67’s Trim Roster Ahead of Pre-Season Game In Peterborough

On Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) had the unenviable task of cutting their roster down from the 50+ players they had to open camp, to 36 ahead of their trip to Peterborough on Monday afternoon. There wasn’t a player on the ice that looked out of place, making the decisions for head coach Dave Cameron and general manager James Boyd all the more difficult.

The Cuts

None of the players that were cut were too much of a surprise, but that’s not to say they didn’t play well enough to stick around, rather, they didn’t really come into the camp with too much of a chance to make the team. That’s the nature of junior hockey, unfortunately, but what we now know about some of the players who were cut is that in the event the 67’s need to call someone up, they have options. We also know that down the road, some of the players who were cut might be back for another crack and might make the team the next time.

One of the more notable cuts was Mathis Mainville, the goalie the 67’s drafted with their 14th-round pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection draft. I’m not sure there was ever a thought that Mainville would look capable of joining the team this season, but for the time he was in camp, he looked good enough to be in the consideration. Unfortunately for Mainville, the goaltending competition was stiff, and he was the odd man out. He was good enough to make it, and the 67’s have to be encouraged by what they saw from their second-to-last pick in 2021.

Related: Ottawa 67’s 2021 OHL Priority Selection Recap

Both Ryan and Connor MacPherson were cut in the process on Saturday afternoon. The twins were drafted in the ninth and 10th rounds respectively and played on the same team in training camp, occasionally being on the same line. Neither twin excelled or looked completely ready for the next level, but neither looked out of place.

A couple of other players who looked good, but were cut, include Costa Touliopoulos (56th overall in the 2020 U18 Priority Selection), and Xavier Guillemette (153rd overall in the 2021 Priority Selection). While they didn’t make the roster this time around, it shows that the 67’s have drafted well. They now have a plethora of depth that can work their way up to the team in the coming years, or they could trade to get better this season should they choose to do so. Having a good prospect pool makes life much easier in the OHL.

Young Players Stick Around

When the 67’s became one of the best teams in the OHL in the 2018-19 season, they decided they didn’t want to sacrifice too much of the future to make them better in the moment, and that continued into the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. Many fans asked why the team was so reluctant to deal some of the prospects, but the answer will become very obvious in the coming weeks and months. There is already plenty of talent in the locker room and now, the 67’s don’t have to spend two or three seasons at the bottom of the standings to restock the cabinets.

James Boyd Mississauga Steelheads
James Boyd (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

The 67’s already have young players who should be able to step up and play big roles, and potentially even be important members of the leadership group on the team this season and going forward. One player who fits that bill is Brady Stonehouse, the 67’s second-round pick in 2020. He comes into the season already in his NHL draft year and looking to make an impact on the 67’s early on. He was the first one on the ice routinely in training camp and he showed a willingness to do the little things right buy backchecking, finishing his hits, and taking hits to make plays. Overall, he was one of the best players on the ice at training camp.

Related: Ottawa 67’s Training Camp: Standouts From Days 1 & 2

Chris Barlas, the 67’s first-round pick in 2021 was impressive despite never taking over the game in camp. He was all over the ice and made an impact in all three zones, but perhaps his biggest impact came in the defensive zone. He was in the right spot more often than not and thwarted a fair few offensive chances for the opposition. Luca Pinelli is another player who will have a large role this season. Early in the scrimmages, he was one of the better players on the ice if not the best, and while others caught him in the later stages of camp, he was beyond impressive.

While there are others on the offensive side of the ice worth noting, the defensive side of the rink deserves some attention too. Starting with the 67’s fourth-round pick in 2020, Matthew Mayich looked impressive in both his ability to defend his own net and his willingness to play a physical brand of hockey. There are limited roster spots on the back end with many of the 67’s returnees being defencemen, but he has played his way into a spot so far.

Matthew Mayich, Ottawa 67's
Matthew Mayich, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

Thomas Sirman is another defenceman who immediately comes to mind when thinking about young players who had a really good training camp. Like Mayich, he was good in his own zone, was physical, but he also showed flashes of talent in the offensive zone. I won’t put massive expectations on his by comparing him to Noel Hoefenmayer, but Hoefenmayer brought a little bit of scoring to the 67’s back end, something that Sirman might bring, even though he’s never been a scorer in minor hockey.

There are certainly more players including Brenden Sirizzoti, Giovanni Morneau, Cooper Foster, and Bradley Gardiner, and I’m sure they will be focused on some time down the road. The depth of young talent is impressive for the 67’s, and it’s putting them in a great position to be good this year, and really good again sooner rather than later.

Returning Players To Head Roster

Althought young players are fun to talk about and will likely steal all the headlines before the season, OHL teams live and die with their veterans. In the 67’s case, their list of returnees isn’t as strong as it once was, but they still have some good players coming back to them this season. Starting on the offensive side of things again, one of the most improved players on the ice at training camp was Adam Varga. Varga was acquired from the Mississauga Steelheads in November of 2019 in exchange for Ottawa’s sixth-round pick in 2020, a pick that turned out to be Lucas Buzziol 120th overall. Baring something sudden, Varga will occupy one of the team’s over age spots. He came to training camp looking like a much more complete hockey player, and fans will be surprised to see how well he skates now compared to when they last saw him. Whatever he did in the extended offseason looks to have paid off.

Adam Varga, Ottawa 67's
Adam Varga, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

Sticking on the offensive side, both Cam Tolnai and Thomas Johnston had a tough time getting things going early in camp, but as the games progressed, they made a bigger difference for their teams. Johnston in particular looks bigger, stronger, and faster. It’s not likely that he will emerge as a big goal scorer for the team, but he does seem like a more complete player on the offensive side of the ice. He’s seeing the game better now than he was when he left in 2020.

Offensively, two more players really stood out to me. Starting with Yanic Crete, who had his moments in 2019-20, and has gotten better throughout his last OHL season. He’s a guy the 67’s have been slowly working along the process, and it looks like he is now ready to be a part of the team. Finally, Dylan Robinson was very good at camp. He missed the majority of the 2019-20 season with injuries, but when he came back, he made an impact. We will have to wait and see regarding his status for the preseason opener in Peterborough after he took a puck to the head in a scrimmage, but he is a player that could have a break out season when he does get on the ice.

Defensively is where the 67’s return most of their players. Five defencemen return to the club this season putting some of the younger talent on the back foot when it comes to making the roster. Alec Belanger who returns played the majority of the 2019-20 season on the offensive side meaning the 67’s have flexibility should they decide to put him back there. Ranvir Gill-Shane only played nine games in the OHL in 2019-20, but had the team not been as good as they were, he would have been there without a question. He was good enough to play then, and he is way more than qualified to be in the lineup now.

Ranvir Gill-Shane Ottawa 67's
Ranvir Gill-Shane Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

Teddy Sawyer played in a little bit of a rotation in 2019-20, but did see a solid amount of game action during the course of the season. He has a physical edge to him that has only become more apparent since he was last on the ice, but it isn’t a blind physicality that will get him in trouble. If he has a chance to make a big hit, he’s going to make it, but he won’t take himself out of the play to do it.

The final two returning defencemen need no introduction to 67’s fans. Jack Matier and Anthony Costantini were rock solid in their rookie seasons in 2019-20. Both were thrown into some incredibly difficult situations, but they succeeded nearly every single time. Maiter was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round in the most recent NHL Entry Draft and won a gold medal with the Canadian U18 team in Texas earlier in the year. He can be put on the ice in any scenario and succeed. He’s more of a defensive-minded player, but he showed flashed of offensive ability he didn’t have in his rookie season. Costantini was much the same. Rock solid defensively and really good in the offensive zone when he chose to engage. These two will likely be the leaders on the defensive core.

In goal, the only returnee is Will Cranley, the St. Louis Blues’ sixth-round draft choice in 2020. I’ve always loved the way Cranley plays the position. He’s a big goalie (6-foot-5) and moves incredibly well. His rebound control is top notch, but the best thing about him is his ability to leave the negative behind him and move forward to make the next save. Goaltending is done between the ears, somewhere he is very strong.

A Nice Mix Of Experience and Youth

Despite some good young hockey players being cut, the 67’s have what I believe is a good balance of youth and veteran experience. Fans shouldn’t expect to see this team up around the 50-win mark again this season, but they will be competitive. It’s no secret their championship window is likely closed (it could open again soon), but they will be a good hockey team possibly competing for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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