With the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships nearly upon us, the Team Canada Selection Camp took place last week, and when the final roster was announced, eleven of the eighteen Ontario Hockey League players at camp were named to the squad coached by Kitchener Rangers architect Steve Spott. The goaltending will have an all-Ontario feel over the holidays, as all three goaltenders selected to go to Russia are OHL products. Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls and Jordan Binnington of the Owen Sound Attack are expected to battle for playing time in Ufa, while Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit is expected to learn from the experience of being the team’s third goaltender.

On defence, the Ontario Hockey League is well represented as well, with three of the team’s seven rearguards. Scott Harrington of the London Knights will be one of Team Canada’s Alternate Captains, and is joined on the blueline by Dougie Hamilton of the Niagara Icedogs and Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers. Up front, the OHL is sending five more players, all of whom play in the league’s Eastern Conference. Ryan Strome and Brett Ritchie, teammates of Hamilton’s on the Niagara Icedogs, are joined by another pair of teammates, Mark Scheifele and Anthony Camara of the Barrie Colts. The OHL’s representation on offence is rounded out by versatile Oshawa Generals center Boone Jenner.

Five OHL players chosen for this year’s club are among the six who were on last season’s Canadian team that won Bronze in Alberta, as defencemen Harrington and Hamilton, as well as forwards Strome, Jenner, and Scheifele relish the opportunity at a rare second chance at Junior Gold. Team Canada plays their opening game of the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships against Germany, Wednesday, December 26th, at 4:30am ET. TSN will air a half-hour pre-game show prior to each Canadian game, beginning at 4:00am.

Players Of The Week

Top Forward

Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia Sting) – With only two games over the last week, Alex Galchenyuk gave the entire league a sneak peek at what he will bring to Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships, as he lead all players in scoring over the past week, playing in one less game. Alex scored twice and added an assist on Friday night, helping the Sting to a 4-2 win over the high-powered Guelph Storm. The following night, Galchenyuk put on a show in front of the visiting Kingston Frontenacs, scoring a hat-trick as part of a five-point night, a 7-4 victory. In his two games, Alex lit the lamp five times, and helped out on three others for eight points. His +6 rating was also tops among all players, making our choice for Top Forward of the week an easy one.

Top Defenceman

Chris Carlisle (Oshawa Generals) – With veteran rearguard Matt Petgrave on the shelf for the Oshawa Generals, perhaps no player has stepped up more than Chris Carlisle, who’s strong play was a direct influence on all three Gens victories this week. Carlisle, who had just one goal and twelve points in 64 career OHL games entering action this week, would see his recent hard work pay off, scoring goals in every game. Thursday night in Barrie, Chris’s powerplay goal in the second period, his 2nd career OHL goal, would stand up as the game winner, as Oshawa defeated the Eastern Conference leaders 3-1. The following night, Carlisle scored again, this time sending the teddy bears flying from the seats back at home, and added an assist, as the Generals defeated Belleville 3-2. Playing Sunday night on his 18th birthday, Chris capped a week to remember with yet another goal, another Oshawa win, this time 4-3 over Ottawa. Chris Carlisle’s three goals and four points would lead all OHL defenders, and earns him his first selection as our Top Defenceman of the week.

Top Goaltender

Matt Murray (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) – Top Goaltender of the week belongs to Matt Murray of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who backstopped the Hounds to three straight tightly contested victories this week. On Wednesday, Murray stopped 22 of 25 shots, keeping Sault Ste. Marie in the game long enough to win in overtime over Plymouth. Two nights later, Matt did it again, stopping 34 of 35 as the Hounds defeated Saginaw in overtime as well. Finishing up the first half of the schedule, Murray was fantastic when called upon again Sunday night, beaten just once on 20 Windsor shots to earn the victory. Stopping 75 of 80 shots faced, Matt Murray finishes the week with three wins, a 1.65 GAA, and a .938 save percentage, good enough to earn our honours this week.

OHL Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) With three more victories this week, the London Knights not only remain atop the OHL Power Rankings, they now can begin to set their sights on an Ontario Hockey League record. The 1983-84 Kitchener Rangers won 25 straight games between January 11th and March 16th of 1984, a record which has stood for 29 years, but the London Knights have serious intentions of surpassing that mark this season. The Knights were pushed this week in three one-goal games, the first of which was won at home against Owen Sound on Friday night. A night later, London couldn’t earn the two points in regulation, but would see their win streak reach twenty with a shootout victory in Guelph. On Sunday afternoon, a tired Knights squad would fall behind the visitors from Kingston, but a late rally secured an overtime win for London. The Knights are off now until Thursday, December 27th, when they host Windsor.

2. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 5) The Sarnia Sting leap up three spots this week, ending the week at number two on the OHL Power Rankings, after winning both of their contests this week during a long homestand. The Sting defeated Guelph on Friday night, and beat Kingston the following night, extending their point streak to nine games, over which they have earned 17 of 18 possible points. Sarnia’s next game is Friday, December 28th, at home to Brampton.

3. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 3) Holding firm this week, the Barrie Colts enter the holiday break in the number three spot, in addition to leading the OHL’s Eastern Conference Standings. The Colts picked up wins in two of their three games this week, after starting the week with a loss on home ice to Oshawa on Thursday night. On Saturday night, Barrie rebounded by shutting out the visitors from Plymouth, and they wrapped up the first half of the season with another win Sunday afternoon in Peterborough. The Colts are back in action on Friday, December 28th, when they play in Kitchener.

4. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 9) Owners of the week’s biggest jump, the Oshawa Generals leap five spots to finish the first half of the season at number four in our OHL Power Rankings, rattling off three straight wins with a depleted lineup to get to the break. The Generals earned a huge victory Thursday night in Peterborough, and were able to ride that momentum to another hard-fought win the following night, winning at home over Belleville. Oshawa would finish the perfect week at home on Sunday evening, as they were able to hold off a late charge by Ottawa to pick up the two points, as well as the East Division lead. Oshawa’s next game is Friday, December 28th in Mississauga.

5. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 2) The Owen Sound Attack find themselves down three spots in the Power Rankings this week, but remain in the top five at the holiday break after splitting a pair of games over the last seven days. Friday night, the Attack lost a tough game in London, giving up the winning goal with just four seconds remaining, but they would rebound with a win the next night, back at home over Brampton. The Owen Sound Attack play next on Friday, December 28th, at home to Erie.

6. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 4) The Guelph Storm fall out of the top five this week, landing at number six after losing both of their games heading into the holiday break. The Storm were defeated Friday night in Sarnia, but managed to earn a valuable point a night later, pushing the high-octane team from London to a shootout before losing at home. Guelph plays just one more game in 2012 following the break, a home game against Belleville on Friday, December 28th.

7. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 6) The next few weeks, playing without their starting goaltender, should be pivotal for the Belleville Bulls, who find themselves down one spot to number seven on the OHL Power Rankings after losing two of their three games over the past week. After starting the week with a shutout victory Wednesday night in Ottawa, the Bulls couldn’t muster enough to win on Friday night in Oshawa, and lost again at home Saturday night versus Mississauga. A team that doesn’t score much will need to find a way in the second half of the season, which begins for them on Friday, December 28th in Guelph.

8. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 8) The Kitchener Rangers hold onto the number eight spot this week, but with one win in their last six games, they will need to be better to avoid sliding further down the Power Rankings. Kitchener did earn three points from as many games this week, which started well when they won in Windsor on Thursday night. A night later, the Rangers did not play well on home ice, losing to Erie, and they lost to Erie again on Saturday night, earning a point from a shootout disappointment in Pennsylvania. Kitchener now has nearly two weeks off to figure out what is wrong, as they are back in action on Friday, December 28th, when they play host to Barrie.

9. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 12) Up three spots to number nine in this week’s OHL Power Rankings, the Brampton Battalion find themselves flying under the radar to much of the rest of the league, but have been playing good hockey as of late. The troops won two of their three games over the last week, and three of their past four heading into the holiday break. On Thursday, Brampton picked up the two points on the road in Peterborough, but couldn’t get any on Saturday in Owen Sound. The Battalion finished the first half of the season on a high note, winning big on home ice over Niagara. Brampton is off now until Friday, December 28th, when they begin a two-game road trip in Sarnia.

10. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 7) The slide for the Niagara Icedogs continues this week, as they find themselves down three more spots, finishing the pre-Christmas schedule at number ten on the Power Rankings. The ‘Dogs dropped two of three games this week, losing Thursday at home to Erie, before answering with an overtime victory over Sudbury on Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, Niagara lost in Brampton, ending the week on a sour note. The Icedogs now have nearly two weeks to think about that performance, as they play next on Friday, December 28th, in Sudbury.

11. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 13) For the second week in a row, the Kingston Frontenacs managed to pick up three points in as many games, and this week, they move up two spots to sit at number eleven on the OHL Power Rankings heading into the break. At home on Friday night, the Frontenacs defeated a tough Mississauga team by way of the shootout, but didn’t find much success on a tough road trip. The Fronts lost in Sarnia on Saturday, and again in London on Sunday afternoon, where they managed a point from an overtime loss. Kingston isn’t in action again until Friday, December 28th, when they take on the visitors from Peterborough.

12. Mississauga Steelheads – (Last Week: 11) The Mississauga Steelheads continue to struggle into the holiday break, but they do manage to earn three points from three games, and fall one spot to number twelve this week. Friday night in Kingston, the Steelheads lost a shootout decision, leaving another important point on the table, but the following night, they made no such mistake, winning in Belleville to stop a six-game slide. However, back at home on Sunday afternoon, Mississauga lost another, dropping a decision against Sudbury. The Steelheads will look for a fresh start when they begin the second half of the OHL schedule, which begins Friday, December 28th at home to Oshawa.

13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 15) It seems as though the coaching change for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds has begun to pay dividends, as the team won all three of their home games this week, and climb two spots to number thirteen in the OHL Power Rankings. Wednesday, the Hounds defeated Plymouth in overtime, and used extra time to win again on Friday, knocking off Saginaw. The Greyhounds ended a perfect week with a Sunday night victory over Windsor, hitting the holiday break on a roll. Sault Ste. Marie doesn’t play again until Saturday, December 29th, when they complete their four-game home stand against Niagara.

14. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 17) With a very successful week before the holiday break, the Sudbury Wolves bounce up three spots in this week’s OHL Power Rankings, ending the first half of the schedule by earning five out of six possible points. Friday night, at home to Plymouth, the Wolves began their three-game weekend with a win, but lost in overtime a night later in Niagara. Sudbury rebounded the next afternoon, winning in Mississauga to head to the holidays on a positive note. The Wolves have an opportunity to avenge last week’s overtime loss when they begin the second half of their schedule, Friday, December 28th at home to Niagara.

15. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 16) With eleven points in their last nine games, including three out of four points this week, the Saginaw Spirit climb one spot this week in the Power Rankings, landing at number fifteen. After an overtime loss in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday night, the Spirit returned home a night later, and would defeat Windsor to wrap up their pre-holiday schedule. Saginaw gets back in action on Thursday, December 27th, when they travel to Plymouth.

16. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 10) The Plymouth Whalers continue to freefall, both down the OHL Power Rankings and the Western Conference standings, as they find themselves on a seven-game losing streak, and are down six positions to number sixteen this week. The Whalers earned but a single point from three games over the past seven days, as an overtime loss in Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday earned a point, but extended the streak to five games. Two more road losses, Friday in Sudbury, and Saturday in Barrie, would see Plymouth’s woes continue. The Whalers will look to get back to their winning ways in the second half of the season, which begins when they host Saginaw on Thursday, December 27th.

17. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 14) Riding a four-game winning streak entering the week, the Windsor Spitfires dropped all three of their games heading into the holiday break, and slide three spots to number seventeen on this week’s OHL Power Rankings in the process. After losing at home to Kitchener on Thursday, the Spits went out on the road, losing games Saturday in Saginaw, and Sunday night in Sault Ste. Marie. Windsor begins the back half of their schedule on Thursday, December 27th, heading into the ‘lions den’, a game in London.

18. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 18) The Erie Otters have suddenly come alive at the bottom of the OHL’s Western Conference, winning three games in a row for the first time since the 2010-11 season, but remain at number eighteen in our Power Rankings this week. Thursday night, the Otters won in Niagara, and they followed that with back-to-back wins over Kitchener, first Friday, on the road, and back at home Saturday night, a game which required a shootout before Erie sent the visitors away disappointed. It will be interesting to see if the Otters can sustain their momentum over the long holiday break when they play next, Friday, December 28th, in Owen Sound.

19. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 19) Three straight losses this week sees the Peterborough Petes lose more ground in the Eastern Conference standings, and they hold at number nineteen in this week’s Power Rankings. The Petes lost at home to Brampton on Thursday, in Ottawa on Friday, and again Sunday afternoon, this time back at home versus Barrie, hitting the break on a sour note. Peterborough will look for a better start to the second half of their season on Friday, December 28th, when they play in Kingston.

20. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 20) The Ottawa 67’s remain at the bottom of this week’s OHL Power Rankings, as losses in two of their three contests this week sees them fall to 2-9-0-1 in their last twelve games. After being shutout at home on Wednesday night by Belleville, the 67’s picked up an important victory Friday, defeating the visitors from Peterborough. Sunday evening, Ottawa fought well, but couldn’t muster enough to pick up any points in Oshawa. The 67’s return to action after the holiday break in Peterborough on Saturday, December 29th.

Be on the lookout for a very special edition of ‘In The O... The Magazine’, our World Junior Hockey Championship edition will be available for download next week, giving you everything you need to know for those early morning games in Russia. We profile all the teams competing, with a look into OHL players who may make an impact.

Don’t forget that the newest edition of ‘In The O... The Magazine’ is still available for download, and is our biggest issue to date, featuring an interview with Sarnia Sting forward and Montreal Canadiens prospect Alex Galchenyuk. We also have one player’s position on the much-maligned CHLPA, a recap of the recent Silver Stick Tournament in Whitby, and a look into recent renovations around the league. We also compare how this season’s upcoming NHL draft class compares to one of the best in recent history, as we look back at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The December edition, and all past editions, are available for free download at http://www.intheoradio.com/ito-monthly-e-zine.

The ITO Players of the Week and OHL Power Rankings can be found every week for the rest of the season, right here at OHLWriters.com. Until then, join me on Twitter for conversation anytime, @N24Nicholson.

 

Anthony Nicholson is the Sports Editor for Toronto News 24 and regular contributor to OHLWriters.com, and can be heard occasionally on ‘In The O... The Radio Show’. Contact Anthony anytime for a conversation by joining him on Twitter, or send mail to anicholson@n24.ca.

Photo: Alex Galchenyuk was dominating in his final games before leaving to join Team U.S.A. at the upcoming 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships, scoring five goals and eight points in just two games. (Photo Courtesy: Terry Wilson/OHLImages)