The first month of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season has officially wrapped up. There were some special plays, some not-so-special goals against, and young players making names for themselves. No matter who you cheer for, there have been highs and lows unless you are a London Knights fan. In that case, there has been nothing but highs. The lows are coming in that case, but no matter what, it was a great first month around the OHL. The last week of the month was no exception, so here’s what you need to know.
Pastujov, Thompson, Ritchie, and Brochu Named Performers of the Month
On Tuesday, the OHL named their performers of the month for October, a list that includes a Player of the Month award, a Defenceman of the Month award, a Rookie of the Month award, and a Goaltender of the Month award. There have been some truly spectacular months for players around the league and while it’s hard to argue against who the OHL picked for each respective award, there were other players who could have also taken the awards home.
The winner of the OHL’s Player of the Month award went to Guelph Storm forward, Sasha Pastujov. At the end of October, Pastujov had scored 10 goals and had a total of 17 points through 10 games, leaving him tied for both the league lead in goals and points at that point. Pastujov was drafted by the Storm in the 14th round in 2019 but went on to join the U.S. National Development Program before joining the Storm for the 2021-22 OHL season. To say that the season has started with a bang for the former Anaheim Ducks third-round draft choice in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft would be an understatement, and the Storm have to be thrilled with what they have gotten from him so far in the new season.
Sudbury Wolves veteran defenceman Jack Thompson took home the OHL’s Defenceman of the Month award honours after leading all defencemen with 16 points through 11 games. After the opening week of the season, he was sitting in the lead for total point scoring, and not just among defencemen. In his firth three games of the season, he had already accrued eight points, half of his October output. The Courtice, Ontario native has had a great start to his third OHL season, and for the Wolves, that’s a really good thing.
The OHL Rookie of the Month award went to none other than Oshawa Generals’ second overall pick in 2021, Calum Ritchie. In a season where there are two groups of rookies, it’s impressive to see a true rookie step onto the ice and have an immediate impact and a huge one at that. Ritchie scored seven goals and recorded five assists in his first 12 games in the OHL and was arguably the best player on the team for the first month of the season. The Generals were lucky to be picking second in the draft thanks to the lottery, but they were even luckier that the Wolves decided to go with Quentin Musty rather than Ritchie.
Finally, the OHL Goaltender of the Month award went to Brett Brochu of the London Knights. There were some great goaltending performances in the league to start the season, but no one was more deserving than Brochu. Backstopping the Knights to an 8-0-0-0 record through the month of October, Brochu .935 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average and was one of the big reasons for the Knights’ success. Dating back to the 2019-20 season, Brochu has won three consecutive OHL Goaltender of the Month awards and is setting himself up nicely to be drafted relatively high in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Otters, Firebirds, and Spirit Begin Canadian Play
For the first time since March of 2020, American OHL teams had the chance to play Canadian opponents. To start the season, the American teams (Erie Otters, Flint Firebirds, and Saginaw Spirit) have been playing exclusively against one another in what had to be a tiring circuit for the players. Playing against the same teams over and over again isn’t terribly fun, but now with approval to come into Canada for games, they are free to hit the road and see some new faces.
The Spirit were the first to venture into Canada, heading to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Greyhounds on Wednesday night. Things didn’t exactly go how the Spirit would have liked falling to the Greyhounds 8-4 and being outshot 30-28. None of the American teams are expected to be all that great this season after taking runs at a championship fairly recently for all of them, and the Spirit currently sit in third in the West Division with a 4-2-1-0 record.
The Otters were the only other team to begin travelling into Canada so far, and for them, they left with a more favourable outcome compared to the Spirit. After playing only American competition for the month of October, the Otters stood with a 2-6-0-0 record, needing to get back onto the horse. They went to Niagara to play a team that is very good on paper but has struggled at times. Getting goals from some of their big names including Connor Lockhart, Brendan Hoffmann, and Spencer Sova, the Otters eeked out a 6-4 win thanks to an empty-net goal from Owain Johnston.
A trip to Canada hasn’t occurred yet for the Firebirds, but they have seen a Canadian opponent come into the doors at the Dort Financial Center. It wasn’t a game that the Firebirds would really want to remember, however, being dealt a 6-2 loss at the hands of the Windsor Spitfires. Brennan Othmann and Luca D’Amato scored for the Firebirds who have a record of 4-3-0-0 and sit in fourth in the West Division.
Tullio and Sproule’s Point Streak
In the OHL, massive point streaks aren’t all that uncommon, but there are only two players with active 10-game point streaks going in the league right now. Those players are Ty Tullio of the Oshawa Generals and Emmett Sproule of the Peterborough Petes. There are others who are inching their way towards that number including Andrew Perrott and Luke Evangelista, but they need to get there first.
Tullio is one of the Generals’ leaders, of course. He’s their captain and one of the best players and it comes as no shock that he has a massive point streak going to start the season. Sproule on the other hand is more surprising considering his past in the league. Having never scored more than 37 points in the OHL, Sproule has started his overage season with a bang scoring 14 points in his first 10 games. It’s entirely possible that he is among the overage players that come out of nowhere and score in massive numbers this season. Some players are just late bloomers, others get better chances in their final season, but no matter the reason, the Petes are getting production out of the veteran they acquired via trade from Erie just days before the season started.
Already a Month Gone
It’s hard to believe, but there’s already a month gone in the new OHL season. That’s nearly 15% of the year already in the books. There’s still plenty to come of course, but time really has been flying this season. There have been so many great storylines through the first month of the season and there’s more to come, but it needs to be said again, it’s amazing to actually have the OHL back.