Monday, August 31, 2009

2009-10 Season Preview - Eastern Conference

With the preseason under way, training camps wrapping up, and rosters being finalized, I feel that it's the perfect time to take a look at the 2009-10 OHL season. Obviously, because the season is still over two weeks away from getting started, their is still potential for change via trade, returning overagers, etc. However, I do think that I've got a pretty good handle on what every team is going to bring to the table this season.

As such, over the next three days I'll be releasing my season preview for the 2009-10 season. Today I'll take a look at the Eastern Conference, with standings predictions. Tomorrow will see the Western Conference revealed, while Wednesday will be awards and individual player predictions.

Here is your 2009-10 Eastern Conference Preview

1. Barrie Colts
Make no mistake; the Barrie Colts will be a team to be reckoned with this season. Last year this team finished near the bottom of the league in goals scored. This year, they should be near the top. The Colts could very well have the deepest group of forwards in the entire OHL, with only the Windsor Spitfires in the same class. They have 9 guys with 20 goal potential and can roll three legitimate scoring lines. Of particular interest are the additions of Luke Pither and Euro Import Alex Burmistrov. These two are likely to be the first and second line centers around a collection of skilled and tough wingers. The Colts could still use a solid right handed shot and thus the rumours of Bryan Cameron heading to Barrie. If Cameron joins this line-up, it could make them even more dangerous. Defensively, this team will be lead by veteran Ryan Gottschalk and second year offensive defenceman Ryan O’Connor. The team recently added Rangers Import cast off Simon Gronvaldt in hopes of increasing the amount of offense coming from the back end. All truth be told, the team could still use some help defensively and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them add another quality piece. In goal, the team dealt Michael Hutchinson to London, deciding to go with Peter Di Salvo instead. Di Salvo is a young goaltender with room for improvement and he should be able to cement himself as a legitimate number one in this league. Watch out for Dalton McGrath to steal some time from Di Salvo, as he was tremendous in Junior A last season. With the talent this team has offensively and Di Salvo in net, I just can’t see them finishing outside the top 4 of the Conference.

2. Peterborough Petes
Who wins the East Division? That is a question that I see 5 answers to. I think any team in that Division could take steps forward to win the Division and subsequently second in the Conference. Why Peterborough? I think they underachieved last season and had a better team on paper than they showed. The season’s success is definitely dependent on the goaltending of Jason Missiaen. The towering Habs draft pick has been an enigma thus far in his OHL career. Dazzling one night, a sieve the next. I think this is the year he figures it out, especially in front of the best defence he’s played behind. Barron Smith, Jeff Braithwaite, and Adam Sedlak make up three quarters of this improving blueline. The top 4 will be lead by the vastly underrated Jamie Doornbosch who should begin to make a name for himself, as long as he can continue to improve defensively. At forward, the team has the chance to roll three solid lines, mixing leadership from Zach Kassian, Pat Daley, and Brett Theberge, with the young vigor of the likes of Ryan Spooner, David Quesnele, Euro Jiri Sekac, and first rounder Matt Puempel. With the Division so wide open, I like Peterborough’s chances because I feel that they have the deepest overall roster of anyone in the division and the largest potential for their youngsters to breakout.

3. Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Choosing a winner in the East Division was very tough for me. I think that Barrie, Mississauga, and Sudbury all have a chance at taking it. Mississauga is an interesting team. At forward, the leadership they had last year is gone in Jesse Messier, Kaspers Daugavins, Jared Gomes and likely Michael Pelech. In losing so many veterans, it’s hard to believe that the Majors could actually improve. However, they have the youngsters to fill in the gaps. It all starts with a highly motivated Casey Cizikas who’ll be looking to become the offensive leader of this team. The addition of former Sarnia winger Gregg Sutch could also be huge, as the young forward has a ton of potential. The likes of Devante Smith-Pelly, William Wallen, Jordan Mayer, Corey Bureau, and Riley Brace should also improve and make this team a highly energetic juggernaut. If Pelech returns, it would make them that much better. Defensively, this team could be one of the best in the East, led by possible OHL defender of the year Cameron Gaunce. The OHL All Star will return for his likely final season in the OHL and should continue to be a dominant two way force on the blueline. He’s joined by underrated overager Blake Parlett and the likely improving Brett Flemming. If Coyotes draft pick Tim Billingsley can return to the form he had two seasons ago, this top 4 could be outstanding. In goal, the Majors will go with the J.P. Anderson/Chris Carrozzi platoon that worked so well last year. Anderson is a future star in this league and will look to continue the form he showed in the 2009 playoffs. Coach Dave Cameron should be able to return this team back to home ice advantage in the East, as long as the younger players on the roster take their expected steps forward.

4. Sudbury Wolves
I’m a little bit weary of this 2009-10 Sudbury team. Last year, I had high hopes for the Wolves and expected them to be a top 4 team in the Conference. Needless to say, they vastly underachieved. This year, can they meet my expectations? And are my expectations short changing them? Are the Wolves candidates to win the East? They have excellent high talent. Offensively, they’ll roll two lines who could consider themselves among the best top 6 in the East. Keep an eye out for the newly formed first line of John McFarland, Eric O’Dell and Euro Eddy Leitans-Rinke. This line has apparently been outstanding at camp and could be one of the most dangerous in the league. A hard working second line of John Kurtz, Marcus Foligno, and Jared Staal should be able to take some pressure off, as long as Foligno and Staal can take steps forward offensively. I do worry about the depth of their forward group as a hole though, especially with the unexpected departure of Gerome Giudice to Italy and the no-show of highly touted prospect Steven Beyers. Defensively, the Wolves should be much better than last year. Much of that can be attributed to the drafting of Justin Sefton, and the transfer of Euro Stefan Stepanov, both of whom could be stars in this league and a big part of the Sudbury defence for years to come. In goal, overager Andrew Loverock will man the pipes. Loverock isn’t the best goalie in the league, but he keeps his team in games and is what you’d call a ‘gamer.’ Even with the somewhat unexpected departure of coach Mike Foligno, hopefully this pack of Wolves can come together.

5. Ottawa 67’s
The strength of this year’s 67 showing will no doubt be its defense. Led by the healthy Tyler Cuma, Ottawa could very well have the best defense in the East. If Julien Demers returns (like it appears), he would join Travis Gibbons, first rounder Cody Ceci, and up and comers Marc Zanetti and Brian Birkhoff to form three very solid defense pairings. This is great news for goaltender Chris Perugini, who got left out to dry quite often last season, by an inexperienced and average blueline. My concern lies at forward. If Senators draft pick Corey Cowick returns as an overager, my concerns dissipate, but I have doubts that he does. This leaves three very talented forwards in Tyler Toffoli, Ryan Martindale, and Anthony Nigro, surrounded by a bevy of mediocre OHL forwards and inexperienced youngsters. I think Dalton Smith and Thomas Nesbitt have the potential to contribute as part of a secondary scoring unit; however I also think they’ll need a creative playmaker to help make things happen. This is where the loss of Logan Couture will hurt the most. I worry because this offence ran through Couture last season. When he didn’t play well, the 67’s had a heck of a time creating offensive chances. With the same group of forwards returning, who’s to say they can create without Couture now? Another wildcard lies in how the team responds to not having Brian Kilrea behind the bench. Will this team play as well for Chris Byrne? I’m on the fence about this 67 team. Depending on a few factors, I could see them finishing anywhere from second to out of the playoffs in the East. I just don’t know what to expect.

6. Kingston Frontenacs
The past three seasons, the last place team in the East from the year before has gone on to make the playoffs (Oshawa, Mississauga, Sudbury). Kingston looks to continue that trend. I think they’ve made great strides to do so this offseason. First and foremost, the acquisition of goaltender Tyler Beskorowany was huge. If he can gain more consistency, and fix some fundamental issues, he could be one of the best goaltenders in the OHL. He’s got a lot to prove after losing his job in Owen Sound to Scott Stajcer. He should have a pretty good defence in front of him too. The first pairing of Brian Lashoff and Erik Gudbranson could be one of the best in the entire OHL. Lashoff is very underrated and is coming off a very strong AHL playoff performance to end last season. I think he has a breakout year. A second pairing of Taylor Doherty and Euro Jaroslav Kruzik could also be very strong, if Doherty can finally begin to become the dominant force as was expected of him. At forward, the team needs a strong performance from Nathan Moon. And not another empty 70 point performance either. They need him to step forward and become the leader of this team, putting his questionable attitude aside. Ethan Werek also needs to have a solid year, leading a second scoring unit. Outside of those two, players like Zach Harnden, Colt Kennedy, George Lovatsis, Mitch Lebar, and second overall pick Alan Quine need to step up and produce. I think Dougie Gilmour finally gives this team an identity this season and gets the team to play hard game in and game out. If so, the positive results will follow.

7. Niagara IceDogs
The Dogs will once again be a tough team to play against, especially at home on the small ice. They return all of their key forwards, save the traded Matt Sisca and overager Patrick Lee. But they’ve got the depth to replace them. The Dogs band of undersized forwards, Agozzino, Friesen, and DeSousa are one year older and should look to continue to play a brand of in your face hockey. Euro Import Marco Insam will be returning for another year and he could be a real impact player this season. I also expect the energetic second year players Andrew Shaw and Freddie Hamilton to step into the top 6. While the Dogs don’t have any big name OHL stars up front, they’ve got a solid group of hard working, talented forwards who could really make a name for themselves this year. It’s preventing goals where I could see this team struggling. Thanks to Eric Brewer succumbing to knee surgery, I can’t help but assume Alex Pietrangelo starts the year in St. Louis again. If that’s the case, I can’t see them sending him back yet again. Without Petro, this defensive unit is only average at best, especially with the loss of Drew Schiestel too. Second round pick Dougie Hamilton could prove to be an immediate impact player, however others need to step up too, especially overager Reggie Traccitto. With the defense likely struggling, the Dogs are going to need strong starting goaltending. This is going to have to come from Habs draft selection and Import Petteri Simila. The giant goaltender is a bit of a mystery and could be anywhere from awful to exceptional. With the way this team has played at home so far in its two year existence, I can’t see them missing the playoffs. However, I’m also uncertain as to whether they’ve got enough talent to get higher than the middle of the pack in the Conference.

8. Oshawa Generals
I think the amount of success the Generals achieve this season will be determined by whether overagers Brett Parnham and Kory Nagy return. And since I do expect both to be back, I also expect the Generals could surprise some people this year. Offensively, they’d be led by Parnham, Nagy, and youngsters Christian Thomas, Andy Andreoff, and Boone Jenner. On top of that, newly acquired Imports Alain Berger and Jakub Strnad have apparently been turning heads in camp and could be impact players. Defensively, Calvin de Haan should become one of the best all around defenseman in the league. With him could be the improving Scott Valentine, forming a very dangerous two way defensive pairing. The depth defensively will most likely hold them back from being a top end team, but they do have some talent. In goal, Michael Zador will be looking to prove that he’s a capable number one OHL netminder. The once hyped prospect could definitely turn some heads this year. Overall, the Generals have a pretty solid team. If they get their overagers back, they should be a playoff team. If not, I definitely think one of Brampton or Belleville overtakes them for 8th.

9. Belleville Bulls
The Bulls are definitely re-tooling this year, thanks in part to the losses of six of their top eight scorers (Tangradi, Mashinter, Tanaka, Palmieri, Subban, Pither), and their starting goaltender (Mike Murphy). The remaining two, Bryan Cameron and Shawn Lalonde, are likely trade targets. That leaves a roster filled with guys expected to take a significantly larger role this season. Offensively, the team could actually still be fairly deep. The Bulls have some quality, hard working young talent. The likes of Stephen Johnston, Andy Bathgate, Luke Judson, Matt Tipoff, and Cody Alcock could form some solid scoring depth. Not to mention whoever the Bulls eventually get in return for Cameron and Lalonde. Defensively, Lalonde is still around and in camp, so we have to assume he at least starts the season in Belleville. He’ll be joined by Stephen Silas, who will likely assert himself as one of the top draft eligible defenseman playing in the OHL this year. Rounding out the top 4 will be two stay at home guys in Bjorn Krupp and Marc Cantin. In goal, the duties are likely to be split between Import Phil Grubauer (whom showed glimpses of brilliance last year), and first rounder Tyson Teichmann. The combination of youth at every position, with inexperienced goaltending, could be the kiss of death for the Bulls playoff chances this year. They’ll likely be some long nights in Belleville this year. Adversely, the potential is there for a lot to cheer about too. It’s unknown as to how capable this roster is, with the majority of players taking on larger, new roles. This team could likely play many of the teams in the East pretty hard. While I don’t expect they’ll be anywhere near the top of the Division, Belleville could definitely surprise a lot of people by making a serious push for a lower playoff seed.

10. Brampton Battalion
If it’s going to be a long year in Belleville, it’s going to be even longer in Brampton for the defending Eastern Conference Champions. While all of Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene, and Evgeni Grachev are eligible to return this year, the likelihood is that none will. Grachev and Hodgson were no shows for training camp, suggesting that they are ready to move on, while Duchene has to be considered very likely to make the Colorado Avalanche. Without them, the team is pretty likely to struggle offensively. That leaves Scott Tanski and Thomas Stajan as the veterans returning at forward. They’ll be surrounded by the newly acquired Sean Jones, the youthful Sam Carrick, Phil Lane, and Dominic Alberga, and Import Valeri Knisev. In particular, keep an eye on Phil Lane. Lane recently signed with Brampton after spending last year in Buffalo Junior A, where he was one of the top younger players in the league. His under the radar signing could pay big dividends for the Battalion in the years to come. Defensively, this team will be led by Anaheim second rounder Matt Clark, who’ll have to take on a larger role offensively this year. He’ll be joined by two overagers, Ken Peroff and Brad Albert. Rounding out the top 4 will be the inexperienced Kyle Pereira. While that defense looks half decent on paper, I’d be surprised if it stays together all season. Clark and Peroff could likely fetch a fair amount in trades, should the Battalion look to a full rebuild. In goal, the enigmatic Patrick Killeen will be given the reigns and he’ll have his hands full. I’m not sure if he’s a good enough goalie to make up for the lack of goals the Battalion will score. I truly envision it being a very long season for Brampton. I’m just not sure I see a worse team in the Eastern Conference, perhaps even the OHL.

Thoughts? Your predictions are welcome too!

Stay tuned for tomorrow when the West is unveiled.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Match-ups You've Got to See in 2009-10

Today's OHL Top 10 is aimed at both the casual and obsessed OHL fan. I've outlined 10 match-ups you've truly got to circle on your calendar for the 2009-10 season. Whether it be catching the game on the OHL Action Pack, streamed live on the OHL's website, or heading down to the arena to watch live, I think these games are worth watching.

Obviously it's hard to pick just 10 games to watch this season, partly because the season hasn't even started yet and we don't know the divisional and playoff races yet. However, we can still assume these games should be highly competitive and a treat for the fans.

This list should also give you some hints as to where I see the teams falling in the standings this year. That will be unveiled sometime this week, when I post my season preview and predictions.

For now, enjoy and get out your calendar to circle these dates (in order of date occurring, not perceived entertainment value)!

October 1 - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at Niagara IceDogs
This is the first time of the season that these bitter division rivals will meet. Not only have they been consistent division rivals, but they share a history. Of course, Niagara used to be the Mississauga IceDogs and played out of the Hershey Center in Mississauga. After moving to Niagara, the Hershey Center became occupied by the Majors who moved from downtown Toronto, to Mississauga. Every time these two teams clash, the competition is fierce. Fights are commonplace. If you like good physical, in your face hockey, this match-up is for you. This one is also played in the small ice in Niagara, which only seems to amplify the aggressive nature of the game.

October 8 - London Knights at Windsor Spitfires
This will be the second time these teams meet in the season, however the first one will occur while many of the players on both sides will still be at NHL training camps. This match-up on the 8th will mark the first "true" meeting of these two teams, who battled it out for the Western Conference title last season. This game is also being played in Windsor where many of the returning Knight players should have bad memories of their season ending last year in OT of game five of the Conference Finals.

October 9 - Owen Sound Attack at Kitchener Rangers
With the likes of Jeremy Morin, John Moore, and Brandon Maxwell guaranteed to be back from NHL training camp (unless they make the NHL), the games at the beginning of October mark the true assembly of the 'new and improved' Kitchener Rangers. I, for one, am very curious as to how the team looks this season with all the new players they've brought in (Moore, Morin, Maxwell, Landeskog, Andersson, Murphy). I chose this game on the 9th because it's against a hard working division rival in Owen Sound, and it's at the Aud in Kitchener. A home game against a rival should get the Rangers fired up enough to give us a true taste of what they are capable of this season.

November 1 - Kingston Frontenacs at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This marks the battle of the two worst teams in the OHL last season, both of whom I feel should make the playoffs this season. It's the second time they play each other, however the first comes at the very beginning of the season when players are likely to still be at NHL training camps. This game should be a good test for both teams, as both will likely to try and show the other how much they've improved. Obviously this match up also marks the match-up of the first and second overall picks in the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, Daniel Catenacci and Alan Quine.

December 16 - Brampton Battalion at Belleville Bulls
While it won't be the first time these teams have a re-match of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, it has the potential to be the most entertaining. Firstly, around this time of December, the OHL action can tend to downgrade as the league's best players try to make the Canadian World Junior team. Neither of these teams is likely to have more than one player missing (Clark for Brampton and Lalonde for Belleville, if they are still playing for their current OHL teams), meaning we should get to see a true roster match-up. Secondly, by mid December, we should have a pretty good idea of where these two teams stand in the Eastern Conference. Due to rebuilds, the potential is there for these two to be sitting at the bottom of the East when this match-up occurs. And since nobody likes being last, it could be a fierce game.

January 14 - Barrie Colts at Windsor Spitfires
On paper, this match up marks the battle between the two best offenses in the OHL. The Colts and Spits are stacked at forward, meaning this game could feature some serious high octane offense. Potentially, this match up could also mark the confrontation of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League. I expect the Colts to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference, while the Spits should once again be tops in the West. Could this be a preview of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Final?

February 5 - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at Sudbury Wolves
The last time these two teams meet for the year (barring an all dog OHL final) should be a good one to watch. While the Hounds and Wolves meet several times earlier in the year, I felt this one could be the best at highlighting the reason for my choosing this match-up. This game will mark the face off of the two previous Jack Ferguson Award winners (aka, the two previous first overall picks in the OHL Priority Draft). They are, of course, John McFarland and Daniel Catenacci. By February 5, Catenacci should be feeling more comfortable in the league and playing his best hockey, while McFarland should be showing improvement from the previous season. Both of these teams should also be in the hunt for home ice advantage in their respective conferences, making it a meaningful game for other reasons.

February 11 -Kitchener Rangers at Windsor Spitfires
If all goes according to plan, February 11 could mark the final match up of the regular season between the Division leaders in the Western Conference. At this point, who knows how good the Rangers will be, however if they have improved, this late season match up in Windsor will surely be quite the test. This match-up should also be quite the lure for American hockey fans. Former U.S. Development team members Jeremy Morin, Brandon Maxwell and Cam Fowler will face-off against each other, while other strong U.S. born talent will also be featured like Austin Watson, John Moore, Alex Aleardi, Josh Unice, and Dan Kelly.

February 13 - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at Barrie Colts
While two days prior, the top two teams in the West could meet (see above, Kitchener at Windsor), this date could mark the meeting of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. The only difference being that these two teams are also in the same Division and February 13 could be a big date in the battle for the Central Division. This is especially true because this is the last meeting of the regular season between the Majors and Colts. These two teams have the potential to be so close this season, that one win could separate first in the East from third. That one win could be this game, which means it has to be a must watch for any OHL fan.

March 7 - Kitchener Rangers at Guelph Storm
Much like the February 13th battle between the Majors and Colts, this one on March 7th could have serious Divisional repercussions. The 4th last game of the regular season for both teams, this one could be absolutely huge. I highly anticipate these two teams to be among the cream of the crop in the Midwest Division and on March 7, the division could still be up for grabs. Did I mention that these two cities are separated by just over 16 miles and are consistently bitter rivals regardless of the standings?

That's, those are my 10 games to watch. Any predictions on the outcomes of these games? Any match-ups you feel I've left off? Also, apologies to the teams I didn't name. But you can watch them every other day of the year!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - 2009-10 Teams Edition

We're under a month away from the 2009-10 OHL season starting, so I figured it would be an interesting top 10 to examine the outlook of some teams for the new season. We'll take a look at 10 teams who should see different results this season, either for good or for bad.

I've listed 6 risers and 4 fallers. The risers are teams who should see improvement from the previous season, while the fallers are those who should see a decline of their position in the standings from the previous year. I was originally going to go with five and five, but I just couldn't find another team whom I felt drastically worsened from last year. Meanwhile, I think there are a number of teams who've really improved themselves this offseason. This can only be good for us OHL followers as we should be in store for one heck of a competitive season.

I'm not ranking the top 10 this week. Instead, I have sorted the risers from the fallers, with neither having any particular order. When I eventually come out with my season predictions, the determination of said improvements or declines will become visible.

Here are your 10 movers and shakers!


Kingston Frontenacs
The last place Fronts should definitely improve this season. I know Frontenacs fans are probably tried of hearing that, but I just can't see this team missing the playoffs in 2009-10. In fact, I think they could contend for the wide open East Division. They've added some leadership and grit in Kaine Geldart and Zach Harnden, and a bonafide starting netminder in Tyler Beskorowany. On top of that, they should be able to count on marked improvement from 1991's Colt Kennedy, Mitch Lebar, and NHL 2nd round draft picks, Ethan Werek and Taylor Doherty. Their defense will also include the incredibly underrated Brian Lashoff, and potential top 10 2010 NHL draft pick Erik Gudbranson. Offensively, Nathan Moon is going to have to take them to the next level and put some of his character issues in the rear view mirror. Here's hoping Doug Gilmour can lead this team far into the playoffs, in his first full season as head coach.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
For the worst team in the OHL during the 2009-10 season, improvement this season will be based more upon improvement from their young players, rather than contributions from new additions. That isn't to say that the Hounds didn't add some great talent. NHL second round pick Robin Lehner will be manning the pipes as an import, while first overall OHL priority draft selection Daniel Catenacci should be able to make an immediate impact. While those additions are important, the improvement from the likes of Brock Beukeboom, Brandon Archibald, James Livingston, Bryce O'Hagan, and Michael Fine is more crucial, in my opinion. Livingston especially, needs to take that next step. He's always been a budding power forward and this has to be his year to bloom. The Hounds need him to set the pace and be the example for the younger forwards to follow. While the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won't be catching Windsor for the West Division, they've got a shot to battle Saginaw and Plymouth for second.

Barrie Colts
The Colts have one of the best forward groups on paper in the entire OHL. On top of returning Alex Hutchings, Stefan Della Rovere, Josh Brittain, Kyle Clifford, Darren Archibald, Michael Sgarbossa, and Adam Payerl, the Colts have added import Alexander Burmistrov and former Storm sniper Luke Pither. Not only is that forward group offensively talented, but it's hard working and in your face. The question mark will come in the form of goaltending where Peter Di Salvo will take over full time after the trade of Michael Hutchinson to London. The Colts blueline could also use some improvement, however I'd be surprised if they didn't add another defenceman between now and the start of the season. With the Eastern Conference likely wide open, the Colts are bound to be a legitimate candidate for first.

Kitchener Rangers
The third worst team in the OHL last year, the Rangers have done much this offseason in order to rectify that. The Rangers started by bringing in former U.S. National Under 18 team members Jeremy Morin and Brandon Maxwell. They followed that up by recently signing NHL first rounder John Moore. The signing of those three means a significant improvement at each position for the Rangers. On top of that, the Rangers recently completed a trade that saw Swedish import selection Gabriel Landeskog head to Kitchener. Landeskog is an incredibly talented forward who is considered one of the best players for the 2011 NHL Draft. With four potential impact players entering the picture, it's hard to imagine the Rangers getting worse. Even more so since young roster players Jeff Skinner, Alex Aleardi, and Tyler Randell should improve too. While I'm not convinced the Rangers can make a run at home ice advantage for the playoffs, I think they should be a playoff team rather comfortably.

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
It's hard to consider a team that finished with home ice advantage in the first round of the OHL playoffs last year, as a riser. However, I think they are. As far as I'm concerned, the Majors are the front runners for the Eastern Conference title. They've got a quality group of young forwards who should continue to improve, among them the addition of former Sting stud Gregg Sutch. They've got quality goaltending in young star J.P. Anderson and veteran Chris Carrozzi. And, the Majors have possibly the best defence in the East, anchored by Cameron Gaunce. In this league, depth wins Conferences, and the Majors have that by leaps and bounds.

Owen Sound Attack
While Owen Sound barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, they shouldn't have to squeak in this year. The main reason for that will be forward Joey Hishon, one of the league's blossoming stars. Hishon should have a very capable cast of forwards surrounding him. The group may not have too many household names, but they play hard and can put the puck in the net. In goal, Scott Stajcer looks to show that he is a legitimate number one, after the trade of Tyler Beskorowany to Kingston. While the Attack may not be the best team in the league this year, they should finish better than 8th in the West, and they are bound to cause a lot of their opponents headaches.


Belleville Bulls
When you lose 6 of your top 8 scorers from the year before, and the best goaltender in the OHL, you're bound to get worse. The former East Division champs return only Bryan Cameron and Shawn Lalonde among their top 8 scorers, and even their return is questionable. Trade rumours have been rampant about their availability. The loss of Mike Murphy hurts the most though. Murphy was the backbone of this team, one that had a record under .500 without him last year. That being said, Belleville may not be as bad as some people expect. They have some solid young players in the mix, and if they can get decent goaltending from Phil Grubauer, they could still squeeze into the playoffs.

Sarnia Sting
The 6th place Sting could be in real trouble this season. They've lost the likes of Justin DiBenedetto, Mark Katic, Jamie Arniel, and Dan Spence. Plus, their only star quality forward remaining, Matt Martin, is questionable to return as an overager (due to possibly turning pro). While the Sting have some decent young talent on the backend in Nathan Chiarlitti and Joe Rogalski, their forward and goaltending situations are suspect at best. I'm just not sure I see a worse team in the tough Western Conference. On the plus side, the Sting had a really solid offseason in terms of signing their 2009 draft picks, in particular third rounder Brandon Francisco who appeared to be set on going to the NCAA.

Brampton Battalion
In theory, the Battalion should have been able to return quite the squad this year. Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene, and Evgeni Grachev are all eligible to return to the OHL. However, all are longshots at best to return. Hodgson and Duchene will most certainly be in the NHL, while Grachev will most certainly be in the NHL or AHL (with the Rangers rumoured to have already informed Brampton he won't be returning to them). That means a forward unit lead by 1992 Sam Carrick, and the underrated Scott Tanski. Not exactly a scary thought for the opposition. Stan Butler and company are likely in for a long rebuilding season.

Plymouth Whalers
Don't get me wrong, I think Plymouth should still have a pretty solid playoff team. However, what I don't expect them to do is finish in the top 4 of the Conference again. Losing their veteran backbone in Chris Terry, Brett Bellemore, and Matt Caria will most certainly hurt, as did the failure of Gabriel Landeskog to report. The strength of the Whalers season likely rests in the hands of 1992 Tyler Seguin and goaltender Matt Hackett. Seguin will be out to prove to scouts that his performance was not a by product of Terry and Caria's talent, while Hackett will need to prove he's not a one year flash in the pan. Like I said, I don't expect Plymouth to miss the playoffs, but I also don't expect them to be as good as they were last season.

So that's this week's top 10. Your thoughts? Agree? Disagree?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Players Who Could be in the NHL This Coming Season

Today's Top 10 examines several players who find themselves in a position to make a run at an NHL roster spot this season. Appearing on this list are players who are 1990 and younger born. This cutoff was used to limit the players appearing on this list to those who would have to return to the OHL (with a few exceptions) should they not make the NHL. Obviously some quality 1989 born players have a chance to make NHL rosters like Logan Couture, Eric Tangradi and P.K. Subban. However, should these guys fail to crack the NHL, they'd be sent down to the AHL, rather than return for their overage season in the OHL.

The exceptions to the cutoff on the list are guys like John Carlson, Evgeni Grachev, and Andrei Loktionov. They were drafted by NHL teams from outside of the OHL, and thus there are no restrictions on them being sent down to the AHL should they not make the NHL. So it is very unlikely we will see them again in the OHL, even if they don't make the NHL. The rest of the guys on this list are NHL or back to the OHL though.

The list is ordered according to the potential impact the players could have in the NHL.

Enough talking, let's see the list!

10. Calvin de Haan - Oshawa Generals/New York Islanders
I admit, this is a huge long shot. However, crazier things have happened. Calvin wouldn't be the first player to go from Tier 2, to the CHL, to the NHL (Patrice Bergeron). While he may not appear strong or fast enough for the professional game at this point, reports out of the Islanders Prospect Development Camp suggested he was the best player on the ice. Keep in mind that the camp included other prospects and not NHL players, so his strength and size may not have been given an adequate test. The real test will come when NHL training camp opens. But also keep in mind de Haan is a player who relies on his intelligence and poise. He intends to outthink the opposition, not out muscle them. Could he be good enough to supply the Islanders with the secondary offense they need from the back end behind Mark Streit? Not likely, but you never know!

9. Tyler Cuma - Ottawa 67's/Minnesota Wild
Having already lost a year of development because of injury, it's pretty unlikely that the rehabbing Cuma will make the Wild. That being said, Cuma is 100% again and apparently playing better than ever. Having read some reports, it sounds like he excelled at the Team Canada Summer camp. While the 67's are obviously banking on him returning to anchor their blueline, the Wild could also potentially use his services. They've got a bit of a hole on their 3rd pairing (with average to below average defenders Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy holding down the spots), so if Cuma performs very well at Wild training camp, he could easily put himself in the mix for a roster spot.

8. Nazem Kadri - London Knights/Toronto Maple Leafs
While I think Kadri could definitely use another season in the OHL (at least), the holes in the Maple Leafs top 6 forward spots could give him an invaluable opportunity to make the team. His offensive capabilities might be too hard for Leafs brass to overlook considering that the team badly needs offensive support. While I do expect Kadri to be back in London this year, I also wouldn't be surprised to see him get a 10 game look from the Leafs in order to properly evaluate his abilities and give him things to work on in London.

7. Ryan Ellis - Windsor Spitfires/Nashville Predators
I don't think there is any question in anyone's mind as to whether Ryan Ellis is ready to play defence in the NHL, because he's not. However, his powerplay capabilities could help just about any team in the league. This is especially true for Nashville who finished 5th last in the league in 2008-09 for powerplay percentage. And with some openings on defence, the Preds could afford to take on Ellis as a powerplay specialist, limiting his minutes 5 on 5. The bigger question would be, is this good for Ellis' development? I'd say no, but that is opening up a whole other can of beans.

6. Evgeny Grachev - Brampton Battalion/New York Rangers & Andrei Loktionov - Windsor Spitfires/Los Angeles Kings
Both of these guys technically should not be on this list, because if they don't make the NHL, they'll be playing in the AHL as 1990 born players, not the OHL. Since they were drafted out of Russia, and not the OHL, this is not prohibited. Grachev has the best chance to crack the NHL out of the two. He's strong enough and fast enough to play a scoring role in the NHL right now. He was apparently quite impressive at the rookie camp too. With a few openings in the Rangers bottom six, he's got a chance to catch on right away. Loktionov is less likely, since the Kings have a fair amount of depth at forward. However, he is exceptionally skilled and his performance at the Memorial Cup suggested he was hungry for more.

5. John Carlson - London Knights/Washington Capitals
Carlson is another guy not likely returning to the OHL, even if he doesn't make the NHL. Being drafted out of the United States Hockey League, Carlson would not need to be returned to the OHL as a 1990 born player. Considering that he jumped right into the line up of the Hershey Bears for their Calder Cup run following the elimination of London from the playoffs, I'd say he's ready for the next step. Whether that next step puts him in Washington or Hershey, is the question. Carlson is a strong two way defender who has recently been performing very well at the United States WJC Summer camp.

4. Alex Pietrangelo - Niagara IceDogs/St. Louis Blues
Considering Pietrangelo played for St. Louis to start the 2008-09 season, I'd say most people expect he'll be there for good this season. I'm not quite as convinced. He didn't really take a step forward in his development this year and could be better served by working on his defensive game in the OHL, and anchoring a 2010 Canadian WJC team blueline. Blues President John Davidson has even alluded to the fact that Pietrangelo may not be ready for NHL duty this season. However, the Blues do have some gaps on their blueline. Whether those gaps get filled by Alex, or another one of the Blues strong prospects, remains to be seen.

3. Matt Duchene - Brampton Battalion/Colorado Avalanche
Quite frankly, I'd be very surprised if Duchene returns to Brampton this year. I fully expect the recent 3rd overall pick to be anchoring the Avs second line in 2009-10. He's incredibly talented, but also a determined two way player who should not be in over his head at the next level. With Duchene already under contract with the Avs, the Battalion appear ready to move on as well, as they look poised for a rebuilding season. Duchene on the other hand should be a Rookie of the Year candidate, that is if the young Avs can score enough goals to get him the points.

2. Cody Hodgson - Brampton Battalion/Vancouver Canucks
The other reason the Battalion appear poised to rebuild, Hodgson figures to be a lock for a spot with the Canucks this season. Many prognosticators have him pegged for serious Rookie of the Year contention and a spot in Vancouver's top 9 forwards. Like Duchene, his solid two way play should make his transition to the NHL rather smooth. The Canucks could be serious contenders this year if they can get a strong performance out of Hodgson.

1. John Tavares - London Knights/New York Islanders
About the only player you can truly pencil in to an NHL line up, as of this moment. The chances of Tavares playing outside Long Island are slim to none. The Islanders need offence, in particular goals, and Tavares can supply that. Not to mention the hype surrounding his arrival, which the Isles are using to help sell tickets. Tavares has nothing left to prove at the OHL level and his goal scoring prowess should continue to the NHL rather effortlessly. An interesting tidbit is that Tavares is actually eligible for the AHL this season, should he not make the NHL. Much like Jason Spezza in the past, Tavares has played 4 full seasons in the OHL, despite being a late 1990 born player and recent draft selection. Like Spezza, his early OHL entrance gives him the necessary playing time in order to move on. That being said, don't be expecting him in Bridgeport either, Sound Tiger fans!

Stay tuned next week, as we begin to prepare for the 2009-10 OHL season, with a new season themed top 10.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - 2008 Draftees Who Need to Have a Big Season

This Sunday we take a look at 10 players who have a lot riding on their performance this season. These players are 2008 NHL Entry Draft selections whom have yet to be signed by their NHL clubs. They have yet to be signed because their performance since being drafted has been underwhelming. Thus, these ten players need to take steps forward this season in order to show their NHL clubs that their progression should equal an entry level contract.

This year, seven OHL players taken in the 2007 NHL Draft were unsigned by their NHL clubs (here). One has since signed an NHL contract (Richard Greenop). Two years ago, six OHL players taken in the 2006 NHL Draft were unsigned by their NHL clubs (Ben Shutron, Ryan Daniels, Aaron Snow, Luke Lynes, James DeLory, Devin DiDiomete). Two have since signed NHL contracts (DeLory and DiDiomete). The point being that history tells us that some of these ten players will not be offered a their NHL clubs (Ben Shutron, Ryan Daniels, Aaron Snow, Luke Lynes, James DeLory, Devin DiDiomete). Two have since signed NHL contracts (DeLory and DiDiomete). The point being that history tells us that some of these ten players will not be offered a contract.

Let's take a look at the 10 who need to step it up!

10. Tim Billingsley - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Drafted by: Phoenix, 189th overall
After a decent 2007-08 season, where he posted 27 points from the back end, Billingsley was drafted by Phoenix. This past year saw massive regression in his game. He missed considerable time due to two different injuries. One suffered at the beginning of the season, and a mild knee injury suffered around mid season. Perhaps this prevented him from finding a groove. I think it also played a part in his decreased role in Mississauga. With the emergence of Brett Flemming and Blake Parlett, Billingsley was pushed to the outside of the Majors top 3. His offensive game saw massive reduction, going from 27 points, to a measly 8 assists. And although Billingsley has always been billed as more of a defensive player, that part of his game also took a hit IMO. He looked lost at times defensively and played considerably more passive than previously before. In order to earn a contract, he's going to have to return to the form of 2007-08. The Majors are going to be looking to make a run at the Eastern Conference title and they are going to need Billingsley to play solidly as the teams 4th defenceman. If he continues to struggle or fight injuries, he risks losing his spot on the depth chart to 91's like David Corrente and Josh McFadden.

9. Kyle DeCoste - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Drafted by: Tampa Bay, 147th
DeCoste has progressed very little offensively since he was drafted in 2008. In Brampton, DeCoste was stuck in a numbers game and perhaps never got to really show what he was capable of. A scrappy, gritty forward, DeCoste seemed to improve after a midseason trade to the Soo. In 26 games with the Greyhounds, DeCoste was able to match what he did offensively in 37 games with Brampton. With Sault Ste. Marie hoping to improve enough to make the playoffs this season, DeCoste is going to be counted on to provide energy, leadership and offence. I think DeCoste should be looking at the progression made by a guy like Anthony Peluso this year and aim for something similar in order to impress Tampa.

8. Patrick Killeen - Brampton Battalion
Drafted by: Pittsburgh, 180th
This big netminder had a very solid rookie OHL season in 2007-08 earning a platoon role with Oilers draft pick (and signee) Bryan Pitton. This earned him a late draft selection by the Penguins. However this season, things seemed to fall apart for him. So much so that the Battalion had to trade for a true number one in Thomas McCollum, relegating Killeen to back up. This season Brampton is rebuilding and McCollum has moved on. It will be Killeen's ship to steer, as he attempts to lead a young and inexperienced Battalion team to a playoff spot in the East. He needs to rebound well (no pun intended).

7. Stephen Johnston - Belleville Bulls
Drafted by: Detroit, 181st
The speedster Johnston was drafted by Detroit after a very strong showing in the 2008 playoffs for Belleville. Bigger things were expected of him this season as his role increased and to his credit, he did produce reasonably well with 36 points (a 27 point improvement). However, his inconsistent play prevented him from cementing a role in the top 6, forcing Belleville to go out and acquire bigger guns in Nick Palmieri, Brandon Mashinter and Luke Pither. This year, Belleville is going to be counting on Johnston to be one of their offensive leaders, thanks to the graduation of the majority of their key players from last season. Hopefully he's up to the challenge.

6. Jason Missiaen - Peterborough Petes
Drafted by: Montreal, 116th
Missiaen, standing a gigantic 6'7, was given the starting goaltender spot after the trade of Trevor Cann to London. His performance was hot and cold, not unlike his 2007-08 season. Missiaen continues to battle consistency as he'll be lights out one night, and give up 7 goals the next. This season, Peterborough will be aiming for better than the 7th spot in the conference and Missiaen is going to have to play a crucial role. Every goaltender can have an off night, but the Petes are going to need Missiaen to have those off nights a lot less than he has in the past. Considering that Missiaen has apparently played well at previous development camps for Montreal, a solid season in helping Peterborough to home ice in the playoffs would most definitely earn him an ELC.

5. Chris Carrozzi - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Drafted by: Atlanta, 154th
Carrozzi is in a tough position. After leading the Majors to a strong playoff position in 2007-08, and playing another 47 games this past season, you'd think his job was safe. However, Carrozzi shares netminding duties with one of the top young goaltenders in the OHL, J.P. Anderson. Due to some unspectacular play towards the later part of 2008-09, Anderson began slowly take over the starter's job. After Carrozzi faltered in the playoffs, Anderson took over and promptly put in one of the best performances of the 2009 playoffs. This season, the two goaltenders are likely headed for a platoon situation, at least to start. However, Carrozzi has more to lose here. Should he continue to be outplayed by Anderson, his starts will slowly diminish and with it Atlanta's interest in him. Perhaps best for him would be a trade to another team with goaltending insecurities. That being said, if Carrozzi can step up his game and go toe to toe with Anderson, forcing a true, earned platoon situation, he's likely to impress Atlanta scouts enough to get a contract offer.

4. A.J. Jenks - Plymouth Whalers
Drafted by: Florida, 100th
Jenks failed to take a step forward this past season in Plymouth. The big two way forward failed to match the offensive numbers he put up in his draft year and was especially disappointing in the playoffs where he failed to provide the secondary scoring the Whalers needed to advance. His skating still remains an issue, as does his consistent offensive production. That being said, Plymouth is undergoing a bit of an offensive retooling, and it's possible he could find himself on the top offensive line with Tyler Seguin and Ryan Hayes. This will be his chance to show Florida that he has offensive abilities and can take that next step forward.

3. Mitch Gaulton - Erie Otters
Drafted by: New York Rangers, 171st
Gaulton's inclusion on this list is not to do with performance, but injury. Gaulton has played only 42 games in the past 2 seasons due to a dislocated elbow and subsequent Tommy John surgery to repair the ligaments. This former 4th overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft needs to have an injury free season very badly. From all reports, he's completely healthy now and is ready to help lead Erie's defence corps. While he has lost precious development time, Gaulton remains a very talented kid. As long as he stays healthy, I think we could see a big season from him and accordingly a contract offer from the Rangers.

2. Jared Staal - Sudbury Wolves
Drafted by: Phoenix, 49th
I'm not sure why I include Staal on this list because I'm fairly certain he'll still get a contract from Phoenix. The question remains, will he earn it, or will it be given because he's a Staal and the Coyotes are banking on some form of a late bloomer. This past season in Sudbury he took no steps forward, failing to meet his goal production from 2007-08. He still fails to use his size to his advantage, he still needs work on his skating and it's beginning to look less and less likely that he's an NHL quality prospect. This year in Sudbury, bigger things are expected of him and the team.

1. Tyler Beskorowany - Owen Sound Attack
Drafted by: Dallas, 59th
After a quietly effective performance during the 2007-08 season, the Stars made Beskorowany their 2nd round selection. The tall and lanky netminder shows a lot of potential, but at the same time had a disappointing 2008-09 season. He started the year at the team's number one netminder, but as the year went along, his inconsistencies cost him playing time to the improving Scott Stajcer. So much so, that Stajcer was the team's starting netminder in the 2009 playoffs. Now it's likely that Beskorowany will be traded in order to get more playing time. He's going to need to step up huge for whatever team he eventually plays for, in order to not turn into the next Josh Unice (who went unsigned this year from the 2007 draft). Ironically, one possible destination for Beskorowany could see him as Unice's replacement in Windsor.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Under 18 Team Announced for 2009 Ivan Hlinka Tournament

Today, Hockey Canada announced the roster for the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. After a four day selection camp, the team was unveiled this afternoon and it includes 10 OHL players. The Ivan Hlinka tourney has historically been a huge success for Canada, as we have only lost the tournament twice since 1996. It serves as the first real international test facing draft eligible 1992 born players and is a scout favourite.

Interestingly enough, 15 OHL players tried out for the team, with only 5 failing to make the team. Those five were J.P. Anderson, Steven Shipley, Freddie Hamilton, Nathan Chiarlitti, and Christian Thomas. Anderson actually had to drop out of the camp for injury reasons, although according to Gare Joyce (thanks Gare), the injury is not considered serious.

So that leaves us with the following team. OHL players are in bold. Thanks to Hockey Canada for the roster details, which can be found here.


# Name S/C HT WT Born Hometown 2008-09 Team Pro status
# Nom L/C T P Ville d'origine Équipe 2008-09 Statut prof.
Goaltenders/Gardiennes de but
1 Louis Domingue L/G 6'1" 176 03/06/92 Mont St-Hilaire, Que./QC Moncton (QMJHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
31 Calvin Pickard L/G 6'1" 208 04/15/92 Winnipeg, Man. Seattle (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
4 Erik Gudbranson R/D 6'3" 195 01/07/92 Orleans, Ont. Kingston (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
5 Mark Pysyk R/D 6'1" 175 01/11/92 Sherwood Park, Alta./Alb. Edmonton (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
6 Brandon Gormley L/G 6'1" 175 02/18/92 Murray River, P.E.I./I.-P.-E. Moncton (QMJHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
10 Ryan O'Connor R/D 5'8" 175 01/12/92 Hamilton, Ont. Barrie (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
24 Brock Beukeboom R/D 6'2" 199 04/01/92 Uxbridge, Ont. Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
27 Alexander Petrovic R/D 6'4" 180 03/03/92 Edmonton, Alta./Alb. Red Deer (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
28 Stephen Silas L/G 6'0" 180 06/26/92 Georgetown, Ont. Belleville (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
7 Gregg Sutch R/D 6'2" 190 02/09/92 Newmarket, Ont. Sarnia (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
8 Jaden Schwartz L/G 5'9" 172 06/25/92 Wilcox, Sask. Notre Dame (SJHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
9 Tyler Seguin R/D 6'0" 170 01/31/92 Brampton, Ont. Plymouth (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
11 Sean Couturier L/G 6'3" 185 12/07/92 Bathurst, N.B./N.-B. Drummondville (QMJHL) 2011 Dft/Rep.
14 Jeffrey Skinner L/G 5'10" 182 05/16/92 Markham, Ont. Kitchener (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
15 Michaël Bournival L/G 5'10" 172 05/31/92 Shawinigan-Sud, Que./QC Shawinigan (QMJHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
16 Brett Connolly R/D 6'1" 162 05/02/92 Prince George, B.C./C.-B. Prince George (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
17 John McFarland L/G 6'0" 192 04/02/92 Richmond Hill, Ont. Sudbury (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
18 Tyler Toffoli R/D 6'0" 181 04/24/92 Scarborough, Ont. Ottawa (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
20 Brad Ross R/D 6'1" 167 05/28/92 Lethbridge, Alta. Portland (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
22 Quinton Howden L/G 6'2" 175 01/12/92 Oakbank, Man. Moose Jaw (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
23 Ryan Spooner L/G 5'9" 160 01/30/92 Kanata, Ont. Peterborough (OHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.
29 Jordan Weal R/D 5'8" 158 04/15/92 North Vancouver, B.C./C.-B. Regina (WHL) 2010 Dft/Rep.

Canada plays two exhibition games on the 7th (Slovakia) and the 9th (U.S.A), then the tournament officially begins on the 11th when Canada takes on Sweden.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Players Who Could be Traded Before or During the 2009-10 Season

First off, apologies for the lack of list last Sunday. I ended up going away on vacation.

For today's Top 10, I will get out my crystal ball and attempt to predict the OHL players who could be changing teams in the upcoming year. I expect that some of these players could be dealt before the start of the 2009-10 season, while others may be trade victims closer to the deadline when their teams fall out of contention.

As for the actual ranking (number allotment), the list was organized by the likelihood of players actually getting traded. Also taken into account is the potential impact a player could make on their new team. This impact is the reason I didn't include some lesser players who could have a higher likelihood of being traded.

Your top 10 players who could be traded in 2009-10.

10. Nathan Moon - Kingston Frontenacs
Moon is the definitely the least likely player to get traded on this list, however I would not have included him if I felt like there was no chance he was sent packing. I think a lot depends on the way the Fronts start the 2009-10 season. For maybe the first time in a while, the Fronts have some elevated expectations for next season. Many expect the Fronts to return to the playoffs thanks to solid young talent like Erik Gudbranson, Ethan Werek, and Taylor Doherty, in addition to veterans like Moon and Brian Lashoff. Not to mention the club no has a full season of "Killer" behind the bench. But as many Kingston fans can tell you, expectations only go so far. Moon has long been rumored to be in and out of favor in Kingston, despite his talent level. If the Fronts struggle yet again and are on pace to miss the playoffs, Moon could be the first guy shipped off to a contending team. However, I could also see Moon dealt as part of a package to help the team get better goaltending. For instance, a team like Sault Ste. Marie could use a talented center, while they have Cody St. Jacques and Bryce O'Hagan as bargaining chips in net.

9. Eric O'Dell - Sudbury Wolves
While O'Dell is currently the offensive leader of the Wolves, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to see him traded. The Wolves could be more inclined to let John McFarland and Marcus Foligno play center this year, which could make O'Dell a trade piece in order to improve the team's blueline. Sudbury could be a team that falls anywhere from the middle of the East to out of the playoffs. A lot depends on the way their defence and goaltending, as well as John McFarland, perform. Perhaps O'Dell is the guy they use in order get a solid two-way defenceman, maybe a guy like Jacob Muzzin from Sault Ste. Marie, Michael D'Orazio in Owen Sound, or Matt Clark in Brampton.

8. James Livingston - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I've heard a lot of rumours about Livingston being on the trade block and I don't really understand them. The Hounds should be much improved this season and Livingston is currently their most dangerous offensive player, as well as a veteran presence. I have high expectations for him to take huge steps forward this season, likely his last in the OHL. That being said, you can't ignore rumours, so I've included him on this list. Perhaps the Hounds feel that their year is next year, and could look to flip Livingston for a younger offensive player.

7. Brett Parnham - Oshawa Generals
I have a hard time seeing the Generals being significantly better than they were last season. They could probably slot anywhere from 6-10 in the East, depending on the steps forward some of their "role" players take. Parnham, a 50 goal scorer last season for Oshawa, could be a prime target for trade should the Generals falter. Pretty much anyone in the league would be happy to add this sniper to their team and as such, Parnham could have a dozen likely destinations should he be traded.

6. Cody St. Jacques - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
St. Jacques has apparently expressed his interest to be traded to Hounds management, and with good cause. He's suddenly third on the depth chart after the signing of NHL 2nd round pick and Import selection Robin Lehner. The Hounds starter from last season is definitely a capable OHL starting goaltender and deserves a chance to show what he can do, after previously getting stuck behind Thomas McCollum in Guelph. There is always the chance that Bryce O'Hagan goes instead, with St. Jacques kept as a veteran mentor to Lehner. However, with his trade request, I'd say the likelihood is that St. Jacques is the one on his way out. There are a few teams in the OHL with an insecure goaltending situation that St. Jacques could help, like Kingston, Erie, Windsor, Brampton, and his former team in Guelph.

5. Matt Martin - Sarnia Sting
After such a strong season in Sarnia this past season, Martin's future with the club (and the OHL) is in doubt. Martin would prefer to play in the AHL, since he is an Islanders draft selection, however he's apparently playing hardball with New York for a contract. With a demand for a higher salary (rumours say as high as first round money!), the Islanders have yet to sign Martin. This makes him a candidate to return to the OHL for his overage season. However, he's apparently expressed that he would rather not be in Sarnia, especially with the team going through a slight rebuild. Also complicating the situation is the number of OA's Sarnia could have returning (upwards of 6). If Martin is indeed in the OHL next year, I don't expect it to be with Sarnia. He could have a big impact to whatever team he's traded to. Don't count out his hometown Spitfires making a pitch for him, especially if several of their OA's do not return after being signed/drafted to the NHL (MacDermid, Greenop, Timmins, Young).

4. Bryan Cameron - Belleville Bulls
Cameron failed to earn a contract from the LA Kings (after being a 3rd round pick), and also failed to be re-drafted, meaning he's likely headed back to the OHL this season. There is always the chance he catches on somewhere at a training camp, or on an AHL contract, however those situations appear to be longshots at this point. If he returns to the OHL, I don't expect it to be with Belleville, who's gone into full rebuild mode. Cameron is a 3 time 30 goal scorer in the league and one of the most dangerous offensive wingers in the OHL. If he's put on the trade block, I'd expect him to generate quite the amount of interest. I'm sure a team like London would love to get their hands on him to help their powerplay. They have the room for an overager too.

3. Matt Clark - Brampton Battalion
Clark made quite the splash in his first season in the league, going from unknown Junior A player to a top 3 defenceman on a Conference winning team and a 2nd round NHL draft pick. As a late 1990, Clark is likely playing in his last season in the OHL (as a high draft pick, he's bound to be signed by Anaheim after the season). Brampton is rebuilding in the wake of the reality that Matt Duchene will not be returning. That leaves Clark a probable trade option for the Battalion. I've heard rumours about Barrie possibly being interested. With Barrie loading up on offence, Clark would be an absolutely perfect acquisition for them in order to secure their blueline. If not Barrie, I'm sure their are 18 other teams who'd take Clark off Brampton's hands.

2. Tyler Beskorowany - Owen Sound Attack
With one of the league's top goaltending duo's broken up already (Hutchinson and Di Salvo in Barrie), it's only a matter of time before the one in Owen Sound follows suit. With Scott Stajcer having one more year of eligibility over Beskorowany, I'd expect him to be the one the stays to be a part of the young and improving Attack. That leaves Tyler Beskorowany on the outside looking in. This Dallas Stars 2nd round pick has had trouble performing consistently, but the talent has always been there. He has the potential to be one of the best goaltenders in the OHL and should be an attractive option for many of the teams with suspect goaltending. If Josh Unice falters in Windsor, I'd expect the Spitfires to be the team that goes hard after Beskorowany. I could also see Erie making a big play for the big man.

1. Shawn Lalonde - Belleville Bulls
Without question, Lalonde enters the 2009-10 season as one of the best blueliners in the OHL. He's an elite two-way defender who can instantly make a team's defence better. As previously mentioned, Belleville is rebuilding and thus Lalonde is likely to be traded. He could likely bring back a pretty handsome return to Belleville. I've heard a lot of rumours about Barrie having interest, similar to the Matt Clark situation. However, in the end, I'd expect the London Knights to be the ones who get Lalonde. With the graduation of John Carlson, Kevin Montgomery and possibly Michael Del Zotto, the Knights could be without a proven powerplay QB and number one defenceman. Lalonde would fit in incredibly well with the Hunter's system and could be a mentor to the highly touted Scott Harrington.

Anyone I missed? Anything you disagree with? Any rumours you're hearing? Let me know!