The Peterborough Petes enter the 2002-2003 OHL season with high expectations.
The Petes have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 1997, when Cameron Mann and Zac Bierk were the backbones of the team. There is good reason for optimism, however. The team has looked stronger in each of the past two playoffs than in the previous three.
The Petes will be lead by last year’s leading scorer Greg Chambers, and 2003 NHL Entry Draft first round hopeful Eric Staal. Staal is one of the most talented players the Petes have seen in many years, and it is expected that barring injuries, he will push the one-hundred point barrier. Second year center Jamie Tardif will be relied upon to provide some scoring punch as well. After those three players, things drop off somewhat. OHL first rounder Jordan Morrison has impressed thus far, but as with all Petes rookies, he will be brought along slowly.
New team captain Jon Howse will be expected to up his offensive production from a year ago, as will Josh Patterson, who will miss at least the first month of the season recovering from a knee injury suffered in last years playoff series with Ottawa. The speedy Mike Ramsay is being given every chance to show his natural offensive ability, and he has produced early on. The forward ranks are filled up with valuable role players. Second year winger James Edgar is quickly becoming a fan favorite, as he will take on anyone, and gives 100% every shift. Jason Penner is another valuable, hard working player, who may add more offense than expected this year. Rookies Greg Williams, Patrick Kaleta, Evgeny Kadatskiy and hometown boy Mike Della Mora won’t be rushed this season.
New pick-up Chad Robinson, who was acquired from Brampton just before the start of training camp, will add grit. However, he must keep his emotions in check, and avoid needless penalties.
The defense, a Petes strong point for many years, is the question mark this season. Overager Adam Elzinga will lead the group, and he provides a steady presence, and a good example to the young blueliners. Third year rearguard Ryan Card will be expected to shoulder a large load this season. Fresh off a tryout with the Montreal Canadiens, Card should step his game up this year.
Three second year players will be given added responsibilities this season.
Mark Flood, Trevor Hendrikx and 2002 Dallas Stars seventh rounder Bryan Hamm, will be required to improve from a year ago. Towering (6’5″) rookie Aaron Dawson is already drawing the attention of NHL scouts, but won’t be thrust into too big of a role early in the season. The key to the Petes defense, and in fact the entire season, is whether Lukas Krajicek is returned by the Florida Panthers. If he returns, he will provide the Petes with one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the OHL, and he will also add much needed veteran leadership.
In goal, the Petes will rely on hometown kid David Currie. Currie had an impressive, although sometimes shaky, first year as Petes starter. He had the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of Joey MacDonald, who starred in the Peterborough goal from 1997 through 2001. Currie should move into the upper echelon of OHL goalies this year, and if he doesn’t, the Petes may falter. There to back up Currie is highly touted seventeen-year-old Jeff MacDougald, who is expected to carry on the tradition of fine Petes goaltenders after Currie leaves following the 2002-03 season, which is his overage year.
There is good reason for optimism this season, however Petes fans know that if they want the team to finally advance past the first round of the OHL playoffs, they will need strong play from David Currie, someone to step up and take some of the offensive pressure of Staal, Chambers and Tardif, and most importantly, the return of Lukas Krajicek from the Florida Panthers.