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OHL 20 in 20 Summer Spotlight: Maksimovich advancing Otters tradition

With franchise cornerstones Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and Darren Raddysh moving on as OHL champions, the Erie Otters push on into the future, busily preparing for another fast approaching season.

Fourth-year 19-year-old forward Kyle Maksimovich is one of a handful of returning veterans tasked with passing Erie’s winning culture on to the next generation of Otters, a work he’s eager to undertake.

“We have our mottos and our tradition as Otters and it’s important for us to pass that on to the next guys,” he said. “I’ve been very privileged to be on a competitive team with high standards these past few years and we want to continue that culture into the future.

“Our coaches and management have instilled a will to win in us and we want that to continue.”

Producing 159 points (49-110–159) over 188 career regular season games, Maksimovich has been a reliable source of secondary scoring for the Otters, but with the departure of aforementioned names in Strome, DeBrincat and other forwards in Warren Foegele and Anthony Cirelli up front, he’ll be thrust into a more prominent role this season.

With highly successful head coach Kris Knoblauch accepting an assistant coaching position in Philadelphia, Maksimovich, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Taylor Raddysh, Minnesota Wild draftee Ivan Lodnia and sophomore Gera Poddubnyi will be counted upon to carry the load offensively under new coach Chris Hartsburg.

“Every year you lose players you have to move forward and adapt to what you have,” added Maskimovich. “We have a good group that’s going to be able to do that and the new look will create a new identity for us.”

The “new look” being referenced is the Otters’ recently unveiled white uniforms for the upcoming campaign, ones that follow a similar template to the club’s gold design worn throughout last season. A new cursive design has replaced the old stick-wielding Otter emblem as the club’s primary logo.

In addition to the departure of long-time stars and a prominent head coach, the Otters saw Director of Scouting Scott Halpenny accept an amateur scouting position with the Buffalo Sabres.

In times like these franchises look to players who will put the team before themselves and that’s exactly how Maksimovich approaches the game. While he has personal goals and aspirations, he hopes to achieve those through team success.

“I’ve been passed up in two drafts and it’s come to a point where I can’t focus all of my energy on that one thing,” he noted. “At the end of the year I’d like to have a contract or be drafted, but I’m more preoccupied with helping the team and helping to develop other players. We have some young guys going into their draft year that want to make a good impression.”

Though he hasn’t broken any scoring records, Maksimovich made his way into the Otters franchise record book this past season, playing in a string of 131 consecutive games from Mar. 14, 2015 to Feb. 25th, 2017, the second longest streak in club history behind defenceman Brian Lee‘s run of 200 straight contests.

His three years in the league have been spent playing alongside some of the most prominent names in Otters history. Now, as an elder statesman in the dressing room, he plans to use knowledge from the past to develop champions for the future.

“Guys like Stromer, Brinksy and Raddysh, they’re all amazing hockey players,” he said. “I think the biggest thing they taught me is to never be satisfied.

“There were nights when they’d put up two or three points but lose the game and they weren’t happy. You always have to strive to improve, to put in that extra work and do the little things to give you an edge and better your game. As soon as you’re satisfied you lose that edge.”

Maksimovich was inspired by his experience at Toronto Maple Leafs Development Camp in early July, giving him a taste of the NHL environment. He’ll use that experience to his advantage this season as he returns to Erie in a leadership role.

“I’ll never forget last season, it’s one of those years that sticks with you for a lifetime,” he reflected. “It’s going to be a different atmosphere this year and I’m excited to get back to work with my teammates and help some of our younger guys find their way.”

Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs.  See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.

(Photo credit: Keith Dotson/OHL Pucks & Stripes)

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