The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins this week. They play one of these every winter? Man, it never ends. With the days getting shorter and the season getting nearer, BTN is taking an early look at each team in reverse order of last season's standings.
In 2012-13 — 39-23-2-4, .618 point pct., 250 GF/206 GA. Fifth, Western Conference. Lost 4-1 to Kitchener in first round .
Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — seventh OHL, 18th CHL.
Drafted — C Jason Dickinson (Dallas Stars, first round) D Matt Finn (Toronto Maple Leafs, second), LW Brock McGinn (Guelph Storm, second), LW Tyler Bertuzzi (Detroit Red Wings, second), RW Scott Kosmachuk (Winnipeg Jets, third), RW Justin Auger (Los Angeles Kings, fourth), D Ben Harpur (Ottawa Senators, fourth), D Zac Leslie (Los Angeles, sixth).
2014 NHL draft watch — C Robby Fabbri, the OHL's No. 6 overall pick in 2012, tantalized with 33 points in his first season. The Storm's new import D, Phil Baltisberger, is a wide-bodied blueliner at 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds and helped Switzerland make the world junior championship medal round last winter.
1. Which veteran offensive player(s) will take the lead?
The Scott Walker-coached Storm pulled off a neat trick to little acclaim in '12-13, tallying the third-most goals in the OHL without a single player placing in the top 30 in league scoring. (Kosmachuk was 32nd with 65 points in 68 games.) Guelph has 11 of its top 15 point-getters back, which is good since it might have to play a few last-shot-wins games while relying on untested goalies Jason DaSilva and Matt Mancina.
Walker's two best right-shot wings, Auger and Kosmachuk, are interesting case studies. Auger can be expected to get a lion's share of scoring chances due in part to what cannot be taught. He is the OHL's tallest forward at 6-foot-7 and uses that length to protect the puck. Now that he's been through a summer as a NHL draft pick, it will intriguing to see whether he takes what he's been taught and becomes an irresistible force after scoring 16 goals and 33 points last season. Kosmachuk's sweet skills are also manifestly evident; he has an excellent shot to show that he was a steal for the Jets at the 2012 draft. That likely boils down to consistency and offsetting his one-and-one skill by distributing the puck. Dickinson's two-way savvy enabled him to become a late first-rounder, which segues into watching to see whether he converts that into being a steadier scorer. Of course, one cannot talk about the Storm's scoring punch and omit overage Zack Mitchell and undrafted 18-year-old Hunter Garlent. These guys are good. Bertuzzi, McGinn and Ryan Horvat, an overage Ryan Horvat, who was in the Anaheim Ducks' training camp, also give Guelph some jam up front.
2. Will they remain this reliant on two young goaltenders all season long?
The new tandem cannot be called green; it's more like a chartreuse. Garret Sparks, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, never came out of the net in '12-13 and seemed to give Guelph the comfort of knowing it could take the occasional chance offensively. The Storm used journeymen Keegan Wilson and Michael Nishi for spot starts, so now it's looking at beginning a contending season with two goalies who have a combined 180 minutes' OHL experience, with no starts.
DaSilva, 18, and Mancina, 17, each deserve a chance to make their cases on merit. It is just unusual in light of how GM Mike Kelly and Walker have assembled their roster over the last three seasons. The goalie trade market in the OHL might not be too deep, but the Storm are in a flexible position. Kelly, barring a trade that breaks by the time I finish typing this sentence, has an open overage slot and also could dangle a young player after drafting well the past two springs.
The penultimate line of defence should be sound. Finn is capable of logging 25-30 minutes each night. The 6-foot-6 Harpur seems like a natural to step into the big skates of graduated 6-5 defender Andrei Pedan, while Baltisberger and Leslie could round out a sound top four.
#Leafs send to Marlies:Carrick, Crescenzi, D’Amigo, Leivo,McKegg Ross, Granberg, Yeo Yuen, and G Christopher Gibson and Garret Sparks
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) September 17, 2013
3. Will Fabbri find a fine fit in a lineup with five drafted forwards?
Apologies in advance for what might, nay, will come off as concern trolling. It is just hard not to consider Fabbri's outlook without thinking of arlent, whose injury-altered sophomore season led to him not being taken in the NHL draft. The association is inevitable since both are smallish playmakers and were also top-10 picks in consecutive drafts. The potential is manifest for both, but with so many good 18- through 20-year-old forwards around, offensive opportunities cannot be taken for granted. That being said, if Fabbri breaks out and becomes a point-a-game scorer at age 17, this blurb never happened.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.