With OHL training camps set to open up this week now would be the perfect time to take a closer look at the upcoming OHL season. Let’s start by taking a look at the Western Conference and, more specifically, the West Division.
Go-to-guys: Josef Vasicek had a fairly good rookie season and will likely improve on his totals from last season. Cory Pecker, after missing most of the 1997-98 season with Chron’s Disease, had a breakthrough season last year and will be looked to for more of the same. He will be a key in the Greyhounds success.
Key Departures: Chad Cavanagh scored 40 goals last season despite going into a scoring slump late in the year. Adam Nittel’s 18 goals and 336 penalty minutes will also be missed.
Breaking Through: After scoring just three goals and 10 points in his rookie season Tim Zafiris is starting to realize his offensive potential and could hit the 20 goal mark this season.
Newcomers To Watch: First-round draft pick Trevor Daley will be playing on a very experienced Greyhound blueline, but will get every chance to prove that he can play at the OHL level. Veteran winger Brent Theobald, acquired from the Mississauga IceDogs, will provide the Greyhounds with veteran leadership.
Go-to-guys: Rico Fata will be looked to for offense if he doesn’t crack the Calgary Flames lineup. Jay Legault and Tom Kostopoulos will also be looked to if they are brought back as overage players.
Key Departures: The offense of Jason Doyle (22 goals) and Richard Pittiri (35 goals) will be missed. If Fata and Legault leave the Knights will be in a deep hole in terms of offensive production. Hard rock defenseman Jason Metcalfe will also be missed.
Breaking Through: Krys Barch, if he gets a bigger role and increased ice-time, should eclipse his career high point total of 38 points sometime during the season.
Newcomers To Watch: Matthew Albiani should be given a good chance to prove he was worthy of being a first round OHL draft pick.
Go-to-guys: Without a doubt Peter Sarno and Ivan Novoseltsev will be the Stings key players if they are sent back to the OHL by their NHL clubs, which they probably will be.
Key Departures: Peter Cava finished 3rd in team scoring with 33 goals and 81 points. Jeff Zehr and Matt Price are also leaving. Curtis Cruickshank may not be back as Greg Hewitt will probably take over the goaltending reins.
Breaking Through: Left winger Robb Palahnuk had a breakthrough season last year and, with Cava and Zehr gone, he could have an even better season this year.
Newcomers To Watch: First rounder Jason Penner should have no trouble adapting to the OHL. The 6’2” 180 pound centre/left winger will be looked to for some offense to make up for Cava and Zehr’s absence.
Go-to-guys: It’s hard to say. Adam Coligiacomo, Harold Druken, Jason Ward, Paul Mara and Nikos Tselios are all overage candidates, but any of them will be go-to-guys if they come back. David Legwand will also be a key player.
Key Departures: Mark McMahon and Troy Smith will both be missed on defense. Again Coligiacomo, Druken and company also fall into this category and their scoring will be tough to replace.
Breaking Through: Left winger Kris Vernarsky will be looking to improve his status for the 2000 NHL entry draft and he will get every chance to do so.
Newcomers To Watch: Third round draft pick Cole Jarrett will get a long look at training camp with Mara and Tselios probably not coming back. The 6’0” 200 pound defenseman could fill part of the void left by Mara and Tselios’s absence.
Go-to-guys: Jeff Martin will be the key if Windsor wants to compete with teams like Sault Ste Marie and London. Jason Polera will also be looked to for offense. That is, if they return to Windsor.
Key Departures: Michael Hanson, the team’s second leading scorer last season with 28 goals and 58 points, will be tough to replace. Hanson also posted 216 penalty minutes which was tops on the team.
Breaking Through: Blair Stayzer and Pavel Shtefan had decent seasons with 31 and 41 points respectively but could have big years and those point totals could go up.
Newcomers To Watch: The Spitfires created a stir when they drafted Tim Gleason from Leamington. It was though that he would play for Plymouth and only Plymouth. It will be interesting to see how he handles playing so close to Plymouth.
Go-to-guys: Defenseman Kevin Mitchell tied Joe Gerbe for the team scoring lead with 78 points and will be looked to for another big season. Charlie Stephens is starting to realize his offensive potential and will be a big performer for the Storm.
Key Departures: The 28 goals and 58 points that Ryan Davis posted will be missed. Darryl McAurther along with his 100 penalty minutes and 41 points will be tough to replace.
Breaking Through: Garrett McAiney could break through this season, as he will likely see an increase in his ice time. In 36 games last season he posted just 2 assists but you can expect that to increase.
Newcomers To Watch: 1st round pick Colt King, who spent last season with St. Thomas, has great size at 6’3” and 210 pounds and he should have an easy time adapting to the OHL style of play.
Owen Sound Platers
Go-to-guys: Joel Ward posted 19 goals last season and will be looked to for even more scoring this year, especially with Dan Snyder leaving and the possibility of Adam Mair sticking with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Key Departures: The Platers leading scorer from last season, Dan Snyder, and their top defenseman, Aaron Fransen, will not be back. There is also a chance that Adam Mair could earn himself a spot on the Leafs roster.
Breaking Through: Randy Davidson could have a breakthrough year after posting 27 points last season. With so many 19-year-olds last season he didn’t get much ice time. He should get more ice time and more points this season.
Newcomers To Watch: Second rounder Daniel Sisca is only 5’9” and 165 pounds but to be a second round pick he must be pretty good. Sisca may be a Steve Sullivan-type of a player.
Go-to-guys: There is a chance that Tim Connolly could fit this bill, but that’s if he doesn’t crack the New York Islanders opening day roster. Brad Boyes could be in for an even bigger season than last season’s 60 point effort.
Key Departures: Andrew Proskurnicki and his 175 penalty minutes will not be back next season and his toughness will be very tough to replace. If Tim Connolly doesn’t come back that would be a big blow to the Otters offense.
Breaking Through: Sophomore Julius Halfkenny could be looking at more points this season. He got quite a bit of experience last season with Sarnia and Erie and that could benefit him this year.
Newcomers To Watch: First round draft pick Scott Rozendal was one of the biggest players taken in the first round at 6’2” and 205 pounds. That size will make the adjustment to the OHL a lot easier.
Go-to-guys: Centre Ryan Held is the only one of the Rangers top four scorers that is eligible to return this season as the top three scorers were all overage players. Held will be looked to for a lot of offense.
Key Departures: The Rangers top three scorers (Rick Smith, Darren Mortier and Michal Dvorak) are all leaving so that will leave a huge hole in the Rangers offense for this season.
Breaking Through: This spot is wide open due to the fact that none of the possible returnees had more than 40 points except for go-to-guy Ryan Held. Someone really needs to step up for the Rangers this season.
Newcomers To Watch: 16-year-old Derek Roy, a centre taken in the second round, will probably be the one to watch based on the fact that he is a centre and could help out on offense.
Go-to-guys: Raffi Torres had a fine rookie season with 62 points. Torres combined with Jeff Bateman (58 points) and Lucas Havel (50 points) will be the key to the Battalion’s improvement this season.
Key Departures: Jason Spezza is the only major loss for the Battalion from last year’s team. He was the team’s leading scorer as a 15-year-old with 71 points. The Battalion had such a young team I don’t think that he will be missed too much.
Breaking Through: Tyler Hanchuck, who had just 3 assists last season as a 16-year-old, should put up better numbers this season. He was a member of Team Canada’s gold medal winning team at the Under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic a week or so ago.
Newcomers To Watch: 16-year-old first round draft pick Jay McClement could be a possible replacement for Spezza. Like Spezza, McClement is a centre. He is an inch smaller than Spezza at 6’1”, but he is 5 pounds heavier at 190 pounds.
Go-to-guys: Take your pick. The Bulls had very few 19-year-olds on last years roster. The key players will probably be the same as last season, players like Jonathan Cheechoo and Justin Papineau.
Key Departures: Ryan Ready was second on the team in scoring with 82 points. Glenn Crawford finished with 62 points and Jason Lawmaster had 227 penalty minutes and 38 points. They will not be missed too much though.
Breaking Through: Despite having a good rookie season, Branko Radivojevic will be out to prove that being selected in the first round of the NHL draft by Colorado was no fluke.
Newcomers To Watch: It’s tough to say because the Bulls have so many players coming back this season it will be hard to crack their lineup. 5’9” 165 pound centre Kyle Wellwood will probably be the one to watch because he is a first round draft pick.
Go-to-guys: Players like Mark Bell and Lance Galbraith will have to step up their play even more this season. With so many 19-year-olds on last season’s roster not all of them will be back. A Memorial Cup berth isn’t out of the question, but it’s unlikely.
Key Departures: Justin Davis posted 22 goals last season, while Ben Gustavson had 27 goals and Dan Tudin had 24. They are going to be tough to replace.
Breaking Through: Look for players like Jeremy Van Hoof and Luke Sellars to pick up their play this season. They will need big years if they 67’s want to have another successful season.
Newcomers To Watch: Ottawa Jr. A product Brendan Bell will be closely looked at based on the fact that he played Jr. A hockey in Ottawa and that he will be playing in front of many people that he knows.
Go-to-guys: The team’s second leading scorer, Brent Gauvreau with 95 points, will be looked to duplicate last season’s tremendous performance if the Generals want to compete in the East Division.
Key Departures: Goalie Ty Garner capped off his four year junior career with a spot on the OHL’s second all-star team. Tough guy Brandon Coalter will also be missed.
Breaking Through: Drew Bucktooth’s totals have steadily improved over the past two season’s and he could be in for a breakout year if he gets an increase in his ice time.
Newcomers To Watch: Goalie T.J. Aceti could be the Generals backup goalie for next season and could be the Generals goalie of the future. Aceti was a third round draft pick.
Go-to-guys: Jason Williams is considered by many to be one of the top playmakers in the entire OHL. Williams lead the Petes in scoring last season with 74 points. Scott Barney, if he comes back as an overage, will also be a key player.
Key Departures: Right winger Robert Francz posted 25 goals, 57 points and 171 penalty minutes. You have to admit that players like that are tough to come by and if you do you’re lucky.
Breaking Through: Right winger Preston Mizzi, despite having two great seasons where he averaged slightly under a point per game, could be in for a career year this season.
Newcomers To Watch: In the first round of the OHL draft the Petes drafted 5’9” 165 pound left winger Ryan Ramsay from Ajax Jr. A. Like every other first round pick he comes with the “Franchise Player” tag.
Go-to-guys: Mike Zigomanis was a solid performer on a weak team last season getting 29 goals and 85 points for a team that finished 20 games under .500 at 22-42-4.
Key Departures: Sean Avery’s 36 goals and 158 penalty minutes will be very hard to replace. He is another on of those Eric Lindros-type of players which are hard to come by.
Breaking Through: Former Colorado Avalanche first round pick Kevin Grimes is coming off a couple of bad seasons and will look to get back on track this season. That is, if he comes back as an overage player
Newcomers To Watch: In the second round of the OHL draft the Frontenacs drafted 6’3” 190 pound centre/right winger Brad Horan from Ajax Jr. A. Horan should make an early impact.
Go-to-guys: Without a doubt Sheldon Keefe will be the go-to-guy for the Colts in 1999-2000. 116 points as a rookie is almost unheard of. OHL penalty minute king Ryan Barnes (399 penalty minutes) could also be a key performer.
Key Departures: Dan Tkaczuk probably will not be back in 1999-2000. There is a slight chance that Brian Finley may not be back but don’t bet on him sticking with Nashville
Breaking Through: Ryan O’Keefe is another OHL defenseman that put up career high scoring totals last season but could break them this year. With Chris Feil leaving O’Keefe should get some extra ice time this season.
Newcomers To Watch: Eric Reitz has the size that most scouts love to see in a player. Reitz, a defenseman, is 6’1” and 190 pounds and should have no problems with the toughness of the OHL.
Go-to-guys: If the Wolves want to compete with the top teams in the OHL they need players like Taylor Pyatt, Jason Jaspers, Norm Milley and Mike Fisher to come to play every night.
Key Departures: Rock solid defenseman Ryan McKie finished his junior career last season and the Wolves will need one of the other defensemen on the team to step up and take over for him.
Breaking Through: Brian McGratten has started to score more since his trade to Sudbury from Guelph. This year could be his breakout year. You can expect him to at least tie his career highs in all major offensive categories.
Newcomers To Watch: Miguel Beaudry was the first goaltender taken in this year’s OHL draft at 8th overall so the Wolves must think very highly of him to make him the first goalie drafted.
Toronto St. Michael’s Majors
Go-to-guys: Adam DeLeeuw, Darryl Bootland and Kenny Caroupe all have to play the way that they are capable of playing or St. Mike’s will have no chance of even competing with teams like Barrie, Guelph and Sault Ste Marie.
Key Departures: Defensemen Jason Cannon and Gerald Moriarty were rock solid on the St. Mike’s blueline all season long. The Majors are really going to miss these two.
Breaking Through: Kenny Caroupe scored 55 points last season and was one of the few consistent players for the Majors last season but he could post even bigger numbers this year. He has the potential for it.
Newcomers To Watch: The one player that the Majors drafted that really caught my eye was their 14th round pick John Scott, a defenseman from St. Catherines. The main thing about Scott that caught my eye was his size. Scott is 6’7” and 200 pounds. If he gets a little bit heavier he could be a future OHL player.
North Bay Centennials
Go-to-guys: Lorne Misita had a respectable rookie season with 42 points on the strength of 18 goals. He should duplicate that total again this season. Brett Gibson will also be needed for offense because this team lacks a true offensive threat.
Key Departures: Goalie Shawn DeGagne was a big performer. He kept the Centennials in a lot of games. 16 goal scorer Greg Labenski was a team leader and his leadership will be missed.
Breaking Through: Defenseman Rob Davison has shown a steady improvement over his first two OHL seasons. His point totals have rose each season from 11 in his rookie season to 19 last season. This season could be the one that he really show what he can do.
Newcomers To Watch: First round draft pick Chris Thorburn was one of the better players on the Elliot Lake Ice Jr. A team. Thorburn is 6’1” 175 pounds. Thorburn is a gifted centreman.
Go-to-guys: Lou Dickenson has the ability to open up a game by himself and was starting to show it last season which is a good sign for the IceDogs. Chad Wiseman is another young player that the IceDogs are looking to for scoring this season.
Key Departures: Brent Theobald was dealt to the Soo Greyhounds at the draft for some draft picks. Theobald provided the IceDogs with a pretty good defensive forward and can provide the odd goal also.
Breaking Through: Nick Jones (acquired from the Soo Greyhounds at last season’s trade deadline for some draft picks) is starting to become an all-around player. After his trade to the IceDogs he went on a scoring tear and it will be interesting to see if he can continue that tear this season.
Newcomers To Watch: Although he’s not a newcomer to the league he is certainly a newcomer to the IceDogs. Jason Spezza posted 71 points last season as a 15-year-old with the Brampton Battalion and is on his way to stardom.
West Division Midwest Division
1. Sault Ste. Marie 1. Guelph
2. London 2. Owen Sound
3. Sarnia 3. Erie
4. Plymouth 4. Kitchener
5. Windsor 5. Brampton
East Division Central Division
1. Belleville 1. Barrie
2. Ottawa 2. Sudbury
3. Oshawa 3. Toronto St. Mike’s
4. Peterborough 4. North Bay
5. Kingston 5. Mississauga
Western Conference Eastern Conference
1. Guelph 1. Belleville
2. Sault Ste. Marie 2. Barrie
3. London 3. Ottawa
4. Sarnia 4. Oshawa
5. Owen Sound 5. Peterborough
6. Plymouth 6. Sudbury
7. Erie 7. Toronto St. Mike’s
8. Windsor 8. Kingston
9. Kitchener 9. North Bay
10. Brampton 10. Mississauga
1. Belleville 11. Plymouth
2. Barrie 12. Sudbury
3. Guelph 13. Erie
4. Sault Ste. Marie 14. Windsor
5. Ottawa 15. Toronto St. Mike’s
6. London 16. Kitchener
7. Sarnia 17. Kingston
8. Owen Sound 18. North Bay
9. Oshawa 19. Brampton
10. Peterborough 20. Mississauga