2022-23 Erie Otters’ First Quarter Progress Report

The Erie Otters came into the 2022-23 season with one big goal in mind. Tangible progress. At least so far, they have met those expectations.

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The Otters play their 18th game of the season Monday night when they host the OHL leading Ottawa 67s. This is a make up of the game that was supposed to happen Saturday night but the snow storm in Buffalo prevented the 67s from getting to Erie.

The 67s enter Monday night with an 18-1-0 record. This is their second and final meeting of the season with the Otters. On Oct 2, the 67s skated away with a 4-2 win in their home opener over the Otters. This was a close game throughout and was an early sign that the Otters were ready to take the next step.

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With an overall record of 8-7-2 at the quarter mark, the Otters have shown early on that they’ve taken a step towards where they want to go. While there is still a lot they have to do, fans should be encouraged by what they’ve seen.

So what has contributed to this start for the Otters? We’ll share three takeaways that have stood out so far.

Bressette & Kyrou Leading the Way

When the season began, one of the big questions facing the Otters was who would step up from an offensive perspective. Two players have stood out after 17 games.

First is Dallas Stars’ prospect Christian Kyrou. He has 7-14-21 in 17 games while playing top minutes in all situations while quarterbacking their power play. He is showing a willingness to shot when given the opportunity. His skating is also noticeably better. While he still has plenty of room to develop in a shutdown role, his emergence has the Otters in a good place.

Christian Kyrou Erie Otters
Christian Kyrou has been a big part of the Otters’ early success this season. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

The other player to step up is center Brett Bressette. Not only does he lead the team in scoring (eight goals and 21 points), he’s developing into a reliable two-way center. This has allowed the Otters to play Bressette on one top line and Carey Terrance on the other. The Otters are balanced and can play in a variety of ways depending on their opponent. When there is a need to matchup in a defensive role, Bressette is usually the one taking on that assignment.

The emergence of both Kyrou and Bressette has allowed others to settle into comfortable roles to make a well-balanced lineup. Not only do these two need to keep things going. Their teammates need to take the next step if they want their second quarter to be as good as their first. Through 17 games, these two get an A.

Spence the Real Deal

All we heard in the summer was the hype surrounding Malcolm Spence. In 13 games, it’s easy to see why he has this hype.

Related: Malcolm Spence Quickly Gaining Confidence

Spence has 11 points in his first 13 OHL games. Two things immediately stand out about him. First is his confidence. He does not look overwhelmed in any situation. Second is his swagger. When given the opportunity, he plays the game with a swagger you can’t help but notice. After taking some time adjusting to the league, he is showing signs he’s ready for a breakout.

Carey Terrance, Malcolm Spence, OHL, Erie Otters
Carey Terrance & Malcolm Spence are ready to break out soon for the Otters. (photo credit: Erie Otters)

Michael Misa is getting the early attention as he should. But from an overall game perspective, there is a strong argument to be made that Spence is as good or even better than Misa. This will certainly be something to watch. As Spence continues to learn and adjust, he’s only to get better. Before we know it, he could end up leading the Otters in scoring. This upside should help the Otters reach their goals for this season and beyond as long as he stays on the current development path.

The hype is real. It’s only a matter of time before the hockey world realizes how special Spence is.

Mixed Special Teams

The Otters have enjoyed mixed success on their special teams in the first quarter. Their penalty kill has been good. Their power play needs to wake up.

Let’s start with the good. The Otters penalty kill comes into Monday ranked fourth in the OHL at 84%. For a time, it was clicking at over 90% but then took a hit thanks to playing against tougher competition. Still, this has been one of the reasons for their good start.

They use their skating to be disruptive and are able to get timely saves. This has to remain their backbone as the season goes on. They will get a huge test Monday night against the 67s and their over 34% power play.

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The momentum off of their penalty kill has allowed them success at five-on-five. With just 13 of their 62 goals on the man advantage, they have been able to lean on their structure to find success. While that is good, the other side of the coin needs work.

The Otters power play is 18th out of 20 teams at just 17.8% while allowing three shorthanded goals against. In watching the tape on them, there’s not enough moving around and an element of predictability to what they’re trying to do. This is one area Kyrou as the quarterback needs to continue to improve on. It’s distributing the puck to his teammates and making the right read. Teams have been able to focus on Kyrou because they know he looks to shoot.

If the Otters can find the proper adjustment here, that will bode well for the rest of their season. They need to be more unpredictable and make the opposition guess more. Being near the bottom is simply not good enough. Especially against stronger teams, your power play has to be clicking. Watch for them to try new things to see if they can get over the 20% mark.

All Things Considered

This has been a good first quarter for the Otters. They have gotten important contributions that have resulted in them being in a playoff spot to this point. It’s been far from perfect. But there are plenty of positive things going on.

As for second quarter, the Otters need to not only improve on their power play, they need to get into a rhythm in net. Marshall Nicholls is now in the QMJHL after the team moved on from in. Nolan Lalonde and Kyle Downey is the tandem in net with Jacob Gibbons expected to be their future in net. Lalonde has allowed at least five in three straight starts. Consistency will be key in net for the rest of the season.

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Overall, the Otters get a solid B here. They have met expectations but do have a lot to work on. All things considered, you can’t ask for much more given where many folks thought they’d be at the start of the season.