This week, I’ll break down all 20 OHL clubs division by division and unveil my predictions for the 2012-13 season. Today, let’s look at the Western Conference’s West Division (listed in alphabetical order):
Coach/GM: Michael Vellucci
2011-12 finish: 47-18-2-1, 1st division, 2nd conference
Playoff finish: Lost to Kitchener 4-3 in conference semifinals
Key players: LW Stefan Noesen (38 goals, 44 assists, 82 points; signed with Ottawa), C Mitchell Heard (29-28-57; signed with Colorado), RW Alex Aleardi (36-29-65), LW J.T. Miller (25-37-62; signed with N.Y. Rangers; G Matt Mahalak (19-8-0-0 record, 2.66 goals-against average, .923 save percentage, 3 shutouts; Carolina prospect)
Key losses: G Scott Wedgewood (28-10-2-1, 3.02, .911, 3 SO; signed with New Jersey), D Beau Schmitz (14-40-54, +37; signed with Carolina), C Andy Bathgate (19-44-63)
Outlook: The Whalers had a chance to reach the Western finals last season, but they lost Game 7 at home to Kitchener. They lost some key players off that team, but the Whalers still have are strong enough to make a deeper run this season.
Coach/GM: Greg Gilbert/Jim Paliafito
2011-12 finish: 40-22-4-2, 3rd division, 5th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to London 4-2 in conference semifinals
Key players: C Vincent Trocheck (29-56-85; signed with Florida), LW Brandon Saad (34-42-76; signed with Chicago), LW Garret Ross (25-29-54), C Eric Locke (20-20-40), D Dalton Young (5-15-20)
Key losses: LW Josh Shalla (40-36-76; signed with Nashville), RW Michael Fine (22-45-67), C John McFarland (20-21-41; signed with Florida), D Brad Walch (5-18-23, +21)
Outlook: Trocheck and Saad headline an offense that ranked fifth in the league a season ago with 259 goals. Now they have to solidify a defense that allowed 259 goals, the fourth most in the league. Clint Windsor and Jake Paterson are the keys in net.
Coach/GM: Jacques Beaulieu
2011-12 finish: 34-27-2-5, 2nd division, 4th conference
Playoff finish: Lost 4-2 to Saginaw in conference quarterfinals
Key players: C Alex Galchenyuk (0-0-0 in 2 games; signed with Montreal), G J.P. Anderson (27-23-2-4, 3.03, .908, 3 SO), LW Reid Boucher (28-22-50), D Connor Murphy (8-18-26; signed with Phoenix), D Alex Basso (9-27-36, +5)
Key losses: RW Nail Yakupov (31-38-69 in 42 games; signed with Edmonton), C Brett Thompson (32-38-70; former Otter), C Ryan Spooner (29-37-66; signed with Boston), LW Tyler J. Brown (21-27-48), D Adrian Robertson (10-28-38, +13)
Outlook: Yakupov, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, isn’t expected to rejoin the Sting. But Galchenyuk, the No. 3 pick in the draft, returns after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury. But can the Sting overcome other key losses?
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Coach/GM: Mike Stapleton/Kyle Dubas
2011-12 finish: 29-33-2-4, 5th division, 9th conference
Playoff finish: Did not qualify
Key players: C Nick Cousins (35-53-88; signed with Philadelphia), G Matt Murray (13-19-0-1, 4.08, .876; Pittsburgh prospect), D Ryan Sproul (23-31-54, +16), RW Andrew Fritsch (13-19-32 in 35 games; Phoenix prospect), LW Michael Schumacher (26-24-50)
Key losses: C Brett Findlay (20-36-56; traded to Peterborough), C Carson Dubchak (16-16-32)
Outlook: The Greyhounds are trying to avoid a third straight season out of the playoff picture. But does Stapleton, the Otters’ former associate and assistant coach, have enough talented depth to make that happen in a challenging conference?
Coach/GM: Bob Boughner/Warren Rychel
2011-12 finish: 29-32-5-2, 4th division, 8th conference
Playoff finish: Lost to London 4-0 in conference quarterfinals
Key players: LW Kerby Rychel (41-33-74); C Brady Vail (22-30-52), LW Chris Marchese (18-25-43; former Otter), D Nick Ebert (6-33-39), RW Joshua Ho-Sang (No. 5 pick in OHL Priority Selection), LW Ben Johnson (18-20-38)
Key losses: C Alexander Khokhlachev (25-44-69; playing in Russia), C Zack MacQueen (18-20-38; son of former Otters coach Dave MacQueen)
Outlook: The unexpected departure of Khokhlachev will hurt thre Spitfires, unless forwards like Rychel, Vail, former Otter Marchese and first-round pick Ho-Sang pick up the slack. But will they have enough on defense and in net to win consistently?
- Victor Fernandes