The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins in fewer than 10 days. 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 — 19-40-4-5, 47 points, 203 GF/307 GA, 10th Western Conference, out of playoffs.
Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — 17th OHL, 50th CHL.
Drafted — LW Andre Burakovsky (Washington Capitals, first round, from Sweden's Malmo Redhawks), G Oscar Dansk (Columbus Blue Jackets, second), D Adam Pelech (New York Islanders, third), RW Connor Brown (Toronto Maple Leafs, sixth), D Troy Donnay (New York Rangers, free-agent signing).
2014 NHL draft watch — RW Hayden Hodgson, who eschewed a promising baseball career for hockey, could draw some interest as a promising power winger; 18-year-old G Devin Williams represented USA Hockey internationally two seasons ago; rookie 17-year-old D Travis Dermott arrives with strong notices.
1. Which is a bigger puzzle piece, diversity in their offensive attack or a stouter defence?
The best defence is an offence that runs on all eight cylinders, eh? Erie, with a healthy Pelech, stable stay-at-homer Cory Genovese and overage Spencer Abraham, should cut down on the 38.3 shots per game it coughed up in '12-13. Moreover, though, it needs a second scoring line to keep opponents from concentrating on shutting down superstar Connor McDavid, who's only had 11 point (2G-9A) in four post-season games.
Who might provide it? Dane Fox, who had 36 points in 37 games following a delayed start, and two-way speedster Michael Curtis, a pickup from the Belleville Bulls, should be capable of filling Erie's quota for overage scoring. Third-year wing Stephen Harper, whom the Philadelphia Flyers brought to their rookie camp, is also at the could-go-either-way stage. Some 18-year-olds take being bypassed in the NHL draft as a message. Others can go by wayside. Don't read that as a prediction, just an observation that Harper's still got potential.
Centre Dylan Strome has been set back during preseason by a back ailment, but is considered the OHL's best new offensive talent.
2. This time last season, some slack-jawed yokel predicted a 60-point rookie year for McDavid, who tallied 66. Care to take another crack at it?
The first Exceptional One, current New York Islanders star John Tavares, created buzz during his 16-year-old year in '06-07 when he went off for 72 goals and 134 points in 67 games. That came amid an obstruction crackdown created a spike in power plays. Four teams had at least 500, or more than seven a night, and Tavares cashed in with 34 power-play tallies. That's not to take away from his feats; it was just an optimal time for a gifted finisher.
In '12-13, only one team, the Guelph Storm, had more than five PPs a night. That's probably a good 20 points off the table. McDavid, as a Team Canada shoo-in, likely figures to play about 60 games, presuming good health, so there's another 12-15.
On the flip side, the 16-year-old star is that much more mature than he was 12 months ago — obviously! — and Burakovsky/Brown are a high-quality set of wings. The league's goalie fraternity also skews younger than it did a year ago when the league's creases were graced by Messrs. Anderson, Binnington, Gibson, Niederberger, Subban and Sparks — a half-dozen netminders who were all at least considered national junior team material for their respective countries.
How does 105 points in 60 games — oh, you totally plucked that out of thin air! — sound as a conservative guesstimate? That leaves room for us to be pleasantly surprised if McDavid authors a season close to what Sidney Crosby did as a 16-year-old a decade ago in Rimouski (54 goals, 135 points).
3. How high will Oscar Dansk's bounceback be after his hard-luck 18-year-old season?
There is no knowing if the 19-year-old Columbus second-rounder will avoid injury after being waylaid by a knee ailment and a brain injury. The Otters will surely provide better support in front of Dansk than they did last season, pending a clean bill of health for Pelech. Additionally, this totally not cherry-picked list of examples conveys that European goalies typically enjoy a big performance bump in their second junior season, one that can't just be credited to improvements in team performance.
|Patrik Bartosak||Red Deer||18||2011-12||2.74||0.915|
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.