It’s hard to believe that the 2010s are just about over. In a few short weeks, visions of 2020 will become a reality. For the Windsor Spitfires, it’s been a decade of serious highs and numerous talents that put the team on the map.
From their 2010 and 2017 Memorial Cup wins to thousands of memories made with fans, this organization has made this a decade to remember. Players have come through the system, making an impression on both the team and the community that will last a lifetime.
Let’s take a look back at some of the players who made this decade so memorable as we present the Spitfires All-Decade Team (2010-19).
Spitfires Who Soared
When you’re looking at an all-decade team, you could look at just one line – three forwards, two defencemen, and a goaltender. However, we’re going to take this a step further. This team will consist of 13 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goaltenders.
In one fashion, you could just pick between the two Memorial Cup teams, but that’s the easy way out. This goes deeper, picking a variety of players from the entire spectrum of hockey. Let’s get at it!
First Forward Line:
Taylor Hall – Adam Henrique – Greg Nemisz
When you think of dominant Spitfire trios, these three almost immediately come to mind. After winning the 2009 Memorial Cup, the Spitfires continued to dominate the OHL in 2009-10 and the trio of Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Greg Nemisz were nearly unstoppable.
While Hall led the group with 57 games, they recorded a combined 253 points in the regular season, plus another 72 playoff points and 22 Memorial Cup points. It was borderline magic for Spitfires’ fans to watch unfold.
Each player brought something different to the table. Hall was the creative flash-and-dash kid who would end up being selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010 (before traded to the New Jersey Devils). He was also named the 2010 Memorial Cup MVP with nine points in four games.
Henrique, now with the Anaheim Ducks, was the two-way thinker who was golden in the clutch. During the 2010 Memorial Cup, he was second on the team with eight points in four games. It capped off a surreal junior career that fans were thankful to be a part of.
Nemisz was the big-bodied guy who had a knack for finding the open guy. He didn’t get the same fanfare as Hall or Henrique, but that wasn’t his thing. Instead, he did his thing and the fans appreciated it. He’s now an assistant coach with the Oshawa Generals.
All three were dominant in their own right. Together, they were nearly impossible to stop and a very deserving top line.
Second Forward Line:
Alexander Khokhlachev – Kerby Rychel – Dale Mitchell
While these three didn’t play together, as Dale Mitchell graduated in 2010, it’s another line that can beat you in multiple ways. Kerby Rychel, son of former Spitfires’ general manager Warren, became one of the purest snipers in recent team history. He had back-to-back 40-goal seasons from 2011 to 2013 and was a leader on and off the ice.
His time as a Spitfire ended in 2013 when his father traded him to the Guelph Storm during their championship run. Fans never forgot him, though.
Khokhlachev was drafted from Russia in the 2010 CHL Import Draft. The kid they called “Koko” put up point-a-game totals in each of his three seasons in the OHL, dazzling with his creativity. The former Boston Bruins prospect was an instant fan favourite and gave fans a thrill following the back-to-back Memorial Cups.
Finishing off the line is the sparkplug, Mitchell. At 5-foot-8, 205-pounds, he wasn’t a physically imposing guy, but boy could he play the game. Brought in from the Oshawa Generals in the summer of 2008, he was part of the two championships.
In 2010, Mitchell was returned from the AHL and promptly posted 43 points in just 32 games. His leadership and professional experience was a big addition to the club and cemented his spot on this all-decade team.
Third Forward Line:
Aaron Luchuk – Cole Purboo – Cristiano DiGiacinto
Every good team needs strong leadership and it doesn’t get much better than the trio of Aaron Luchuk, Cole Purboo, and Cristiano DiGiacinto. In 2013, DiGiacinto was brought in as a free agent after being cut by the Erie Otters. All the kid wanted was a chance and he ran with it with 149 points in 223 games.
Not only could DiGiacinto put up the points, but he defended teammates without hesitation and was a celebrity around town. Everyone knew “Deeg” was and he gladly signed autographs at each event.
Luchuk was similar; he was a leader at the rink and in the community in the same seasons as DiGiacinto. Originally a fourth-round pick in 2013, he took a season to simmer before showing the Spitfires’ faithful what he could do.
Once he was adjusted, back-to-back 27-plus goal seasons were followed by a 50-goal campaign in 2017-18, split between the Spitfires and Barrie Colts. He did everything he could for his club and community. The all-decade team wouldn’t be complete without him.
Finally, Purboo, the iron man himself. A ninth-round pick in 2015, Purboo made sure the brass knew he was for real in the summer of 2016. It paid off as he hasn’t missed a single game for the Spitfires in four seasons. After hitting 29-goals in 2018-19, he’s on pace to break the 30-goal plateau this season. He’s a workhorse on the ice and always in the community for team events. You can’t ask for much more out of this kid.
Fourth Forward Line:
Luke Boka – Scott Timmins – Eric Wellwood
Rounding out the four lines are three players that show the meaning of the word teammate. Defensive forwards don’t always get the highlight reel goals but they put teams on their back and mucked out the wins.
Eric Wellwood, part of the original group when Rychel, Bob Boughner, and Peter Dobrich bought the club in 2006, became one of the best penalty killers the team has seen. He had his only 30-goal season in 2009-10, but his defensive game was always top-notch. Using his speed, he drove opponents nuts and earned some time in the NHL. Now, he shares his knowledge as head coach of the Flint Firebirds.
Scott Timmins came to the team in Jan. 2009 in a highly-publicized deal with the Kitchener Rangers. (from ‘Windsor completes a major deal with Kitchener,’ Soo Today, 01/07/2009) While he was used as a depth forward on two elite Spitfires clubs, the team was able to put him into any role and he excelled. Scoring 30 goals and 47 points in a bottom-six role was a challenge that he excelled at. Guys like him aren’t easy to find but everyone was glad the organization did.
Finally, Luke Boka has taken the “blue and red” Spitfire to a completely different level. Drafted in 2015, Boka came in as a hard-hitting, two-way forward and has more than lived up to that billing.
With multiple OHL Coaches Poll awards, and named team captain in 2018-19, the kid puts his body on the line every game and doesn’t look back. He’s in his final season but is just 30-games away from being the Spitfires’ all-time games-played leader. With everything he’s done for the Spitfires, Boka simply can’t be left off of this list.
Extra: Gabriel Vilardi
Chosen in the first round of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, Gabriel Vilardi had an interesting, and shorter-than-desired, stint with the Spitfires. Offensively, he was golden with 99 points in 111 games. However, an unspecified back injury in the summer of 2017 put him on the injured list. The Spitfires traded him to the Kingston Frontenacs in a blockbuster deal in January 2018 and he got healthy enough to play 32 games for them. Unfortunately, following that, the injury has kept him in and out of the game.
Vilardi was a stud for the Spitfires; mature beyond his years, offensively gifted, and eager to play. It’s just too bad his time with the team was cut short.
Rose City Defence That Delivers
Ryan Ellis – Harry Young
When you say the names Ryan Ellis and Harry Young, Spitfires fans tend to smile. The two played together from 2007 to 2010 and, while complete opposites, were incredibly effective.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Ellis wasn’t physically imposing but he didn’t have to be. Instead, he let his skills do the talking. In 226 regular-season games, he had 313 points, while adding another 88 points in 62 playoff games and nine points in 10 Memorial Cup games.
From Memorial Cups to OHL All-Star teams, captain of the club to World Juniors Silver medal, Ellis accomplished all he could in junior hockey. Realistically, the Spitfires may never have another talent like Ellis again.
On the opposite side of the coin, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Young was exactly what the team needed, too. Young only hit the 20-point mark once, in 2009-10, but he was far more valuable in other areas. Named captain from 2008 tp 2010, he was the guy teammates looked up to, both in the room and on the ice. If there was an issue, he proudly took care of it.
Acquired from the Guelph Storm in 2006-07, the Windsor-native loved playing at home and the fans loved him back. Young was an integral part of the team to start the decade and deserves a spot on this roster.
Mikhail Sergachev – Mark Cundari
It’s impossible to think of offensive defencemen without bringing up Mikhail Sergachev. Chosen in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, he made an immediate and strong impact. With 100 points in 117 regular-season games, plus a willingness to use his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, he was a force every time he hit the ice.
The Montreal Canadiens’ first-rounder in 2016 (now with the Tampa Bay Lightning) had all the tools to dominate and made no bones about doing his thing. He wasn’t in Windsor for a long time but he sure made it a good time.
One defenceman that was here for a long time – 300 total games, in fact – was Mark Cundari. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound gritty blueliner put up a career-high 54-points in 2009-10, plus 139 penalty minutes. He became known for his big hits and willingness to do anything for his team. Cundari and Sergachev make a dominant second pairing on the Spitfires’ all-decade team.
Saverio Posa – Patrick Sanvido
While offensive defencemen are important, every team needs that shutdown pairing. That’s what Saverio Posa and Patrick Sanvido are. With over 450 combined games for the Spitfires, they combined for fewer than 100 points, but their defence was much more lucrative.
Sanvido used his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to wear opponents down, building up his team in the process. While not one to drop the mitts, he didn’t need to. He was simply the big guy who smiled and skated away after he put you into the end boards.
From 2014 through his trade to the Sudbury Wolves in Dec. 2016, he proudly wore the captain’s ‘C’ and everyone in town knew who he was.
Posa was more of the thinker on the ice. Named captain in 2012-13, the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder used his smarts to stifle opponents. He could throw the body, put up some points, and even defended teammates on occasion. However, his bread-and-butter was his hockey knowledge. He knew what to do, how to motivate his team, and he always had time for the fans. Every team needs a player like Posa and the Spitfires were glad to have him for so long.
Extra: Connor Corcoran
This was a tough choice. When you have that extra player, you want him to be a bit of everything, depending on what the situation calls for. Current Spitfires’ alternate captain Connor Corcoran fits that bill.
The Spitfires’ second-round pick in 2016, he took a bit of time to get going but has really grown into something special. In 2018-19, he surpassed his career-highs with 32 points in 68 games. This season, he already has 26 points in just 25 games and his plus/minus rating has jumped 50 points to plus-10.
Corcoran, a Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect, does anything asked of him and is showing he can lead the current Spitfires’ defence into a playoff run. He’s cementing himself among the team’s greats and could find himself on this list again in another 10-years.
Spitfires’ Goaltending Gurus
Was there ever a doubt? When you talk about the greatest goaltenders in Spitfires’ history, Michael DiPietro will come up every time.
The Spitfires’ second-round pick in 2015, the Amherstburg-native came to the team with a limitless ceiling and a love for everything community. From the Memorial Cup to the World Juniors, team shutout record to Teddy Bear Toss Grinch, he did more than anyone could have asked for on the ice. Combined with his love of the community, including a Key to the Town of Amherstburg, he truly became the face of the franchise.
Prior to his arrival, the Spitfires had a carousel of goaltenders following the graduation of Andrew Engleage (2009). As soon as DiPietro hit the ice, though, you knew he was the future. His trade to the Ottawa 67’s in December 2018 was a tough one for the franchise, but he earned his legacy as not only the best goaltender of the decade but likely in team history.
While naming DiPietro as the starter was easy, naming a backup was much more difficult. The Spitfires had a handful of more-than-capable goaltenders between Engelage and DiPietro. One of them, Czech-born Jaroslav Pavelka, stood out among the rest.
The Spitfires acquired Pavelka from the Niagara IceDogs in Nov. 2011, sending Tom Kuhnhackl the other way. He immediately showed his worth, posting back-to-back save percentages over 90 percent from 2011 to 2013.
While the team struggled at times, Pavelka stole more than a few games for them. Not one for fanfare, he did his job and did it well. That’s all you could really ask of him.
Though the 2010s, the Spitfires have seen some incredible talents march through the doors of the WFCU Centre. With two Memorial Cups, multiple World Junior appearances, and numerous NHL draft picks, it’s been a decade to remember.
As we enter 2020, with new general manager Bill Bowler and the Cypher Systems Group in charge, it’s fun to think about how the next 10 years will go. No matter what happens, though, it’s going to be an entertaining ride in the Rose City.
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.