The 2019 OHL Season is well underway and the majority of NHL drafted players have been returned to their junior clubs. Last week, Owen Tippett was returned to the Mississauga Steelheads and immediately scored a hat trick in his OHL debut against the Erie Otters. In Attackland, Owen Sound was spoiled, receiving both Nick Suzuki and Sean Durzi back with the team.
Suzuki scored a hat trick in his second game back, coming in a loss to the Ottawa 67’s, but the Attack are only 2-3 since his return. Sean Durzi has played three games thus far, amassing 2 assists and his team going 2-1. The Attack have been good at home (3-1), but haven’t been able to find their game on the road going 0-3.
To start the season, the Attack have been outscored 19-5 on the road. It is still very early but there are definite questions in goal with the attack going with two 17-year-old goalies. Mack Guzda does turn 18 in January but has looked shaky in six starts to open the year.
The defence needs to take responsibility for their loose play as well, but incorporating a 20-year-old Sean Durzi is a major step in helping the back end. It should be noted that Port Huron, Michigan native goaltender Andrew MacLean won his debut start with the team, beating the Oshawa Generals by a score of 4-2. 18-year-old goaltender Nathan Torchia was acquired in the offseason from Oshawa to be the backup, but was beat out of camp by MacLean who was drafted in the 10th round by Owen Sound in 2017. The Attack will play their next games at Guelph, at home against London and then will host the OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs.
Around the League
- The Sudbury Wolves find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference with 12 points in 8 games and have won 5 games in a row. Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was named the OHL Player of the Week and boasts a 1.79 G.A.A. Luukkonen was drafted by Buffalo Sabres.
- The Kitchener Rangers are leading the Western Conference with 10 points in only 6 games, being led by forward-turned dman Joseph Garreffa. Gareffa has played forward and defence and has put up 4G and 7A. Kitchener was lacking defensemen and have since acquired Russian F Alexei Lipanov from Sudbury. Sudbury beat Kitchener over the weekend 3-2 in OT.
- Barrie Colts center Ryan Suzuki leads the OHL with 15 points (4G, 11A) in 7 games and is on a 2.14 Point per game pace. His 11 assists lead the OHL in assists. Nick’s younger brother is ranked 14th in Sam Cosentino’s 2019 NHL Draft rankings on Sportsnet.ca
- Kingston Frontenacs and Dallas Star pick LW Jason Robertson leads the league with 8 goals in 7 games.
- London Knights goalie Jordan Kooy leads the OHL in G.A.A. at 1.67. London also has Joseph Raaymakers back with the team for his overage season, so it will be interesting to see how London deals with their goaltending situation.
According to the OHL Training Camp Tracker, there are nine players still eligible to return from the NHL for this season. Andrei Svechnikov, Robert Thomas, Max Jones, Gabe Vilardi, Evan Bouchard, Alex Formenton, Jordan Kyrou, Barrett Hayton and Connor Timmins are listed as eligible to return for the 2019 season. There have been rumblings of Vilardi being sent down mostly because of another injury he suffered and may find it easier to get playing time in the OHL.
Of this list, I would say the most likely to return are Hayton, Formenton and Bouchard. Both Hayton and Bouchard are currently 18-years-old, although Bouchard turns 19 in late October. For London, Bouchard would be a game changer and would shift the Knights into ‘Win Now’ mode if there is such a thing in London.
Bouchard would likely lead the OHL in defensemen scoring. As currently constructed, London is a very skilled but young team. If Bouchard was returned to the team, they would be a favourite to climb in the standings and would contend once again for the OHL Roberston Cup. Bouchard would also be in consideration to play in the 2019 World Juniors in Vancouver/Victoria.
As for the Soo Greyhounds it is doubtful to see Connor Timmins return, as they already have three 20-year-old players in Hollowell, Sambrook and Howdeshell. Sault Ste. Marie was expected to play in the Memorial Cup last season but were stymied by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the final round. Moving into 2019, there is still enough talent to contend but Greyhound fans are waiting to see if Barrett Hayton is returned from the Arizona Coyotes.
Personally I don’t think I was the only one surprised when Hayton was drafted 5th overall in last year’s NHL Draft as it was clear that centermen were at a premium with Jesperi Kotkaniemi going the Habs at No.3. Hayton may get a nine game look with the Coyotes who have started the season 0-2, but Hayton has not dressed yet because of an undisclosed injury. The Coyotes recently placed him on the IR and with Arizona not looking like a contender this season, it is most likely that Hayton is returned to the OHL before the end of October.