This is Part 3 of a 4 Part Series.
Part 3: Oshawa Generals, Ottawa 67′s, Owen Sound Attack, Peterborough Petes, Plymouth Whalers
The Oshawa Generals are going to be a very enigmatic team this year. They will have a new head coach, D.J. Smith, who knows success from his time as an assistant to Bob Boughner in Windsor; as well, their general manager Jeff Twohey helped build a roster for the Peterborough Petes that won them the OHL championship in 2006. That being said, however, Oshawa fans will find that this team may not be at the same level as those teams. Losing Christian Thomas up front is surely going to hurt their offence. Thomas had back-to-back 50-goal seasons in his last two years of junior hockey, making him one of the most feared players in the league. As well, Nicklas Jensen is going to be playing in Europe this year; the Denmark native’s offensive power will also be surely missed. To add, Andy Andreoff has graduated, too. Thankfully, for Oshawa, they will have three other players capable of putting up big numbers in captain Boone Jenner, alternate captain Lucas Lessio and Philadelphia Flyers first-round pick Scott Laughton. Sebastian Uvira’s return could help as the German import, who may not have had a statistically decent season last year, could benefit from some of the added ice time he will get with Thomas and Jensen out of town. Overage forwards J.P. Labardo, Scott Sabourin and Emerson Clark can also help.
On the defence, the team can benefit from the return of overager Geoffrey Schemitsch but it is not known which overage forward will have to leave to secure him a spot on the roster. Thankfully, the Generals will have the return of Colin Suellentrop this year. The Flyers draft pick has become a very solid two-way blueliner, recording a personal best 17 points this past season. Suellentrop has a heavy shot and great skating ability, something that will be quite beneficial since the Florida native is one of the new leaders on the blueline in Oshawa. In goal, Daniel Altshuller’s play last season garnered him a draft choice by the Carolina Hurricanes and the #1 job. That being said, though, with Kevin Bailie gone to London, it is not known who will be his backup but Kenny Appleby is a great option.
The Ottawa 67′s have lost their top scoring forward, three of their top defencemen and their #1 goaltender from last year. Tyler Toffoli became one of the best scorers in the OHL over the last two years, scoring over 100 points in each of those seasons. In addition to his point production, his leadership is going to be sorely missed in Ottawa as the alternate captain was a pillar of strength on and off the ice. The 67′s are also losing significant offensive contributions up front from Shane Prince, Dalton Smith and John McFarland. This all being said, offensive production from the forwards in the nation’s capital comes down to two words: Sean Monahan. The dynamic, Sidney Crosby-lookalike centreman, who is the OHL’s top prospect for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, added upon a 20-goal rookie season by finishing 16th in OHL scoring last year. Monahan is also expected to be a leader on the team this year and he is likely going to be Ottawa’s new #1 centre. Thankfully, however, he will not have to shoulder the offensive load by himself as Steven Janes, Brett Gustavsen and Ryan Van Stralen all have shown that they can be capable of scoring, too. 1993-born rookie import Richard Mráz can also be a key contributor on the attack.
On the defence, the team will be losing captain Marc-Anthony Zanetti, as well as Daniel Broussard and Michal Čajkovský. Despite that, the 67′s could benefit immensely from a return of Cody Ceci. Despite being under contract with the Ottawa Senators, Ceci may find himself back in the OHL due to the surplus of defencemen with the Sens at the present time. Overager Jake Cardwell can help Ceci and Sean Callaghan played well enough last year to get an invite to Calgary Flames rookie camp this summer. Nevin Guy, a 1995-born rookie, scored 49 points in 38 games with the Winchester Jr. B Hawks last year and he can become another key offensive force. In net, there could be a lot of question marks. With Petr Mrázek gone, the new de facto #1 is Keegan Wilson, an overager who was brought in from Brampton. Michael Nishi also played well enough last season to show that he was capable of being a top-notch OHL goalie. The future of Shayne Campbell with the organization, however, seems to be jeopardized.
The Owen Sound Attack is going to have one of the stronger rosters in the OHL this year in terms of NHL drafted talent and that is why they could win their second league championship in the last three seasons in 2012-13. Despite losing their three overagers from last year — forward Mike Halmo, defenceman Jay Gilbert and goaltender Scott Stajcer — the Attack still have a resoundingly strong roster that can help them compete in the always-tough Midwest Division. Up front, they have five forwards who are all drafted to the NHL. The former first-overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection, Buffalo Sabres draft pick Daniel Catenacci will be counted upon to show the talents that garnered him that honour in 2009. The small, yet shifty forward has started to reinvent himself in Owen Sound and he is starting to find some of the success that he hoped for in Sault Ste. Marie. Jarrod Maidens, who scored the Attack’s OHL championship-winning goal in 2011, can become a key fixture offensively if he can remain healthy; the Ottawa Senators draft pick’s point production has been superlative despite the fact that he has not played in a significant amount of games each year he has been in the league. Additionally, the three other forwards all drafted this past summer — Artur Gavrus (New Jersey), Gemel Smith (Dallas) and Joseph Blandisi (Colorado) — are capable of putting up significant numbers. Cameron Brace, Kurtis Gabriel and rookie Jaden Lindo are also expected to help out.
On the defence, the Attack will have the veteran presence of Nathan Chiarlitti (who has been acquired from Sarnia), Kyle Hope and Keevin Cutting to balance out the youthfulness of Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Jacob Dotchin, 2013 NHL Entry Draft hopeful Chris Bigras, and 2012 OHL first-round pick Jacob Middleton. The team will have two solid goaltenders, as well, with St. Louis Blues draft pick Jordan Binnington coming into his own as a solid #1 netminder, especially with Stajcer’s absence for most of last season; in addition, Brandon Hope comes over from the Sarnia Sting to help solidify the goaltending position. With this balance in all of the roster, the Attack should be a favourite to do well this season.
THW Says: “Owen Sound will look to return to the top of the Western Conference once again this season. After somewhat of a transition year last season, the Attack should be able to make a run into into the playoffs. Under second-year head coach Greg Ireland, Owen Sound returns a handful of experienced OHL veterans. Look for Daniel Catenacci to step up this season and once again be a thirty-goal scorer. It is expected that general manager Dale DeGray will make one or two deals prior to the season to upgrade the team.” ~ David O’Connor
The Peterborough Petes have lost four of their top six scorers from last season but the team is optimistic about the prospects of this coming OHL campaign. Andrew Yogan and Joey West have both graduated as overagers, Lino Martschini is returning home to Switzerland, and Matt Puempel has been traded. Detroit Red Wings draft pick Alan Quine, who finished second in team scoring last season, and Nicholas Ritchie, who had 39 points as a rookie last season, are the only two coming back. Despite that, the Petes have made roster moves to get players who could bring leadership and offensive ability to an otherwise young squad. In the Puempel trade, they received Zach Lorentz from Kitchener, who had 33 points last year with the Rangers. As well, they brought in two overagers, Francis Menard from Guelph and Brett Findlay from Sault Ste. Marie, both of whom had offensively best seasons last year. The resurgence of JC Campagna as an OHL player, Chase Hatcher becoming a solid threat, and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Derek Mathers starting to show his offensive touch, can help a young forward group that includes Ritchie, Stephen Nosad, Jonatan Tanus, Eric Cornel, Greg Betzold and Joshua Maguire.
On the defence, the team will be a balance of veteran leadership and youthful felicity. They have lost only one blueliner from last year’s roster to graduation in Jonathan Jasper but they still have a healthy rearguard corps. Slater Koekkoek is expected to be the leader on the back end as the Tampa Bay Lightning first-round 2012 draft pick missed the majority of last season with a shoulder injury. Slovak defenceman Peter Čerešňák, a draft pick of the New York Rangers, can also step up and be a solid two-way force. Clark Seymour, whose renaissance in Peterborough last season culminated in being chosen at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, can also help. The team’s younger blueliners — Trevor Murphy, Alex Robinson and Steven Varga — will surely benefit from their leadership. In goal, Andrew D’Agostini solidifies the #1 role for this OHL season while his backup is yet to be determined; a solid option can be Michael Giugovaz, who backed up D’Agostini while Michael Morrison (who is now in Kingston) was at Los Angeles Kings rookie camp last year.
The Plymouth Whalers are going to have one of the strongest rosters in the West Division of the OHL, as well as in the entire Western Conference and in the league as a whole. The team is losing some of their key players from last year such as goaltender Scott Wedgewood, defencemen Beau Schmitz (who was also their captain), Dario Trutmann and Austin Levi, and forwards Mitchell Heard, Andy Bathgate and Jamie Devane. Despite that, they will have a very strong roster without them. Aside from Tanner Pearson, no 2012 NHL Entry Draft story from the OHL was more inspirational than Heard, who slipped through two drafts before being chosen 41st overall by the Colorado Avalanche. Even without him, the forward corps of the Whalers will be significantly strong with NHL draft picks Tom Wilson (Washington), Rickard Rakell (Anaheim), Stefan Noesen (Ottawa), Garrett Meurs (Colorado), J.T. Miller (New York Rangers) and Cody Payne (Boston) all expected to return. Alex Aleardi can return as an overager to help with the offence, as well. 1995-born forwards Matthew Mistele and Danny Vanderwiel can surely step up and contribute, too. It will be Wilson, however, who will find himself to be the key cog on the attack as well as to play physically, something that fits the 6’4″ forward’s job description to a T. The Whalers are also eagerly anticipating the arrival of Ryan Hartman, a late 1994-born forward out of the USNTDP who is expected to be a top pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
On the defence, the team was hoping that they could have both of their Swedish import draft picks but they will have to settle for one. Ludvig Byström has signed a contract extension with MODO so the Dallas Stars draft pick will be remaining in his hometown of Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, this year. Their other choice, Nashville Predators prospect Simon Karlsson, will be coming, though. The Whalers also made a significant trade with Sault Ste. Marie to bring in Gianluca Curcuruto; the Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick will fit in nicely with other older defencemen, including Nicholas Malysa, Curtis Crombeen and Christopher Albertini. As well, the team has traded for and signed Washington Capitals draft pick Connor Carrick in a deal with Guelph to help solidify their blueline even more. In goal, Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Matt Mahalak inherits the #1 job upon Wedgewood’s graduation to the professional ranks; his backup could very well be Darien Ekblad, the 1994-born brother of Aaron Ekblad. An OHL championship for the Whalers is not out of the question this season.
THW Says: “The Whalers are expected to finish near the top of the Western Conference once again this season. They emerged as one of the best teams in the country last year, and after bringing in some talented hockey players from the USNTDP in Connor Carrick and Ryan Hartman, they are considered a favourite for the J. Ross Robertson Cup. They could be battling the London Knights for top spot in the West all season long.”