With a new season upon us, the Windsor Spitfires are hoping their roster can take that next step towards success. While they have veterans who have proven themselves, there are several youngsters who are looking to have a big second season. Having a breakout year is no easy task but it is essential to success in the OHL.
Last season, forward Cole Purboo nearly tripled his point total from 2016-17 (17 to 49), while new captain Luke Boka had a similar jump from 2015-16 to 2016-17 (4 to 28 points). Both players showed what hard work can do for your production. Who is poised for a breakout season in 2018-19? Let’s take a look at some of the candidates.
Bustin’ Out the Points
LW Chris Playfair
2017-18: 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points in 66 games
The Spitfires’ fourth-round pick in 2016, Chris Playfair was a bit of a bubble player early in his career. He showed promise with the LaSalle Vipers Jr. B in 2016-17 (17 points in 30 games) and, after a 17-point season in 2017-18, we know the offence is there. As the season went on, he became more comfortable around the net and it showed.
Named assistant captain before their home opener, Playfair brings a strong two-way game that really grows on you. With the right amount of playing time and support system, he could have a monster season. He finished last season with a huge goal at home against the Sarnia Sting in the first round of the playoffs and looks poised to continue that upward trend.
Former Spitfires’ captain Aaron Luchuk took a similar route to the Spitfires and, while Luchuk adds a bit more offense, Playfair has similar potential. Keep an eye out for Playfair this season.
Defenceman Nathan Staios
2017-18: 3 goals, 3 assists, 12 points in 54 games
The Spitfires believe they’ve found their future power play quarterback. Drafted in the first round in 2017, defenceman Nathan Staios comes from a great bloodline and has the potential to turn games around.
After 16 points in 16 games for Vaughan Minor Midget in 2016-17, Staios had 12 points for the Spitfires as a rookie in 2017-18. The five-foot-nine, 165-pound defenseman is going to be a player to keep an eye on. With a big shot that he’s not afraid to use, plus a willingness to mix it up, he has similar traits to former Spitfires great Ryan Ellis (who was five-foot-10, 170-pounds).
The Spitfires have allowed the 17-year-old to get his feet wet without overwhelming him. Now, it’s time to see what he can do. He’ll see power play time and be counted on during big situations. Don’t be surprised if he makes a name for himself this season.
Center Daniel D’Amico
2017-18: 12 goals, 7 assists, 19 points in 59 games
If you want proof that hard work can get you places in the OHL, take a look at forward Daniel D’Amico. The Spitfires’ sixth-round pick in 2017 was fast and tenacious during his first training camp, earning a roster spot. He hasn’t let up since.
The five-foot-nine, 178-pound forward is a fan favourite with his never-say-die attitude on the ice, on top of his ability to light the lamp. With 12 goals and 7 assists last season, stopping him isn’t an easy task. He added another four points in six playoff games, too.
It’s easy to like D’Amico’s game. There are few players that outwork him and what more can you ask for if he can put up the points as well? With lots of room to improve, this is going to be a big season for the diminutive forward. The coaches have confidence in him, as do the fans, and it wouldn’t be a shock to anyone if he had a huge season.
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.