Everyone loves the holiday season that is Christmas and New Years...except the Ontario Hockey League (and the rest of the CHL for that matter). The winter holiday season means World Junior Championship time (and World Under 17's), where some of the league's best players take upwards of a three week absence to play for their countries (or provinces). In some cases, players will only miss a week (World Under 17's, WJC Division 1A and 1B). In others, players can miss up to 3 weeks of action (like anyone who tries out for and makes Team Canada for the WJC's).
This week's Top 10 honors those who will be hurt most by the absences created from these terrific holiday tournaments.
10. Erie Otters & Guelph Storm (TIE)
I had a tough time deciding which of these two teams would be hurt more, so I went with a tie. The Otters will definitely be losing Adam Pelech and Chris Marchese to the Under 17's, while goaltender Ramis Sadikov is trying out for team Russia at the WJC's. Pelech and Marchese have been solid rookie contributors for the Otters but can be replaced for a week. Sadikov can not. Sadikov has been Erie's goaltending so far this season. In fact, the Otters have not won a single game without him in the net. If he makes team Russia, Erie will be hard pressed to win a game with him gone. Considering how hard they've worked to get themselves back into contention in the West, that could really hurt. Meanwhile, Guelph will definitely be losing defenseman Matt Finn to the Under 17's, and recently acquired forward Richard Panik to the WJC's. Defenseman Andrey Pedan is a possibility for Team Russia. Guelph has been playing much better since acquiring Panik, so his absence will hurt the team and their ability to produce offensively outside of Holland, Latta and Beck.
9. Sarnia Sting
This one is completely hypothetical. The Sting could in fact only lose forward Garrett Hooey to the Under 17's. However, they could also possibly lose two of their most dangerous offensive forwards. Nail Yakupov is trying out for Team Russia at the WJC's, while Alex Galchenyuk's status for the World Under 17's is up in the air. He could be added to the U.S. team, but could also be a part of team Russia (if he's added). Something to keep in mind is that the U.S. has never added a CHL player to their Under 17 team for the tournament, so maybe he's more likely to play for Russia. Forward Nick Latta is also a longshot to play for Germany at the WJC's. Worst case scenario has them losing a big chunk of their offense.
8. Saginaw Spirit
The Spirit will definitely be losing seldom used goaltender Jake Peterson and fourth line rookie Justin Kea to the Under 17's. However, they may also lose their 2nd and 5th leading scorers, Brandon Saad and Ivan Telegin. Considering Telegin was a part of last year's team, and Saad could be U.S.' most dangerous option on the wing, I'd be surprised if both didn't make it. Their loss will really put the pressure on new acquisition John McFarland to fill those holes. Backup goaltender Tadeas Galansky could also be gone, as he is trying out for team Czech Republic at the WJC's.
7. Niagara IceDogs
The Dogs are already missing key defender and powerplay guy Simon Gronvaldt as he plays for Denmark at the WJC's Division 1 tournament. They will also lose Jesse Graham to the Under 17's. On paper, that's a large blow to their powerplay and defensive unit, but Gronvaldt will be back before Graham leaves. Meanwhile, the biggest loss could come in the form of starting goaltender Mark Visentin. Visentin has a good chance of being one of Canada's goaltenders at the WJC's, which could leave the starting duties in St. Catharines to Dalton McGrath, who just recently played his first game in the league in nearly a year (January 8, 2010).
6. Oshawa Generals
Oshawa, like Niagara, is already missing a key member of its team. Forward Nicklas Jensen is off playing for Denmark at the Division 1 WJC tournament. Rookie Scott Laughton will also leave the team in December to play at the Under 17's. But again, neither player will be gone at the same time, which makes the blow less severe (as both are big parts of Oshawa's offense). The big loss would come in the form of defenseman Calvin de Haan if he makes Team Canada for the second consecutive year. You'd have to think there's a pretty damn good chance of that happening, which leaves a big hole on the Generals blueline...a hole which might not be patchable.
5. Kingston Frontenacs
For the Fronts, it's about their losses on defense and in goal. And that hurts, considering how much trouble they've had lately keeping the puck out. Alex Gudbranson is definitely leaving to play in the Under 17's. Erik Gudbranson has to be considered a pretty good bet to make Team Canada at the WJC's. While, Phil Grubauer is set to be Germany's starting netminder at the same tournament. The 67's are really starting to pull away in the fight for the division, and if the Fronts have trouble getting wins with these guys away, the Generals might be able to distance themselves a bit too.
4. Owen Sound Attack
Even after a HUGE win over Kitchener this afternoon, the Attack have the Rangers right on their heels for the division lead. Owen Sound may only lose rookie Jarrod Maidens to the Under 17's. However, the Attack also have three players trying out for Team Canada at the WJC's. Forwards Joey Hishon and Garrett Wilson, and defenseman Jesse Blacker. With starting netminder Scott Stajcer out until at least February, losing those three guys would be absolutely devastating to the Attack. But then again, what are the odds that all three make Team Canada?
3. Mississauga Majors
Maybe the biggest loss for the Majors is head coach Dave Cameron, whose strong presence behind the bench will be missed for the better part of three weeks. But the Majors could also lose forward (and captain) Casey Cizikas and starting goaltender J.P. Anderson to Team Canada, should they make the cut. I'm not sure which would be the bigger blow. Meanwhile, depth forward Kerby Rychel will be off at the Under 17's, and secondary scoring threat Mike Partanen is an option to play for Team Finland at the WJC's. With Ottawa playing so well lately and barely losing anyone to the holiday tournaments, is it possible that Mississauga could lose it's ground at the top team in the OHL?
2. Kitchener Rangers
Kitchener is so close to finally catching the Attack for the division lead, but they will be hard hit by the holiday season schedule. At forward, Tobias Rieder, Gabriel Landeskog and Matia Marcantuoni are all definitely leaving for the WJC's and Under 17's (in Martcantuoni's case). If you throw in defenseman Ryan Murphy, the Rangers could be losing 4 of their top 7 scorers. Murphy in particular could be a deathly blow to the powerplay, as he attempts to make Team Canada for the WJC's. Luckily enough for the Rangers (and perhaps unlucky for him), starting netminder Brandon Maxwell didn't get the call to play for team U.S.A. as many were anticipating he would.
1. Windsor Spitfires
No team is going to be hit as hard by the holiday season as the Spitfires. Windsor has been on fire lately and have won five in a row (after today's win against Kingston) and are now 3 points behind Saginaw for the division lead (5 again if the Spirit beat Plymouth this evening). Needless to say, the Spits might be rethinking that whole rebuilding notion. Windsor will most certainly be losing starting goalie Jack Campbell, top defenseman Ryan Ellis, and sniper Tom Kuhnhackl. However, they could also lose forward Zack Kassian to Team Canada, should he make the cut. The real wildcard could be the loss of defenseman Nick Ebert to Team USA at the Under 17's. However, the U.S. has never added a CHL player for this tournament (as far as I can tell). But they'd be foolish to leave Ebert off, who is now in the top 5 of defenseman scoring in the league...as a 1994. Considering how much ground they've gained over the past month, it'd be a shame if all of it were lost due to a loss of man power.
BONUS - The Team With the Most to Gain - Ottawa 67's
The 67's, who are demolishing the competition of late, are set to lose only rookie forward Sean Monahan to the Under 17's for a week at the end of December/early January and possibly Czech defender Adam Sedlak if he makes the WJC team. Considering all their top competition will be suffering to fill gaps, you have to think Ottawa is salivating at the notion of running over the rest of the league during this holiday season.
DOUBLE BONUS - The Team Not Losing ANYONE - Barrie Colts
Just a fun fact, but only one team in the entire league is not losing a single player this holiday season. The Colts don't have a single player participating in the Under 17's or the WJC's. Is that a sign of how far they've fallen?
Who do you think has the most to gain and the most to lose?