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
Posts tagged ‘ohl’
Posted: August 22nd, 2014

Connor McDavid heads into 3rd - and likely - final season with the Erie Otters (Erie Times-News)

Connor McDavid heads into 3rd – and likely – final season with the Erie Otters (Erie Times-News)

Connor McDavid arrived in Erie two years ago with an immense spotlight around him that seemingly extended from one end of North America to the other. The OHL’s most highly anticipated prospect in recent memory has been as advertised – and more – on the way to being a cornerstone of the Otters’ long-awaited turnaround a season ago and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL draft.
But the face of the franchise – and the league – hasn’t been the consensus leader of the Otters until now. Expect him to wear the ‘C’ in what should be one of the more uniquely challenging season for an Otters’ captain.
These Otters have potential, but they will be markedly younger and less experienced than the team Connor Brown led to a franchise-record 52 wins and its first trip to the conference finals since the 2001-02 league championship season. McDavid will have to keep this team even-keeled through the highs and lows – something he didn’t need to do the past two seasons – while dealing ramped-up distractions during his draft year.
So who will wear the As worn by Michael Curtis, Troy Donnay and Adam Pelech last season?
Donnay would get one, or D Kurtis MacDermid, if either returns to the team for their OA season. Yet no one on the current roster instantly jumps out at me. D/W Cory Genovese and RW Joel Wigle are the most experienced players on the team. But being a veteran doesn’t automatically make a player the right candidate.
Goaltenders have enough pressure on them to be the last line of defense, so count Devin Williams out. C Dylan Strome is a future captain in the making, but it may too much to ask a high-profile 17-year-old to take on that role in his second season.
So upon further review, here are two choices I would make – D Travis
Travis Dermott

Travis Dermott

Dermot
t and C Kyle Pettit, two hard-working players on and off the ice who have the even-keeled temperament needed to provide a calming influence. After that, veterans like Fs Jake Evans and Nick Betz need to step up into a possible alternate’s role.
Ultimately, though, this is McDavid’s team. He has the right makeup to lead the way.

- Victor Fernandes

Up next: The Williams’ era in net finally begins this season. Can he become the next great goaltender in Otters’ history? Find out on the Shootout blog and Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GoErieHockey on Saturday.

* 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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted: August 21st, 2014

The Erie Otters will miss Adam Pelech's strong play and leadership on defense this season. (Erie Times-News)

The Erie Otters will miss Adam Pelech’s strong play and leadership on defense this season. (Erie Times-News)

Adam Pelech quietly went about his business on and off the ice in his four seasons with the Otters. Sometimes, you took for granted his importance, especially on defense, because of his consistency.
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.
Travis Dermott

Travis Dermott

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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: August 20th, 2014

Here are former Erie Otters D Justin Felker‘s thoughts on choosing to leave the OHL and enroll at Brock University in his hometown of St. Catharines, ON…

“Well after a lot of thought I decided that (the OHL) wasn’t the right fit for me. For a lot people the OHL is great, but for some people university is just a better route, and I believe I am one of those people.”

Kudos to Felker for making such a mature decision. There’s something to be said about being aware of the path you should take…and it’s all good.

Posted: August 20th, 2014

Erie Otters D Cory Genovese made a pointed comment on Twitter, presumably about the OHL’s latest rule changes regarding fighting and other contact- related penalties…

“(OHL commissioner and CHL president) Dave Branch is ruining junior hockey. If you’re scared to get hurt or scared your son will get hurt, sign up for a different sport #OHL”

I don’t necessarily agree with his statement. I see the merits of scaling back fighting in the game, but not taking it completely out of the game.
But I commend him for not holding back about how he feels. He has built his OHL career on a physical style of play, and his share of fights. Sounds like he feels hamstrung when it comes to playing his game.

Posted: August 20th, 2014

imageThe OHL continues to eliminate staged fights from the major junior game.
The league’s existing rule calls for a game misconduct for players to receive a game misconduct for a fight following the drop of the puck at the start of a game or period. Now the rule has expanded to include game misconducts for fights following every faceoff in games.
League officials also implemented other rule changes during their annual meeting last Friday in Kingston, Ontario…
* Players receiving a third game misconduct in a season for 5-minute majors including checking to the head, checking from behind, kneeing and clipping will serve an automatic one-game suspension (if previous suspensions don’t apply). Suspensions will grow in severity with each subsequent game misconduct.
* Players receiving a third minor penalty for instigating in a season will serve an automatic one-game suspension. Suspensions will grow in severity with each subsequent instigating minor.
* Players earn a game misconduct for two major fighting penalties in a game. The previous rule was three fighting majors.
* Players receiving a fourth minor penalty in a season for checking from behind, checking to the head, kneeing, clipping and boarding will serve a one-game suspension. Suspensions will grow in severity with each subsequent game misconduct.
* Teams face a fine for having more than three fighting majors in a game.

Posted: August 20th, 2014

The Erie Otters need to replace several key scorers from the 2013-14 team. (Erie Times-News)

The Erie Otters need to replace several key scorers from the 2013-14 team. (Erie Times-News)

The Erie Otters won’t score 312 goals in the 2014-15 OHL season.
That’s an easy statement to make, even with Connor McDavid, who’s coming off a 99-point season, leading the way. The Otters are losing as much offense as any team in the league – Connor Brown (45 goals, 83 assists, 128 points), Dane Fox (64-43-107), Brendan Gaunce (31-41-72), Michael Curtis (28-28-56) and Adam Pelech (10-45-55).
They also could lose Andre Burakovsky (41-46-87), if he earns a roster spot with the NHL’s Washington Capitals or is assigned to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. The Otters have some promising young players – second-year C Dylan Strome as well as skilled incoming rookies like Shaun Bily and Alex DeBrincat. But aside from Strome, these young players likely aren’t ready to become frontline scorers.
So the Otters will need to manufacture goals more so than last season. They need offense from players that weren’t needed to produce as much in 2013-14.
Jake Evans

Jake Evans

* Jake Evans has that potential. He’s had it since being picked in the 2nd round of the 2011 OHL draft. Yet he hasn’t put it all together in his first three seasons, to the tune of 28 goals and 57 points in 180 games.
He set career highs with 12 goals and 23 points in 67 games a season ago. He needs much more production than that to help these Otters win.
* Kyle Pettit has become a key figure on defense, the penalty kill
Kyle Pettit

Kyle Pettit

and faceoffs. He will be a key figure in those aspects of the game this season.
But offense was non-existent the first two seasons (8 goals, 16 points in 120 games), even after he focused more on his offensive game last offseason. He needs to at least double those numbers this year.
Nick Betz has been a grinder on the third and fourth lines in his three-year career. But every once in awhile, he shows glimpses of offensive skill. If he becomes more of a prototypical power forward. He doesn’t have to be Michael Blunden, who improved from 10 goals and 17 points as a rookie in 2002-03 to 46 goals and 84 points in his fourth and final season in 2005-06.

- Victor Fernandes

Top returning scorers

Nick Betz

Nick Betz


C Connor McDavid – 28 goals, 71 assists, 99 points, 7 PPG, 2 SHG (56 games)
C Dylan Strome – 10 goals, 29 assists, 39 points, 2 PPG (60 games)
D Travis Dermott – 3 goals, 25 assists, 28 points, 1 PPG (67 games)
C Jake Evans – 11 goals, 7 assists, 18 points (57 games)
RW Nick Betz – 5 goals, 13 assists, 18 points (66 games)
RW Joel Wigle – 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points (41 games)
D Darren Raddysh – 3 goals, 10 assists, 13 point, 1 PPG (60 games)
C Kyle Pettit – 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, 1 SHG (53 games)
Note: Lists players expected to return

Up next: Pelech has moved on to the pros. So who will be the Otters’ No. 1 D? Find out Wednesday on the Shootout blog and 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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted: August 19th, 2014

Darren Raddysh

Darren Raddysh

Erie Otters D Darren Raddysh began the 2013-14 season with the promise that was on display during a 24-game stint with the club a season earlier.
He built on that promise in the opening half of the season, as he earned a regular shift on a veteran-laden defense. Then it went downhill, in a hurry, for Raddysh.
By the end of the regular season, he had a difficult time cracking the lineup. He dressed for only two of 14 playoff games. Then he slipped out of NHL Central Scouting’s list of draft prospects before being passed over in the June draft.
Raddysh admitted he didn’t work as hard as possible as the season progressed. That can’t happen this season, not a defense that will lose most, if not all, of that veteran unit. Raddysh has the ability to be a consistent performer. He isn’t the most dynamic player on the blue line. But Raddysh is at his best when he makes simple plays at both ends of the ice. He did that early in the season. Yet he seemed overmatched later in the season, which led to glaring mistakes.
Raddysh has plenty of motivation to raise his game this season – the opportunity to get a regular shift as a top-four D, and a chance to prove he deserves to be drafted next summer. Now he simply has to make that happen.

- Victor Fernandes

Up next: The Otters lose plenty of scorers from the 2013-14 club. So role players like Nick Betz, Jake Evans and Kyle Pettit need to step up to the forefront. Find out more Tuesday on the Shootout blog and on Twitter at wwww.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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted: August 18th, 2014

Erie Otters C Dylan Strome (#19) faces a big second OHL season ahead of him (Erie Times-News)

Erie Otters C Dylan Strome (#19) faces a big second OHL season ahead of him (Erie Times-News)

Look beyond Dylan Strome‘s offensive numbers to find just how good of a debut season he had with the Erie Otters.
He finished sixth among all rookies with 39 points (10 goals, 39 points in 60 games), well behind the one player picked ahead of him in the 2013 OHL draft – Ottawa C Travis Konecny (league-best 26 goals and 70 points in 63 games). But Strome (No. 2 overall pick) arguably developed the most well-rounded game among that group a season ago.
Strome didn’t have to be a front-end scorer for the Otters a season ago. The league’s third-highest scoring team (312 goals) had plenty of dangerous offensive performers, led by Connor Brown (45-83-128), Dane Fox (64-43-107), Connor McDavid (28-71-99) and Andre Burakovsky (41-46-87).
Only McDavid is assured of returning this season. So it’s time for Strome to take his games, especially on offense, to the next level. He has the size, speed, skill and work ethic to have a huge year.
He’s already projected as a top-10 pick in the 2015 NHL draft. He has the demeanor and maturity to block that out and focus on the task at hand – keeping the Otters among the top teams in the league for a second straight season.

Travis Konecny

Travis Konecny

2013-14 OHL rookie scoring leaders
C Travis Konecny, Ottawa – 26 goals, 44 assists, 70 points (63 games)
C Mitchell Marner, London – 13 goals, 46 assists, 59 points (64 games)
LW Andrew Mangiapane, Barrie – 24 goals, 27 assists, 51 points (68 games)
RW Nick Magyar, Kitchener – 20 goals, 26 assists, 46 points (66 games)
RW Blake Speers, Sault Ste. Marie – 19 goals, 21 assists, 40 points (62 games)
C Dylan Strome, Erie – 10 goals, 29 assists, 39 points (60 games)

Up next: Will the real Darren Raddysh please step forward? Find out the answer to question Monday on the Shootout blog and Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GoErieHockey.

* Let’s talk Otters: Join Victor Fernandes for the training camp edition of Otters Talk on Aug. 25 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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted: August 17th, 2014

Alex DeBrincat (forefront) could be a key addition to the Erie Otters this season. (Contributed/Total Package Hockey)

Alex DeBrincat (forefront) could be a key addition to the Erie Otters this season. (Contributed/Total Package Hockey)

Erie Otters GM Sherry Bassin did a masterful job of keeping prospect Alex DeBrincat well hidden from 19 other GMs for a few months before signing the diminutive yet high-scoring forward (54 goals, 111 points in 50 games with Lake Forest Academy out of Illinois a season) after the OHL draft in April.
Bassin’s work was especially impressive, given DeBrincat already was committed to a high-profile NCAA Division I program (UMass-Amherst) and is represented by the Orr Hockey Group – the Boston-based agency owned by Hockey Hall of Fame Bobby Orr whose client list includes Otters C Connor McDavid.
Now Bassin hopes to unleash DeBrincat on opposing defenses. He displayed impressive speed and a knack for not being knocked off the puck, despite his small frame (5-7, 160), during the Otters’ rookie development camp in May.
Yet teams soon will adjust to DeBrincat’s speed, and likely play a more physical game against him. If he can handle that, suddenly the Otters have a much-needed weapon for an offense that will need to manufacture goals more than the Otters did a season ago. DeBrincat will be especially valuable if RW and Washington Capitals prospect Andre Burakovsky doesn’t return this season.
Not bad for a relative unknown…

- Victor Fernandes

Up next: Dylan Strome had a promising rookie season on a veteran club. Now the expectations grow, as a potential top-10 pick in the 2015 NHL draft assumes a larger role. Find out more 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 Aug. 25 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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.

Posted in: Erie Otters, NHL
Posted: August 16th, 2014

Joel Wigle

Joel Wigle

Spencer Abraham, Michael Curtis and Dane Fox brought different skills to the ice every night as the Erie Otters’ overagers in the 2013-14 season.
Abraham, who I thought would be the odd OA out when training camp opened last August, saved his best OHL season for last with a more solid two-way game (8-27-35, +29, 7 PPG, 1 SHG in 68 games). Curtis added an offensive side (28-28-56, 3 SHG in 68 games) to a overall skill set best known for leadership and defensive reliability. And Fox…he only led the CHL with 64 goals and finished second to linemate Connor Brown (CHL-best 128 points) in the OHL scoring race (107 points).
They’re all gone – Brown included (because I can’t imagine any scenario where the
Connor Brown (right) isn't expected to rejoin the Erie Otters for  his overage season (Erie Times-News)

Connor Brown (right) isn’t expected to rejoin the Erie Otters for his overage season (Erie Times-News)

Toronto Maple Leafs would send him back to the OHL instead of playing his first AHL season). Most, if not all, of the team’s 1994s – G Oscar Dansk, Ds Troy Donnay, Kurtis MacDermid and Adam Pelech, and C Brendan Gaunce aren’t expected back.
At this point, I suspect either Donnay (N.Y. Rangers) or MacDermid (L.A. Kings) would be the only signed prospect that could be sent back by their NHL club.
Cory Genovese

Cory Genovese

That leaves D/W Cory Genovese (0-3-3, +14, 91 PIM in 58 games) and RW Joel Wigle (6-7-13, 69 PIM in 41 games) as the OA headliners.
Here’s the long-standing rule about OAs: They have to be among the best players on the team. Wigle showed some potential as a power forward early in his OHL career with Niagara, but he’s been hampered by injuries since joining the Otters. Genovese had trouble cracking the D lineup some night this past season, and even was moved to the wing before Darren Raddysh‘s struggles prompted a move back to the blue line late in the season. That’s simply not good enough for a team that again considers itself a contender.
GM Sherry Bassin made a shrewd move to acquire Curtis from Belleville last August. Bassin needs to do that again, either before the season (where he could get a better deal) or in a higher-profile trade closer to the January trade deadline. These Otters will be a younger bunch with new faces in key roles (Ds Jesse Saban and Cole Mayo, Fs Shaun Bily and Alex DeBrincat).
They will need frontline 20-year-olds to lead the way.

- Victor Fernandes

Up next: The 2014-15 Otters are Connor McDavid’s team. But will he replace Brown as captain? Head to the Shootout blog or Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GoErieHockey on Sunday to read more.

* Let’s talk Otters: Join Victor Fernandes for the training camp edition of Otters Talk on Aug. 25 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 victor.fernandes@timesnews.com, and then check out a recap of the chat on Shootout and Twitter.