Entries in Saginaw Spirit (18)

Wednesday
Nov132013

Once A Patriot, Now a Knight?

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

Micahel Prapavessis, Toronto Lakeshore Patriots / OJHL ImagesA King’s ransom, the rich get richer, flexing their muscle… whatever you want to call it the London Knights may have done it again.

On Tuesday the 12th, the Knights made a trade with the Saginaw Spirit for the rights to Michael Prapavessis, a defenceman who is currently playing for the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in the OJHL. London gave up a 15th round pick in 2015 for the chance to talk to the NHL draft eligible blueliner and a conditional 5th round pick in 2015. What’s the condition you may ask? Saginaw will get the second draft pick if Prapavessis breaks his commitment to RPI and steps foot on OHL ice.

You guessed it, another ‘strong armed’ power play by the Knights to lure top level NCAA commits to come to a winning program.

Well not exactly, unlike other NCAA commits that have put on the black, gold and green, Prapavessis isn’t in college yet. His commitment is set to begin in 2014/15, although that may not be the end of the Knights pursuing the young blueliner. Dakota Mermis and Anthony Stolarz both suited up in college before suiting up in the OHL. To a degree, Michael McCarron is in the same boat, although signing a pro deal pretty much came with the add on, go play in Canada.

It is a scene that many OHL fans are use to and something that London fans love. The top team is always able to get there man.

But this may be a different case entirely. London may be acting on complete blind faith in making this deal. Sure, they have the facility, the players, the television network and all the other accoutrement to change anyone’s mind, but there is something not right. The London Knights have yet to speak to the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots about Michael Prapavessis.

I am not saying for certain that there is a rule that you inform the team that you want to pluck a player from the roster, but isn’t it good manners to do so?

The long and short of it is that Prapavessis is a talented defenceman who was pegged as a late bloomer, and surprise! After half a season in the OJHL he already was thought of as a grizzled veteran and two months into this season he has shown his growth and commitment to improve not only on the ice but off the ice. A smooth skater who isn’t afraid to skate with the puck, who can spot the open lane and lead his forwards with a pass. A good shot that will produce rebounds and his defensive skills are some of the best in the OJHL.

But that is the OJHL, and not the OHL. Whether or not Prapavessis suits up for the London Knights is still a question mark. Where would he fit on the blueline this season? You have veterans Alex Basso and Brady Austin patrolling the blue line, Dakota Mermis and import Tim Bender to round out the top 4. What you have is then three players for the bottom two spots: Santino Centorame, Miles Liberati and Aiden Jamieson. To bring in Prapavessis, I would think you give him top 4 minutes because sooner or later he is going to earn them. Does that make Basso expendable? Or moveable down the depth chart? London is hosting the Memorial Cup this season… Or on the flip side this is a futures move because you lose Basso, Austin, more than likely Mermis next season and then have Prapavessis come in and be a top 3 guy after he is drafted by an NHL team in the late round or offered to come to rookie camp as an invite.

An interesting move none the less and has me thinking, how many OHL teams pay that close attention to what goes on in the OJHL. Many hidden gems as the league improves and a few more players are drafted. So did they do it again or are the reigning OHL champs, just trying to defend their territory?

Thursday
May162013

Bringing the Spirit Back

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

After what could have been a completely disappointing season for Saginaw, turned into a magical second half. Shades of the season prior too. The OHL trade deadline comes up and the Spirit deal their captain Vincent Trocheck, not many thought that the Spirit could be competitive. Turns out everyone forgot that Jake Paterson was in between the pipes and that the team under Greg Gilbert just doesn’t quit. The Spirit battled hard and was able to stave off the Windsor Spitfires to hold onto the 8th seed and make another post season berth.

The Spirit were swept by the London Knights in the first round, not really surprising, but given that Saginaw was able to push for 6 games last season, there was some hope that they could make the series longer. With their first round exit, it gave the Spirit hockey operations time to focus on the upcoming OHL draft. Saginaw was stocked with 4 picks in the first 44 picks, almost assuring that the team will have a really great 97 corps to step into the OHL this season, similar to Kingston with the 96’s.

With their first four picks, Saginaw’s GM Jim Paliafito selected Mitchell Stephens (8th), Ryan Orban (23rd), Michael Holmes (28th) and Marcus Crawford (44th), Stephens a high profile forward who helped lead the Toronto Marlboros all season long, along with Orban, Holmes and Crawford being defenceman, each with a unique skill set. Saginaw wasted no time in signing these four individuals as the last player to put pen to paper was Marcus Crawford who signed a few days ago.

Entering next season the Spirit look to be icing a farily competitive squad with returning forwards that could be lead by OA Eric Locke, Justin Kea, Nick Moutrey, Jimmy Lodge with sophomores, Dylan Sadowy, Zach Bratina and Jeremiah Addison. Add to the mix Mitchell Stephens who could instantly see second line minutes on a younger but very competitive squad. From one scout, here is how they see Stephens’ game heading into his rookie season of the OHL.

 

“Biggest gift is his excellent footwork and extremely strong skating stride… Remarkable skater with a great range of speed… He is at his best when aggressively driving into lanes… A shoot first player… Needs to continue his core strength to win battles down low… Has the potential to be a top line forward.”

 

Adding Stephens in with the aforementioned 7 forwards is a very dynamic top 8 that has pretty good depth heading into this season. Looking at the defence corps and you have Dalton Young and Steven Strong hopefully returning for an OA season, if not the Spirit will at least get 1 of the 2 OHL veterans back to help teach the 97’s as well as help them mature and grow their own game. Brandon Prophet will of course be returning to be a 3-4 defeneman depending on if both veteran blueliners come back. From there Saginaw has a lot of choice on the back end. There is Marseilis Subban, Ramon Lopez, Grant Weiberman and Jacob Ringuette, the first two D-men splitting half the season. Here is a quick glance at what each signed defencemen from this year’s OHL draft can bring to the team…

 

Michael Holmes – “Stable, intelligent defenceman… quite strong and balanced on his feet… top offensive weapon… projects as a depth defenceman at the next level  who should be effective physically.”

Ryan Orban – “Smooth, cerebral workhorse with deceivingly effective north south mobility… thick legs generate a lot of power with and without the puck… strong skater who manages the gaps… slowly refining outlets and offensive decision making.”

Marcus Crawford – “Smooth heads up puck-mover… balanced skater with good quickness… confident puck rusher possesses top end elusiveness… creative running the powerplay and can open up lanes for powerful slapshot… projects out to be a top 4 defenceman at the next level , with potential to be a puck distributor on the powerplay.”

Those are your ‘cole’s notes’ on the Spirit’s first four draft picks from this year’s OHL Priority Selection Draft, all of which who are signed and should be in the lineup at the start of the 2013/14 season for Saginaw. After the quick sweep in the playoffs and this year being a ‘step back’ after the last couple, the Spirit are in prime position to make a big impact this season thanks to these four players. 

Saturday
Apr132013

OHL Draft Pick Sleepers: West Division

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

Missed a day and now we are back with the final division. It is time to take a look at the West Division and a few sleepers each team selected in the OHL Draft from last week.
As ITO has before, will take a look at picks from the 5th to the 15th round

The last look is at the West division consisting of the Plymouth Whalers, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Sarnia Sting, Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires.

Plymouth Whalers
Liam Dunda
(Don Mills Flyers, F) 6th round – A big forward that could step into an OHL lineup right now based on his size alone. Not the swiftest skater on the ice but he is a force on the ice and knows how to play in all 3 zones. He is at his best when he is in the offensive zone and parked in front of the net or cycling the puck behind the net and off the side wall. He will grow in a controlled environment and can step his game up to match his teammates.
Alex DiCarlo (Vaughan Kings, D) 7th round – I was wondering who would take a chance on DiCarlo, and I should have known that it would have been Plymouth. No matter how RAW of a talent a player is, Mike Vellucci has a way to turn them in to stars. DiCarlo is in every essence a RAW talent, he has been talked about as having the tools needed to succeed. Needs work in mostly all areas to be a strong shutdown defenceman. Good with the puck, physical in all areas, and can skate well. The future is bright for DiCarlo and there probably isn’t a better franchise to take him and develop him.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Chris Klack
(Halton Hurricanes, F) 6th round – In a minor midget season, you want to see progression and the player getting better. It was probably late November, or mid decemeber prior to the Marlboros Holiday Classic where Chris made a name for himself. All this kid does is score goals… no that isn’t fair, because when he isn’t scoring he is back checking hard, setting up his teammates or being a physical presence on the ice. Hard working, good skater who loves to carry the puck. Great shot, good net presence and a knack for finding the puck and the back of the net.
Adrian Hochstetler-Clark (Oakville Rangers, G) 8th round – Adrian was seen as the backup goaltender with the Rangers this season but he played much better than that. Clark lead the SCTA with 19 wins this season. Take it for what it is worth but a 19-1-1 record is a nothing to scoff at. The 6’2” goalie got his chance during the OHL Cup where he really started to shine. A solid goaltender who is rarely caught out of position, even when the play breaks down in front of him. Always square to the shooter, never making unnecessary movements and reacting to the play instead of assuming what may happen. Strong down low as he can cover a lot of net and just overall could be considered underrated.
Will Scott (Whitby Wildcats, F) 11th round – Another small forward with a lot of skill drafted by the Greyhounds. Will is good centreman and can really help control the play whether he wins or loses the draw. He has a high compete and a lot of toughness to ‘compensate’ for his smaller stature. Will has great skating ability and a smart player with and without the puck. He may not to get the puck in the net as often as he likes, but he is on the ice for a lot of goals for.

Saginaw Spirit
Jackson Bales
(Brampton 45s, F) 8th round – Jackson really came to light at the Silver Stick tournament and was a player to watch since then. He loves to have the puck on his stick and shoot it at will. Bales is a great skater with the puck, not necessarily a great skater without it, but a smart skater and is able to find the seems or make the passes to his teammates to keep the play going. He plays bigger than he is and shows his high compete level challenging every skater with the puck that comes his way.
Kyler Carter (Sun County Panthers, F) 8th round – Kyler doesn’t particularly stand out in one area of play. Carter plays well in the offensive zone, defensive zone and is willing to play in any role: power play, penalty kill, defensive zone face offs, energy player etc. If Kyler can get on the ice, he leaves it all on the ice. Good skater with a good hockey sense. There are some areas that Carter needs to improve on, but nothing glaring and nothing that will keep him from playing in the OHL. The earliest you may seem him in the OHL would be the 2014/15 season but I do not doubt that he will work extremely hard to make people take notice of him and give him a true opportunity
Christian Rajic (Mississauga Rebels, F) 11th round – A true speedster who knows how to carry the puck and create plays seemingly out of nothing. If there isn’t an option, Christian has no fear in carrying the puck by himself going up against 2 defenders. Now that won’t work for him at the OHL level, but Rajic is a smart enough player to know when and where he can try to be a ‘one man show’ through the season he has improved his play without the puck, even adding a physical element that you wouldn’t expect. A strong passer, developed in the defensive zone, and really stepped up in a leadership type role to take it upon himself to turn the game in favour of the Rebels whenever they were down or needed the boost.

Sarnia Sting
Nick Boka
(Detroit Compuware, D) 6th round – I like this pick because with his ‘de-commitment’ from Michigan State, there is a good chance you could see him in the lineup next season. A strong defenceman who has an offensive flair for the position. A great skater and a physical guy. Knows how to use his size effectively in the neutral zone and steps it up in the defensive zone. Strong postionally and smart physically. Good breakout passes and understands his role on the ice. If he comes the OHL, you can see him in the lineup next season.
J.P. Sabourin (Eastern Ontario Wild, G) 15th round – The EOW goalie is arguably the best masked man from the Ottawa region this year. High compete and challenges every shooter to beat him. Lots of confidence in Sabourin which will bode well for him as he may have to wait a year to see some OHL action. Good glove, great agility and good rebound control for a goalie his age. Has the potential, he justs needs the chance.

Windsor Spitfires
Brendan Warren
(Detroit Compuware, F) 5th round – a bold pick by Sarnia because Warren is not only a Michigan commit, but he also signed up for the USNTDP. There is a good chance you will not see Warren until he is drafted to the NHL. At one point this year Warren was considered a top 5 pick and as the season progressed ‘settled’ to a top 10 pick. Either way you get a forward who can control the game at will. Whether Brendan takes the puck for a skate, or methodically enters the zone. A great shot really sets Warren apart from other highly touted forwards in this draft. He has great vision and can skate very well which is allows him to be dominate with the puck and be a threat without it. Looking forward to seeing more from Warren and hopefully in a Yellow, White and Black jersey in the near future.
Brendan Johnston (Chatham-Kent Cyclones, G) 5th round – Throughout the year, when talking about the best goalies in this years draft, Brendan’s name continuously popped up. Playing on Chatham-Kent, Johnston faced a lot of tough competition in the ALLIANCE this year. Brendan is very agile and is able to cover a lot of ground fast. A good glvoe stymies some of the best shooters as they look to beat him high. Down low Johnston is strong at the posts and going side to side on them. Even when he is down low, he can cover a lot of net as he tries to make himself as big as he possibly can. He may not fit into the Spitifres plans right away, but with a solid year in Jr B. exepect him to get good looks in 2014/15.

Wednesday
Mar202013

Western Conference Playoff Preview

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

The ITO Crew put their collective heads together and came together with the Western Conference playoff preview.

London Knights v Saginaw Spirit

The Saginaw Spirit were a much better team over the second half of the season, as they were able to push past the Windsor Spitfires before pulling away from them in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their reward? A first-round matchup with the high-powered London Knights. While the Spirit have impressed with their play, it’s hard to imagine that Saginaw has enough to eliminate the Knights, who set franchise-records for consecutive wins, with 24, and games with at least a point, 28, over a two-month span during the season. London would finish the season with fifty wins, eighteen more than Saginaw’s total for the year, a large gap between the two clubs.

In goal, Saginaw will likely ride Jake Paterson, while his same-name counterpart with the Knights, Jake Patterson, is likely to start the series on the bench. London released veteran Kevin Bailie, to make room for Anthony Stolarz, and Stolarz will be given every opportunity to lead his team a long way in this year’s playoffs. The Knights have also put together a very capable group of defenders to play in front of him, led by veterans Olli Maatta and Scott Harrington, and joined by dynamic players such as Nikita Zadorov and Dakota Mermis, making London a scary team to deal with. Saginaw’s group of defenders may not put up the same number’s as their London counterparts, but they bring a yeoman’s work-ethic every night, and have had success at making opposition forwards squirm. There are times when it feels like Dalton Young and Jason Shaw are always on the ice, Steven Strong and Grant Webermin fill in to give Saginaw a good top four.

Up front, however, the Spirit just don’t have enough goal scorers to make it a long series with the London Knights. Forty-goal scorers Garret Ross and Eric Locke will continue to put the puck in the net, but scoring becomes scarce relatively quick after that. Jimmy Lodge and Justin Kea can also light the lamp, but they will have to come up big to give Saginaw any chance. The Knights come into the series with a ton of talent up front, nine different forwards on the team scored at least ten goals this season, the most among any team. Draft-eligible Max Domi led the way with 39 markers this season, while wingers Seth Griffith and Bo Horvat both also scored over thirty. London also had three more players crack the twenty-goal plateau, Matt Rupert, Alex Broadhurst, and Josh Anderson, giving them a number of options to go to. While Saginaw should be commended for a solid run.

Prediction is London in five games.

Plymouth Whalers v Sarnia Sting

The Sarnia Sting are well aware that they come into this series labelled as the underdog, as the West Division champion Plymouth Whalers enter the post-season on an absolute roll, winners of eight in a row, and sixteen of their last seventeen games. Both teams boast powerful offenses, meaning we should see some entertaining hockey in this series, and the goaltender who plays the best could very well steal the series. The Whalers solidified their offense at the deadline, acquiring fifty-goal scorer Vince Trocheck, and he joins an excellent bunch of forwards, which includes thirty-goal scorers Garrett Meurs and Matt Mistele, as well as NHL prospects Tom Wilson, Stefan Noesen, and Rickard Rakell, among others. The Sting have no shortage of scorers in their own right, including Reid Boucher, who set a franchise-record with 62 goals, and Charles Sarault, who finished the season with 108 points.

Sarnia does bring an excellent group of defensemen into the series, as Anthony DeAngelo and Alex Basso split a great deal of the work-load. Craig Duininck and rookie Tyler Hore round out the top four for Sarnia, while Gianluca Curcuruto and Connor Carrick take on much of the defensive responsibility for Plymouth. The difference in the series could very well be the goaltending, as the Whalers appear to have given the net to Alex Nedeljkovic, who, in his first season, has supplanted Matt Mahalak as the starting goaltender. In Sarnia, there is no doubt as to who the number-one goaltender is, as they will turn to J.P. Anderson, who brings plenty of playoff experience after guiding Mississauga to the 2011 Memorial Cup Final.

While I don’t expect the Sarnia Sting to roll over a play dead for a Plymouth club that comes into the playoffs firing on all cylinders, I don’t think there is enough to predict a upset in this series.

Prediction in Plymouth in six games.

Owen Sound Attack v Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds

What would a playoff series be without storylines and boy does this series have them. From Daniel Catenacci’s return to S.S.M. to the renewed minor midget rivalry of Nick Cousins and Catenacci, to two of the smallest OHL markets locking heads this series.

Daniel was chosen 1st overall in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection by the Soo Greyhounds. He played 2 seasons up in Sault Ste Marie picking up 101 points in 132 games in the Red and White before asking to be dealt in the summer of 2011. While the reasons as to why he asked to be traded are now immaterial it should be noted that key Greyhounds Andrew Fritsch and Michael Schumacher came back the other way. While fan reaction has been rather subdued in his previous returns to the North it will be interesting to see if it is any different in the playoffs.

What may have been forgotten by some is the Rivalry that Daniel Catenacci and Nick Cousins had growing up playing youth hockey in the OMHA. In their Minor Midget year Daniels York Simcoe Express were a loaded group while Nick played for the much less heralded Quinte Red Devils. With Nick playing his normal methodical offensive game with a splash of antagonism here and being a pest there, the Red Devils were able to upset the Express for the league championship. While they say the hatchet was buried when they became teammates it will be interesting to see what transpires out on the ice. Does Nick get the better of him again at the next level?

With Big Market Teams like the London Knights, Windsor Spitfires and Kitchener Rangers winning their fair share of league titles there were some who wondered if small market teams could really compete in the OHL. In 2011 lead by Joey Hishon and Scott Stajcer, the Owen Sound Attack turned heads in the regular season by finishing 1st in the West but still there were questions as to whether or not they could parlay that regular season success into playoff success. After a grueling conference final against the Windsor Spitfires the Attack took on the Memorial Cup host Mississauga St. Michaels Majors in the league championship taking the series in 7 and showing all that small market teams can have success. The following off-season Kyle Dubas took over as GM of the Soo Greyhounds with the goal of turning the Soo Greyhounds into a league powerhouse even though they themselves are in small market. This is the teams 1st step in their quest to reach that level.

For Owen Sound, the team will have to take advantage of home ice. The Bayshore arena is small, crowded and loud. The Attack will need to use this to their advantage while the Owen Sound faithful cheer for the home team and jeer the opposition. The Attack need to take a careful approach to each game as the Greyhounds try to rope their opponents into wagon-fire hockey, in which they excel at. One of the main areas of focus for the Attack is neutralizing Colin Miller and Ryan Sproul. Not only are the duo strong defensively, they have to be aware of the offence that the pair can create, 40 goals this season to be exact and a total of 121 points between them.

The Greyhounds keys to success is simple as well. Their best players have to be their best players. Very few times this year has the support cast been able to play for W’s this season. Cousins, Brandon Alderson, Sproul and Miller have to continue to be the big four for Sault Ste Marie. They need consistent goaltending from Matt Murray. Justin Nichols has done a great job as a backup but this team will find its success with Murray between the pipes. Consistency is an issue as he is either lights out, or the red light doesn’t turn off. Not to say the blame is solely on his shoulders, but if he can play consistent through 4-7 games, the likelihood of success rises. Finally, the Greyhounds have to win the special teams battle. Their 17th ranked PK will need to drastically improve given the offensive weapons Owen Sound. Now both teams have a 20.7% power play but that doesn’t mean that either team couldn’t have a 2 or more PP goal night that swings the series. If they are to have any success it has to start with the special teams.

By The Numbers
50 – Total number of playoff experience in games played on the Greyhound Roster
0 – Total number of playoff minutes between the pipes for the Greyhounds
244 – Total number of playoff experience in games played on the Attack Roster excluding the 22 for Jarrod Maidens who has yet to suit up this season.
501 – Total number of playoff minutes between the pipes for the Attack, although it should be noted that Jordon Binnington had some rather high leverage minutes on the Attack’s run to the OHL championship in 2011
20.7%, 84.3% - The PP and PK numbers respectively for the Owen Sound Attack good enough for 10th and 2nd overall in the league
20.7%, 76.1% - The PP and PK numbers respectively for the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds good enough for 9th and 17th overall in the league
7 – The number of Points Daniel Catenacci picked up in 2 games vs the Hounds this year. 2G and 5A. The 3.5 points per game were just slightly more than his season average of 1.17 PPG
1 ,2 and 4 – Positions overall in defenseman scoring for Ryan Sproul, Cody Ceci and Colin Miller respectively. While Ryan and Colin were able to average more than a point per game in limited action Cody picked up a respectable 64 in 69 games this season.
7 – The number of shutouts picked up by Jordon Binnington this season. Good enough for first in the league with Garret Sparks of the Guelph Storm.
5 – The number of Shorthanded goals picked up by Attack forward Cameron Brace. Good enough for 1st in the OHL this year.

My prediction is Owen Sound in 5.

Kitchener Rangers v Guelph Storm

Goaltending. This series will be broken down into goaltending. John Gibson for the Kitchener Rangers and Garret Sparks for the Guelph Storm. Sparks is an absolute workhorse, registering a season where he has played over 50 games for the second year in a row. In fact he played if 60 games this season, one more than last years total of 59 games. The difference in his game? Experience and confidence, something that he will need a lot of. This year the Storm is a faster and more physical team than last year and Garret has stepped up to the plate lowering his goals against by .5 (2.65GAA and upping his save percentage to .917, a thousandth higher than last season. The difference is only 3 more saves on the season, but allowing 19 less goals in one additional game. In the crease to the other side there is Anaheim Prospect John Gibson who had to battle through another injury prone season. But when he is healthy he is arguably the best goaltender in the OHL. His statistics do not tell how great he can in fact be, but the year by year comparison shows a high level of growth as a goaltender, showing the same consistency that you expect with him in the pipes. Year over year, Gibson decreased his Goals against  by .34 to a 2.41 this season while maintaining his .928SV%. Again, his numbers are small compared to the sample size of Sparks, but the stability in the pipes is what Kitchener needs. The role of the back up is of importance to the Kitchener Rangers, when needed they can put in their OA backup Joel Vinneau to battle just as hard and earn the W for his team when called upon. To back up Garret… well it is Garret. Without an injury, I do not expect to see either back up goaltender in this series, regardless of how bad it may get for either side. Gibson holds a 1-0 record over the Storm this season, while Sparks is 3-4 this season versus Kitchener.

Kitchener offence is heavily relied upon a single line featuring Matt Puempel, the Rangers only 30+ goal scorer, 35 goals in 51 games this season. Tobias Reider is your second option as the teams second leading goal scorer with 27 goals before it drops off to rookie Justin Bailey with 17 goals. Many times this season if the top line has not been scoring, Kitchener relied upon their ’95 line’ composed of Bailey, Brent Pedersen and Josh Sterk. Bringing in Derek Schoenmakers and Josh Leivo have added some forward depth, but they will need to find more scoring in the playoffs as they have scored the lowest goals of any western conference playoff team. The Storm counter with a very balanced top 6. One forward, Scott Kosmachuk, with 35 goals, a pair of forwards with 20+ goals, Zack Mitchell (22) and Brock McGinn (28) and the remaining 9 regular forwards all with 10+ goals. The first line can beat you pretty, or the fourth line can pound in front of the net to score, either way the defence will have to stand tall for Kitchener if they wish to prevent any of the 12 forwards from scoring, and will have to pay a price every shift to do so.

Defensively, the Rangers stocked up by adding Frank Corrado at the trade deadline. His presence has solidified the top four, Ryan Murphy, Ben Fanelli and Even McEneny have enjoyed the presence of Corrado as he is able to eat up a lot of minutes, and free up ice for his partner and forwards despite not being considered an offensive threat. Ryan Murphy will be relied on to lead the defensive and sometimes the forwards, to create plays out of nothing, something the Kitchener crowd has seen for the last four seasons. Guelph has some big, mean defenceman starting with Andrey Pedan. The 6’4” Russian defenceman can not only fire the puck in the net, 14 goals, but has no problem putting you through the boards or making it unpleasant physically for the opposition, his 145 PIM lead the team and can show you how tough he plays. The additions of Brock Beukeboom and Saverio Posa will definitely help the backend of the Storm on the ice, but also off ice, as both players have had lengthy playoff runs in previous seasons. The absence of Matt Finn is going to hurt the Storm but those three, plus Zach Leslie will be seeing a lot of ice, and should be able to handle whatever Kitchener can throw at them.

Prediction is Guelph in 7.

Wednesday
Feb272013

From the OJHL to the OHL?

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

The OJHL is touted as the league of choice. And they absolutely are, for kids who are not ready to commit to an OHL program or will have to wait until next year to join an OHL club, the OJHL is for them. This year's All-Prospects team is a list, for the most part of players you cannot wait to see play on the ‘bigger’ stage of the OHL. But will OHL enthusiasts get that chance to see many of these players make that jump to the OHL and play with arguably the best Junior talent in the country? 

Looking down the second team All-Prospect lineup, 7 players were announced as there was a tie for the final forward spot. No matter, each are worthy of the mention as much as the defenceman and the goaltender are: Hayden Lavigne (G), Chad Duschene (D), Travis Dermott (D), Troy Crema (F), Matt Alvaro (F), Mike Soucier (F) and Aidan Wallace (F). Named to the first team All-Prospect team is: Daniel Mannella (G), Kyle Jenkins (D), Jared Walsh (D), Matt Buckles (F), Jake Evans (F) and David Miller (F).

Here are some of the players, I really want to see step into an OHL lineup:

Hayden Lavigne came from the Toronto Red Wings minor midget program and drafted by the Belleville Bulls. Playing for the Wellington Dukes, affiliate to the Bulls, Lavigne is under good supervision as he progresses through his junior career. Given that Malcolm Subban will likely move on from the OHL next season, the crease will be given to Charlie Graham and a back up spot will open up. Unless GM George Burnett is looking for a veteran to stabilize the net on his re-loading team, it is safe to assume that Lavigne will move on up, taking his .922SV% and 4 shutouts to the OHL next season.

The Mississauga Steelheads have a pair of defenceman named to the All Prospects team as Jared Walsh who plays for the St. Michaels’ Buzzers and Chad Duschesne, playing for the Kingston Vees made the 1st and 2nd team roster respectively. Both blueliners have made commitments to NCAA programs for the 2015 season. Walsh confirmed that he is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2015 season, while Duschene committed to Northeastern for the same 2015 season. Next season, GM James Boyd will lose 3 of his top 4 defenceman in Stuart Percy (TOR), Dylan DeMelo (SJS) and Eric Diodati (OA Graduation) and some spots will open up. Not saying that the Steelheads will be able to draw either or both Duschene and Walsh to the OHL, but at the beginning of the season Thomas Welsh was committed to Penn State before a mutual de-commitment which lead to him signing with Mississauga in late November. With both these defenders drawing a lot of attention this season, the job of GM Boyd got tougher as he will really have to sell his future Steelheads vision while almost promising top 4 minutes for both.

Troy Crema has had the ‘misfortune’ of playing two seasons in the OJHL with teams that combined to win only 11 games in that time span. In his rookie season the Brampton Capitals won 6 games and finished with 13 points and this season with the Hamilton Red Wings, the team won 5 games and finished with 11 points. The bright spot in all this is that he led both teams in scoring, 15 goals and 39 points in his rookie season and 24 goals and 61 points this season with Hamilton. The only thing that may stop this Saginaw Spirit prospect from jumping to the OHL next season could be his size, standing at 5’9” he isn’t the biggest, but he packs the weight on his frame, walking around at 175lbs. Saginaw is not suppose to be a contender next season, but given the building blocks in place, with Jake Paterson returning in the pipes, you can expect them to be that much better. It may be a tough sell to get Crema to say goodbye to Dartmouth College, but with Saginaw’s OA’s already intact and a top 6 role up for grabs, it could be enough to sway Crema to apply his trade south of the border and make a good run in the OHL nextseason.

A long shot for next season or even after his draft year is Kitchener Rangers prospect Jake Evans. Before his rookie season Evans AP’d for the St. Michaels’ Buzzers putting up 4 points in 5 games. This season as a rookie, Evans saw lots of time as a top 6 forward, and even playing a lot of first line minutes and playing on the 1st power play unit. Evans was 7th on the Buzzers in scoring, a team that was very offensive orientated who finished 3rd in league scoring with 228 goals, an average of 4.2 a game. There is no doubting that he is a Rangers’ type of player, a great skill set with an uncanny ability to make plays out of nothing, while being defensively responsible. That skill set helped Evans make Team Canada East in the 2012 World Jr A Challenge, something that only a handful of rookies have done since its inception back in 2006. Jake has committed to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish program and it will be a tough sell for Kitchener given the accolades and the early success he is having at the Jr A level.

OJHL is the League of Choice and now more than ever, are these young players making the smarter decision that will better impact their lives, even if us hardcore OHL fanatics may suffer a little, heck if anything, it should encourage us to get out there and watch more Jr A. Next season Kyle Jenkins, Aidan Wallace and David Miller should be stepping into OHL lineups next season, as they have signed and played in the league already.

The playoffs have begun in the OJHL with two of the players named to All-Prospect teams not participating, it is a perfect time to start watching Jr A hockey and getting to know the League of Choice.