After some time off, the OHL Sunday Seven is back in the heat of the playoff race. Phil Tomasino is off to a tremendous start with the Oshawa Generals. He stopped by to discuss his hot start. The Erie Otters enjoyed an incredible comeback Saturday night thanks to an unlikely hero. We tell you who and why the Otters love him. Plus we also dish on the playoff format and much more.
1. Phil Tomasino Talks Hot Start
The Oshawa Generals made big news at the trade deadline with a pair of huge moves. Serron Noel is now in Kitchener and Phil Tomasino is in Oshawa. Both sides couldn’t be happier with his start.
Tomasino scored again in Erie giving him 16 goals in his first 17 games with the Generals. He’s now at 36 points in those 17 games.
Tomasino was kind enough to stop by and chat with the Hockey Writers after their 6-5 shootout loss to the Erie Otters. We asked him what’s been the key to his hot start after the trade.
“Getting a chance to play some elite players,” Tomasino said. “Everyone on our team is high-end players for sure. Our coaching staff, a lot of credit to them for allowing us to be creative. Mainly I would say my teammates that I’ve been able to play with have definitely helped me. I’m feeling good and we want to win every night. Tonight was a little disappointing but I think we’ll learn from it for sure.”
Tomasino is making a strong case to try to crack the Nashville Predators at some point. Does he feel he could do that soon?
“That’s my goal,” Tomasino said. “We have a great team in Oshawa this year and we’ll have a great team in Oshawa next year. But I think that’s my goal for sure. I’m going to do everything that I can to get there for sure. But right now I am focused on the rest of the year here.”
You can’t dispute the impact Tomasino has had on the Generals and their push for the playoffs in the East. Brett Neumann gave his thoughts on what makes Tomasino such a special player.
“He’s just a really talented player,” Neumann said. “He’s got the speed. He’s got a really good shot. I think one of the things that goes under the radar about him is that he’s a really smart player. He’s really good at reading the play and creating takeaways while putting himself in good spots. When you add all that together, that’s a pretty special player.”
The Generals sit in fourth place in the East and have the inside track to home-ice advantage in the first round. The duo of Tomasino and Neumann hope to have a long run in the playoffs come spring time.
2. Brendan Kischnick’s Otters Impact
The score was 3-0 Oshawa early in the second period Saturday night thanks to a goal by Ryan Stepien. The Otters looked disinterested and the game seemed like it was slipping away.
Then Brendan Kischnick happened.
Just 44 seconds after Stepien’s goal, Kischnick instigated a fight against Ryan Gagnier. Although Kischnick received 2-5-10 for his efforts, this woke everyone up. Kischnick went to the box while waving his arms in the air to get the fans going.
Boy did the fans respond.
It was by far the loudest cheer of the night. On a night with just under 4,000 fans at Erie Insurance Arena, it felt like the roof was going to blow off. There was now a buzz in the building. The players felt it. They seemed ready to make a game of it after all.
The Otters came all the way back and defeated Oshawa 6-5 in a shootout to sweep the season series.
To say the Otters love what Kischnick brings to the team is a major understatement. Coach Chris Hartsburg, Chad Yetman and Jamie Drysdale all acknowledged how important Kischnick’s fight was for them to get into the game.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah,” Yetman said of Kischnick’s fight. “It sparked the crowd too. It’s all just an electric vibe when he does that. You know what? Hartsy brought it up in the room. He didn’t play a shift after that but he was the loudest guy on the bench.”
“Talk about a dressing room guy, a great guy, a great teammate,” Drysdale said of Kischnick. “A guy like that has been awesome just accepting every role you put him in. He played forward tonight, he’s a D. If I were to give you an actual turning point, that was definitely one of them (the fight.)”
“He didn’t shut up the whole third period,” Hartsburg said of Kischnick. “It was great. He was cheering on everything. It was something that could be contagious on the bench. Guys were just into the game and ready to go an they just kept going.”
When we look back later in this season, this win for the Otters might be looked at as a turning point. If so, Kischnick’s heart and fight sparked the team to a comeback victory. No wonder his teammates love him.
3. London/Ottawa Showdown
With London’s win over Kingston on Saturday night, we get a Sunday showdown of first in the West against first in the East in Ottawa on Monday afternoon. What a matchup this will be.
The two teams played in October in London with the Knights securing a 3-0 win. This was the game Ryan Merkley scored his first goal for the Knights. Goaltender Brett Brochu pitched a shutout and outdualed Cedric Andree.
This could be a preview of an eventual OHL Final. Both teams are certainly good enough to get there. But can they maneuver through three rounds of grueling playoffs before that point? We won’t know for a while but we get one heck of a measuring stick game in the meantime.
4. Flint Firebirds on Fire
The Flint Firebirds simply don’t lose anymore.
Jack Phibbs scored late in the third period to tie the game at three before Riley McCourt and Dennis Busby scored in the shootout to lift the Firebirds to a 4-3 win over Guelph on Flint Tropics Night. Those jerseys were straight fire by the way.
The win marks the Firebirds’ 12th straight win, extending their own franchise record in the process. At 34-17-1-1, Flint is just two points back of Saginaw for first place in the West Division and just four back of London for first in the Western Conference.
Don’t count out the Firebirds at this point. This is not a fluke. They have the talent to compete with both Saginaw and London in the West. Among their 12 wins is a win in Saginaw. Safe to say the I-75 rivalry is alive and well. Saginaw and Flint play once more on Mar 18 in Flint. That could be for the division if this keeps up.
5. Jan Mysak’s Impressive Start
Jan Mysak has arrived in Hamilton and is putting on a show.
On Saturday, Mysak recorded a hat trick in the Bulldogs’ victory over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He now has 12 goals in 14 games since coming over to the OHL. The question now is how high will he go in the 2020 NHL Draft?
The industry has him pegged in the mid-late first round range. Elite Prospects has him ranked 14th overall while ISS has him ranked 27th and Hockey Prospects has him ranked 30th. Mysak has some intriguing upside that makes his first-round projection warranted. When you lead all U-20 players in scoring in the league he was playing in the Czech Republic, you got game. Mysak deserves to hear his name within the first 10-15 picks come June, but it will be interesting to see where teams slot him in.
6. Liam Foudy’s Unforgettable Week
Liam Foudy has had a week he will never forget.
One moment, he was laying in bed at home. The next moment, he was heading to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the heat of a playoff race. When he was done, he was back to London helping the Knights get to first place in the Western Conference.
John Tortorella is a fan of Foudy’s game.
This past Thursday in Buffalo, Foudy played a great game where he scored his first NHL point. He found himself defending Jack Eichel in overtime. Welcome to the show!
Then Saturday, he and the Knights won a 7-5 shootout against Kingston. That meant having to contain phenom Shane Wright. So Foudy got to defend both Eichel and Wright in the same week. Not many players will ever be able to say that. And he did it all while showing he belongs in the NHL. Life is good these days for Foudy.
7. Mark’s Rant: Playoff Format Needs Overhauled
Yep. It’s time to have the talk. The time has come for the OHL to take a serious look at the 1-16 format for its playoffs. It’s really the only fair way to ensure the 16 best teams make the playoffs.
As is, the 18th best team out of 20 is set to make the playoffs and the 16th best team with 13 more points is going to miss. I get it’s the conference thing. But this still can’t happen. It’s another example where winning isn’t awarded the way it should be.
I also get there being other challenges such as geography and travel. It’s the playoffs. You’ll find a way to make it work. It works in the QMJHL. Why can’t it work here?
This season illustrates why we need to go to the 1-16 format. A more than deserving team is going to miss out because of the conference they play in. Sorry that’s unacceptable. Hopefully this changes sooner rather than later.
End rant. See you next time.
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.