Monday, October 4, 2021

2021/22 OHL Season Preview: Award Predictions

The conclusion to my three part season preview sees me look at potential award candidates for 2019/20.
Red Tilson Trophy - Shane Wright (Kingston Frontenacs)
The last draft eligible player to win the Red Tilson was Connor McDavid in 2015, but Shane Wright enters this season as the hands on favourite to win this award. Not only is Wright the best player in the OHL, but Kingston should be among the best teams in the OHL. That combination should be good enough for a Red Tilson victory. In all honesty...I'd be shocked if Wright isn't the winner of this award. But we have to talk about some other candidates. I think Barrie ends up being one of the better teams in the East too and they should have a couple candidates in Brandt Clarke and Ethan Cardwell. Cardwell could be a sneaky pick to end up winning the scoring title, as I'm not sure he ends up making Team Canada at the WJC's (like Wright) and should end up with a handful of more games on a high scoring team. Brett Brochu in London is another long shot for this award, but still someone who could get some votes if he plays London to the top of the Western Conference. Ditto for teammate Luke Evangelista if he is as good as I expect him to be. Francesco Pinelli should have a great year for the Kitchener Rangers, but I think their depth and ability to roll three great lines will limit some of his production. Lastly, I do expect Mason McTavish to be one of the best players in the OHL this year. That puts him in the conversation for this award. However, I think he gets an extended look in Anaheim and then misses time for the WJC's. That likely means he misses over a dozen games this year. Additionally, I think he ends up getting moved by Peterborough at some point this year and mid season trade participants rarely get serious Red Tilson consideration.

Jim Rutherford Goaltender of the Year - Leevi Merilainen (Kingston Frontenacs)
There are so few experienced goaltenders in the league this year due to the year lay-off, so this is a tough award to truly predict. But I really like the odds of Finnish import Leevi Merilainen. He comes to Kingston with a ton of hype and was fantastic at the World Junior Summer Showcase for Finland. He has a great team ahead of him and he should be an immediate impact player. As part of the Red Tilson discussion, I also mentioned Brett Brochu and he is a logical candidate here. The Knights will be good and part of why is Brochu. After those two top contenders, I think the next three candidates are Ben Gaudreau, Pavel Cajan, and Zach Paputsakis. Gaudreau will be a top contender if he can play well enough to get the Sting into the top 5 of the Western Conference. Cajan will be one if he can claim the starting spot on a very strong, veteran Kitchener Rangers team. And Paputsakis should be one of the top OA's in the league, backstopping a strong Oshawa team.

Max Kaminski Trophy - Brandt Clarke (Barrie Colts)
Bold prediction right? Obvious sarcasm as Clarke enters the season as the heavy favourite to be the league's top defender. Not only is he extremely talented, but the Colts will be a good team and his production should be absolutely top notch. Much like Wright above, I would be shocked if Clarke is not the winner of this award. Two other highly drafted players who could be heavy contenders are Sudbury's Jack Thompson (who will likely be among the league's top point producing defenders) and Guelph's Daniil Chayka, who returns to the league after stint in the KHL. OA Soo defender Robert Calisti is the highest scoring returning defenseman and I expect him to have a monster season. Four more unheralded choices could be Windsor's Louka Henault, Erie's Spencer Sova, North Bay's Ty Nelson, and Oshawa's Lleyton Moore. All four will be critical players for their teams and should be big point producers from the back-end. Of course, Ryan O'Rourke could be a candidate here too, but I'm just not sure he puts up enough points to be a serious Max Kaminsky option.

Emms Family Award - Calum Ritchie (Oshawa Generals)
Without question, this will be the deepest group of players ever eligible. Because the league didn't play last year, every 2004 and 2005 born player (except Shane Wright) is eligible for this award. So who the hell wins when we should have multiple point per game players who don't even finish top 3 in voting? I'm going with a bold prediction here that a 2005 actually outshines them all! As we have seen this preseason already, Ritchie has been put in a position to have an absolutely monster year. And I think that if we have an '05 who performs as well statistically as an '04, I think that the voters will be swayed in that direction. If I had to pick a second choice, I would go with Paul Ludwinski in Kingston. Ludwinski could end up playing with Wright and Chromiak this year and the production that would come with that would be insane. Third would be either Spencer Sova or Ty Nelson, two defenders that I expect to be among the leading point producers on the blueline. Others to consider are 05's Ethan Miedema, Quintin Musty and 04's Hunter Haight, Bryce McConnell-Barker, and Pano Fimis. 

Leo Lalande Trophy - Zach Paputsakis
I mentioned Paputsakis as a sneaky candidate for goaltender of the year and as such he is my preseason pick for OA of the year. Again, I think the Generals will be a good team...especially defensively. And I think his stats will be excellent. Robert Calisti and Louka Henault are two guys that I mentioned for the Max Kaminsky and I think both will be in contention here too. A sneaky forward candidate is Kingston's Lucas Edmonds. Technically an OHL rookie in his OA year, he comes to the Fronts from Sweden and has been absolutely fantastic in the preseason. Other forwards I think have big OA years are Brandon Coe, Joe Carroll, Tag Bertuzzi, Brendan Hoffman, and Mike Petizian. A final player worth mentioning is Cody Morgan. One of the highest scoring returning players to the OHL, Morgan could have a real big offensive season with London. 

Matt Leyden Trophy - Mike McKenzie (Kitchener Rangers)
I mentioned previously that I felt that the Kitchener Rangers entered the season as the early favourite to capture the OHL title this year. It seems logical, given that opinion, that I predict Mike McKenzie as the coach of the year. Pretty much every coach in this league has their work cut out for them this year since they have to integrate nearly 10+ rookies into their lineups. I expect Kingston to be among the best team's in the league too and that means Luca Caputi should be heavily considered. Outside of those two, look for Marty Williamson, Jay McKee, Marc Savard, Dale Hunter, and John Dean to be favourites.

Eddie Powers Trophy - Ethan Cardwell (Barrie Colts)
I kind of alluded to this prediction earlier, but I do feel like it has a great chance of happening. I think the Barrie Colts score a ton of goals this year. Their powerplay should be absolutely lights out. Cardwell is going to be among the league's leading scorers. Can he be THE leading scorer though? I think so. Shane Wright is going to miss time for the WJC's. However, he may light the league on fire so much that it doesn't matter. Luke Evangelista and Antonio Stranges should put up some serious points in London. Francesco Pinelli should be among the leading scorers in Kitchener. A real shot in the dark could be Daniil Gushchin in Niagara, as it was announced that he would be loaned to the league by San Jose. Can he replicate the offensive success he had in the USHL? Can he score enough on a somewhat young and retooling Niagara team?

Goal Scoring Leader - Shane Wright (Kingston Frontenacs)
I know, I know...a bit of a contradiction considering that I said Wright could lose his grip on the scoring title due to the WJC's. However, I do think that he ends up leading the league in goal scoring. He's that good. He's also, surprisingly, the league's highest returning goal scorer from two seasons ago. I think Cardwell challenges him. I think James Hardie challenges him (especially if he gets moved to a contender). Mason McTavish, Rory Kerins, Will Cuylle, Brett Harrison, Brennan Othmann, and Martin Chromiak are all serious contenders too. You could also list some of those OA wingers I mentioned earlier in the Leo Lalonde conversation. A darkhorse could be Philadelphia Flyers draft pick and Sudbury Wolves winger Samu Tuomaala if he gets assigned to the league. He can REALLY fire it and he'll be put in a position to score a lot of goals.

1st Team All Stars
LW: Martin Chromiak
C: Shane Wright
RW: Luke Evangelista
D: Brandt Clarke
D: Daniil Chayka
G: Leevi Merilainen
Coach: Mike McKenzie

2nd Team All Stars
LW: James Hardie
C: Ethan Cardwell
RW: Ty Tullio (if he plays RW, which I anticipate he does)
D: Robert Calisti
D: Louka Henault
G: Brett Brochu
Coach: Luca Caputi

3rd Team All Stars
LW: Mike Petizian
C: Mason McTavish
RW: Daniil Gushchin
D: Jack Thompson
D: Ryan O'Rourke
G: Zach Paputsakis
Coach: Marc Savard

All Rookie Team
LW: Quentin Musty
C: Calum Ritchie
RW: Gavin Hayes
D: Ty Nelson
D: Spencer Sova
G: Kyle Downey


Sunday, October 3, 2021

2021/22 OHL Season Preview: Western Conference

Part two of my season preview brings us to the Western Conference.
Similar to the East, I expect this race to be extremely competitive. Honestly, I wouldn't be shocked at all if any of the eight teams I have in the playoffs ends up winning the Conference. The race is that close on paper. I'll try my best to explain my thinking as to why I have things ranked the way that I do. 

1. Kitchener Rangers (Midwest Division Champs)
The Rangers have a chance to be a really scary team this year. I was shocked that they weren't included in the preseason CHL rankings. In a season where many of the OHL's teams are relying on unproven talent, Kitchener is loaded with 2001 and 2002 talent. And we're not talking about fringe OHL players. We're talking about potential top end players like Reid Valade, Declan McDonnell, Joseph Serpa, Arber Xhekaj (if he returns from Montreal/Laval), Mike Petizian, etc. Then you surround them with other talented players like Pinelli, Roman Schmidt, Andrew Leblanc, Simon Motew, etc. The talent I said, scary. And imagine if Sebrango gets sent back? The real wild card is Pavel Cajan. The Rangers are hoping that the Czech import can come into the league and be among the best goaltenders in the league. The reality is, with all the talent they have, they will only need him to be above average and steady and I think he should definitely be able to do that. Kitchener is my preseason pick to win the OHL title this season.

2. Windsor Spitfires (West Division Champs)
It has been since 2009/10 since the Knights and Spitfires were at the top of the Western Conference and I think that there is a great chance that it happens this season (although I do have London in third in my prediction). Even if Jean Luc Foudy stays in the AHL again (which does seem likely), the Spits have a deep and talented forward group. Will Cuylle will be returning from the AHL and should have a big year. Wyatt Johnston is ready to take that next step. 4th overall pick Ethan Miedema has been fantastic in the preseason. Ryan Abraham is a little ball of fury. This team is so deep down the middle and that is important in this league. Defensively, the team has terrific veteran leadership in Henault and Ladd, and should get great contributions from some of their other depth options like Daniil Sobolev. The real wild card is in net. One of Xavier Medina or Kyle Downey SHOULD be good enough to lead the Spits to a division title given the strength of the team around them. 
3. London Knights
I get it...the London Knights are hated by many OHL fan bases. It seems like whenever I predict them near the top of the conference, I get the same type of comments from readers: "typical London bias," "watch other teams," "the Knights are cheaters." But the reality is...this team and organization just gets it done. It all starts in net. Brett Brochu has already proven himself to be one of the best goaltenders in the OHL before the pandemic and he gives them the type of security many teams do not have this season. The team's defense is also a major strength. The depth and talent on the blueline is fantastic. This team is going to be a difficult to score against. Upfront, Luke Evangelista and Antonio Stranges should be offensive game breakers and there is solid depth surrounding them. Once Gazizov reports (it sounds like he will once his VISA situation is sorted out), he adds even more depth. The Cody Morgan add should be a good one too. One of the highest scoring OA's returning. Brochu is definitely the difference maker here though.

4. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I have no idea how the Greyhounds' goaltending situation plays out. On paper, it looks ugly. But I do know one thing, this team is good enough on paper to overcome it. If the options that SSM starts with (Ivanov and Schenkel) don't get the job done, I don't see Kyle Raftis sitting back idle. The team will make a move to bring in someone with experience who can stop pucks with greater consistency. Ryan O'Rourke was recently announced to be returning (much to the surprise of many) and he will anchor a pretty solid blueline that has great depth and talent. In particular, look for Robert Calisti to be one of the highest scoring defenders in the OHL. Kirill Kudryavstev is a wild card, but I know a few scouts who really like what he brings to the table and he should be an immediate top three defender. Up front, this team is going to score. I would put their top six up against nearly any top six in the league heading into the year; Bryce McConnell-Barker, Rory Kerins, Tanner Dickinson, and two of Joe Carroll, Cole Mackay, and Tye Kartye (because one of the OA's will have to go). 
5. Owen Sound Attack
Much like the Kitchener Rangers, the Owen Sound Attack are a veteran laden team that should have success this season. They may lack true star power, but they have great depth and a true team identity (they will not be an easy team to play against). Mack Guzda should have a solid OA year as the team's starting netminder. Two of Wooley, Perrott, and Chibrikov will provide a veteran presence on the blueline. Nolan Seed will need to take that next step as a puck mover and powerplay QB for this team to reach its potential but I like the odds of it. At forward, there is great depth. Again, star power is lacking, but the Attack will roll three lines that can do damage and bring energy shift after shift. I look for Deni Goure and Ethan Burroughs to have great bounce back years. I look for Servac Petrovsky and Cedrick Guindon to have great draft years. And I think Colby Barlow has a chance to be an immediate impact rookie. In a tough Western Conference, I think the Attack's depth and team chemistry shine through.

6. Sarnia Sting
Admittedly, I am predicting the Sting to be this high because I expect Ben Gaudreau to have a fantastic season for them, elevating them above their talent level on paper. The defense in front of Gaudreau should be much better than it was the last time the Sting took the ice too. OA's Cam Supryka and Ashton Reesor lead the way, with Ryan Mast and Import Andrei Malyavin rounding out the top four. At forward, I'm not crazy about the team's depth, but I do think that their top two lines and powerplay units should be solid. Given the lack of size of the team's top end forwards (Voit, Namestnikov, Dann), OA Brayden Guy and Import Alex Geci are going to be critical in terms of creating space for them to operate freely. The game has changed drastically in the last decade, allowing undersized forwards to find success consistently, but I do worry about the consistency of this forward group without greater depth. 

7. Saginaw Spirit
I really like what the Spirit have going defensively. Tristan Lennox should have a strong year in the crease. Pavel Mintyukov and Matthew Jovanovic are exciting additions to the backend. Mitchell Smith should be that veteran anchor and I expect him to have a big year. The Saginaw Spirit should not have trouble keeping pucks out of their net. However, they might have trouble scoring. I'm not worried about Josh Bloom. I'm excited to see Matyas Sapovaliv and Luke McNamara start in the league. However, I'm just not sure that they have a game breaker. The key is in the play of the Spirit's OA's. The last time we left them Dalton Duhart, Nick Wong, and Camaryn Baber were far from top end talents in the OHL. But a lot can change in 18 months. Saginaw's season and placement likely rests on their development. If they prove worthy to be high end top six forwards, Saginaw could push for home ice in round one. If they fall flat, this team could go into rebuild mode (dealing Lennox) and runs the risk of missing the playoffs.

8. Erie Otters
The Otters are the antithesis of the Saginaw Spirit. This team is going to score a boatload of goals. I expect the OA trio of Brendan Sellan, Daniel D'Amato, and Brendan Hoffman (expecting that Sproule is the odd man out in the OA mix) to really light the league on fire. I also expect Connor Lockhart and Colby Saganiuk to have big years. There is serious depth to this forward unit as a whole. But the defense is highly suspect. Spencer Sova is going to be expected to be the team's top defender as a draft eligible player. As much as I really like him, consistency is likely to be an issue. That will likely be a problem for the group overall unless a few players really step up and surprise (like Import Kulakov). That means veteran netminder Aidan Campbell is going to see a ton of rubber. It's not something he is unaccustomed to, but I'm also not sure if he is a good enough goaltender to truly steal games for Erie on a consistent basis. I think a lot of things would have to go right for Erie to end up in the Top 5 of the Conference. However, I do think that a lot of things would have to go wrong for them to end up outside of the playoffs. 

9. Guelph Storm
Admittedly, I do not think that the Storm are a bad team. I expect them to be right in the thick of things nearly all season long. They have quality top end talent like Chayka, Zhilkin, and eventual new arrival Sasha Pastujov. They looked very strong in the preseason. I just don't know if they have the depth to be consistent enough to earn a playoff spot. And if they are a .500 team heading into the trade deadline, I could see them dealing Chayka and perhaps Zhilkin or Pastujov for massive hauls to help them rebuild around their solid group of 2004 and 2005 born players like Poitras and Allen. So this prediction reflects that I do believe Guelph will, at some point this season, re-tool and rebuild as was the plan before the covid pandemic hit.  

10. Flint Firebirds
While there are a few players on this team that I am really excited to see play this season like Othmann, Gavin Hayes, and Dmitri Kuzmin, overall this team is likely to struggle heavily. It's a shame too, because they had rebuilt themselves into a very respectable team prior to the pandemic, but now seem primed to become bottom dwellers yet again. Throw in the fact that we already have rumours of turmoil, dissatisfaction, and trade demands (with Cody Morgan being the first ball to drop) and it likely means a long year for Flint fans. The real wild card here is the team's group of unsung 2002 and 2003 born forwards. The measure of success that Flint has likely resides in their hands (Kressler, Piercey, Giroux, Panwar). With a lack of true depth upfront, this group will need to take a massive step forward to get this team into the playoffs. But right now, Flint is my pick to be dead last in the OHL and picking first (pending a lottery win under the new format) in the 2022 OHL Draft.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

2021/22 OHL Season Preview: Eastern Conference

The good news? The OHL is back! The bad news? The year long hiatus has made it even harder than usual (and it is usually already extremely difficult) to offer predictions for the league. There are so many variables at work here; two years of rookie and import crops, uncertainty surrounding OA situations (due to many teams having an abundance), a lack of star goaltending talent, and general unpredictability regarding the usual development of young hockey players.
I think most see four teams in the East as preseason contenders; Kingston, Barrie, Hamilton, and Oshawa. Those teams have veteran talent and should be safe bets to perform well. Ottawa, Peterborough, and Mississauga are probably the three teams fighting it out at the bottom. Then the rest fall in the middle. 
1. Kingston Frontenacs (East Division Champs)
I'm a little worried about the team's defensive depth and lack of a true top pairing type who can be an anchor. Jake Murray, Lucas Peric, and Braden Hache are good defenders, but I am not convinced any are dynamic minute eaters at this point in their development. The good news? Finnish import netminder (and Ottawa Senators prospect) Leevi Merilainen appears to be for real and he should be one of the best goaltenders in the league this year. Combine that with an offense lead by the exceptional Shane Wright and you have a recipe for success; allowing them to cover up some possible defensive shortcomings. I expect Martin Chromiak to have a monster year playing alongside Wright. Paul Ludwinski and OA rookie Lucas Edmonds have looked fantastic this preseason, proving that they could possibly anchor that secondary scoring group. Quality depth at forward and terrific goaltending can carry you a long way in this league.

2. Barrie Colts (Central Division Champs)
There is no secret that the Colts are aggressively looking to improve their goaltending. This is a very strong team with few weaknesses...except in the crease. The issue is that the only high(er) end goalies available are OA's and the Colts already have a logjam of quality 2001's. They just brought in Mathew Sbrocca, but he's just as inexperienced as others in the fold. Until they figure out what to do in the crease, the team's quality defense (anchored by Brandt Clarke) should help to limit higher end scoring chances. This is going to be a very tough team to win battles against in the Barrie end. Offensively, there is a mix of veteran leadership like Ethan Cardwell, Evan Vierling, and Nicholas Porco (if they keep him), to go with some terrific "rookies" like import Oskar Olausson, Hunter Haight, and Beau Jelsma. This is going to be a really fun team to watch this season. Again, they just need to hang in early in the year.

3. Hamilton Bulldogs 
I think the Bulldogs are possibly the most well rounded team in the Conference on paper. They have depth at all positions and they have one of the strongest OA groups in the OHL this year (anchored by Tag Bertuzzi and Nathan Staios, along with a strong third OA that they will need to figure out). Between one of Costantini and Drobac (assuming Roy is an odd man out), the goaltending should be more than adequate. The forward group competes extremely hard and will bring a lot of physicality, in addition to skill. Expect Jan Mysak, Logan Morrison, and Tag Bertuzzi to have huge years in particular. Of course, Ryan Winterton is also a favourite of mine. The real wild card is Artyom Grushnikov. The Dallas Stars second rounder has been turning heads in Traverse City and he could be an immediate impact player and number one defender for the Bulldogs. If he can elevate this defensive group, they could truly challenge for the top spot in the Conference. Look for preseason breakout star Gavin White to have a big year on the backend too.

4. Oshawa Generals
While the overall depth of the Generals does concern me somewhat, their top end talent should shine through. Tullio, Harrison, and second overall pick Calum Ritchie will lead the way offensively. The club has a lot of options to fill in the gaps around them and if players like Ryan Gagnier or Ryan Stepien can have breakout years, Oshawa will be fine. Defensively, there "shouldn't be" any issues even with Mitchell Brewer stepping away.  Lleyton Moore and David Jesus will be strong veteran presences. OA goaltender Zach Paputsakis has a chance to be a contender for the OHL's top goaltender award (named for Jim Rutherford). This team's powerplay should be absolutely lethal with Moore working the point, Harrison working the net front, and Tullio/Ritchie controlling the half wall. The lack of offensive depth is the weak spot, but in the OHL, star players can carry you a long way and I see that happening with the Generals.

5. North Bay Battalion
I find the make-up of this team to be very interesting. They aren't the Battalion of old under Stan Butler. We're looking at a defense that can really move the puck and a forward group who can really skate. Ty Nelson will be looking to have a monster year in his draft eligible season. But Avery Winslow and Paul Christopoulos are terrific offensive blueliners in their own right and I think all three of these guys will have great seasons. I also think Joe Vrbetic has a good year in the crease, providing stability that allows the defense to take some chances. The question is, who can emerge as a go to playmaker for this Battalion team up front. Can Brandon Coe take that big next step forward? Will Liam Arnsby look better offensively as a now "veteran" player and someone in his draft year (as a late born 2003)? Can Dalyn Wakely, Matvey Petrov, Nic Sima, and Owen Outwater be impact rookies? Unlike some of the other top teams in the East, North Bay just doesn't seem to have that truly impactful forward and I wonder if they causes them to be more of a middle of the pack team.

6. Niagara IceDogs
This is a team that I think has a chance to be very exciting to watch, but because the majority of their top players are on the "younger" side, there are bound to be some growing pains and consistency could end up being an issue. That's why I have them as more of a middle of the pack team. San Jose Sharks pick Daniil Gushchin is a real wild card here though. Recently it was announced that he was being loaned to the OHL. After destroying the USHL the last few years, he could be one of the top offensive players in the OHL and someone who could elevate this team to a higher status. However, one does have to wonder if Niagara intends to use him as a trade chip at some point given their "rebuild" status. While I think we're all excited to see the Fimis, Castle, and Cooke line re-united (from the JRC), Jake Uberti is someone who I think is a key player for Niagara this season. If he takes that next step as a top line center, this team could be better than we think. I am also crazy excited to see Tucker Tynan play a full season in his return to the league following that gruesome leg injury. I love his athleticism and play tracking ability. OA's Mason Howard and Dakota Betts are also keys to the Dogs' success. 

7. Sudbury Wolves
The Sudbury Wolves' forward group excites me. They're young, but they're talented. Scouts are looking for David Goyette, Kocha Delic, and Evan Konyen to be key contributors in their draft eligible seasons. The New Jersey Devils are looking for Chase Stillman to be an offensive leader. Flyers pick Samu Tuomaala seems likely bound for Sudbury. And all eyes are on first overall pick Quentin Musty. This team will have the ability to score goals. But can they keep them out of their net? I not only have concerns over their goaltending, but also their defensive depth behind Jack Thompson and Liam Ross, even if I expect Thompson to be one of the best defenseman in the league this year. I think that there are just too many question marks outside of their strong forward group. If Sudbury struggles to play consistently, I would look for them to move Jack Thompson for a heavy bounty, allowing them to truly build around their terrific 2004 and 2005 groups.

8. Peterborough Petes
Honestly, the Petes should not be a bad team. Mason McTavish will lead a forward group that could be better than it looks on paper. JR Avon could have a big season fresh off signing an ELC with Philadelphia and Tucker Robertson could be a breakout star. They also have Nick Lardis and Sam Alfano ready for bigger roles. But their defense is only average and their goaltending is a bit of a question mark (like much of the league). If the Petes added a high end OA on the blueline heading into the year, I'd feel better about their situation and odds. But Shawn Spearing is the team's veteran presence and I'm not sure he is more than a solid stay at home number four in the league. The Petes have been due for a bit of a rebuild and if the team does struggle, they could likely deal McTavish for a massive haul that could really set this team up well for the future.

9. Ottawa 67's
I believe the obvious question mark regarding the 67's is...who will score? Jack Beck returns as the team's go-to offensive player (because Graeme Clarke will play in the AHL on an exemption) and he may not be ready for that role after being more of a support player previously. There are certainly some talented young forwards who have the potential to be strong OHL players (Tolnai, Sirizzotti, Barlas, Gaidamak, Pinelli, Stonehouse, etc), but there are just so many unknowns. The defense will be rock solid and the goaltending could be good if Will Cranley proves capable of being a starter. But without a ton of veteran leadership and a lot of question marks, the 67's are likely a bubble team. The coaching turnover also doesn't help with Dave Cameron taking over for Andre Tourigny. Cameron is a great coach, but it's just another wild card to throw into the mix.
10. Mississauga Steelheads
Someone has to finish last in the Conference. Look, I don't see this season being one where the two teams in the conference that miss the playoffs are absolutely terrible. The competition for those final few playoff spots will be tight and I don't see any team finishing below (or near below) the .400 winning percentage mark (similar to the 2013/14 season). So why Mississauga in last? Of all the teams in the East, their goaltending actually concerns me the most. And while I love the team's push to be as large as possible on the blueline, I'm also not sure if they'll be get things moving in transition as much as they want. Who quarterbacks that top powerplay unit? James Hardie will be hungry to have a big year to prove NHL scouts wrong. And he probably will have one. And there are some really talented young forwards in the group. But I do wonder about the scoring least consistently...behind Hardie. Is Luke Misa ready to step right in as a second line center (assuming Prueter takes the top line role)? Again though, tough year to make this type of prediction.