Shootout
By Victor Fernandes Erie Times-News staff blogger
Staff writer Victor Fernandes has ice in his veins. Hockey – he plays it, coaches it and provides the region's best coverage of it.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1716
Posted: September 17th, 2013
OTTERS EXTRA: Eastern Conference preview

This week, I’ll break down all 20 OHL clubs and unveil my predictions for the 2013-14 season. Today it’s the Eastern Conference (teams listed in alphabetical order):

EAST DIVISION

Belleville Bulls
Coach/GM: George Burnett
2012-13 finish: 44-16-5-3, 1st division, 1st conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Barrie 4-3 in conference finals
Key players: C Alan Quine (23 goals, 44 assists, 67 points), C Brendan Gaunce (33-27-60; signed with Vancouver), D Jordan Subban (15-36-51, plus-22; Vancouver prospect), D Brady Austin (8-15-23, +16; former Erie Otter, Buffalo prospect), C Luke Cairns (12-29-41 with Erie)
Key losses: G Malcolm Subban (29-11-4-0 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .934 save percentage, 5 shutouts; signed with Boston), C Tyler Graovac (38-35-73; signed with Minnesota), C Joseph Cramarossa (19-44-63; signed with Anaheim), D Stephen Silas (7-23-30, plus-17), LW Danill Zharkov (25-18-43; signed with Torpedo-KHL), D Jake Cardwell (10-23-33, -11)
Outlook: Jordan Subban still leads the nucleus of this team. But the key to success begins with filling the gaping hole left by the depature of Malcolm Subban in goal. Charlie Graham, once Subban’s backup, and Braydon Banitsiotis, hope to anchor a defense and lead the Bulls deep into the playoffs again.

Kingston Frontenacs
Coach/GM: Todd Gill/Doug Gilmour
2012-13 finish: 27-35-3-3, 3rd division, 7th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Barrie 4-0 in conference quarterfinals
Key players: LW Henri Ikonen (22-29-51; Tampa Bay prospect), C Ryan Kujawinski (17-31-48; New Jersey prospect), C Darcy Greenaway (24-20-44), C Sam Bennett (18-22-40), D Roland McKeown (7-22-29, -24)
Key losses: G Mike Morrison (24-25-2-1, 3.62, .896, 1 SO), LW Cody Alcock (20-23-43)
Outlook: The Frontenacs are ranked ninth in the CHL’s preseason top 10. That seems high, but they have enough talent led by McKeown on defense and that talented trio of up front to turn promise and potential into success. The addition of G Matt Mahalak (22-11-4-3, 2.86, .906, 3 SO from Plymouth should help.

Oshawa Generals
Coach/GM: D.J. Smith/Jeff Twohey
2012-13 finish: 44-22-1-3, 2nd division, 3rd conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Barrie 4-0 in conference semifinals
Key players: C Scott Laughton (23-33-56; signed with Philadelphia), G Daniel Altshuller (36-18-1-1, 2.62, .909, 3 SO; Carolina prospect), LW Michael Dal Colle (15-33-48), C Cole Cassels (15-28-43; Vancouver prospect), D Cullen Suellentrop (5-20-25, +3)
Key losses: C Boone Jenner (45-37-82; signed with Columbus), LW Lucas Lessio (19-15-34 in 35 games; signed with Phoenix), RW Tyler Biggs (26-27-53; signed with Toronto), RW Scott Sabourin (30-20-50; signed with Manchester-AHL), D Matt Petgrave (10-40-50), D Geoffrey Schemitsch (6-33-39, +29)
Outlook: The Generals followed a strong run through the regular season by being swept by Barrie in the second round of the playoffs. They have some pieces back, and Laughton could join them if he doesn’t earn a spot with the Flyers. Yet they have big holes to fill, led by Jenner and Lessio.

Ottawa 67’s
Coach/GM: Chris Byrne
2012-13 finish: 16-46-0-6, 5th division, 10th conference
Playoff finish: Did not qualify
Key players: C Sean Monahan (31-47-78; signed with Calgary), C Travis Konecny (No. 1 pick in 2013 OHL Priority Selection), RW Joseph Blandisi (15-36-51; Colorado prospect), C Dante Salituro (14-26-40), LW Ryan Van Stralen (16-23-39)
Key losses: D Michal Cajkovsky (10-24-34)
Outlook: Konecny, who had 78 goals and 152 points in 63 minor-midget games a season ago, headlines the second season of 67′s rebuilding effort. Having a highly skilled leader like Monahan will help Konecny make the transition to the OHL, and help the team continue to make its way up the conference standings.

Peterborough Petes
Coach/GM: Jody Hull/Mike Oke
2012-13 finish: 26-35-3-4, 5th division, 9th conference
Playoff finish: Did not qualify
Key players: C Stephen Pierog (19-16-35), LW Nick Ritchie (18-17-35), G Michael Giugovaz (9-17-2-1, 3.81, .896), C Jonatan Tanus (15-18-33), C Michael Clarke (15-17-32)
Key losses: C Brett Findlay (19-27-46; signed with San Francisco-ECHL), G Andrew D’Agostini (17-18-1-3, 3.81, .911, 1 SO)
Outlook: The Hull-Oke era begins its first full season with the rebuilding Petes. They need young players, starting with the promsing Giugovaz in net, to lead this team back to the playoffs.

 

CENTRAL DIVISION

Barrie Colts
Coach/GM: Dale Hawerchuck/Jason Ford
2012-13 finish: 44-20-2-2, 1st division, 2nd conference
Playoff finish: Lost to London 4-3 in league finals
Key players: C Zach Hall (24 goals, 57 assists, 81 points), D Aaron Ekblad (7-27-34, plus-29), LW Andreas Athanasiou (29-38-67; Detroit prospect), C Mitchell Theoret (25-35-60), G Alex Fotinos (9-8-0-1 record, 3.26 goals-against average, .897 save percentage)
Key losses: C Mark Scheifele (39-40-79; signed with Winnipeg), G Mathias Niederberger (35-12-2-1, 2.34, .933, 4 SO; signed with Manchester-AHL), RW Steven Beyers (16-53-69), LW Anthony Camara (36-24-60; signed with Boston), D Ryan O’Connor (18-35-53; signed with HC Davos-Switzerland)
Outlook: The Colts lost the OHL championship on London LW Bo Horvat’s series-winning goal with one-tenth of a second left in Game 7. Now they have to replace several key members of that team, headlined by Scheifele up front, O’Connor on defense and Niederberger in goal. That will be a challenge.

Mississauga Steelheads
Coach/GM: James Boyd
2012-13 finish: 26-34-0-8, 5th division, 8th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Belleville 4-2 in conference quarterfinals
Key players: G Spencer Martin (17-21-0-4, 3.02, .908; Colorado prospect), C Dylan Smoskowitz (33-22-55), D Trevor Carrick (10-21-31, -1; Carolina prospect), LW Josh Burnside (12-16-28), C Brett Foy (11-13-24)
Key losses: LW Riley Brace (21-52-73; signed with Worcester-AHL), D Dylan DeMelo (15-35-50; signed with San Jose), D Stuart Percy (13-32-45; signed with Toronto)
Outlook: Martin heads into his first season as a NHL draft pick having to lead a defense that will be critical for the Steelheads’ success this season.

Niagara IceDogs
Coach/GM: Marty Williamson
2012-13 finish: 30-34-2-2, 4th division, 6th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Oshawa 4-1 in conference quarterfinals
Key players: D Jesse Graham (4-35-39, -17; N.Y. Islanders prospect), D Luke Mercer (2-27-29, +8), C Carter Verhaeghe (18-26-44; Toronto prospect), LW Anthony DiFruscia (14-16-30), G Chris Festarini (22-24-2-2, 3.27, .898; former Erie Otter)
Key losses: C Ryan Strome (34-60-94; signed with N.Y. Islanders), RW Brett Ritchie (41-35-76; signed with Dallas), LW Steven Shipley (32-35-67), Shayne Rover (8-19-27)
Outlook: The midseason departure of D Dougie Hamilton to the NHL’s Boston Bruins sparked a free-fall that ended with a first-round loss to Oshawa. Now Strome, Ritchie and others are gone, leaving the D pairing of Graham and Mercer leading the way for a team searching for a bounce-back season.

North Bay Battalion
Coach/GM: Stan Butler
2012-13 finish: 34-25-3-6, 2nd division, 4th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Sudbury 4-1 in conference quarterfinals
Key players: RW Barclay Goodrow (38-14-52), LW Blake Clarke (19-32-51), D Dylan Blujus (2-27-29; Tampa Bay prospect), G Jake Smith (9-6-0-2, 2.57, .891), RW Matt MacLeod (19-20-39), LW Brandon Robinson (17-17-34)
Key losses: G Matej Machovsky (25-19-3-4, 2.52, .910, 3 SO; signed with HC Plzen-Czech Republic)
Outlook: The Butler-led Battalion have always been known for stingy defense. That recipe for success should stay the same in the club’s first season in North Bay. Smith and Blujus lead a defense that ranked among the league leaders the past two seasons.

Sudbury Wolves
Coach/GM: Paul Fixter/Blaine Smith
2012-13 finish: 29-27-5-7, 3rd division, 5th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Belleville 4-0 in conference semifinals
Key players: C Matthew Campagna (24-44-68), LW Nathan Pancel (26-30-56), RW Nicholas Baptiste (21-27-48; Buffalo prospect), C Connor Crisp (22-14-36; acquired from Erie, Montreal prospect); LW Dominik Kahun (13-27-40)
Key losses: RW Michael Kantor (20-13-33; signed with N.Y. Rangers), D Charlie Dodero (7-20-27; signed with N.Y. Rangers)
Outlook: Fixter has moved from associate coach to head coach to replace Trent Cull, who joined the coaching staff of the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. He inherits a team with a solid nucleus led by Campagna and Pancel. The club also added Crisp and D Jimmy McDowell (14-19-33) in an offseason trade.

- Victor Fernandes

 

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