Many surprises have taken place a little over a month into the 1999-2000 OHL season.
There are the usual surprise teams that have made early surges into the top of their division
and there have been the teams that were predicted to be strong contenders that slipped to the
basement. But the biggest surprise that has taken place that has fans around the province taking
note is the production of the league’s rookies early in the season.
Usually, teams this early in the season tend to lean on their older, more experienced
players to get the team on the right track and to help the younger players adjust to the league.
This OHL season has been somewhat of an exception as the rookies have stepped up and have become
the players that team relies on in the late stages of a close game. In most cases, these players
have delivered. Derek Roy, the 16 year old rookie for the Kitchener Rangers, is currently leading
the league in rookie scoring and is also leading his team. This is common in the league, where
the leading scorer for the team is a rookie. It represents a strong future for the league and
many great players on the horizon.
Roy’s speed has created many chances for himself and his teammates. He is enabled to get
to the puck and create a scoring opportunity. He put up 92 points (61 goals) in 34 games in
Bantam. He has incredible vision for the net and has an unnoticed aggressive streak in which he
can dish out some good hits. Watch for him to become a real force in the league now and in the
future for Kitchener.
The Windsor Spitfires can certainly agree with my introduction. They have surprised many
by fighting with the Soo Greyhounds for 1st place in their division and can also account their
early season success to the play of their rookies. Steve Ott, a 17 year old winger, has blown
away his opposition with his explosive speed and tireless effort. He currently stands 3rd in
OHL rookie scoring and leads the Spitfires in scoring. He is a part of the popular Windsor
‘rookie’ line that has played outstanding thus far.
On the other side is winger Craig Kennedy. The 16 year old has also been a pleasant
surprise for the Spitfires playing a huge role in the line’s success. He is the grinder of the
line who fights for the pucks in the corners. His work ethic has resulted in him putting up some
impressive numbers (14 points, 16 games).
Between these two young guys is Shawn Mather. Mather, who is 18 years old but playing in
his first season in the league, played last year for the Michigan State Spartans. He left them
this year, and a scholarship, to join the Spitfires. He has played outstanding, already earning
himself OHL Player of the Week honors. The Spitfires also have steady Tim Gleason on the blue
line. He should be a high pick in the 2001 NHL draft and has incredible speed and a very good
offensive touch. The Windsor Spitfires are yet another example of teams that have strived on
their rookie’s performance.
The Plymouth Whalers are currently undergoing the phase that all junior hockey fans
dread, the re-building phase. After losing talent like Druken, Colagiacomo, Ward, Mara, Legwand,
and Tselios, the Whalers are re-building with some impressive young talent. Their first round
pick, 16 year old Stephen Weiss, came in the last selection of the first round. He gave Whaler
fans hope in the pre-season by netting 2 hat tricks. His excellent vision and smooth passing
skills reminded some of a young Harold Druken. Whaler fans hope that the comparison will come
true and that Weiss will lead the Whalers to something that they have never acheived, a Memorial
The best defenceman that has come out of the rookie class has been Soo Greyhounds blue-
liner Trevor Daley. This 16 year old is absolutely unbelievable and already has scouts taking
note. He is an incredible skater who can take the puck from one end of the ice to another with
ease. He has a great shot and a good on ice vision in terms of setting his teammates up for
scoring chances. He has a very intense competitive streak and is not afraid to drop the gloves,
as he proved earlier in the year with fellow rookie star Steve Ott. He is a great positional
defenceman which means he is smart enough to join the rush or he knows to stay back. Watch for
him to be a top pick in the 2001 draft.
North Bay has certainly seen better times than the current season, but they are enjoying
one bright spot. His name is Jonas Andersson and he is an 18 year old import player from Sweden.
He is an exceptional skater, even with his 6’3, 200 pound frame. He is a great passer and has a
good touch around the net. He is a solid backchecker and plays a good defensive game. He has led
the team in scoring all season long and looks like he can continue his pace throughout the
Others from the OHL rookie class to keep an eye on:
Tomas Skvaridlo – Kingston
Ruslan Akhmadulin – Kitchener
John Dunphy – Kitchener
Konrad McKay – North Bay
Brendan Bell – Ottawa
Tomas Kurka – Plymouth
Steve Morris – Plymouth
Eric Himelfarb – Sarnia
Jeff Richards – SSM
Fedor Fedorov – Windsor
The 1999-2000 OHL Rookie Class certainly is the best that the league has soon in a few years and it promises to excite fans across the province for a few more years to come, and many of them will go on to excite fans acound the world.