitchener will stand as a much deeper and potent force if both Valade and Sebrango are able to take the next steps within their personal developments. If Valade can dramatically increase his offensive productivity while Sebrango polishes the fine details of his game, the Rangers could rather easily boast a dynamic roster capable of competing with the Western Conference’s power-house teams.

3. Is Pinelli Ready to Dominate?

Signed by the Rangers to round out the month of July, the impending arrival of Francesco Pinelli has Kitchener’s management team and fans alike drooling with anticipation. As a member of the Toronto Red Wings in 2018-19, Pinelli put forth an overwhelming 49 goals and 114 points in just 71 games played — a mark which stood alongside the likes of Shane Wright and Brennan Othmann in the GTHL. Perhaps most impressive of all was the manner in which Pinelli recorded his point total, as the youngster was a natural leader who directed his team with poise in all three zones of the ice.

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Nabbed by the Rangers 13th overall in the 2019 OHL Draft, Pinelli will quickly prove to be a tremendous selection. (Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

So, could Pinelli become a dominant player in his rookie OHL campaign? Absolutely.

The driving force behind Pinelli’s on-ice consistency and lethality at both ends of the ice is the youngster’s impressive level of maturity. Not phased by tough calls or unfortunate plays against his team, Pinelli boasts a level of poise and calm typically reserved for seasoned veterans and has the ability to rally and re-direct his team when necessary. Come his freshman campaign with the Rangers, expect Pinelli to seize increasingly important minutes while playing a surprisingly significant leadership role to boot. In short, Pinelli could very well captain Kitchener in the years ahead.

4. Can Vukojevic Lead Kitchener’s Blue Line?

Despite initially intending to embark upon a career in the NCAA, Michael Vukojevic left the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for the Rangers in 2017-18 and hasn’t looked back. Since arriving in Kitchener, Vukojevic has developed exactly as expected — dominating both ends of the ice owing to his intimidating size and strength while providing intermittent offence from the blue line.

The result?

Michael Vukojevic of the Kitchener Rangers Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Vukojevic quickly evolved into a minute-munching defender for the Rangers in his sophomore OHL season. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Well, Vukojevic heard his name called in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils and will surely be in contention for a place within Team Canada’s WJC roster in the years to come. Now, the main question facing Vukojevic will be exactly how potent and persistent of a defenceman he can become at the OHL-level. Sure, he has dominated his opposition and caught the attention of scouts in the past, but can Vukojevic take the next step in his personal development and become the go-to blue-liner for the Rangers? Likely to tackle greater playing time once again this coming season, Vukojevic will hold the opportunity to prove himself as a premier major-junior player on the fast track to significant success at the professional-level.

5. Will Jonathan Yantsis Score 50 Goals… Again?

To say that Jonathan Yantsis exploded during the 2018-19 season would be both accurate and underwhelming. After scoring just five goals and 12 points for the Rangers in his first full regular season campaign with the team, Yantsis hammered home a whopping 50 goals and 73 points in his sophomore OHL season. This dramatic increase in offensive production saw the native of Markham, Ontario improve his goal total by 45 and his point total by 61 — marks which stood amongst the best in major junior hockey.

Now, the test facing Yantsis will be his ability to prove that his dynamic offensive season of 2018-19 was not a fluke. Fortunately, Yantsis has a number of factors working in his favour. First and foremost there is Yantsis’ size, as the youngster stands 6-foot-2 and tips the scale at 210 pounds — a reality which makes him difficult to knock off of the puck as well as a force on the Rangers’ forecheck. Secondly there are Yantsis’ smooth hands while in control of the puck, as he boasts the ability to elude defenders, deflect pucks, or fire the puck home with a well-placed shot. Essentially, if Kitchener wishes to stand as a threat in the Western Conference, they’ll need veteran players such as Yantsis to dominate the ice on a regular basis.

Kingston Frontenacs: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

Despite a disastrous 2018-19 OHL season, the Kingston Frontenacs stand poised to rebound in a major way. Led by Shane Wright and a number of elite prospects, Kingston will surely be an overwhelming force in little time.

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.

Brendan Bonello of the Kingston Frontenacs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Brendan Bonello backstopped the Frontenacs through the vast majority of their 2018-19 campaign. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

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A lack of consistent goaltending could prove to be the biggest threat to Kingston’s playoff hopes. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

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Francesco Arcuri will surely prove to be a steal given the fact that he was chosen 27th overall in the 2019 OHL Draft. (Photo: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

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.

Shane Wright
Shane Wright, a former star for the Don Mills Flyers, was granted Exceptional Status by Hockey Canada. (Photo Credit: Max Lewis)

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.

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Wright should have an instant impact with the Frontenacs, as his game is far too well-rounded to be contained. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

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.

Jacob Murray of the Kingston Frontenacs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jacob Murray has a whack of potential, and will surely enjoy increased ice time this coming season. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

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Without production from their bottom-six forwards, Kingston could once again find themselves within a lost season. (Photo: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

Hamilton Bulldogs: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

Despite an early exit in the 2019 OHL Playoffs, the Hamilton Bulldogs stand poised for considerable improvement in the 2019-20 season. Led by elite young prospects, the Bulldogs could be much closer to legitimately competing than widely believed.

The Hamilton Bulldogs are a team in the midst of a significant transition.

After claiming the OHL Championship in 2017-18, the Bulldogs have watched a number of their former overage stars leave town and have traded a number of their most consistent producers of late to boot. This shift from a veteran laden roster to one that is rich with elite young talent was not only necessary but a transition which could very well lead the Bulldogs to significant postseason success in the near future.

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A quality mixture of seasoned players and young prospects could springboard Hamilton to immediate success in 2019-20. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Despite being knocked out of the OHL playoffs in the opening round at the hands of the Ottawa 67’s in 2018-19, Hamilton’s young talent has the team on-track to be far more competitive this upcoming season. Led by Logan Morrison and sure to be supplemented by the likes of Avery Hayes, Michael Renwick, and Ryan Winterton, the Bulldogs should boast a surprisingly deep roster this upcoming season and one flush with the ability to take their opponents by surprise.

Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

As mentioned, here are five potentially critical storylines to follow in Hamilton this upcoming season. If able to receive favourable outcomes in the situations listed below, the Bulldogs could return to prominence within the OHL’s Eastern Conference. However, if unable to receive timely contributions from their young talent as well as steady play in goal, Hamilton could very well be bounced from the postseason in 2019-20.

1. Can the Bulldogs Rebound from a Tough Season?

After claiming the OHL Championship in 2017-18, the Bulldogs stumbled to a 29-34-5 record in their 2018-19 campaign. Although they were still able to clinch a place in the postseason, Hamilton was promptly swept in the opening round by a loaded Ottawa 67’s squad. However, this result did not come as a surprise so to speak, as a number of the Bulldogs’ top players either left to embark upon professional careers or were traded at this year’s deadline.

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Despite a losing record, the Bulldogs earned a postseason berth in 2018-19. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Now, the major question facing the Bulldogs is exactly how they will rebound from this past season. Although a number of players will once again move on from the team in 2019-20, a crop of wildly talented youngsters led by the likes of Logan Morrison, Zachary Roy, and Ryan Winterton will look to steer Hamilton in the right direction. If able to receive substantial contributions from their younger players while receiving star play from Arthur Kaliyev and Matt Strome — should he return — the Bulldogs could once again stand as a significant threat in the Eastern Conference.

2. Will Logan Morrison Lead the Way?

Despite missing 21 regular season games due to injury in 2018-19, Logan Morrison showed signs of becoming a consistently impactful player at the OHL-level. In his 47 games played this past season, Morrison potted 14 goals and 34 points — a 0.72 point-per-game pace which stood as the seventh-best mark amongst all 2002-born rookies. In fact, Morrison’s rate of offensive production stood greater than the likes of highly touted prospects such as Will Cuylle, Ty Tullio, and Antonio Stranges.

Forward #9 Logan Morrison of the Hamilton Bulldogs
Although he missed considerable time due to injury last season, Logan Morrison stands as a top prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft. (Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images)

Now, as Morrison heads into his second campaign in the OHL, it goes without saying that the Bulldogs will be expecting a great deal more from the former first round selection. Sure to become a lethal offensive threat on a nightly basis, Hamilton will look for Morrison to play a starring role at both ends of the ice and one that will allow the Bulldogs to become a well-rounded two-way team. If able to add a sprinkling of leadership alongside his natural abilities on the ice, Morrison could rapidly develop into a top prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.

3. Can Zachary Roy Take the Next Step?

In his first season of play in the OHL, netminder Zachary Roy stepped into the Bulldogs’ lineup and claimed the starting role in goal. At just 18 years-of-age, Roy appeared in a whopping 44 games for Hamilton and earned a 3.59 GAA and .884% SVP in the process — impressive numbers given his he was competing in his rookie campaign. Now, as we head towards the 2019-20 season, there is no question that Roy will retain the starting role and earn the vast majority of starts for the Bulldogs in the process.

Zachary Roy of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Roy appeared in a jaw-dropping 44 games last season as a rookie. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

However, Roy’s sudden ascension to the starting role in Hamilton begs the question of whether or not he can become one of the OHL’s next top netminders. As a former standout with the Toronto Nationals of the GTHL and a fourth-round selection in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, it certainly goes without saying that Roy has the potential to accomplish exactly such. Incredibly athletic and innate in his abilities in the crease, Roy could push the Bulldogs deep into the postseason this coming campaign if able to backstop his team with both poise and confidence.

Side note — could we see Marco Constantini grace the ice in a Bulldogs’ uniform this coming season? Based on Constantini’s stellar play at the Jr. B level this past season, it is safe to say that Roy could feel slight pressure to preform in 2019-20.

4. Will the Bulldogs’ 2019 Draft Class Play a Role?

The Bulldogs enjoyed a tremendous 2019 OHL Priority Selection, as all of their initial five picks — as well as others selected outside of the sixth-round — hold the potential to become quality players at the OHL-level. First and foremost there is Ryan Winterton — a former star with the Whitby Wildcats who is widely expected to jump into Hamilton’s lineup in 2019-20 and make an immediate impact at both ends of the ice.

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Nabbing Lawson Sherk in the second round of the 2019 OHL Draft will surely prove to have been an absolute steal for the Bulldogs. (Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

However, perhaps more interestingly, there are the likes of Lawson Sherk, Chandler Romeo, and Owen Simpson — three players of varying positions who should push extremely hard for a place within the Bulldogs’ roster to begin the upcoming season. In Romeo and Simpson, Hamilton holds two former Toronto Red Wings stars capable of creating offence and calm from their posts on the blue line. Further, in Sherk, the Bulldogs boast a natural playmaking centre with size who should be able to transition to the OHL-level with little issue.

If these youngsters can crack Hamilton’s roster and come to contribute, the Bulldogs could hold unprecedented depth and potential within their lineup.

5. Can Ryan Winterton Make an Immediate Impact?

Ryan Winterton was nothing other than dominant as a member of the Whitby Wildcats in 2018-19, blasting home 38 goals and 72 points in just 36 regular season games played. Skating alongside Brenden Sirizzotti and Thomas Johnston, Winterton was a member of what was one of the strongest lines in all of minor midget hockey in 2018-19. It was this incredible play and level of offensive productivity which led to Winterton being chosen by the Bulldogs with the eighth-overall selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

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Expectations will be at an all-time high for Winterton as he takes to the ice in his rookie OHL campaign in 2019-20. (Photo Credit: Tim Cornett/CHL Images)

Set to begin the 2019-20 season at the OHL-level with Hamilton, it will be incredibly interesting to evaluate the impact which Winterton can and will have in his rookie season with the Bulldogs. Based upon his size, strength, and ability to process the game at a rapid rate, Winterton should be able to step into Hamilton’s lineup and playing a growing role in sheltered minutes. However, based upon his stellar shot and playmaking abilities, Winterton will surely see sporadic playing time in a variety of special teams situations — success within which could springboard him higher in the Bulldogs lineup.

Guelph Storm: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

The Guelph Storm claimed the OHL championship in 2018-19 and earned a berth in the Memorial Cup in the process. However, with their top talent leaving town, can the Storm remain a contender in the OHL’s Western Conference?

The Guelph Storm were the champions of the Ontario Hockey League in 2018-19, battling hard against stern competition in their opening three rounds before shocking the Ottawa 67’s in just six games to claim the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Mid-season acquisitions played a major role in the success of the Storm, as a number of highly touted NHL prospects — led by Nick Suzuki — came together to push Guelph to the Memorial Cup.

Despite falling in the semi-finals of the prestigious tournament to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Storm established themselves as a premier threat and one of the strongest, most complete teams within the major-junior circuit this past season. However, with the vast majority of Guelph’s high-end players destined for professional careers in 2019-20, the Storm now head towards an uncertain future. Boasting a suddenly thin lineup, the most significant challenge facing Guelph in 2019-20 will undoubtedly be their ability to cope with the lack of depth and experience present within their roster.

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If the Storm wish to avoid a championship slump, they will need to rely heavily on the contributions of their younger players while affording returning veterans with crucial playing time in high-leverage situations. If able to receive consistent goaltending from Anthony Popovich, Guelph could stave off their bitter Western Conference rivals until their new core of talented youngsters stands ready to lead the team into the immediate future. Unfortunately, if exactly such does not transpire, the Storm could fail to reach the postseason for the third time in just five seasons.

Five Storylines to Follow

Fresh off of their second OHL Championship this decade, the Storm head towards the 2019-20 season with far more questions than answers. Effectively, Guelph will look to avoid the championship slump which has hampered a great number of teams in past years.

If able to sport a solid trio of overage players while receiving substantial contributions from their newest players — Marko Sikic being the latest of which — the Storm could very well remain as a lethal threat in the Midwest Division.

1. Can the Storm Avoid a Championship Slump?

Over the past five seasons, the reigning OHL champion has not been able to surpass the second round of the postseason after hoisting the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Now, while many would not consider reaching the second round of the playoffs a championship slump, other reigning victors have failed to reach the postseason all together owing to the massive outflow of elite and experienced talent which tends to follow hoisting the cup.

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The 2019-20 edition of the Guelph Storm will look dramatically different than the one which captured the J. Ross Robertson Cup. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Unfortunately for the Storm, the team could be staring down a significant slump in 2019-20, as the vast majority of Guelph’s top players — a number of which who were acquired in trade — will be embarking upon professional careers this coming campaign. Additionally, over-agers Domenico Commisso, Jack Hanley, and Sean Durzi will all be moving on from the Storm due to their age — a reality which force Guelph to ice a largely unfamiliar roster this coming season. However, the Storm could avoid a slump in 2019-20 if their emerging young talent can come to play significant if not surprising roles with the team.

2. Who Stays, Who Goes?

When the 2019-20 OHL season came to a close, the Storm held a whopping twelve 1999-born players on their roster. Given that the over-age brith year has now shifted to 1999, Guelph will only be able to have three of these 12 players on its roster for the upcoming campaign. With Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe, MacKenzie Entwistle, Dmitri Samorukov, Nate Schnarr, Marcus Phillips, and Fedor Gordeev all sure to begin their professional careers this coming season, it appears as though the Storm will have to choose three of five remaining 1999-born players to keep on their roster next season.

Isaac Ratcliffe of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
The loss of long-time fan favourite Isaac Ratcliffe will rattle the Storm in the goal-scoring department. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

These five remaining players are none other than Liam Hawel, Anthony Popovich, Cedric Ralph, Zachary Roberts, and Alexei Toropchenko. To choose three of these players is no simple task, and a job which George Burnett surely wishes he could avoid. Of the lot, it is Popovich who arguably holds the greatest value to the team — he recently led to Storm to OHL championship and is a composed competitor in the crease. Next, there is Hawel, a towering centre who enjoyed a breakout offensive season in 2018-19 whose presence should ease the transition of Guelph’s young prospects. Finally, there is Ralph, a diminutive yet highly competitive player whose presence down the middle would provide Guelph with much needed depth this coming campaign.

In short, exactly which 1999-born players will stay and which will go remains up for debate. However, the fact remains that these will be extremely difficult decisions for Burnett and his staff to make in the weeks and months ahead.

3. Can Collins, Chayka, and Terry Erupt?

Playing time was extremely difficult to come by for Guelph’s 2002-born class of prospects throughout the 2018-19 campaign, as the Storm’s roster was laden with experienced players en route to their clinching their first OHL Championship since 2013-14. However, this reality is poised to change in a major way come the 2019-20 season, as the vast majority of Guelph’s seasoned veterans will be moving on to professional careers throughout North America.

Danlil Chayka of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Guelph’s blue line could be steadied in 2019-20 if Chayka — amongst others — can explode at both ends of the ice. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

With this being said, the door will be wide open for the likes of Ty Collins, Daniil Chayka, and Zack Terry to secure highly valuable playing time. In Collins, the Storm hold a natural goal-scorer eager to set loose upon the OHL and its netminders. Further, in Terry and Chayka, Guelph boasts two potential defensive pillars who could come to lead the team at both ends of the ice for years to come. If the three youngsters mentioned above — alongside others such as Matthew Papais — can put forth significant contributions this season, the Storm just might be able to avoid the drought which has claimed so many OHL champions in the past.

4. Will Guelph’s Blueline Buckle and Break?

Sean Durzi, Fedor Gordeev, Jack Hanley, Markus Phillips, and Dmitri Samorukov — all five of these defenders will likely see their OHL tenures come to an end in 2019-20 as they embark upon professional careers. With this being said, the Storm’s blue line will be a skeleton of what it was throughout the 2018-19 season and into the OHL Playoffs, as only Chayka, Owen Lalonde, and Terry stand poised to return to the team’s blue line.

Owen Lalonde of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Fourth-year OHL defender Owen Lalonde will be looked upon to log major minutes this coming season. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

As such, it goes without saying that Guelph’s blue line stands in need of dramatic improvement ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. While Chayka, Lalonde, and Terry are all more than capable of logging significant minutes in high pressure situations, the trio will need to rely upon a competent supporting cast of incoming defenders if the Storm hope to stand as a viable threat in the Western Conference this coming season. Unfortunately, help in the form of 2003-born prospects could prove hard to come as, as the Storm’s top-two defence prospects from the 2019 OHL Draft — Dylan Gratton and Declan Ride — both appear destined to fulfill their NCAA commitments.

5. Can Zhilkin Steady the Storm’s Depleted Attack?

With a number of the Storm’s elite offensive players poised to begin their professional careers in 2019-20 — namely the likes of Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Nate Schnarr amongst others — Guelph will need to receive significant contributions from its younger core if it wishes to remain competitive. One player who could provide much needed offensive firepower this coming season is Danil Zhilkin, the team’s first round choice in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Nabbed by the Storm with the 14th overall choice, Zhilkin is an uber-talented puck handler who boasts a stellar shot defined by its pin-point accuracy. A smooth skater as well who plays with an edge, Zhilkin’s well-rounded game could help to supplement Guelph’s offensive attack given the loss of a number of their top scoring players. Although it could take Zhilkin some time to adjust to the OHL-level, his already significant size should allow him to transition to major junior hockey easier than most prospects his age.

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.

Erie Otters: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2018-19

Despite missing the postseason the past two campaigns, the Erie Otters stand poised for significant improvement in 2019-20. If able to find success through these five storylines, the Otters could be surprisingly competitive this coming season.

The Erie Otters failed to reach the postseason in 2018-19, marking the second consecutive campaign in which the club fell short of the playoffs since winning the OHL Championship in 2016-17.

However, expect this troubling trend to come to a decisive end this coming season, as the Otters stand as a dramatically improved team owing to an influx of promising young talent.

Sure to play an impactful role this coming campaign and long into Erie’s future is Connor Lockhart — the team’s first choice in the recent 2019 OHL Draft who has the ability to impact the game at both ends of the ice. While he will come to lead the Otters’ offence, Jamie Drysdale will undoubtedly pace the team’s defence — the youngster stands as one of the top defenders eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft. In short, these two elite prospects stand as the present and future of the franchise.

However, Lockhart and Drysdale won’t be able to do it alone. Fortunately, Erie holds a number of other promising prospects as well as experienced depth players who should come to play an important role in the season ahead. If able to receive production from their depth forwards, stable defending, and quality minutes between the pipes, the Otters could do some significant damage in 2019-20.

Five Storylines to Follow

With this being said, here are five key storylines to follow in Erie this season. Although the Otters likely won’t push deep into the postseason, they are a team which could pose a significant challenge to other competitors if they receive positive outcomes in the areas which we have identified below.

1. Will Jamie Drysdale Lead the Otters to the Postseason?

As a former fourth-overall choice in the OHL Priority Selection, nothing other than greatness has come to be expected from Jamie Drysdale. A smooth skating and puck moving defenceman, Drysdale continues to display the ability to impact any given game at both ends of the ice with a remarkable level of poise and consistency.

Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jamie Drysdale recorded 40 points in his rookie season — a total which will surely increase in 2019-20. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

This poise — and lethality — was on full display in Drysdale’s rookie campaign, as the youngster collected 40 points in his first 63 games of OHL action. Although he also collected a lacklustre -24 plus/minus rating in the process — a total reflective of the Otters’ poor team play — the fact remains that Drysdale is a young prospect booming with potential who has proven he has the skill set necessary to lead Erie back to the postseason.

If he can continue to mesh with his increasingly talented teammates while making improvements in his defensive zone, Drysdale should be able to push the Otters into playoff contention with apparent ease.

2. Can Connor Lockhart Spark Erie’s Offence?

With the third-overall selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, the Otters nabbed the agile and highly skilled Connor Lockhart. A dynamic offensive force for the Kanata Lasers this past campaign, Lockhart is a young centre who can push the pace of playing owing to his speed while devising devastating offensive opportunities in the process.

Officially committed to the Otters for the upcoming 2019-20 OHL season, keep a close eye fixed on Lockhart as the campaign progresses. Sure, he will be one of the youngest players on the ice, however, Lockhart’s raw speed and electrifying shot should allow him to play a crucial depth role for Erie while he continues to improve and strengthen a variety of aspects of his game.

3. Will Aidan Campbell or Forbes Anderson Push for Playing Time?

The Otters struggled to find consistency between the pipes last season, as Dan Murphy, Cole Ceci, and Noah Battaglia pieced together an average campaign of goaltending for Erie. However, with Ceci now set to play for York University in 2019-20, the door has been opened wide for one of the Otters’ young goaltending prospects to seize valuable playing time.

Noah Battagliaof the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Noah Battaglia will surely battle for valuable playing time this coming season. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Of the lot, Aidan Campbell or Forbes Anderson could make a significant push for the Otters crease. With both netminders coming off of excellent seasons last year, both are high in not only ability but confidence with the 2019-20 OHL campaign rapidly approaching. And, although it would appear as though Murphy will once again handle the majority of the workload, one or both of these youngsters could come to play a crucial role as the Otters’ backup netminder next season.

4. Hayden Fowler: Star in the Making?

Despite suffering a fractured collarbone this past season, Hayden Fowler fired home eight goals and 18 points in his 25 regular season games played — an impressive point-per-game total for a player who was not yet eligible for the NHL Draft. However, Fowler will be eligible for the NHL Draft this upcoming season, and the Otters are hoping that the youngster can continue his torrent offensive play once the 2019-20 campaign kicks off.

 

If able to stay healthy this coming season, Fowler should come to play a significant role for his team at both ends of the ice. As a former first-round choice of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Fowler has the skill-set and determination necessary to become an impact player for the Otters — a reality which he was quickly seizing last year before suffering the first significant injury of his career. If able to play a full regular season, Fowler’s contributions could single-handedly push the Otters towards the post-season.

5. Can the Otters’ Depth Break Through?

The Otters have been mired by inconsistent depth production in recent years — a lack of offensive contribution which has placed a great deal of strain and expectation upon the team’s top players. So, if Erie wishes to legitimately compete for a post-season berth in 2019-20, they’ll need to receive heightened contributions from their bottom-six forwards. While another year of play and additional experience will certainly help the Otters this season, the presence of a number of the team’s mid-round prospects could certainly give the team an offensive edge.

Chad Yetman of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Chad Yetman exploded last season, firing home 21 goals and 57 points — both career-highs. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

If able to receive commitments from the likes of Brett Bressette, Cole Melady, and Ryan Forberg in the months ahead, the Otters could very well feature a bolstered bottom-six capable of contributing sporadic offensive this coming season. Although young, additions such as these would not only earn valuable experience but provide Erie with a strong foundation for their future in the process.

Barrie Colts: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

Despite missing the postseason in 2018-19, the Barrie Colts’ future remains incredibly bright and loaded with elite young talent. In this article, we’ve proposed five storylines which will be critical to the Colts’ success this coming season.

Despite a red-hot start to their 2018-19 campaign, the Barrie Colts struggled down the stretch and wound up missing the post-season.

Skating to a 26-38-4 record, the Colts were hampered by a slew of injuries throughout their most recent season — one which also saw a number of long-time Colts and fan favourites traded out of town ahead of the deadline. These transactions significantly decreased the experience and average age of Barrie’s lineup, as the Colts went on to ice the youngest team in the OHL in 2018-19.

Justin Murray of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
The departure of team captain Justin Murray this past season — amongst a slew of others — decimated Barrie’s depth and ability to compete for the postseason. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

However, it is the young age of the Colts’ roster which is brewing a great deal of hope and excitement within the organization and the city’s fan base. With a number of highly touted prospects eager to leave a lasting impression at the OHL-level this coming season, the Colts’ poor campaign in 2018-19 will likely be forgotten once the 2019-20 version of the club takes to the ice with a renewed sense of purpose and ability.

With this being said, here are five storylines to follow regarding the Colts which could prove crucial to their success or failure this coming season. Although a number of questions continue to surround the team, the fact remains that the future of OHL hockey is incredibly bright in Barrie.

5 Storylines to Follow

Here are our five key storylines to follow in Barrie this season. Although the answers to these questions are not immediately known, the outcomes which arise from the situations below will likely dictate the success or failure of the Colts in 2019-20

1. Who Will Seize the Colts’ Crease?

Kai Edmonds, Jet Greaves, and Maxim Zhukov all enjoyed time in the Colts’ crease this past season, however, it appears as though it will be a two-man show come the 2019-20 campaign. And, although Edmonds impressed for Barrie last season, it appears as though Greaves will lead the charge in between the pipes this coming September.

Likely to be selected by an NHL franchise come the 2019 NHL Draft in June, Greaves is a highly athletic and competitive netminder who makes highlight-reel saves with incredible consistency. Square to opposing shooters and never taken out of the play, Greaves proved that he can afford the Colts with an opportunity to win each and every time he takes to the crease — a quality which will prove incredibly valuable given the youth of Barrie’s projected lineup this coming season.

If Greaves, alongside Edmonds, can provide the Colts with stability in the crease this season, it will undoubtedly inflate the confidence of Barrie’s young players and provide them with a solid foundation for success in the years ahead.

2. Can Riley Piercey Take the Next Step?

Nabbed by the Colts with the 16th overall choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Riley Piercey has all of the qualities of an elite offensive player at the OHL-level. A smooth-skater, Piercey features a strong shot, natural playmaking abilities, and the drive necessary to penetrate opposing defences and generate offensive opportunities for his team.

Riley Piercey of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Piercey’s lethal skill set should translate to considerable offensive potency in the coming 2019-20 campaign. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

His rookie season, however, left something to be desired. Come to the end of the 2018-19 season, Piercey had put forth three goals and 14 points — a total which ranked him as the 42nd-highest scoring rookie in the league. Moreover, Piercey’s three goals placed him in a tie for 48th overall in rookie goal scoring — two outputs which were not reflective of his abilities or ultimate potential at the OHL-level.

An undeniable talent, Piercey has the skill-set necessary to become an impact player and go-to force for the Colts. If he can enjoy a breakout season in 2019-20 — an outcome which would not come as a surprise — Barrie will surely be well on its way to a playoff-berth.

3. Will Brandt Clarke Make an Instant Impact?

When the time came for the Colts to make their first round selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, there was no question as to who they would be selecting. In Brandt Clarke, the Colts added a dynamic two-way defenceman with size who will be one of the top defence prospects to compete in the OHL in quite some time.

The one question surrounding Clarke is just how quickly can he transition to the OHL-level?

Absolutely dominant for the Don Mills Flyers of the GTHL in 2018-19, Clarke has the ability to alter the course of any given game which he competes within and can do so with ease at both ends of the ice. Given his size and strength, Clarke should not be overmatched in his defensive zone — it is his desire to rush the puck and push the pace offensively which will surely take longer to develop against an increased level of competition.

4. Can Ryan Suzuki Lead a Rebound in Barrie?

As a former first overall selection in the OHL Draft, Ryan Suzuki has yet to come close to reaching his ultimate potential. This particular fact was on full display this past season, as Suzuki continued to lead the Colts’ attack at both ends of the ice despite a lack of consistent support from within Barrie’s lineup.

Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Ryan Suzuki has the skill-set and potential necessary to lead a resurgence in Barrie. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

With this being said, if there was one player to lead a resurgence in Barrie, it is no one other than Suzuki. An uber-creative playmaker whose goal-scoring abilities continue to improve, Suzuki’s two-way play is simply sensational and will only improve alongside the strengthened abilities of his fellow teammates. If the likes of Piercey and Clarke can play vital roles in 2019-20, look for Suzuki to lead the Colts back to a playoff-berth.

5. Will Ryan Del Monte Add Depth Scoring?

An incredibly talented puck-handler who starred for the Toronto Nationals of the GTHL this past season, Ryan Del Monte was a clever selection by the Colts in the second round of the 2019 OHL Draft. A playmaker first and foremost, Del Monte can devise lethal opportunities with relative ease and is no stranger to firing the puck into the back of the net. However, injuries hampered the second half of Del Monte’s minor midget season — a reality which left many questioning his value in the Priority Selection.

However, the Colts did not hesitate in selecting Del Monte with the 24th overall selection, as the youngster could very well become a crucial depth player for Barrie this upcoming season. Although he isn’t the biggest player on the ice, Del Monte’s ability to elude his opponents should allow him to enjoy a substantial amount of success as a first-year player. If Del Monte’s creativity and confidence can transition to the OHL-level without issue, the Colts could stand poised to receive far more depth scoring than they initially anticipated.