OHL Week 9 Preview

Ryan Spooner carrying the Kingston Frontenacs (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Games to Watch:

Thursday, Nov. 17

Mississauga at Niagara: While it hasn’t been the dream season that many expected it would be coming into the year, Niagara is starting to play better hockey and looking very much like the contender they were predicted to be. With a 6-3-0-1 record in their last 10 games, the Icedogs have moved to .500 and sit in the seventh spot in the Eastern conference. They will play host to their Central division rival Mississauga Majors on Thursday in the second meeting of the season betweem the two clubs.

The first matchup took place way back in late September with the Majors winning by a score of 6-4.

Kitchener at Sarnia: Despite playing inconsistent hockey for much of the season, the Rangers continue to find ways to win games and quietly find themselves in second place in the Midwest division and fifth-overall in the West. They will face a stern test Thursday as they travel to Sarnia to take on Nail Yakupov and the West-leading Sting.

The trio of Tobias Rieder, Andrew Crescenzi and Radek Faksa have been providing most of the offense of late for Kitchener who continue to be without star defensemman Ryan Murphy after he suffered a concussion two weeks ago.

Friday, Nov. 18

Plymouth at London: The two hottest teams in the OHL will face off Friday night in London in what could very well be the game of the week in the OHL. Although both teams come into the game with identical 8-1-0-1 records in their past 10 games, Plymouth has arguably been the league’s most impressive team of late. Since losing to Windsor on November 5, the Whalers have been destroying their opponents with their last three games having been won by respective scores of 8-4, 8-0, and 7-1.

The top ranked team in the CHL, the Knights will look to continue their dominance in front of the home fans where they have been beaten just twice on the year.

Saturday, Nov. 19

Ottawa at Belleville: Don’t look now Eastern Conference foes but there is a new kid on the block in the East. The Belleville Bulls are riding a five-game winning streak and have quietly moved within three points of the division leading 67’s with two games in hand.

In the topsy-turvy East, the upstart Bulls have joined the likes of Brampton and Peterborough as teams who weren’t expected to be tasting success this year and certainly weren’t expected to be ahead of teams like Niagara and Oshawa at this point of the season.

They will host their most important game of the season to date as Ottawa pays a visit in a game that could very well have the division lead on the line.

Players To Watch:

Rickard Rackell (Plymouth): On a five-game point streak heading into this week’s action, Rackell continues to be one of the top threats up front for the red hot Whalers. Sharing the team lead of 25 points with J.T Miller, Rakell has racked up 10 points in his last five games as he and his teammates have been scoring at an astounding pace.

A first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 NHL Draft, the 18-year-old center will be a returning player for Sweden at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships and is likely to have an increased role with the team as he continues to assert himself as a dominant player.

Ryan Spooner (Kingston): After an utterly terrible first month and change to the season, the Kingston Frontenacs have begun to play much better hockey thanks largely in part to  the return to form by their star forward. Spooner came into the season with high expectations as a possible contender for the league’s scoring title but endured a nightmare start to the year registering just four points in his first 11 games.

The 19-year-old Kanata, Ontario native began to turn his season around in late October and has been one of the league’s top point producers in November. An excellent showing in the recent Super Series against team Russia has put Spooner back on the map as a candidate to grab a spot for team Canada at the WJHC.

Nicklas Jensen (Oshawa): As a first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, expectations were high for Jensen coming into his second OHL season and the big Danish forward has certainly lived up to his billing.

Having been held pointless in just five of the 20 games he has played, the 18-year-old has moved into the top 20 in league scoring and stepped in to fill the scoring void left behind when Christian Thomas received a 10-game suspension.

John McFarland (Saginaw) A highly-touted player early on in his junior career, McFarland is finally starting to show the type of player he can be. Once considered to be a potential top 10 NHL draft pick, McFarland’s inconsistent play with the Sudbury Wolves saw him slip to the second round of the 2010 draft, but the 19-year-old has since found a home in Saginaw.

While the Spirit continue to struggle near the bottom of the Western conference, McFarland has teamed with Vincent Trochek to form one of the highest-scoring duo’s in the league. The Florida Panthers draftee is tied for second in the OHL with 15 goals and ranks 11th in points with 28.