Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the 2018 Preseason

 The 2018 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. Ottawa 67's (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Oshawa Generals (3-1) - .750%
3. Barrie Colts (3-2) - .600%
4. North Bay Battalion (2-3) - .400%
5. Peterborough Petes (2-3) - .400%
6. Niagara IceDogs (1-3) - .250%
7. Mississauga Steelheads (1-3) - .250%
8. Sudbury Wolves (1-5) - .166%
9. Kingston Frontenacs (0-3) - 0.00%
10. Hamilton Bulldogs (0-4) - 0.00%

Western Conference
1. Saginaw Spirit (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (2-0) - 1.00%
3. Windsor Spitfires (4-1) - .800%
4. Kitchener Rangers (4-1) - .800%
5. London Knights (3-1) - .750%
6. Owen Sound Attack (3-1) - .750%
7. Guelph Storm (3-1) - .750%
8. Flint Firebirds (2-3) - .400%
9. Erie Otters (2-3) - .400%
10. Sarnia Sting (1-3) - .250%

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

1. Justin Brazeau - North Bay Battalion
Entering his overage year, the behemoth winger will be gunning for an NHL deal. He has improved every year in the league so far (from 6 goals, to 22 goals, to 39 last year) and will need to do so again to get that ELC. As he tries to hit the 40 goal mark for the first time, Brazeau has gotten off to a terrific start. He's been an absolute beast in the preseason with 5 goals and 5 assists in 3 games. He will definitely be an interesting player to track this year, and at this point looks like he could be one of the most in-demand CHL free agents come January.  

2. Quinton Byfield - Sudbury Wolves 
The reigning Jack Ferguson Trophy recipient as the first overall pick, Byfield did not disappoint this preseason. He had 3 goals and 6 assists this preseason, which is extremely impressive for a 16 year old, hyped or not. With Byfield (and Blake Murray) having great preseasons, perhaps the Wolves have finally turned a corner and can work to establish themselves as Eastern Conference contenders yet again.

3. Will Cuylle - Windsor Spitfires
Scoring 5 goals in 4 games is tough enough for any 16 year old breaking into the league for the first time. But the fact that Cuylle missed pretty much all of training camp as he awaited a trade from Peterborough, makes this even more impressive. The big winger is going to be a massive piece for the Spitfires moving forward and as of right now, he has to be considered a front runner for the Enns Family award (ROY).

4. Greg Meireles - Kitchener Rangers
The Rangers are going to really need Meireles to step up this year with so many graduations from their forward group of last year. Meireles is coming off a season that saw him take a step back offensively, but he's going to get all the ice time he can handle in 2018/19 which should allow him to breakout. He had 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 games while wearing the "C" this preseason for Kitchener. The former highly touted priority selection should be a point per game player this year.

5. C.J. Clarke - Flint Firebirds
An underrated component to Flint's offense, Clarke was the team's 4th leading goal scorer last year and the 2nd leading powerplay goal scorer. But if the Firebirds want to take that next step as a legitimate playoff team this year, they'll need to see big improvements from all their support players like Clarke, now entering his 4th OHL season. In the preseason, Clarke was among the OHL's leading scorers with 4 goals and 5 assists in 5 games, including three multi point games. A potential breakout candidate?

6. Matthew Struthers - North Bay Battalion
The second Battalion forward to crack the list, as Struthers and Brazeau formed a heck of a 1-2 punch this preseason. Struthers had 5 goals and 3 assists in 3 games and the big center is hoping to have a big year to prove to NHL teams that he should have been drafted this past year.  

7. Cedrick Andree - Ottawa 67's
Who says the 67's need a goaltender? The second year goaltender struggled mightily as a rookie last year in a back-up role to Leo Lazerev. But the former late round pick has apparently looked quite impressive in camp this year and that has carried over to the preseason where he is 3-0 in three games with a .944 save percentage. This is HUGE for the 67's, if Andree can prove to be the guy and a breakout star.

8. Luke Richardson - Kitchener Rangers
Kitchener was one of a few OHL teams with some questions surrounding their goaltending heading into the 2018/19 season. Entering his 4th OHL year, Richardson has yet to post a save percentage over .900 and consistency issues have been a major reason. But he was sensational this preseason as he looked to prove that he could be the starter that the Rangers needed. He won all three games that he participated in and posted a stellar .929 save percentage. 

9. Macauley Carson - Sudbury Wolves
Last year was such a disappointment for Carson, dropping from 30 to 11 goals and struggling to stay in the lineup due to injury. The veteran needs to have a big year for the Wolves and be the presence who helps alleviate pressure from youngsters like Byfield and Murray. This preseason, he's developed fantastic chemistry with Byfield to the tune of 3 goals and 6 assists in 9 games. I guess the only concerning thing is that Sudbury went 1-5 despite getting such good production from some of their forwards.

10. Tag Bertuzzi - Guelph Storm
Injury issues plagued Bertuzzi's rookie season in the OHL last year. The former 2nd overall pick really struggled to be a factor for the Storm, even if he was only receiving 4th line minutes when healthy. But he wouldn't be the first (or last) sophomore to explode after a disappointing start to his OHL career. Heading into his NHL draft year, Bertuzzi had 3 goals and 3 assists in 4 games and looks to be headed in the right direction. Historically, when NHL draft eligible players appear on this list, it bodes well for their success in the coming year.

Honorable Mentions

Ryan Suzuki - Barrie Colts
Speaking of NHL Draft eligible players, Suzuki heads into the year as the top ranked OHL for the 2019 Draft. After a terrific performance at the Hlinka, Suzuki had an equally terrific preseason that saw him post 4 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. The increase in goal scoring is encouraging as this was an area of focus for Ryan heading into the year. If he can prove to be every bit the goal scorer as he is a playmaker, Suzuki could climb into the Top 10 come June.

Mason Millman - Saginaw Spirit
An OHL rookie after a solid year in the GOJHL, Millman had a fantastic preseason for the Spirit as he fights for playing time and looks to secure a consistent spot in the lineup. Millman was on my annual unheralded rookies list (here), and could be one to watch for the NHL Draft. He had 2 goals and 1 assist to go with a league best +9 this preseason. Pretty impressive start.

Nico Daws - Guelph Storm
While Anthony Popovich has to be considered the starter in Guelph, Daws had a terrific preseason for the Storm, stopping 79 of 80 shots over parts of three games. Popovich was great in his one game of action too which suggests that maybe the Storm are in good hands this coming year.

Connor Roberts - Flint Firebirds
Likely fueled by a bit of anger from not being selected at this year's entry draft, Roberts has had a very strong preseason with 4 goals and 2 assists. The big power forward could be in for a big year flanking Ty Dellandrea.

Antonio Stranges - London Knights
Another youngster, 16 year old to have a terrific preseason. Was such a steal for the Knights to get him in the second round since if he had made his intentions clear, he would have been a potential top 5 pick. Keep 'em coming London. 4 goals in 3 games for the future star this preseason.

Cameron Lamour - Saginaw Spirit
While Ivan Prosvetov is all but assured the starter's job, Lamour had a terrific camp and has earned the back-up job with a .936 save percentage this preseason. The former high pick may still be the starter of the future.

Luke Kutkevicius - Windsor Spitfires
8 points this preseason for the gritty, overage center. This year's Spitfires team is young, but if veterans like Kutkevicius can lead by example, they could surprise a lot of people as a top team in the West.

Billy Constantinou - Niagara IceDogs
Defenseman scoring wasn't exactly high this preseason, but the second year IceDogs defender did lead the league with 4 points. If you read by preseason draft rankings, you know that I'm a huge fan of his potential.

Hayden Davis - Saginaw Spirit
A former IceDogs defender, Davis is a rock in the defensive end going +5 this preseason for the Spirit, who looked good. But he also chipped in with 4 points and could be ready to step up as a top flight two-way defender in the league.

Cade Robinson - Owen Sound Attack
Unheralded acquisition from Erie last year who will look to provide scoring depth for the Attack this year in a top 9 role. Robinson had a terrific preseason with 2 goals and 5 assists in 4 games.

David Levin - Sudbury Wolves 
Looks like the Wolves might have their first line with Levin teaming up with Byfield and Carson this preseason and having great success. 7 points for Levin, who needs to have a big year so badly to prove that he can still be a focal point of this Wolves' resurgence.

Team by Team Breakdowns

Barrie Colts
Jason Willms (4 goals)

Jet Greaves (1 win, shutout in only appearance)

Erie Otters
Hayden Fowler (2 goals, 2 assists)

Kyle Maksimovich (1 goal, 3 assists in 2 games)

Flint Firebirds
Jack Wismer (2 goals, 3 assists)

Hunter Holmes (1 goal, 4 assists)
Riley McCourt (2 goals, 1 assist)

Guelph Storm
Daniil Chayka (2 goals, 1 assist)

Hamilton Bulldogs
Arthur Kaliyev (1 goal, 4 assists)

Matthew Strome (3 goals, 1 assist in 2 games)

Kingston Frontenacs
Ryan Cranford (2 goals, 1 assist)

Ian Derungs (2 goals, 1 assist)

Kitchener Rangers
Rickard Hugg (2 goals, 4 assists)

Justin MacPherson (1 goal, 3 assists)

London Knights
Matvei Guskov (1 goal, 5 assists)

Tim Fallowfield (4 assists)

Mississauga Steelheads
Filip Reisnecker (2 goals, 1 assist)

Niagara IceDogs
Oliver Castleman (3 goals)

North Bay Battalion
Brad Chenier (2 goals, 4 assists)
Brandon Coe (3 goals)

Oshawa Generals
Nando Eggenberger (4 goals)

Ty Tullio (1 goal, 4 assists)
Ottawa 67's
Marco Rossi (2 goals, 2 assists)

Quinn Yule (2 goals, 2 assists)

Owen Sound Attack
Kaleb Pearson (3 goals, 3 assists)

Daylon Groulx (5 goals)
Griffin Wilson (3 goals, 1 assist)

Peterborough Petes
Adam Timleck (2 goals, 2 assists)
Nick Robertson (1 goal, 3 assists)

Saginaw Spirit
DJ Busdeker (4 goals, 1 assist)
Cole Perfetti (5 assists)

Sarnia Sting
Jamieson Rees (1 goal, 2 assists)

Ethan Langevin (.951 save percentage)

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Zack Trott (2 goals, 1 assist)
Ryan O'Rourke (1 goal, 1 assist in 2 games)

Sudbury Wolves
Blake Murray (3 goals, 2 assists)

Windsor Spitfires
Cole Purboo (3 goals, 2 assists)

Lev Starikov (2 goals)
Curtis Douglas (3 goals, 1 assist in 2 games) 

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