OHL In A Week is a weekly column by Jordan Jacklin focusing on events surrounding the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). If you’re ever feeling lost when it comes to following the league, you have come to the right place.
This week’s edition includes spotlighting OHL players that made their NHL team’s rosters after successful training camps. Among these players include great stories, varying from top-draft picks to undrafted prospects that worked harder than everyone else.
Clarke, Wright, Johnston, and Highlight OHL Prospects Cracking NHL Rosters
Here are four names to look out for as the NHL regular season begins. Shane Wright, Brandt Clarke, Wyatt Johnston, and Arber Xhekaj, all of whom played in the OHL last season. Let’s take a look at each player and assess their chances of staying in the big leagues. Some may stick with their NHL team or will be sent down to the OHL for the remainder of the season
The odd one out of this group is Xhekaj, who can either play for Montreal or their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Laval Rockets.
A quick tidbit on Xhekaj, he brings a unique element to the Canadiens lineup. He gets under player’s skin, and has already been doing that in the preseason. He’s not the most offensively gifted, but his defensive awareness and toughness will give him an extended look.
Shane Wright (Seattle Kraken)
Likelihood of returning to the Kingston Frontenacs: 20%
Wright is the most intriguing name out of the bunch. He was seen as the perspective first-overall pick in last year’s draft, but then fell to fourth overall. It’s no secret that he is looking to prove his doubters wrong and his motivation has led to him cracking Seattle’s opening night roster.
Kraken’s general manager Ron Francis believes Wright will be spending the entire season there, according to an interview with The Athletic. There is still room for him to grow, so don’t be entirely shocked if he gets sent back to the Frontenacs. However, I would not count on that scenario happening.
Brandt Clarke (Los Angeles Kings)
Likelihood of returning to the Barrie Colts: 30%
The Colts captain from last season is a longshot to return to Barrie. Clarke has made a great impression on the Kings coaching staff, and there are spots on that team for taking. He may not have made the Canadian World Junior team, twice at that, but he looks NHL-ready.
The defender had 59 points in 55 games last season, accumulating 1.073 points per game. Among OHL defenders, he was second in that category, only behind Nathan Staios. Out of these three names, he is the most likely to return.
Wyatt Johnston (Dallas Stars)
Likelihood of returning to the Windsor Spitfires: 10%
Johnston has one of the most interesting stories of any NHL prospect. The Stars drafted the center with their 23rd overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft. That may not seem too eye-catching at first, but he didn’t play a single game in his draft year due to an injury.
Johnston came back the next season and dominated play for the Spitfires. He scored 48 goals, and 124 points to lead the league in scoring. He is ready for the next step, and that appears to be in the NHL.
Michael Misa Showcasing His Talent With Saginaw
There’s going to be a lot of coverage on the 15-year-old center this season. Let’s take a look at how his rookie season has begun, and some general takeaways that can be made.
Misa has been productive out of the gate, having scored two goals in his first game. Overall, he has five points in his first five career games playing in a middle-six role. He isn’t relied upon to be the star of the team, so that’s working to his advantage. Anaheim Ducks prospect Pavel Mintukov is currently the play driver, producing 11 points in five games.
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These two haven’t played on the same power play unit, as of yet. Most of Misa’s time on the man advantage has been spent with Dean Loukus and Zayne Parekh. The biggest aspect with him is improving his defensive play, such as his positioning and winning one-on-one battles. For most players, that takes some time to adjust, let alone for the youngest player in the league.
Games Of The Week
It can be easy to get lost at this time of the year. The season has just begun, and there are still plenty of roster transactions being made. Let’s remind ourselves of the talent on the ice and spotlight some player performances.
These are three games that were the most eye-catching in terms of storylines.
Barrie Colts vs Niagara IceDogs – October 6th, 2022
The Colts played their strongest game of the season so far in a 5-2 victory over the IceDogs. Goaltender Anson Thornton made 25 saves on 27 shots, and is looking to provide consistent goaltending for this group. He spent last season with the Sarnia Sting, struggled on a poor team, and is now in a better scenario to succeed.
Other standouts for the Colts included Evan Vierling and Callum Chisholm. Vierling, a New York Rangers prospect, is playing in his D+2 season and is looking to take the next step. I predict that he has a career year and has roughly 65-75 points.
Chisholm, the former Mississauga Steelheads defenceman, is looking to establish himself as an everyday player. He scored his first goal of the season in this game. Let’s see if he can build off that.
Flint Firebirds vs Guelph Storm – October 7th, 2022
There’s a theme of high-scoring games in these three selections. The Firebirds defeated the Storm in a 5-3 victory last Saturday, and it was the usual suspects that provided the offensive spark.
Brennan Othmann, another New York Rangers prospect, had a three-point outing. His chemistry with Amadeus Lombardi is among the best in the league. Lombardi was the first star of this game, scoring one goal, and three assists for a four-point game.
Windsor Spitfires vs Saginaw Spirit – October 8th, 2022
The Spitfires narrowly defeated the Spirit in a 5-4 victory on Saturday. There were a lot of standout performances in this game, starting with the losing side. Matyas Sapovaliv, a Vegas Golden Knights prospect, had 3 points for the Spirit, and is currently has 5 goals in 5 games to start the season.
For the Spitfires, it was a team effort that led to victory. All five goals were scored by different players, with assistant captains Jacob Maillet and Matthew Maggio leading the way.
Now that the jitters of the early games of the regular season are out of the way, the quality of Hockey will only continue to improve.
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