The second month of the Ontario Hockey League season is now underway, and lots of little shake-ups and movements have happened. In this edition, I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the atrocious (I’m looking at you Flint). I’ll also talk about some of this year’s draft-eligible prospects and take a look at the OHL rookies once more.
Last month, the London Knights ran into their expected predicament with too many international spots, causing them to get rid of one of a player, and the unfortunate player was Vladislav Kolyachonok. Kolyachonok found himself waived and claimed by the league’s seemingly perennial bottom-feeder, Flint Firebirds. Kolyachonok has since played in two games with the winless Firebirds and contributed two assists, but has only played two games with the team, being scratched in the others.
In the past month, the four different OHL ‘On The Run’ winners have been announced. It started with Lucas Chiodo of the Barrie Colts winning the second Player of the Week honour of the season. He posted three goals and four assists in two games.
The first goaltender to win the award was Finnish goalie, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Luukonen posted a 3-0-0 record with a stellar 1.66 GAA and a .952 SV%, as the Sudbury Wolves continued their ascent of the league standings. The Finnish netminder is in his rookie season in the OHL after being selected third overall by Sudbury in the CHL Import Draft.
Damien Giroux of the Saginaw Spirit was the next winner of the OHL Player of the Week award after tallying a seven-point week in two games. He recorded three goals and four assists. The most impressive part of his week was his involvement in seven of the teams’ eight goals that week, while Chiodo had been involved in seven of his team’s 12 goals. The final player to win the award in October was North Bay Battalion’s Justin Brazeau, who notched nine points in only two games. He tallied four goals and five assists in that week, boosting him to the top of the league’s scoring table where he now leads with 33 points in 15 games.
So far, the league’s best team has been the Ottawa 67’s with a 12-3-1 record, lead by a pair of high-scoring overagers, Tye Felhaber and Austen Keating with 25 points each. They’re followed by a pair of U18’s in Graeme Clarke and Marco Rossi. Following behind are the Sault Ste Marie and Mississauga led by their two stars, Morgan Frost and Akil Thomas. Frost was sent back early in training camp by the Philadelphia Flyers, allowing him to join the team early in the season and drive them to some big wins and a top 3 spot in league scoring with 23 points in 13 games. Akil Thomas was also sent home early in training camp, allowing to score 25 points including 17 assists in 15 games, leading the IceDogs to many wins.
On to some of the more disappointing teams, the London Knights were ranked as the second-best team in the CHL to start the season, but after an average start, they find themselves as the 11th best team in the league, record-wise with a 7-4-2 record, which isn’t that bad, but in comparison to their lofty expectations, most were expecting way better from a young team with a plethora of young talents including Adam Boqvist, Liam Foudy, and draft eligibles Matvei Guskov and Connor McMichael. The Kingston Frontenacs are another team with some high-end talent including Gabriel Vilardi and Jason Robertson. Vilardi’s injury has harmed the team immensely, and as hard as Robertson has been trying, he can’t help the Fronts escape the basement of the league with a 4-11-1 record, even though he has 14 goals and six assists in 15 games. Both of these teams are expected to rise as the season goes on, but the start hasn’t been quite up to par with expectation.
Finally, this section is only reserved for one team, and that team is, of course, the Flint Firebirds. They have a 0-13-1 record with some of the worst team stats seen in the OHL. With 82 GA in 14 games, they have just under six goals allowed per game and with only a measly 29 scored, they barely average two goals per game. The team’s captain and Dallas Stars prospect, Ty Dellandrea leads the team with seven points in 11 games. Highly touted 2020 eligible prospect, Evan Vierling has struggled immensely with the quality of play and has only posted an assist this season. Ryan Oulahen, the former coach of the Firebirds has stepped down this month and was replaced by the Assistant Coach, Eric Wellwood. Trade rumors have been flying around Dellandrea and whether the Firebirds will just ship him out and wallow in defeat for the rest of the season.
Moving over to 2019 Draft Eligible prospects, American sniper Arthur Kaliyev leads the charge with an impressive 14 goals and 10 assists to start the season off impressively, jumping into the top 5 point scorers. Barrie Colts centre, Ryan Suzuki, brother of OHL star Nick, also has put up 24 points, notching 18 assists, putting him joint second in the league at that respect. Sault Ste. Marie winger Cole Mackay and Mississauga Steelheads centre, Keean Washkurak are next with 16 and 15 points respectively. Mackay is a solid scorer with the ability to score, and pass the puck, using his speed and hands to break away from the play, and Washkurak uses his solid playmaking skills to distribute the puck well. Some other players that were relatively unknown and have burst out of the shadows this season are Swiss winger Kyen Sopa, a winger for the Niagara IceDogs, and Connor McMichael, a centre for the London Knights. Both players are playing around a point per game pace, nowhere near where they were last year as Sopa was playing in Switzerland and McMichael has almost already surpassed his points total from last year. McMichael is one of the more underrated players in the current draft and has scored nine goals, many of those using his speed and quick hands, as well as his IQ to be in the right place at the right time. He loves moving down low and shooting pucks, modelling his own game after Auston Matthews.
Finally, the rookie race this year is lead comfortably by Austrian centre, Marco Rossi, previously mentioned with the Ottawa 67’s. The 2020 eligible player has been lighting up the league with nine goals and nine assists, good for 18 points and a healthy lead. Quinton Byfield and Cole Perfetti trail by six points with a total of 12 so far, and it could be argued that Perfetti and Byfield create way more chances on their lines, while Rossi is being fed by two of the top point scorers in the league in Felhaber and Keating. Jean-Luc Foudy of the Windsor Spitfires, brother of Liam Foudy, leads comfortably in assists with 11, accounting for all but one of his 12 points this year. An underrated player who’s currently second in team scoring is Jacob Winterton of the Flint Firebirds who’s only scored seven points this year, but playing for the Firebirds is a challenge in itself, and Jacob has one of the best plus/minus ratios on the team.
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