The Owen Sound Attack have just finished their first two regular season games this past weekend, finishing with two extremely different results. On Thursday night, the Attack travelled to Barrie, getting thumped 9-2. Saturday’s Home Opener brought 2018 first overall pick Quenton Byfield and the Sudbury Wolves to town, ending in a 3-0 shutout by G Mack Guzda and the Attack’s first win of the season.
The bipolar nature of the opening two games leaves fans a bit confused to what team they will be watching this year. The questions that arise from a start like this can only be answered by understanding the NHL training camp process and how it relates the top CHL players. I saw an interview from Attack center and LA Kings draft pick Aidan Dudas before Thursday nights game in Barrie.
He told a reporter how he and teammate Markus Phillips had arrived back in Ontario around 2am early Thursday morning from LA Kings camp. Just merely looking at the box score from the Colt’s 9-2 shellacking over Owen Sound, you may begin to deduce that the Attack “are awful” and will go 0-68 on the year. But as we come down from Crazyland and back to planet Earth to regular common sense, with the kind of intelligence we can uncover with the help from Mr. Dudas that there are many behind-the-scenes happenings that can influence a game.
Bad games happen and the only thing that can be taken from the opening weekend is the team’s need for consistent play. Sleep is also an important role in being at peak fitness level.
It is far too early to start making judgement on this team especially with top players like Nick Suzuki and Sean Durzi still with AWOL status (Absent Without Official Leave). Nick Suzuki is dealing with a minor injury but is playing in preseason games with the Montreal Canadiens. Durzi has been promoted to Leafs training camp after being cut from the main camp and sent to the Marlies of the AHL.
A shoulder injury to former Erie Otter and current Leafs D Travis Dermott led to a short need for Durzi to rejoin the Maple Leafs roster. It seems Durzi will remain with the Marlies until final cuts are made before opening night (Oct. 3 for NHL and Oct 6 for AHL). A return to Owen Sound is possible but beginning to seem less likely. Interestingly enough, the Leafs and Habs will play a preseason game on Wednesday, September 26th and there is a small chance that both Durzi and Suzuki could be in the lineup for that game.
It will prove to be challenging for the Attack to compete with the upper echelon of the West Conference if in fact they do not get Suzuki and/or Durzi back, but head coach Todd Gill has the task of getting these teenagers to play good consistent hockey on a regular basis, and to avoid these types of lopsided games. With any regular teenager, there is a need for structure and routine and it is totally natural for kids moving around the country to not be 100% focused when their surroundings are continuously being altered.
The Attack showed a far better compete level on Saturday night against the Wolves, resulting in Mack Guzda’s first shutout of the early season and his 2nd career shutout. Guzda needed to make only 25 saves in a game where the Wolves had 2 or 3 really dangerous scoring chances in my opinion. Frustration mounted for the Wolves and it seemed like every time there was a scrum after a play, it was one of both of the Pilon twins, Darian and Drake, pushing and jawing with members of the other side.
Wolves top rookie Quinton Byfield was held in check but did look dangerous on several rushes as well as the powerplay. Sudbury was missing assistant captain MacAuley Carson who was suspended 5 games last season and it will carry into the start of this year. They were also missing their top Finnish Import Pick goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
I was told from Wolves reporter Ben Leeson that he had to return to Finland in order to finish his exams. The netminder will return to the team in the next week or two. On the Attack side, a strong start to the season for winger Daylon Groulx as he leads the team with 2 points; also tied in points is newcomer D Carter Robertson who was acquired from the Ottawa 67’s to replace the departure of overage D Cole Cameron who was sent to North Bay.
Next game for the Attack will be Friday September 28th in Guelph against the Storm. The Storm have most of their drafted players back in action but are still without top defencemen Ryan Merkley who is attempting to make the San Jose Sharks and join Erik Karlsson on the NHL blueline. The Storm had a rough opening start to the season losing in OT in Windsor followed by a 4-2 loss to Sudbury.
UPDATE: Nick Suzuki was re-assigned to Owen Sound by the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday morning.
For any of you who are interesting, I have found that the best site for finding stats for OHL teams and player info is to use EliteProspects.com. I have no affiliation to the site, however, I just want to increase interest and help people looking for both quick and reliable stats. You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnnyBravo_05.