The Windsor Spitfires are showing that a little confidence goes a long way. Last season, they finished eighth in the OHL’s Western Conference, but, with some hard work, they’re climbing the standings. It’s taken some blood, sweat, and tears, plus an outstanding performance from a few players.
The Spitfires added a handful of new faces in the offseason, hoping that those talents would mesh well with their roster from 2018-19. It’s tough to argue with the results as the club sits near the top of the conference.
While the majority of the team has stepped up, three players in particular have really made themselves known this month. Let’s take a look at who we’re able to level up with a super month.
October’s 3 Stars:
#3 – Defenceman – Ruben Rafkin
This was a tough choice as multiple players could have been justified. However, consistency is part of this process and few have been better at that than Finnish defenceman Ruben Rafkin.
He came to the Spitfires in the 2019 CHL Import Draft out of the Tri-City Storm (USHL), advertised as a kid who could hit, play strong defence, and chip-in offensively.
He’s adjusted very well to the OHL and, being only 17, has plenty of room to grow. With eight points in nine games in October, he had only two games where he didn’t record a point. It’s a quiet consistency that doesn’t go unnoticed.
Rafkin has proven to be a fantastic find by former general manager Warren Rychel. An agitating guy to play against, he makes a strong first pass and can rush the puck with ease. He’s on the NHL’s radar and, if he can continue this upward trend, there’s plenty of potential here.
Rafkin has earned the third star for October.
#2 – Forward – Egor Afanasyev
Another newcomer, forward Egor Afanasyev has been exactly what the team had hoped for. The Spitfires acquired his rights as part of the blockbuster deal that saw Michael DiPietro head to the Ottawa 67’s in December. Rychel was able to bring him in over the summer after two seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL).
Afanasyev was drafted in the second round by the Nashville Predators in June and has lived up to his billing. While he failed to score in his first four games, he had six goals and five assists in nine games in October. That includes just one game without a point.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound winger uses his size in all situations and is growing more comfortable unloading the big shot around the net. While there was a clear adjustment period, he hasn’t let up and could challenge for the team scoring lead come March.
Afanasyev’s consistency and production and earned him the second star for October.
#1 – Forward – Tyler Angle
Veteran Tyler Angle has something to prove and he’s making that well-known.
The 5-foot-10, 172-pound Columbus Blue Jackets prospect broke out last season with 44 points in 58 games, but there were still doubters. He’s turned it up a notch this season with seven goals and eight assists in nine October games.
They’re pretty surreal numbers and, when you add in highlight-reel goals, Angle is proving to be worth watching every game. Plus, despite his diminutive stature, he’s not afraid to throw the weight around, making him an overall threat.
Angle, 19, has had plenty to prove over the last year and he’s making sure people take notice. Nobody can blame him, either. For his efforts, he’s earned the first star for October.
There’s a different vibe around the club this season and it’s showing on the ice. From youth to veterans, everyone is chipping in. These three players have taken the reigns in the first month and have earned the three stars for October.
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.