Links to News Around the OHL

Max Jones says Sean Day is underestimated

Max Jones has Sean Day’s back — now and always.

The London Knights power forward believes his best friend has been painted with the wrong brush throughout a turbulent major junior hockey career.

Day, who visits London Saturday with the Mississauga Steelheads, was the fourth 15-year-old granted early entry to the OHL after Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad and John Tavares in 2013.

But unlike the others, the big defenceman was not picked first overall in the OHL priority selection and he is no longer even projected to be a first-rounder in the next NHL draft (the other three were all No. 1 picks).

“He’s really patient but people don’t notice that,” said Jones, who last played with Day in minor hockey with Detroit Compuware. “That’s why NHL scouts have their jobs. They see the stuff most people don’t. I think Sean is outstanding and he’s playing the way he’s always played.

“He’s in a tough situation and it’s not his fault. Stuff will come his way and he’s a great player.”

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Six reasons to believe in the Rangers, post-trade deadline

KITCHENER — The Ontario Hockey League trade deadline has come and gone and the Kitchener Rangers did not make any improvements to their current roster.

The Rangers did acquire the rights to St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri from the Guelph Storm for a trio of draft picks. Two of the selections are conditional on Fabbri reporting to the Aud which, at this time, seems very unlikely.

So what you see is what you get with this year’s Rangers crew, who take on the Mississauga Steelheads Friday at the Aud.

And that has some fans down in the dumps. After all, the veteran-laden squad is off to one of its best starts ever and is poised to be a real contender for the league championship and, perhaps, the Memorial Cup.

One or two elite additions could have put the Rangers over the top in a year when there really isn’t a clear cut favourite to take the OHL crown.

Some see it as a missed opportunity. Others understand the sense in standing pat after watching the ridiculous amount of draft picks and prospects that were tossed around by other teams at the trade deadline to land marquee players.

But don’t fret, the Rangers are in good shape.

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The winding road that led Travis Konecny to Sarnia

As a youngster, Travis Konecny wasn’t sure he wanted to play hockey.

Even now at age 18 he can get nervous meeting new people, so as a four- or five-year-old kid the prospect of joining a minor hockey team full of fresh faces seemed terrifying.

“I turned down playing hockey, I really didn’t want to,” Konecny recalled. “My parents signed me up behind my back and made me throw on the gear.

“I’ve never looked back, I love it.”

It’s been quite the winding road for the right-handed shooting winger from Clachan, Ont. ever since his parents stepped in and registered him with the Ridgetown Rebels program. He’s gone on to become a first-round OHL and NHL draft pick and a Canadian world junior, but now in his third Ontario Hockey League season he had to go through another new, and perhaps somewhat scary, experience: Being traded.

Just over one week ago, Konecny was involved in a massive deal – four players and 11 picks changed hands – that sent him from the Ottawa 67’s to the Sarnia Sting.

“I’ve never been through a trade, so it was obviously difficult at the start leaving a place that I’ve been for almost three years now and friends and all the connections that I had there,” he said. “But coming to a team like Sarnia and the way they’re moving in the right direction, all the things were so promising here, even coming to a contender has just made it that much easier for me to decide to come here, and I’m really excited.”

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Former Petes’ goalie headed to AHL Hall of Fame

Weeks prior to his enshrinement in the American Hockey League Hall of Fame, Bruce Landon skimmed over nearly a half-century of hockey memories back to his hockey baptism.

Roger Neilson brought Landon, a Kingston native, to Peterborough in 1968 to serve as the Petes’ first string goalie. The next season he joined the AHL’s Springfield Kings starting a nine-year pro career split between the AHL and World Hockey Association (WHA).

But Landon said it all started because one person — big brother Terry.

“Terry’s the one who stuck me between a pair of boots when I was four years old and began shooting frozen tennis balls at me,” said Landon, from his adopted home in Springfield, Mass.

Landon is set to become the AHL hall’s first Kingston-born member (Fred ‘Bun’ Cook, born in Saskatchewan but raised in Kingston, was inducted in 2007).

“He was there for me when it counted,” Landon added, turning serious. “Long story short, if it wasn’t for my brother, I would’ve never been able to follow my (hockey) dream.”

The erstwhile goaltender-turned-front office executive refers to a time of financial strain in the Landon family, in the mid-1960s, that threatened his looming junior career. “Terry gave up his own hockey dream and took a job with the Kingston Fire Department so I could continue mine,” explained 66-year-old granddaddy of two. “If he hadn’t done that, I doubt I would’ve been able to go to Peterborough to play with the Petes. I owe him a lot.”

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Wolves not afraid to talk playoffs

Yes, the Sudbury Wolves are still at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, 13 points out of a playoff spot.

But improved play of late that has the team playing .500 hockey at 5-4-0-1 in their last 10 has made it a confident group not that is not afraid to talk publicly about a goal that might cause many to raise an eyebrow.

“I think looking at the standings should motivate us,” Wolves head coach Dave Matsos said. “We have a steep hill to climb, but mathematically it’s doable and we still have to focus on our game and hopefully get some breaks from the rest of the league, but if we continue to chip away and keep the wins coming, it will make it exciting to wake up each morning to see how close we are getting.

“It is good to give these guys a goal, though I think our goals need to be set real short term, maybe every weekend or just every 60 minutes,” he continued. “If we do get there, and we have every intention of throwing our hat in the ring, it’s going to be a grueling two-and-a-half months here and the process will happen slow. For us, I think short term focus is the best way to go, and myself and (fellow coaches) Drake (Berehowsky) and Bryan (Verreault) will figure out the best way for us to get there.”

Improved play from the team’s youngsters of late have given Matsos more options, which has led to a better effort on the ice.

“I really like the balance we have right now,” he said. “We took (Ben) Garagan out of that fourth line role and put him with (Dmitry) Sokolov and (Mikkel) Aagaard and he gave us some great minutes last weekend and didn’t look out of place against other teams’ top lines, and I think by putting more trust into our young guys, we now have the ability to roll four lines without numbering them. We still prefer to get (Danny) Desrochers’ line with the older guys out there against the opposition’s top line, but after that I think just let them go.”

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Amadio 100% Battalion

Some veterans might seek a trade that would allow them to finish their careers playing for a powerhouse.

North Bay Battalion forward Mike Amadio apparently isn’t one of them.

In the midst of his finest season, the Sault native says he had no interest in joining a championship contender prior to Monday’s 12 noon OHL trade deadline.

And while his name was prominent in numerous trade rumours – Barrie, Kitchener and Kingston were thought to be possible landing spots — Amadio says the Battalion never spoke to him to gauge his interest in moving on.

Meantime, North Bay head coach and general manager Stan Butler spoke of “not really having an interest,” in dealing Amadio.

“Anyone can be traded – Wayne Gretzky was traded,” Butler said Friday. “I listened to offers. But we’re an organization that likes to have our guys finish up here.”

Amadio said he loves playing for the Battalion and living in North Bay.

“I didn’t have any thought at all of asking for a trade,” said Amadio, who captains the Battalion and is the team’s leading scorer. “I wanted to finish my career with the same organization with which I started.”

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Second half should bring bigger crowds

Expect more butts in seats during the second half of the season, not only in Hamilton but across the Ontario Hockey League.

According to George Burnett, attendance is typically higher following the holiday break — in particular, for midweek games. “I think it’s traditional that crowds generally pick up after Christmas on the run to the playoffs,” he said. “It’s legitimately hockey season.”

The numbers appear to back up the Bulldogs coach and general manager.

A quick analysis shows the average draw rose for all but one of Hamilton’s divisional rivals in the second half of last season. In Belleville, when the Bulldogs were still the Bulls, the turnout swelled from 2,326 to 2,740 in the wake of the break — an 18 per cent increase.

Burnett said one of the reasons for the jump is that folks have more opportunity and more time to take in a game. Fall sports have wrapped up, minor hockey is winding down and the holiday gauntlet has come to an end. On top of that, the games just seem to matter more in the midst of a post-season push.

Jeff Brown, his Ottawa 67’s counterpart, agrees.

“In the first half, there are still other sports around,” he said. “People are getting into hockey, but it’s more just getting a feel for how the team is looking, that kind of thing.

“In the second half,” he added, “it’s the only game in town.”

Another possibility is that interest in tournaments such as the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship peaks around the holidays. That certainly could excite people, Burnett said — especially when the marquee names come into your building.

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