OHL Central Division 2006-07 season preview

By Bob Miller

Even though the Brampton Battalion edged out the Barrie Colts for the regular season Central title last spring, the Colts managed to get their revenge only days later with a four games to one elimination of the Battalion in the conference semifinals.

Throw in the Sudbury Wolves, who return a wealth of quality players, and you’ve got the likelihood of a tight three–way battle for division supremacy in 2006-07.

Barrie Colts

Bryan Little (ATL) returns to the spearhead the Colts offense, looking for a fourth straight season of increasing goal and point totals. Little should provide both the offense and leadership for the team from his assignment as captain, assisted on the scoring end by left wing Richard Clune (DAL), overage Hunter Tremblay and the diminutive Vladimir Nikiforov.

On defense, Andrew Marshall returns for his overage season after a breakout campaign that saw him net 23 goals from the blue line.

The Colts potential success will depend on their ability to get solid goaltending from Andrew Perugini who will look to repeat the success he enjoyed in last spring’s playoffs.

Brampton Battalion

The ability to replace the 47 goals supplied last season by Wojtek Wolski (COL) will go a long way in determining how serious a challenge the Battalion can muster against Barrie at the top of the division.

Aaron Snow (DAL) and Luke Lynes (WAS) will be the veterans charged with that responsibility along the front lines and John de Gray (ANA) will bear the brunt of the offensive expectations from the blue line.

Sixteen-year-old center Cody Hodgson could be the offense that tips the balance for Brampton if he can live up to the expectations generated by the incredible numbers he put up in major midget play for Markham last season. The challenge for Hodgson will be to perform well enough on the defensive end to justify his playing time.

Sudbury Wolves

No team in the OHL can touch the Wolves when it comes to NHL name value with the likes of Nick Foligno (OTT) and Jared Staal at forward, and Marc Staal (NYR) on defense.

With father, Mike, behind the bench for the Wolves, the younger Foligno will be relying upon Kevin Baker and Akim Aliu to help spark the Sudbury offense.

The return of the older Staal, Marc, to the Wolves from the New York Rangers was a crucial event for Sudbury since he could easily be one of the top defensemen in the CHL this season.

Kevin Beech returns for his fourth year with the Wolves to provide solid experience between the pipes.

Toronto St. Michael’s Majors

The Majors will be placing heavy expectations on the scoring prowess of center Justin Donati in his overage season. Donati’s 46-goal, 109-point performance indicates he may very well be up to the challenge although he will be skating the first time without his twin brother, Tyler, who was traded to Belleville in the off-season.

While Micheal Haley will help Donati on the offensive end, Steve Spade will lead the defense on both ends of the ice.

First round OHL draftee center Dylan O’Neil could be an important offensive addition if he can successfully make the jump from midget major to Major A hockey.

Mississauga IceDogs

New coach Mike Kelly, who formerly led both Guelph and Windsor, is the most important addition in Mississauga as the IceDogs hope their new mentor can lead them out of spot they occupied in the division cellar last season.

Close behind Kelly in importance, though, is first round OHL draftee defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, who brings both size and skill as well as the ability to play well in both ends of the ice.

Huge right wing Chris Lawrence (TB) and center Cody Bass (OTT) will be the veteran offensive stalwarts for Kelly.

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