With the start of the 2019-20 season just around the corner, it’s a good time to take a quick peek at some veteran presence on the Windsor Spitfires. Proper leadership will be crucial as the team enters the second season of their rebuild.
The Spitfires have several veterans who could take the reins and lead this group into a post-season run. However, OHL rules only allow for three players per team that are 20 years old (born in 1999 heading into the 19-20 season).
Let’s take a look at the overage candidates and see who has a shot of making the 2019-20 roster.
One Last Hurrah
1. Forward – Cole Purboo
No matter what he has been called to do, Cole Purboo has been the Spitfires’ guy. If they needed a penalty killer, Purboo was there. What about a power-play goal? Purboo was there. Leadership? Purboo had the alternate captaincy.
From being a rookie camp standout in 2015 to being a household name in 2019, Purboo has played in all 204 regular-season games for the Spitfires in his three seasons. It would almost weird not mentioning his name alongside the Spitfires. He’s seen the best of times, and the worst.
After 29 goals in 2018-19, Purboo hitting the 30-goal mark would be a fitting way to end his OHL journey. Barring some odd event, expect to see him finish his career where it started – with the Spitfires.
2. Forward – Ben Garagan
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Hamilton Bulldogs, Ben Garagan provided exactly what the Spitfires brought him in for – depth. He only had two points in 23 games but, with just 28 points in 212 regular-season games in the OHL with three different teams, expectations weren’t high.
While Garagan did his job for the Spitfires, there’s little reason to bring him back. The team has brought in multiple younger forwards as they look to the future and those players will get a chance to show their worth.
Garagan was an appreciated part of the team but it’s likely time to bid farewell.
3. Goaltender – Colton Incze
Like Garagan, Colton Incze was brought in from the Niagara IceDogs at the deadline. Incze, though, became an integral part of the lineup.
He took over for veteran Mikey DiPietro, who was traded to the Ottawa 67’s in December.
It’s rare for a goaltender to be an overager if the team isn’t a contender, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. You could see him in the University ranks, though, or mentoring a younger goaltender in the league.
4. Forward – Luke Boka
When the Spitfires drafted Luke Boka in 2015, he came advertised as a thunderous hitter who could put up some points. In four seasons, he’s put up 104 points in 254 games; a respectable total.
What’s more important, though, has been his defensive play. He was named one of the best shot-blockers in back-to-back OHL Coaches Polls (2017-19) and was named the Spitfires’ captain in 2018-19. Boka has literally put his body on the line for his team.
The question now is – would he come back in a bottom-six role? With the 17 and 18-year-olds ready to shine offensively, Boka’s offence will likely take a back seat. He’ll be counted on more for his defensive game. If he can do that, expect him back in a Spitfires’ uniform until at least the deadline. If not, a trade or the post-secondary route might be the best option.
5. Defenceman – Thomas Stevenson
A former tenth-round pick by the Spitfires, Thomas Stevenson worked his way onto the club and has given the team the reliable defender it needed. He’s not flashy, with just 18 points in two seasons, but
The Spitfires’ defence only loses veteran Sean Allen to graduation. He’ll likely be replaced by 17-year-old, 6-foot-3 Dylan Robinson, who saw much of the season with LaSalle Jr. B.
While Stevenson is certainly an option for an overage spot, the Spitfires might not have the room. With Robinson ready, 2019 OHL Draftee James Jodoin waiting in the wings, and 2019 CHL Import pick Ruben Rafkin newly signed, spots are going to be hard to come by. Jodoin could play in LaSalle, but Rafkin signed with the Spitfires instead of the USHL or back home in Finland. He’s not going anywhere.
At this point, the team is better off getting some value for Stevenson via trade, unless he chooses the post-secondary route.
Training Camp on Horizon
The OHL Summer Trade Freeze lifts on Thursday and Spitfires’ new general manager Bill Bowler will have some work to do. Reducing the number of overage candidates may be a top priority.
Over the last month, Bowler, former Spitfires’ GM Warren Rychel, and the rest of the team’s staff have brought in a handful of new faces that should make for a strong club.
In the second half of 2018-19, the Spitfires played most nights with a shortened lineup due to injuries and/or suspensions. Going into 2019-20 training camp, the depth, both
The rebuild is entering the next stage so Bowler will want to get his veterans set as quickly as possible. It’s one less thing to worry about before training camp. Dates for camp will be announced later in August.