The Mississauga Steelheads may have lost two out of their first three games of the season, but there is still plenty of time to turn the ship around. The Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Central Division is wide open to grab a playoff spot, so the team must put together a good stretch over the next 10 games. For this task to be accomplished, it will take these three players to take the next step in their game.
The 19-year-old from Innisfil has three goals in three games to start the regular season. The scoring prowess is not surprising from Hardie, as he scored 34 goals in 63 games during the 2019-20 season. However, if the Steelheads are going to become a playoff team, he will need to step up his overall game. He needs to be more of a factor in playmaking, especially finding those passing lanes in the offensive zone.
He has nine penalty minutes to start the season, and his defensive game has been an issue at times. The offensive ability to put the team on his back and drive the play is there, but the rest of his game needs some fine-tuning. Expect him to be a standout game over the next few weeks as the team looks to win more games.
Ethan Del Mastro
The 18-year-old from Burlington was a fourth-round selection by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2021 NHL Draft. The left-handed defender has had a brutal start to the season, taking 13 penalty minutes across the three games and has zero points so far. The sample size is small, but that trajectory cannot continue for this team to succeed. As the captain, he is going to need to lead by example.
He is known for using his six-foot-four frame to sacrifice his body and making incredible defensive reads. Del Mastro looked great at the Under-18 World Junior Championships for Team Canada, putting up two assists in seven games. Let’s see if he can take his offensive game to the next level for the Steelheads, as he has a career-high of seven points, which he produced in the 2019-20 season as a rookie.
Basran has only been on the team for 15 days, as he was claimed off waivers from the Western Hockey League on Oct. 4. He is known for playing on the edge, as he got into a rare goaltender fight last season against Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers. As well, he looks steady in the net so far, making the saves when needed for the team, only allowing four goals through two games.
Basran will need to be able to take on a tandem role with this team with Joe Ranger, who only has a career-high of 15 games played. This isn’t a very experienced goaltending duo, but there is potential that one of them can thrive in a starting position. Basran has outplayed Ranger throughout three games so far, so it waits to be seen if that can continue.
It will take every player to perform above expectations for this team to contend. However, the onus is on these three guys to lead by example and set the standard for the younger players on the team. Hardie has something to prove as he looks to earn a professional contract, and Del Mastro is looking to make an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks over the coming years. Basran wants to showcase himself for a professional contract or even look at the university level following this season to continue his playing career. These guys have something they are working towards, and as a team, they share a common goal: to make the playoffs.
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.