As we approach the halfway mark of the 2017-18 season, OHL teams start to get a better idea of what kind of team they are, if they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline and where they could fall in the standings.
In the month of November, two teams benefitted greatly in different ways.
The Mississauga Steelheads really struggled out of the gate opening the season with a measly 2-9-0-0 record, not seeing their third win until Oct 27th. But the team turned things around with the return of Owen Tippett and Michael McLeod from their respective NHL camps. The skill, speed, creativity and offensive makeup of both Tippett and McLeod made an immediate impact on the team and saw themselves climb back up the Eastern Conference standings. However, they find themselves in the midst of a six-game losing skid and have allowed 33 goals during this time frame. No doubt Mississauga is still one of the teams to beat in the East, but they will be looking to add some better defenseman and maybe an upgrade in goaltending.
Tippett’s (Florida Panthers prospect) stickhandling is one thing, but he’s creativity is another. Very lethal combination when you combine the two.
McLeod (New Jersey Devils prospect) shows off his ridiculous foot speed and his ability to separate himself from other players with his explosive first couple of steps. There’s also no denying his vision.
The chemistry between Tippett and McLeod is undeniable. Tippett’s play making skills and ability to make space from himself is incredible. https://twitter.com/OHLHockey/status/931927947459616768
The Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
The Greyhounds are hottest team in the league with 14 straight wins – they’ve only lost once since October 20th. They have no plans to stop and seem to get better and stronger with each game they play. They have a lot of returning players, but most of this has to do with their best players playing like their best players. Including Boris Katchouk who has scored six-game winners including four of those in overtime. Katchouk is a big time player and has been a key to the Greyhounds success.
Katchouk (Tampa Bay Lightning prospect) with some great patience on his equalizer vs the Sudbury Wolves
When Katchouk has a player like Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyers prospect) feeding him pucks all night, it often works out nicely in the end. While Frost can be a goal scorer as well, one of his strengths is his vision and playmaking skills. He can thread a crisp pass through traffic to lead to a higher percentage scoring area.
Here is just one of Frost’s successful cross-crease pass
World Junior Championship
Despite the OHL season being in full swing, all eyes will be on the Men’s World Junior final hockey camp later this month. With only seven returning players and a couple eligible NHLers who will not be loaned, there will be a lot of spots up for grab.
Who has the best chance of making the team from the OHL? Here’s my thoughts:
Player of the Week
Nov 5th: Albert Michnac (undrafted)
His Mississauga Steelheads went 2-0-0-1 on the week. Michnac had a multi-point night in each game including two hat tricks. He finished with eight goals in three games with a plus-minus rating of plus-three during that week.
Nov 12th: Ryan Merkley (2018 NHL Draft eligible)
Merkley becomes the first defenseman this season to earn Player of the Week honours after he scored one goal and five assists for six points in two games with a plus-minus rating of plus-four.
Nov 19th: Cliff Pu (Buffalo Sabres prospect)
Pu had an incredible week scoring more than a point in all four London Knights’ games during this week. He tallied 12 points in four games including four goals and eight assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-six. Pu had a career high four-point game in a 7-4 win over the Guelph Storm.
Nov 26th: Serron Noel (2018 NHL Draft eligible)
Like his Player of the Week predecessors, Noel had three multi-point nights in this week. He scored four goals and four assists for eight points in three games with a plus-minus rating of plus-five.