With the help of fellow OHLwriter contributors DWilliams (@notsoheavyd) Phil Phillips (@filphillips) Alex Quevillon (@A_Quevillon) and Chris McDonald (@ChrisMcdonald91) we have brought you a quick and dirty OHL preview. What we have done is voted on where we feel each team will finish in their respect conference standings as well as vote on such things as Top Scorer, Top Defenseman, Top Rookie and Top Goalie.
Without further ado here is what we came up with for the OHL’s Western Conference.
London Knights Highest (1st x 4) Lowest (3rd)
Two time defending champions who are the hosts of the memorial cup this year. Had an unprecedented 18 players at NHL camps this September. Could they go the way of the early 90’s Greyhounds and win the Mem cup in their third try on home ice?
Guelph Storm Highest (1st x 1) Lowest (4th)
A consensus top 4 pick among the crew as the Storm return a lot of fire power. The only question is in net as they have the relatively untested Matthew Mancina who spent last season with Leamington of the GOJHL. Will they use their depth down the middle and trade someone like Hunter Garlant for an experienced goalie? Or will they give Mancina a chance to learn on the fly. (NOTE as of writing this it sounds as though Guelph has acquired Justin Nichols from the Soo Greyhounds)
Plymouth Whalers Highest (2nd x 2) Lowest (4th x 2)
While the Whalers graduate a fair bit of talent they do return one of the top goalies in the west in Alex Nedeljkovic and one of the top defensemen in Conner Carrick. Will their new additions fill the void left by those who graduated? Can they withstand the loss of Tom Wilson if he sticks with the Caps?
Saginaw Spirit Highest (2nd x 2) Lowest (6th)
Coached by Gary Gilbert the Spirit are a team the boasts arguably the best goalie in the OHL in Jake Paterson. With ace OA forward Eric Locke leading the charge on offence this is a team that is looking to make a big jump from last year.
Kitchener Rangers Highest (4th) Lowest (7th x 2)
No team in the OHL had more of a roster turn around than the Kitchener Rangers. Not only that but they are breaking in a new coach and GM. While you can always trust Kitchener to bring in the best talent you have to wonder if they will be able to gel.
Owen Sound Attack Highest (5th x 3) Lowest (9th)
With the loss of Binnington and Catenacci you have to wonder how well the Attack will do. The 3 eastern writers who helped me are rather high on them but the 2 of use from the West have them 8th and 9th.
Erie Otters Highest (5th) Lowest (8th)
How far can the young guns carry the Erie Otters? Will we see an improved Oskar Dansk? Can they overcome their questions on the blueline?
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Highest (6th) Lowest (8th)
A young team that may have trouble scoring you can expect them to play hard under coach Keefe and develop throughout the year. If you want wins against them you may have to get them early in the season.
Windsor Spitfires Highest (5th) Lowest (10th)
There were a wide range of opinions on the Windsor Spitfires but in the end they fall outside the playoffs in this experiment. Luckily for them games aren’t played on paper and they have the talent to make the playoffs if things go their way.
Sarnia Sting Highest (9th) Lowest (10th)
May be a long year for the Sarnia Sting with questions up front and in net. While there is talent there you have to wonder if there is enough to make up for their deficiencies.
Conner McDavid (Erie)
Just 16 years old but already in his 2nd season in the O after entering as an exceptional player. Can he take the next step and lead the league in scoring? It isn’t unheard of as John Tavares put up his highest point total as a 16 year old
Honourable mention Eric Locke (Saginaw)
Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie)
The Soo Greyhounds Captain is poised to have a big year with added responsibility following the departure of Colin Miller and Ryan Sproul. The big question is will his offensive game take the next step and catch up with his defensive game.
Honourable Mention Connor Carrick (Plymouth)
Dylan Strome (Erie)
The Otters 1st round pick taken 2nd overall is a former minor hockey teammate of Conner McDavid. There will be lots of ice time for him in Erie and if he can get some PP time with McDavid you can expect the points to follow.
Honourable mention Nikita Korostelev
Jake Paterson (Saginaw)
The 3rd goalie on Canada’s world jr team season. Jake has quietly been one of the best goalies in the OHL while plying his trade outside the limelight on some Saginaw teams that havnt been the greatest. The team though has geared up for what will be Jake’s final season and it is one he surely will not waste.
Honourable mention Alex Nedeljkovic
Barrie Colts Highest (1st x 3) Lowest (2nd x 2)
The defending eastern conference champs graduated a lot of talent but with the likes of Scheifele, O’Conner and Neiderberger but still have plenty left to make a run. Lead by top prospect Aaron Ekblad who comes in as our top defenseman in the East and OA forward Zach Hall who is our scoring leader favourite there is a lot to like about this years Colts team.
Kingston Frontenacs Highest (1st x 2) Lowest (3rd)
Yes the Fronts are a young squad but boy are they ever talented. With 3 players who could go in the 1st round in the upcoming draft there is a lot to like. Will they be able to handle the pressure though is the question and can OA Goalie Matt Mahalak steady the crease for a season while their young goalie prospects develop
Sudbury Wolves Highest (2nd) Lowest (4th)
While there are off the ice questions surrounding the Wolves to start the season you can’t argue with the product on the ice. With a veteran OA goalie between the pipes and a mix of young and veteran talent there is a lot to like in the nickel city.
Belleville Bulls Highest (3rd) Lowest (5th x 3)
Personally I am really high on the Bulls going into this season. Sure they lost Malcolm Subban but I feel Charlie Graham has a lot to offer. Seems I am not the only one as he receives an honourable mention as the top goalie in the east. Is he ready to take over full time? We will see but he has Jordan Subban and Brendan Guance leading the charge up front
North Bay Battalion Highest (4th x 2) Lowest (7th x 2)
Goodbye Brampton and hello North Bay. It will be great to see who this team reacts with consistent home support. News that Barclay Goodrow is coming back as an OA is a big boost to the offence. Is Jake Smith the answer in net? How much of a difference would an Altshuller or a Murray make in North Bay?
Peterborough Petes Highest (4th) Lowest (9th)
While the Pete’s may not be ready to compete for home ice this is a team that defenitly has a lot going for it and seems to be finally headed in the right direction. If Nick Ritchie can turn his tools into production in his draft year you can see great things out of this Petes team.
Oshawa Generals Highest (5th) Lowest (10th)
The Generals are an interesting team. They have one of the better goalies in Daniel Altshuller but you have to wonder if they have enough up front to make a move. You also have to wonder if Altshuller will be around all year or if they will go all in with a rebuild.
Missisauga Steelheads Highest (5th) Lowest (10th)
While there is no doubt they have talent between the pipes in Spencer Martin and a future franchise building block in Sean Day you have to wonder about the rest of the team. Some questionable drafts have left them bereft of talent up front and a lot will depend on the development of Damian Bourne. The commitment of Bryson Cianfrone is a bright spot as is the constant energy brought by Josh Burnside.
Niagara Ice Dogs Highest (6th) Lowest (10th x 2)
We saw what Marty Williamson did with lots of talent now let’s see what he can do with a young rebuilding squad. The loss of Aaron Hayden to an ankle injury hurts but there is still talent on the roster. How they develop throughout the year will be a big factor on where they finish.
Ottawa 67’s Highest (8th x 2) Lowest (10th)
After finishing last in the OHL last season the 67’s will look to avoid being the first team to pick 1st overall in 2 consecutive seasons since the Mississauga Ice Dogs. Any hopes of a playoff finish lies with Sean Monahan and his NHL prospects. If he sticks with the Flames which is looking more and more likely it should be another top 4 draft pick.
Zach Hall (Barrie)
The top returning scorer in the East, Zach is an OA who is looking to build upon a strong NHL camp he had in Vancouver as a FA invite. Forming a formidable dual with Andreas Athanasiou look for both of them to pile up the points.
Honourable Mention Andreas Athanasiou (Barrie)
Aaron Ekblad (Barrie)
17 years old and already entering his 3rd season. This former exceptional status player is a concencious top 5 pick for the upcoming NHL entry draft. Arguable the Colts top defenseman in the playoffs last year look for him to continue to build on his strong play.
Honourable mention Jordan Subban (Belleville)
Travis Konecny (Ottawa)
The 1st overall pick in this past May’s OHL priority Selection, Travis will have plenty of ice time on a young Ottawa team to show what he can do.
Honourable mention Sean Day (Mississauga)
Frank Palazzese (Sudbury)
After coming over from Kitchener in the trade the netted the Rangers Corrado and Leivo, Palazzese stacked claim to the Sudbury net. Now an OA he is primed to lead the Wolves to the best season they have had in years.
Honourable Mention Charlie Graham (Belleville)