2012-13 Ontario Hockey League Predictions: Eastern Conference
By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)
With the Ontario Hockey League regular season set to begin Thursday, it’s time to get last minute predictions in before the season gets underway.
Monday I took a stab at predicting what will happen the Western Conference, which is filled with talented teams. Now it’s time to do the same with the Eastern Conference.
* division winner
Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele (Photo courtesy of CHL Images)
1. Barrie Colts* - The Colts lost a lot of talent this off-season with Ivan Telegin (Winnipeg), Tanner Pearson (Los Angeles) and Reid McNeill (Pittsburgh) leaving to join their respective AHL teams. Telegin and Pearson combined for over 70 goals and 140 points, despite the two missing almost 30 games combined. McNeill, on the other hand, provided good defense and was an excellent mentor for Aaron Ekblad.
With that said, despite those losses I still expect big things from Barrie this season. Mark Scheifele (Jets) will be back and I expect him to challenge for the league scoring title. Aaron Ekblad will be much improved on defense, which is a scary thought if you saw him play in the playoffs last season as a rookie.
Recently acquired forward Andreas Athanasiou, who was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in June, brings a ton of speed and skill to the team and should help offset some of the offense lost with Telegin and Pearson departing.
I’m also expecting bigger and better things from 2013 eligible forward Erik Bradford this year, who looked very good in several training camp viewings.
Factor all that in with what should be a very good, reliable goaltending tandem in Mathias Niederberger and 2013 eligible Alex Fotinos, and the team shouldn’t have too much trouble finding success.
2. Oshawa Generals* - Though the Generals lost two very good players in Christian Thomas (Rangers) to the AHL and Nicklas Jensen (Canucks) to the Swedish Elite League, they still have more than enough talent to make some noise this year.
There is no doubt that the strength of this team is up front. With Scott Laughton (Flyers), Lucas Lessio (Coyotes), Boone Jenner (Blue Jackets) and Tyler Biggs (Maple Leafs) all in the fold, they should have no problem putting the puck in regularly.
If those guys produce like they can and continue to stick to their games, which is playing well at both ends of the ice, their defense led by veterans Matt Petgrave and Colin Sullentrop (Flyers) should be good enough to get the job done with Daniel Altshuller (Hurricanes) between the pipes.
3. Bellevillle Bulls - I really like how this Bulls team has been built. They have a very balanced roster that I think is capable of doing some damage this year.
Up front they have a couple guys I really like. Daniil Zharkov (Oilers) has all the talent in the world. The key for him is consistency. If he can find a happy medium, he’s going to put up a lot of points. Brendan Gaunce (Canucks) is one of the best two-way centers in the league and he’s going to be a big factor in all aspects of the game. Joseph Cramarossa (Ducks) is expected to be a key contributor on offense, as well.
If those three can produce and they get a bit of help, that should be more than enough to win games with Malcolm Subban (Bruins) in net.
Boston Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton (Photo courtesy of CHL Images)
4. Niagara Ice Dogs - While the Ice Dogs did lose a lot of talent off last year’s team, I still think they’ll be able to find success this year – in large part due to the NHL lockout.
Thanks to the said lockout, the Ice Dogs will get two of the best players in the OHL back in forward Ryan Strome (Islanders) and defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Bruins). The team still features a few other solid pieces in forward Brett Ritchie (Stars) and defenseman Brock Beukeboom (Blues) and Jesse Graham (Islanders), so as long as this core remains in tact they should be able to remain very competitive.
5. Brampton Battalion - The Battalion played a very defensive brand of hockey last year and it landed them a fourth place finish in the conference. They did this even while scoring the 5th fewest goals in the OHL. If they can fill the net a little more this year they will win a lot of hockey games as their defense core, which is lead by Cameron Wind (Coyotes) and Dylan Blujus (Lightning), is still among the best in the league.
2013 draft eligible Sean Monahan (Photo courtesy of LaPresse)
6. Ottawa 67′s - The 67′s, like the Ice Dogs, also lost a lot of talent, but I still expect them to be able to get back to the post-season. They’re not near as deep as they were last year, but they still have two elite players in Sean Monahan, who I expect to be a top-3 pick in the 2013 NHL draft, and Cody Ceci (Senators). If those two stay healthy and Keegan Wilson can provide good goaltending, the 67′s should see themselves back in the post-season this year.
7. Peterborough Petes - This Petes team is really flying under the radar. While they are not loaded with talent at the forward position, they do have a some good players that aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve. Up front they’re lead by Alan Quine (Red Wings) and a pair of 2013 draft eligibles Nick Ritchie and Stefan Noesad, among a couple others. While they won’t strike fear into many teams, they should be able to generate enough offense to win some games.
The strength of this team, though, is undoubtedly on defense. Captain Slater Koekkoek (Lightning) has fully recovered from an injury that kept him out the majority of last season, and they still have Peter Ceresnak (Rangers) and Clark Seymour (Penguins) to lean on.
If they can get timely scoring, the Petes defense core should be good enough to push the Petes into the post-season.
8. Kingston Frontenacs - The Frontenacs are a team I’m really looking forward to seeing this year.
After not producing much of anything in Niagara, Billy Jenkins really started to produce at a high level after he was traded to Kingston last year. The 2013 draft eligible ended the season on a very high note tallying 25 points in 31 games with Kingston. With an off-season of training and another year of hockey under his belt, there’s no reason to believe the future will only get brighter for him.
Ryan Kujawinski is the same kind of story. After tallying just six points in 29 games with Sarnia last year, Kujawinski went on a huge run registering 30 points in 30 games after being dealt to Kingston in a deal that landed Sarnia Ryan Spooner (Bruins). The 2013 draft eligible, who many expect to be drafted in the top-20, hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential yet and many expect him to have a huge year.
Factor in the continual development of those two, as well as many others on the team, and the additions of forward Sam Bennett and stud defenseman Roland McKeowen, both of whom were drafted in the first round of the 2012 OHL draft, and it’s hard not to get excited about the Frontenacs future – a future that starts this year.
Maple Leafs prospect Josh Leivo (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson / OHL Images)
9. Sudbury Wolves - While the Wolves have a few proven players and a good amount of depth on the roster, I don’t see enough star power to put them in a playoff position. The likes of Josh Leivo (Maple Leafs), Justin Sefton (Sharks) and Frank Corrado (Canucks) as well as 2013 draft eligible forward Nicholas Baptiste will keep them competitive and in the race, but ultimately I don’t think this team is good enough to make it to the playoffs this year.
10. Mississauga Steelheads - While the Steelheads do still have some proven talent, headlined by team Captain Stuart Percy (Maple Leafs), this looks to be a rebuilding year for them. The Steelheads will be competitive and should remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, but I don’t think they’ll get there this year. If they can develop their good core of 2013 draft eligibles that includes goaltender Spencer Martin, defenseman Josh Graves and forwards Josh Burnside and Scott Teskey, it will be a productive year for them.
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