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  • OHL Western Conference Preview

    2012-13 OHL Preview (WEST)

    The hockey season is nearly upon us and it should be another banner year for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

    Not only is the league chalked full of it’s normal contingent of future stars and standout hockey players, but after a very deep and strong OHL Draft and the current NHL Lockout there is even more talent in the league making every team that much stronger than it normally is.

    While there are a few teams which look like they should be battling it out for the OHL championship this year and a birth in the 2013 Memorial Cup, there’s also a number of developing programs ready to make their stride and spoil the top contenders party.

    The weakest teams in the league are getting stronger and stronger and there shouldn’t be as much parody this year as every single game throughout the season will be a dogfight.

    Without further adieu here’s our 2012-13 OHL Western Conference preview.

    1. London Knights

    Head Coach – Dale Hunter

    Top 5 players
    D – Olli Maatta (FIN) 6’2” 198 lbs. (94) Pittsburgh Penguins
    D – Scott Harrington (CAN) 6’1’” 202 lbs. (93) Pittsburgh Penguins
    RW – Seth Griffith (CAN) 5’11” 185 lbs. (93) Boston Bruins
    C – Max Domi (CAN) 5’11” 194 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Ryan Rupert (CAN) 5’9” 190 lbs. (94) Toronto Maple Leafs

    Kevin Baillie (CAN) 6’3” 195 lbs. (OA)
    Jake Patterson (CAN) 6’1” 191 lbs. (94)

    Rookies of note
    D – Nikita Zadorov (RUS) 6’5” 228 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible

    The defending OHL champions are that much stronger a year later. The team was young last season and now not only has the experience under their belts of winning an OHL title, but also competing in the Memorial Cup and undergoing adversity in the face of a coaching change at a critical point during last season. The Knights boast two strong keepers in their own end, and the blue line which includes Pittsburgh prospects Scott Harrington and Olli Maatta with 2013 first round draft prospect Nikita Zadorov should make the team one of the best defensively in the league. Up front is another area of strength with at least 2-3 lines of impact guys like the Rupert twins, Seth Griffith, Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Josh Anderson and Chris Tierney to lead the way. There’s little doubt this is the front runner for another league title.

    2. Plymouth Whalers

    Head Coach – Mike Vellucci

    Top 5 players
    C – Rikard Rakell (SWE) 6’2” 190 lbs. (93) Anaheim Ducks
    RW – Tom Wilson (CAN) 6’4” 200 lbs. (94) Washington Capitals
    LW – Stefan Noesen (USA) 6’2” 200 lbs. (93) Ottawa Senators
    RW – Ryan Hartman (USA) 6’0” 182 lbs. (94) 2013 NHL Draft eligible
    LW – J.T. Miller (USA) 6’2” 195 lbs. (93) New York Rangers

    Matt Mahalak (USA) 6’2” 180 lbs. (93) Carolina Hurricanes

    Rookies of note
    G – Alex Nedeljkovic (USA) 6’0” 200 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    D – Alex Peters (CAN) 6’4” 188 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    LW – Zach Bratina (CAN) 6’1” 163 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    The Plymouth Whalers may have the best chance of anyone to unseat the London Knights for the OHL title this season. The NHL lockout has been kind to the Whale, who are able to bring back stud forwards Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell to team with Tom Wilson, Ryan Hartman, Alex Aleardi, Garrett Meurs, Mitchell Heard and J.T. Miller to form a murderer’s row up front. The team’s blueline is solid with the additions of Connor Carrick, Simon Karlsson and Gianluca Curcuruto to Curtis Combeen, Colin MacDonald and Nick Malysa for a very strong and deep unit. Matt Mahalak is poised for a standout season now that he’s out of Scott Wedgewood’s shadow and is the man in goal for Plymouth.

    3. Kitchener Rangers

    Head Coach – Steve Spott

    Top 5 players
    D – Ryan Murphy (CAN) 5’11” 176 lbs. (93) Carolina Hurricanes
    LW – Matt Puempel (CAN) 6’0” 190 lbs. (93) Ottawa Senators
    C – Radek Faksa (CZE) 6’3” 202 lbs. (94) Dallas Stars
    RW – Tobias Rieder (GER) 5’11” 190 lbs. (93) Edmonton Oilers
    LW – Ben Thomson (CAN) 6’4” 212 lbs. (94)

    John Gibson (USA) 6’3” 212 lbs. (93) Anaheim Ducks

    Rookies of note
    C – Matt Schmaltz (CAN) 6’5” 186 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    There’s a lot to like about this Kitchener team. The Rangers return some serious impact players in Ryan Murphy on the blueline, forwards Matt Puempel, Radek Faksa, Tobias Rieder and Ben Thomson and possibly the league’s best goaltender in John Gibson. Steve Spott always has his team playing hard and guys like Justin Bailey, Matia Marcantuoni, Curtis Meighan, Eric Ming, Brandon Lesway and Nick Czinder should be looking to fight for top six minutes with their play. IN addition Ben Fanelli, Jared Gilbert and Max Iafrate look poised to raise their games on defence.

    4. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

    Head Coach – Mike Stapleton

    Top 5 players
    RW – Andrew Fritsche (CAN) 6’0” 175 lbs. (93) Phoenix Coyotes
    C – Nick Cousins (CAN) 5’11” 177 lbs. (93) Philadelphia Flyers
    LW – David Broll (CAN) 6’3” 204 lbs. (93) Toronto Maple Leafs
    D –Ryan Sproul (CAN) 6’4” 193 lbs. (93) Detroit Red Wings
    RW – Sergei Tolchinski (RUS) 5’7” 150 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible

    Matt Murray (CAN) 6’5” 163 lbs. (94) Pittsburgh Penguins

    Rookies of note
    C – Jared McCann (CAN) 6’1” 174 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    D – Kevin Spinozzi (CAN) 6’2” 195 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    RW – Trent Mallette (CAN) 5’10” 165 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    If not for the trio of Andrew Fritsch, Mark Petaccio and Nick Cousins being subject to a police investigation this past month, this team would have possibly been ranked higher in the projections. This is a strong team, which has made some shrewd moves and is moving in the right direction, until hearing a couple of the team’s top forwards could be in serious trouble with the law. The new additions of Sergei Tolchinski from Russia and playmaking centre Jared McCann should prove to be game-breakers for the Hounds, who already have some strong pieces in Fritsch, Cousins, David Broll, Mitchell Dempsey and Michael Schumacher. On the blueline the acquisition of Alex Gudbranson to team with Ryan Sproul and future stud Darnell Nurse should make a formidable blueline. Matt Murray is a big solid keeper who will be an important piece in the Soo.

    5. Windsor Spitfires

    Head Coach – Bob Boughner

    Top 5 players
    LW – Kerby Rychel (CAN) 6’2” 200 lbs. (94) 2013 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Brady Vail (USA) 6’1” 194 lbs. (94) Montreal Canadiens
    LW – Chris Marchese (CAN) 6’0” 203 lbs. (94)
    D – Nick Ebert (USA) 6’1” 207 lbs. (94) Los Angeles Kings
    C – Michael Clarke (CAN) 6’0” 184 lbs. (94) Colorado Avalanche

    Jaroslav Pavelka (CZE) 6’2” 189 lbs. (93)

    Rookies of note
    RW – Josh Ho-Sang (CAN) 6’0” 160 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    D – Patrick Sanvido (CAN) 6’6” 220 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Ryan Verbeek (CAN) 5’11” 181 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    Windsor was hit hard this offseason with accusations of tampering and going against league rules to recruit players, resulting in the OHL handing down a massive fine and stripping the team of multiple future first round draft picks. With that now over and done with, Windsor likely feels as though they have something to prove to the league and should be a team with which to be reckoned. Jaroslav Pavelka is a strong netminder in the OHL and should be a strong base on defence to build around. The additions of former USNTDP member Patrick Sieloff and humongous blueline prospect Patrick Sanvido should increase an already strong defensive corps which boasts Nick Ebert and Adam Bateman. Up front Kerby Rychel, Brady Vail, Chris Marchese, Michael Clarke, Jordan Maletta and rookie stud Josh Ho-Sang should be an impressive top six, which should strike fear in other team’s goaltenders.

    6. Guelph Storm

    Head Coach – Scott Walker

    Top 5 players
    D – Matt Finn (CAN) 6’0” 207 lbs. (94) Toronto Maple Leafs
    RW – Scott Kosmarchuk (CAN) 5’11” 187 lbs. (94) Winnipeg Jets
    RW – Zack Mitchell (CAN) 6’0” 186 lbs. (93)
    RW - Cody McNaughton (CAN) 5’10” 185 lbs. (OA)
    D – Andrey Pedan (RUS) 6’4” 211 lbs. (93) New York Islanders

    Garrett Sparks (USA) 6’2” 213 lbs. (93) Toronto Maple Leafs

    Rookies of note
    D – Kyle Locke (CAN) 6’2” 195 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Robby Fabbri (CAN) 5’11” 160 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    Guelph is a team, which has rebuilt the right way and is now seeing it’s young group of talent all start to mature together to form a deep all-around roster. The team has strong goaltending in Garrett Sparks and a future star in Jason DaSilva, while Zach Leslie, Matt Finn and Andrey Pedan are the keys in their own end. Up front Tanner Richard, Scott Kosmarchuk, Zach Mitchell, Cody McNaughton, Hunter Garlent, Jason Dickenson, Tyler Bertuzzi and rookie star Robby Fabbri should give oppositions defences no chance for a rest as they all are talented and work very hard. This team could be a sleeper come playoff time.

    7. Owen Sound Attack

    Head Coach – Greg Ireland

    Top 5 players
    C – Daniel Catenacci (CAN) 5’11” 191 lbs. (93) Buffalo Sabres
    C – Gemel Smith (CAN) 5’10” 171 lbs. (94) Dallas Stars
    C – Jarrod Maidens (CAN) 6’2” 180 lbs. (94) Ottawa Senators
    C – Cameron Brace (CAN) 5’10” 176 lbs. (93)
    RW –Artur Gavus (BLR) 5’11”178 lbs. (94) New Jersey Devils

    Jordan Binnington (CAN) 6’2” 169 lbs. (93) St. Louis Blues
    Brandon Hope (USA) 6’0” 197 lbs. (94)

    Rookies of note
    RW – Jaden Lindo (CAN) 6’1” 194 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    D – Jacob Middleton (CAN) 6’3” 194 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    Top to bottom this is a strong OHL team, with possibly their only weakness being the lack of size in their top line players. Up front Daniel Catenacci, Gemel Smith, Jarrod Maidens, Cameron Brace, Artur Gavus and Zach Nastasiuk give the team some firepower, while blueliners Keevin Cutting, Jake Dotchin, Nathan Chiarlitti, Chris Bigras, Kyle Hope and rookie Jacob Middleton should be the heart of this franchise. Goaltender Jordan Binnington is a very good netminder and no longer has to share the duties with Scott Stajcer, so big things are expected from him this season.

    8. Sarnia Sting

    Head Coach – Jacques Beaulieu

    Top 5 players
    LW - Reid Boucher (USA) 5’11” 187 lbs. (93) New Jersey Devils
    D – Anthony DeAngelo (USA) 6’0” 167 lbs. (95) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Alex Galchenyuk (USA) 6’2” 205 lbs. (94) Montreal Canadiens
    C – Charles Sarault (CAN) 6’0” 184 lbs. (OA)
    D – Connor Murphy (USA) 6’5” 203 lbs. (93) Phoenix Coyotes

    J.P. Anderson (CAN) 6’0” 195 lbs. (OA) San Jose Sharks

    Rookies of note
    LW – Jordan Addesi (CAN) 6’2” 194 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    LW – Alexandre Renaud (CAN) 6’4” 214 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    RW – Brett Hargrave (CAN) 6’4” 206 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    After a near players coup this off-season aimed at head coach Jacques Beaulieu, this skilled Sarnia Sting team may have some mending to do in the locker room before they can be considered key competitors in a very strong western conference. With a healthy Alex Galchenyuk back and other talent such as Reid Boucher, Charles Sarault and rookie Brett Hargrave, this team should be considered among the league’s best, but this team lacks some depth other teams in the conference have. The blueline is a bit stronger with Connor Murphy, Anthony DeAngelo and Alex Basso leading the way. Goaltender J.P. Anderson is a guy who can steal you games and should be counted on for a great season. The overall uncertainty and potential unrest in the locker room raises issues with the team.

    9. Erie Otters

    Head Coach – Robbie Ftorek

    Top 5 players
    C –Dane Fox (CAN) 6’0” 185 lbs. (93)
    LW – Stephen Harper (CAN) 6’1” 195 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible
    RW – Connor Brown (CAN) 5’11” 170 lbs. (94) Toronto Maple Leafs
    D - Adam Pelech (CAN) 6’3” 210 lbs. (94) New York Islanders
    C – Luke Cairns (CAN) 5’10” 170 lbs. (94)

    Oscar Dansk (SWE) 6’2” 187 lbs. (94) Columbus Blue Jackets
    Devin Williams (USA) 5’11” 160 lbs. (95)

    Rookies of note
    C- Connor McDavid (CAN) 6’0” 170 lbs. (97) 2015 NHL Draft eligible
    D – Justin Felker (CAN) 6’3” 170 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    RW – Hayden Hodgson (CAN) 6’1” 185 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    C – Kyle Petit (CAN) 6’2” 170 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    It’s amazing how the addition of one to two players makes this stinker of a team into one which is in the mix for a playoff spot. That being said, the additions are stud goaltender Oscar Dansk from Sweden, and the OHL’s first overall draft pick Connor McDavid, who was granted exceptional status to join the league a year early because of his immense talent. McDavid is thought by many to be in the same breath of Sidney Crosby and should make an immediate impact with the Otters. Otherwise the team has a quartet of solid forwards in Dane Fox, Stephen Harper, Connor Brown and Luke Cairns who should benefit greatly from McDavid’s playmaking skills. Dansk’s great skills should also help make up for a very weak defence which only really boasts Adam Pelech.

    10. Saginaw Spirit

    Head Coach – Greg Gilbert

    Top 5 players
    LW – Brandon Saad (USA) 6’2” 206 lbs. (OA) Chicago Blackhawks
    C – Vince Trocheck (USA) 5’11” 190 lbs. (93) Florida Panthers
    LW – Garrett Ross (USA) 6’0” 190 lbs. (OA) Chicago Blackhawks
    D – Brandon Archibald (USA) 6’4” 212 lbs. (OA)
    RW – Andrey Alexeev (RUS) 5’11” 180 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible

    Nikita Serebryakov (RUS) 6’0” 175 lbs. (95) 2013 NHL Draft eligible
    Jake Paterson (CAN) 6’1” 180 lbs. (94) Detroit Red Wings

    Rookies of note
    D – Brandon Prophet (CAN) 6’2’” 200 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    RW – Jeremiah Addison (CAN) 5’11” 183 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible
    LW – Dylan Sadowy (CAN) 6’1” 180 lbs. (96) 2014 NHL Draft eligible

    With the NHL Lockout in effect, a guy like Brandon Saad should be a big help to this Saginaw team, which despite some good talent should have some struggles this season. The team is very young with a lot of first and second year players on the roster, which need more time to develop and the stars still there like Saad, Vince Trocheck, and Garrett Ross just aren’t enough to get them to the playoffs. The team’s strength is their goaltending where rookie keeper Nikita Serebryakov is thought to be a star, while last year’s starter Jake Paterson will also be fighting for minutes, unless he is traded to a team where he can start. There is a lack of high end ability on the roster, despite a glut of guys with moderate skill. This could be a rough season for the Spirit.
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