The OHL campaign has reached the quarter mark, a significant point for measuring success.
Teams in a playoff spot this far into the schedule often make the post-season. Six teams were within six points atop the Eastern Conference standings heading into the weekend, while in the West just two points separated fourth from eighth.
Despite the tight standings, a few teams have shown signs of separating from the pack:
- The London Knights are the overall leaders (16-4-1, all stats through Friday) and the Hunter brothers, Dale and Mark, have put together another deep roster that will contend for a championship in the spring. Up front, Nashville Predators prospect Luke Evangelista topped the OHL in goals with 20. When Evangelista is on the ice, it’s hard not to notice. He’s always in the middle of the action in the offensive zone. On the back end, the Knights ranked second in goals against (54) with goalie Brett Brochu putting up impressive numbers: 15-4-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .920 save mark.
- The North Bay Battalion topped the East at 14-7-2 and led in goals with 93. The offence has been anchored by overage forward Brandon Coe, the league’s leading scorer with 42 points (13 goals, 29 assists). While physical play in the defensive zone is his strong suit, Coe has been moving the puck with ease to create scoring chances — for himself and teammates.
- The Mississauga Steelheads, with a relatively young roster, have been among the early surprises despite a difficult schedule. Roman Basran led the league in goals-against average (2.45), while forward James Hardie had 14 goals heading into the weekend. NHL draft-eligible centre Owen Beck’s speed and edge suggest first-round potential.
- The defending champion Guelph Storm are once again a team no one wants to play against. Head coach George Burnett’s lineup competes every night, and Anaheim Ducks prospect Sasha Pastujov had 33 points through 22 games.
- Suspended: On Tuesday, the Sudbury Wolves suspended team activities after 12 players tested positive for COVID-19 — the first outbreak to postpone OHL games this season. The good news was that all of the players involved, all vaccinated, were asymptomatic. The last teams to play the Wolves were the Steelheads and Barrie Colts, with both following league protocols in the aftermath. The Steelheads tested players and personnel on Tuesday and all of the results were negative, but their Saturday game against Peterborough was postponed because of a possible COVID exposure on the Petes. With case numbers increasing in Ontario and more people indoors during the colder weather, hockey isn’t immune despite a vaccine mandate. The earliest the Wolves could play again is Friday against the Soo Greyhounds. No makeup dates had been announced.
- Invited: There are seven OHLers among the 35 players invited to Canada’s world junior selection camp, starting Thursday in Calgary. The lock from the OHL is Brochu. There will be three goalies in camp, and three on the roster when the world juniors open on Boxing Day in Edmonton and Red Deer. Evangelista joins Kingston’s Shane Wright — the projected No. 1 pick in next year’s NHL draft — and Peterborough’s Mason McTavish among the forward invites. Two notable omissions: Brandt Clarke (Barrie) and Brennan Othmann (Flint). At the time of the announcement, Clarke, captain of the Colts, led OHL defencemen in scoring, while Othmann was the OHL player of the week. In explaining the camp decisions, Alan Millar, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, said Canada’s final roster won’t be “an all-star team” but rather built with the gold-medal game in mind, after settling for silver against the Americans last time.
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