OHL Sunday Seven: Young Greyhounds Turning the Corner

1. John Dean Talks Greyhounds

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds might be starting to turn a corner in their season. After suffering a 6-5 overtime loss to the London Knights last Sunday, the Greyhounds hit the road for a lengthy three-game road trip.

They went to Niagara and won 5-1 then followed that up one night later with a 2-1 win in Erie. With the two wins, the Greyhounds sit just four points out of the last playoff spot in the West. That’s pretty good for a team as young as the Greyhounds are.

We had a chance to catch up with second-year Greyhounds’ coach John Dean. Does he think his team has started to turn the corner yet?

John Dean, OHL, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
John Dean is liking the direction of his team. (Photo credit OHL)

“I’m hesitant. As a coach you’re always hesitant (to say that), but the vibe on the bench has really changed,” Dean said. “(That’s) a big indicator for me. The guys are starting to hold each other to a standard and hold each other accountable. I don’t have to be as vocal. So when that happens I think as a coach that’s a sign, especially when you say the right things to each other, that’s a sign we’re turning the right direction.”

Another noticeable thing for the Greyhounds has been the play of goalie Bailey Brkin. He spent last season in the WHL and has brought a level of stability to the net. That’s not lost on Dean.

“He’s given us a lot of confidence,” Dean said. “We want to make plays and we encourage guys to make mistakes here. You better have a pretty stable goaltender. When he’s in the net, the guys feel very confident in our style of play and that’s very important.”

The Greyhounds wrap up their three-game trip Sunday afternoon in Mississauga then head home for three games. It definitely seems like the Greyhounds are ready to turn the corner and head in the right direction.

2. Initial Ryan O’Rourke Impressions

I got my first chance to see Ryan O’Rourke live in a game. I ranked him inside my top-10 of Brock Otten’s Scouts/Media Poll that was just released. I’ve seen him plenty on tape and had an idea of what to expect.

Initial impressions after seeing him live? I love O’Rourke even more than I did to start.

Ryan O'Rourke Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Ryan O’Rourke is a pest in the best kind of way. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

O’Rourke as expected played in all situations and had no issue getting in the faces of the Otters’ players. He leads by example. Then when you consider he is one of if not the youngest captains in the CHL, it makes it all the more impressive.

I caught up with O’Rourke postgame. He didn’t say too much. But that speaks to allowing his play to do his talking. But there was one question I posed that got him to crack a huge smile. I asked him what player he models his game after.

“Duncan Keith,” O’Rourke told me.

Then I said to O’Rourke you really seem to thrive when you play that in your face style against your opponents. It was at that moment that he smiled. He’s a pest in the best kind of way. He plays the game like a 19-year old but is still 17.

Here’s Dean speaking about how impressive O’Rourke has been as a leader: “Most importantly, Rourky is just a good human being. He cares about his teammates. He cares about his hockey career. He cares about his teammate’s hockey career. I think that’s a huge asset when someone knows you care about them you tend to follow them.”

Dean kept going.

“I can be really hard on him and set him as an example by being hard on him and he takes it really well. As a coach when you can be hard on your best players and they respond in a positive way, it makes it real easy for me. Last but not least, when you pick a leader when things aren’t going well, you want a guy who is going to respond the right way both on and off the ice. For a guy that’s got as many points as he does and how well he plays back there with the puck, when things aren’t going well he goes out there and makes himself physical and tries to get the guys back on track by competing harder and paying a price. He’ll even fight if he has to.”

When considering someone for the NHL Draft, not only do you want skill, you want someone you want to go to war with. If I was a player, I’d want to go to war with him. His leadership is off the charts for someone his age. But he’s also really good at what he does. He is a solid first rounder for me. I don’t expect that to change.

3. Jan Jenik’s Point Streak

This story did not get nearly enough play when it happened. But Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Jan Jenik just had his 26-game point streak snapped. He was held without a point Saturday against the Mississauga Steelheads.

In those 26 games, Jenik posted a line of 22-34-56. He and teammate Arthur Kaliyev are thriving together as a tandem. Jenik is second in scoring and Kaliyev is tied with Quinton Byfield for third in scoring.

What has made Jenik special is how much of a threat he is at both ends of the ice. He also has three short-handed goals on the season. The numbers are there. Now how is he trending towards an eventual pro career? He’s on the right track but does have some work to do.

The biggest thing for Jenik is he’s still developing as a center. He’s just 43% for the season at winning draws. And while he’s made important strides defensively, he’s still rounding into form. He also needs to get stronger but that’s expected at this point.

Overall though, this point streak was very impressive and has put Jenik on the map to make an eventual impact in the pros. He has earned an invite to World Junior roster for the Czech Republic. He’s earned every bit of it.

4. Don’t Expect Coaching Change in Erie

I wrote Saturday about what’s been ailing the Erie Otters this season. They enter Sunday’s game against Sarnia with the fewest number of wins in the Western Conference with 11.

I did some checking around. I do not get the sense that any kind of change is coming. The Otters are clearly frustrated but they also know they haven’t had a full roster all season given the crazy amount of injuries.

They do have a trip to Northern Canada coming up. That could be just the thing this team needs as they head towards their holiday break. A road trip with a chance to reset things is sometimes what’s needed. They’ve actually been good on the road lately recording wins in Barrie and in Oshawa.

Still, it’s a big game Sunday to wrap up the homestand. The Otters are eighth in the West starting the day. A loss to Sarnia could put them just four points away from the conference basement. They need a statement win. Let’s see how they come out Sunday.

Chris Hartsburg, OHL, Erie Otters
Although the Otters are clearly frustrated, don’t expect any moves yet. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

5. Kitchener on a Roll

Speaking of coaching changes, the one in Kitchener at least so far has worked out well. Mike McKenzie is 6-0 since taking over behind the Rangers’ bench. Their latest win was a 3-2 shootout win in Owen Sound.

The star of the night and a big reason why the Rangers are winning is Jacob Ingham. Ingham stopped 51/53 in regulation and overtime and stopped all three Attack shooters in the shootout. He missed a good amount of time with an injury but has stepped right back in and helped stabilize the team.

The Rangers are now up to seventh in the Western Conference thanks to their six-game winning streak. Sometimes a change is needed. At least early on, it seems like it was the right move at the right time for the Rangers.

6. Shane Wright Has Arrived

Kingston was off to a terrible start this season. That was before a couple of trades and the eventual emergence of their star phenom.

Shane Wright has arrived.

He’s still 15 mind you. He has 25 points in 24 games and is a plus player. He also is tied for the team lead in scoring with Zayde Wisdom but has played four less games than Wisdom.

This player is special.

One look at the game film and you can see why. He is a legitimate threat every time he touches the puck. He is deadly on the power play. Almost half of his points (12) have come on the man advantage.

Remember Connor McDvaid finished his rookie season with 66 points. Wright is on pace to finish right around that mark. The Frontenacs will be the one of the major stories in the league the next two seasons.

7. Mark’s Rant: Time to Make Data Public

If you’re like me, you like information. You like game data. It helps write stories. It helps get a sense of what the story is.

So it’s 2019. Why are we still living in a time when certain information is not available for public consumption? The OHL, and they aren’t the only ones, share very limited information on their game recaps.

You can see things like goals, assists, points, +/- and other stats. But do you know what’s missing? Time on ice. Teams do have access to this. Why doesn’t the public?

The time has come given the technology we have to make this information available once and for all. When it comes to transparency, there’s been some progress but not nearly enough. It’s for the good of everyone involved. Make this data public, please! End rant.

See you next time.