The Erie Otters are off to a great start in the preseason. Three wins in three tries will do that. Saturday night at Erie Insurance Arena, they connected early and often and then rode that wave to victory.
Emmett Sproule scored just 1:43 into the game. Cameron Lowe and Noah Sedore added first period goals before Lowe and Kaleb Smith took over in the second on route to a 7-4 win. The story of this game was the performance of Lowe, Smith and the other younger players on the roster.
Young Players Shining
Coming into this preseason, the prevailing thought was that there would be some opportunity for a younger player to make this roster. Smith and Lowe are certainly making their case to crack this opening night roster.
Related: Erie Otters Training Camp Takeaways
Each player has appeared in the three preseason games to date. Smith has three goals and a helper while Lowe has two goals. Lowe spoke postgame about his opportunity and what is working for him.
“I thought I played pretty well over the last two games,” Lowe said. “I was trying to gain some more confidence out here with these guys. I’m just trying to play my game.”
Coach Chris Hartsburg acknowledged the play of the young guys have stood out. That includes their top-two picks from this past draft in Carey Terrance and Taeo Artichuk.
“The young guys have been good. They’ve been getting better everyday,” Hartsburg said. “I think that’s what we need out of them. I think Kaleb Smith has shown well here. Cameron Lowe has gotten better. The same can be said about Taeo Artichuk and Carey Terrance and guys that are getting accustomed to the league and feeling better with the pace of play.”
The State of the Roster
The young guys pushing for spots will make things tough on the Otters when it comes to final decisions and roster cuts. With that said, let’s look at the state of the roster and who we think is safe and who has some sweating to do with just two preseason games left at the beginning of October. These will go in numerical order.
- 6) Taeo Artichuk: Artichuk hasn’t hit the scoresheet yet but he’s been noticeable in the three games. The speed is obvious. He’s on learning to adjust to the new league and the speed it presents. He seems primed to make this roster and to start on the bottom-six.
- 10) Carey Terrance: He is your eventual Otters’ center of the future. He has the tools to become a dominant force in the middle led by his skating. He’s in position to start in middle on the bottom-six.
- 11) Dylan Edwards: He’s impressed the Otters in camp to get this opportunity. The eighth-round selection in this past Priority Selection has one assist while appearing in all three games. He’ll get more chances to make an impression but at this point, he’s on the outside looking in.
- 13) Elias Cohen: Cohen will be depended upon to take the next step for the Otters. He’s safe. He has 2-3-5 in the three games. He’s played on the right side on the third line the last two games.
- 17) Daniel D’Amato: The Otters will look to D’Amato for his steadiness and veteran leadership. He’s a lock to make the team.
- 20) Kaleb Smith: As we talked about above, he’s made an impression and is in the conversation for one of the last spots. These two games in Michigan could go a long way for him. But he is one to watch as the preseason winds down.
- 23) Lucas Ross: Ross is one of the candidates to have a breakout. Saturday night he played the left side on the top line next to Noah Sedore. The Otters hope he reaches the potential he has offensively.
- 44) Brendan Sellan: Sellan was the other member of the line with Sedore and Ross on Saturday night and is expected to help make big contributions this season. He’s looked good so far.
- 71) Colby Saganiuk: Saganiuk is at Maple Leafs’ camp but when he returns, big things will be expected. I would not be surprised if he gets to play with Connor Lockhart this season. That could be a fun line.
- 73) Connor Lockhart: Lockhart is at Canucks’ camp and will look to take the next step for the Otters both on and off the ice as one of the leaders of the team.
- 74) Noah Sedore: Sedore leads the Otters with eight points this preseason. He’ll be one of the four centers come opening night.
- 86) Cameron Lowe: Like Smith, Lowe has impressed and is on the bubble. These two games could determine who makes it and who doesn’t.
- 89) Brett Bressette: Bressette appears locked into a role on the left side in the middle-six. He has a goal and an assist in two appearances this preseason.
- 91) Brendan Hoffmann: Hoffman’s line with D’Amato and Sellan will be leaned on by Hartsburg to shut down the opposition’s best line. They’re up for the challenge.
- 93) Emmett Sproule: Sproule has appeared in all three preseason games while collecting two goals. His veteran presence will help the young players get adjusted to the OHL.
My Projected Lines
- Extras: Lowe, Smith
- 3) Ryan Thompson: Thompson played Saturday night with Spencer Sova in what could be a preview of opening night.
- 5) Nathan Sauder: To me, it’s between Sauder and Owain Johnston for the sixth D role. They played together on Saturday night. If I had a choice, I think Johnston’s had the better preseason, but there are two games left to settle this.
- 7) Owain Johnston: See Sauder, Nathan.
- 14) George Alboim: We will hear from Alboim in the future as he has the tools to become an effective defender at this level. But for now, I do not see him playing opening night.
- 15) Christian Kyrou: He’s firmly planted on the opening night roster and expected to make a big jump this season.
- 22) Spencer Sova: Don’t blink or you might miss him skating by. He’s locked in as the top defenseman on the team.
- 53) Cameron Morton: Morton is locked in and ready to take the next step as a contributor at both ends of the ice.
- 88) Artyom Kulakov: Kulakov has appeared in all three games and has been steady as expected. He’ll start on opening night.
My Projected Pairings
Aidan Campbell is expected to start opening night. His heir apparent Nolan Lalonde will open the season in the number-two role. Lalonde played the full game Thursday against Flint and gave up two goals. The Otters have confidence in him and will get some starts especially in back-to-back situations.
NOTE: The overage rules remain the same. Only three can play so that will impact the lineup.
The Otters will finish the preseason with games in Saginaw on Oct 1 and Flint on Oct 2. Then exactly one week after that, the Otters will open the regular season with four games in Michigan. They play Flint on Oct 9 and Oct 14 followed by Saginaw on Oct 16 and 17.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.