A new season is upon us as we enter year 3 of the “Program” under Kyle Dubas. It is also the first full season the Hounds will have under head coach Sheldon Keefe. With so many top scorers graduating after last season there are a lot of questions marks surrounding this group, so much so that the consensus seems to be an 8th place finish for the Hounds in the West. Personally I have no problem with this for 2 reasons. 1 preseason predictions mean nothing and secondly predictions are predicated on what is known and with so many young players there is a lot that is unknown about this group.

 

Forwards

I have been debating on how to do the season preview this season so I thought I would get creative with the layout. I have grouped the players in 4 groups and it should be noted that this is in no way a projection of lines it is just away to more easily group my thoughts based on what could be expected from them this year.

The Known Scorers

Sergey Tolchinsky-Jared McCann-Andrew Fritsch

On paper it appears the Hounds will be hard pressed for goals this year. Every year there will be players who step up and exceed expectations but you don’t know where that will come from and you will still always need a core group to lead the way. This year it falls on the Hounds 3 highest returning scorers and the only Hounds to have registered a 20 goal season in the O.

Sergey is coming of a summer that ended fantastically (signing a contract with Carolina) but started on a rather disappointing note (Not getting drafted). In his first OHL season he potted 26 goals for the Hounds and more of the same should be expected. A target of 35 goals is a total that does not seem farfetched at all.

Jared scored 21 goals for the Hounds last year as a 16 y/o rookie. That is the highest total from a Hound at that age since Joe Thornton. Jared is one of the more highly rated forwards for the upcoming NHL draft and playing for the Hounds he will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents as he is definitely penciled in as the Hounds #1 centre.

Andrew is entering his OA year after the Pheonix Coyotes decided not to offer him an NHL contract last year. Talent has never been a question for Andrew it has always been injuries and other questions marks. You could see the maturation process really start to pick up steam with him last year and he was reward with an “A” on his jersey for this season. To me what really sticks out about his leadership was his tweet after Landon Schiller was placed on waivers. This is someone who I feel is just getting ready to explode offensively in the OHL

The Secondary Offence

Jorgen Karterud-David Miller-Mitchell Dempsey

To me this is the group that is really going to dictate where the Hounds finish in the standings. We know what to expect from the big 3 but it will be contributions from this trio that will determine how successful the Hounds are. How does Jorgen adjust to the OHL? Does David carry over his great play in the OJHL? Does Mitchell finally find his offensive game?

Jorgen has had a strong training camp and preseason for the Hounds and so far has shown that he has the ability to be more than serviceable as a top 6 forward. How he adjusts to the grind of a 68 game schedule and the physical nature of the OHL will be intriguing to watch.

David played last season for the Georgetown Raiders of the OJHL earning a 1st team all prospect spot for his great play. He also suited up in 5 games for the Hounds in the regular season and 5 in the playoffs when Jared McCann went down with injury. He is a player who knows how to win as he helped lead the Mississauga Rebels to the OHL cup and picks up his game when it matters most. Expect him to seize a 2nd line role as he becomes more comfortable with the speed of the OHL game

Mitchell has been a bit of an enigma during his time in the OHL. A former 1st round pick he has only 2 goals in 70 career games. Last season the Hounds had another former 1st round OHL pick that was a power forward but struggled to score his first few seasons. While I am not saying Mitchell is David Broll the development of David is something that can give hope to Hounds fans.

The OA’s, the 19 y/o and the 1st round pick

Patrick Watling-Tyler Gaudet—Dylan Staples-Blake Speers

This group you have 3 of the more veteran players as well as your 1st round pick Blake Speers. You have some players here who have a role on this team and can peform it well but can also jump up and perform in a top 6 role in a pinch. With Blake Speers you have a rookie with tremendous upside and one who will get better as the season progresses.

Patrick came over in an offseason trade with the Guelph Strom a team with which he helped form one of the better energy lines with Ryan Horvat and Tyler Bertuzzi. Patrick brings great speed to the Hounds and should do wonders for their penalty kill

Tyler came abourd midseason last year and in my opion he really solidified the team down the middle. He is a big body who does great in a 3rd line role and on the PK. It should be noted that Tyler has the ability to fill in as the 2nd line center from time to time and not look out of place.

Dylan enters his 3rd season with the Hounds and his 151 career games ranks 2nd among Hounds forwards. Dylan has increase his goal total each year in the O and 15-20 this season is not an unrealistic number. As a North Bay native I am sure he is excited about the prospect of playing in front of friends and family this year

There is not much to say about Blake that hasn’t already been said. The first local 1st round pick since Tyler Kennedy, the first SSM native to appear in the NHLPA mentorship camp. The list goes on and on. While expectations are high for the local kid it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to light the world on fire from the start. The last 3 players chosen 11th overall are Damien Bourn, Mitchell Dempsey and Chris Marchese. Their goal totals respectively in their rookie seasons 2, 1 and 3.

The battlers

Trent Mallette-Nick Pastorious-Ryan Kirkup-Michael Bunting-Brandon Hughes

Why is this group titled the battlers? Well because these are the guys who will be battling for ice time. I’m not saying these are the only players who will be battling for ice time as I sure others will be to if they don’t play to expectations. The thing with this group is they consist of energy guys or players who have yet to play in the OHL. Mallette and Kirkup had their fair share of games last year but never really anything in much more than a 4th line role. Pastorious a physical energy winger spent time with the Thunderbirds and Bunting and Hughes are coming from Midget. It is hard to anticipate what will come from this group but there is always hope. After all Ryan Sproul and Tyler Ganly made the jump from Midget to the OHL to NHL draft picks.

Forward Group by the Numbers

867 – That is the total number of combined regular season games this current crop of Hounds forwards has played. With only 3 players at over 100 career games (Fritsch, Staples and Watling) some may point to this as a red flag. While that may be true it should be noted that inexperience and results are not mutually exclusive and by playoff time you should be able to add another 816 games to the career total.

182 – that is the total number of career goals out of this crop of Hound forwards. Scoring will be at a premium but there were 0 career goals between McCann and Tolchinsky heading into last season and they now account for nearly 18% of the Hounds offence last season

196 – That is the total number of career assists the Hounds are bringing with them this year. Look for David Miller to be the one to step up here as he has great natural play making abilities.

6’5” – Your tallest Hounds forward this season is Norweigen import Jorgen Karterud. In total only 3 Hounds forwards top 6’2” Karterud, Dempsey and Gaudet.

217 – That would be your heaviest Greyhound as weighed in the imperial pound. His name? Mitchell Dempsey. In all only 3 greyhound forward top 200lbs.  While I have noticed some Hounds fans point this out as a concern what they do lack in size they make up for in speed and you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

18 Years 162 Days – What is that? Well assuming I didn’t mess up with any of my excel inputs that is the average age of your Soo Greyhound forward corps this year. It Breaks down with 3 ‘93s, 2 ‘94s, 4 95’s, 5 96’s and 1 97. Young? Yes but as GM Kyle Dubas said Tuesday night on the State of Hounds hockey radio broadcast it is always better to have a good young player rather than a bad older player.

 

Defense

The Veterans

Darnell Nurse-Alex Gudbranson-Tyler Ganly

The three big guns on the blue line for the Hounds as you will be hard pressed to find a better top 3 in the league. They are big and can play mean and all improved greatly from the beginning of last season to the playoffs. Are they ready to fill the void left by Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller? Maybe not on offence but when you look at a complete game I think they can more than do that.

Darnell is currently still in Edmonton at the time of me writing this. Drafted by the Oilers in the 1st round he was named the Captain of the Greyhounds in the summer. A leader on and off the ice Darnell saw his offensive game blossom last year after scoring 1 goal as a 16 year old he picked up 12 last season. We know he will bring a mean physical brand of hockey to the defensive zone but what kind of growth can we expect offensively? With his game continuing to evolve and greater responsibility on the power play I think 15 goals is a fair estimate. Could he score 20? I don’t think it’s out of the question but we will have to wait and see.

Alex received cult like status in the Soo last year as the city rallied behind his beard as the Hounds took on the Owen Sound Attack. Arguably the most physical defenceman on the team he is a reliable stay at home type. He has the ability to find the net with his hard shot but what Hounds fans can expect most from Alex are hard high leveraged minutes against opposing teams top players

Tyler made the Hounds out of training camp last year after spending his 16yo season playing midget hockey. When injuries beset the defense last year and knocked Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller out of the lineup it was Tyler who more than anyone seized the opportunity. Playing big important minutes when needed Tyler earned his spot in the lineup and was eventually drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes. It is amazing to think that at the pink in the rink night his jersey went for the lowest amount.

The Rookies

Kyle Jenkins-Colton White-Medric Mercier

The three defensemen with the least amount of OHL experience all played at different levels last year. Jenkins in the OJHL, White played minor midget and Medric played midget. Last season it was Tyler Ganly who stepped up will one of these 3 step up and seize top for minutes?

Kyle comes in with arguably the most expectations after earning 1st team all prospect honours while playing in the OJHL last season for the Oakville Blades. With the offensive upside that he brings he will be looked upon to help fill a gaping hole in terms of offense from the point after last seasons departures.

Colton may have the most upside of this group after being made a 2nd round draft pick. It will be interesting to see how quickly he adjusts to the speed of the game. Will he be able to make the jump from minor midget or will he struggle to find ice time like last season’s 2nd round pick Kevin Spinozzi.

Medric acquainted himself to Sault Ste. Marie hockey fans quite nicely during last season’s Telus cup as his Ottawa Jr. 67s came a game short of the national championship. While he showed some offensive flair by scoring 4 goals in the tournament look for him to bring more to the defensive side of the game rather than the offensive.

Those with something to prove

Mac Clutsum-Kevin Spinozzi

Last season’s 7th and 8th defensemen have experience on their side. Will they be able to use that as they try to fend off the new rookies who will be hungry for ice time? Will Mac be able to assert himself in the line up? From what I have heard it sounds like he had a very good training camp will he be able to carry it over? Will Kevin begin to tap into the potential that allowed him to be selected in the 2nd round in the 2012 draft? Can he become another physical force on the blueline and solidify the unit as a whole?

Defensive Group by the Numbers

418 – Total number of career games played among the 8 Hounds D. Alex Gudbranson leads the way 177 games and while Kyle Jenkins and Medric Mercier are rookies, Kyle played heavy minutes in the OJHL last year and Medric was a star on a team that made it to the final of the Telus Cup. While they may lack “OHL” experience this is a group that doesn’t lack hockey experience.

21 – Number of Career goals scored by the Hounds defense. Only Darnell Nurse and Alex Gudbrandson have scored in the OHL. Personally I am not overly worried about that as Kyle Jenkins received lots of power play time for Oakville in the OJHL last season and was the highest scoring 16 year old Dman in the league.

87 – Number of career assists among the Hounds defense core. 2nd Round pick Colton White has some offensive upside and while you don’t know what to expect from a 16 year old as they adjust to the league it will be intriguing to see what kind of opportunities he gets to showcase his skill.

6’4” – Your tallest Greyhound defenseman is non-other than team captain Darnell Nurse.

213 – Your heaviest Greyhound defenseman is Alex Gudbranson who tips the scales at the aforementioned weight of 213 pounds. Must be the preseason weight because come playoff time that is his beard weight.

17 Years 319 Days – That is the average age for your Greyhound defense core come the season opening game on Friday. One of the youngest in the league yet with the core of Nurse, Gudbranson and Ganly coupled with the diverse skill set of the other 5 I feel this is by far a strength of the Hounds.

Goalies

Matt Murray-Brandon Halverson

Well as I was writing this section it came to my attention that the Hounds were in the process of moving Justin Nichols. So I have waited till now to post and turns out he was dealt to the Guelph Storm for a 3rd round pick in 2015. That clearly means they are going with Matt Murray (who should see action in 50-55 games this year) for this season which shouldn’t come as a surprise as his personal goalie coach was hired by the Hounds as their team goalie coach. Also it signals that the future of the Hounds crease clearly belongs to Brandon Halverson (who should see action in 15-20 games).

Matt is coming back to the Hounds after spending the past few weeks at the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp. Arguably one of the top goalies in the OHL’s western conference he certainly solidifies the team between the pipes as his name can be found in the top 10 in almost all the Hounds major goalie stats.

Brandon has come in as a bit of an unknown to Hounds fans after playing last year in Michigan. Named one of the Hounds top 10 prospects by thescout.ca Brandon will be looked upon to gain experience this season before taking over the reins with Justin Nichols next season when the Hounds are primed for a deep run.

Goalies by the Numbers

6199 – The total number of career minutes for the Hounds goalies, all of which belong to Matt Murray which puts him among the top 10 all-time among Hounds alumni.

6’4.5” – The average height of the Hounds goalies as they have some big boys in there this season who take up a lot of net.

257 – The number of goals let in by the Hounds this year. While it is unfair to pin all of this on the goalies they will need to steal some games as offense at least on paper is clearly not one of the Hounds strong suits.