New Home, New Players, New Challenges for the Ottawa 67′s
Photo courtesy of Chris Mikula / The Ottawa Citizen
By Andrew Paxton (@Paxton61)
“Keep it simple” proved not to be that simple of a task for the new look Ottawa 67’s in their first 3 games of the season.
With 10 players from last year’s powerhouse squad now playing in the professional leagues, including 2 future NHLers Tyler Toffoli (LAK) and Shane Prince (OTT) with their combined 95 goals and 190 points, the Ottawa 67’s are not the same offensive team this year. With plenty of turnovers and weak defensive play in the first 2 games, a player’s only meeting took place after a 4-3 loss to the rebuilding Peterborough Petes. It seems that some of the 67’s are in need of convincing that they are not going to be as offensively gifted as they once were and therefore need to focus more on protecting their own end.
With that being said, there is still plenty of room for optimism. The 67’s are now playing at Scotiabank Place – home to the Ottawa Senators – and playing in a mock NHL environment every day is bound to help any young team have a few competitive advantages over other clubs in the OHL; players mature faster.
Despite the 67’s slow start (1-3-0); these players seem to be worth keeping an eye on:
15th overall pick of the Ottawa Senators, hometown hero and Co-Captain Cody Ceci is off to an excellent start. Ceci has 6 points in his first 4 games and the fate of the 67’s season definitely starts with how well Ceci plays. Ceci is an offensive defenseman and has the ability to step into any offensive play; making him tricky for opposition to keep an eye on. He won’t amaze you with immaculate speed, but his world class vision and puck patience ranked him as one of the top defensemen in North America. Ceci has the ability to slow the game down and find that perfect outlook pass and in the first 4 games of the year it is clear he will have a strong season. # 83
One of the highest ranked prospects in North America right now is #20 of the Ottawa 67’s, Sean Monahan. Monahan plays very similar to ex 67’s player and former OHL scoring leader Tyler Toffoli; not very noticeable until he has the puck 5 ft away from the net. Monahan uses his size well to protect the puck along the boards and in the offensive zone and has terrific vision; has the ability to make a pass from anywhere. Also, Monahan possesses really quick hands, something he has not shown much of in the past 2 years. Though, a downside to Monahan’s play (and something to keep an eye on) this year is his defensive game. Although Monahan may be racking up the points, he is also a minus-6 on the year. To excel in the NHL you need to play well in your own end. Monahan’s defensive play is something to watch this season as it could impact his draft ranking (currently ranked top-5 by many).
Property of the Minnesota Wild, Graovac had a rough 2 games to begin this year. The first 2 games Graovac got caught with several giveaways and weak plays along the boards. However, in the game against Erie, Graovac used many of the skills he showed off in last year’s playoff run; fantastic speed and net drive, very impressive hands and heavy shot. Graovac had completed a natural hat-trick before 18 minutes of play and led the 67’s to an 8-1 stomping victory. Graovac has potential, this is a player that the Minnesota Wild is really watching this year and is expecting him to take a huge step in his development. Battling inconsistency, but still fun to watch every game. #19
So far this year, “big Mike” (6’4, 218) has played very solid with the young defence core of the Ottawa 67’s. Cajkovski , 20 years of age and undrafted, showed signs of stellar play to end last season which got him an invite to LA Kings rookie camp this past summer. In the first 4 games this year, Cajkovski has played very physical, smart positionally and has been ‘keeping it simple’ in his own zone. Big Mike has stepped up offensively so far this year as well, having 3 pts in 4 games (1 g, 2 a). Big, physical and smart defensemen are sought after, so keep an eye on Michal Cajkovski this year, he’s worth it. #12
1st overall pick in 2012 of the Ottawa 67’s, Dante Salituro has earned his playing time so far this year. A smaller player (5’8, 181), has so far been showing fans that it does not matter how big you are, it’s the hustle and energy you bring to every shift. Salituro has shown great hustle, but also has shown moments of great vision, providing very impressive playmaking abilities which has allowed him to have 4 pts in 4 games (1g, 3 a); not bad for a 15 year old. Showing great playmaking abilities and hard work along the boards, Salituro has been opening up new passing lanes for his teammates and creating scoring chances most shifts. Still very young, though so far it seems Dante Salituro is showing why he is going to have a strong career. Definitely keep an eye on #26.
Ryan Van Stralen
The big forward (6’3, 206) has been playing exactly the way you need to win; physical and determined. Last season, Van Stralen finished his rookie OHL career with 18 pts in 60 games (7 g, 11a) with 70 PIM; not very offensive, but a physical presence in the lineup to say the least. As he was protecting some of the big stars on the team last year, he is now relied upon more this year to be more offensive and he has definitely stepped up. In 4 games, Van Stralen has 4 pts (1 g, 3a), but what is most impressive is how his physical game seems to have stepped up to. A big man who can use his body, fists and score is what scouts will notice and this year Ryan Van Stralen has stood out. Ryan’s net drive has been creating lots of scoring opportunities; playing a lot like former 67’s player Dalton Smith (CBJ 2nd round pick in 2010). Every game Ryan Van Stralen seems to stand out even more, keep your eye out for # 8.
As mentioned, this is a different team. Though, if the players listed continue to shine, the 67’s still have a very strong chance of being a fantastic team to watch develop this year.