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  • Plymouth Whalers' Connor Carrick, Ryan Hartman and Matt Mistele (OHL Images)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Plymouth Whalers

    In 2012-13 — 42-17-5-4, .684 point pct., 291 GF/198 GA. Second, Western Conference. Lost 4-1 to London in conference final.

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — second OHL, fifth CHL.

    On the junior/pro bubble — It seems as if the Washington Capitals will give the 6-foot-4, 217-pound behemoth Tom Wilson a chance to show he's worthy of The Show. The Capitals can also put 19-year-old D Connor Carrick in the American Hockey League.

    Drafted — Wilson (Washington, first), RW Ryan Hartman (Chicago Blackhawks, first), C Viktor Crus-Rydberg (New York Islanders, fifth), Carrick (Washington, fifth), D Gianluca Curcuruto (Columbus Blue Jackets, seventh).

    2014 NHL draft watch — G Alex Nedeljkovic is a shoo-in to be the top-ranked North American goalie for the draft; LW Matt Mistele buried 34 goals as late-birthday 17-year-old last winter; D Josh Wesley arrives with solid credentials after spending last season in Ann Arbor, Mich., with the U.S. under-17 team. Plymouth also got promising forward Connor Chatham to turn away from the University of Denver; he's 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds.

    Read More »from Plymouth Whalers cannot be counted out, based on track record: OHL Burning Questions
  • Belleville Bulls' Charlie Graham, Brendan Gaunce and Jordan Subban (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Belleville Bulls

    In 2012-13 — 44-16-5-3, .706 point pct., 222 GF/164 GA. First, Eastern Conference. Lost 4-3 to Barrie in conference final.

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — fifth OHL, 15th CHL.

    On the junior/pro bubble — C Brendan Gaunce has two goals in NHL preseason with the Vancouver Canucks, who have three first-rounders from the past two drafts bidding to make the lineup. Twenty-year-old C Alan Quine is trying to get a foothold in the New York Islanders farm system.

    Drafted — Gaunce (Vancouver, first round), Quine (New York Islanders, sixth), D Jordan Subban (Vancouver, fourth), D Brady Austin (Buffalo Sabres, seventh).

    2014 NHL draft watch — Los Toros have 11 underage players, including skilled C Niki Petti and C Michael Cramarossa, whose brother Joseph Cramarossa is in the Anaheim Ducks system.

    Read More »from Belleville Bulls betting new goalie Graham won’t crack: OHL Burning Questions
  • Mathew Barzal (photo via northeastchiefs.com)As the Western Hockey League’s regular-season gets underway tonight, there is no better time to look at the top young players set to take part in their rookie seasons.

    The first overall pick of the 2012 bantam draft, Seattle Thunderbirds centre Mathew Barzal, topped the list. He wasn’t given the spot because of where he was selected in the draft, though. He earned his ranking by dominating the British Columbus Major Midget League as a rookie last season.

    Without further ado, here is a look at the top 10 rookies to watch in the WHL this season.

    1. Mathew Barzal, centre, Seattle Thunderbirds – Barzal is touted as having the potential to blossom into one of the best players to walk through the WHL’s doors.

    The Coquitlam, B.C., native is coming off an outstanding season with the Vancouver NE Chiefs in the BCMML. To put his 29 goals and 103 points in 34 games into perspective, he topped the BCMML rookie seasons of Edmonton Oilers first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (87 points, 36

    Read More »from Barzal, Harkins and Khaira highlight the WHL’s top 10 rookies to watch
  • Barrie Colts' Andreas Athanasiou, Aaron Ekblad & Brendan Lemieux (OHL Images)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Barrie Colts

    In 2012-13 — 44-20-2-2, .676 point pct., 239 GF/183 GA. Second, Eastern Conference. Lost 4-3 to London in OHL final.

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — fourth OHL, ninth CHL.

    Drafted — LW Andreas Athanasiou (Detroit Red Wings, fourth round), D Jake Dotchin (Tampa Bay Lightning, fifth).

    2014 NHL draft watch — D Aaron Ekblad is almost everyone's first defenceman off the board; rambunctious LW Brendan Lemieux was also part of Canada's summer under-18 team. Pesky newcomer Kevin Labanc should also be monitored closely.

    Read More »from Barrie Colts rely on experience and Aaron Ekblad being good at hockey: OHL Burning Questions
  • Nichols had a 3.52 average and .892 save percentage in 24 games as a 17-year-old rookie (The Canadian Press)

    The Guelph Storm, with 11 forwards who attended NHL camps this month, have a strong shot at a special season, so GM Mike Kelly has decided to nab an experienced goalie sooner rather than later.

    Perhaps there were other approaches for the Storm, whose two goalies in camp had never started an OHL game. But GM Mike Kelly's options were twofold: give 18-year-old Justin Nichols a chance to nail down being a No. 1 goalie after he paid his dues last season as Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Matt Murray with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, or get pay a ransom later in the season should the club need a goalie.

    The Storm picked up Nichols for a song, relatively speaking.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm add Justin Nichols, avoid goalie bidding war in OHL’s Memorial Cup year
  • Owen Sound Attack's Chris Bigras, Zach Nastasiuk & Jaden Lindo (OHL Images)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Owen Sound Attack

    In 2012-13 — 44-18-1-5, .691 point pct., 226 GF/160 GA. Third, Western Conference. Lost 4-2 to Plymouth in conference semifinal.

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — third OHL, eighth CHL.

    On the junior-or-pro bubble — Captain Kurtis Gabriel, 20, remains at the Minnesota Wild camp, as anticipated. Eighteen-year-old D Chris Bigras, a second-round NHL pick, has outlasted some first-rounders by hanging in at the Colorado Avalanche's camp.

    Drafted — Bigras (Colorado, second), C Zach Nastasiuk (Detroit Red Wings, second), Gabriel (Minnesota, third), C Jarrod Maidens (Ottawa Senators, third*), C Gemel Smith (Dallas Stars, fourth).

    2014 NHL draft watch — RW Jaden Lindo has a man-among-boys quality that makes him a quality power-winger prospect; D Damir Sharipzyanov is also among the club's half-dozen 17-year-olds.

    Read More »from Owen Sound Attack might backtrack: OHL Burning Questions
  • Nicolas Petan's offensive skill is key to the Winterhawks repeating. (Marissa Baecker, Getty Images)At first glance of the upcoming WHL season, the odds are in favour of the Portland Winterhawks to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the second straight year.

    The Winterhawks not only have strength at every position and a handful of major junior stars, but they also will have extra motivation to repeat with GM-head coach Mike Johnston back behind the bench after his lengthy suspension for player-benefit violations last year.

    Even though the Winterhawks lost St. Louis Blues second-rounder Ty Rattie to the pros, their offense is rock solid barring any unexpected jumps to the NHL. Nashville Predators prospect Brendan Leipsic and Winnipeg Jets second-rounder Nicolas Petan, who both scored 120 points last year, will lead their offense. Past the CHL’s 2012-13 leading scorers, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Taylor Leier, 20-year-old Shane McColgan, and Chase De Leo will make up the rest of their top six. All four forwards have the potential to

    Read More »from Portland Winterhawks lead the way in a look at the WHL’s contenders
  • Winnipeg Jets-drafted goalie Eric Comrie is coming off a surgery-shortened sophomore season in Tri-City (Don Denton, The Canadian Press)

    With the Dub's season getting underway on Wednesday, we will look at each division in the WHL and make 14 fun facts and fearless forecasts for the upcoming 2013-14 season.

    The Portland Winterhawks are seeking a fourth consecutive trip to the WHL final, but a couple of new challengers have risen in the U.S. Division. Earlier Wednesday, Cam Charron teed up the B.C. Division; now here's a prospectus for its conference counterpart south of the 49th parallel.

    1. Portland probably isn’t going anywhere — Those who are tired of the Winterhawks dominating the U.S. Division aren’t likely to get any relief this season. Despite losing a half-dozen key guys, like Ty Rattie, Seth Jones, Tyler Wotherspoon and Mac Carruth, the Hawks return a ton of scoring punch. Brendan Leipsic and Nic Petan could battle for the league scoring title again, and guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Chase De Leo and Paul Bittner could explode offensively. The Winterhawks will score a ton, but the team will only go as far as new starting goalie Brendan Burke and a rebuilt defensive corps can take them. That still likely means another U.S. Division banner.

    2. Matt Barzal could be the start of something big for Seattle — The Thunderbirds have languished in the standings for a handful of seasons, but landing No. 1 bantam draft pick Barzal after he looked into other options could be a sign of brighter times ahead in Kent. The Birds are more talented all-around than they’ve been in five seasons, and won’t be happy with another first round playoff loss. Roberts Lipsbergs, Connor Honey and Alex Delnov should have big offensive seasons.

    3. Eric Comrie is back to 100 per cent — The Tri-City goalie started 37 games last season before being shut down in January to undergo surgery to alleviate pain in his hip. The procedure was a success, and Comrie isn’t expected to be affected at all going forward.

    Read More »from WHL preview: Portland Winterhawks expect push from ‘Tips, T-Birds in U.S. Division
  • Oshawa Generals' Daniel Altshuller, Michael Dal Colle & Cole Cassels (OHL Images)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Oshawa Generals

    In 2012-13 — 42-22-1-3, .647 point pct., 231 GF/184 GA. Third, Eastern Conference. Lost 4-0 to Barrie in conference semifinal.

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — eighth OHL, 20th CHL.

    On the junior-or-pro bubble — Nineteen-year-old C Scott Laughton had a five-game stint with the Philadelphia Flyers in January and seems like a good bet to earn at least another NHL audition.

    Drafted — Laughton (Philadelphia, first round), G Daniel Altshuller (Carolina Hurricanes, third), C Cole Cassels (Vancouver Canucks, third round), D Josh Brown (Florida Panthers, sixth).

    2014 NHL draft watch — LW/C Michael Dal Colle was a first-liner almost immediately as a 16-year-old, stoking talk of him being a top-10 selection next June. Hulking wing Hunter Smith, at 6-foot-6, scored four goals in preseason; he's a re-entry player who only made the 2013 draft's age cutoff by four days.

    Read More »from Oshawa Generals left in lurch if they lose Laughton: OHL Burning Questions
  • Kitchener Rangers' Radek Faksa, Ben Fanelli & Justin Bailey (OHL Images, The Canadian Press)

    The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. 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.

    Kitchener Rangers

    In 2012-13 — 39-20-1-8, .640 point pct., 209 GF/177 GA. Fourth, Western Conference. Lost 4-1 to London Knights in conference semifinal .

    Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — fifth OHL, 12th CHL.

    Drafted — C Radek Faksa (Dallas Stars, first round), RW Justin Bailey (Buffalo Sabres, second), C Matia Marcantuoni (Pittsburgh Penguins, fourth), LW Ben Thomson (New Jersey Devils, fourth), LW Brent Pedersen (Carolina Hurricanes, fifth), D Evan McEneny (Vancouver Canucks, free-agent signing).

    2014 NHL draft watch — New Rangers GM Murray Hiebert's summer airlift of U.S. talent included the promising Ryan MacInnis and Nick Magyar up front, along with D Frank Hora; LW Darby Llewellyn also got into 40 games as a frosh forward.

    Read More »from Kitchener Rangers a team in transition: OHL Burning Questions

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