A Look Ahead To The 1999-2000 OHL Season

By Brad Coccimiglio

I know it seems a bit early to be looking ahead to the 1999-2000 OHL season, but the way I see it, it’s never too early to look ahead to next season. The 1998-99 season was a very exciting one for the OHL. The Ottawa 67’s won the Memorial Cup and put together a 14-game winning streak, while the Barrie Colts went undefeated in 31 straight home games.

The 1999-2000 season looks to be another scorcher for the OHL. There are a lot of changes going on in the OHL for next season. There will be a few rule changes, similar to the ones that the NHL has in place (don’t worry, the crease rule isn’t in place like in the NHL). We’re likely to see a few surprises in the OHL this season. Some teams are going to do better than expected, some worse. Some players are going to step it up and leave NHL teams scrambling the day before the entry draft, while others will drop off the charts like a rock. Let’s take a look at how each team is going to stack up against everyone else, shall we?

Western Conference

West Division

Soo Greyhounds

I think that the Greyhounds are going to take the West Division title next season. The Greyhounds have the best returning cast in the division, which is why I’m picking them to finish 1st. New head coach Paul Theriault will have this team working hard every game and will instill a good work ethic into the players. He definitely wont stand for long winless skids, like last season’s 10-game slide at the end of the season. There will be a lot of experience on the Greyhound roster next season. Only 4 players from last seasons team will not be back (Chad Cavanagh, Martin Galik, Adam Nittel and Rob Mulick). The Greyhounds are going to bring back Dan Passero, Chad Spurr and Jason Flick as overages. With the addition of some good draft picks the Greyhounds are in good shape for next season.

Prediction: 1st place

London Knights

The Knights could be in rough shape at training camp because they lost 3 big members of last season’s team (Richard Pittiri, Jason Doyle and Jason Metcalfe). They could also lose Rico Fata, Mike Mazzuca, Tom Kostopoulos, Alex Henry and Gene Chiarello. Whether Fata comes back next season or not the Knights will be in a tough situation as to who to bring back as overages. Although the situation isn’t as bad as other teams they still have a big decision because all 5 players were instrumental in the Knights playoff run last season. No matter who comes back the Knights should have a strong club next season.

Prediction: 2nd place

Sarnia Sting

The Sting are in a good yet bad situation. The good side is the Sting could have Peter Sarno, Ivan Novoseltsev and Curtis Cruickshank in their lineup next season, but the bad side is it’s possible that they none will be back. If they lose Sarno and Novoseltsev they will have a really hard time replacing them. They are also losing Peter Cava and Jeff Zehr so they desperately need Sarno and Novoseltsev back next season because the rest of the team may not be able to make up for the scoring that they would lose.

Prediction: 3rd place

Plymouth Whalers

The Whalers lost a ton of players. The Whalers lost defenseman Mark McMahon because last season was his overage season. Plymouth had 10 19-year-olds on their team so they will lose at least seven of them. Of those 10 players, 5 of them were regulars on the power play, and one was their starting goaltender. The Whalers are going to have a lot of trouble scoring goals next season, no matter who they lose. David Legwand may not come back, depending on what Nashville does with him. Next season’s Plymouth Whalers will not feature as many, if any, of the stars (Coligiacomo, Druken, Mara, Tselios, etc..) that last season’s club had. If they want to win, goalie Rob Zepp will be the key.

Prediction: 4th place

Windsor Spitfires

The Spitfires had a young team last season, which means they have a lot of returning players. The only problem is, none of them are proven stars. Goaltenders Ron Vogel and Michael Leighton gave the Spitfires a chance to win on many nights, but the scoring and defense didn’t pull through. The Spitfires will probably have another long season ahead of them if they don’t pick up some scoring and a good defenseman or two.

Prediction: 5th place

Midwest Division

Guelph Storm

No matter how many players the Storm lose at the end of the season, they always seem to have a strong team, which is why I’m picking them to finish 1st in the Midwest Division. The only team that will really challenge them for the division title is Owen Sound. Despite the possibility of losing players like Joe Gerbe, Chris Madden and Kent McDonnell the Storm seem to be in pretty good shape for next season.

Prediction: 1st place

Owen Sound Platers

The Platers had a team with plenty of veterans last season, but they also had some young talent that could carry them next season. The loss of defensemen Mike Lankshear, Aaron Fransen and centre Dan Snyder will hurt them though. If the Platers want to compete for the division title this season, they will need Curtis Sanford to return. The Platers backup goalie from last season (Cory Roberts) is just 17 years old. Either way, I think the Platers are in good shape for next season.

Prediction: 2nd place

Erie Otters

The Otters are a middle-of-the-pack team that could go either way this season. If the Otters want to be competitive this season, they will need good goaltending from Cory Batten. They don’t have the scoring to get into a shootout type of game with a team like Belleville or Ottawa, which is why they need their goaltending to step up. Head coach Paul Theriault was a big part of the team last season, but he moved on to the Sault.

Prediction: 3rd place

Kitchener Rangers

The Rangers lost a lot of scoring when the 1998-99 season ended. Their top 3 scorers (Darren Mortier, Rick Smith and Michael Dvorak) were all in their last season of junior hockey. Goalie Reg Bourcier will be the key if next season’s Rangers club wants to win some hockey games. The Rangers just do not have the scoring to compete against the rest of the teams in the division, with the possible exception of Brampton.

Prediction: 4th place

Brampton Battalion

Things are going to be better for the Battalion next season due to the fact that only two players (Brian Barker and Jason Spezza) definitely will not be back and they had only one 19-year-old last season (Pat Parthenais).
The Battalion will probably be a on the wrong-end of a few lopsided scores again this season, but there will not be as many of them. You can expect the Battalion to have a more respectable season this year.

Prediction: 5th place

Eastern Conference

East Division

Belleville Bulls

The Bulls are going to have another solid team this season. With the run that they had in the playoffs there is no reason not to think that they are going to overtake Ottawa as division champs. They will have a lot of returning players that will be hungry to get back to the Memorial Cup and make up for their semi-final loss in overtime to Ottawa. With the likes of goalie Cory Campbell, and forwards Jonathan Cheechoo and Justin Papineau returning, they should have another strong year.

Prediction: 1st place

Ottawa 67’s

The 67’s, despite losing a few key players like Justin Davis, Dan Tudin and Ben Gustavson, should have another great season. Most of the key players from last season’s Memorial Cup winning squad are going to be back. They will probably have both goalies (Seamus Kotyk and Lavente Szuper) back, which is a very good thing as they were the biggest part of the 67’s Memorial Cup win.

Prediction: 2nd place

Oshawa Generals

The big question here is–Can goalie Derek Dolson handle being a starter for an entire season? He came in last season and played well while Tyrone Garner was in Calgary, but that was just a couple of months. They need the players that didn’t play a lot last season to step up in order for the Generals to be competitive this season. Expect the Generals to have another good season.

Prediction: 3rd place

Peterborough Petes

The Petes finished 4th in this division last season, but could have finished 2nd in some others. I think that that’s going to happen again. The Petes only had one overage player last season (Robert Francz). They have a good returning cast and should be very competitive in the tight East Division. Look for the Petes to finish in 4th spot, but not too far behind Oshawa.

Prediction: 4th place

Kingston Frontenacs

The Frontenacs could be in for another long season as they had a young team last season. I don’t think that they have what it takes to compete in the East Division. Maybe in another season or two they will be more competitive, but this season they will be at the bottom of the division again. They don’t really have much to work with in terms of star players. If they could get a high profile goal-scorer they might be more competitive.

Prediction: 5th place

Central Division

Barrie Colts

No matter what the Colts lose in terms of players they should win this division. Despite being drafted by the Nashville Predators, goalie Brian Finley will probably be back this year. Dan Tkaczuk, Martin Skoula and Denis Shvidki may not be back, so the Colts may be in rough shape, but in the division that they are in, I don’t think it matters because the division is pretty weak.

Prediction: 1st place

Sudbury Wolves

The Wolves had a fairly young group last season. There was only one 19-year-old at forward last season (Marc Long). The problem is, their defense was older, so a few of them may not be back this season. If they can replace the ones they lose, they may have a chance to increase last year’s point total. If they can accomplish that they can say that their season was fairly successful.

Prediction: 2nd place

Toronto St. Michael’s Majors

St. Mike’s was another team that was young and inexperienced last season. The big name on the team was Sheldon Keefe, but he was dealt to Barrie. With players like Kenny Caroupe and Darryl Bootland, they could surprise a few people. The one glaring problem is goaltending. Patrick Dovigi was the starter for the last half of the season, but didn’t play too well. If he can get back on track next season the Majors may be a fun team to watch.

Prediction: 3rd place

North Bay Centennials

The Centennials are going to be a better team this year. How much better is another story. The Centennials were a young team last year but, like so many other clubs, they lack goal-scoring which will hurt them greatly. Unless they can get a goal-scorer or two and a defenseman they will probably miss the playoffs again next season. The goaltending situation is good because Alex Auld should be back and he was a key performer for the Centennials last season.

Prediction: 4th place

Missisauga Ice Dogs

Let’s just put it this way…The Ice Dogs need all the help they can get. The Ice Dogs are in for another rough season. The Ice Dogs need to get a lot of goal-scoring to have any chance at catching up to the other teams in the division. Expect the Ice Dogs to have another long season and early finish.

Prediction: 5th place

Prediction Recap
Western Conference
West Division Midwest Division

1. Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds 1. Guelph Storm
2. London Knights 2. Owen Sound Platers
3. Sarnia Sting 3. Erie Otters
4. Plymouth Whalers 4. Kitchener Rangers
5. Windsor Spitfires 5. Brampton Battalion

Eastern Conference
East Division Central Division

1. Belleville Bulls 1. Barrie Colts
2. Ottawa 67’s 2. Sudbury Wolves
3. Oshawa Generals 3. Toronto St. Michael’s Majors
4. Peterborough Petes 4. North Bay Centennials
5. Kingston Frontenacs 5. Missisauga Ice Dogs