TORONTO — Ottawa 67’s forward Tye Felhaber is producing goals at a rate not seen in the Ontario Hockey League in well over a decade.
The 20-year-old started the season strong and has yet to cool off, scoring in back-to-back games last weekend to get to 48 goals in only 45 games.
"Fifty is always the big number but now I’m hopefully going to hit it in January, so I’m just gonna shoot for the stars and see what happens," said Felhaber, who also had a league-high 79 points as of Wednesday.
Felhaber, from Pembroke, Ont., is on pace to score 72 goals, which would put him in an elite group of players.
Only seven skaters have broken the 70-goal mark since the modern-day OHL formed in 1980. The last player to do so was current Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares with the Oshawa Generals in 2006-07 when he scored 72. Before him you have to go all the way back to 1990-91 when Eric Lindros potted 71 with the Generals.
Felhaber can only chuckle when he hears his name alongside those two.
"Maybe I can aim for 70 then. That would be awesome, same sentence, that would be cool," said Felhaber.
The six-foot, 189-pound Felhaber hasn’t gone more than two games without a goal this season and put together a 10-game scoring streak in December to set the tone for what’s been a successful year so far for the first-place 67’s.
He has benefited from having the league’s assist leader on his line in Austin Keating, as well as high-end rookie Marco Rossi. He says that much of his success comes from playing with those two and now that he’s pushing a 50-goal season, they are trying to get him the puck even more.
"We have that linemate chemistry where Austin is the passer, Marco’s the all-round guy and I’m more of the shooter and scorer. They both do a really good job looking for me."
Felhaber has watched two NHL drafts pass by him with no team calling his name. He scored an amateur tryout contract at the end of last season from the Montreal Canadiens and played four games with their American Hockey League team in Laval, Que., but nothing came of it.
His performance this season, though, has caught the attention of teams around the NHL.
"A lot of teams have reached out and talked with me and my agent Andy Scott … we’re just in the process of discussing the best option," Felhaber said. "A team that wants me but a good fit and has lots of opportunity.
"You appreciate the calls. It’s nice being a free agent where you get 20 teams’ perspective on you and you listen to what they say."
Felhaber went into the season unsure of where hockey would take him. He’s in his final season of junior eligibility and had started exploring the school route if pro didn’t become an option past 2019.
Playing as a junior overager with no NHL contract has come with some stress.
"You get on yourself more than when you were 18 because you know it’s your last year," said Felhaber.
Felhaber’s final season of junior could potentially be a memorable one regardless of how many goals he scores.
Ottawa is the top team in the OHL and swung deals at the trade deadline to make a strong push in the playoffs. The 67’s acquired goaltender Michael DiPietro as well as forward Kyle Maksimovich, two former Memorial Cup winners.
"As an overage player it’s your last chance to win. For us as players it’s really exciting when you add in guys," said Felhaber, who’s never been past the first round of the OHL playoffs.
"I Know that Kyle and Mikey have been at the Memorial Cup and they know what it’s like. Those two you’ll see them really help us in the playoffs. They’ve been there. They know the mental side."
Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat has the most goals in a season since Tavares, scoring 65 in 63 games in 2016-17 with the Erie Otters.
Ernie Godden holds the OHL record for goals in a season with 86, doing it in 1980-81 with the Windsor Spitfires.
Ray Ferraro holds the Western Hockey League single-season goal record with 108, while Mario Lemieux owns the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Canadian Hockey League mark, with 133, with both players setting the standard in 1983-84.