The 2022-23 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season is just around the corner, as teams are currently getting their first chance to look at their new rosters during preseason games. The 2021-22 season was an up-and-down roller coaster for the Oshawa Generals. There were a lot of highs and severe lows that even saw them make a coaching change mid-season. However, they decided to buy at the trade deadline but sadly ran into Shane Wright and the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round, losing in six games.
This season, Gens Nation will have some exciting storylines to follow. In what they hope will be a successful campaign, let’s take look at some of the biggest ones going into the 2022-23 season.
There is absolutely no denying that the centre of attention at almost every Generals game this season will be centre Calum Ritchie. Last year as a rookie, he scored 19 goals and 26 assists in 65 games. Now, entering his second OHL season, he will be looking to put on a show during his draft season and prove to everyone why he deserves to be picked in the top 10 at the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft.
Ritchie is everything you want in a centre. He is big, fast, and strong on the puck each time he touches the ice. He also has a high hockey IQ and can beat a goalie from anywhere in the offensive zone. Consistency will be a focal point for him this season, as there were times last season when he couldn’t be stopped for five games, then record just an assist or two in the following five.
Ritchie might not start on the top line immediately, as that may go to Boston Bruins prospect Brett Harrison. However, don’t be surprised if he quickly finds himself on that top line somewhere during the season. Every scout and media member will have their eyes glued to him, and if opponents aren’t doing the same, they might regret it.
The Generals will likely go as far as their young star will take them, which is wild to say about a player who hasn’t even been drafted to an NHL team yet. Next year he will be even better, but more on that in a little bit.
The Generals were one of only three teams with two selections in the first round of the 2022 OHL Priority Selection and the only one to have both those picks inside the top 15. With those selections, they took winger Beckett Sennecke 8th overall and defenceman Ben Danford 14th overall.
Sennecke is a highly skilled winger who scored 80 points in 45 games with the Toronto Marlboros U16 AAA team. He likes to hold onto the puck and be creative in the offensive zone. There might be an adjustment period at the beginning of the season, as he won’t have nearly the same time and space with the puck as he did with the Marlboros, but he is excellent at making quick decisions when needed. He plays with a lot of speed and should be able to contribute offensively right away, which is enormous for a Generals team that lacks some offensive depth on the wings.
Danford is a 6-foot right-hand shot defenceman who is also a terrific skater. He could start the season on the bottom pair; however, with the subtractions of defencemen David Jesus and Matthew Hill in the offseason, the ability to take a top-four role on this team could come quickly if head coach Derek Laxdal feels he is ready.
If the Generals can get two key contributors this season out of the first round of the draft, that will be a massive boost to their lineup. Impactful rookie seasons from both Sennecke and Danford could be the difference in the Generals from being a good or great team.
The Generals do look poised to be a good team this season. They have elite offensive talent, one of the best offensive defencemen in the league in Lleyton Moore, and a solid goaltender in Patrick Leaver. However, some believe that they might hold off on making a big push for an OHL Championship this season in order to prioritize 2023-24.
The reasoning is sound, as the face of this team, Calum Ritchie, likely won’t be making the jump straight to the NHL next season and should return to the OHL as one of the best players in the league. Leaver is already one of the league’s best goaltenders and will be even better after another season of development.
Kimo Gruber, Stuart Rolofs, Matthew Buckley, Luca Marreli, Jordyn Ertel, and Leaver will all be back and much improved, not to mention Sennecke and Danford having a full year of OHL experience under their belts.
If the Generals this season are inside the top three in the Eastern Conference, it is tough to see them selling at the trade deadline. However, if they are between fourth or lower, it might be best to sell off some players in their final years of eligibility, including Moore, Cameron Butler, and Ryan Gagnier. Losing those players would certainly hurt their chances of winning this season but could provide the organization with more impactful players who will return in 2023-24 or draft picks that they can flip for players at next season’s deadline.
These storylines are just a few things to keep an eye on this season with the Generals. There will be more that develop over the next weeks and months, as this is undoubtedly a very exciting time for all OHL teams and their fans.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.