Connor McDavid’s absence from Team OHL removes the league’s most potent scoring threat. McDavid is averaging 2.83 points per game and is the most dynamic player in the CHL. Being out for up to six weeks, you can only hope that he’ll be ready to suit up for Canada at the world juniors.
Despite losing both games in 2013, the OHL has the most dominant record (19-2-1) of any of the three leagues in this series to date. Traditionally, the OHL has had one game in the series prior to it’s league’s schedule of weekend games. This makes for a rested and at times practiced OHL team, accounting for much of that lopsided record.
Team OHL is in a tweener year as far as its potential representation on Canada’s world junior team. With just two returnees from last year’s WJC team, there remains a bundle of talent, but most of it is just 17 years of age and won’t be drafted into the NHL until June. Time and time again we’ve heard that the WJC is a tournament best served by a predominantly 19 year-old roster. This does, however, make for interesting competition amongst the ’95 born group.
Team OHL has plenty of in-your-face types who need to play on the edge to maximize their effectiveness. This isn’t always the recipe, however, when the games are called in an international fashion. While Hockey Canada claims to have moved away from “role” players, the likes of Nick Baptiste, Tyler Bertuzzi and Brendan Lemieux may be able to convince the brass into believing that at least one of them is a worthy addition when play opens in December. That trio will quickly have to determine where the international officiating line is in order to play the “role-player” card.
It’s typical for the OHL to play two different teams in this event. Part of that has to do with not wanting to overplay kids after they’ve played all weekend long. Part of it has to do with getting a look at as many potential WJC candidates as possible.
2014 World Junior Championship returnees
*Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters (eligible 2015), Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound Attack (32nd, Colorado in 2013)
Likely to earn an invite to 2015 WJC camp
Max Domi, C, London Knights (Arizona, 12th in 2013) He’s handled his return to the OHL like a pro. Will take an “I-told-you-so” attitude on his way to earning a spot on the final roster.
Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Edmonton, 7th in 2013) Will play in both games and get a fair shake. Is best served by playing a simple, physical game.
Robby Fabbri, C, Guelph Storm (St. Louis, 21st in 2014) Loaded with skill, he’s an offensive dynamo who’s value may have increased depending on McDavid’s health.
Highest Drafted Players
Michael Dal Colle, LW Oshawa Generals (New York Islanders, 5th overall in 2014)
Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Edmonton, 7th overall 2013)
Nick Ritchie, LW, Peterborough Petes (Anaheim, 10th in 2014)
What to Watch For
Belleville’s Jordan Subban (Vancouver, 115th in 2013) and Oshawa’s Mitchell Vande Sompel (eligible in 2015) sticking out like sore thumbs as high-risk, high-reward defencemen in an otherwise pedestrian group.
Mississauga netminder Spencer Martin (Colorado, 63rd in 2013) is capable of the best single goaltending performance in any of the six games in this series, but he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to the WJC team.
Aside from McDavid, Team OHL features future NHL first-rounders Dylan Strome (Erie Otters), Mitch Marner (London Knights), Travis Konecny (Ottawa 67’s), Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs) and Matthew Spencer (Peterborough Petes). And expect Vande Sompel to work himself into consideration by season’s end.
Under the Radar
Nick Baptiste, RW, Sudbury Wolves (Buffalo, 69th in 2013) He should’ve gotten a WJC camp invite last year. Getting away from a dismal Sudbury team should provide all the inspiration needed to get one this year.
Remi Elie, LW, Belleville Bulls (Dallas, 40th in 2013). He’s flourished with increased playing time and more responsibility since being dealt form London to Belleville last year.
Kyle Wood, D, North Bay Battalion (Colorado, 84th in 2014) A Steady-Eddie with a pinch of offensive upside. If the Battalion still played in Brampton, you’d need a search warrant to find him, but Northern Ontario and the OHL’s Central division know him all too well. Soon, so will you.
Interesting Story Lines
Connor McDavid’s absence is equally important a story as his participation would’ve been.
Both Domi and Nurse felt slighted and embarrassed by not getting an invite to WJC camp last year, but can’t take for granted their inclusion this year.
Windsor right-winger Josh Ho-Sang (New York Islanders, 28th in 2014) won’t get a better proving ground than this one. Opportunity taken or squandered?