It’s been just under a month since the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League took to their home ice at the Arena at TD Place, but on Friday night, they finally returned home for their first game of 2022 and only their second game since returning from the Christmas break. In town was the Peterborough Petes who were looking to avenge their Thursday night loss to the Sudbury Wolves, but the 67’s youth was too much for the Petes to handle. Ottawa skated away with a 4-2 win, earning their second consecutive win.
Tyler Boucher’s Debut Will Wait
The talk of the town over the past couple of weeks has been Ottawa Senators’ 10th-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Tyler Boucher leaving Boston University in favour of joining the 67’s. It was expected that he would make his debut in this game, but after injuries and a positive COVID-19 diagnosis before coming to Ottawa, his debut will have to wait until at least next weekend.
“Tyler is training and getting back into game shape and recovering from some injuries,” said general manager James Boyd. “It will be day-to-day. I think we’re hoping that he will be back for next weekend, but he has to clear some hurdles and we want to make sure he’s 100 percent before he returns to the lineup. He missed some significant amount of time in the month of December, but he’s working to get back into game form and we’ll work closely with the Senators on that. He’ll be back in the near future.”
When he does join the lineup, he will bring something the 67’s don’t have much of, a big forward. Boucher left the NCAA looking to better himself and he will have a golden opportunity to get some ice time with some good players. There’s reason to be excited for his addition, especially if he finds a way to add some goals along the way.
Brady Stonehouse Has Another Big Night
As time has gone by, Brady Stonehouse has emerged as one of the 67’s better players this season. Through absences of key players including Calgary Flames prospect Jack Beck, Stonehouse has been forced to play key minutes and has met the challenge head-on. In recent weeks, he has taken his game to a different level and has started mixing in some flashy offensive plays as well.
“I think I gained more confidence,” said Stonehouse. “I’ve already played 30 games in the league, so as the season goes on, I’m going to gain confidence and start playing myself. The role I have now is pretty good. I’m scoring, so that’s good, but I’m just doing anything it takes to win for the team.”
“I just stayed low with the family,” he said of his Christmas break activities. “My Mom was here this week, so that was good. She made lots of meals for me, so I think that’s what propelled me.”
Although Stonehouse is a rookie, he is in his draft-eligible season and is currently ranked 138th among North American skaters. He has played like a veteran in the league as of late, however, and he has given his coach an extra body to rely on. He’s ensuring that his draft stock will only go up as the season moves along.
“I thought from game 20 and on Stonehouse has been real good,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “I think for the last 12 games he’s taken his game to a different level. That’s what you want from the young guys. The big thing for him now is to just keep growing. Don’t get comfortable when you make that first step.”
Stonehouse admitted that he set a goal for himself to reach 20 goals this season, but that might need some adjusting considering his recent production. In both games since the Christmas break, he has had multi-goal games and has brought his total to 10 in fairly short order. His development has been fun to watch, and he is starting to make a name for himself around the league.
Will Cranley Stands Tall
When things break down in the defensive zone and someone needs to answer the bell, you have to call on your goaltender. Thankfully for the 67’s, they have been calling on Will Cranley who has been rock solid all season long. He has been making his case for the league’s best goaltender all season long, and even when he lets a goal in that he would like back, he is able to move forward and make the next save.
“I think just trying to control what I can,” said Cranley. “The goal was one I would like to have back. It was kind of a weird bounce and I didn’t really see it coming in. I just kind of reacted. I think at the end of the day, it’s just being able to reset and do what I can. I can’t do anything about that goal after I let it in.”
“We’re a team and everybody on the team is important,” he continued. “It’s my job to make a couple of those saves when we make those mistakes. I think it’s just doing my job, keeping it simple, and just make the saves for the boys.”
Cranley has been a sense of calm in the crease on what has at times been a very hectic young team. There have been critical breakdowns in front of him all season long, but more often than not, he comes up big. His record might not indicate that he’s doing all that well, but he gives his team a chance to win nearly every single time he steps on the ice.
“That’s the other thing when you’re a young team, you know you’re going to give stuff up,” said Cameron. “You know that your goaltender is going to have to be there for you. I liked [Cranley’s] game tonight. He made some big saves. I don’t think we gave up a whole lot, but with a young team, it’s not that we give up a whole lot most nights, but when we give them up, they are bell ringers. [Cranley] was good tonight, he bailed us out.”
Young Guns Make Impact
Through injuries to key players and moves made at the trade deadline, the 67’s have gotten even younger than they already were. In their short time back, however, their young talent has seemingly taken that next step that is allowing them to remain competitive. Stonehouse, Vinzenz Rohrer, and Will Gerrior are just a couple of examples of that, but while they wait for their vets to return, they have been holding down the fort.
“We knew we were going to be young, but we also had some guys that we were comfortable with, but we’ve had the injury bug,” said Cameron. “It’s kinda ironic, it was all the older guys, so now, we had to call more young guys up and we went from being young to being really young. There’s no insulation for them, and it’s a tough league to cut your teeth in when the team is completely young.”
“We’re hoping moving forward that the extended time playing will reap the benefits and I thought the young guys played really well tonight.”
Those young players gave Cameron and Boyd confidence to make some of the moves that they did at the deadline, and for it, they can remain competitive this season as well as add some assets through the draft and via trade with their returns.
“You’re not going to move your older guys if you don’t think the young guys are ready,” said Cameron. “Again, it’s a projection. You think they are ready, they show signs of being ready, but it’s still a projection. They are 30-something games young. They did it tonight, now each game will be a step, certainly now in a back-to-back with a short turnaround, it will be another challenge for them. We’re comfortable enough with the young guys that we could move the older guys.”
It’s hard not to think about what this team will look like when they do get completely healthy again, but with how their young players are playing right now, it’s a really exciting future. Both for the short term and the long term, the 67’s seem to have things mostly figured out.
Right Back at It on Saturday
There won’t be a long rest between games for the 67’s this time as the Sudbury Wolves are in town on Saturday afternoon for a game that will, unfortunately, be played without fans again. The Wolves are on a bit of a run of their own this weekend, beating both the Petes and the Kingston Frontenacs on national TV on Friday night. It should be another good test for the 67’s, one they sound ready for.