Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the 2012 Preseason

 The 2012 Preseason wrapped up today and the OHL season is right around the corner (kicks off Thursday).

Here are the Preseason standings for this year:

Eastern Conference

1. Ottawa 67's - 3-0 - 1.00%
2. Niagara IceDogs - 4-1 - .800%
3. Brampton Battalion - 4-1 - .800%
4. Barrie Colts - 4-2 - .667%
5. Mississauga Steelheads - 4-2 - .667%
6. Oshawa Generals - 3-2 - .600%
7. Sudbury Wolves - 2-2 - .500%
8. Belleville Bulls - 2-2 - .500%
9. Kingston Frontenacs - 1-2 - .333%
10. Peterborough Petes - 0-5 - 0.00%

Western Conference

1. Saginaw Spirit - 4-1 - .800%
2. London Knights - 3-2 - .600%
3. Sarnia Sting - 3-3 - .500%
4. Guelph Storm - 3-3 - .500%
5. Plymouth Whalers - 2-2 - .500%
6. Owen Sound Attack - 2-3 - .400%
7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - 1-3 - .250%
8. Erie Otters - 1-3 - .250%
9. Windsor Spitfires - 1-4 - .200%
10. Kitchener Rangers - 1-5 - .167%

It's always pretty tough (some might say foolish) to make assumptions based on preseason play. So many factors go into the records of these teams. Some teams elect to sparingly play their star players, where others play them every game. Goaltenders move in and out of the line up. It's tough to gauge. One thing is for certain though, no team who finished at the bottom of the preseason standings is happy going into the season. That isn't to say that Peterborough, Windsor, and Kitchener are going around pushing the panic button. I'm sure they remain confident in their ability to perform this year. But, I'm also sure that the coaching staff isn't happy with the performance of their players. To put it in perspective, Erie and Peterborough had among the worst records of last year's preseason and ended up missing the playoffs. Although Sudbury went winless and ended up making the playoffs. It's a crap shoot.

Just the same, individual player results can sometimes be deceiving. Who are these players racking up points against? A team full of first year OHL players? Against a goalie who was just drafted and has never faced OHL competition? It's a mix bag. Accumulating correct stats is also mind numbing and excruciating. Some teams post full box scores. Others don't even mention who scored all the goals in a game. So consider the below accumulation of stats to be extremely unofficial.

That being said, the preseason does often give us some great indications of players who'll have big years in the OHL...who aren't already attached to NHL teams. This generally means overagers (who aren't at a camp on a tryout), draft eligible players looking to break out, and rookies looking to establish themselves. Last year, some of the league's top preseason performers were Nail Yakupov, Tanner Richard, and Scott Laughton. So it does give us some idea of who's going to "explode" if you will.

Another interesting observation, after looking at these articles dating back to when I first started doing them (2011, 2010, 2009), is that (for the most part) draft eligible players who have strong preseasons end up getting drafted inside the first three rounds. Last year, the 2012 NHL selections who appeared on the list were Brock McGinn, Josh Anderson, Scott Laughton, Tanner Richard, and Nail Yakupov. Oh, and Garrett Hooey, who failed to get drafted (but let's call him an outlier). There definitely seems to be a correlation between strong preseason performances (go back to those previous lists and find Ryan Strome and Jeff Skinner), and high NHL draft selection.

OK, enough of the set-up. Let's look at the ten best performers of this year's preseason. Interestingly enough, there are more 1996's (2) on this list than 1995's (1).

10. Austen Brassard - Belleville Bulls
One of my picks for a breakout season, Brassard paced the Bulls in preseason scoring with 4 goals in 4 games. He looked so much better last season and developed into a solid all around player. I look for him to really amp up the power forward juice this year and possibly even score 40 goals. The Bulls are going to need that type of production from him if they intend to challenge for the East.

9. Alex Broadhurst - London Knights
A surprise 2nd round selection by the Knights in this year's priority draft, Broadhurst had a solid preseason with 4 goals and an assist. The Chicago Blackhawks 2nd rounder finished 3rd in USHL scoring last year and looks to be able to replicate that offensive success in the OHL this year. It certainly seems like he's cemented a role in London's top 6 and could be one of their go to guys.

8. Vincent Trocheck - Saginaw Spirit
Saginaw had the best record in the West during the preseason and a lot of that was due in part to their offensive leader, Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck had 4 goals and 2 assists and seems ready to push for the scoring title in the league this year. There's no question that the Panthers draft pick is one of the league's most underrated players.

7. Michael Dal Colle - Oshawa Generals
The 7th overall pick in the 2012 priority draft had a terrific preseason with 3 goals and 5 assists. Oshawa had a few holes in the line up thanks in part to the departure of Nicklas Jensen, Christian Thomas, and Andy Andreoff. But it looks like Dal Colle could be capable of shouldering a heavy load earlier than expected. Wouldn't it be something if Oshawa had a better season this year (after losing so much talent)?

6. Michael Amadio - Brampton Battalion
Brampton's 2nd rounder in 2012 is the second 1996 born player to crack this list. Interestingly enough, Amadio performed better in the preseason than any of the 35 players taken ahead of him. This product of the Great Canadian North (SSM), had 4 goals and 3 assists and gives Brampton yet another talented forward.

5. Brock Beukeboom - Niagara IceDogs
There's no question that it had to have hurt to not be signed by the St. Louis Blues this offseason. After a couple of injury plagued seasons, it seemed like Beukeboom's development had stalled. But he seems hungry to prove the doubters wrong. I recall another injury plagued, inconsistent defender who was left for dead by the NHL before having a monster (and award filled) overage season. His name, Jake Muzzin. Just sayin'. Beukeboom had 4 goals and at least one assist this preseason.

4. Josh Burnside - Mississauga Steelheads
If you remember correctly, I've told you Burnside was a player to watch for this year, despite playing sparingly in the OHL last year and failing to register a point. I went so far to put him on my HM list for my preseason top 30. Well, he's looked pretty damn good this preseason with 6 goals and an assist. The speedster is apparently way bigger, and way stronger and it's translated to offensive success. And you know what, the Steelheads are going to need it this year!

3. Charles Sarault - Sarnia Sting
Unofficially, Sarault led the OHL preseason in scoring with 3 goals and 8 assists. The talented playmaker was up to the tricks that made him one of the league's breakout stars last year. OHL fans should probably get used to seeing him up near the top of league scoring as the overager is poised to be a candidate for the scoring lead during the regular season too.

2. Reid Boucher - Sarnia Sting
Back to back Sting, Boucher checks into 2nd place on the list after a 7 goal, 2 assist preseason. I was a little bit disappointed with Boucher's play last year, his first in the league. With a full season under his belt, the Devils draft pick seems poised to make a run at the league's goal scoring lead.

1. Ryan O'Connor - Barrie Colts
The Colts were one of the top teams in this year's preseason, and much of that had to do with the play of their veterans like Mark Scheifele, Anthony Camara, and this guy, Ryan O'Connor. Being counted on to be one of the leaders on this year's Barrie team, O'Connor was a beast this preseason with 4 goals, and 4 assists. If the Colts can get consistently good goaltending, they could be the team to beat in the East.

Honorable Mentions (organized by team):

Barrie Colts
Veteran forwards Mark Scheifele (4 goals, 1 assist), Zach Hall (6 assists), and Anthony Camara (3 goals, 1 assist) all were large contributors this preseason. New addition Andreas Athanasiou was also impressive with 3 goals and an assist.

Belleville Bulls
Michael Curtis is entering his 4th OHL season and is trying to finally take that next step offensively. He had 2 goals, and 2 assists this preseason and seems to be ready to breakout.

Brampton Battalion 
Brandon Robinson had a 4 goal preseason and the 2nd year power forward seems poised for a breakout season. Too bad he's not eligible for the NHL draft until 2014. Veteran Barclay Goodrow had 3 goals and an assist.

Erie Otters
New captain Connor Brown was one of three players to register 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 preseason games. The other two were draft eligibles Stephen Harper and Jake Evans. Rookie phenom Connor McDavid registered 3 assists.

Guelph Storm
Several of the Storm's terrific young forwards had strong preseasons. Scott Kosmachuk, Zach Mitchell, Hunter Garlent and Brody Milne all had 3 goals and 2 assists.

Kingston Frontenacs
Import Henri Ikonen had a strong preseason with a couple of goals and a couple of helpers. He looks like he could be a solid contributor for them this year. 2012 pick Spencer Watson was also strong with a goal and a couple of assists.

Kitchener Rangers
The dynamic Ryan Murphy had 1 goal, and 3 assists during preseason action. He should obviously be among the league leaders in defensive scoring. New addition Matt Puempel registered 1 goal and 3 assists, and appears to be fitting in well.

London Knights
Draft eligible forward Bo Horvat had 3 goals and looks ready to have a breakout year. This after a terrific performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Mississauga Steelheads
Forward Justin Rasmussen had 4 goals during the preseason and will look to have a larger role this season after being relegated to a depth role the past few years.

Niagara IceDogs
Rookie forward Anthony DiFruscia had 4 goals and seems like a talent to watch (as Sean Lafortune pointed out). Veterans Ryan Strome (1 goal, 5 assists), and Brett Ritchie (2 goals, 3 assists) also had strong preseasons. Sophomore Carter Verhaeghe had 1 goal and 4 assists and could have a breakout year. If the lockout continues, the Dogs could surprise this year.

Oshawa Generals
I think Lucas Lessio is poised to have a massive breakout season and he was terrific in the preseason with 4 goals, and an assist. Sophomore Cole Cassels was also very strong with 2 goals, and 4 assists. Veteran forward and overager Scott Sabourin is looking for an increased role this year and proved he might be capable of just that with 3 goals and an assist. When Tyler Biggs finally got into game action, he was also strong posting 3 goals.

Ottawa 67's
The diminutive Brett Gustavsen had an excellent preseason with 4 goals and a couple of assists. He'll need to be a big part of Ottawa's attack this year. Someone has to help Sean Monahan. 

Owen Sound Attack
Gemel Smith and Holden Cook each had 3 goals for the Attack. Smith could be among the league's leading scorers this year, while Cook is looking to improve upon the single goal he scored last year.

Peterborough Petes
Hard to pick a standout on a team that finished winless, but three new Petes forwards all had 2 goals; Greg Betzold, Jonatan Tanus, and Brett Findlay. Now if only the rest of the players could step up.

Plymouth Whalers
Veteran forward Garrett Meurs had a strong preseason with 3 goals and will look to continue to improve. Meanwhile, new defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto added a couple of goals and an assist and looks to be ready to play a large role in Plymouth.

Saginaw Spirit
Eric Locke had 4 goals and will look to finally cement himself as a top line offensive talent in this league. After failing to get drafted this year, he will certainly be motivated. Goaltender Jake Paterson was also solid and helped the Spirit to the best record in the West during preseason play.

Sarnia Sting
The charismatic Alex Galchenyuk had 2 goals and 4 assists and looks healthy and ready to dominate. Meanwhile, a couple of new faces also made big waves for Sarnia. Former USHL player Bryan Moore had 3 goals and 2 assists, while Russian import Nikolai Goldobin was fantastic in limited action with 3 goals and 3 assists.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The newly acquired Mitchell Dempsey had 3 goals and will look to show an offensive side to his game to match his physical play. The draft eligible forward was acquired from Plymouth in the Curcuruto deal.

Sudbury Wolves
Tryout Jake Ryan was fantastic and had 3 goals and 2 assists, earning a spot on the team. It remains to be seen whether this '93 can continue this success, but it's a great story none the less.

Windsor Spitfires
For all those who say Kerby Rychel mooched off of Alex Khokhlachev last year, the 3rd year player (and draft eligible forward) had a strong preseason with 3 goals and 3 assists. Avalanche draft pick Michael Clarke was also solid with 3 goals and 2 assists. He'll look to be more consistent this year.

Stay tuned for my 2012/2013 Season Preview this week!

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