OHL East Division preview

By Jason Ahrens

The OHL East Division had only three teams make the playoffs last season, but it could perhaps fare better this season and should have two very strong teams at the very least. It will be the division most watched by scouts, as there are a number of top end prospects eligible for the NHL draft.

Peterborough has Jordan Staal a huge center who may be the top player picked from the OHL in 2006. Ottawa features Jamie McGinn a feisty winger with skill who is a solid first round candidate. Kingston has a pair of aces, slick-skating defenseman Ben Shutron and forward Cory Emmerton, both players may be picked in the first two rounds. Belleville has John Hughes who was the first pick overall in the 2004 OHL draft. Oshawa has huge defenseman James DeLory and they also have 15-year-old whiz kid John Tavares who might be the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft.

Peterborough Petes

Key Departures: Goalie Jeff MacDougald, Defensemen Trevor Hendrikx (CLB) and Mark Flood

NHL Draftees: 7, Goaltender David Shantz (FLA), Defenseman Bryan Young (EDM), Forwards Liam Reddox (EDM), Daniel Ryder (CAL), Jordan Morrison (PGH), Patrick Kaleta (BUF), Greg Stewart (MTL)

Draft eligible: Center Jordan Staal (2006)

Goaltending: Shantz comes over from the Ice Dogs, trying to revive his career. He was brilliant in his rookie year and took the Ice Dogs to the OHL final, he played in the CHL Top Prospects Game and was a second round pick by the Panthers. 2004-05 was not kind to Shantz and he seemed to lose his confidence and soon lost his job as No. 1 in Mississauga. Rookie Trevor Cann will see a lot of games from the bench and will give Shantz the odd breather.

Defense: Overage veteran Aaron Dawson will be a key man on the defense corps. The former Hurricane draft pick will be looking to earn a pro contract in his last season in the OHL and will eat up a lot of minutes for the Petes.

Young is a classic defensive defenseman who loves to get involved physically but doesn’t take the stupid penalties that some physical guys take. Peter Aston and Kyle Raftis return as veterans on the point and will see a lot of ice time as the team will be breaking in some rookies in the five and six holes.

Forwards: Ryder and Reddox give the Petes a pair of explosive forwards who can hurt you in a number of ways offensively. They tied for the team scoring lead last year with 82 points each and they could flirt with the league scoring title this season on a team with no shortage of firepower. With Staal on the verge of breaking out as he enters his second season, this is a team that should have two top end scoring lines. Jordan should follow the footsteps of his older brothers Eric (CAR) and Marc Staal (NYR) and be a first round pick. He has the size and the skill to be a top ten pick if he shows enough this season in a very competitive draft year.

Morrison is a great skating forward who has made nice improvements in his point totals every year going from 14 to 45 to 64 and he will be able to put up big numbers this season on a very strong team. Stewart plays more of a checking role on the Petes but should be a 20-goal man while taking care of his own end first.

Kaleta had a solid year last season popping 52 points to go with 146 penalty minutes. He will need to continue playing with skill and sandpaper to earn a contract with a deep Buffalo organization.

Overage forward Jamie Tardif used his big shot to score 37 goals last season and will add to the awesome firepower that this team has assembled.

World Junior Hopefuls: Reddox and Ryder (Canada)

Outlook: If Shantz can find his confidence and form and the rookies come through, this should be a very strong team. At worst, they have the firepower to run and gun and they might blow away a few teams this season. The defeat in the Eastern Conference Final last year will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the returning veterans, and in the very competitive Eastern Conference, they should be in the thick of things come playoff time. Defense will rely heavily on the four veterans and if any of them go down with an injury, the rookies will have to step up.

Ottawa 67s

Key Departures: Defensemen Will Colbert (SJ) and Brad Staubitz, Forwards Mark Mancari (BUF), Lukas Kaspar (SJ) and Jakub Petruzalek (NYR)

NHL Draftees: 3, Defensemen Derek Joslin (SJ) and Jakub Vojta (CAR), forwards Bryan Bickell (CHI)

NHL Prospects: Forwards Jamie McGinn (2006), Arron Alphonso (2007) and Logan Couture (2007)

Goaltending: Overage veteran Danny Battochio was stellar in the 67s road to the Memorial Cup but couldn’t turn his performance into a pro contract. He will see the bulk of the action between the pipes for the 67s and the butterfly goalie with the quick reflexes has the ability to steal games but will have to work on cutting out some of the soft long bombs he allowed in during the OHL final and the Memorial Cup. David Scamurra will be broken in as his understudy.

Defense: Joslin makes the jump from wide-eyed rookie to being the go-to guy on the point. A good skater who loves to hit despite a very average build of 6’1 and 175 pounds, Joslin is always involved. He played through the Memorial Cup with a broken bone in his wrist and at times struggled with the speed and size of opposing wingers.

Veteran Elgin Reid plays a tough game in his own end and can get under the skin of his opponents. He has to work on his panic point as he can be forced to cough up the puck when under pressure.

Brodie Beard is another returning veteran who plays a simple game but is effective in his own end. Like Reid, he sometimes panics when handling the puck, but with another year of seasoning under his belt he should improve in that area.

David Jarram was a bit of a disappointment last season when he came over from the Soo Greyhounds and was often a healthy scratch during the playoffs. The 67s will need the 6’3 and 230-pounder to step it up under the increased playing time he will receive this year and be a physical force. Vojta was the first overall selection in the CHL Import Draft and he will see a regular shift on a team that likes to use all six defensemen.

Forwards: Overage snipers Chris Hulit and Julian Talbot give the 67s one of the best group of overage players in the entire OHL. Coming off 71 and 66-point seasons respectively, they both have the ability to score at a clip in excess of a point a game and often play together on the same line.

McGinn had a very solid playoff run and had a great Memorial Cup and was perhaps the best player on the 67s in their semi-final loss to Rimouski. He carried that forward and made Team Canada for the Under 18 tournament and took home a gold medal. McGinn is always working hard and will not shy away from the banging in the corners or in front of the net and has shown a very soft pair of hands that are capable of threading the needle with a perfect pass.

Couture was a real steal for the 67s, as he was going to be selected first overall by the Oshawa Generals before the last minute rule involving underage players was introduced which allowed the Generals to take Tavares. Couture slid to 12th as his family indicated that he might not play in the OHL after that experience, but the 67s took him and sold him on their program and now they have a big time point producer to look forward to over the next few years.

Alphonso is a real force along the wall and is extremely strong and loves to get involved physically. He didn’t show much of a scoring touch as a rookie but should produce better numbers in his sophomore season.

Bickell shows flashes of being a high-end power forward with a wicked wrist shot and he can bring the crowd to its feet and then disappear for the rest of the game. He has to show more drive and consistency if he wants to earn a contract with Chicago. He has all the tools to dominate at this level but sometimes his hockey sense seems lacking.

Outlook: This is a team that has no gaping holes and should be at or near the top of the pack most of the season. They will be able to throw two decent scoring lines at the opposition and if the young talent steps up the 67s will prosper. The defense was very inconsistent last season and may lack a real go-to guy if Joslin isn’t ready for the role yet. Vojta could be a bit of a wild card on the back end.

Kingston Frontenacs

Key Departures: Goalie Dayne Davis, Forward Anthony Stewart (FLA)

NHL Draftees: 3, Goaltender Danny Taylor (LA), Forwards Radek Smolenak (TB) and Bobby Bolt (ANA)

NHL Prospects: Defenseman Ben Shutron (2006), forwards Chris Stewart (2006), Bobby Hughes (2006) and Cory Emmerton (2006)

Goaltending: Taylor has been playing in the shadows in Guelph as a backup goalie who has put up good stats but couldn’t unseat the No. 1. He will finally get his chance to take the ball and run with it and should see the bulk of the action for Kingston. Backup goalie Brady Morrison only got into six games last season and should see a few more minutes of ice time this year.

Defense: Shutron played a lot of minutes as a 16-year-old rookie and looked like a veteran on the power play and often ran the first unit. Things didn’t go so well when he was playing at even strength and he ended up with the worse plus/minus on the team. He has first round talent and if he can shore up his play in his own end and show a physical side to his game he will be a sure first round pick.

Adam Nemeth plays a simple game and will log a lot of ice time for Kingston and will act as a stabilizing force on a still very young corps. He is the only 19-year-old defenseman and they have no overage skaters on the point. Justin Wallingford is one of the biggest players in the league at 6’7 and 236 pounds and is one of the few veterans on the blue line.

Forwards: Smolenak will be a real sniper in his second season in the league and on a team that should be able to throw two decent lines on the ice, he will be able to avoid constant harassment from opposing team’s checking lines. He had a solid 32 goals and 60 points last season on a weak team.

Emmerton is a speedy forward who will really benefit from the crackdown on obstruction and will be a real force on the transition game if he can get his wheels cranked up between the blue lines. He could double his 38 points of last season.

Stewart is still very much a work in progress but has the raw tools and frame to catch the eyes of scouts. It doesn’t hurt his draft chances that his older brother Anthony had a solid OHL career and is a highly regarded prospect within the Panthers organization. The 6’2 and 226-pound winger didn’t even play hockey in 2003-04.

Bolt is a big forward who will give defenders fits in the corners and in front of the net. He should crack the 20-goal mark this season after getting 11 last season. Hughes is a slick playmaker who had 55 points last season and will see a lot of ice time. Todd Griffith will be a key overage forward who had 58 points last season.

Outlook: This is a very young team that currently has an overage spot open and they will likely be looking for some help on the point if the rookies falter. They have some decent firepower and if Taylor can handle the pressure of being the No. 1 goalie they should do fine. They are a season away from being a very good team as they will not be hit very hard by graduation.

Belleville Bulls

Key Departures: Goalie Eric Tobia, Forwards Marc Rancourt and Cody Thorton

NHL Draftees: 2, Goalie Kevin Lalande (CAL), Forward Evan Brophey (CHI)

Top Prospects: Forwards John Hughes (2006) and Matt Beleskey

Goaltending: Lalande had a solid rookie season and should have no trouble with the transition from being back up goalie to full time starter as he appeared in 30 games last season. Danish goalie Sebastien Dahm will be breaking new ground as he will be backing up Lalande and he might be the first ever Danish player to play in the OHL.

Defense: Overage veteran Matt Smythe comes over from the Owen Sound Attack to add some size and leadership to a young and average sized blue line. Matt Kelly will be another overage leader on the team and will see a lot of ice time on the point.

Forwards: Brophey will face a lot of pressure to carry the team on his shoulders and he has the ability to really light it up. He will see a ton of ice as the No. 1 center on a fairly weak and young team.

Hughes was the first pick overall in the OHL draft and has speed to burn but is not very big at 5’10 and 175 pounds. The larger playing surface in Belleville complements his style of game.
Beleskey starts the season on the disabled list from a knee injury. The Bulls will miss the gritty winger and scouts will be watching to see if he adjusts his style of play when he returns.
Bryan Cameron was the team’s first round pick in the 2005 OHL draft and he will get a good opportunity to play on a young team.

World Junior Hopefuls: Brophey (Canada)

Outlook: The Bulls have endured some tough seasons of late and this could be another one. They don’t have a quarterback on defense, they lack the firepower of some of their counterparts in the division and have a lot of youth which could hurt them if things go sour. They will be a much stronger team next season with the bulk of the team returning.

Oshawa Generals

Key Departures: Forward Brett Trudell

NHL Draftees: 2, Defenseman Bret Nasby (FLA) and forward Adam Berti (CHI)

Top Prospects: Defenseman James DeLory (2006) and forward John Tavares (2009)

Goaltending: Import Stefan Grauwiler starts the season as the No. 1 goalie and he will be pushed by Ben Thomas who played in four games last season and the 17-year-old will be battling for more ice time this year.

Defense: Nasby will anchor the blue line and the defensive defenseman will be a leader on the team. The 6’5 and 212-pound DeLory will be watched closely by scouts to see how he fares under the new rules in the OHL. Players his size may have the biggest adjustment and if he can handle the change, he could be a first round pick.

Justin Sawyer is a bit of a rarity, a 6’6 225-pound rookie playing as an overage player. Sawyer got into 14 games last season and the Generals will be looking for him to use his size effectively. Slovakian David Halasz is entering his third OHL season and he will be a key man on the point for the Generals.

Forwards: Berti is one of many Blackhawk draft picks from 2003 playing out their last season in the OHL who will have to prove if they are prospects or suspects, with a NHL contract as the prize. Berti has good size and has shown an adequate scoring touch scoring 23 goals last year on a last place team, but he will have to elevate his game this season. Peter Tsimikalis is a returning veteran who will challenge for the team scoring title and will be a fixture on the top two lines and on the power play.

Tavares is the first 15-year-old player to play in the OHL since Jason Spezza suited up with Brampton. Tavares was actually only 14 for most of the preseason and he wasn’t in over his head as he scored plenty of points and continued to score as the regular season started. He will be one of the most watched players in the league as scouts will want to see how he does and parents anxious to fast track their sons to the CHL will point at his success and apply for the exceptional player status that was granted Tavares.

Outlook: The Generals have a very big defense corps and should have some decent pop up front. Goaltending will be a big question and if it falters the team may miss out on the playoffs for the second season in a row, but if someone can take the ball and run in net, they could sneak into the playoffs. The making of a great rivalry between Couture in Ottawa and Tavares was formed when the Generals took Tavares after he was granted exceptional player status just before the OHL draft. Couture will be looking to show the Generals (who had told him that they were going to select him with the first overall pick) that they made a mistake every time he suits up against them.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.