Pictured in Kingston's Henri Ikonen beating Owen Sound's Jordan Binnington in a shootout last season.
Coming off of an impressive opening weekend (an 11-4 win in Peterborough, and a 5-2 home ice win over North Bay), the Kingston Frontenacs will look to keep it going with two home games this weekend.
On Friday night the Fronts will play host to the rebuilding Niagara Ice Dogs, and on Sunday afternoon, the Plymouth Whalers will pay their only visit to the Rogers K-Rock Centre.
Mikko Vainonen (Nashville) and Ryan Kujawinski (New Jersey) returned from their NHL camps to play big roles in Kingston's win over the Battalion, and Henri Ikonen (Tampa Bay) is to suit up for his first OHL game of the season on Friday night. OA defenseman, Michael Moffatt is one of 10 defensemen at the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) camp and will suit up for the team on Friday night, in their first exhibition game, before a decision about his immediate future is made.
Darcy Greenaway had a big opening weekend for the Fronts, as he scored a hattrick on Thursday in Peterborough, and two goals the following night against North Bay. His 5 goals leads the OHL. Sam Schutt had a hattrick on Thursday night, as well, and looks faster this season. Newly acquired forward, Corey Pawley had 4 assists, as did 2nd year defenseman, Roland McKeown.
With the return of Ikonen, expect to see him reunited with highly rated 2014 NHL draft eligibles Sam Bennett, and Spencer Watson. The line of OA, Darcy Greenaway, Corey Pawley, and rookie, Connor McGlynn played well this past weekend, so they should stay together. With only 11 forwards available to him on Friday night, Coach Gill mixed up the line combinations throughout the game. He will often keep pairs of players together. Kujawinski and Billy Jenkins will often play with Sam Povorozniouk.
Forward, Jean Dupuy will serve the 3rd game of his 3 game suspension on Friday night, and will be eligible to return on Sunday afternoon.
Head coach Gill suggested that this year's backup goalie would play more than in the past two seasons, so I expect newcomer, Lucas Peressini to start in one of the two games this weekend, although starter, Matt Mahalak looked good last weekend.
Friday night's opponents are the Niagara Ice Dogs who are in full rebuild mode. They are a very young team, with only 1 overager listed on their current roster.
Gone are offensive stars Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, and Stephen Shipley. They are without defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Mort, and Shane Rover.
Players to Watch: Niagara's top line will likely be Carter Verhaeghe (21), Brendan Perlini (11), and Anthony DiFruscia (10). Both goalies from last season will return. Brent Moran (31) will likely get more minutes, in his NHL draft season. Chris Festarini (30) is still at the AHL Hamilton Bulldog camp, after spending time in the Montreal Canadien's main camp. Former Fronts Mitchell Fitzmorris (16), Blake Richard (1), and draft pick and Fronts' GM, Doug Gilmour's son, Jake Gilmour (12) could all be in the lineup, as well.
Sunday afternoon's opponents are the Plymouth Whalers. The Whalers look to contend in the Western Conference after losing to the Knights in the conference semi-finals last season.
Gone are goaltender Matt Mahalak who may well face them Sunday afternoon, after being trade to the Frontenacs. Forwards, Vincent Trocheck, Garrett Meurs, and Stefan Noesen will be paid to play hockey this season.
Players to Watch: Alex Nedeljkovic (39) was good enough in goal in the playoffs to make Mahalak expendable. Tom Wilson (10), Matt Mistele (22), and Ryan Hartman (21) will provide plenty of offense for the Whalers. Connor Carrick (28), and Gianluca Curcuruto (32) are key defenders. Francesco Vilardi (7) played his minor hockey in Kingston, and joined the Whalers in the off season after being drafted by the Wolves in the 2012 Priority Selection.
Coach/GM Michael Vellucci's Whalers should provide a stiffer test this weekend for the Frontenacs than Marty Williamson's Ice Dogs, although no team should be taken lightly in the OHL.
Fronts' Alumni Watch: Nathan Moon who played 316 regular season and another 17 playoff games over 5 seasons for the Fronts, has joined the Braehead Clan of the British Elite Ice Hockey League. The team plays their home games in Glasgow, Scotland. In his first season overseas, Nathan has 2 goals and 3 assists, and leads the team with 12 PIMs in 5 games. Moon was drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 NHL draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and played for several AHL and ECHL teams prior to going to Europe this season.