The Erie Otters returned to Buffalo’s Harborcenter to participate in the OHL Showcase. They welcomed the Windsor Spitfires, Flint Firebirds and the defending OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs to the three-day event.
By the time the dust settled on the weekend, the Otters won once by salvaging a 2-1 win on Sunday against the Bulldogs. The Spitfires defeated the Otters 5-4 on Friday and the Firebirds defeated the Otters 4-3 after scoring three unanswered goals in a 10-minute span of the third period.
Wins and losses aren’t the story of this showcase. But what did we learn about the Otters in Buffalo? Here are my three takeaways from the weekend that was.
Jack Duff Ready For Lift-Off
Head coach Chris Hartsburg told me before they left for Buffalo that defenseman Jack Duff really wowed him coming into camp. I asked him why.
“I could tell he really put the work in this offseason,” Hartsburg said.
Duff demonstrated that his coach was right about him. He was one of the most noticeable Otters in the two games he played. He scored the game-winning goal against Hamilton with a power-play goal with just under two minutes left in the first period.
Not only was his ability to blast a puck on display, he demonstrated poise and composure in playing with his roommate Jamie Drysdale. Duff seems primed to become one of the most improved players in the OHL. This young defensive duo should also be fun to watch for years to come in Erie.
One Goalie Shined
Now that Noah Battaglia (pronounced bat-all-lee-a) is in the fold, the Otters have a three-headed monster in goal. Each of Battaglia, Anand Oberoi and Daniel Murphy got a start over the weekend. One goalie shined. It was Murphy. It wasn’t close.
Murphy was the star of the show Sunday stopping 27 of 28 shots against Hamilton including all 14 shots he faced in the third. Coach Hartsburg seemed really excited about Murphy when we chatted before the showcase. It’s a preseason game but he’s the clear leader in the clubhouse for who starts opening night against Flint.
What will be interesting to watch is who the backup is. Oberoi was thought to be in a 1A-1B situation with Murphy. Now with Battaglia in the mix, this is an open competition. With two preseason games left against London, we could see a scenario where the Otters’ backup could be determined by those two games. I’d expect Battaglia and Oberoi to get a game each. Stay tuned on this one.
20 minutes in the books, Duff and Girhiny have us up 2-1 into the break. Murphy with 7 saves with Hamilton leading 8-6 in shots
— Erie 🦦🦦🦦 (@ErieOtters) September 2, 2018
The Weekend Showed Good & Bad
Hayden Fowler is primed to be a star. Petr Cajka appears destined for a top-six role with the Otters. That’s the good. However the team looked sloppy at times. That came back and bit them Saturday night against Flint.
Like last season, the Otters appear to be a team that needs to get the lead in order to be successful. When they fell behind, they had trouble overcoming deficits. They also had trouble holding onto leads when they got them. They must find a way to limit the sloppy play especially when goals will be sometimes hard to come by.
This is a young team. This weekend showed that it will be frustrating to watch at times. However the upside is clearly tangible. Expect to see high highs and low lows. The kind of unpredictable nature of this will make the Otters a fun team to watch in 2018-19.
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.