I had my first opportunity to check out OHL hockey this season on September 9th at the Barrie Molson Centre as the hometown Colts played host to the Guelph Storm in their third pre-season game of the year. While I generally don’t like to put too much stock into pre-season games, here’s a recap of how things went in Guelph’s convincing 6-1 victory.
From the outset it’s clear to see that this will be a long year for the Colts, as even considering the absence of Kyle Clifford, Taylor Carnvevale, Peter Di Salvo and potential overagers Darren Archibald and Dalton Prout, this team is a shell of its 2009/2010 edition. While Barrie managed to outshoot Guelph in the game, the Storm dominated the scoring chances category and looked superior the entire game.
Garrett Sparks (1993) played the full game for Guelph but wasn’t really tested often throughout the game. He’s a big guy, but you could see he was fighting the puck out there as he faced OHL shooters after playing AAA last year in Chicago. The game was dominated by the Guelph trio of Michael Latta (1991 – Nashville 3rd 09), Peter Holland (1991 – Anaheim 1st 09) and Taylor Beck (1991 – Nashville 3rd 09). After each of them scored at a higher clip last year, they simply dominated this game, combining for 5 goals, with three being of the highlight variety. While the competition was pretty weak out there, this line has to be an early favourite to be among the most dominant in the league and all three of these guys will likely find their way to the top of the OHL Scoring Leaders.
Aside from the big line, it was a good opportunity to see some of Guelph’s 93s and 94s in action with a chance to log some ice. Carter Sandlak (1993), was Guelph’s first round pick in 2010, and looks like he’s added a lot of muscle to his 6’2″ frame. He was skating well out there and made some things happen driving the puck to the net. He’s certainly not the most talented player, but his willingness to battle and play a physical game should garner some attention as a mid to late round pick. I was hoping for more from Zack Mitchell (1993) as he definitely has some skill but he still looks weak out there. He had a couple of nice plays, but a few times he was caught trying to do too much and turned the puck over including one very poor turnover at the Barrie blue-line that resulted in an odd man rush the other way. Russian Import Andrei Pedan (1993L) had a decent showing, as the 6’4″ blueliner showed some good speed and willingness to play physically, he’ll be a guy worth following this year to see how he progresses as he’s still very raw.
Of Guelph’s 94′s, first round pick Matt Finn was definitely the best. He looked reliable out there and made some great decisions moving the puck. You could tell the speed of the game got to him a couple of times, but those are adjustments you expect out of any rookie. Scott Kosmachuk and Brock McGinn both had a couple of good opportunities but look a lot like Zack Mitchell from a year ago. They’ll both likely crack the opening night lineup but will see reduced roles this year as Guelph looks to ride their veterans towards a deep playoff run as there are high expectations for the Storm this season.
On the Barrie side, the team is definitely lacking the offensive prowess from last season and the defense is very inexperienced. Goaltender Clint Windsor, the team’s 4th round pick in 2009, played the whole game which was certainly one to forget. While a couple of the Storm’s goals were no doubters, Windsor looked like he was struggling with his lateral movement and wasn’t seeing the puck well. His rebound control was also below average and he was really fighting the puck out there. It will be interesting to see how Barrie handles their goaltending situation with Di Salvo, McGrath and Windsor all in the mix.
As I alluded to, the team is lacking a lot of skill, but there were a couple of players who stood out and will be bright spots for the Colts this season. Recently acquired winger Steven Beyers (1992) was definitely the most dangerous player in blue. After spending the last two seasons battling injuries in Orangeville, Beyers elected to pass up the NCAA route after he was dealt to Barrie by the Sudbury Wolves. While he still needs to add some strength, there were a lot of great things that Beyers did. You could tell he was more than willing to fight for the puck down low, and his agility and stick handling allowed him to elude Storm defenders. He was very creative off the rush and made a couple of real nice heads up passes to set up his linemates. While there was times where he showed some rust, it was a real good showing for him and I think he’s a player that will definitely be one of the go-to players for the Colts this season.
The Colts also have a couple of 93′s who look to get much bigger roles in the OHL this year as well. Center Zach Hall who lit up Jr. A last year in Couchiching and managed a few games with the Colts was very dangerous all night. He’s got a wide skating style that might remind you of Alexander Burmistrov and there are even similarities to their games. He’s got a quick release and had a few real nice chances. He still needs to bulk up, but he could be a guy that scores at a solid clip this year. Center Mark Scheifele who was just brought in from Saginaw was another 17 year old that really impressed. He was strong on the puck and did a god job of taking it to the traffic areas and generated a couple of good chances in the high slot by himself. He took a few big hits and he’ll need to fill out his 6’3″ frame, but he’s a guy that will certainly make his way onto the NHL radar. Dylan Smoskowitz is another fairly touted player for the Colts, coming off a 62 point season in Jr. A as a 16 year old, but he wasn’t much of a factor at all in this game.
Tags: Andrei Pedan, Barrie Colts, Brock McGinn, Carter Sandlak, Clint Windsor, Dylan Smoskowitz, Garrett Sparks, Guelph Storm, Mark Scheifele, Matt Finn, Michael Latta, OHL, Peter Holland, Scott Kosmachuk, Steven Beyers, Taylor Beck, Zach Hall, Zack Mitchell