Plymouth’s Success Continues

By pbadmin
Two weeks into the OHL season and a disturbing message has already been sent from the Plymouth
Whalers to the rest of the league: We are back.

The Plymouth Whalers franchise seems to never do wrong. As their website once read, “A Decade of
Excellence,” Plymouth seems to stand by the statement, and looks to continue into a new
millennium. Off to a quick 4-0 start, with wins over teams such as Erie and Ottawa, the Whalers
return many of the same faces which brought success last year, and reveal a few new more, ready
to make their mark in the league. 1st round selection James Wisniewski looks to be a bright gem
in the Whalers system. As a defenceman, he leads the team with 4 goals and looks to be the next
person to carry the Whalers blazing torch. As a Windsor supporter, I will be quick to state that
I have never seen an average Plymouth Whalers performance. Year in and year out the Whalers
continue to mold their team around hard work and perseverance. Take last year’s squad for
example. Not expected to make it into the playoffs, the Whalers shocked everyone around the
league and won 17 straight games en route to the best record overall in the league, and an
upsetting loss in the OHL Final to Barrie. Experience might have been the ultimate decider in
their fate, but there is no need to feel down for Whalers fans and players because every
key player from last year’s ‘miracle’ season returns. Led by former 1st rounder Kris Vernarsky
and solid contributors like Damian Surma and Stephen Weiss, the Whalers seem to have the right
chemistry for producing another fine season. But why does this team continue to have success?

Plymouth does something consistently that other teams have trouble with. This of course is,
draft well. Plymouth seems to pull out huge surprises each year, developing those players into
future NHL’ers. Everyone knows that this is no lie. Take a look at Legwand, Druken, and as of this
year Justin Williams. All three Plymouth drafted, developed, and delivered. GM/Head Coach Pete DeBoer
doesn’t mind picking last in each round every year, because no matter where he selects,
he selects quality. In the 1998 draft their first 9 selections all made the team, 7 of them are
still with the team, all contributing in key roles. The other 2 were traded away. Let’s examine
those players a little more closely. Vernarsky went in the 1st round, and has become the leader
of the team. After concentrating on becoming a two way player in his rookie season, Vernarsky
gave us a little hint of his offensive talents with 35 points. Although he has become somewhat
of a power forward, he is actually considered somewhat of a disappointment compared to the other
selections. Kyle Chapman was selected in the 2nd round, but later traded to Windsor, and steady
Jared Newman was their 3rd choice. Newman has the potential to become a solid NHL defenceman one
day as he has size and a good offensive touch. He is rugged and not afraid to mix it up which makes
for a quality defenceman. Amazingly enough, Dwayne Bateman was selected before one of the best
goalies that the Ontario Hockey League has seen, Rob Zepp. Zepp’s rookie season saw him back up
Rob Holsinger, but in the meantime Zepp posted a 2.74 GAA, and also was selected CHL Scholastic
Player of the Year. He followed that up with a 32-10 record and a 2.37 GAA last year. Tough guy
James Ramsey was then selected. He has become a huge favorite in Plymouth with his rugged style.
The total contrast, Justin Williams was selected next. After a slow rookie season, Williams
put up huge numbers, 32 goals, 72 points last season, leading the team. Williams has now
graduated to the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Versatile Andre Robichaud was then selected, and
now plays a key role with the Whalers, followed by their 9th selection, Damian Surma. Surma has
become a solid contributor netting 70 points last season. He is currently sidelined after

The Whalers followed that draft year up by selecting Stephen Weiss with their 1st selection in
the 1999 draft. Weiss has the skills to become a dominant scorer, and he shown what he can do
in his rookie season scoring 20 goals. Weiss was by no means a surprise, but certainly a quick
learner. Weiss is currently ranked 2nd in terms of OHL players for the 2001 NHL Draft. Stephen
Morris also produced fine numbers last season and looks to become a key player again this
season, as well as Cole Jarrett, who has opened up a few eyes with his surprising offensive
touch. Like Weiss, he too could be a high 2001 NHL draft selection. On the other side of the
drafting coin, they acquired high flying Tomas Kurka in the import draft. Kurka was a welcome
surprise scoring 32 times. The Whalers suffered their share of key losses as well this season.
Gone is captain Randy Fitzgerald, who played an instrumental role in their success. 54 point
defenceman Shaun Fisher has also graduated, but Wisniewski looks to be the man ready to fill
those big shoes. Solid power forward Eric Gooldy has also moved on, but another rookie, Tony
Williams, looks already to have the beat on replacing Gooldy. And when it comes to backing up
the best goaltender in the league Zepp, rookie Paul Drew is the perfect man for the job.
Finished dominating the Junior B circuit in Ontario, Drew has decided to take his act to the
OHL. As a matter of fact in his first game, he blanked Kingston making 25 saves. Can this team
do anything wrong?

The Whalers seem to have it all. Intelligent people in the front office who select and develop
quality young men on and off the ice. They do not only search for talent, but they search for
good people. It seems that wherever you look, Plymouth has the answer and then some. Depth is
the key word for the Whalers as they continue to produce players with the talents of replacing
graduates. With the emergence of Wisniewski, and the continued success of their other young
talents, Plymouth looks to be the franchise that dominated the past and present, and inevitably,
the future.