Monday, September 18, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the 2017 Preseason

The 2017 preseason is over and the regular season is just around the corner. It's time to take a look at some of the top performances of this year's exhibition action.

As always, this list is populated by players without NHL affiliations (first or second year players, and undrafted veterans), because they get into more games.

Here were the preseason standings (ignoring divisions):

Eastern Conference
1. Kingston Frontenacs (2-0-1) - .833%
2. Hamilton Bulldogs (3-1) - .750%
3. Mississauga Steelheads (2-0-2) - .750%
4. Sudbury Wolves (2-1-1) - .625%
5. Barrie Colts (3-2-1) - .583%
6. North Bay Battalion (3-2-1) - .583%
7. Ottawa 67's (1-1) - .500%
8. Peterborough Petes (2-3-1) - .417%
9. Oshawa Generals (1-2-1) - .375% 
10. Niagara IceDogs (1-3) - .250%

Western Conference
1. Owen Sound Attack (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Windsor Spitfires (4-1) - .800%
3. Saginaw Spirit (2-1-1) - .625%
4. Erie Otters (3-2) - .600%
5. Guelph Storm (3-2) - .600%
6. London Knights (2-2) - .500%
7. Sarnia Sting (2-2) - .500%
8. Kitchener Rangers (2-3-1) - .417% 
9. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1-3) - .250%
10. Flint Firebirds (1-4) - .200%

Here are your top 10 OHL preseason performers, with several HM's and a team by team breakdown of some other standouts. 

1. Alan Lyszczarzyk - Owen Sound Attack
Quite the Owen Sound debut for the Polish National, after an offseason trade from Sudbury. Lyszczarczyk had a disappointing season with the Wolves last year, but the Attack will be counting on him to be a big contributor as a secondary scoring option behind the big three (Suzuki, Gadjovich, Hancock) this year. Not only did he lead all OHL players in preseason scoring, but he also led in shots on goal (with 24) and in game winning goals (with 2). Lyszczarczyk seems to have developed instant chemistry with Matthew Struthers and Chase Campbell to form a terrific 2nd/3rd line.

2. Jordan Ernst - Sarnia Sting
The former transfer from Bowling Green and overager is going to be counted on hugely in Sarnia this year, to lead an inexperienced blueline. He had a decent rookie season, but will need to be even better this year. If his play this preseason is any indication, he should be in for a big year. Ernst finished the preseason with 5 goals in 4 games, finished 2nd among all players with 23 shots on goal and was a +5. This year's Ryan Mantha?

*EDIT - It appears that Ernst was being used as a forward this preseason. This is interesting considering how inexperienced Sarnia's blueline already is. Given this information, I'd likely move Ernst down several spots on this list, but he had a strong preseason none the less.

3. Ethan Szypula - Owen Sound Attack
Not easy to go perfect in the OHL preseason because of how many players you lose to NHL camps, but the Owen Sound Attack did just that and that's why they have 3 players on this list. The most promising part about Szypula's production this preseason? The fact that he did it while playing on a different line than Lyszczarczyk. Syzpula's 9 points in 3 games (three, three point games) came while playing with Aidan Dudas and Maksim Sushko. So the Attack have positioned themselves nicely to have three terrific scoring lines heading into the season and beyond.

4. Lucas Chiodo - Barrie Colts
Easy to get lost in the shuffle when your team has brought in a potential top 3 pick in the next NHL draft (Svechnikov), a recent 3rd round NHL pick (Lipanov), and the most recent 1st overall OHL pick (Suzuki) this past summer. But returning player Lucas Chiodo rose to the occasion and made sure people didn't forget that he's the highest scoring returning player from last year's squad. Chiodo tied with Lyszczarzcyk and Syzpula for first in preseason scoring with 9 points, also contributing two game winning goals. The winger will likely line up with one of Suzuki or Lipanov down the middle and his performance is vital to getting Barrie back to the playoffs this year.

5. Matt Woroniuk - North Bay Battalion
Things weren't so rosy in the puck stopping department last year for the Battalion. Veteran Brent Moran battled some injuries and struggled when he did play. Rookies Julien Sime and Matt Woroniuk also saw time and weren't fantastic. In order for North Bay to get back to the playoffs this year, they're going to need to do a better job keeping the puck out. This preseason, Woroniuk did just that. He was a workhorse, stopping 104 of 113 shots over four games, winning two of them. On paper, the tandem of Sime and Woroniuk seems scary, but the preseason indicates that maybe North Bay may just be alright heading into the year.

6. Pavel Gogolev - Peterborough Petes
The 8th overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft struggled last year, posting only 5 goals in a depth role for the Petes. But if the preseason is any indication (it usually is for NHL draft eligible players), he's really improved and could be a breakout candidate. Gogolev posted 4 goals and 4 assists in 6 games, leading the Petes in exhibition scoring. This is a deep Peterborough team up front, but it looks like Gogolev is ready for an increased role.

7. Ryan Merkley - Guelph Storm
There are a lot of eyes on Merkley heading into the 2017 season. After a solid (although inconsistent) rookie year and a good performance at the Hlinka, the former first overall pick has positioned himself as a potential lottery selection at this year's NHL draft. Scouts will be out to watch him (and the Storm) in full force this season. Merkley had a terrific preseason with 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games, including a 4 point exhibition finale. Upping his intensity in the defensive end and cutting down on sloppy penalties will be just as crucial as his offensive production though. 

8. Andrei Svechnikov - Barrie Colts
Pretty impressive debut for the Russian winger and reigning USHL rookie of the year. The potential top 3 selection at this year's NHL draft came as advertised, posting 4 goals in 5 games, and from the reports I've read and been told, he probably could have had 4 more. The explosive offensive winger is going to be a treat to watch in the league this year.

9. Sean Durzi - Owen Sound Attack
With the graduation of former captain Santino Centorame, someone will need to step up in Owen Sound, eating his minutes and replacing his offensive production from the back end. The leading candidate for that was veteran Sean Durzi and his preseason performance would indicate that he's ready for that. Durzi had 8 points in 3 games for the undefeated Attack, with four of those points coming with the man advantage. Durzi broke out in a big way last year, more than doubling his offensive production from the year before (16 to 38 points). He could be in for another jump this year as part of a dynamic offense.

10. Troy Timpano - Erie Otters
The defending OHL Champions are definitely a different looking team this year, with many of last year's players graduating to the pro level. With so many players in new roles, Erie is going to need strong goaltending to stay afloat and veteran Troy Timpano is that man. He had a solid preseason, winning 2 of the 3 games he played in, posting a .926 save percentage. 

Honorable Mentions

Luke Burghardt - North Bay Battalion
Another face on a new team making an impression, after coming over from Guelph. With some upgrades to skating and puck skill, and added strength, it was only a matter of time before he started scoring more consistently. Burghardt had 4 goals in 5 games for the Battalion, who will be desperate for some additional scoring help this year.

Giovanni Vallati - Kitchener Rangers
Solid preseason offensively for the hyped 2018 NHL Draft prospect. Vallati didn't have a great summer (being cut from the Hlinka team), but 7 assists in 5 preseason games is a good way to start the year for him. Could have a huge year for a solid Rangers team.

Morgan Frost - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
5 goals in 4 games for the Flyers first rounder. Frost will be the top line center for one of the OHL's elite teams this year. An 80+ point season is definitely likely IMO. Hopefully it's with better team results than we saw in the preseason though (however, important to note that the Greyhounds were among the OHL's leaders in players attending NHL camps).

Igor Larionov - Windsor Spitfires
The son of former Red Wing great, Igor Larionov, junior is a transfer from the QMJHL where he played with Quebec last year. Not a ton was expected from him as an FA invite, but he was terrific in the preseason with 5 points in 5 games for the 4 win Spitfires (a great result for them in what should be a rebuilding year).

Kyle Rhodes - Sudbury Wolves
Another cast off from the Guelph Storm, Rhodes was fantastic for the Sudbury Wolves in the preseason with 3 goals and 3 assists and a +4 rating. Sudbury is desperate for someone on their blueline to step up as a prominent player and if the OA can do that, it would really help Sudbury to have a good year.

Jacob Ingham - Mississauga Steelheads
Par for the course for this talented youngster after a tremendous rookie season where he bailed out the Steelheads while Matt Mancina was struggling through the first half of 2016/17. It's his team now and he looks ready for the starting gig, stopping 62 of 66 in preseason action. Going to be a good year for this 2018 NHL pick.

Team by Team Breakdowns

Barrie Colts
Ryan Suzuki (1 goal, 5 assists)
Kirill Nizhnikov (1 goal, 2 assists - in two games)

Erie Otters
Patrick Fellows (4 goals, 1 assist)
Chad Yetman (1 goal, 3 assists)

Flint Firebirds
Ethan Keppen (3 goals, 2 assists)
Hunter Holmes (2 goals, 3 assists)

Guelph Storm
Garrett McFadden (1 goal, 5 assists)
Barret Kirwin (5 goals)
Isaac Ratcliffe (2 goals, 3 assists) 
Anthony Popovich (.914 SV%, 2 wins)

Hamilton Bulldogs
Ben Garagan (1 goal, 4 assists)
Arthur Kaliyev (2 goals)

Kingston Frontenacs
Jason Robertson (2 goals, 1 assist)
Cody Morgan (2 goals, 1 assist)

Kitchener Rangers
Joseph Garreffa (1 goal, 6 assists)
Riley Damiani (4 goals)

London Knights
Liam Foudy (2 goals, 2 assists)
Evan Bouchard (3 goals)
Tyler Johnson (57 of 60 saves)

Mississauga Steelheads
Owen Tippett (3 goals, 1 assist)
Thomas Marley (3 assists)

Niagara IceDogs
Ondrej Machala (3 goals, 2 assists)
Johnathon Schaefer (4 assists)

North Bay Battalion
Brad Chenier (1 goal, 4 assists)
Daniel Walker (3 goals, 1 assist)

Oshawa Generals
Renars Krastenbergs (3 goals, 1 assist)
Allan McShane (1 goal, 2 assists)

Ottawa 67's
Graeme Clark (2 goals)

Owen Sound Attack
Chase Campbell (2 goals, 3 assists)
Mitchell Russell (3 goals, 1 assist)
Matthew Struthers (3 goals, 1 assist)

Peterborough Petes
Adam Timleck (4 goals, 2 assists)
Cameron Supryka (1 goal, 2 assists)

Saginaw Spirit
DJ Busdeker (2 goals, 2 assists)
Nicholas Porco (2 goals, 1 assist)

Sarnia Sting
Drake Rymsha (3 goals, 3 assists)
Hugo Leufvenius (2 goals, 3 assists)

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Zack Trott (3 goals, 1 assist)
Keeghan Howdeshell (2 goals, 2 assists)

Sudbury Wolves
David Levin (2 goals, 3 assists - in one game)
Dawson Baker (3 goals, 1 assist)

Windsor Spitfires
Aaron Luchuk (3 goals, 1 assist)
Matthew MacDougall (3 goals)
Brock Baier (.926 SV%, 2 wins)

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