Ryan Merkley – Courtesy: The Hockey News
Hi everyone! My name is Lucas Main and I’ll be taking over the OHL Report for this season. There is plenty of high-end talent in the O this season so we should be in for another exciting season. Hope y’all like what I bring!
Before moving onto this season, we have to re-cap how the playoffs went last spring. Congratulations to the J. Ross Robertson Cup champion, Guelph Storm. After sweeping the Kitchener Rangers in the first round, they went down 0-3 to the London Knights in the semifinals. After winning a nail-biting game four, the Storm won another three straight games to shock the top western seed in seven games.
They would go down 0-2 to Saginaw, but Guelph’s fighting spirit (pun intended) would not quit and they came back to beat them in seven games as well. They then faced the league’s top team, the Ottawa 67’s, in the OHL Finals. Once again, they went down 0-2 in the series, but they would perform another reverse sweep and won four straight to represent the OHL in the Memorial Cup.
With the 2019 NHL Draft in the rearview mirror, 217 kids had their dreams come true when they were selected by an NHL team. Twenty-five, or 12%, of those players came from the OHL, including four in the first round.
Thomas Harley was the first OHLer selected. The Steelheads defenseman was selected 18th overall by the Dallas Stars, and it was a draft experience he’ll never forget. Philip Tomasino, Connor McMichael, and Ryan Suzuki would round out the first round for OHL talent, and another six OHLers were selected in the second.
While 2019 was a down year in terms of talent drafted from the OHL, the 2020 NHL Draft should have no shortage of that. Albeit early, there are five OHLers projected to go in the first 15 picks, including the top defenseman, Jamie Drysdale.
Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves has all the tools to be the first overall selection in 2020. He played at nearly a point-per-game pace in his rookie season and was named CHL Rookie of the Year. He is already a man, coming in at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, and is 10 months younger than fellow top prospect, Alexis Lafreniere.
Ryan Merkley was left off the Peterborough Petes’ training camp roster and they are looking to move the Sharks prospect. Character issues were the biggest reason he fell in his draft year and they seem to be in play again. Or maybe the Sharks have decided to keep all eyes on him and give him a roster spot to start the season so Peterborough is trying to recoup as many assets as possible. Unlikely though.
The hope long term is that San Jose and it’s strong leadership core can help the 19-year-old mature. After seasons producing at least a point-per-game from the backend, Merkley does not have much to prove offensively. Defensively and personally, he has much to prove. Heading to Europe to play some professional games is an option since he is restricted by the NHL-CHL agreement here in North America.
It will be a fascinating situation to watch.
Akil Thomas was named captain of the Niagara Ice Dogs for the 2019-20 season. The former second-round selection of the LA Kings is in his fourth season with Niagara and is looking to put together back-to-back 100 point seasons. He possesses a ton of speed and skill and with a new bench boss in LA, he could see a few games with the organization at the start of the season to give him a little bit of pro experience.
The season starts Thursday, September 19th with the Wolves taking on the Ice Dogs. Exciting OHL hockey is only three and a half weeks away! Drop me a line on Twitter @LAM1926 and let me know who you are excited to watch this season.