In 2009 and 2010, the Windsor Spitfires won the first two Memorial Cups in franchise history. Soon after, a new era and roster started taking shape. With the pandemic running wild now and the OHL shut down until 2021, it’s neat to look back and wonder what happened to the players from this post-championship era.
This is part three of our four-part “Where Are They Now?” Series featuring Spitfires of years past. In part one, we looked at players from the 1990s, while in part two we shifted up to the 2000s. Now, in part three, we move into the (relatively) current era — the 2010s — looking at four players who made a big impact on the club.
Sit back as we find out what happened to these four popular Spitfires once they left the friendly confines of the WFCU Centre.
Where Are They Now?
Center – Brady Vail
Coming off of their first Memorial Cup championship in 2009, the 2010 Draft was considered the initial building blocks for the Spitfires’ post-title era. Their first-round pick, Grant Webermin, didn’t pan out. However, other picks, including fourth-rounder Brady Vail, did just fine.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Vail joined the Spitfires in 2010-11 and had a reputation for being a two-way center. He lived up to that over his four seasons in the league.
While he only had 10 points in 61 games in his rookie season, he exploded for 52 points in 68 games in 2011-12. The Montreal Canadiens liked what they saw and took him in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. After that, the numbers kept going up until Vail finished with 32 goals and 83 points in 67 games in 2013-14.
After a successful OHL career, what happened with this intriguing two-way center?
Vail briefly played in the Canadiens’ system, but eventually wound up in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ system, playing with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears from 2014-16. From there, he has played for five different teams in the ECHL, plus two “loans” to the AHL. It’s been a journey, but he’s producing, with 247 points in 325 ECHL games.
In mid-November, Vail signed with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) for 2020-21, though the league hasn’t started up yet due to COVID-19.
Center – Alexander Khokhlachev
During the 2010 CHL Import Draft, the Spitfires were looking for an impact player to help with their post-championship roster. With the 23rd pick, they went to Russia and snagged 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward Alexander Khokhlachev. It became a fantastic decision.
The kid they called “Koko” had a quiet, fan-friendly approach off the ice, but let his game do the talking on it. In 2010-11, Khokhlachev put up an impressive 34 goals and 76 points in 67 games. The Boston Bruins noticed and took him in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft.
In 2011-12, he nearly repeated the performance with 69 points in 57 games. However, this is where things got interesting. The Bruins signed Khokhlachev on July 1, 2012, and he followed that by signing with Spartak Moscow (KHL) for 2012-13. Was he done with the Spitfires?
On Jan. 8, 2013, he returned to the OHL and recorded 48 points in 29 games. The performance was good enough that the Bruins took notice and called him up to the AHL for the rest of the regular season. That was the end of his era with the Spitfires. What happened after that?
Khokhlachev spent most of 2014-16 with the Providence Bruins (AHL), though he did get into nine NHL games (held pointless). On July 1, 2016, his entry-level contract ended with the Bruins so he signed a two-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL).
Since then, he has played for SKA, Spartak Moscow, and his current club, Avangard Omsk. While it’s not the the NHL, he has still put up 155 points in 239 games in the KHL.
Defenceman – Saverio Posa
Every so often, a team drafts a long-shot player who winds up becoming an integral part of the club. This is what happened to the Spitfires in 2008 when they selected defenceman Saverio Posa in the 15th round.
The fourth-last player chosen in the draft, Posa refused to be just another late-round statistic. After a season with Little Caesars 18U AAA, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Grand Blanc, MI-native made the stacked Spitfires’ 2009-10 roster and used every chance the club gave him. Getting into 48 games on that roster as a 15th-round pick says a lot!
Once other defencemen graduated following the 2010 Memorial Cup championship, Posa took the opportunity and ran with it. He became a reliable two-way guy, averaging 15-20 points a season and playing smart, sound defence. Off the ice, he was the locker room guy every team needs, and that led to the Spitfires naming him captain in 2012-13.
Unfortunately, his captaincy only lasted 38 games as he was traded to the Guelph Storm at the 2013 deadline. What happened to this underdog since he left the OHL?
Posa has been able to accumulate experience at multiple levels and leagues. From 2013-15, he spent time with the University of Windsor Lancers (CIS), Missouri Mavericks (CHL), and Indy Fuel (ECHL).
Following that, from 2015-20, he’s had time in Italy (Cortina), France (Angers), the ECHL (Cincinnati Cyclones and Reading Royals), plus the Southern Pro Hockey League (Huntsville Havoc), where he is now. It’s been a busy period but he seems to have found a home.
In 2019-20, Posa was listed a “player/assistant coach” for the Havoc. This season, the team is still waiting to find out when (or if) they start due to COVID-19.
Left-Wing – Kerby Rychel
Finally, let’s take a look back at one of the most popular players in the decade — winger Kerby Rychel.
Originally drafted by the Barrie Colts in the first round of the 2010 OHL Draft, Rychel didn’t report to the club. Instead, they traded him to the Mississauga IceDogs during the 2010-11 training camp for multiple draft picks.
At the time, Rychel’s father, Warren, was the Spitfires’ general manager and it was no secret the club wanted the young scorer. It only took 30 games to get him. At the January 2011 deadline, the Spitfires sent three second-round picks in exchange for the 16-year-old.
From 2010-13, Rychel proved he was worth the price, scoring 102 goals and 212 points in 195 games and becoming a bit of an icon around town. Fans loved him and he reciprocated.
In 2013-14, with the Spitfires realizing they weren’t getting past the Storm, the two teams pulled off a deal. Rychel and veteran Nick Ebert, both looking at graduation, were shipped out for youth and picks. The two helped the Storm win the 2014 OHL Championship before moving onto new adventures.
So, what happened to the young Rychel after he left the OHL? From 2014-19, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2013 first-round pick bounced around the AHL and NHL in multiple systems, including the Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Calgary Flames. With each organization, he’s had a taste of the NHL but hasn’t been able to crack the rosters for good.
In 2019-20, Rychel chose another path and headed to the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL). Unfortunately, he only got into seven games before they ended his contract.
He returned to the AHL in November 2019 to play with the Charlotte Checkers, but they suspended him in February 2020 and he hasn’t played since.
Part Four Finale Coming Soon…
It’s always interesting to see where former players wound up, regardless of when the played in the OHL. However, in our Part Four Finale, we’re going to take a bit of a turn with this series.
Over their history, the Spitfires have had numerous coaches make a big impact on the roster and the fans. We’ll take a look at a few and see where their travels have taken them. Stay tuned!