It’s been a long time coming, but finally, teams around the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Ottawa 67’s are back on the ice for training camp ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. Nearly every big name around the league has graduated onto the next level, especially for the 67’s, who relied heavily on their older players to get them over 50 wins for two consecutive seasons. Gone are the days of Marco Rossi, Austen Keating, Sasha Chemelevski, and Tye Felhaber among others. A new crop of young players have taken over, and they got to showcase their talents in front of limited media and family members on Friday morning.
Friday was sectioned off into two separate scrimmage games. The early game featured Team Red and Team Black, and the second game of the day pitted Team Black against Team White. Here’s what you need to know from the two sessions on the day.
Nicholas Moldenhauer Doesn’t Report
One of the biggest headlines for the 67’s heading into the season is that 2020 first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection, Nicholas Moldenhauer decided not to report to the team.
“Our first-round pick from two years ago, Nicholas Moldenhauer has decided that he’s going to stay in the States to guarantee having a season in his draft year, so he’s going to play in Chicago in the USHL,” said James Boyd in an interview on TSN 1200, Ottawa’s sports radio network. “We’re going to have a tough decision to make here, and we’re going to have to wait to see how our team shapes up. We have to make a decision that’s best for the 67’s, and our option there would be trading Moldenhauer to get our first-round pick back as a compensatory pick in next year’s draft, or weigh the odds of him reporting next year.”
The team was very high on Moldenhauer when he was drafted, and not having him this season will hurt the 67’s cause for sure, but they do have some other players that might be able to fill the void of Moldenhauer not coming to the team this season.
Brady Stonehouse Among Best Players on the Ice
One of the players that should be able to fill those boots is the 67’s second-round pick in 2020, Brady Stonehouse. Elite Prospects and the 67’s themselves have Stonehouse listed somewhere around five-foot-nine, but I have a hard time believing that to be true. He’s grown into a big-bodied forward with smooth skating ability, a good shot, and a willingness to play a physical style of hockey that you don’t normally see from rookies in the OHL.
In the morning session, there was nothing unimpressive about Stonehouse’s game. Everything he did was stellar. From the way he was skating, to the way he was finishing his hits, and although he was held off the score sheet in the game, he showed flashes of his scoring ability. It’s abundantly clear that Stonehouse did the right things in the time away from hockey during the pandemic because it shows on the ice.
If you thought there might be some fatigue for Stonehouse in the second game, you would have been wrong. For as good as he was in the opening game, you could make the argument that he was every bit as good, if not better, in the second. He was still moving his feet and working hard the whole time. That’s rather impressive considering it was his second game of the day. One thing that really caught my eye, however, was him being the first player on the ice by a long shot for the second half of game two. It just seems like he gets it, like he’s that lunch pail kind of player. That’s dangerous when you combine that with someone as talented as he is.
Luca Pinelli As Good As Advertised
You might recognize the name Pinelli already if you follow the OHL or the NHL Entry Draft, and yes, the two are related. Luca Pinelli is Francesco Pinelli’s younger brother. Francesco Pinelli was drafted 42nd overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft this year. When the 67’s drafted Luca Pinelli, I said that if he was half as good as his brother, they would be getting a steal of a player. Since then, I have had people tell me that Luca Pinelli might be just as good as his brother if not better, but I didn’t believe them. Well, now that I have had the chance to see Luca Pinelli play in person, I can say that they might be right.
Pinelli is a supremely strong skater who sees the ice about as well as anyone else. It’s hard to decide between Stonehouse and Pinelli who was the best player on the ice in the morning session, but I have to give the edge to Pinelli, especially with the couple of assists he had in the game. Neither of his two assists were easy plays, in fact, I was shocked to see how easy he made them look on both occasions.
Keeping in mind that Pinelli is a true rookie this season, it makes his performance early in camp even more impressive. While players like Stonehouse and any player drafted in 2020 will be considered rookies this season, you have to remember that the 2021 draft class is still a year younger. For 67’s fans concerned about the departed big names, this should be some reassuring news about a player who could play a big part in the team this season.
Brenden Sirizotti Looks Ready
67’s fans have been waiting quite some time to finally see Brenden Sirizzotti on the ice as a member of the team, and while they saw a glimpse of what he could offer in nine games in 2019-20, it finally looks like Sirizzotti is ready to be a full-time member of the team. In his nine OHL games, Sirizzotti has scored one goal and added another assist. The bulk of his 2019-20 season was spent play junior ‘A’ with the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL where he played 41 games, scoring 17 goals and another 40 assists.
“Brenden Sirizotti, who played a handful of games with the 67’s in 2019-20, but was really a standout in junior ‘A’ playing with the Pickering Panthers,” said Boyd in the same interview with TSN 1200. “He’s a goal-scorer who’s still here.”
Max Donoso Is a Capable Goalie
It’s not too long ago that the 67’s had massive question marks in the crease, and those had gone away with the emergence of Cedrick Andree and the acquisition of Michael DiPietro, but now with both gone, the questions seem to be back. Will Cranley is set to occupy the starters role, but fans likely won’t be too familiar with Max Donoso, the goaltender primed to take the second spot. Donoso was the 67’s fifth-round pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection and spent the 2019-20 season with a series of American teams.
Team White only saw the ice in the afternoon scrimmage and Donoso saw limited action, but he was solid in his team’s 4-2 loss to Team Black. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Donoso on the day was his rebound control. If you watch the best goalies in the world, you will notice that they very seldomly pop a puck back out into a dangerous area of the ice. Instead, they aim to either redirect the puck into the corner or hang onto it and take it out of play all together. Rebound control is critical to the success of a goalie, and usually, the guys who are good at it are good goalies, and the guys who aren’t don’t stick around long.
From the quick look we had at him in the scrimmage, he looks like a athletic young goaltender who could have a very bright future in the league. Goalies are a hard thing to evaluate, however. All three goalies who played in the scrimmages on Friday looked good, but Donoso looked more junior hockey ready than both Mathis Mainville and Colin MacKenzie. Time will tell on this one, but Donoso is off to a good start with his new team.
Christopher Barlas Has His Moments
The 67’s first-round pick in 2021 Christopher Barlas took to the ice for Team Black for two games on the day, and while he never took over the game, he had his moments where you can see why the 67’s took him so high. He scored a goal in the second game where he went bar down over Donoso from a very tight angle. He was also playing a physical brand of hockey that should have 67’s fans excited. He’s a true rookie and certainly didn’t look out of place in the first couple of on-ice session.
Barlas may not have had the flash or pizaz of Stonehouse or Pinelli on the day, but he showed his worth time and time again. He’s sound positionally, seems to be a smart player, and when he wants to, he can really let the shot go. He might not come out and have a massive season statistically, but let’s also remember, not many rookies do. Like Pinelli, he will be compared to other rookies who are a full year older than him, but if you can separate the two draft classes, it will help you understand better how good of a player Barlas can be.
Young Roster With Plenty of Talent
The biggest takeaway from the first couple of days at training camp is that the roster is young, maybe not as young as others, but it is still young. It feels even younger considering the missed season, and when you come to a game or watch one on TV, you might not recognize many names. But unquestionably, the roster is talented. Some of your favourites are probably gone, but don’t worry, it won’t take long before you take a liking to one of the new kids.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!