With the NHL locking it’s players out, there should be increased interest in the Ontario Hockey League action this season. Here are your previews for the Opening night’s games.  This year the previews will be composed by last year’s writer Dwayne Williams along with John Duncan. Should be an exciting season !

 

Erie at Niagara

The Erie Otters gained a lot of experience last year with their young squad.  They should have better fortunes in the win column for sure.  There is a lot of hype around Connor McDavid as he has been given exceptional status (similar to Aaron Ekblad and John Tavares) to play this season. He is a very fast skater who is exciting to watch but is still ‘gelling’ with his teammates. Connor Brown has been named Captain – Overager JP Labardo was acquired this week from Oshawa.  Dane Fox and Stephen Harper are some other offensive players to watch. 
Devin Williams and import Oscar Dansk could platoon for much of the season.

This year the Icedogs still have 15 players from 2011-2012 Eastern Conference Championship team.  The NHL lockout provides the team with the opportunity to enjoy the services of Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome for the interim.  Brett Ritchie, Carter Verhage and Anthony DiFruscia will be looked at to provide offence this year.
Defenceman Aaron Haydon is one of three rookies that will stay with the squad this year. Chris Festarini has been given the reins in net with rookie Brent Moran as the backup.

Prediction Erie 2 Niagara 4

  

Barrie at Ottawa

Many predict that the Barrie Colts will challenge for the Eastern Conference championship this season.  While they have lost many talented offensive players, including Ivan Telegin, Tanner Pearson, and Colin Behenna, the Colts remain strong up front, lead by Mark Scheifele, who many predict will challenge for the OHL scoring title this season.  Andreas Athanasiou, brought in from London, is expected to add speed and skill to the lineup. Dylan Corson has also joined the team, from the Bulls.  Newcomers Brendan Perlini (1st in 2012), and Justin Scott (4th in 2011) could chip in offensively, as well.  Aaron Ekblad is expected to lead a veteran defense.  Solid goaltending is expected from Niederberger  (29 wins last season) with some help from last year’s backup Fotinos. 

 The Ottawa 67’s have lost a great deal of talent including Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince, John McFarland, Marc Zanetti, and Dalton Smith.  Petr Mrazek’s job, in goal, will be taken over by overager Keegan Wilson who joins the team from Brampton.  In order for the 67’s to succeed, 2013 draft eligible, Sean Monahan will need to have a huge offensive year, and the others will have to “chip in by committee”.  Codi Ceci (Senators draft pick) will lead the defense, and will log a lot of ice time with Jake Cardwell.  Other returning D include Sean Callaghan, Ryan Shipley, and Mike Vlajkov. Scotiabank Place will need to provide a huge “home ice” advantage for the 67’s to compete with the Colts. 

Prediction Barrie 5  Ottawa 2

  

 Oshawa at Peterborough

The Oshawa Generals have enough talent returning to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.  Although they lost Christian Thomas, and Nicklas Jensen, they are lead offensively by Lucas Lessio, Scott Laughton, Boone Jenner, and Tyler Biggs, a Leafs pick, who is joining the team this season, after leaving Miami U of Ohio.  I like what new GM, Jeff Twohey has done keeping many veteran guys, but adding in talent where he needed to. The Gens defense, including veterans, Matt Petgrave, Jeffrey Schemitsch, and Colin Sullentrop, should be solid, and I expect Daniel Altshuller to be good in goal.  

 The Petes are a little thin up front, with Alan Quine, and Nick Ritchie counted on to lead the way.  The strength of the Petes line up is defense. Slater Koekoek is one of 7 returning defenders.  They will need to win many games by low scores this season.

Prediction  Oshawa 4   Peterborough 3

  

Owen Sound at Windsor

The Attack are very experienced this season – returning 19 players from last year’s roster.  Binnington returns (21 wins last year) and will be backed up Hope (5 wins in 18 appearances for Sarnia last season). Look for Gemel Smith and Daniel Catenacci to lead the way offensively with lots of help from Maidens and Gavrus. The addition of overager Chiarlitti from the Sarnia Sting was a move that most GM’s would gladly make any day of the week (he has 245 career games in the OHL).  The club continues to shake their head as they start this season remembering the early exit in the first round of the playoffs (vs. Kitchener) last season.

 Windsor has struggled in the preseason – they were able to score frequently but had trouble keeping the puck out of their own net. Pavelka may not be the answer in net for this club (41 GP last season with 13 wins).  Will Kerby Rychel match his offensive numbers of last season (74 points in 68 games).  Many will be interested in
the play of rookie Josh Ho-Sang (#5 overall pick in June’s priority draft).  The cloud of OHL sanctioned fines and draft pick penalties – and expected appeal - continues to ‘hang over’ this club.

Prediction Owen Sound 5 Windsor 1