With the OHL Preseason concluding today, only two games lie in the way of the start of the 2009-10 season. While the preseason itself can often be misleading in terms of predicting success (due to various reasons), that doesn't mean that strong performances from players and teams should go without notice.
First let's take a look at the nearly final preseason standings for 2009-10 (minus the 2 games today)...
1. Barrie Colts 5-0
2. Peterborough Petes 3-2
3. Niagara IceDogs 2-0-2
4. Mississauga Majors 3-1-1
5. Ottawa 67's 2-2-1
6. Kingston Frontenacs 2-2
7. Oshawa Generals 2-2
8. Brampton Battalion 2-3
9. Belleville Bulls 1-2
10. Sudbury Wolves 0-6
1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5-0
2. Kitchener Rangers 4-1
3. Windsor Spitfires 3-2
4. London Knights 3-2
5. Erie Otters 1-1-2
6. Guelph Storm 2-3
7. Plymouth Whalers 2-3
8. Saginaw Spirit 1-3
9. Sarnia Sting 1-4
10. Owen Sound Attack 0-4-1
It's great to see Barrie and Sault Ste. Marie playing so well. Barrie absolutely demolished opponents in the preseason, outscoring them 33-13. That's 6.6 goals per game. I mean, I knew Barrie was going to have an explosive offense this year, but that's outrageous. Sault Ste. Marie got it done at the other end, keeping teams to 11 goals against. The Hounds have a really great defense this year and could really surprise some people. On the negative side, you have to wonder what's going on in Sudbury and Owen Sound; the only teams to go winless in the preseason. Bigger things are expected of them this year so they've got to get their act together.
Now on to today's top 10. If you hadn't guessed already, I'll be profiling the top 10 performers of the 2009 Preseason. There were A LOT to choose from. Many players stepped up their game, including a lot of younger players in larger roles.
One thing I would like to mention is how difficult it was to gather all the stats of the preseason. The QMJHL keeps up to date stats for the preseason, just as they would the regular season. I fail to see why the OHL can not do the same. Checking game recaps on team sites can be quite time consuming, especially considering some teams do a better job of reporting (Mississauga) than others (Barrie). So with that, please keep in mind that the stats I'm going to give you are completely unofficial.
Let's see em...
10. Taylor Carnevale and Michael Sgarbossa - Barrie Colts
As previously mentioned, Barrie's offense was firing on all cylinders this preseason. These two were right in the thick of it. Both finished with 4 goals and at least 1 assist. Carnevale was very solid after coming over from Oshawa last year, while Sgarbossa put in an even better rookie season after being selected in the third round of the 2008 Priority Draft. Barrie's offense is already stacked, and if these two can continue their strong play into the regular season, Barrie is going to be able to ice three lethal scoring lines every night. Nevermind the question marks about the team's defense. If they score 6.6 per game, it's lights out.
9. Thomas Nesbitt - Ottawa 67's
With Logan Couture and Thomas Kiriakou gone, and Corey Cowick injured (and possibly gone), the 67's badly need a secondary scorer to step up this season. Nesbitt, a 20 goal scorer last year, did that in the preseason. He lead the team with 5 goals and 1 assist and looks poised for an even bigger break out season than he had last year when he increased his goal production from 9 to 23. Nesbitt also happens to be one of the teams best defensive forwards, thus with increased offensive production, he should have no trouble filling the shoes of a guy like Thomas Kiriakou.
8. Nick Esposto - Oshawa Generals
As a rookie last season, this 1991 born winger had an unspectacular year. The former 4th round pick finished the year with 7 goals and 14 points. This preseason, Esposto has nearly surpassed that mark in only 4 games. With 5 goals, Esposto has paced the Generals offense and looks poised to have a serious breakout season. With the return of goal scorer Brett Parnham (either to pro or another OHL team) in doubt, having a sophomore like Esposto step up will be essential to the Generals getting back to the playoffs.
7. Barclay Goodrow - Brampton Battalion
The 17th overall selection of the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, Goodrow has quite possibly been Brampton's best forward this preseason. He leads the team with 5 goals and is showing no effects of transition troubles from the York Simcoe Express to the OHL. The 6'3, 210lbs winger certainly has the size for the league. If Brampton is going to compete for a playoff spot without Hodgson, Grachev, and Duchene, they are going to need young players like Goodrow to step up.
6. Jordan Mayer and Devante Smith-Pelly - Mississauga Majors
Don't you hate when I cheat like this? Now it's a top 12, not a top 10! And in case you didn't notice, the Mississauga Majors are currently the 5th ranked team in the CHL according to the Mastercard CHL Top 10 for Week 1. Mayer and Smith-Pelly were both solid players for the Majors last season, however they were never consistently involved offensively. The 1991 born Mayer and 1992 born Smith-Pelly are both former first round selections in the Priority Draft and will need to become consistent offensive producers this season. And they have done just that in the preseason, with 3 goals and 3 assists each.
5. Bryce O'Hagan - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
When the Greyhounds drafted Robin Lehner in the Import draft this year, I think it raised a lot of red flags to people regarding what they thought of Bryce O'Hagan. Not without talent, O'Hagan did not have a good season last year. The still highly thought of prospect was vastly inconsistent, even if he did get blistered with shots night in and night out. This preseason, O'Hagan looked to prove to the team that he is a number one netminder. With Lehner away at the Senators camp, O'Hagan took over earning the teams final 4 victories. This includes a shutout of the Sudbury Wolves in the Hounds final preseason game. With a solid defense and great goaltending, the Hounds could be a team to watch out for this season.
4. Michael Whaley - Windsor Spitfires
I implore you to tell me where the Spits keep finding these guys. Whaley, the clubs 13th round selection in the 2009 Priority Draft, has been the most impressive 1993 born player in the preseason. He's done it all for Windsor, scoring, playmaking, blocking shots, playing both ways, fighting. The diminutive winger from London (ironic eh?) has scored 3 goals and added 4 assists in the preseason and has forced himself on to the Spits roster for the coming season. Even if he's not likely to continue this pace in the regular season, you have to commend him for his efforts and remember him as a name to watch.
3. Tim Campbell - Guelph Storm
An OHL rookie last season, this 1991 born defenseman played a relatively small role for the Storm. This season he's looking for a bigger role and I think he's earned it. With 3 goals and 6 assists in the preseason, Campbell has led the Storm in scoring and looks poised for a mega breakout season. He may be the smallest guy on their mammoth blueline, but he's got a chance to make the biggest impact.
2. Richard Panik - Windsor Spitfires
Every bit as advertised thus far, Panik has been a beast for the Spitfires. He's paced the team with 3 goals and 5 assists and looks to be an impact OHL player in similar fashion to the way Evgeni Grachev was last year. The Slovakian winger will step right into a top 6 role on the Spits and at this point, has to be considered a front runner for the Emms Family Award (Top Rookie). Check out this beauty of a goal he scored the other night against Sarnia. Shades of Rick Nash.
1. Jeff Skinner - Kitchener Rangers
He has absolutely destroyed the preseason thus far. It hasn't even been fair. With 9 goals and 4 assists in 5 games, Skinner looks poised for a run at the scoring championship. His motor never stops running and he just has a nose for the net. Kitchener is going to be one heck of an enjoyable team to watch this season.
As I said earlier, this was a hard list to make. A lot of solid performances this preseason. Here are some guys who just missed the list (organized by position and not in order)...
Barrie's Dalton McGrath has been very solid this preseason, earning at least three of the teams victories. McGrath is coming off an excellent season in Junior A and has the potential to push Peter Di Salvo for starts as the season goes on.
While Tim Campbell's been stealing the spotlight in Guelph, the newly acquired Adam Comrie has been great too. He's got 4 goals in the preseason and looks poised to breakout offensively. Comrie has one of the most lethal point shots in the league and I wouldn't be surprised if he pots 15 from the back end this year. Another defenseman with 4 goals this preseason is London's Steve Tarasuk. On paper, London's defense is looking pretty thin (especially with the injury to Harrington), making Tarasuk's possible emergence as an overage star important. Kitchener Rangers rookie and third overall pick Ryan Murphy has had a solid preseason with 1 goal and 3 assists. He looks like he can be an immediate contributor. Peterborough Petes defenseman Jamie Doornbosch is one of the most underrated players in the league and I'm hoping he has a solid season to enlarge his star. He had a great preseason with 3 goals and 2 assists. Another Petes defenseman, Adam Sedlak was very solid in the preseason. The Czech import had a bit of a disappointing season last year, but if his 3 goals in the preseason are any indication, he's ready to take that next step. Fresh off a solid performance at Carolina Prospect Camp, Whalers defenseman Beau Schmitz looked great with 3 goals and 2 assists in minimal games. And finally, Spitfires defenseman Cam Fowler looks to be everything he was hyped to be. With 1 goal and 5 assists, Fowler's offensive ability is undeniable.
London forward Dominic DeSando has been outstanding for the Knights this preseason. As a 1990, DeSando had yet to break into the league full time, but his 5 goals in the preseason should assure him a permanent spot. Majors rookie and former 3rd round selection Joseph Cramarossa has been great this preseason with 2 goals and 2 assists. The Majors needed some young and inexperienced guys to step up and he's one of them so far. Another guy with 2 goals and 2 assists is Peterborough Petes first rounder Matt Puempel, who looks capable of jumping right into a scoring role as a 93. Another 1993 born first rounder, Plymouth's Garrett Meurs has scored 2 goals and added 4 assists and looks to be another rookie capable of filling a scoring role. Another Plymouth rookie, Austin Mattson, has also had a great preseason. Mattson is a 1991 who played in the USHL last year and if his 3 goals in the preseason are any indication, he's a keeper. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Import Tomas Rachunek had a disappointing 2008-09 season, however he's looking to turn things around. The Hounds need him to put more pucks in the net and he did that with 3 in the preseason. Finally, even if the Sudbury Wolves are winless thus far, former first overall pick John McFarland had a solid preseason, notching 3 goals.
That's it folks. Anyone you think I missed?
Can't wait for the season to start on Thursday!