Tagged: Guelph Storm

Guelph Storm stay ‘in the family’ on OHL Draft Day

By: Bryan Thiel


It’s official: the Guelph Storm are a family business.

On Saturday, with the second overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, the Storm announced that they were selecting a Bertuzzi for the third time in franchise history. After taking his father Todd with the fifth overall selection in 1991 and his cousin Tyler in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, outgoing General Manager Mike Kelly informed Tag Bertuzzi that he’d be carrying on the family’s legacy in The Royal City. Continue reading

Summer Camp: OHL’ers at NHL Development Camps

By: Bryan Thiel


Each year NHL teams hold Development Camps for recently drafted/signed prospects, and to get a good look at some of the players that didn’t get draft but might be worth an entry-level contract.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of just who’s going where during the summer, so we’ve broken it down below, going team-by-team through the NHL. As some teams have not released a full roster, this list will be updated as information becomes available. Continue reading

OHL Announces Home Openers for OHL’s Opening Week

By: Bryan Thiel


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The OHL announced the home openers for all 20 teams on Tuesday (Courtesy: OHL).

The OHL announced the schedule for all 20 home openers during 2016/17  Opening Week on Tuesday. All 20 teams will play their home openers between Wednesday, September 21st and Saturday, October 1st.

You can see the schedule below:

(*Indicates a playoff matchup from the 2016 playoffs; Home team is in capitals)

Wednesday, September 21st:

SARNIA STING vs London Knights

FLINT FIREBIRDS vs Saginaw Spirit Continue reading

ICYMI: Wesley Signs with Canes, 15 Go Unsigned, Could Gruden be Back?

By: Bryan Thiel


With the NHL Draft now under a month away, another key date has come and gone when it comes to the prospect calendar.

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Wesley announced his agreement with this photo via his Twitter (@JoshyWeso).

On June 1st, NHL teams had to determine the future of any players selected out of the CHL from the 2014 Draft class that they had yet to sign. They could either come to an agreement on an entry-level contract, or they could forfeit the rights of the player, meaning the player could re-enter the draft or (in some cases) become a free agent.

 

Niagara IceDogs defenceman Josh Wesley was the only player of the 16 approaching that deadline to come to an agreement with his NHL team. After an up-and-down year split between Flint and Niagara, the Carolina Hurricanes inked Josh to an ELC. He’ll now stay with the club where his father, Glen, won a Stanley Cup and is now Director of Defensemen Development. Continue reading

Rest or Rust: The Recent History of 3-0 OHL Teams at the Memorial Cup

By: Bryan Thiel


The London Knights have crushed everyone in their path en route to the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup final.

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The London Knights have looked unstoppable at the Memorial Cup (Rob Wallator/CHL Images

Outside of an early stumble in the first round of the OHL playoffs against the Owen Sound Attack, the Knights have been dominant from start to finish: they’ve now won 16-straight games (13 in the OHL playoffs and three at the Memorial Cup), Mitch Marner is riding a 19-game point streak (44 points in the OHL playoffs and an astonishing 13 at the Memorial Cup), and just two of their last 12 games have been decided by one goal (Games 3 and 4 vs Niagara).

 

By all accounts, this team has earned every bit of rest they’ve received between the final horn of their 5-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda and the 4:30 puck drop of Sunday’s final (against those same Huskies).

While there’s no real reason to doubt the team that has scored a combined 423 goals this season, there is always one question that pops up whenever a team goes 3-0 in the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup: is the rest really beneficial?

It’s fair to wonder how rest can help or hurt a squad, even if it’s one that has outscored opponents 20-5 and features a player four points away from setting a new tournament record. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the last five OHL teams to go 3-0 in the round robin have fared.

Continue reading

Guelph Storm & Ryan Merkley Have Plenty to Smile About

By: Bryan Thiel


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Ryan Merkley may still be smiling.

On Saturday, the 15-year old GTHL Player of the Year was wearing the same smile he had on Friday morning in Guelph; a smile that will probably be plastered on his face until training camp begins.

He is, after all, the first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.

Wouldn’t you be smiling?

“It’s very exciting and I’m really honoured to be in the same category as guys like Chychrun, Stamkos and Spezza” he said. “It’s settling in a little more as time goes on, but it (first overall) hasn’t really set in yet. It’s just really exciting.”

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Guelph announced Friday that Merkley would go 1st overall in the Priority Selection. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Merkley and his family took over the OHL’s head office on Saturday morning during the draft, each of them in brand new gear courtesy of the Guelph Storm as they watched Ryan and others go through interviews and photo ops.

As Ryan, who finished the year with 44 points in 33 games for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, stepped in front of the canvas the first time, he would turn and laugh in between photos as his younger cousin weaved his way between everyone. During the second shoot with Owen Lalonde and Connor Roberts, he’d flex his stick with a mischievous grin, laughing along with the second and third overall picks.

At a quiet point, I turned to him and asked if the burgundy shirt/tie combo peeking out from under his jersey was by design. “Yeah. Once we found out I was going to Guelph we went suit shopping,” he beamed, like any teenager would. How long did he know that Guelph would be where he started his junior hockey career? Not one to spill a secret, the lips of the smile tightened a bit and he responded with a simple answer: “a while.”

The smile mostly represents the excitement of being the first overall pick,  but a part of it comes from who he was drafted by. The Guelph Storm aren’t typically at the top of the draft board. The last time they missed the playoffs was 1991/92, which was also the last time the franchise held the first overall pick and selected Jeff O’Neill. Since 2005, their highest draft picks have been Drew Doughty (5th in 2005) and Robby Fabbri (6th in 2012); they’ve otherwise held court in the middle part of the first round and done relatively well for themselves. It’s the rarity of the franchise finding itself with a top pick that had his dad comparing it to if Ryan had been drafted by the Detroit Red Wings.

“They’ve been to the Memorial Cup five times in the past 20 years and they won the league (in 2014),” Ryan said, proving he’d done his research on his new home. “I was actually there for their run a few years ago and it was so much fun.” The confines of the Sleeman Centre will be a little more friendly as well, as Merkley will also have a familiar face in the locker room with him; he works out and skates with Guelph’s third-round pick from last year Nick Deakin-Poot.

The dynamic defenceman wasn’t even thrown by the fact that he’s now the central figure in a big rivalry. Merkley’s family has ties to London which, of course, is Knights country. But is he concerned about who his family members will be siding with when he walks into Budweiser Gardens?

“They said they’ll come over and be Guelph fans, so hopefully when we go up to London they’ll be wearing Storm jerseys,” Merkley chuckled.

And if they’re still wearing Knights gear? “I’ll prove them wrong with a Guelph win hopefully.”

The only thing that threw a wrench into Merkley’s plans was watching teammates and friends scatter themselves across the OHL. Upon finding out one of his friends had been snapped up by the Kitchener Rangers, Merkley was disappointed. “I guess you guys are rivals now”, someone said. “I guess we are,” murmured Merkley as he turned back to the set and the smile quickly returned.

Now that the draft is over, a summer of training begins: getting bigger, stronger, and faster. That’s what’s on the mind of all the rookies as they set their sights on OHL rosters come September.

With that comes the added pressure of being a first overall pick, and drawing comparisons to other famous OHL Ryans in Ellis and Murphy. There will be blood, sweat, and tears,  ups and downs, and good days and bad. But for the Guelph Storm, their fans, and the new face of the franchise there will be one constant.

They can think about these two days in April…and smile.

Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.

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Recapping the OHL Trade Deadline: Player Rights, Massive Deals, and Who Needs Draft Picks?

By Bryan Thiel (@BryanThiel_88)


 

The OHL Trade Deadline is where teams decide if this is their year, or it’s ‘wait until next year’; are they contenders or pretenders?

This year, the league seems wide open with teams on both sides loading up at the deadline. 59 draft picks (10 of those conditional) changed hands between January 1st and 11th, with five trades involving one team surrendering four or more picks.

At the end of the day, it’ll only be worth it for one team: the one who claims the J. Ross Robinson Cup and moves on to the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Last year the Oshawa Generals made good on some savvy moves around the deadline, winning the league and claiming the title of the best team in the CHL.

Fittingly, we start with the defending champs when looking at some of the league’s biggest deadline dealings.

Recouping Assets

Last year Oshawa acquired Matt Mistele, Dakota Mermis, Michael McCarron, and Brent Pedersen among others. The price tag included Ryan Moore, Cliff Pu and a handful of picks. The moves obviously worked out, but for many championship teams the season after is one of regaining assets. Before the deadline they were able to get three picks for Mistele and four picks (plus some conditionals) for Stephen Desrocher from Kingston. The big deal was still yet to come however:

Oshawa sends Michael Dal Colle to Kingston for Robbie Burt, Flint’s 2nd round pick in 2017, Kingston’s 2nd round pick in 2019, and 3rd round picks in 2018 and 2022.

The Generals would mix in deals with London (Getting Eric Henderson for Jacob Graves and a pick) and Guelph (Justin Nichols for picks), but trading the Isles’ prospect who pulled in 31 points in 21 games during last year’s playoffs (while adding in the other moves) is a good way to set yourself up for the future.

Boom or Bust

One of the biggest names floating around at the deadline was former OHL first overall pick Travis Konecny. Rumours had him going all over the Western Conference but one team stepped up in an eye-popping way.

Ottawa sends Travis Konecny, Sam Studnicka and a 3rd round pick in 2016 to Sarnia for Chase Campbell, Sasha Chmelevski, Owen Sound’s 2nd round pick in 2016, Sault Ste. Marie’s 2nd round pick in 2017, Sarnia’s 2nd round pick in 2019 and 3rd round picks in 2019 and 2020,Windsor’s 3rd round pick in 2017, Saginaw’s 5th round pick in 2017, Oshawa’s 5th round pick in 2019, and two conditional picks (Sarnia’s 2nd round picks in 2021 and 2022).

There’s pressure in Sarnia to have some form of playoff success, which brought about the Sting’s activity at the deadline (which included picking up Charlie Graham). The last two series they won in the playoffs? 1996/97 and 2007/08, both vs Windsor. That’s nearly 20 years with just two visits to the second round. What makes this boom or bust is how difficult the Western Conference is this year. The Windsor Spitfires got better too and have a seven point lead in the division (although Sarnia has played three fewer games) and Sarnia is 12 points behind the Erie/London/Kitchener trio. Basically, the Sting have to go on a run and win the division, because there’s a very good chance they could have made some serious moves to simply finish fifth in the West.

On the flip side, if both Konecny and Pavel Zacha are with the Sting next year and the team struggles, they have the opportunity to flip both in an attempt to get some of those picks back like they did with Hayden Hodgson.

Mad Dash for the Central

The Central Division is crazy right now. Barrie leads the division with 49 points, but Niagara (47), Mississauga (46) and North Bay (44) are all within striking distance. The Steelheads added Mason Marchment at the deadline, while Niagara made moves for Stephen Harper and Tyler Boston, along with an early December swap for Alex Nedeljkovic and Josh Wesley. So what was left for the Barrie Colts?

Saginaw sends Dylan Sadowy and Gregory Di Tomaso to Barrie for Rocky Kaura, Barrie’s 2nd round picks in 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2021, 3rd round picks in 2017 and 2018, a 4th round pick in 2018, a 5th round pick in 2020, Kingston’s 4th round pick in 2016, and two conditional picks (Barrie’s 2nd round pick in 2022 and 3rd round pick in 2023).

The Colts were also able to add Keigan Goetz from Sault Ste. Marie, Cameron Lizotte from Peterborough, and Anthony Stefano from Windsor in December in an effort to keep the rest of the division at arm’s length. The bright side for Barrie is that they’re essentially in the reverse of Sarnia’s situation. With Ottawa the second-best team in the East Division at 42 points, there’s a good chance the Colts could pull off a third-place (or a worst-case scenario fourth) finish in the East if they can’t hold the Central.

The ‘Rights’ Fit

It’s not often that you see a player’s rights traded in the middle of the season. It’s even rarer that you see it happen twice. That’s exactly what happened though, when two Midwest Division rivals went after a pair of pro players.

Guelph trades Robby Fabbri to Kitchener for Kitchener’s 3rd round pick in 2020 and two conditional picks (Saginaw’s 2nd round pick in 2018 and Kitchener’s 2nd round pick in 2019).

Flint trades Sonny Milano to London for a conditional 15th round pick in 2016 (Pick becomes Sudbury’s 2nd round pick in 2019 and North Bay’s 4th round pick in 2016 if Milano plays in the OHL).

First let’s deal with what the players would bring. If Milano were to play for London this year, he would likely give them the best group of forwards in the OHL. With half a year of AHL hockey under his belt, a bronze medal from the World Juniors, and a 68 points last year in Plymouth, the Knights would add another dynamic talent (on top of getting 2015 Import Daniel Bernhardt to come overseas at the deadline) to their group of forwards. For Kitchener, they get a highly-skilled OHL champion with NHL experience, and a penchant for playing beyond his size.

Now when both of these trades went down, the immediate question asked was “what do these teams know that we don’t?” For Fabbri, St. Louis is extremely happy with him. There was a lot of talk about him going the other way in a trade for Ryan Johansen, but the Blues wouldn’t budge. And just before he played his 10th game in the NHL this year, a source said that it would be ‘shocking’ were Fabbri to be sent down at all this year.

So it seems that the Rangers simply took a chance that an elite OHL’er could be headed back to junior, and on the off-chance he is demoted, they add a huge weapon for a price they don’t need to worry about until 2020.

For the Knights, the connections between Jarmo Kekalainen and Basil McRae were brought up and people cited Milano’s AHL numbers as a reason he could be OHL bound. On top of that the belief that ‘if the Knights want him, they’ll get him’ had people predicting Milano would land in London last Friday at the earliest. But if you want an idea of just how sure the Knights are that Milano would come back to the OHL, maybe the price is an indication.

A 15th round pick doesn’t give off the impression that Milano is leaving Lake Erie. While Flint has had its controversies this year, one would think that if they had heard anything on the Milano front, the initial price would be much higher. Plus, Milano wasn’t drafted out of the OHL, so he can stay in the AHL as long as Columbus wants him there. Someone along the line could have said there ‘might be a chance’ of it happening and, like the Fabbri situation, it makes sense for a team with playoff aspirations to take the gamble ‘just in case’.

Overall it was another crazy OHL Trade Deadline. People want to know the winners and losers right away, but we won’t know who won until we see who the last team standing is. For one team, that will make this hectic start to January all worth it.


Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.

 

 

 

OHL Spin Cycle: Captain Konecny, First Rounders Falling In To Place, Kirwan Comes to Windsor

Guelph Storm: The Storm came to an agreement with first-round pick Matthew Hotchkiss last week. Hotchkiss was selected 20th overall by Guelph in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, and put up 27 goals and 26 assists in 53 games for Whitby last year. The 6’1″, 192lbs forward also won the OHL Gold Cup as a member of Team OMHA White in May.

Kingston Frontenacs: The Fronts and Steelheads swung a deal last week acquiring defenceman Chad Duchesne for a conditional 6th round pick in 2016. Chad was a 13th round selection by Mississauga (262nd overall) in 2011 and spent last year with Sioux Falls of the USHL.

Kitchener Rangers: The Kitchener Rangers locked up a member of their draft class when they announced an agreement between the team and goaltender Izzy Benigno. Benigno, an 11th round selection this year, played last year with the Toronto Young Nationals, backstopping them to a GTHL championship.

North Bay Battalion: The North Bay Battalion also reached an agreement with their first-round this past week, as Zach Poirier signed on with the club. Poirier was taken 14th overall by the Battalion in April, played for the Upper Canada Cyclones last year, scoring 21 goals and adding 17 assists in 29 games. The Troops weren’t done there, as they also signed Owen Green. Green, a 2013 9th round pick, scored 23 goals and added 45 assists in 64 games with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres last year.

Ottawa 67’s: The 67’s got some good news about forward Travis Konecny, as not only did he make Canada’s U-18 team, but he’s also been named the captain. Konecny will be looking to lead Canada to yet another Gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, which started on the right foot with a 5-1 win vs Switzerland on Monday. Konecny had an assist in the win. The 67’s also acquired former first-round pick Jeremiah Addison from Saginaw.

Owen Sound Attack: The Attack will be looking for a new Head Scout and Assistant GM, as Ian MacLellan has accepted a scouting position with the St. Louis Blues. MacLellan spent 11 years with the Attack under current General Manager Dale DeGray and Mike Futa, who is now working with the Los Angeles Kings as VP of Hockey Operations and Director of Player Personnel.

Plymouth Whalers: The Whalers have also been busy with their draft class, reaching an agreement with second-round pick Nicholas Caamano. Caamano had 22 goals and 22 assists last year with the Hamilton Jr. Buldogs in 40 games. The Whalers have now locked up their top two picks from the draft. The Whalers also announced that Dave McParlan will be taking over as Head Scout.

Sarnia Sting: Along with the news about Pavel Zacha committing to Sarnia, the Sting added three new faces to the franchise. Chris Lazary was named an assistant coach with the team after just three months with the Kitchener Dutchment and an impressive trip to the Sutherland Cup with the Waterloo Siskins. Meanwhile, the team hired former Sting goalie Patrick Desrochers as goalie coach, replacing Dave Rook, while Dylan Seca has been added to the scouting staff.

Windsor Spitfires: After acquiring his rights from Guelph, the Windsor Spitfires wasted little time in locking up Luke Kirwan to an agreement. A 2013 second round pick, Kirwan spent last year with the U.S. National Under-17 team where he scored 29 goals and added 28 assists in 54 games. The 6’2″, 220lbs winger also had six goals and seven assists at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Jim Parker of the Windsor Star also has a look into what the future might hold for Brady Vail after the Montreal Canadiens opted not to sign him, and he was invited to the Carolina Hurricanes Development Camp.

Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who’s covered the OHL from rink side and the broadcast booth. He’s also filed feature reports on the OHL for the past three seasons. You can follow him on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.

OHL Spin Cycle: Exhibition Schedule Announced, Hull Gets a Promotion, and Letters Home From (NHL) Camp

We’ll start today off with OHL news, as last Thursday the OHL announced the schedule for the exhibition season.

In total, 51 games will be played between August 30th and September 17th, one week before regular season action gets underway. The Ottawa 67’s and Gatineau Olympiques will be facing off in a two-game interleague series during the pre-season. The 67’s will host the Olympiques in Nepean, ON after traveling to Quebec for the first game of the matchup. Including the stop in Nepean, there will be 11 matchups in cities that don’t regularly host OHL action. You can check out the full OHL pre-season schedule here.

Belleville Bulls: It’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of personality in the Subban family. Following in the footsteps of older brothers P.K. and Malcolm, Jordan was in camp with the Vancouver Canucks recently, and the 2013 4th rounder became a mini-hit. The Bulls got their hands on Canucks TV’s mic’ing up of the defenceman.

Guelph Storm: NHL.com caught up with Robby Fabbri and the impression he left at St. Louis Blues development camp, and safe to say the Blues are happy with the early returns on their 2014 first rounder. Fabbri admits that he’s setting his goals high for the 2014/15 season, and while making the jump to the NHL may be tough, Storm fans will be happy to hear he’s prepared to take on the role of a leader within the club.

London Knights: Staying within the division, the Knights may need to fill a big-time departure once NHL camps end. With spots available at the NHL-level with the Arizona Coyotes, Max Domi is one of a number of young, promising players who are hoping to make the jump up the hockey ladder. The article paints a pressure-packed picture when it comes to Domi making a similar impact to last year’s training camp, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of Coyotes camp from Domi come September. The Knights also announced the details of their pre-season date with the Erie Otters in Stratford come September.

Niagara IceDogs: Niagara came to terms with second-round pick Chris Paquette last week. The 30th overall pick from this past OHL Draft put up 52 points (23 goals/29 assists) in 36 games last year with the Jr. Frontenacs in Minor Midget. Paquette enters an admittedly young Niagara locker room.

Owen Sound Attack: Last year around September, there were some whispers out of Colorado that defenceman Chris Bigras was on the cusp of a spot in an NHL locker room. When it comes to defenceman though, the learning curve is a bit steeper at the next level, so it wasn’t too surprising when Bigras was one of the last cuts from Avs camp and returned to the Attack. Adrian Dater takes a look at the blueliner who may be closer to two years away (according to Patrick Roy) from the NHL, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Peterborough Petes: A week after earning a three-year contract extension in Peterborough, Petes’ Head Coach Jody Hull got more good news. Following the hiring of Men’s Summer U-18 head coach Derek Laxdal by the Texas Stars, Hull has been promoted from assistant coach to head coach. The tournament gets underway August 11 after selection camp takes place from August 2-5 in Calgary.

Sarnia Sting: Just after last week’s Spin Cycle was published, the Sting came to an agreement with second rounder Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou had 40 points in 33 games for the Mississauga Senators last year and was taken 38th overall in the OHL draft.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: The Greyhounds had a busy week, locking up three players. The club came to agreements with forwards Boris Katchouk and Tim Gettinger, along with goaltender Joseph Raaymakers. Katchouk and Raaymakers are both second round picks from this year’s draft. Katchouk had 58 points in 29 games playing for the Waterloo Wolves, while Raaymakers played in 17 games for the Chatham-Kent Cyclones. Gettinger is a third-round pick coming out of the Cleveland Barons system. He had 19 goals in 32 games last year.

Windsor Spitfires: The Saginaw Spirit came to a quick agreement with forward Artem Artemov last week, and the Spitfires were soon to follow. Windsor and Markus Soberg came to an agreement last week, after Soberg was picked 29th overall by the Spits. Soberg was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

 

Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who’s covered the OHL from rink side and the broadcast booth. He’s also filed feature reports on the OHL for the past three seasons. You can follow him on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.