5. Marc-Anthony Zanetti (D, Ottawa 67’s)
A fifth-round pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, 100th overall, to the Ottawa 67’s, Richmond Hill native Marc-Anthony Zanetti found himself in a logjam on the blueline with his prospective major junior team in his first year of major junior eligibility. He reported to the OPJHL’s Markham Waxers, where he scored 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) and 63 penalty minutes in 45 games. With import defenceman Martin Parýzek away representing the Czech Republic at the 2007 World Juniors, Zanetti was called up to play six games with the 67’s between December 28, 2007 and January 6, 2008 to take his place. In 2008-09, the 6′, 213-pound defenceman made the 67’s out of training camp. He tallied his first OHL career point, an assist on October 8, 2008, on a goal by Julien Demers against Kingston. Seventeen days later, on October 25th, he scored his first OHL career goal against Peter Di Salvo in a game against the Barrie Colts. He finished the campaign with 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 66 games. The rookie rearguard also made a name for himself as a physical force, leading the team with 102 penalty minutes that season. He was not chosen in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft but, along with then-teammate Adam Courchaine, he was invited to rookie camp by the Boston Bruins.
Zanetti came back to Ottawa with renewed confidence for 2009-10 after his training camp with Boston. He got an assist in the first game of the year and, by the eighth game of the new campaign, he already had his first goal. His defensive game also made steady improvements, something that needed rectification after a rookie season in which he had a plus-minus ranking of -21. His point production also started to gain traction, scoring 11 points in October, November and December 2009 combined. Zanetti followed that up with five points, all assists, in 13 games in January 2010. February, however, was indicative of how comfortable he was becoming in the OHL; in that month, he scored seven points (one goal, six assists). He played in a complete 68-game schedule, recording 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) and 74 penalty minutes as well as a ranking of +5; he even scored three points, including two goals, in 12 playoff games. Again, Zanetti was allowed to attend an NHL training camp with a teammate; he joined goaltender Petr Mrázek at the training camp of the Detroit Red Wings.
Observing someone with the calibre of Nicklas Lidström seemed to have even more of a positive impact on Zanetti. A new alternate captain on the 67’s, he scored eight assists in 12 games in October, a month in which he was also +11. He followed that with nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 12 games in November and ten points (two goals, eight assists) in December. After scoring five points, including two goals, in January 2011, Zanetti got to five goals already on the season, a new career high. He finished the season with career highs in goals, assists and points; he scored 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 55 games, as well as another four in as many games in an opening-round sweep defeat against Sudbury. Other than the increase in point production, another aspect of Zanetti’s play was also affected by Lidström’s tutelage. He had only 47 penalty minutes during the regular season, his lowest in his major junior career. For the third straight offseason, Zanetti was given the opportunity to attend an NHL training camp with one of his teammates; he, along with forward Steven Janes, were invited as free agents to the camp of the Vancouver Canucks.
Zanetti returned to Ottawa as the new captain of the 67’s. The first three months of the new season were not particularly offensive-minded as he only scored four points in September, October and November combined. By the time December came, Zanetti was due for a breakout month to get his point production back on track. Did he ever deliver. He scored six assists in that month. By the time the new year started, Zanetti was back in full swing. He scored ten points (two goals, eight assists) in 12 games in January. During that month, he had the best single game of his OHL career, scoring one goal and three assists in a 8-3 home win over the Oshawa Generals. In February, Zanetti scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in ten games. He finished the regular season with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) and 67 penalty minutes. Everything was going well for Zanetti until an incident before a playoff game against Belleville. He speared Bulls captain Luke Judson and shoved Bulls alternate captain Stephen Silas with his stick, actions that got him a five-game suspension. Upon his return, the 67’s found themselves out of the first round of the postseason and, now, they are hoping to go even further.
4. Andy Andreoff (LW/C, Oshawa Generals)
Chosen by Oshawa in the fifth round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, 90th overall, Andy Andreoff started his junior hockey career with the OPJHL’s Pickering Panthers during the 2007-08 season. He scored 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and recorded 58 penalty minutes in 40 games with his hometown team. During that campaign, Andreoff was called up on five separate occasions to play for the Generals. In only his sixth career OHL game, he recorded his first major junior point, an assist on a goal by Dean Howard against the Niagara IceDogs on November 18, 2007. He also recorded eight penalty minutes during the 25 games he appeared in that season. The next year, 2008-09, Andreoff made the Generals on a permanent basis. The 6’1″, 204-pound forward scored his first OHL career goal on September 26, 2008, against Mark Visentin in a game against Niagara. While the points did not come immediately for Andreoff, he did find that he was just as effective playing the physical game as he would eventually prove to be on the scoresheet, getting into a fight two days after scoring his first goal. Wearing the number 15 previously worn by former Generals fan favourite Cal Clutterbuck, the handsome Pickering native did have some spurts of offensive brilliance, though, which included five two-point games, two of them being contests in which he scored a pair of goals. He finished the season with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 66 games, also recording 37 penalty minutes, including three fighting majors. During that season, too, on January 8, 2009, the Generals made a trade that would further define their franchise after they sent John Tavares, Michael Del Zotto and Daryl Borden to the London Knights, a deal that brought a budding superstar named Christian Thomas to Oshawa, as well as Scott Valentine, Michael Zador, and countless draft picks. The Generals, sadly, did not make the playoffs that season.
In 2009-10, now-former Generals head coach Chris DePiero recognized a chemistry between Andreoff and Thomas, placing them on a line together to start the season. It paid dividends immediately for Andreoff. He scored five points in four games in September, which he followed up with nine points (four goals, five assists) in 12 games in October. November, though, was not so kind. He only recorded three points that month with an eight-game pointless streak. Things, however, turned around quickly for Andreoff. He tallied nine points (one goal, eight assists) in ten games in December and he entered the new year on a six-game point-scoring streak. That was followed by six points (two goals, four assists) in January 2010 and then one of his best offensive months up to that point in his OHL career. In 12 games in February, Andreoff scored 14 points (four goals, ten assists), including two games in which he recorded three points. He finished the season with 48 points (15 goals, 33 assists) in 67 games, fifth in team scoring, as well as adding 70 penalty minutes; again, however, Oshawa did not make it to the postseason.
Going into 2010-11, Andreoff was due for a breakout season. After going without being chosen in the last two NHL Entry Drafts, he set out to get scouts’ attention. He was highly regarded as one of the leaders on the Generals despite not wearing a letter on his jersey. He set out to improve all facets of his game. Andreoff did not waste time, recording two assists in the Generals’ season opener on September 23, 2010, against the Petes in Peterborough, as well as scoring two goals against the same team the next night in Oshawa. He also started the season on a rather truculent note, getting a fighting major in four straight games to begin the new campaign. Andreoff recorded 11 points (six goals, five assists) in October, following by a seven-assist November, marked by a four-helper contest against the Erie Otters on the 19th. He went into December on a scoring frenzy, tallying 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 11 games, highlighted by his first OHL career hat trick on the 30th against Peterborough. Things did not slow down for Andreoff when the new year began either. He scored 19 points (nine goals, ten assists) in January, one of the highest point totals in the entire OHL that month. That was followed by a 13-point February (six goals, seven assists) and a nine-point March (three goals, six assists). He finished the season with 75 points (33 goals, 42 assists) — second only to Christian Thomas in team scoring — and 109 penalty minutes in 66 games, as well as a vastly improved plus-minus of +34; he also managed to record 11 points in ten games during the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings took notice of Andreoff’s talents and, on June 25, 2011, they selected him in the third round, 80th overall, at the NHL Entry Draft. After successful training camps with both the Kings and their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, Andreoff was signed to a standard three-year entry level contract by Los Angeles on October 13, 2011; that same day, he was loaned back to the Generals for his overage OHL campaign.
For his overage season, Andreoff was named an alternate to serve under the Generals’ new captain, Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Boone Jenner, a player two years younger than Andreoff himself. He replied by having one of the most consistent point-scoring seasons of his career. He tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in October, scoring a goal and an assist in only his second game back with Oshawa. An 11-point November (five goals, six assists) and a 12-point December (four goals, eight assists) soon followed. Andreoff also started 2012 off with impressive point totals. He scored 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in January alone, as well as recording 26 penalty minutes, his highest single-month total in his OHL career. He finished the regular season scoring 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in February and March combined. Most significantly, Andreoff made history in March; on March 11, 2012, he appeared in his 277th regular season game in an Oshawa Generals uniform, surpassing James DeLory as the franchise’s all-time games-played leader. After the Generals were eliminated in six playoff games at the hands of the Niagara IceDogs, Andreoff was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs on April 3, 2012.
3. Brett Thompson (C, Sarnia Sting)
It can be hard to judge the significance of Brett Thompson to a single OHL team since he spent his major junior career with four of them; the best part is that he thrived with each and every one he played for. A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Thompson was chosen in the fourth round, 72nd overall, by the Sudbury Wolves in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection. Regarded as a pure offensive talent, the diminutive centreman played his first game of bantam hockey at 15 and he helped his minor midget team, the Sault Ste. Marie North Stars, make it to the Telus Cup in 2007. Thompson split his rookie junior season between the Wolves and their tier II team that plays in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. He appeared in only 15 games with the Jr. Wolves, scoring 11 points (four goals, seven assists), all of them coming in November 2007. He appeared in 50 games for the OHL’s Wolves, scoring nine points (seven goals, two assists), his first OHL goal coming against Trevor Cann on December 15, 2007, a game against the Peterborough Petes.
A smaller forward at only 5’9″ and 165 pounds, Thompson had a decline in his point production in his second OHL season, the 2008-09 campaign; he had six points (three goals, three assists) in October 2008 but that was to be his last great month as a member of the Wolves. After recording seven points (one goal, six assists) in November and December combined, it became apparent to then-Sudbury head coach/general manager Mike Foligno that Thompson needed a change of scenery. On January 9, 2009, Foligno traded Thompson to his hometown team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The next night, against the Kitchener Rangers, the newest Greyhound scored his first OHL career hat trick. Furthermore, on February 17, 2009, his first game back at the Sudbury Community Arena since being traded, he scored two goals. He scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in only 26 games with the Greyhounds, giving him 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 65 games in total that season; he also recorded 40 penalty minutes, 20 with each team. In his third OHL season, Thompson decided that he was not just going to stand out on the ice. He would stand out off the ice, too. He decided to drastically change his appearance, which involved him growing long hair, what the players would call “sick flow,” and also growing a thick mustache and beard. It obviously worked. He scored a hat trick against Peterborough in only the third game of the 2009-10 season. He put up points consistently throughout the year, as well. In 2009, Thompson scored ten points (six goals, four assists) in October; 12 points (six goals, six assists) in November; and 11 points (five goals, six assists) in December. 2010 saw his point production continue to evolve. He scored 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in January, which included him scoring a goal on his 19th birthday against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors; 14 points (ten goals, four assists) in February; and three points, all goals, in March. He finished the season with 65 points (42 goals, 33 assists), second on the team in scoring; to add, his 21 powerplay goals were tied for second in the entire OHL. Surprisingly, Thompson was not drafted to the NHL or invited to a training camp.
Thompson returned to Sault Ste. Marie in 2010 for a fourth OHL season and, this time, he was named an alternate captain. His point production from the previous campaign did not seem to stop. He started the season with 18 points (ten goals, eight assists) in the first 14 games of the season. He also was given his first-ever OHL game misconduct after a five-minute major for checking from behind against the Erie Otters on October 22, 2010. In exactly one month, from November 5 to December 5, 2010, Thompson had an incredible 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 12 games, going pointless in only one contest during that stretch. He went pointless in the next five games but he did manage to have another OHL first: His first major junior fight. On December 10, 2010, in a game against Plymouth at Compuware Arena, Thompson was involved in a scrap with Whalers forward Alex Aleardi. He did, however, revert to using his hands for scoring, recording yet another hat trick on December 30, 2010. His time with the Greyhounds, though, was nearing its conclusion. On January 10, 2011, shortly before the OHL trade deadline, Thompson — who had 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists) in 40 games up to that point — was dealt, along with a second-round pick, to the Erie Otters for forward David Broll and a slew of draft choices. After going pointless in his Otters début, he managed to score a goal and an assist in his second game with his new club, a 12-3 drumming of the Barrie Colts at the Louis J. Tullio Arena in Erie. His first full month with the Otters, February 2011, was one of the best in the OHL that season; he scored 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 11 games, going pointless in only one. This was highlighted by a game against Windsor on February 5, 2011, where Thompson scored six points (four goals, two assists) to help the Otters beat the Spitfires 8-2. He finished the season with 84 points (44 goals, 40 assists) in 67 games, finishing 17th in the OHL in scoring; his 44 goals were sixth best in the league. He also recorded five points in seven playoff games. Yet again, though, Thompson was not drafted.
Thompson went into his overage OHL campaign with optimism. He tallied seven points (five goals, two assists) in the first nine games of the season but he found his tenure with the Erie Otters quickly finished. The Sarnia Sting were looking for an offensive-minded forward to come into their lineup after losing Alex Galchenyuk to a knee injury that eventually kept him out for nearly the entire 2011-12 season. On October 31, 2011, Thompson was dealt to Sarnia for two future draft picks. In his first game with the Sting, on November 4, 2011, he had a goal and an assist against Windsor. He got a hat trick in only his sixth game with Sarnia on November 18, 2011, against the Saginaw Spirit; he added another one on December 4, 2011, against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Thompson’s point production was in its typical consistency. He scored 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in November and 18 points (eight goals, ten assists) in December, and the new year did not change a thing; the sheer magnitude just was not there. He scored ten points (three goals, seven assists) in January, 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in February, and ten points (five goals, five assists) in March. With all the firepower in Sarnia, the Sting were expected to go far in the 2012 OHL playoffs; to everyone’s surprise, they were eliminated in six games by the Saginaw Spirit. Thompson did manage to end his OHL career on a strong note, scoring 70 points (32 goals, 38 assists) in 61 games in 2011-12.