But if he doesn’t rejoin the Otters (and I don’t foresee a scenario in which the New York Islanders would return him to Erie instead of assigning him to Bridgeport in the AHL), the Otters surely will feel the void, especially in regards to his leadership.
He was No. 1 on the blue line, even with veterans like Spencer Abraham, Troy Donnay, Cory Genovese and Kurtis MacDermid around him. Pelech spearheaded a unit that evolved from the worst in the OHL from 2011-13 into the best last season.
He was steady, a calming influence, led by example and made his points to teammates stick because he picked his spots to be vocal. Someone has to step into role for a unit that will be younger than a year ago.
Here’s my vote – Travis Dermott.
He’s a star in the making. He’s a smooth, steady player at both ends of the ice. The game seems to slow down around him when he has the puck. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Best of all, no situation seems overwhelming to him. He’s a calm, cool player, which the Otters will need on a young defense.
Mark Seidel, a former assistant general manager with the Otters who now serves as North American Central Scouting’s chief scout, has compared Dermott to young Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Morgan Rielly, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft who played 73 games as a 20-year-old rookie last season.
“He’s going to play a huge role on that back end next year,” Seidel said of Dermott before the draft in June. And he will play that role well, which should improve his odds of being picked in the first round of 2015 draft.
Projected depth chart – defense
(OHL experience, regular season only)
Cory Genovese – 176 games
Darren Raddysh – 84 games
Travis Dermott – 67 games
Cole Mayo – 2 games (3rd round, 2013)
Jesse Saban – 0 games (2nd round, 2013)
Note: Donnay (N.Y. Rangers) and/or MacDermid (L.A. Kings) could be returned for their overage seasons. Justin Felker has chosen to enroll in and play for a Canadian university.
Up next: The Devin Williams era finally begins in Erie, as he faces the challenge of being the Otters’ No. 1 goaltender. Find out more Thursday on the Shootout blog and on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GoErieHockey
* Let’s talk Otters: Join Victor Fernandes for the training camp edition of Otters Talk on Monday from 7-8 p.m. by heading to the Shootout blog. Can’t join in at that time? Post your questions on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GoErieHockey or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.