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OHL at the Break: 10 first half takeaways

 

1. Felhaber a first half scoring machine

Powering his Ottawa 67’s to their 11th appearance in the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings this past week, Tye Felhaber’s 38 goals lead the entire CHL at the midway point of the season. The overage winger from nearby Pembroke, Ont. is in the hunt for an NHL contract, scoring in nine straight games to enter the holiday break, bringing his career regular season total to 124 tallies over 278 career contests between Saginaw and Ottawa dating back to 2014. Felhaber got off to a hot start on a line alongside rookie sensation Marco Rossi and 19-year-old veteran Austen Keating. With Rossi sidelined due to injury, New Jersey Devils prospect Mitchell Hoelscher has since moved up onto Ottawa’s top line. The 67’s lead the East Division with a 25-6-3-1 record. To offer some perspective, 2016-17 OHL scoring champion Alex DeBrincat scored his 38th goal of the season on January 28th enroute to 65 on the campaign? How many can Felhaber score?

 

2. Knights surge to top of Midwest Division

After getting off to a 5-4-1-0 start through their first 10 games of the season, the London Knights have since charged up the Midwest Division standings with the return Evan Bouchard (Edmonton Oilers) and Alex Formenton (Ottawa Senators) following early-season NHL auditions. London strung together 15 consecutive wins from October 27th to December 7th, rounding out their first 31 games with an overall record of 23-5-2-1 while surrendering a league-low 80 goals. Goaltenders Joseph Raaymakers and Jordan Kooy have been the OHL’s best tandem, backstopping the Knights’ league-leading penalty kill to an 89.8% efficiency rate. After scoring just once through his first 15 games, Chicago Blackhawks first round pick Adam Boqvist has contributed to London’s recent momentum, lighting the lamp eight times in his last eight outings.

 

3. Wolves back in contention

The Sudbury Wolves wrapped up the first half with 21 wins, more than they’ve had in the entirety of three of their past four seasons. Cory Stillman’s club recently strung together an eight-game winning streak, the franchise’s longest since back in 2000-01. Former first overall selections David Levin (16-18—34) and Quinton Byfield (14-15—29) lead the team offensively while 2017 first rounder Blake Murray (14-9—23) has built off a highly successful rookie campaign. The biggest difference for the Wolves this season has been in goal as 6-foot-5 Buffalo Sabres second round pick Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been a workhorse, currently riding an eight game winning streak while posting a 2.49 goals-against average and .923 save percentage over 26 games this season. The Finnish product was the third overall pick of the 2018 CHL Import Draft. The upstart Wolves currently sit just one point back of first place Niagara in the Central Division.

 

4. Robertson continues torrid pace with IceDogs

Speaking of Niagara, the IceDogs have thoroughly enjoyed their first eight games with one of the OHL’s premier goal-scorers in their lineup. Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson racked up eight goals, 14 assists and 22 points in his first month as an IceDog, being named the OHL’s Player of the Month for November. Robertson has scored five hat-tricks this season and is on pace to lead the league in shots on goal for a second straight year. Robertson’s arrival has sparked an offensive surge from 2019 NHL Draft prospect Philip Tomasino, who has 16 points in 10 games since Robertson came to town. The native of Northville, Mich. is currently vying for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team. The IceDogs sit atop the Central Division with a 20-7-5-0 record.

 

5. Brazeau climbs to top of league scoring race

Though his 14-18-1-1 Battalion have gone through their shares of highs and lows this season, team captain Justin Brazeau enters the holiday break as the OHL’s leading scorer. The 6-foot-6, 226Ib overage winger has 63 points including 34 goals and 29 assists through 34 games. Brazeau has at least a point in six straight contests including three straight outings with three points or more. The New Liskeard, Ont. product is currently in search of an NHL contract after attending training camp with the San Jose Sharks this past September. Earlier this season, Brazeau surpassed Brett McKenzie to become the leading goal-scorer over the Battalion’s six-year history in North Bay. He scored his 100th career OHL goal on Sunday and joins Wojtek Wolski, Barclay Goodrow, Cody Hodgson, Raffi Torres and Luke Lynes as one of just six players in franchise history to reach the century mark.

 

6. Sting setting the pace offensively

Though they’re hovering around .500 through the opening half of the season, the Sarnia Sting have filled the net in 2018-19. With nine different players having scored eight goals or more, the Sting have spread the scoring around behind leaders Hugo Leufvenius (21-21—42), Ryan McGregor (12-25—37) and Adam Ruzicka (11-24—35). Swedish National Junior Team hopeful Leufvenius is currently riding a 17-game point streak that dates back to November 9th while 16-year-old forward Jacob Perreault has enjoyed a coming out party, registering 30 points (17-13—30) through his first 30 games. One shouldn’t forget the recent return of talented forward Jamieson Rees who has battled injury through his first two OHL seasons. The 17-year-old has 13 points (5-8—13) over 12 contests after guiding Canada to gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this past summer. Though they’ve scored a league-leading 151 goals, they’ve also surrendered the league’s second-highest total of 152. The Sting will be looking to tighten things up defensively as they sit third in the West Division with a 16-15-2-2 record.

 

7. Salinitri a shorthanded threat

Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Salinitri has six shorthanded goals through the opening half of the season, putting him on pace to join a handful of players over the past 20 years of OHL history to reach double-digits in that department. Joseph Blandisi (10, 2014-15), Alex Hutchings (11, 2009-10) and Matt Foy (11, 2002-03) stand out as prominent shorthanded offensive threats in recent OHL history along with recent graduate Boris Katchouk of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds who racked up 13 shorthanded goals over a four-year career. The overage Salinitri joined the Generals from the Sarnia Sting in late November and has 10 points (3-7—10) over nine games with his new club. He was a sixth round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2016 and attended training camp with the Vancouver Canucks this past September.

 

8. Hounds back on top of the West again

Having won four West Division titles in the past five years, the defending Western Conference champion Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds haven’t skipped a beat despite losing some big names to graduation. With Canadian National Junior Team representatives Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton back in the fold, the Hounds have played to a 21-8-4-1 record through their first 34 games, leading second place Saginaw by seven points in the West Division. Los Angeles Kings prospect Matthew Villalta is back in the crease after being sidelined with an injury for nearly a month in November. Overage winger Keeghan Howdeshell has emerged as a big-time producer of late, riding a 13-game point streak into the break while sophomore winger Cole MacKay has also stepped up, producing 32 points (11-21—32) over 34 games. Sault Ste. Marie and Saginaw have split their four meetings so far this season and meet four more times in the latter half of the schedule as the battle for the West Division is far from over.

 

9. Jones successfully transitions into starting role with Petes

After just 15 games last season, 18-year-old Hunter Jones has proven capable of handling a big workload in Peterborough. The draft eligible 6-foot-4 netminder has played 30 of Peterborough’s 33 games so far this season, going 18-12-0-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .921 save percentage with two shutouts. The former fifth round pick in 2016 has been named to the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Red Deer, Alta. next month as a B-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s November Players to Watch list. Jones is currently second in OHL minutes played (1,664) and has made a league-high 880 saves.

 

10. Bulldogs’ big line among best in the league

The defending OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs will return from the holiday break looking to turn things around on the heels of three straight losses. The 15-17-2-0 Bulldogs do boast one of the OHL’s top offensive units though, with both Brandon Saigeon (22-32—54) and top 2019 NHL Draft prospect Arthur Kaliyev (24-28—52) inside the top-10 in OHL scoring. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew Strome (13-25—38) rounds out the trio that has helped the Bulldogs put together one of the OHL’s most dangerous power play combinations that currently sits tied for first at 27.7% efficiency. Additionally, Chicago Blackhawks prospect MacKenzie Entwistle (15-12—27) will represent Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver, BC starting on Boxing Day.

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