Around the OHL Sept 12, 2015

No regrets for Hounds Kopacka

There was a time when Jack Kopacka wasn’t sure which path he’d choose.

Which is why, at the time of the 2014 Ontario Hockey League draft, the Lapeer, Mich., native lasted until the eighth round.

“I was undecided about my future at the time of the draft. I was unsure of where I wanted to go,” Kopacka admitted during a recent interview.

The fact he was taken by the Soo Greyhounds, an organization he calls “great,” helped to begin pointing him towards Major Junior hockey, and away from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

What followed the draft was a trip to the Hounds 2014 development camp, and the talented winger was all but sold.

“I really enjoyed my time here at that camp and the quality of the organization impressed me,” recalled Kopacka, about to begin his first full season in a Greyhounds uniform.

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Attack rookie Sean Durzi looking to crack the lineup

Sean Durzi isn’t worried about being one of nine defenseman vying for an Owen Sound Attack roster spot.

The 16-year-old Mississauga native is just happy that he got invited to the party.

“I was just looking for an opportunity and now that (I’ve signed) I have to work to get myself into the lineup,” Durzi said in an interview prior to Owen Sound’s 4–0 to visiting Barrie on Wednesday in Ontario Hockey League exhibition play.

“They’re all great defensemen because they’re in the OHL so I look at this as a learning year for me. If something happens and I get into the lineup, I’ve got to be ready.”

Owen Sound entered training camp with seven defensemen with OHL experience – Damir Sharipzyanov, Thomas Shemitsch, Santino Centorame, Tyler McArthur, Connor Walters, Jarrett Meyer, and Jacob Friend – as well as first-round pick Markus Phillips.

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GIFFEN: Youngsters making it tough on Wolves brass

It’s a very small sample size, but two exhibition games into the 2015-16 season, the Sudbury Wolves are exactly where one might expect.

A promising glimpse at the future in a 4-2 win on home ice against the rival Battalion, and a stiff dose of reality in a 5-1 loss in the return engagement in North Bay.

Granted, it’s preseason and making any predictions about the season based on these results would be a fool’s game. For starters, both clubs have leaned heavily on their kids to give them the ice time and opportunity required for the club to make those hard decisions on who stays and who goes. Rookies who are getting big minutes right now might be fourth liners when the regular seasons begins. Or they may be shipped elsewhere for more seasoning.

What has become increasingly apparent throughout the first week of the Wolves training camp and exhibition season, is that the organization has a good problem on its hands – but one that will not be easily resolved. There are a lot of young players who have either earned – or are in the process of earning – a spot on the roster.

The question is, how many rookies is too many, and how young does this team want to be?

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67’s Rule No. 1: We’re going for it, Jeff Brown says

Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67's. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67’s. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Jake Middleton was on his lunch break at his summer job doing some hard labour with a masonry firm in his hometown of Stratford a few weeks back when he took a call from Ottawa 67’s head coach Jeff Brown.

“Brownie just wanted to know how my summer was going . . . then he said, ‘You better be ready . . . cause we’re going for it’,” said Middleton, the 67’s leader along the blueline. “Then he added that if we’re not top two in the East, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do.”

And that’s the quintessential Brown, who begins Year Two behind the 67’s bench with the added responsibility of the general manager’s duties.

As if there was ever any doubt, this will truly be Brown’s team and he doesn’t want to be just average every year. He wants to win an Ontario Hockey League championship and a Memorial Cup and the 2015-16 season is as good a year as any to go all in, which is Brown’s philosophy.

There’s optimism around the renovated rink on Bank Street the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the fall of 2011 with a team that included future NHL stars Sean Monahan, Cody Ceci, Tyler Toffoli and Petr Mrazek in goal on their way to a berth in the Conference finals. The 2015-16 team doesn’t quite match the star power of that the 2011-12 team but it may make up for it in depth through the roster.

Optimism happens when a team makes a 29-point jump in the standings, wins 15 more games than the season previous, shaves 88 goals-against off its season total and returns 20 veterans.

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Barrie ships Tortara to Kitchener for conditional picks

The Barrie Colts have traded first-round pick Jacob Tortara to the Kitchener Rangers.

In return for the winger, who didn’t report to training camp, the Colts receive a 15th-round pick from the Rangers in 2016.

The deal also involves conditional draft choices based on several conditions:

• If Tortara plays his first OHL game in the 2015-16, 2016-17 or 2017-18 season, the Colts receive Kitchener’s second-round picks in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

• If Tortara plays his first OHL game in the 2018-19 season, the Colts receive Kitchener’s second-round picks in 2021 and 2022.

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Steelheads owner believes team has championship potential

Elliott Kerr has never been more exciting heading into hockey season.

Granted, a fresh new season always calls for optimism, but the level of excitement is heightened this year for the Mississauga Steelheads owner considering his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) club has undergone a revitalization heading into his fourth season of ownership.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here but when you look at us, even in the context of the next NHL Draft, we could have three or possibly four players who could go in the first round,” Kerr said, referring to 2016 draft eligible players Nathan Bastian, Sean Day, Mikey McLeod and Alex Nylander.

“I know the NHL draft isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it does put a focus on our player development, not just local players but skilled players, character people that at the end of the day can give us a shot at winning the Memorial Cup, which is where we want to go here.”

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IceDogs ranked third in poll

The Niagara IceDogs have yet to play a regular season game this season but are already turning heads.

The IceDogs are ranked third in the Canadian Hockey League pre-season edition of the Canadian Hockey League 10 rankings for the 2015-16 season. The weekly rankings of the CHL’s Top-10 teams are selected by a panel of National Hockey League scouts. The IceDogs are ranked behind the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior League and are the top-ranked OHL team. The London Knights are ranked fifth and Erie Otters ninth.

“It’s exiting. People see there’s potential with this hockey team and that we’re a deep team and that’s why you get ranked like that,” IceDogs coach/general manager Marty Williamson said. “You lose the first game of the season and you’ll be out of the top 10 rankings because they go by wins and losses so it’s one of those things.

“I think it should give our guys some swagger. We’re a good hockey team and we should win hockey games.”

Rearguard added

Free agent defenceman William Lochead has committed to the IceDogs, entering into a standard player agreement.

Lochead was a free agent invitee to training camp, where he quickly impressed.

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Bulldogs’ Mizzi makes the most of second chance

Joseph Mizzi’s first run at the OHL didn’t go as planned. Actually, it didn’t go period.

“I had mono,” he said. “They found out I had it on the first day of training camp, so I had to go straight to the hospital.”

Mononucleosis — mono, for short — isn’t unusual in teens. Caused by a virus, it can lead to some pretty unpleasant symptoms: Extreme fatigue, fever, swollen glands, and, in particularly bad cases, an enlarged spleen.

That’s what Mizzi was dealing with.

“With my spleen being too big, I couldn’t have any kind of contact, so I just decided to go home and play junior.”

Fast-forward one year. Now 17 and healthy, the Markham native is back at camp and making exactly the impression he had hoped to the first time around.

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