The 2019-20 OHL season is approaching at a rapid pace. With that in mind, it is time to turn our focus onto some of the biggest storylines to watch out for during the upcoming OHL season.
Sudbury Wolves Goaltending
The Wolves were exciting to watch during the 2018-2019 season and that is largely with thanks to the fantastic efforts of OHL Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Luukkonen had a season that he will never forget with Sudbury. He led the Wolves from the league’s basement to a playoff contender, guided Finland to Gold at the U20 World Juniors and got his first taste of professional hockey in North America. He suited up for one game with the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He excelled in his first game, posting a .941 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA.
Without Luukkonen manning the crease for Sudbury this season, they may be in for a big challenge. With Luukkonen set for the AHL in 2019-2020, the Wolves will have to look elsewhere to replace the Finnish star goaltender. One option would have been Frederick Dichow who was drafted by the Wolves 41st overall in the first round of the 2019 CHL Import Draft.
Dichow was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in the fifth round. He would have been a likely candidate for the Wolves crease this season, however, he is committed to playing in Sweden in the SuperElit for the upcoming season.
With Dichow likely out of the picture, it will be interesting to see who the Wolves choose as their starting goaltender and whether or not a trade may be in store.
NHL Entry Draft Eligible Players
For decades the OHL has been one of the best leagues for developing some of the best and brightest future hockey stars. The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will continue to uphold this tradition with its own share of high-end talent coming from the Ontario Hockey League. During the 2018-2019 OHL season, many players in the OHL have already began to establish themselves as high-end talents and top prospects for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Most Notably, Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves), Jamie Drysdale (Erie Otters), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit), Marco Rossi (Ottawa 67’s), Jacob Perreault (Sarnia Sting), Antonio Stranges (London Knights) and many more prospects are all highly skilled players with the potential to make a big impact in the NHL.
These draft eligible players will be exciting to watch this season as they will spend the season looking to improve their games and raise their draft stock leading up to the draft.
The annual CHL Import Draft allows CHL teams to select the rights of the best and brightest young stars around the world in hopes of bringing them to join the team. So far, from the 2019 CHL Import Draft, many drafted players have already committed to joining their respective teams and are set to join the OHL. Talents such as Yevgeni Oksentyuk (Flint Firebirds), Ruben Rafkin (Windsor Spitfires), Oliver Suni (Oshawa Generals) and many more have already committed and are set to join the OHL with more likely on the way.
Many imported players go on to star in the OHL and bring glory to their respective clubs. Recent examples include Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Andrei Svechnikov and Adam Boqvist and that is only from the OHL.
Imported players are always exciting to watch and the 2019-2020 season will be no different.
A name that you have probably heard by now (and if you haven’t then you really should pay attention) is Quinton Byfield. Byfield who was picked first overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Sudbury Wolves was a marvel to watch last season. Standing at 6’4 and weighing 214lbs at just 16-years-old is enough to notice Byfield on the ice, but he lets his play do the rest.
The OHL and more importantly, CHL rookie of the year excelled in his rookie season. He recorded 61 points in 64 games which may not have been the highest point totals by a rookie, however, it wasn’t only his point totals that earned him top rookie honours and put him in the same company as Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton and many more NHL stars.
Byfield will almost definently see his point totals sognficantly increase in his draft season but it is not only his scoring abilities to watch out for. His physical abilities on the ice make him a threat in all areas on the ice. He knows how to use his size and skill simultaneously which makes him extremely dangerous to play against. Strength is one of his biggest assets and when combined with great speed, vision and a deadly shot, he becomes one of the most deadly players on the ice.
Byfield will be a player to watch out for this season as he is widely considered to be a top three pick in the upcoming draft with many projecting him to be selected second overall behind Alexis Lafrenière in a draft that is already being called one of the NHL’s best.
The exceptional Shane Wright has already become one of the most exciting stories of the 2019-2020 OHL season. Following in the footsteps of NHL stars such as Connor McDavid and John Tavares, Wright was granted exceptional status in the OHL which means that he will be a regular in the OHL this season. The Kingston Frontenacs will be counting their blessings as Wright joins their organization. Wright, who is already deemed as a top three pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, dominated the GTHL this season, earning player of the year honours for the season now come and gone.
He will be tasked with bringing Kingston back to its winning ways over the next few seasons, but will first have to gain his footing in the OHL as he is taking a massive leap from midget hockey to junior hockey. Wright has all the skills to make that jump and to excite in the next chapter of his career.