As the clock turns to midnight and the calendar flips over to 2019, three members of the Windsor Spitfires are ending 2018 on an especially high note.
While the season hasn’t gone the way the Spitfires had hoped, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. A combination of improved veterans and eager youth lead the way as the team focuses on the second half of the season.
Let’s take a look at three players who leveled up in December and will be ones to watch as the calendar flips over.
December’s Three Stars:
#3 – Will Cuylle – Forward
Coming into his rookie season, 2018 third-overall pick Will Cuylle had plenty of expectations. He had 33 goals and 62 points in 43 games for the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget in 2017-18 so it’s no wonder Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel brought him in from the Peterborough Petes in late August.
Since coming to the Spitfires, Cuylle has delivered. Unlike some rookies that might fade a bit in their rookie season, Cuylle has steadily gotten better.
In nine games through December, Cuylle has scored an impressive six goals, along with adding an assist. He knows where to be and, with an average of nearly five shots-per-game, he’s not afraid to let it fly. This season to date, Cuylle has 12 goals and 19 points in 31 games.
It takes time for rookies to adjust to the pace of the OHL but Cuylle seems to be just fine. He’s got a bright future with the Spitfires and has earned the third star for December.
#2 – Cole Purboo – Forward
When a team is rebuilding, it’s crucial to have veterans that teach and lead the way. Cole Purboo is an example of that. The third-year forward came onto the Spitfires in 2016-17 as a late-round 2015 draft pick but has proven he was worth the gamble.
This season, he has found his stride with 28 points in 36 games and was named an alternate captain. He’s one of few players who can say they’ve never missed a game in the last three seasons, too.
One of Purboo’s issues to date has been an inconsistent offence. However, that has turned around in December. Through nine games, he has five goals and four assists, and just two games without recording a point.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound winger isn’t one to run you over with a check or blow past you with his speed, but he’s getting the job done night in and night out. When you have a young roster, that’s exactly what you need from your veterans. Purboo was around for the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup and that experience will truly help this team as it grows.
Purboo is the Spitfires’ second star for December.
#1 – Daniel D’Amico – Forward
The Spitfires’ rebuild is well underway and Daniel D’Amico has become a big part of it.
Drafted in the sixth round in 2017, D’Amico came to the Spitfires has a hard-working, pesky forward who could put up some points. He’s done nothing but deliver, and exceeded expectations.
With 14 goals and 13 assists in 35 games, D’Amico has challenged for the Spitfires’ scoring lead since opening night. December has really helped him, too. In nine games, D’Amico has five goals and six assists for 11 points. He has become a force on the ice and gives the team a chance to create offence on every shift.
After the Spitfires’ traded goaltender Michael DiPietro to the Ottawa 67’s, D’Amico has stepped up his overall game and become a leader on the ice. His energy is contagious and the Spitfires will need his production and leadership as the season moves forward.
D’Amico has earned the first star for December.
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.