The Holiday break is looming, the trade deadline is just over a month away, and the halfway point of the OHL season is nearly upon us. Safe to say, it wouldn't be unfair to evaluate the season thus far and make some educated assumptions about it. Teams are starting to separate themselves as the leader's of the pack, while others are starting to look like bottom of the standings fodder.
With all of that in mind, I don't think it would be unfair to suggest that some players in the league this year have performed below expectations. There is still lots of season left to be played and tons of time for these guys to turn things around. But as of now, I think the 10 players listed as part of this week's Top 10 deserve some of the criticism being tossed their way.
10. Garrett Meurs - Plymouth Whalers
Offensively talented sophomore Garrett Meurs was supposed to have a breakout offensive season this year. With all the talent lost to the pros from Plymouth, it was expected that with more ice time, Meurs would flourish. Instead he's floundering and his draft stock is going with it. Plymouth is excelling thanks in part to other young players stepping up like Scott Wedgewood, Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell. Plymouth actually hasn't had a problem spreading around their scoring. Currently, they are one of only 3 teams in the league with 5 ten goal scorers this year (Kitchener and Ottawa are the others). That being said, think about how good Plymouth would be if guys like Meurs or veteran James Livingston upped their production. Interestingly enough, Meurs hasn't scored since October 16th against Windsor. That's an 18 game goalless drought (with only 5 assists in that span).
9. Dalton Smith - Ottawa 67's
Perhaps Smith's struggles offensively this year were a blessing in disguise for the 67's, who were forced to break up the Smith, Lindsay, and Toffoli line at the beginning of the season, only to create possibly the league's best line in Toffoli, Prince, and Martindale. That being said, it's been a tough year for Smith after going very high in the 2010 Draft. He's got only 4 goals thus far, which puts him on pace for about a 10 goal season. Last year he was so strong for the 67's as a goal scoring crease presence, they'd be a much better team if he could find his touch again. For now, he'll have to do it as part of the team's third line where he's gotten back to the basics which made him a good player (forechecking and hard work) last year.
8. Taylor Beck - Guelph Storm
It's tough to pick on just one guy in Guelph, as their current seven game winless streak has taken them to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. But you can't help but question how one of the league's biggest offensive stars last season has fallen back down to being a just over a point per game player. Obviously we're talking about a player with very high expectations placed on him this season (I wasn't the only one who had him as a serious contender for the scoring title), so I don't think it's unfair to claim that his 28 points in 24 games has been a disappointment. Interestingly enough, Beck is currently the lowest scoring of the big three in Guelph (behind Latta and Holland), this after scoring at a considerably better pace than them last season. Surely, a lot of the blame could go to Guelph's lack of secondary scoring (previous to acquiring Richard Panik, Guelph's fifth leading goal scorer had 4 goals). But at some point, the star players need to take some of the blame too.
7. Chris DeSousa and Colin Martin - London Knights
The Knights are continuing their slide down the Western Conference standings and are 3-7 in their last 10. The problem with the team definitely hasn't been goaltending, with Michael Houser keeping them in every game. The real blame in this is that London's green defense just hasn't been able to get the job done...and they just haven't been able to score goals (second lowest gpg average in the West). Where have the team's supposed veteran leaders on offense gone? At the beginning of the season, Knights fans were worried that their forward unit was too small and too soft. The two guys with the chance to influence that (at least in the softness department) were overager Chris DeSousa and power forward Colin Martin. As veterans, it was expected that their offensive production would increase to help out some of the team's younger players (Knight, Namestnikov, Griffith). Unfortunately it's decreased and DeSousa and Martin aren't even averaging a point per game together (.98 if you add it up). They're also a combined minus -18. If the Knights continue to slide, you can probably expect big changes in London, of which I wouldn't be surprised to see these two involved.
6. Jason Wilson - Niagara IceDogs
Granted, I don't think I read or talked to an IceDog fan who thought highly of the Wilson for Andrew Fritsch deal when it happened (even if it was part of the larger Shipley deal). Still, you have to wonder what they're thinking now. Fritsch is playing alongside Joey Hishon and is averaging over a point per game (although he's not just piggy backing on Hishon, he's actually playing incredibly well), while Wilson has 6 goals and hasn't been anywhere near the physical presence expected of him. In fact, every player involved in that deal (Fritsch, Shaw, and Petgrave) is out producing Wilson thus far in Owen Sound. For an NHL draft pick playing in his overage season, I think a lot more should be expected of Wilson offensively. While the Dogs are playing very well, you can't help but wonder if they'd be a better team right now without making that deal. It's sure helped the Midwest Division leading Attack.
5. Sam Carrick and Phil Lane - Brampton Battalion
While the Battalion started off the year very well, things haven't been so rosy for Stan Butler's club since. They've been in a standings free fall for quite some time now and are 3-7 in their last 10. A large reason for that has been lackluster goaltending (of which Butler has since brought in two new goalies). But even more so has been the lack of progression offensively from the team's top young players. 2010 NHL Draft picks Carrick and Lane have to shoulder the majority of the criticism there. It was expected that they would be among the team's leaders offensively this season, instead they're floundering with only 8 points each. That puts them on pace for a decrease in production from last season (where they were 2 and 3 in the team's goal scoring department). Now that the Battalion's most gifted offensive forward (IMO) Sean Jones has been traded, Carrick and Lane's ability to step it up is likely crucial to where Brampton finishes this OHL season.
4. Tyson Teichmann - Belleville Bulls
This was supposed to be Teichmann's year. He lead Team Canada to gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and there was a lot of optimism surrounding Belleville's young and improving roster. Suffice to say, things haven't quite worked out as planned for the Bulls this year. They're currently 10 games below .500 and just recently traded their best offensive player (in Richard Panik). Teichmann has been wildly inconsistent and has to shoulder as much of the blame for the team's poor start as their young and mistake prone defense. He's gone from being the unanimous top goalie available from the OHL for the 2011 Draft, to someone who may not even get drafted (as his incredibly poor ranking in Central Scouting's Prelim list would indicate). He's also being threatened as the team's future number one netminder by the similarly aged Malcolm Subban, who is currently outplaying him. There's no reason to give up on Teichmann, but he does need to try and turn things around.
3. Brock Beukeboom - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Following the footsteps of Jake Muzzin and Michael Quesnele wasn't going to be easy. The Hounds were such a strong defensive club last season and the young Beukeboom (and Brandon Archibald) flourished when given the opportunity to occasionally run the powerplay and ease their way into a top four role. This year it was expected that they would take over as the club's top pair and build off the success of last year. Keep in mind that the Hounds lost star goaltender Robin Lehner to the pros, but they currently have the worst goals against average in the Western Conference (by a significant margin at 4.11 gpg). Beukeboom just hasn't taken that next step this year. He's a team worst -12, and has been completely absent from the team's offensive game (with only 4 assists). After all the promise that he showed last year (especially offensively at times), his season definitely has to be considered a disappointment.
2. Austin Watson - Peterborough Petes
Again, it's tough to finger just one guy on a massively underachieving team. The Petes have stunk this year, no bones about it. But while guys like Matt Puempel and Ryan Spooner (when he was still with the team), were at least producing offensively, Watson was massively struggling. Even if he has picked it up of late (10 points in his last 10 games), he can not be excused from scrutiny. His -19 is still the team's worst and he still has a ways to go offensively, especially considering that he was an NHL first round pick and expectations need to be high. Watson shouldn't be shouldering all of the blame here, as the Petes look like a mess from management all the way down to goaltending, but it's hard to imagine that if Watson had been playing to the best of his abilities, this team might not be 12 games under .500 right now.
1. Jarred Tinordi - London Knights
It's hard to argue against the Knights making two appearances on this list, as the team has massively disappointed over the past month or so. As mentioned, after a 3-7 slide in their last 10, the team now sits in 8th in the Western Conference. The team has been a mess offensively, but the defense hasn't been much better. A lot of that has to rest on Jarred Tinordi's shoulders. Maybe the expectations placed on him were too high, but the Knights organization has only themselves to blame for that. When he was signed, they boasted how he would have a similar impact to John Carlson and help the team both offensively and defensively. The NHL first rounder was expected to make a very large impact (no pun intended). But 28 games later, 2 assists and a defense worst -6, and it's looking like those expectations were set unfairly high. If anything, maybe the Hunters deserve to be in this spot over Tinordi...for believing that he'd come in and immediately help this team contend for the Memorial Cup.
John McFarland - Sudbury Wolves
Everybody's favourite whipping boy doesn't make an appearance on this list because he's been injured with a high ankle sprain since Mid November. But the Sudbury Wolves have once again been awful and are among the league's worst offensive teams. When he was playing, McFarland had only 10 points in 12 games, which has to be considered a disappointment yet again. For a great take on the McFarland situation, check out one of Patrick King's latest articles (HERE)
What are your thoughts? Anyone else you think deserves mention here?