2019 Toronto Titans Early Bird: Tournament Preview

The 2020 OHL Draft year officially gets underway with the start of the Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament. Outlined in the Tournament Preview are this year’s top contenders and the future stars of the OHL to keep an eye on.

Just like that, we’re back for another exciting year in Ontario Minor Midget hockey and Prospect Pipeline’s second season.

Summer has officially come to an end with the Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament set to get underway. The annual starting line for young stars in the making in their OHL draft year, the Titans Early Bird always sets the stage for the season and offers an early look into the draft class’ top prospects.

All the top 2004-born talent from across Ontario, and some of the United States, will come together for a memorable week to kick off the 2019-20 season and the 2020 OHL Draft year.

2018 Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament Recap

Last year’s tournament, as usual, provided an excellent forecast into how the 2019 OHL Draft class would develop. The future stars showed their faces early and often, and the majority of teams which found success in the tournament would continue along to have very successful seasons.

As was expected, the Don Mills Flyers rolled their way to the tournament championship, battling to a combined 8-0-0 record. The tournament was led in scoring by the likes of Shane Wright, Danny Zhilkin, Brenden Sirizzotti, Josh Bloom, Wyatt Johnston, Liam Arnsby, and many more, while defencemen such as Brandt Clarke, Artem Guryev, and Roman Schmidt impressed from beginning to end.

All in all, the tournament proved that consistency is key, as those who started off hot and kept grinding throughout the course of the campaign went on to hear their names called very early in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Top-5 Contenders

As for the 2019 version of the Titans Early Bird, there are a few early favourites to come away as champions, and several top prospects who will undoubtedly make up the majority of the top picks at the 2020 OHL Draft.

In the 2019 OHF All-Ontario Bantam Championships, it was the host Toronto Titans who came away with the elusive title, the organization’s first ever provincial championship.

Without further ado, here are the top-5 contenders to challenge for the Titans Early Bird title, along with some of the names to watch as the tournament rolls along.

1: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Toronto Jr. Canadiens Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 28-4-1
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Lost in GTHL Finals

While the ’04 Toronto Jr. Canadiens likely won’t be able to repeat the dominance of the ’03 Don Mills Flyers, they head into the season as the unanimous favourites to take home the Titans Early Bird Tournament, and should dominate all year long.

After a special regular season, the Jr. Canadiens rolled their way to the GTHL Finals where they would meet their rival Marlboros. In somewhat of a surprising result, it was the 2nd-seeded Marlboros who took home the title, winning the final series by a score of 8-4.

However, the Jr. Canadiens reloaded in a big way over the offseason. With the additions of projected 1st overall pick, Adam Fantilli, and likely 1st round pick, D Ty Nelson, the Jr. Canadiens will be bigger, stronger, and more talented at both ends of the ice. Fantilli was a leader for the Toronto Red Wings ’03 team last year, driving them all the way to the OHL Cup Final. Meanwhile, Nelson remained loyal throughout a long season with JRC minor midget squad.

Fantilli, Adam of the Toronto Red Wings. Photo by Dan Hickling OHL Images
Adam Fantilli joins the Toronto Jr. Canadiens after a noteworthy year with the Toronto Red Wings in 2018-19. He is the projected 1st overall pick for the 2020 OHL Draft. (Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

Beyond those, JRC also added offensive defenceman, Thomas Sirman, who had a very impressive season with the York Simcoe Express ’03 team in 2018-19. Further, defensive stalwart, Noah Van Vliet, comes over after a memorable run with Fantilli and the Toronto Red Wings ’03’s. Last but not least, Lleyton McLean joins the team fresh off of a GTHL Championship with the rival Toronto Marlboros ’04’s.

Combined with a deep returning forward corps, featuing the likes of Aidan Puley, Kyan Haldenby, and Brice Cooke, this will be a tough team to match up against. Along the back end, Michael Buchinger and Ethan Best will return to form an admirable and offensive-minded blueline.

2: Toronto Marlboros

Toronto Marlboros Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 25-4-4
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Won GTHL Championship

The team that took down the powerhouse Jr. Canadiens, the Toronto Marlboros will have a tougher time doing so in 2019-20 after their rival’s roster additions. But, they will likely be their biggest challenger.

The Marlboros are equally deep up front, but it’s the team’s two-way play and attention to detail in their own zone that makes them so difficult to play against. That was an integral part of their run to the GTHL Championship last season, allowing just eight goals against in six games in the GTHL Finals against the powerful Jr. Canadiens.

The Marlies had their own significant additions over the offseason. Two-way defender, Lane Hinkley, joins the team after playing up a year with the Vaughan Kings last season. As well, flashy and dynamic forward, Luke Devlin, comes over from the rival Toronto Titans. Both will be huge contributors to the team’s success this year.

Upfront, the Marlies are led by the quick and skilled returnee Paul Ludwinski, along with Lorenzo Bonaiuto, Vincenzo Baiocchi, and Eli Sebastian. Unfortunately, the loss of Lleyton McLean to JRC will certainly sting. On the back end, Isiah George and Matthew Jovanovic will lead the charge with their ability to make effective break out passes or to skate the puck through the neutral zone.

3: Quinte Red Devils

Quinte Red Devils Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 29-2-5
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Gold Medal at OMHA Championships

The reigning OMHA Champions, the Quinte Red Devils are incredibly strong at every position, as indicated by their +128 goal differential over their 36 ETA games last season. They had a relatively easy run, capturing a gold medal at the OMHA Championships and eventually reaching the OHF All-Ontario Semi-Finals.

Quinte is led on offence by the dynamic duo of Dalyn Wakely and Owen Beck, two highly-skilled and intelligent goal-scorers. The surrounding cast is just as dangerous, including Cooper Matthews and Corbin Roach, the Red Devils have some extraordinary depth.

On defence, Quinte boasts a variety of defenders who can be relied upon to take care of any given situation. Donovan McCoy and Aaron Brown are two blue liners who will catch your eye on any given night with their ability to transition the play up ice and produce offence from the point.

4: Toronto Titans

Toronto Titans Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 20-7-6
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Lost in GTHL Semi-Finals

Despite bowing out to the Marlboros in the GTHL Semi-Finals in six games, the Toronto Titans would go on to capture the OHF All-Ontario Bantam Championships; an enviable runner-up prize.

The Titans boast an offensively gifted lineup through and through. Led by the duo of Kocha Delic and Nicholas Moldenhauer, this is a team that isn’t afraid to run up the score, showcased by their 4.09 goals per game in the GTHL last season. They also added Jonathan Melee, a center who had a huge year with the Eastern Ontario Wild last year. It should be noted that Melee is QMJHL Draft eligible. Meanwhile, the loss of Luke Devlin to the Marlboros will leave a clear hole in the lineup.

With that said, don’t expect the Titans to shy away from their defensive responsibilities. With several defencemen capable of playing a shutdown role, the Titans will lean heavily on Mason Chen and Patrick Wrzesinski. Further, goaltenders Rowan Kimens and Liam Sztuska have each shown flashes of possibly becoming top goaltending prospects for the 2020 OHL Draft.

5: Southern Tier Admirals

Southern Tier Admirals Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 28-1-3
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Silver Medal at OMHA Championships

Sporting an incredible regular season record in the SCTA, the Southern Tier Admirals plowed their way to the OMHA Championship game, coming up just short against the aforementioned Red Devils. Similarly, the Admirals sported a +110 goal differential in 32 SCTA contests.

Unfortunately for Southern Tier, they will be in tough to replicate their success from the 2018-19 campaign as a result of losing one of their top forwards, Owen Mehlenbacher, to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. In the meantime, Sam Alfano will take the reins; a skilled goal-scorer with size and strength to score some highlight reel goals.

Meanwhile, Andrew LeBlanc and Matthew Donnison are two defenders who can turn heads with their ability to shut down momentum in the defensive zone, and then quickly move the puck up ice with the strong skating skills.



Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament: Top 20 Performers

The Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament has come and gone, and a number of this year’s top prospects used the showcase the promote their potential. In this tournament recap, see how the 2019 OHL Draft’s elite talent fared.

Just like that, the 11th Annual Toronto Titans Minor Midget Prospect Tournament has come and gone. As the unofficial start to the season, the tourney never fails to disappoint, offering scouts from all over Ontario and parts of USA an early glimpse into the top prospects eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

This year’s edition was no different, showcasing the top tier of teams for the 2003-born age group. Leading the way through the round-robin portion of the tournament with perfect 4-0-0 records were the Don Mills Flyers, Toronto Nationals, Mississauga Senators, and North York Rangers of the GTHL, the Whitby Wildcats of the ETA, the Chicago Mission from the HPHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite from the TIEHL.

After a memorable elimination round which featured a number of tight games, it was the Don Mills Flyers who came away as the 2018 Champions, defeating Chicago Mission in the Final. The Flyers were dominant from start to finish of this tournament, rolling over their opponents with ridiculous depth at both ends of the ice to finish with a combined 8-0-0 record, with 48 goals for and just 7 against. Heading into the 2018-19 season, they appear to be early favourites for the 2019 OHL Cup.

Top Performers

1: Shane Wright – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Shane Wright put his application for Exceptional Status on display early and often. Born on January 5th, 2004, Wright showcased elite acceleration and top-end speed, as well as phenomenal puck skills and exemplary vision of the ice. He is an excellent playmaker, and has an above average shot as well, beating goaltenders with clear shots. His hockey IQ is what clearly sets him apart from the 2019 OHL Draft class. Wright finished the tournament with eight goals and 17 points in eight games, ranking second and first in those categories, respectfully.

2: Danil Zhilkin – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Danil Zhilkin quickly, and often, made an impact at the tournament with his innate goal-scoring abilities. The Boston University commit established his role as the Marlboros trigger man, boasting an elite level shot with a lightning-quick release and tremendous accuracy. Zhilkin skates well and can weave through traffic as well as protect the puck from defenders. He led the tournament with nine goals in just six games, while the Marlboros were ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in quarterfinal action.

3: Roman Schmidt – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Roman Schmidt is as solid a defenceman as they come. Another Boston University commit, Schmidt enforces his strength on his opponents to separate body from puck, or to protect the puck with ease on a rush. A solid two-way defenceman, Schmidt has a smart shot from the point, throwing wristers on net with excellent accuracy that beat goaltenders through screens. Schmidt finished the tournament with six goals and 10 points in eight games, leading all defencemen in both categories.

4: Jack Devine – Chicago Mission (HPHL)

Jack Devine, one half of the Chicago Mission’s “Jack Duo” plays a similar style to his linemate, Jack Silich. Backed by excellent agility and solid top-end speed, Devine utilizes his superb hockey sense to visibly read the game one step ahead of his opponents. He is a multi-faceted weapon up front, with the capability to make back-door, cross-ice passes for tap-in goals, or to weave though defenders and snipe goals past the tournament’s top goalies with regularity. A University of Denver commit, Devine finished second in tournament scoring with 15 goals, including seven goals.

5: Brandt Clarke – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Brant Clarke, the brother of Graeme of the Ottawa 67’s, is an offensive defenceman with elite skating abilities and hockey sense. Clarke has exemplary edgework and can walk the blueline with the puck with confidence and creativity before firing a shot through traffic to generate scoring chances. He is strong on the puck and uses smart stick positioning to be effective at both ends of the ice. Clarke reads developing plays well and can recognize safe opportunities to jump into the rush. He tallied three goals and eight points in the Flyers championship run.

6: Jack Silich – Chicago Mission (HPHL)

Jack Silich showcased elite level puck skills and skating abilities to lead the Mission to the tournament final. He excels at finding open space on the ice and battles hard for possession of the puck. A Quinnipiac University commit, Silich has an electric shot and loves to rip one-timers from the circle.  Along with linemate, Jack Devine, the duo proved to be too much for even the tournament’s top teams to handle. Silich finished the tournament third in points with 13, along with six goals.

7: Nick Sewecke – Pittsburgh Penguins Elite (TIEHL)

Another skilled forward with quick hands and a strong snap shot, Nick Sewecke sets himself apart through a determination to play a responsible two-way game as well. Leading Pittsburgh to the semi-finals where they were finally eliminated by the Mission, Sewecke showcased excellent offensive instincts and a shot which can be unloaded in tight and under pressure. Despite being a December-born prospect, Sewecke showed no signs of being overwhelmed by bigger and stronger opponents. He ranked fourth in goals in the tournament with six in seven games.

8: Artem Guryev – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

One of the most exhilarating defenceman to watch at this year’s tournament was Artem Guryev, who plays an all-around style and is seemingly always involved in the play. Guryev is a slick skater who is strong on his feet, often using his body to lay booming open-ice hits, or to close gaps along the wall. He loves to join the rush and has the capability to carry the puck through the neutral zone himself. From the blueline, Guryev shows promising potential to either move the puck or fire shoots on net, collecting six points in six contests.

9: Cole Eichler – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Cole Eichler crept out of the shadows cast by Shane Wright upon the Don Mills lineup by putting in a consistent effort each game. Eichler is a strong skater with elite vision of the ice who can find passing lanes through all kinds of traffic. He has a natural sense of where the soft spots will open up and goes to them to make himself a viable passing option. Eichler kept up with Wright’s speed when playing on his wing, but also showcased the ability to generate offensively as well. He finsihed sixth in tournament scoring with 11 points, including five goals, in eight games.

10: Jack Beck – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Often slotted along the Marlboros’ first line, Jack Beck is a powerful skater who can protect the puck as well as anyone. He is a playmaker by nature, with the capability to curl out from the half-wall before dishing tape-to-tape, cross-ice passes. Beck is trusted to play in all situations and has shown the effort to always compete hard in the defensive zone as well. Beck finished second in Marlboros scoring and tied fr seventh in the tournament with 10 in six games.

11: Ryan Winterton – Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

Ryan Winterton boasted elite level abilities during the round robin portion of the tournament, before the Wildcats were upset by the Vaughan Kings in a 1-0 Sweet 16 loss. Winterton has an innate understanding of the of his positioning on the ice and the importance of playing a strong two-way game. His offensive abilities are led by a smooth stride with smart edgework, as well as a quick and powerful release to his snap shot. Winterton placed seventh in points-per-game at the Titans Early Bird with four goals and eight points in five games.

12: Ryan Del Monte – Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

Ryan Del Monte has a proven capability to lead the offence on a talented Nationals team that were ousted by their rival, Don Mills, in the Quarterfinals. A Harvard University commit, Del Monte leads by example with a responsible 200-foot game. He has a high compete-level and shows a willingness to drive to the dirty areas. Del Monte’s top asset appears to be his knack for finding the back of the net, usually with a quick and deceptive snap shot. He finished tied for 13th in tournament scoring with five goals and eight points in six games.

13: William Gourgouvelis – Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

A reliable two-way defenceman, William Gourgouvelis showed flashes of a capacity to dictate the game at both ends of the ice. He is smart in his own zone, closing gaps to force opponents into the corners and using smart stick positioning to close off passing lanes and break up offensive rushes. On the offensive side, Gourgouvelis often joins the rush to create odd-man rushes and isn’t afraid to fire wrist shots from the point through traffic to generate deflections and rebounds. Gourgouvelis ended the tournament fourth in defencemen scoring with six points.

14: Wyatt Johnston – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Wyatt Johnston is a responsible center with a high level of hockey sense. He is an efficient skater who utilizes great agility and edges to dance through opponents before often dishing off the puck to an open teammate. Johnston is a natural playmaker who seems to think pass before shot, and loves to maintain puck possession through effective cycling and shot selection. Johnston appears to have strong offensive upside, but could benefit from taking advantage of shooting opportunities. Johnston finished the tournament with two goals and seven points.

15: Sean Clarke – Vaughan Kings (GTHL)

Sean Clarke represented the little engine who could on a surprising Vaughan team that battled and forced its way into Quarterfinal action. Through a team-first approach, Clarke led the Kings’ offence through a combination of high-end speed and quick hands. He was like a hound on the puck at all times and showcased an ability to rush the puck end-to-end. Clarke also has a deceptive and accurate shot that can beat goaltenders in tight. He went on to finish fourth in tournament points-per-game, with nine in five games, including five goals as well.

16: Josh Bloom – Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

Josh Bloom is an energetic skater whose engine never stops. He is consistently pressuring the opposition and skating hard in all three zones to force turnovers. Bloom has creative hands and can waltz his way through traffic with ease, while his shot remains powerful with a quick release to catch goaltenders mid-transition. He reads the ice very well in order to predict where open lanes will develop and uses his flashy speed to infiltrate them. Bloom concluded the tournament with four goal and eight points in six games, tied for 13th in tourney scoring.

17: Tucker Robertson – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Tucker Robertson may very well possess the quickest and most dynamic set of mitts in this year’s draft class. He regularly turns defencemen inside-out with silky moves, utilizing his edges and agility to maneuver his way through and around traffic. Robertson also has above-average speed when he opens it up, able to fly past defencemen before cutting in front of the net. His shot is also hard off of the release and he loves to change shooting angles in order to catch goaltenders off guard. Robertson finished tied for 12th in goals with four, along with seven points.

18: Deni Goure – Chatham Kent Cyclones (Alliance)

After a rough 10-1 loss to the Toronto Marlboros to start off the tournament, the Cyclones gradually found their rhythm and proved to be a tough out in the end. The squad is led at both ends of the ice by Deni Goure, an elite two-way center who leads by example. A terrific skater, Goure’s compete level sets him apart from others, while his skating ability allows him to generate plenty of successful carry-ins. He’s a shifty player with quick hands, and his snap shot features a brisk release. Goure totalled two goals and six points to lead the Cyclones in four games.

19: Daniel Michaud – Quinte Red Devils (ETA)

Daniel Michaud was seemingly the lone bright spot in what turned out to be a rather disappointing tournament for the Red Devils. Expected to be one of the top teams in the ETA this year, Quinte fell victim to a slow start, losing its first two contests. However, Michaud only got stronger as the tournaments wore on, inflicting his high-paced style and sense of the game onto his opponents. He skates well and has a strong shot as well as an elite sense of the ice around him. Michaud wrapped the tournament up with three goals and six points to lead his team.

20: Braeden Kressler – Mississauga Senators (GTHL)

The Senators dearly struggled with depth issues at the Titans Early Bird, with only one goal coming from someone outside their top line, and a defenceman at that. With that said, Braeden Kressler was the offensive catalyst for his team, showcasing a dynamic ability to burn defenders with speed combined with an electric release that catches goaltenders off-guard before they have time to set themselves. He also boasts quick hands and an underrated sense of vision. Kressler closed out the tournament with four goals and five points in just four games.

Photo credit to Max Lewis.