Games to Watch:
Wednesday, Oct. 19
London at Mississauga: The fifth week of the OHL season kicks off in style on Wednesday night with the top two teams in the league facing off. The #1 ranked London Knights travel to Misssisauga to take on the #3 ranked Majors in the first meeting of the year between these two championship contenders.
With both teams having loads of talent both up-front and on the blue-line, the best match-up may take place between the pipes. J.P Anderson and Michael Houser have been two of of the top net-minders this year and are currently tied for the league lead with seven wins.
Thursday, Oct. 20
Kitchener at Windsor: Having won both games in a home-and-home with Owen Sound last weekend, Kitchener is starting to look like the solid team they were predicted to be before the season began. The return of star defenseman Ryan Murphy gives the Rangers a whole new dynamic offensively and was something that was sorely missing through the club’s first six games.
Winners of four of their last five games, the Spitfires are also riding high heading into Thursday night’s contest and will look to their goaltender Jack Campbell to continue his stellar play. Having yet to lose a game in regulation, Campbell has a record of 6-0-1 and ranks among the league leaders in both goals against and save percentage.
Sunday, Oct. 23
Peterborough at Brampton: Two of the more surprising teams in the league so far have been Peterborough and Brampton and the two will square off for the first time this year on Sunday in Brampton. The Petes currently sit a top the East Division but have little room for error with the high-flying Ottawa 67’s right on their heels, while the Battalion are a distant second to Mississauga in the Central division.
With their leading scorers having just seven points, Brampton has been led by one of the stingiest defense units in the league, and it hasn’t just been the defensemen. The forwards have been equally responsible and they will need to continue to be if they hope to shut down the likes of Matt Puempel, Alan Quine and Austin Watson.
Ottawa at Kitchener: The Rangers make their second appearance on the list this week as they will host Ottawa in a Sunday matinee in Kitchener. After stops in Niagara and Erie, the 67’s will be concluding a three-game road weekend which bodes well for Kitchener who play at home Friday and then have a day of rest before this game.
Rest and preparation is something they will certainly need if they are to stop a high-scoring and talented Ottawa team led by the likes of Sean Monohan, Cody Ceci and MVP candidate Tyler Toffoli.
London at Windsor: This will be the second meeting of the year between these two rivals and the Knights will have revenge on their minds. The teams last met on October 7 when the Knights were flying high having started the season 5-0. Unimpressed by London’s fancy #1 CHL ranking, the Spitfires marched into the Labatt Centre and stunned the 9,000 fans in attendance with a 5-2 victory.
Fast forward a couple weeks and the Knights are once again the top ranked team in the CHL and will look to return the favour and play the role of rotten guests in Windsor on Sunday.
Players To Watch:
Ryan Strome (Niagara): It didn’t take long for Strome to show Niagara fans what they were missing while he was trying to crack the New York Islanders. The fifth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, Strome scored a hat-trick in his first game after being assigned back to his junior club and perhaps rescuing the Icedogs season in the process.
The 18-year-old center is coming off a season in which he took the league by storm en route to a 33 goal, 106 point season, but he will now have to be even better if he and his Niagara teammates hope to dig themselves out of their sluggish start which currently sees them in the Eastern Conference basement.
Ryan Murphy (Kitchener): Another NHL-returnee, Murphy, like Strome has waisted little time in finding his scoring legs. In two games since returning from the Carolina Hurricanes, Murphy has picked up four assists and instantly made his Kitchener Rangers a much more difficult team to contend with.
Arguably the most talented defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League, Murphy might also be the most exciting player to watch in the OHL. With three tough games this week against Windsor, Sarnia and Ottawa, the Rangers will need every bit of the 18-year-old’s skill if they hope to be successful.
Tyler Toffoli (Ottawa): The reigning Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy winner (top OHL scorer) Toffoli has predictably been one of the top players in the league thus far. With 14 points in seven games, the Scarborough, Ontario native has helped lead the 67’s to a 6-2-1 record and has assisted linemate Sean Monohan in becoming a budding star in his own right.
The top scoring winger in the OHL, Toffoli has a chance to put up some big numbers this week, particularly in Saturday’s game against a cellar-dwelling Erie Otters team.
Dougie Hamilton (Niagara): One of the top young defensive prospects in all of hockey, Hamilton has lived up to that billing and more through nine games this year. The big 6’4 rear-guard currently leads OHL defensemen in scoring and ranks sixth among all players with 17 points; including leading his brother Freddie by a point in team scoring.
Although he is much larger than the three players listed above, Hamilton does have a lot in common with them. The 18-year-old is a star OHL player and like Strome, Murphy, and Toffoli, he has a strong chance at representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in late December.
Resident of Windsor, Ontario. Extensive knowledge of both the NHL and junior hockey in Canada, particularly the OHL. Writer for THW covering the Winnipeg Jets and the OHL as well as covering Phoenix Coyotes prospects for Hockey’s Future.