Ottawa vs Guelph: OHL Finals Preview

OHL Playoffs

The Ontario Hockey League Championship Series is set to begin as the Guelph Storm take on the Ottawa 67’s and the right to hoist the J. Ross Robertson Cup and gain a birth to the Memorial Cup, which is set to begin May 17, 2019 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Twice I’ve picked the Storm to go down in defeat in 7 games and twice the Storm bounced back from 3-0 and 3-1 deficits against the London Knights and the Saginaw Spirit respectively. They set an OHL record winning 7 elimination games. The 67’s on the other hand are well rested, sweeping their three series to date and are a perfect 12-0 in these playoffs.

OHL Finals

Both teams are trying to win their fourth Robertson Cup. Ottawa has captured the title in 1977, 1984 and 2001. Guelph has won it all in 1988, 2004 and 2014.

This is a pretty even matchup. Guelph won one game between the two squads in regulation while Ottawa took the second game in overtime, both winning on home ice. Both teams are powerhouses at home while Ottawa holds an advantage when they are the visiting team.

Throughout the season, the Storm held the advantage in specialty teams, but it’s seen a reversal in the playoffs. The 67’s when up a man have been dominant firing at 38.9% (51.9% at home) while the Storm are at 23.5%. When down a man, the two squads are virtually identical with Guelph killing off 80.7% of the oppositions opportunities while Ottawa negates 80.4%.

If there is one area that Guelph holds a decisive advantage it is in experience. The Storm ice 3 over-agers and 12-19-year-old veterans. I would say that the 67’s hold the advantage in the crease with Micheal DiPietro, who has been to the big show at the Memorial Cup and leading his old Windsor Spitfires to a Championship in 2017.

This series is a coin flip. But I have to make a prediction and I’ll take Ottawa in 7 games. Watch the Storm prove me wrong yet again.

Schedule:

Game 1: Thur May 2 at Ottawa, 7:00 pm

Game 2: Sat May 4 at Ottawa, 2:00 pm

Game 3: Mon May 6 at Guelph, 7:00 pm

Game 4: Wed May 8 at Guelph, 7:00 pm

Game 5: Fri May 10 at Ottawa, 7:00 pm*

Game 6: Sun May 12 at Guelph, 2:00 pm*

Game 7: Mon May 13 at Ottawa, 7:00 pm*

*if necessary

Ottawa 67’s vs Guelph Storm: Head To Head Stats
Summary
Description Result
Head to Head Ottawa 1-1-0-0 Guelph 1-0-1-0
Last 5 Years Ottawa 7-2-1-0 Guelph 3-5-1-1
Last 5 Years record at Ottawa Ottawa 3-1-1-0 Guelph 2-2-1-0
Last 5 Years record at Guelph Ottawa 4-1-0-0 Guelph 1-3-0-1
Previous Meetings This Season Guelph 3 @ Ottawa 4 OT
Ottawa 4 @ Guelph 8 Final
How the 2 teams match up
Guelph Ottawa
Team Record 40-18-6-4 50-12-4-2
Division Ranking 2nd Midwest 1st East
Conference Ranking 4th Western 1st Eastern
League Ranking 8th 1st
Past 10 Games 8-2-0-0 6-3-1-0
Home Record 23-9-1-1 29-3-1-1
Away Record 17-9-5-3 21-9-3-1
GF 308 296
GA 230 183
PP (Overall) 25.80% 23.20%
PP (Home) 25.30% 22.90%
PP (Away) 26.40% 23.40%
PK (Overall) 79.10% 77.50%
PK (Home) 77.80% 82.70%
PK (Away) 80.30% 73.20%
PP vs. Opp. 27.30% 50%
PK vs. Opp. 50% 72.70%
Leading Rookie Collins (6-10-16) Rossi (29-36-65)
Most PIM Ratcliffe – 105 Clark – 98
Leading Scorers Schnarr (34-68-102) Felhaber (59-50-109)
Suzuki (34-60-94) Keating (22-67-89)
Ratcliffe (50-32-82) Maksimovich (35-46-81)
Hawel (37-41-78) Chiodo (29-50-79)
Entwistle (30-27-57) Chmelevski (35-40-75)
Leading After 1st 24-3-3-0 31-0-0-2
Leading After 2nd 32-1-3-1 40-0-2-2
Tied After 1st 9-4-3-4 17-3-2-0
Tied After 2nd 4-0-1-2 7-3-1-0
Trailing After 1st 7-11-0-0 2-9-2-0
Trailing After 2nd 4-17-2-1 3-9-1-0
Out Shooting Opponents 28-8-2-2 32-9-3-1
Out Shot by Opponents 11-9-4-2 13-2-1-1
1-Goal Games 10-5-6-4 12-5-4-2
2-Goal Games 4-2-0-0 10-1-0-0
3-Goal Games 8-7-0-0 13-3-0-0
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Mason Millman – Saginaw Spirit – Player Profile

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 175 pounds

Date of birth: July 18, 2001

Hometown: London, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 7, 124th overall, 2017 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season, November: NR. Mid-term: 173rd NA Skaters

For London Ontario native and Saginaw Spirits’ defender Mason Millman, not being listed on National Hockey League Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List in both the pre-season and November’s lists came as a surprise. But that was corrected on their mid-term list as he was ranked 173rd among North American skaters. Millman climbed 48 spots on Central’s Final Rankings to 125th among North American skaters. That puts him in position as a late 6th early 7th round pick at the NHL Draft in June.

Millman played his Minor Midget AAA hockey with the London Jr Knights during the 2016-2017 season, compiling 5 goals and 14 assists in 33 games. He would add a goal and 8 helpers in 11 playoff matchups, and a goal and 2 assists at 6 OHL Cup games.

Millman would play the 2017-2018 season with the St Thomas Stars of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League and score 6 goals and 16 assists on 46 games. He was voted the GOJHL Most Outstanding First Year Defenceman and (Western) and to the GOJHL Rookie All-Star Team (Western). Millman would get his feet wet in the OHL playing in 6 games for the Spirit but did not register a point.

This season, Millman would play in 66 games for Saginaw and score 3 goals while adding 22 assists and finish with a plus-22. He would add 2 goals and 3 assists in 13 playoff games and finish with a plus-12 as the Spirit lost in 7 games in the Western Conference Finals.

Mason Millman of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Mason Millman of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Millman is a puck move defenceman with very good skating abilities and excellent lateral movement. In the offensive zone he makes quick, decisive decisions with a knack for pinching at the right time to keep plays alive. He sees the ice extremely well and can deliver tape-to-tape passes. He can quarterback the powerplay and shows great abilities there walking the line and playing patiently waiting for lanes to open. However, his shot from the point is weak and doesn’t always get it through. It needs some work and some of that may come as he adds some strength. His low shots on goal total (86) may speak to a lack of confidence in his shot as well. Millman finished seventh among draft eligible players in scoring.

Despite some impressive plus/minus stats in the regular season and playoffs – he was 4th among draft eligible players in the regular season, Millman’s defensive game is a work in progress, but, as basically an OHL Rookie, he did fine.

Millman’s ability to use his hockey smarts defensively is a big help. He understands his first responsibility as a defender is to look after his own zone, and he usually finds himself in the right position to defend. His skating, especially his lateral movement allows him to angle off opponents extremely well. He keeps his gaps close and has a decent reach, but would like to see a more active stick. I would also like to see him take the body more. He has the size, but the frame isn’t quite there yet.

Millman can move the puck out of the d-zone and into transition. He can skate it out of the zone but you are more likely to see him move the puck with stellar passing abilities. He picks his spots on when to jump into the play but has shown to be effective in transition.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Storm’s Nick Suzuki Named OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki of the Guelph Storm is the 2018-19 recipient of the William Hanley Trophy awarded to the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year.

Suzuki earns the award for a record third straight season after finishing 11th in league scoring by compiling 94 points including 34 goals and 60 assists along with a plus-minus rating of plus-40 in 59 games played.  He recorded just 12 penalty minutes in 2018-19 which was lowest among the league’s top-14 point producers and third fewest among the league’s top-35.

“It is a huge honour to be chosen as the Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year,” says Suzuki. “To be named for the third straight year is unbelievable to me and I wouldn’t be in this position without the support of all my family and teammates.”

A 19-year-old from London, Ont., Suzuki joined the Storm in January acquired by trade from the Owen Sound Attack after representing Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.  His regular season totals in Guelph included 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 points in just 29 games with only eight minutes in penalties, bringing his four-year career figures to an impressive 328 points in 251 games with 141 goals, 187 assists, and 44 penalty minutes.  This season Suzuki was recognized in the OHL Western Conference Coaches Poll winning the Smartest Player vote, finishing second in the Best Shot category, and was picked third Best Stickhandler.  A first round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Suzuki was acquired by the Canadiens in September, 2018, as part of a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights.

“What an outstanding achievement for Nick to be recognized for three consecutive seasons as the most sportsmanlike player in the league,” said Storm General Manager and Head Coach George Burnett. “He has contributed in so many different ways to our club since coming to Guelph in early January. His results on the ice speak for themselves and his calm demeanour and outstanding leadership have provided terrific support to our group throughout our regular season and current playoff run.”

The William Hanley Trophy is awarded each year based on a selection by the 20 General Managers of the Ontario Hockey League.  All 20 teams submit a nominee but are not permitted to vote for their own candidate with players receiving five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.  The trophy is presented by the OHL to commemorate William Hanley, former Secretary-Manager of the Ontario Hockey Association for over 25 years.

Suzuki led the process with 56 voting points, just ahead of Joseph Garreffa of the Kitchener Rangers who finished in second place with 52 voting points, and Ryan McGregor of the Sarnia Sting who finished in third place with 36 voting points.  Suzuki’s younger brother, Ryan, was also among the six finalists for the award representing the Barrie Colts.

Since the award was first presented in 1961 only three other players have won the award twice including Dale McCourt (Hamilton 1976 and St. Catharines 1977), Sean Simpson (Ottawa 1979 and 1980), and Brad Boyes (Erie 2001 and 2002).  Suzuki is the second member of the Storm to be recognized following Jeff Williams in 1995-96, while Kirk Muller was the 1982-83 winner as a member of the Guelph Platers.  Current NHL talents such as Jeff Carter (Sault Ste. Marie 2005), Ryan Spooner (Peterborough 2010), Brandon Saad (Saginaw 2012), Connor McDavid (Erie 2014), Dylan Strome (Erie 2015), and Mike Amadio (North Bay 2016) are among the most recent winners.

Suzuki will be formally presented with the William Hanley Trophy at the 2018-19 OHL Awards Ceremony set for Wednesday June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  He will be the OHL’s nominee for CHL Sportsman of the Year, an honour he received in 2017, to be presented in Halifax on May 25 as part of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.

67’s Andre Tourigny Named OHL Coach of the Year

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Andre Tourigny of the Ottawa 67’s is the 2018-19 recipient of the Matt Leyden Trophy awarded annually to the OHL’s Coach of the Year.

With Tourigny behind the bench the 2018-19 67’s set a new franchise record with 106 points to claim their fourth Hamilton Spectator Trophy as the OHL’s first place team.  They tied the franchise record of 50 wins set in 1983-84 with the league’s stingiest defence, one that surrendered just 183 goals.  The 67’s won a league-high 29 games on home ice including a string of 14 straight from December 28 to March 3. The 29 home wins are also the most by the club since 1982-83.

“It’s a tremendous honour that I share with all of our coaches (Mario, Norm, Charles, Derek, Evan, Kyle, Sean, Gordon, Marc, and Andrew) and our players,” Tourigny said. “I believe it reflects upon the environment our team provides to our players. Thanks to our owners, along with management staff James and Jan, we have the opportunity to work in a fantastic environment.”

Tourigny joined the 67’s as Head Coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations prior to the franchise’s 50th anniversary season in 2017-18.  The 44-year-old Nicolet, Quebec, native became the ninth coach in 67’s history with an impressive track record behind the bench primarily in the QMJHL where his career began as an Assistant Coach with the Shawinigan Cataractes in 1998.  He joined the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies as Head Coach and General Manager in 2002 where he spent 11 seasons and set a QMJHL record for most games coached with one franchise at 693 and earned Coach of the Year honours in 2005-06.  He moved up to the NHL ranks and spent two seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Colorado Avalanche from 2013-15, then one season with the Ottawa Senators in 2015-16.  He returned to the QMJHL for one season as Head Coach of the Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17 before returning to the nation’s capital.

“Andre’s caring approach and tireless work ethic have resulted in every player on our team taking positive steps forward this season both on and off the ice,” said 67’s General Manager James Boyd. “Andre’s leadership and collaborative spirit have had a positive effect throughout our organization and for these reasons he is most deserving of the OHL Coach of the Year award.”

The Matt Leyden Trophy has been awarded annually to the OHL’s Coach of the Year as selected by his peers since 1972.  The award is in recognition of the contributions of Matt Leyden, past President of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1965-67, and former manager of the Oshawa Generals who spent more than 50 years with the team.

In a first round of balloting, teams vote for the top coaches within their own conference. The top three nominees from both the Eastern and Western conferences are declared finalists. A second round of voting is then conducted on a league wide basis where teams vote for any of the six finalists. At no time during the voting can a team select their own candidate. Coaches receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.

Tourigny led the voting process with 71 out of a possible 95 points ahead of runner-up Cory Stillman of the Sudbury Wolves who received 26 voting points, and Dale Hunter of the London Knights who finished in third place with 24 voting points.

He becomes the first 67’s recipient since the legendary Brian Kilrea who holds the league record with five Coach of the Year honours winning in 1981, 1982, 1996, 1997, and 2003.  Kilrea is one of 10 coaches who have won the award multiple times along with Bert Templeton, Terry Crisp, George Burnett, Craig Hartsburg, Peter DeBoer, Gary Agnew, Bob Boughner, Dale Hunter, and Mike Vellucci.  The five most recent recipients include Drew Bannister of the Soo Greyhounds in 2018, Ryan McGill of the Owen Sound Attack in 2017, Kris Knoblauch of the Erie Otters in 2016, Sheldon Keefe of the Soo Greyhounds in 2015, and D.J Smith of the Oshawa Generals in 2014.

The Matt Leyden Trophy will be formally presented to Tourigny at the 2018-19 OHL Awards Ceremony taking place on Wednesday June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  He will be the OHL’s nominee for Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year to be announced on Saturday May 25 in Halifax as part of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.

Storm’s Dmitri Samorukov named OHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Edmonton Oilers prospect Dmitri Samorukov of the Guelph Storm is the OHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week for the playoff week ending April 28 with eight points in four games including four goals and four assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-5.

Samorukov delivered a first star performance when the Storm needed it most facing elimination on the road in Game 5 of the Western Conference Championship Series.  The defenceman scored his first career hat-trick and added an assist in the 4-0 victory on Friday night to push the series to Game 6 on Sunday where he contributed two assists in the 5-1 victory.  He also chipped in an assist in Game 3 of the series won 5-2 by the Storm last Monday, and scored a goal despite the 4-1 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday.  The series now comes down to Game 7 for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy on Monday night in Saginaw with the winner advancing to the Rogers OHL Championship Series against the Ottawa 67’s.

A 19-year-old from Volgograd, Russia, Samorukov is eighth in OHL playoff scoring with 20 points in 17 games accumulating eight goals and 12 assists.  He’s played three full seasons with the Storm since being chosen second overall in the 2016 CHL Import Draft.  This season was his most productive offensively with 45 points in 59 games scoring 10 goals with 35 assists while also winning bronze with Russia at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.  Samorukov was selected by the Oilers in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Watch video highlights of Samorukov and the Storm against the Spirit in Game 3, Game 4, Game 5, and Game 6.

Also considered for the award this week was Storm forward Nick Suzuki, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, who also produced eight points in four games including one goal with seven assists.  Dallas Stars prospect Tye Felhaber helped deliver an Eastern Conference title for the Ottawa 67’s with two goals in Game 4 against the Oshawa Generals scoring the game-tying marker and overtime winner to secure the Bobby Orr Trophy.  In goal, Anthony Popovich of the Storm played to a 3-1 record including a shutout victory making 80 saves in total for a goals-against-average of 1.77 and save percentage of .920.

2018-19 OHL ‘On the Run’ Players of the Week – Playoffs:
Apr. 22 – Apr. 28: Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm)
Apr. 15 – Apr. 21: Marco Rossi (Ottawa 67’s)
Apr. 8 – Apr. 14: Kyle Keyser (Oshawa Generals)
Apr. 1 – Apr. 7: Tye Felhaber (Ottawa 67’s)
Mar. 25 – Mar. 31: Stephen Dhillon (Niagara IceDogs)
Mar. 18 – Mar. 24: Evan Bouchard (London Knights)

2018-19 OHL ‘On the Run’ Players of the Week – Regular Season:

Mar. 11 – Mar. 17: Jason Robertson (Niagara IceDogs)
Mar. 4 – Mar. 10: Greg Meireles (Kitchener Rangers)
Feb. 25 – Mar. 3: Nate Schnarr (Guelph Storm)
Feb. 18 – Feb. 24: Stephen Dhillon (Niagara IceDogs)
Feb. 11 – Feb. 17: Nando Eggenberger (Oshawa Generals)
Feb. 4 – Feb. 10: Jacob Ingham (Mississauga Steelheads)
Jan. 28 – Feb. 3: Riley Damiani (Kitchener Rangers)
Jan. 21 – Jan. 27: Liam Foudy (London Knights)
Jan. 14 – Jan. 20: Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Jan. 7 – Jan. 13: Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm)
Dec. 31 – Jan. 6: Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs)
Dec. 24 – Dec. 30: Kyle Maksimovich (Erie Otters)
Dec. 10 – Dec. 16: Andrew MacLean (Owen Sound Attack)
Dec. 3 – Dec. 9: Brett Neumann (Kingston Frontenacs)
Nov. 26 – Dec. 2: Jason Robertson (Niagara IceDogs)
Nov. 19 – Nov. 25: Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Nov. 12 – Nov. 18: Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads)
Nov. 5 – Nov. 11: Jason Robertson (Kingston Frontenacs)
Oct. 29 – Nov. 4: Kevin Hancock (Owen Sound Attack)
Oct. 22 – Oct. 28: Stephen Dhillon (Niagara IceDogs)
Oct. 15 – Oct. 21: Justin Brazeau (North Bay Battalion)
Oct. 8 – Oct. 14: Damien Giroux (Saginaw Spirit)
Oct. 1 – Oct. 7: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sudbury Wolves)
Sept. 24 – Sept. 30: Lucas Chiodo (Barrie Colts)
Sept. 19 – Sept. 23: Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs)

 

Zachary Uens – Wellington Dukes – Player Profile

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 180 pounds

Date of birth: May 13, 2001

Hometown: Belleville, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 4, 76th overall, 2017 Priority Selection by the Flint Firebirds

NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season, November: C Prospect. Mid-term: 138th North America

Belleville, Ontario native and Wellington Dukes defender Zachary Uens is committed to Merrimack College beginning with the 2019-2020 season.

Prior to completing two seasons with the Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Uens played his Minor Midget AAA with the Quinte Red Devils. In 35 games, Uens scored 7 goals and assisted on 22 others during the 2016-2017 season. He would also play in the OHL Cup with the Red Devils and represent Team OMHA at the OHL Gold Cup. He would join the Dukes for two games before joining the club full time the following season.

Zach Uens
Zach Uens of the Wellington Dukes. Photo by Abhinav Nirula / OJHL Images

Uens’ first season in the OJHL is one he will probably always remember. In 54 games he scored 5 goals and assisted on 18 others. He was named to the OJHL’s second all-prospects squad. The Dukes won the OJHL Championship (Buckland Cup) during his rookie season and the squad went on to win the Dudley-Hewitt Cup and represented Central Canada at the RBC Cup to determine Canada’s top Junior A team.

At the RBC Cup, Uens and the Dukes lost a heartbreaker to the Chilliwack Chiefs by a score of 4-2. During the 25-game playoff run Uens scored 2 goals and 4 assists.

This season Uens was named to the OJHL first all-prospect team after scoring 6 goals and 16 assists while appearing in just 34 games. His points per game would put him in the top 5 among OJHL defenders. He would add 2 goals and 8 helpers in 22 playoff games.

Uens isn’t a flashy player that brings fans out of their seats. Instead, he goes quietly about his business and rarely gets caught making a bad decision. Uens is a very smooth skater with some deceptive quickness in his feet. Defensively, he understands the importance of keeping gaps tight and is swiftness moving east-west as well as north-south allows him to do so. He angles people off extremely well and has decent size and doesn’t shy away from physicality.

Uens is quick to retrieve pucks and isn’t shy about skating out of the zone and transitioning to offence. His ability to make long, accurate stretch passes is off the charts and one of the better parts of his game. When in transition Uens is more then willing to jump into the play. But he plays it safe and won’t take many risks.

Offensively, Uens walks the line very well and can “wait it out” for a seam to open up. And with his vision and passing skills, he finds those lanes.

Like fellow OJHL defender a year ago, Dustyn McFaul, Uens is a project that will spend a few years in the NCAA. For an NHL team with a lot of depth on the blue line that can wait the 4 years maximum in the NCAA and then another year in the American Hockey League, Uens could be a good late round find.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Liam Ross – Sudbury Wolves – Player Profile

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 197 pounds

Date of birth: May 13, 2001

Hometown: Markham, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 4, 63rd overall, 2017 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season, November: C Prospect. Mid-term: 183 NA Skaters

Sudbury Wolves blueliner Liam Ross played his Minor Midget AAA hockey with the Mississauga Reps during the 2016-2017 season notching 4 goals and 8 helpers while appearing in 32 games. He added a goal in 8 games at the OHL Cup as the Reps went on to win the Championship. The Wolves would select Ross in the 4th round, 63rd overall at the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.

Liam Ross of the Sudbury Wolves. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Liam Ross of the Sudbury Wolves. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Ross would enter his rookie season with the Wolves a year ago and play in all but 8 games. He scored 4 goals and assisted on 5 others in those 60 contests. He upped his offensive output this season with 7 goals and 22 assists while appearing in all 68 games. He added a helper in the Playoffs, as the Wolves were eliminated in the second round.

Ross is an intelligent two-way defender whose defensive game is already ahead of the development curve expected at this stage. However, his upside is directly linked to just how high his offensive abilities can take him.

The general consensus is that Ross’ skating is just average. He has a short stride that prevents him from generating a quick first step. That quickness is lacking moving east-west as well.

That said, Ross makes up for any skating deficiencies with high level hockey IQ. Defensively, he keeps his gaps close and uses a long reach and active stick to break up plays. He angles opponents off extremely well but adding more physicality to his game would make him even more effective. He needs to become quicker in his puck retrieval and skating out of his own zone, but he does make a very good pass to transition to offense.

Offensively, Ross will take some chances. He won’t always take risks, but is adept at knowing when to pinch and has some success when doing so. His vision is very good and he identifies them quickly and is able to deliver a perfect pass. He possesses a deceptively heavy shot from the point and is able to get it through traffic and on target more often then not.

I’ve said it before and it is worth repeating when discussing Ross: I’m not worried about skating as I was just a few short years ago. There are so many quality skating coaches out there and the list of players who have improved their skating is a long one.

As long as the player has a willingness to put the work in, it shouldn’t be a problem. There’s nothing seen from Ross that suggests he wouldn’t put in the effort.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Kyle Keyser: The Future Has Arrived

Kyle Keyser grew up in the heat of the Florida sun, but once between the pipes its ice water running through his veins. Coming from Cold Springs, Keyser had to work twice as hard as the kid from Michigan or Ontario just to get noticed.

The opportunity to strap on the pads for Victory Honda Under-16 AAA squad in Plymouth, Michigan was just what the Doctor ordered. The squad boasts alumni such as Alex DeBrincat and Ian Cole. During the 2014-2015 season, Keyser posted a sparkling 2.27 goals-against-average and a .916 save-percentage. Those numbers were even more impressive in the playoffs with a 1.38 goals-against-average and .942 save-percentage.

And, oh yeah, he even got in a game with the Under-18 squad and you guessed it, he shut out the opposition.

Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Prior to the 2015 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, Oshawa Generals General Manager Roger Hunt made no secret about the fact his Generals were targeting Keyser. But before he could make his selection in the fourth round, the Flint Firebirds pounced and selected Keyser with the 74th overall pick, 4 spots ahead of the Generals next pick.

Keyser would make the Firebirds’ squad straight out of camp, but to call that first season tumultuous would be an understatement. There were some issues surrounding the Firebirds squad that led to a five-year suspension on their owner, we won’t re-hash here, but they are well documented. Still, Keyser posted a 4.37 goals-against-average and a .880 save-percentage. And yes, all things considered, those are respectable numbers.

As the 2016-2017 season approached and a cloud hanging over the Firebirds, Keyser decided to ask for a trade. We know that there are those that frown upon a player asking for a trade. Yet, a player has to do what is best for them, especially at that stage of their career. And Keyser is as smart off the ice as he is on the ice as evidenced by his winning the Ivan Tennant Award as the League’s top High School Academic Player

It should come as no surprise that the first person come calling was Roger Hunt and the Generals. Hunt sent the Firebirds their own second round pick in the 2017 Draft back in return for Keyser.

Keyser’s acquisition wasn’t supposed to have an immediate impact with the Generals – It was an acquisition for the future as the Generals were preparing to launch a bid to host the 2018 Memorial Cup. Jeremy Brodeur (yes that’s Marty’s son) was the incumbent number one goaltender in his overage year. Logan Gauthier was penciled in as his backup. But a preseason injury to Gauthier opened the door for Keyser, and as they say, the rest is history.

That 2016-2017 season was Keyser’s draft year. He posted a 3.40 goals-against-average and .891 save-percentage. But as always the case, it was the playoffs that gave proof that Keyser rises up in the big games and is the definition of a money-goaltender.

In our rankings here at OHL Writers, we had Keyser ranked third among OHL Goaltenders (behind Michael DiPietro and Matthew Villalta) for that 2017 Draft. NHL Central Scouting saw it fit to rank him 11th in their final rankings, but we felt confident he was easily a top 10 prospect.

But on June 23-24, 2017 at the United Center in Chicago, Kyle Keyser’s name wasn’t called.

On October 3, 2017 Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney came calling and signed Keyser to a three-year Entry-Level Contract. Under the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, undrafted players can be signed as free agents before the NHL season begins.

The Bruins, who drafted Keyser’s teammate Jack Studnicka in the second round at that same draft, had kept eyes on Studnicka throughout the season and it is evident they saw enough of Keyser to swoop in and sign him to his contract before anyone else stepped up to the plate.

Before entering the 2017-2018 season, Keyser would attend the Bruins Development camp and he did not disappoint the Bruins brass, nor their fans. Keyser would go on that season to post a 3.16 goals-against-average and .904 save-percentage.

But it was a move the Bruins made after his OHL season ended that caught many a Bruins fans by surprise.

The Bruins brought Keyser up to the NHL as their third goaltender during their two round playoff run in 2018 and the learning experience he gained from that can’t be overstated. Keyser credited Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin for not only being helpful in helping him with any on ice questions and thoughts, but also how to act off the ice. This article by Matt Kalman goes into great detail on his time with the Big Bruins.

That was a move I expected the Bruins to repeat once again this playoff run:

 

 

But as Providence Bruins guru Mark Divver tweeted, there could be injuries at play effecting the decision making

 

 

The season that just ended saw Keyser take his game to another level. He appeared in 47 regular season games and posted a 2.75 goals-against-average and .915 save-percentage and was often found on the OHL highlights for the Jane’s Saves of the Week.

It was during the playoffs where Keyser stood on his head knocking out rivals Peterborough and Niagara (who were the overwhelming favorites). By the time the third round had begun, Keyser had the best save-percentage of any starter on over 25 years.

It was going to take a miracle to get past top ranked Ottawa in the Conference Finals and Kyle Keyser was the best chance the Generals had to take even one game in this series. And he gave them just that – a chance. The Generals were outshot 163 to 99 in the series and when you are facing 40 shots a night, well, you get the picture.

His ability to steal a game was no more evident then in game 4 of the series against Ottawa. The 67’s outshot Oshawa 44 – 22 and held a 1-0 lead going into the third period. The Ottawa barrage came in the third where they fired 19 shots on goal. With 34 seconds remaining and Ottawa on the powerplay and DiPietro on the bench for an extra attacker, Ottawa would tie the game and send it into overtime. But you can’t stop them all. And the 67’s would win the game 20 seconds into overtime.

No one was more heartbroken then Kyle Keyser. He should hold his head up high. He did more then could be expected and we believe the are great things ahead for him as he turns professional.

The accolades Keyser received from the OHL hockey minds were there as well. In the OHL’s Coaches Poll, where they only vote on two categories for goaltenders, Keyser was picked as the best puck-handling goaltenders in the Eastern Conference after finishing second last year and he finished second for the second straight year as the best shootout goaltender.

Today, OHL General Managers voted him second as Goaltender of the Year behind Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

Finally, we have to bring up the World Junior Championships. I was adamant in my belief that Keyser should be the starter for the Americans, and he rightfully earned the opportunity to start the tournament. He appeared in two games for Team USA but lost the crease to Cayden Primeau. But it wasn’t because of his performance. Keyser was dealing with an illness leading up to game three and he never took to the crease again.

So, what can the fans of the Providence Bruins, and eventually the Boston Bruins look forward too?

Well, you are going to be hard pressed to find a more competitive netminder at this level and one that puts the necessary work in to become all that he can be. I know the Keyser family is extremely grateful for the opportunity the Bruins gave Keyser, and his “I won’t let you down mentality” combined with his competitiveness and work ethic will make him a force to contend with.

Kyser is an athletic netminder with superb lateral movement and quickness to go post-to-post. He darts out to the top of the paint quickly to take away the net. His angles and ability to direct shots out of the danger zones are very good. His glove is also very good and he is superb with his blocker – with an uncanny ability to “punch” the puck to a teammates tape all the way out to the blue line.

At 6’2” Keyser has good size. He tracks the pucks extremely well and if he can’t see over a screen, is able to track it looking around the screen. When the puck is below the goal line, his head is constantly always on a swivel, knowing where not only where the opposition is at all times, but where his teammates are as well so that if he has the opportunity to put the puck in a place for his teammates to retrieve it, he knows where they are.

When it comes to goaltenders, proper development and sufficient time to develop are keys. I for one am in favor a lot of times with a goaltender spending a year in the ECHL before going to the AHL for further development. In the ECHL Keyser would get more starts and face more pucks and still receive the coaching from the Bruins goaltending coaches.

But the Bruins are in a position where they are going to have to make some decisions. They are set at the NHL for at least another year with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. But the situation in Providence is a little different. They’ll have to make a decision on Zane McIntyre who will become a Group 6 unrestricted free agent on July 1. There is also Daniel Vladar in Providence and if McIntyre is brought back, those two will battle it out for ice time. That means Atlanta (if the Bruins extend their affiliation with them) might be a spot for Keyser. Or they could loan him to another AHL team much like the St Louis Blues loaned Jordan Binnington to Providence a year ago.

I have no doubt the Bruins will make the right decision for everyone involved.

 

Wolves’ Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen Named OHL Goaltender of the Year

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Sudbury Wolves is the 2018-19 recipient of the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year award.

Luukkonen becomes the first member of the Wolves to earn the award after tying for the league lead with 38 wins and six shutouts, while posting the OHL’s third best goals-against-average with a mark of 2.50 and the best save percentage at .920.  His GAA, SV%, and shutout total established new franchise records backstopping the Wolves to their most successful season since 1994-95.

“I am very honoured to be named OHL Goaltender of the Year,” Luukkonen said. “I want to thank my teammates and all of the Wolves fans who stood behind us the whole year. I also want to thank our owner Dario Zulich and our General Manager Rob Papineau for taking a chance with me, and drafting me in the Import Draft and for creating an amazing environment for all our players to play in. To Coach Cory Stillman, Goalie Coach Alain Valiquette, Athletic Therapist Dan Buckland and the rest of the Sudbury Wolves organization, I want to say thank you for pushing me and believing in me. I am also very thankful for my billets Tammy and John Valtonen this season who gave me a second home.”

A 20-year-old from Espoo, Finland, Luukkonen joined the Wolves as the third overall pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft.  He played to an overall record of 38-11-2-2 helping the Wolves finish second in the Central Division standings with 43 wins and 91 points.  He began his OHL career with five consecutive wins and produced impressive streaks of 11 and eight throughout the 2018-19 campaign.  His 38 wins are the second most in a single season in franchise history behind only Jim Bedard who won 40 games in 1975-76.  Luukkonen was also recognized in the annual OHL Coaches Poll tying for Best Puck Handling Goalie and winning the Best Shootout Goalie in the Eastern Conference vote.  The second round pick by the Sabres in the 2017 NHL Draft represented his country on the international stage winning gold at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and following the Wolves playoff run made his professional debut on April 14 making 32 saves in a victory for the AHL’s Rochester Americans.

“We are extremely proud and happy for Ukko on winning this award,” said Wolves General Manager Rob Papineau. “We knew when we drafted Ukko that we were drafting a great goaltender. It quickly became very obvious that he was also an outstanding teammate and individual who is an amazing leader. His character is as great as his ability to stop pucks. The impact he has had on our players and our organization on what it takes to be the best and to be a pro will remain with our team for years into the future. His dedication, his focus, and his preparation both on and off the ice are second to none.  His support of the community of Greater Sudbury and the significant Greater Sudbury Finnish population as well as the time he made available for young fans was remarkable. We thank Ukko for his time in Sudbury and we wish him tremendous continued success with the Buffalo Sabres and throughout his entire career.”

The OHL Goaltender of the Year is awarded to the league’s most outstanding goaltender as selected by OHL General Managers.  Teams were not permitted to vote for a goaltender from their own hockey club.  Goaltenders received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.

Luukkonen was the unanimous choice by OHL General Managers receiving the maximum 95 points in the voting process representing 19 first ballot selections.  Boston Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals finished in second place with 44 voting points, followed by Arizona Coyotes prospect Ivan Prosvetov of the Saginaw Spirit with 19 voting points.

The award was first presented in 1987-88 to Rick Tabaracci (Cornwall) with other notable winners including Manny Legace (Niagara Falls 1993), Craig Anderson (Guelph 2001), Steve Mason (London 2007), the league’s only back-to-back winner Mike Murphy (Belleville 2008 and 2009), Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound 2013), Alex Nedeljkovic (Plymouth 2014), Lucas Peressini (Kingston 2015), Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie 2016), Michael McNiven (Owen Sound 2017), and Michael DiPietro (Windsor 2018).

Luukkonen will be formally presented with the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award on June 5 at the OHL Awards Ceremony held at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  He is also the OHL’s nominee for CHL Goaltender of the Year to be announced on Saturday May 25 in Halifax at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.

 

Knights’ Evan Bouchard Named OHL Defenceman of the Year

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Edmonton Oilers prospect Evan Bouchard of the London Knights is the 2018-19 recipient of the Max Kaminsky Trophy awarded annually to the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman of the Year.

Bouchard recorded 53 points in just 45 games scoring 16 goals and 37 assists while carrying a plus-28 rating.  His 1.18 points-per-game mark was the second highest in the OHL this season and he was the only defenceman in the league to average more than four shots on goal per game.

Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Evan Bouchard of the London Knights. Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

“I am very honoured to be named defenceman of the year,” said Bouchard. “With the quality of players throughout this talented league, this is an achievement that I am incredibly proud of. I would like to credit my teammates, coaching staff, family, and fans for this award. Each member within the London Knights organization was instrumental to my success both on and off the ice and I would like to thank each and every person who helped me along the way.”

A 19-year-old from Oakville, Ont., Bouchard played four full seasons with the Knights after joining the club as a first round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.  He helped the team capture an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup title as a rookie and went on to play 223 career games for the green and gold.  He amassed 54 goals and 147 assists for 201 points during his London tenure which ranks second all-time among points by a Knights defenceman behind Rick Corriveau who produced 251 in 206 games between 1987-92.  Bouchard was named Knights captain in January, 2018, and later selected tenth overall by the Oilers in the 2018 NHL Draft.  He began the season in Edmonton where he played seven NHL games returning in time to represent Team OHL at the CIBC Canada Russia Series and Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.  Bouchard is currently with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors where he scored a goal and two assists in his playoff debut on Tuesday.

“We are incredibly proud of Evan for his accomplishment, not just this year, but throughout his entire London Knights career,” said London Knights General Manager, Mark Hunter. “Evan was a tremendous leader and representative of our organization. We watched Evan mature from his time coming in to this league as an enthusiastic 16-year-old rookie, to leaving as a seasoned professional. We’d like to thank Evan for his time in London and wish him the best in his hockey career.”

The Max Kaminsky Trophy is awarded each year to the Most Outstanding Defenceman as selected by OHL General Managers.  All 20 clubs submitted a nominee but were not permitted to vote for their own player.  The first round of voting was conducted by conference only with the top three selections from the West and East advancing to form the final ballot.  Players received five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote.

Bouchard, who was a runner-up to Nicolas Hague of the Mississauga Steelheads one year ago, received 59 points in the final voting process this season.  Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mac Hollowell of the Soo Greyhounds finished second with 53 voting points, and New York Islanders prospect Bode Wilde of the Saginaw Spirit finished in third place with 46 voting points.

The award is named in recognition of Max Kaminsky, who enjoyed a 10-year professional playing career that included four years in the NHL with Ottawa, Boston, and Montreal.  After he retired from playing, Kaminsky enjoyed a 15-year coaching career that was capped by winning the Memorial Cup with the St. Catharines Teepees in 1960.

Bouchard becomes the first Knight to win the Max Kaminsky Trophy since Danny Syvret in 2004-05 marking the sixth time a member of the organization has received the honour.  That list also includes John Erskine in 1999-2000, Bob Halkidis in 1984-85, co-recipients Brad Marsh and Rob Ramage in 1977-78, and Rick Green in 1975-76.  Past winners of the award also include current NHL talents in Andrej Sekera (Owen Sound 2006), Marc Staal (Sudbury 2007), Drew Doughty (Guelph 2008), Ryan Ellis (Windsor 2009 and 2011), Jacob Muzzin (Sault Ste. Marie 2010), Dougie Hamilton (Niagara 2012), Aaron Ekblad (Barrie 2014), Anthony DeAngelo (Sault Ste. Marie 2015), and Mikhail Sergachev (Windsor 2016).

Bouchard will be formally presented with the Max Kaminsky Trophy at the OHL Awards Ceremony which takes place June 5 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  He will also be the OHL’s nominee for CHL Defenceman of the Year to be announced on May 25 at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia which takes place in Halifax.