The Canadian Junior Hockey League released its weekly Top 20 list of Jr. A hockey clubs, with both the Carleton Place Canadians and the Ottawa Junior Senators returning to the list for the September 30th edition.
The list includes the likes of defending RBC Cup champion Brooks Bandits and the powerhouse Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
The highest ranked Ontarian team was the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners of the NOJHL, while Carleton Place and Ottawa check in at 14th and 15th on the list respectively. This has been a reoccurring image since the start of the season, with the Jr. Sens and Canadians routinely finding themselves near the top of the list.
In turn, this makes them the teams to beat thus far in the CCHL – and the results on paper have not disappointed.
Starting with the Carleton Place Canadians, they have become the first team to reach 20 points so far this season, posting a 11-3-0-0 record, good enough for first overall in the league.
This has been done as a result of the leadership set forth from GM/Coach Jason Clarke and the returning players from last season stepping into team-leading roles, turning the heads of scouts everywhere.
Andy Sturtz leads the charge as far as scoring is concerned. Sturtz is a new addition to the Carleton Place Canadians; hailing from Buffalo, NY. Impressively, he spent the majority of last season in Jr. B, playing for the St Catherines Falcons of the GOJHL.
Heading into the CCHL, he’s electrified the league with speed and skill, tallying 21 points in 13 games. He most recently added a hat trick and an assist in a 6-0 rout of the Brockville Braves.
Other returnees who have been making some expected noise include assistant captain Stephen Baylis.
The big body of Baylis was expected to have a big year on the score sheet, while adding an extra pop to the Canadians lineup as he garnered 93 PIMs last year. Moving into a leadership role this year, you can expect to see Baylis make some strides and become a complete player. He is already on pace to become a point per game player, putting up 14 points in his first 11 games played.
Both Kelly Summers and Jim Roll have chipped in from the blue line on the offensive side of the puck, with Roll joining CP as another American import; coming from West Seneca, NY.
Roll made the rounds last season, starting out in the OJHL while he finished the majority of the season playing 55 games on the blue line for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL.
Roll brings an offensive spark and experience from the United States’ highest tier junior league. Up until this point, he’s been primarily a set-up man with 13 of his 15 points marked down as apples.
Sturtz and Roll are two additions that you can mark up to the recruiting powers of Jason Clarke. He’s shown that he isn’t afraid to dig deep into the US in order to find the guys who will get his team to the top of the league.
Thus far, the new additions haven’t disappointed and complement the returning crop of players to turn the Carleton Place Canadians into what I believe to be the championship favourites.
The Ottawa Junior Senators are another club that should find itself occupying a top spot in the standings this year, under highly underrated GM/Coach Rick Dorval.
A lot of credit is due here for the Jr. Sens organization and Rick Dorval specifically for the work he’s done to turn his squad into what seems to be a legitimate contender after bowing out in the second round of the playoffs last year to Nepean. Dorval, who came in to Ottawa and impressively built his team mostly through trades, has put OJS on the map.
Returning to the team for a 2nd season after putting up 79 points last year, 94-born Ryan Collins is set to lead the Jr. Sens to a championship series appearance. The CCHL’s Player of the Month is already on pace for over 100 points, so one should see him near the top of the league in scoring for the entirety of the year.
Collins is also currently found near the top of the CJHL scoring race, featuring all Jr. A players in Canada. Collins could be the reason that the Jr. Sens are turning so many heads around the Canadian Jr. A circuit, as they continue to rank highly on the CJHL’s list.
Ottawa also has some veteran leadership among their core, starting with major junior returnees in Deric Boudreau and Matthieu Desautels.
Boudreau spent all of last season with the Gatineau Olympiques, but finds himself back in the CCHL this season, where he’s produced big time, amassing a 2.4 Pt/G average up until this point. One would expect Boudreau to keep up at least a point per game production. He’s also proven to be a thorn in the side of opposing clubs since returning to the Jr. A circuit.
Desautels’ return to the CCHL didn’t happen without some social media drama, however since that has subsided we have seen him develop a prominent role in the Jr Sens’ system. This includes ample penalty kill time, and while he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers, his presence on the back end is surely welcomed by Rick Dorval.
Other leaders on the team include Eric Clitsome, the younger brother of Winnipeg Jets blue liner Grant Clitsome. Eric has been occupying CCHL rosters since 2008, and you’d have good reason to bet that he’d be the guy to lead the charge to a championship victory for Ottawa in his overage season.
You’d be smart to keep your eye on at least one of these two teams to engage in the Bogart Cup final this year. It won’t be an easy ride, as the Pembroke Lumber Kings among other clubs have recently shown – but again, these two clubs and their fire power will be very tough to hold back in the later rounds of this year’s playoffs.