Oshawa Generals on the Rise?

By Sean Carter

Lets be honest, Oshawa General fans are spoiled.

Four Memorial Cups, Twelve Ontario Hockey League Championships, and the claim to fame as such NHL stars like Dave Andreychuk, Eric Lindros, and some guy named Bobby.

Two seasons ago the unthinkable happened, the Generals missed the playoffs. The perennial OHL Championship contenders fell to the basement along with the likes of the lowly Missisauga Ice Dogs. In all fairness to George Burnett though, it was a rebuilding year and the drop was expected.

As always there is some good with the bad, and the Generals benefitted with getting the second overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft. With that they chose rookie phenom Nathan Horton who recorded 67 points in 64 games, earning himself the center spot on the first all-rookie team, and establishing himself as a top prospect for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Albeit Horton’s spectacular rookie year, the team still had a frustrating year. They were horribly inconsistent and although they improved to seventh spot and a playoff berth they still suffered through some struggles. They put in a gutsy effort against the offensive juggernauts in the Belleville Bulls in the first round of the playoffs but were ultimately outmatched by Jason Spezza and company. That said, their strong playoff series coupled with their better regular season performances certainly leaves a sense of optimism for next season.

The main core of the squad will be back next year, and more importantly a year older. Up front we will see overager Jamie Johnson who led the team in points and who could very well have a Corey Pecker-type season. New Jersey Devils prospect Brandon Nolan should also be returning along with likely first rounder in this years draft Ben Eager. Of course the affermentioned Nathan Horton will be a year older and showcasing his talents for all the NHL scouts. There will also be some of the other guys who add intangibles returning like Tobias Whelan, Jordan Beirnes, and Evan Kostopulos. Also have to filter in first round draft pick Adam Berti who will add a little bit of everything in his rookie year. Adam was arguably the best winger available in the draft and being a local boy doesn’t hurt either. Throw in a few possible 85’s and a some possibilities in the Euro Draft and the Generals should easily be able to improve upon their 205 goals last season.

Their defense and goaltending will also be very strong next year. They have two 17 year olds with Chris Becksford-Tseu and Kevin Druce who both appear to be capable starters in the OHL. On the blueline Dustin Van Ballegooie, Mike Sellan, Paul Ranger, Chris Petrow, Josh Manning,, and Tyler Cook should all return providing Oshawa with a very strong all around defense. Second rounder Kyle Raftis could see time sporadically and with a strong training camp could potentially become a regular.

All in all things are looking on the upswing for the Generals. Most of the core is returning, and you can almost always expect a few surprises in training camp to shake things up, and usually for the better. Not too get too ahead of myself but as I watch the Memorial Cup this weekend, one can’t help but think that with a little luck the Generals could find themselves in Erie’s position next year..

Side notes on draft:

Oshawa drafted three teammates in the Priority Draft from Carlos Electric Oshawa Bantams:

Adam Berti (6th overall)
Mike McLean (41st overall)
Andrew Gibbons (126 overall)

Adam and Andrew will be competing at the Under-17 OMHA Final Camp this upcoming weekend.

They also drafted local kid Zac Greer (206th overall) who played for Whitby Bantam and could be a steal in the 11th round.

They drafted twin brothers Justin and Tyler Donati who dominated together on the Oakville Bantams while leading their team to the OHL Bantam Cup Championship game. The two were not taken considerably higher due to size. Ditto for Sam Campbell who played Hamilton Jr.A this year and has all the skills to be a high pick. One has to speculate they all could be headed for the NCAA as it appears their small stature could prevent them from making the OHL.