2019 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic: Tournament Preview

The Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is one of the most significant tournaments on the Minor Midget schedule ahead of the 2020 OHL Draft, so we’ve taken a moment to publish a preview ahead of the massive event.

The Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is one of the most significant events on the annual Minor Midget hockey schedule, as it affords more than 50 teams and their players with an excellent opportunity to showcase their respective talents ahead of the OHL Priority Selection in April. In 2019 the situation will be no different, as there are a handful of deadly teams as well as elite-level prospects eager to leave a lasting impression in the eyes of scouts and fans alike.

And, if the 2019 Whitby Silver Stick Tournament can serve as any precursor, don’t be surprised if the 2019 Toronto Marlboros Classic is dominated by clubs from the United States. As we witnessed at the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, teams who hail from south of the border are increasingly competent and skilled, and boast the ability to compete with and dismantle the very best which Ontario has to offer at the Minor Midget level. Further, owing to the absence of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in this tournament, American-based teams will face one less significant hurdle in the path of their championship ambitions.

However, with this being said, there are a plethora of Ontario-based teams who have the talent and drive necessary to cast aside their American counterparts and piece together a championship run. Of note are the host Toronto Marlboros, the Toronto Nationals, the London Jr. Knights, the Southern Tier Admirals, and the high-powered Quinte Red Devils — five teams whose play has been remarkably consistent and devastating thus far this season.

With this being said, let’s take a closer look at each Division set to compete in this year’s Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic.

Divison 1:

  • Cambridge Hawks
  • Clarington Toros
  • Detroit HoneyBaked
  • Niagara North Stars
  • Vaughan Kings

Despite the balance present within this division, it would be shocking to see any team other than Detroit Honeybaked emerge as the top club in this group. After claiming the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament with relative ease, HoneyBaked stands as a legitimate powerhouse and one who should challenge for the Holiday Classic championship. Yet, with this being said, don’t count out the Niagara North Starts or Vaughan Kings, as both teams as rather deep and boast the potential to surprise their opponents on a nightly basis.

Division 2:

  • Buffalo Regals
  • Detroit Little Caesars
  • Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs
  • Oshawa Minor Generals
  • Toronto Nationals

Although there is no clear cut favourite present within this division, expect the Toronto Nationals and Detroit Little Caesars to do the most significant damage within the tournament. Both the Nationals and Little Caesars feature a great deal of team depth as well as highly skilled forwards who can shift the direction of any given game over the course of a single shift. If you have the opportunity, be sure to focus on Zak Lavoie of the Nationals — he is one of the most natural goal scorers eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft.

Division 3:

  • Ajax Pickering Raiders
  • Detroit Belle Tire
  • Thunder Bay Kings
  • Toronto Marlboros
  • Windsor Jr. Spitfires

In what is yet another well-balanced division, expect the host Toronto Marlboros to emerge as the team to beat within the round-robin portion of the event. With solid goaltending, capable defending, and an arsenal of talented forwards, the Marlboros are an incredibly deep team who put forth a solid effort each and every time they take to the ice. Outside of the Marlboros, the Ajax Pickering Raiders and Detroit Belle Tire will certainly present a challenge, as both teams are deceivingly talented.

Division 4:

  • Burlington Eagles
  • Kingston Jr. Gaels
  • Kitchener Jr. Rangers
  • Oakland Jr. Grizzlies

The Oakland Jr. Grizzlies stand as the unquestionable favourite within their division, as the champions of the Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournament should have little issue dominating their competition en route to the elimination round. Leading the way for the Jr. Grizzlies will surely be Rutger McGroarty — one of the best 2004-born players in the world who is an exceptional two-way talent. Alongside the skillful play of defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz, expect the Jr. Grizzlies to stand as yet another remarkably skilled skilled and dangerous American team.

Division 5:

  • Barrie Jr. Colts
  • North York Rangers
  • Oakville Rangers
  • Waterloo Wolves

If there was a division within this tournament with no clear cut favourite to advance, it would be division five. Incredibly balanced, any of the Barrie Jr. Colts, North York Rangers, Oakville Rangers or Waterloo Wolves could emerge from this division owing to their strong play to begin the tournament. Of these four clubs however, it is Oakville and Waterloo who hold a slight edge — both teams feature strong offences and stand in positions of prominence within their respective leagues.

Division 6:

  • Cleveland Barons
  • London Jr. Knights
  • Markham Waxers
  • Southern Tier Admirals
  • Toronto Red Wings

Division six is yet another grouping which features a remarkable amount of balance, as no one team stands significantly above the rest. However, if one was to pick a favourite to move on, it would certainly be one of the London Jr. Knights or Southern Tier Admirals — both clubs are solid from the net out and have played well in tournaments of late. In fact, while the Admirals knocked off the Chicago Mission during the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, the Jr. Knights pushed their way into the quarter-finals.

Division 7:

  • Markham Majors
  • South Kent Select Academy
  • Sun County Panthers
  • Whitby Wildcats

While the Whitby Wildcats may appear to be the favourite to move on in Division 7, doing so will not be an easy task. In order to stand as the top seed, the Wildcats will need to overcome both the Markham Majors and South Kent Select Academy — two clubs who feature impressive depth and play the game with consistent pace and purpose. One player in Division 7 who will certainly be tough to stop is David Goyette, a decisive two-way player who can score goals as well as create them.

Division 8:

  • Detroit Compuware
  • Huron Perth Lakers
  • Mississauga Rebels
  • Peterborough Minor Petes

Claiming Division 8 should be a walk in the park for Detroit Compuware, as the American powerhouse recently competed in the championship game of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament owing to a perfect 4-0 round robin record. In those games played, Compuware outscored its competition 16-4, and secured wins over highly talented teams such as the Toronto Nationals, Toronto Titans, and Buffalo Jr. Sabres in the process. So, although Huron Perth, Peterborough and the Mississauga Rebels feature  capable rosters, they’ll likely be no match for Compuware.

Division 9:

  • Don Mills Flyers
  • Halton Hurricanes
  • Quinte Red Devils
  • Rochester Selects

The Quinte Red Devils are unquestionably the team to beat within this division, and especially so after charging into the semi-finals of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament. Bolstered by a high-powered yet balanced offensive attack and stable goaltending in between the pipes, the Red Devils are a persistent threat who should have little trouble casting aside the Don Mills Flyers and Halton Hurricanes — despite their respective skill. One team which could surprise is the Rochester Selects, as seemingly every American-based team comes north of the border with a renewed sense of purpose and overwhelming ability.

Division 10:

  • Brampton 45’s
  • Central Ontario Wolves
  • Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
  • Mississauga Reps

The battle for Division 10 will surely be fought by the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs and the Mississauga Reps. In league play thus far this season the Chiefs have yet to lose a game, having skated to a sparkling 19-0-8 record thus far. The same can be said for the Reps, who have pieced together a 13-8-4 record in GTHL action following a somewhat slow start to their campaign. Ultimately, both teams defend and attack incredibly well, and can do so without bouts of inconsistency. If able, be sure to watch Alec Leonard of the Reps — he’s an aggressive defender who can dish out devastating body checks in addition to pushing the pace of the game.

Division 11:

  • Brantford 99ers
  • Buffalo Jr. Sabres
  • Guelph Gryphons
  • North Central Predators

Although all of the Brantford 99ers, Guelph Gryphons and North Central Predators will test the Buffalo Jr. Sabres to the best of their ability, claiming Division 11 should be nothing other than a formality for the Jr. Sabres. Fresh off of an appearance in the semi-finals of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, Buffalo will return to Canada hungry for redemption and will enjoy somewhat of a feast to kickstart their tournament. One of the top goaltenders to watch throughout this tournament and the season as a whole is the Jr. Sabres’ Austin McNicholas — a highly technical and intelligent goaltender who boasts the ability to steal wins for his team single-handedly.

Division 12:

  • Grey Bruce Highlanders
  • Hamilton Huskies
  • Richmond Hill Coyotes
  • Team Illinois

Unlike other divisions within this tournament, who will move on from Division 12 is anything but certain. Realistically speaking, any of the four teams present within this division could move on, as each has the skill and capability to do so. Yet, with this being said, it is the Hamilton Huskies and Richmond Hill Coyotes who hold a slight advantage, as both have played strong and consistent hockey within their respective leagues thus far. However, do not count out Team Illinois — like most U.S.A. based teams they’ll pack a serious punch.

Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic: Top-20 Performers

The 2018 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic was a tremendous tournament which featured 60 minor midget teams. Re-live this wildly entertaining event by meeting the tournament’s top-20 performers.

The annual Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic proved to be a wildly entertaining tournament, as a jaw-dropping 60 minor midget teams came together in the Greater Toronto Area in order to generate one weekend of remarkable hockey.

In the end, it was the highly touted Don Mills Flyers who defeated the surging Toronto Nationals in overtime — a championship game riddled with drama yet defined by its elite-level skill and ability. Present within this contest were a number of the tournament’s top-performers, otherwise known as contestants whose contributions were crucial to the success of their teams throughout the tournament.

However, given the immense size of the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, it goes without saying that a number of the tournaments top-performers did not progress into later rounds of the event — missing out on highly valuable exposure in the process. So, in order to create an equal playing field of exposure so-to-speak, let’s take a moment to review 20 of the Holiday Classic’s top-performers regardless of their team’s outcome in the event.

The Top-20 Performers

Listed below in alphabetical order are our top-20 performers from the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic Tournament. Featured within this list is a handful of goaltenders who have continued to impress this season, as well as a number of highly touted prospects who have been overlooked at times this season due to their lack of proximity to the GTA.

Robert Andreakos Jr.

2018-19 Team: Mississauga Reps (GTHL)

The Mississauga Reps have been on fire of late in the GTHL, and carried their impressive play directly into the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic. Despite being situated within a tough group, the Reps — led by the stellar netminding of Robert Andreakos Jr. — enjoyed one of their best tournament performances thus far this season.

All throughout their round robin games and into elimination play, Andreakos Jr. was incredibly impressive. Peppered with shots and tested by high quality scoring chances, Andreakos Jr. remained calm and composed in-goal and afforded his team with an opportunity to win each and every game they competed in. One of the top goaltenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft, Andreakos Jr.’s performance at the Marlboros Holiday Classic strengthened his draft stock — to say the least.

Patrick Boivin

2018-19 Team: Sudbury Wolves (GNML)

Patrick Boivin of the Sudbury Wolves has been not only consistent but seemingly impenetrable in-goal this season. Although he isn’t the largest goaltender eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft, Boivin has continued to prove himself as one of the smartest, athletic, and most capable.

Despite rotating assignments at the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, Boivin shone bright when his turn came to tend the crease. A tireless competitor, Boivin worked hard to maintain his vision of the puck throughout the tournament and made a number of difficult saves look remarkably simple as a direct result. Although his Wolves fell to Gentry Galaxy in the Sweet-16, Boivin’s play impressed in a number of forms.

Brandt Clarke

2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

The gap between Shane Wright and Brandt Clarke for selection as the first overall pick in the 2019 OHL Draft may not be as wide as originally thought. All throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, Clarke was a dominant presence — displaying his high-end skill set at both ends of the ice with impressive consistency.

Poised and controlled in his own zone and a pillar of stability within Don Mills’ roster, Clarke’s play at both ends of the ice proved critical to the Flyers’ success throughout the tournament. A threat to score owing to his shot from the point and a terrific playmaker to boot, Clarke’s role and importance to Don Mills’s success was on full display throughout the event — a reality which should come as no surprise to his teammates and those who have watched Clarke play this season.

Nolan Dann

2018-19 Team: Toronto Red Wings (GTHL)

Similar to the Toronto Red Wings, Nolan Dann’s play has improved dramatically over the course of the 2018-19 season. An important depth player to begin the campaign, Dann has quickly progressed into a viable offensive threat for the Red Wings of late — and proved to be exactly that throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic.

A tireless skater with speed to burn, Dann displayed his remarkable skating abilities throughout the tournament and became a lethal offensive force as a direct result. Not afraid to charge the puck to the goal or battle for possession in the dirty areas of the ice, Dann’s improving offensive game and output throughout the Holiday Classic added an extra dimension of depth to an already potent Red Wings roster.

Ethan Del Mastro

2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Despite a loss to the Gentry Galaxy in the quarter-finals of their Holiday Classic Tournament, the Toronto Marlboros are a perennial powerhouse in minor midget hockey who must continue to be viewed as a wildly potent force. One particular facet of the Marlboros’ successful play this season has been the team’s defence core — led by an emerging stud in Ethan Del Mastro.

All throughout the Holiday Classic Tournament Del Mastro was a devastatingly effective defender for the Marlboros, using his size to punish opposing forwards in his defensive zone while maximizing his hockey sense and natural offensive abilities in order to play a key two-way role. Of OHL size, Del Mastro displayed the intelligence and innate abilities necessary to be made a first round selection in the upcoming 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Ranvir Gill

2018-19 Team: Ottawa Jr. Senators (HEO)

The Ottawa Ambassadors fell to the Toronto Nationals in the quarter-finals of the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, yet the team’s play throughout the event was incredibly impressive. Boasting elite offensive skill, sturdy defenders, and capable goaltenders, the Ambassadors’ inclusion in the event provided scouts with an excellent opportunity to see the very best players which the Ottawa region has to offer.

One of the most impressive and consistent members of the Ambassadors in the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic was defenceman Ranvir Gill — an excellent two-way defender who boasts a fluid skating stride and the instincts necessary to strive at the OHL-level. What’s more is that Gill features impressive size in addition to his skating abilities — a reality which allows him to maneuver throughout the ice with ease while impacting each and every game in all three zones.

Dylan Hudon

2018-19 Team: Guelph Jr. Gryphons (SCTA)

The Guelph Jr. Gryphons fell to the Toronto Marlboros in the Holiday Classic’s Round-of-16 — an outcome which overshadowed an impressive tournament showing for the SCTA standout. Throughout the Gryphons’ five games played in the event, one player who continued to impress based on his never-ending work-ethic alone was forward Dylan Hudon.

While Hudon is a player of a smaller stature considering his 5-foot-7 frame, the youngster played a game much bigger than his body would indicate — utilizing his lightning-quick speed in order to generate offensive opportunities and attacking zone time for his team. Although his efforts were not always rewarded on the scoresheet this tournament, Hudon’s seemingly tireless drive and confidence with the puck spoke volumes with regards to his future in hockey.

Braedon Kressler

2018-19 Team: Mississauga Senators (GTHL)

The Mississauga Senators were a pleasant surprise in the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, forcing their way past a number of incredibly talented teams en route to a Round-of-16 appearance. Although the Senators ultimately fell to the Whitby Wildcats, the team’s persistence and commitment to team defence should bode well as they embark upon the remainder of their GTHL season.

One player who has continued to impress for the Senators, however, is forward Braedon Kressler. In the GTHL and more recently during the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, Kressler has proven to be a determined and creative offensive player who can not only score goals but secure his own zone as well. This comprehensive style of play has continued to bode well for Kressler’s value ahead of the 2019 OHL Draft, as he could very well be chosen within the first round based on his skating, shot release, and competitiveness alone.

Connor Lockhart

2018-19 Team: Kanata Lasers (HEO)

There’s a reason why Connor Lockhart could be chosen within the top-ten of this year’s OHL Draft. Although of average size, Lockhart is a dynamic offensive presence who can not only shoot the puck but play-make as well. An excellent skater of ample agility who can traverse the ice with ease, Lockhart is an aggressive force who will take the ice given to him and create lethal opportunities when provided with excess time and space.

So, to no surprise, Lockhart was absolutely dominant as a member of the Ottawa Ambassadors throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic. As aggressive as ever and constantly in attack-mode, Lockhart drove the puck to the net with confidence while standing as a potent playmaker as well. Lockhart’s most impressive goal of the entire tournament may have come against Red Wings goaltender Joshua Rosenzweig, who he beat high to the glove side for an emphatic goal.

Chaz Lucius

2018-19 Team: Gentry Academy (NAPHL)

The Gentry Galaxy were an absolute pleasure to watch throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, as the team brought eye-watering speed, skill, and creativity to each and every game they played. Unfortunately, Gentry’s impressive run would come to an end at the hand of the eventual tournament-champion Don Mills Flyers — who defeated the Galaxy by a score of 3-2 in their semi-final clash.

Leading the way throughout the tournament for Gentry was star-forward Chaz Lucius — a University of Minnesota commit who has excelled everywhere he has played thus far this season. Having scored 39 goals and 62 points in just 13 NAPHL games played this year, it came as no surprise to see Lucius lead his team offensively during the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic — utilizing his spectacular shot and on-ice vision to generate devastating opportunities for his team.

Samuel Moncada

2018-19 Team: Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

If OHL scouts and managers can look past Samuel Moncada’s average height, they’ll be able to nab an incredibly dynamic and capable goaltender in the upcoming 2019 OHL Draft. Although he only stands 5-foot-9, Moncada has proven time and time again to be one of this year’s best netminders owing to his unparalleled athleticism, flexibility, and sheer determination to halt opposing shooters.

In the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic Moncada was absolutely brilliant, and may have singlehandedly led his Toronto Nationals to a berth in the championship game. Battling a league-foe in the Don Mills Flyers in the final game, Moncada stood as a impenetrable wall in his crease — regularly making highlight-reel saves with apparent ease in order to stymie the Flyers’ devastating offensive attack, a very rare achievement considering Don Mills’ lethality.

Deven Nagra

2018-19 Team: Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

The Toronto Nationals could very well boast the most OHL-ready defence-core of any minor midget team in North America. In fact, of their top-four defenders, two are already committed to NCAA programs while the other two — Deven Nagra and Owen Forester — could do the same rather easily given their consistently impressive play and abilities.

Of these four incredibly diverse defenders, one who stood out throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic was Nagra — a sizeable defenceman who skates incredibly well and can play a crucial role at both ends of the ice. Remarkably strong and sturdy on his skates, Nagra is a stellar transitional player who can outlet the puck to his forwards or lead the rush himself. Punishing on opposing forwards and relied upon to play in all situations, Nagra’s versatility and consistency shone bright en route to his team’s championship clash with Don Mills.

Joshua Orrico

2018-19 Team: Toronto Red Wings (GTHL)

The Toronto Red Wings received a massive boost when defenceman Joshua Orrico returned to their lineup. An incredibly intelligent and agile defender who processes the game before him at an elite-level, Orrico’s presence on the Red Wings’ blue line has added an extra level of depth to what is an already impressive Toronto roster.

As the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic progressed, Orrico continued to establish himself as a dynamic two-way defender — and one who prioritizes his own zone before adding himself to the mix offensively. A tremendous skater who is calm and poised while in possession of the puck, Orrico’s play for the Red Wings throughout the Holiday Classic allowed his forwards to facilitate offensive opportunities with greater ease given the newfound stability present within their own zone.

Cole Patey

2018-19 Team: North Central Predators (ETA)

The North Central Predators posted a perfect 4-0 record in round-robin play during the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, yet ultimately fell to the Toronto Nationals by a score of 8-0 in the round-of-16. One particular driving force behind the Predators’ success in the Holiday Classic, however, came as a direct result of forward Cole Patey’s presence.

Of solid size and impressive skating abilities, Patey stood as a persistent threat throughout the tournament and one capable of altering the course of any given game in a split-second. The individual facets of Patey’s game which proved to be most notable were the youngster’s shot release as well as his confidence with the puck. Willing to drive the puck to the net or attempt a flashy one-on-one play, Patey’s offensive versatility was crucial to the Predators’ play despite their sudden elimination at the hands of the Nationals.

Declan Ride

2018-19 Team: Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing close to 200-pounds at the young age of 15-years, Declan Ride is one of minor midget hockey’s most intimidating defencemen. However, Ride is much more than simply a physically dominating presence, as the Miami University at Ohio commit has quickly become one of the 2019 OHL Draft’s most complete and confident defenders.

Unlike most defenders of his size, Ride skates incredibly well and has come to be defined by his smooth and fluid stride. It was this stride which Ride put on full display throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, as the native of Toronto, Ontario utilized his strength, long-reach, and remarkable composure in order to dismantle plays devised by his opposition while regularly shutting down his highly skilled attackers with a level of consistency rarely seen in the game today.

Stuart Rolofs

2018-19 Team: Kanata Lasers (HEO)

Power-forwards who can skate incredibly well have long been sought after within the hockey world — a major reason why Stuart Rolofs of the Kanata Lasers will be a wildly attractive asset come the 2019 OHL Draft. Boasting immense size alongside a fluid stride and innate offensive instincts, Rolofs is an OHL-ready forward whose game should translate to the major-junior-level with relative ease.

During the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, Rolofs put this exact skill-set on display as a member of the Ottawa Ambassadors. Playing largely alongside Connor Lockhart, Rolofs commanded the ice and possession of the puck owing to his size, while his natural offensive instincts and versatility allowed him to stand as a persistent and productive threat for the Ambassadors.

Joshua Rosenzweig

2018-19 Team: Toronto Red Wings (GTHL)

Although the Toronto Red Wings fell to the Don Mills Flyers in the round-of-16 at the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, the team which started its 2018-19 season somewhat slowly once again took significant strides in its development. Far more confident and composed with the puck than ever before, the Red Wings have steadily progressed into a legitimate force capable of competing and defeating stern competition on a nightly basis.

One major key to the Red Wings’ turnaround this season — and their play in the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, too — has been the play of goaltender Joshua Rosenzweig. Fiercely competitive and technically sound, Rosenzweig features excellent lateral movement within his crease and is seemingly unbeatable in the lower-half of his goal. A superb puck-handler to boot who can feed his team’s dynamic offence, Rosenzweig continues to prove himself as one of the top netminders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft.

Brendan Sirizzotti

2018-19 Team: Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

Speed is the name of the game for Whitby Wildcats forward Brendan Sirizzotti, whose blazing wheels and exceptional puck-handling skills have combined to make him a lethal offensive force within the ETA and beyond this season. Most recently, Sirizzotti’s game was on full display throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, as the youngster’s tireless engine helped to drive the Wildcats and their offence to the semi-finals.

Although Whitby would ultimately be eliminated by the Toronto Nationals, Sirizzotti’s electric play and general contributions to his team’s success throughout the tournament cannot be understated. Persistent in his pursuit of the puck and remarkably creative once in possession, Sirizzotti’s quick feet and purposeful hands will allow the youngster to one-day transition to the OHL-level with relative ease.

Chase Stillman

2018-19 Team: Sudbury Wolves (GNML)

The Sudbury Wolves of the GNML boast a number of remarkably talented prospects, with one of the most notable of all being Chase Stillman. The son of former NHL star Cory Stillman, Chase is a direct and purposeful winger who features lightning-quick hands and speed to burn.

Although the Wolves were eliminated in the round-of-16 by the Gentry Galaxy, Stillman displayed the impressive skill-set which earned his commitment to Providence College all throughout the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic. An incredibly confident player despite his age who is sure of his abilities, Stillman plays a professional-brand of hockey defined by its consistency lethality. While he may not be the most flashy player on the ice, Stillman has regularly proven to be one of its most effective and productive.

Shane Wright

2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

The top prospect eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft shone bright once again this weekend, driving the Don Mills Flyers to a Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic championship alongside tournament MVP honours. To little surprise, Wright was nothing other than dominant in his eight total games played at the Holiday Classic — leading the Flyers’ offence while playing a crucial role within his own zone as well as on the penalty kill.

What’s more is that Wright has proven time and time again to be unfazed by the situations or pressures before him. Confident and composed, Wright played a key role on Don Mills’ penalty kill in the championship game and was relied upon to get the job done for his team once the final contest headed to overtime. And, to little surprise, Wright did not disappoint — notching the tournament-winning tally while further solidifying his draft stock in the process.

Don Mills Flyers Claim Holiday Classic Crown

The Don Mills Flyers are the champions of the 2018 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, however, it took a hard-fought 2-1 win in order to knock off the hard-charging Toronto Nationals.

The 2018 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is officially in the record books, and this year’s champion is none other than the Don Mills Flyers.

Although it wasn’t easy, the Flyers ultimately secured their third tournament championship of the 2018-19 campaign — bolstering their trophy cabinet alongside victories at both the Toronto Titans Early Bird and Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournaments.

Come the final game of the Marlboros Holiday Classic, it was the Toronto Nationals who gave the Flyers a significant scare — jumping ahead early in the championship game before giving Don Mills fits owing to their impeccable structure and defensive play. However, the Nationals proved unable to dismantle the Flyers’ persistent attack, as Don Mills’ deep lineup brought forth lethal offensive opportunities from the onset of the game until its conclusion.

The First Period:

Despite each club playing in seven contests over a four day period en route to the championship game, both teams came out flying out of the gate to begin the first period of play.

Early on, it was the Nationals who controlled the pace of play. As a result of their mobile and competent defence-core, the Nationals gained possession and transitioned the puck to their forwards remarkably well and were consistent in doing so. This ability to move the puck was crucial to the Nationals hemming the Flyers in their own zone for long periods of time — often eating up entire shifts.

It was this forceful play which led to the opening goal of the game. With Liam Arnsby in the penalty box mid-way through the stanza, defenceman Deven Nagra floated a puck on-goal from the point — a well-placed shot to the top corner of the net which eluded Flyers netminder Sergei Litvinov and gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

Having fallen behind, Don Mills stepped up their game and enjoyed substantial stretches of time in the offensive zone. Owing to two minor penalties taken by the Nationals, the Flyers bombarded goaltender Samuel Moncada with lethal scoring opportunities — however, the diminutive netminder was up to the challenge and made a number of jaw-dropping saves with apparent ease.

The Second Period:

Despite a bevy of chances for both the Flyers and Nationals, the second period was relatively uneventful.

All throughout the frame Don Mills continued to drive offensively, sustaining significant stretches of zone time while moving the puck extremely well. However, the Nationals were up to the challenge, as their defence remained calm and composed in order to shutdown the Flyers’ top players. Moreover, the Nationals defence once again moved the puck to its forwards incredibly well — generating a wealth of scoring chances as a direct result while pinning Don Mills within their defensive zone.

Once again standing on his head for the Nationals was Moncada. Whether it was shots from the point, odd-man rushes, or cross-crease passes, Moncada displayed his lower-body strength and athleticism time and time again in order to keep the Flyers off of the scoreboard.

The Third Period:

The third period of the Marlboros Holiday Classic’s championship game was endlessly exciting.

Although both teams traded chances throughout the frame, Don Mills began to push harder and harder with each passing shift. Inside of the 10:00 mark, seemingly each and every shift by the Flyers produced quality offensive chances while hemming the Nationals in their own zone. As a result, Don Mills smoked a number of posts — bringing their total in the game to an unbelievable sum of six.

Then, with roughly seven minutes remaining in the period, the Flyers broke through. In the midst of yet another strong shift, Ethan Mistry received the puck and stepped in from the blue line before firing a shot which beat Moncada to his blocker side — the first dent in the incredibly talented goaltender’s seemingly impenetrable armour.

Immediately following the Flyers’ goal, Arnsby took a second penalty — this time for slashing — which sent the Nationals to the man-advantage with mere minutes remaining. Despite a number of quality looks and shots on goal, Don Mills managed to weather the storm brought on by the Nationals’ dynamic offence and sent the game to overtime inthe process.

Overtime:

Early into the extra frame of the championship game, controversy struck.

In the midst of a deadly Nationals’ rush, Brandt Clarke sprawled behind his netminder in order to block the goal as the puck lay loose in the crease. However, in the process, it appeared as though Clarke may have knocked the net off of its moorings — an action which typically results in a penalty shot for the opposing team.

However, considering exactly how the net became dislodged was not perfectly clear, the play went uncalled.

Mere moments later, the Flyers were sprung on a two-on-one. With two of their best offensive players leading the odd-man rush, Francesco Arcuri saucered a beautiful pass to Shane Wright who made no mistake in beating Moncada high to the glove side — a dramatic goal which capped off a remarkably entertaining game from both teams involved.

The Final Word

Although the Flyers have claimed their third tournament victory of the season, the championship game of the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic indicated that the gap between Don Mills and other minor midget teams throughout North America is not as wide as originally thought.

Since falling to Detroit Compuware in the Whitby International Silver Stick Tournament, the Flyers have appeared more human than ever before and have failed to play with the same level of dominance which they displayed early on this campaign. What’s more is the fact that other clubs — namely the Nationals, Toronto Marlboros, and Toronto Red Wings — have continued to improve and progress throughout the season and now stand as a legitimate threat to Don Mills on a game-by-game basis.

Case in point? Despite lacking Ryan Del Monte and Zachary Dean — two of their best offensive players — the Nationals narrowly missed handing the Flyers a defeat in the Marlboros Holiday Classic’s championship game.

Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic: The Top-Five Challengers

The annual Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic Tournament begins on Dec. 27th, 2018, and will feature a whopping 60 minor midget teams. To get a grasp on the event, meet five of the tournament’s top contenders and well as ten honourable mentions. in this comprehensive preview.

The annual Toronto Marlboros International Holiday Classic is once again upon us, and this year’s tournament is shaping up to be more competitive and intriguing than ever before.

In the upcoming 2018 event, a whopping 60 teams from throughout Canada and the United States will do battle in well over 150 games of fiery competition — a schedule which will afford scouts with ample opportunity to assess this year’s class of prospects eligible for selection in the 2019 Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection.

Related: OHL Draft Prospect Profiles

Leading the charge in the 2018 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic will surely be a handful of GTHL teams who have stood high above their competition thus far this season. However, a slew of other clubs from throughout Ontario and the U.S. will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge to the GTHL’s best, as a wealth of clubs from the ETA, SCTA, Alliance, GNML, and T1EHL have rounded into form of late and are hitting their respective strides.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft and OHL Cup Rankings

In short, the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic seems to be up for grabs. Although the high-powered and remarkably deep Don Mills Flyers stand as the clear favourite to claim the championship, their mediocre play of late will surely motivate opposing teams to bring their best on a game-by-game basis in a quest for success.

With this being said, let’s meet five of this year’s top challengers for the championship before listing a crop of honourable mentions who could very well surprise this holiday season.

The Top Five Challengers

Here are, in our opinion, the five teams with the best chance to claim the championship at this year’s Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic. Although Don Mills stands as the favourite — as mentioned above — there is a distinct group of secondary challengers that have emerged of late who hold a chance of knocking-off the Flyers.

Here are the full groupings for the tournament:

1. Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

The Don Mills Flyers have lost just one game this season, falling to Detroit Compuware in the championship game of the Whitby International Silver Stick Tournament. Incredibly deep and impressively skilled, the Flyers can score at-will and feature a blue line capable of contributing at both ends of the ice. Champion of the Titans Early Bird and Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournaments, the Flyers are unquestionably the team to beat at the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic owing to their consistent drive.

Brandt Clarke
Brandt Clarke has helped lead the Don Mills Flyers to an immeasurable level of success and consistency this season. (Photo Credit: Max Lewis)

If any challenger hopes to defeat Don Mills, they will need to penetrate the team’s solid defence-core and fire plenty of shots on goal. As a team who generates a great deal of their offence off of the rush, opponents will need to hem the Flyers in their own zone if they hope to generate offence while limiting the Flyers’ potent attacking game.

2. Toronto Red Wings (GTHL)

The Toronto Red Wings are a pleasant surprise within the GTHL this season, as the team has cast aside a slow start and become one of minor midget hockey’s top clubs. Much like the Flyers, the Red Wings feature exceptional depth throughout their lineup and play with not only consistency but maturity. Rarely pinned down by short-handed play, the Red Wings excel at even-strength and feature an improving penalty kill defined by its possession and zone time.

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Although he’s just 14-years-of-age, Adam Fantilli represented the Toronto Red Wings at the 2018 GTHL Top Prospects Game.

Two specific players to watch on the Red Wings during the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic are Adam Fantilli and goaltender Joshua Rosenzweig. Although Francesco Pinelli has been simply stellar this season, the contributions of Fantilli and Rosenzweig could push the Red Wings to a championship. In Fantilli, the Red Wings boast a game-breaking player whose two-way game is simply remarkable considering his birth late in December of 2004, while Rosenzweig’s consistency between the pipes affords the Red Wings with an opportunity to win each and every game.

3. Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

The Whitby Wildcats have absolutely dominated the ETA so far this season, skating to a 24-1-3 record ahead of the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic. What’s more is that the Wildcats’ tournament play has been steadily improving, as Whitby claimed their place in the semi-finals of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament before their defeat to Don Mills.

What makes the Wildcats a legitimate contender in the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is the team’s combination of size, speed, and skill. Led by the devastating line of Brenden Sirizzotti, Thomas Johnston, and Ryan Winterton — a trio which has combined for an incomprehensible 187 points in 28 ETA games played — the Wildcats are a punishing team who fails to relent in all three zones of the ice. Highly energetic in their play and as determined as they come, the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic could be the Wildcats’ time to establish themselves as a legitimate contender.

4. Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

As the host team, the Toronto Marlboros are a challenger who must not be taken lightly. Although they may not feature the best team in terms of overall skill set to compete in their tournament, the Marlboros are a ferocious force who come to play on a nightly basis and will overwhelm opponents owing to their incomparable work-ethic and intimidating physicality.

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The 2018-19 Toronto Marlboros are an excellent offensive team who play with skill, pace, and physicality.

While the likes of Danil Zhilkin, Wyatt Johnston, and Marc Boudreau lead the way offensively, expect the contributions of defencemen Ethan Del Mastro, Artem Guryev, and Logan Mailloux to push the pace for the Marlies from the blue line. All of impressive size, skill, and skating ability, the play of these three defencemen in particular will not only provide the Marlies with an offensive boost from the blue line but help to dismantle any and all attacking plays devised by their opposition. Featuring Ben West in-goal, the Marlies will prove to be a stern test for all of their opponents throughout the tournament, and especially to those who fail to respect the team’s structure, physicality and potency.

5. Chicago Mission (HPHL)

The Chicago Mission cannot be taken lightly this season, as evidenced by their appearance in the quarter-finals of both the Wendy Dufton Memorial and Whitby Silver Stick Tournaments. A finalist at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament to kickstart their campaign to boot, the Mission are proving to be a handful in tournament play who are not intimidated by their neighbours to the north by any means.

In fact, the Mission have been downright unstoppable thus far this season. In HPHL action, the Mission carry a sparkling 14-0-0-1 record and have allowed a mere 23 goals against in their 15 games played. Further, mix in the three sweet-16 finishes within international tournaments this campaign mentioned above, and the Mission quickly appear as a legitimate force to be reckoned with. If Jack Devine, Davis Burnside, and Jonah Copre can continue their torrent play, expect the Mission to push deep into this year’s Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic Tournament.

Ten Honourable Mentions

Here are ten teams with the skill and drive necessary to surprise at the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Brantford 99ers (Alliance)
  • Detroit Compuware (HPHL)
  • Detroit Little Caesars (T1EHL)
  • Guelph Jr. Gryphons (SCTA)
  • Kitchener Jr. Rangers (Alliance)
  • Mississauga Rebels (GTHL)
  • Niagara North Stars (SCTA)
  • North Central Predators (ETA)
  • Toronto Nationals (GTHL)
  • Waterloo Wolves (Alliance)