Every year there are surprise players. Whether the player is exceeding expectations with ease or struggling to reach expectations, the hot-stove this week takes a look at some surprise players in the OHL this season.
Joining me in this week’s hot-stove is Peter Kneulman, Dominic Tiano and Phil Phillips.
For me the biggest surprise player this season has been New Jersey Devils prospect and Sarnia Sting forward Reid Boucher. Everybody that follows the OHL knew Boucher could score goals, but nobody, and I mean nobody, expected an outbreak like this.
Boucher has a respectable 27 goals in 67 games last season. I expected that total to grow a bit, but with Alex Galchenyuk, his playmaking center, leaving for the World Juniors and then NHL many expected that could see Boucher’s goal totals drop. They did the opposite of that.
Boucher has been lights out and is filling the net at a ridiculous rate. Boucher currently sits 1st in the OHL in goals with 57 in 61 games and is just one goal short of Steven Stamkos’ team-record of 58.
For me the biggest surprise this season has been Brandon Alderson of the Soo Greyhounds. While always having' the physical attributes (the size, the speed) to be an above average forward in this league he has never been able to put it togther for a 68 game season. Heading into this season Brandon had never scored more than 17 goals or picked up more than 39 points. This season he has set personal highs across the board. 25 goals (leading the Greyhounds) 32 assists 57 points (3rd on the Greyhounds) and a +20 rating.
While the offence is what jumps out at you Brandon brings more than that to the Greyhounds line-up. His ability to fit anywhere from the 1st line to the 3rd line, handle PP and PK duty allows coach Sheldon Keefe great flexibility. He is someone you can feel comfortable with protecting a lead in the final minute or someone you want out there looking for a tying goal. Being an undrafted player in his OA season Brandon is leaving everything out on the ice for the Greyhounds this season.
Pains me to say this, but I have to go with Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers struggled early on as did Murphy, and maybe the two go hand in hand. But in his fourth season so much more was expected.
Murphy was a point per game player coming into the season and now sits with 8 goals, 31 assists, 39 points in 46 games. He's come on strong as of late but I expected near 1.5 points per game from him this season. In my opinion, he’s been the biggest disappointment this season.
For me the biggest surprise this season was the play of former London Knight Kevin Bailie or maybe that no team in the OHL picked him up off waivers. That was also a surprise. I can think of a few teams that are using OA goaltenders where Kevin would have been an instant upgrade. Before Bailie was released by the London Knights he was a having an all-star calibre season. It was easily the best he has played since joining the OHL as a 1st Rd pick in 2008. We know London is loaded for bear every year and this season is no different. After winning the OHL Championship last season, they look ready to defend. Kevin Bailie was a huge part of that success when he was with the Knights. In the Belleville natives final game with the Knights on January 1st he allowed 5 goals. Those 5 goals marked only the fourth time this season that the former Oshawa General would give up 4 or more goals in a game. Before that Bailie was on a personal 12 game winning streak during that same time the 21-year-old Bailie and Jake Patterson set a franchise record together (24 straight wins) and came within one game of the Canadian Hockey League record .
London can score and gives their goaltenders plenty of goal support, but Kevin had decent numbers. On average he faced 29 shots a game and or the first time in his OHL career his GAA was below 3.15 and was a very tidy 2.50, his save percentage was also a nice .921%. Both of these numbers are still ranked sixth overall in the OHL. In total Bailie appeared in 27 games for the Knights going 18-4-0-1 and matched his career total with two shut outs.
All that still wasn't enough. Bailie was on a two month winning streak when he was released on waviers and he was upset and he should have been, but not surprised, this isnt the 1st time the Knights have done this type of thing we all remember when the Knights acquired Adam Dennis from Guelph and traded Ryan MacDonald to the Storm in 2004-05. At the time, MacDonald was 15-1 and 43-6-2 in his time with London. Knights GM Mark Hunter said it was something that they had to do. "nothing against Kevin, but he (Stolarz) is a ’94 (birthdate) and we have two ’94 goalies for this year and next year". Stolarz is Anthony Stolarz, who was available for London after deciding to leave the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Kevin will still get to play for a National Championship this season, he has joined the Summerside (PEI) Western Capitals of the Maritime Jr. A league who will host the 2013 RBC Cup. I am still surprised that he's not finishing his Jr Hockey career in the OHL.