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Monday, September 20, 2010

The OHL season Begins Thursday

With the OHL season beginning Thursday, here's a look back at the pre-season and some of the performances.

Seth Griffith - London Knights. A year ago, I was telling anyone who would listen, that Griffith was under the radar and was going to turn heads this season. He tore it up for the Jr. B St. Mary’s Lincolns before being called up to the Knights with 15 games remaining last season. This preseason, the offence centered around Griffith on a Knights team struggling to find offence. He recorded 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 preseason games and I believe he can improve on that with the return of Jared Knight. It just solidifies him as my pick for top sleeper.

Alex Khokhlachev - Windsor Spitfires. What was considered to be a dogfight between Khokhlachev and Vladislav Namestnikov as the top Russian turned out to be the exact opposite. While Namestnikov struggled to find his game in London, Khokhlachev lit up the OHL with 4 goals and 9 assists in 6 games. He certainly found his game in North America and you have to imagine if guys like Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler return to junior, it can only help him.

Nick Cousins - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The super fast goal scorer showed why he shouldn’t be playing in the shadows of Daniel Catenacci. He showed off his speed and why he’s been a goal scorer  everywhere he’s played netting 5 goals in 7 games. He showed he has the potential and capability of out producing Catenacci for the Soo this season.

Josh Malecki - Windsor Spitfires. Invited to camp on a tryout, and only just signed by the Spits just yesterday, Malecki showed he can compete and actually play well. He started in 4 games for the Spits with a 3-0-1 record, 2.98 GAA and .903 SV%. He obviously won’t get much playing time in Windsor with the “next great netminder” Jack Campbell in Windsor. GM Warren Rychel said that he will be splitting time between Windsor and Detroit Compuware.

Ryan Strome - Niagara Ice Dogs. Strome had a very good preseason for a youthful Ice Dogs team, recording 3 goals and 6 points in 6 games. He skating ability, speed, and offensive touch were evident along with his ability to play the defensive game. He didn’t add enough bulk in the off-season and will have to work on that, but there is no doubting all his other assets.

Alex Basso - Belleville Bulls. Often compared to P. K. Subban, Basso will be counted on to provide offence from the defence along with fellow defenseman  Steven Strong. And he did just that. In six games he scored twice and added 7 assists while quarterbacking the powerplay. Strong himself contributed 2 goals and 5 assists. Both will be integral parts of a Bull’s resurgence, and with last years rookie of the year Matt Puempel potting goals for the Bulls, especially on the powerplay, it will only help Basso’s stock increase for the 2011 draft.

Alex Aleardi - Belleville Bulls. We have to give Aleardi a mention here since he led all OHL’ers in goals in the preseason with 8 in 6 games. But 5 of them came in an outstanding performance against Oshawa where he scored all 5 of his teams goals in a 5-4 win. The small but gifted forward could be looking at an 80 point season with the Bulls.

There are just to many outstanding performances to mention them all. But what this pre-season tells us is that it will be a strong and competetive OHL season and the OHL will once again lead the way in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Will the pre-season surprises keep it up over the course of the season? Will those that dissappointed find their game and step up when it counts? Only time will tell.  So head out to an OHL arena and support these future stars and enjoy a good hockey game. You won't be dissappointed.

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