Sunday, August 23, 2009
Sunday Top 10 - 2009-10 Teams Edition
We're under a month away from the 2009-10 OHL season starting, so I figured it would be an interesting top 10 to examine the outlook of some teams for the new season. We'll take a look at 10 teams who should see different results this season, either for good or for bad.
I've listed 6 risers and 4 fallers. The risers are teams who should see improvement from the previous season, while the fallers are those who should see a decline of their position in the standings from the previous year. I was originally going to go with five and five, but I just couldn't find another team whom I felt drastically worsened from last year. Meanwhile, I think there are a number of teams who've really improved themselves this offseason. This can only be good for us OHL followers as we should be in store for one heck of a competitive season.
I'm not ranking the top 10 this week. Instead, I have sorted the risers from the fallers, with neither having any particular order. When I eventually come out with my season predictions, the determination of said improvements or declines will become visible.
Here are your 10 movers and shakers!
The last place Fronts should definitely improve this season. I know Frontenacs fans are probably tried of hearing that, but I just can't see this team missing the playoffs in 2009-10. In fact, I think they could contend for the wide open East Division. They've added some leadership and grit in Kaine Geldart and Zach Harnden, and a bonafide starting netminder in Tyler Beskorowany. On top of that, they should be able to count on marked improvement from 1991's Colt Kennedy, Mitch Lebar, and NHL 2nd round draft picks, Ethan Werek and Taylor Doherty. Their defense will also include the incredibly underrated Brian Lashoff, and potential top 10 2010 NHL draft pick Erik Gudbranson. Offensively, Nathan Moon is going to have to take them to the next level and put some of his character issues in the rear view mirror. Here's hoping Doug Gilmour can lead this team far into the playoffs, in his first full season as head coach.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
For the worst team in the OHL during the 2009-10 season, improvement this season will be based more upon improvement from their young players, rather than contributions from new additions. That isn't to say that the Hounds didn't add some great talent. NHL second round pick Robin Lehner will be manning the pipes as an import, while first overall OHL priority draft selection Daniel Catenacci should be able to make an immediate impact. While those additions are important, the improvement from the likes of Brock Beukeboom, Brandon Archibald, James Livingston, Bryce O'Hagan, and Michael Fine is more crucial, in my opinion. Livingston especially, needs to take that next step. He's always been a budding power forward and this has to be his year to bloom. The Hounds need him to set the pace and be the example for the younger forwards to follow. While the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won't be catching Windsor for the West Division, they've got a shot to battle Saginaw and Plymouth for second.
The Colts have one of the best forward groups on paper in the entire OHL. On top of returning Alex Hutchings, Stefan Della Rovere, Josh Brittain, Kyle Clifford, Darren Archibald, Michael Sgarbossa, and Adam Payerl, the Colts have added import Alexander Burmistrov and former Storm sniper Luke Pither. Not only is that forward group offensively talented, but it's hard working and in your face. The question mark will come in the form of goaltending where Peter Di Salvo will take over full time after the trade of Michael Hutchinson to London. The Colts blueline could also use some improvement, however I'd be surprised if they didn't add another defenceman between now and the start of the season. With the Eastern Conference likely wide open, the Colts are bound to be a legitimate candidate for first.
The third worst team in the OHL last year, the Rangers have done much this offseason in order to rectify that. The Rangers started by bringing in former U.S. National Under 18 team members Jeremy Morin and Brandon Maxwell. They followed that up by recently signing NHL first rounder John Moore. The signing of those three means a significant improvement at each position for the Rangers. On top of that, the Rangers recently completed a trade that saw Swedish import selection Gabriel Landeskog head to Kitchener. Landeskog is an incredibly talented forward who is considered one of the best players for the 2011 NHL Draft. With four potential impact players entering the picture, it's hard to imagine the Rangers getting worse. Even more so since young roster players Jeff Skinner, Alex Aleardi, and Tyler Randell should improve too. While I'm not convinced the Rangers can make a run at home ice advantage for the playoffs, I think they should be a playoff team rather comfortably.
Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
It's hard to consider a team that finished with home ice advantage in the first round of the OHL playoffs last year, as a riser. However, I think they are. As far as I'm concerned, the Majors are the front runners for the Eastern Conference title. They've got a quality group of young forwards who should continue to improve, among them the addition of former Sting stud Gregg Sutch. They've got quality goaltending in young star J.P. Anderson and veteran Chris Carrozzi. And, the Majors have possibly the best defence in the East, anchored by Cameron Gaunce. In this league, depth wins Conferences, and the Majors have that by leaps and bounds.
Owen Sound Attack
While Owen Sound barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, they shouldn't have to squeak in this year. The main reason for that will be forward Joey Hishon, one of the league's blossoming stars. Hishon should have a very capable cast of forwards surrounding him. The group may not have too many household names, but they play hard and can put the puck in the net. In goal, Scott Stajcer looks to show that he is a legitimate number one, after the trade of Tyler Beskorowany to Kingston. While the Attack may not be the best team in the league this year, they should finish better than 8th in the West, and they are bound to cause a lot of their opponents headaches.
When you lose 6 of your top 8 scorers from the year before, and the best goaltender in the OHL, you're bound to get worse. The former East Division champs return only Bryan Cameron and Shawn Lalonde among their top 8 scorers, and even their return is questionable. Trade rumours have been rampant about their availability. The loss of Mike Murphy hurts the most though. Murphy was the backbone of this team, one that had a record under .500 without him last year. That being said, Belleville may not be as bad as some people expect. They have some solid young players in the mix, and if they can get decent goaltending from Phil Grubauer, they could still squeeze into the playoffs.
The 6th place Sting could be in real trouble this season. They've lost the likes of Justin DiBenedetto, Mark Katic, Jamie Arniel, and Dan Spence. Plus, their only star quality forward remaining, Matt Martin, is questionable to return as an overager (due to possibly turning pro). While the Sting have some decent young talent on the backend in Nathan Chiarlitti and Joe Rogalski, their forward and goaltending situations are suspect at best. I'm just not sure I see a worse team in the tough Western Conference. On the plus side, the Sting had a really solid offseason in terms of signing their 2009 draft picks, in particular third rounder Brandon Francisco who appeared to be set on going to the NCAA.
In theory, the Battalion should have been able to return quite the squad this year. Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene, and Evgeni Grachev are all eligible to return to the OHL. However, all are longshots at best to return. Hodgson and Duchene will most certainly be in the NHL, while Grachev will most certainly be in the NHL or AHL (with the Rangers rumoured to have already informed Brampton he won't be returning to them). That means a forward unit lead by 1992 Sam Carrick, and the underrated Scott Tanski. Not exactly a scary thought for the opposition. Stan Butler and company are likely in for a long rebuilding season.
Don't get me wrong, I think Plymouth should still have a pretty solid playoff team. However, what I don't expect them to do is finish in the top 4 of the Conference again. Losing their veteran backbone in Chris Terry, Brett Bellemore, and Matt Caria will most certainly hurt, as did the failure of Gabriel Landeskog to report. The strength of the Whalers season likely rests in the hands of 1992 Tyler Seguin and goaltender Matt Hackett. Seguin will be out to prove to scouts that his performance was not a by product of Terry and Caria's talent, while Hackett will need to prove he's not a one year flash in the pan. Like I said, I don't expect Plymouth to miss the playoffs, but I also don't expect them to be as good as they were last season.
So that's this week's top 10. Your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?