While the heat and humidity take over Ontario, it’s a good time to cool off, take a break, and look at the upcoming 2020-21 OHL season. For the Windsor Spitfires, it’s a chance at unfinished business, and part of that starts with their overage group.
Going into 2019-20, the Spitfires were eager to finally break their eight-season drought of not making the second round. While they had a good shot, finishing mid-conference, the COVID-19 pandemic stopped everything. As a result, the streak continues. Now, they enter 2020-21 with an overage group who have something to prove.
Let’s look at the five players that could return for their final OHL season.
Spitfires’ Overage Candidates
Last season, captain Luke Boka joined veterans Cole Purboo and Thomas Stevenson as the club’s three 20-year-olds. They weren’t flashy but they put their bodies on the line every night. As we enter the next stage, the new group of 20-year-olds are more offensive and could be the ones to finally end the streak.
Tyler Angle – Forward
Drafted in the sixth round in 2016, the 5-foot-10, 168-pound Tyler Angle has gone from a hopeful to a hulk.
The Thorold-native joined the Spitfires during the 2016-17 season, but saw limited action on the veteran squad. Once he started getting ice time following the 2017 Memorial Cup, he proved his worth. His point totals increased every season, going from four in 2016-17 to 17, 44, and then 67 in 2019-20.
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While he’s not a flash-and-dash kid, his slick moves wowed fans on multiple occasions and his size never got in the way of going to the ugly areas. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ seventh-round pick in 2019 is showing he can take over a game and could be in for a monster final season.
Curtis Douglas – Forward
This might be the most polarizing situation with the team in 2020-21. Acquired from the Barrie Colts in Dec. 2018 in the Aaron Luchuk trade, Curtis Douglas is a unique combination of size, production, and leadership. The question is can he put it all together?
A former Dallas Stars’ prospect, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound centre had 30 goals and 60 points in 62 games in 2019-20, all of which were career highs. He has the potential to be a serious power forward who can score, hit, and lead with equal ability. However, his skating and inconsistency haven’t helped anything. The game is quicker and, while he’s productive at top speed, it’s getting to that level every night that’s a challenge.
Douglas has put a lot of work into his game and if he can find that consistent, productive snarl, he will silence a lot of critics. Perhaps the grand finale is worth the wait?
Chris Playfair – Forward
Like Angle, the 6-foot, 180-pound Chris Playfair joined the Spitfires during the 2017 Memorial Cup run. The club’s fourth-round pick in 2016, he became known more for his leadership and penalty killing than his offence.
His career season came in 2018-19 when he scored 20 points in 49 games. Unfortunately, he missed 19 games from late November through January due to a concussion. It was a tough recovery and his 20-point season was his OHL peak, scoring just 11 points in 56 games in 2019-20.
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Off the ice, he had the alternate captain’s “A” from 2018-20 and has become a fixture in the community. Is that enough to justify one of three overage spots? Not likely. If the Spitfires were rebuilding, his leadership alone might be valuable enough, but even that’s a stretch. Hopefully, he can land somewhere local and help a younger club out.
Connor Corcoran – Defence
It’s tough to picture a Spitfires’ lineup without veteran Connor Corcoran patrolling the defence.
Drafted in the second round in 2016, Corcoran has become Mr. Everything on the blue line. He learned the trade from crafty veterans during the 2017 Memorial Cup and has applied that knowledge to perfection.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pounder has consistently grown in all areas since he joined the organization. His point totals have steadily increased every season and, despite some growing pains, he has become the defensive stud the team envisioned.
Drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, he’s learning how to play within his means and not put too much pressure on himself. It’s developed his confidence and he exploded with 19 goals and 54 points in 62 games last season. He also earned an “A,” showing he can lead this team in 2020-21.
The Golden Knights signed him in June, so he could wind up with their new AHL franchise in Henderson. It would be a deserved accomplishment. However, if he does wind up back with the Spitfires, his swan song could be epic.
Joseph Rupoli – Defenceman
Should Corcoran not return, there’s another option on defence.
The Spitfires acquired 6-foot-4, 203-pound Joseph Rupoli from the Kitchener Rangers early last season when veteran Thomas Stevenson went down with a concussion. General manager Bill Bowler gave up a 12th-round pick in 2020 for the depth and it seemed to work out alright.
Rupoli isn’t a guy who’s going to wow you in any one area. With 5 points in 102 career games, he’s more of the strong, silent type who steps in when teammates are in trouble. In 2017-18, he was a teammate of former Spitfires’ tough guy Sean Allen and the two play a similar style (though Allen was more active with the gloves off).
If Corcoran makes the AHL and Bowler doesn’t bring anyone in via trade, Rupoli could bring a much-needed veteran presence to the defence. Don’t expect him to suddenly find the scoresheet, but if he can provide steady defence, some leadership, and toughness, it’s worth taking a shot.
Bowler in Good Position
With the pandemic controlling the globe, it’s difficult to predict who will come back for a final season in the OHL. However, this group of 20-year-olds might be one of the strongest the Spitfires have seen since before the 2009 and 2010 Memorial Cups. Each one brings something different to the table and it puts Bowler in a good spot. Let’s see if he can play his cards right.