Ontario’s top prospects hit the ice at U16 OHL Gold Cup
Ontario’s top young prospects are suiting up for their respective minor hockey associations at the 2017 OHL Gold Cup taking place at the Activa Sportsplex in Kitchener this weekend.
Of the 160 players competing at the event, 130 were chosen in April’s OHL Priority Selection, representing approximately 81% of the young athletes taking the ice at the annual event that runs from Thursday through Sunday.
45 players from the 2016 OHL Gold Cup were invited to the Hockey Canada Under-17 National Camp, with 28 players from the event cracking Team Canada White, Red and Black rosters last November.
Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s head scout for the men’s Program of Excellence, will lead player selection for both the summer camp and three national Under-17 teams, with assistance from regional scouts that include Ontario’s Darrell Woodley and Barclay Branch.
The Guelph Storm lead the way with 12 prospects competing in this year’s edition of the showcase while the Flint Firebirds, North Bay Battalion, Saginaw Spirit, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves trail close behind with nine prospects each.
A total of 18 first round selections will compete, including first overall pick Ryan Suzuki (Barrie Colts), second overall pick Tag Bertuzzi (Guelph Storm) and third overall pick Brandon Coe (North Bay Battalion). Team GTHL Blue leads the way with six first round selections on the roster.
Exceptional performances at past OHL Gold Cup tournaments have provided a glimpse of what a player is capable of further on in his career. Several future OHL standouts have made strong impressions at the event.
Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny (Sarnia Sting) powered Team ALLIANCE to a third place finish in 2013, scoring the overtime winner in the final game to finish the tournament with five goals, two assists and seven points in five games. The first overall pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection just wrapped up his first season in the NHL, scoring 11 goals while recording 17 assists for 28 points in 70 games. Konecny was joined on Team ALLIANCE by Arizona Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs) as well as defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel of the London Knights.
2014 OHL Gold Cup top scorer William Bitten enjoyed a solid campaign with the Hamilton Bulldogs this past season. The seventh overall pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, Bitten scored six goals, five assists and 11 points in five games for Team HEO in the 2014 OHL Gold Cup. He posted 23 goals and 34 assists for 57 points in 65 games with Hamilton this past season after being selected in the third round by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Currently playing in the 2017 Rogers OHL Championship Series, Erie Otters forward Kyle Maksimovich enjoyed a successful 2014 OHL Gold Cup, finishing the tournament with four goals, three assists and seven points in five games. The Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget graduate provided Team GTHL Blue with a timely overtime winner in the tournament as he helped lead his team to a second place finish. Maksimovich recorded 16 goals, 48 assists and 64 points in as many games with the Western Conference champion Otters this season.
The 2015 OHL Gold Cup showcased a pair of highly touted prospects eligible for both the 2018 NHL Draft and 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago this summer. 2018 draft eligible defenceman Evan Bouchard (London Knights) led the tournament in scoring with 11 points (5-6–11) in five games, six of which came in Team OMHA White’s final game of the tournament. Talented 2017 draft eligible centreman Gabriel Vilardi (Windsor Spitfires) and speedy centre Brett Neumann (Kingston Frontenacs) were also top performers, each registering nine points in the showcase. Robbie Burt (Oshawa Generals) would score twice and goaltender Jake McGrath (Sudbury Wolves) would backstop Team GTHL Blue to a 6-2 Championship Final victory over Team ALLIANCE.
Team GTHL Blue was crowned OHL Gold Cup Champions for the second straight year in 2016, taking a 6-1 win over Team ALLIANCE in the Championship Final. Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) led the way with two goals and an assist while Riley Damiani (Kitchener Rangers) pitched in with a pair of assists. Thomas led the 2016 event in scoring with 11 points including six goals and five assists in five contests. Fellow first round OHL Priority Selection choice Allan McShane (Oshawa Generals) finished second in tournament scoring with nine points (6-3–9) while 2017 first overall pick Ryan Merkley (Guelph Storm) led all defencemen with eight points (1-7–8). In goal, OMHA Black goaltender Blair Coffin (Sarnia Sting) led netminders with a 0.81 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage over 147 minutes played.
Team GTHL Blue goes for the three-peat this year when the puck drops at 9:00am on Thursday morning.
COMPLETE SCHEDULE: ohlgoldcup.com
Live streaming available at hockeytv.com.
About the OHL Gold Cup
The OHL Gold Cup is an annual showcase event featuring top under-16 talent in Ontario. As part of the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence, select players from the OHL Gold Cup will be invited to attend the National Under-17 Selection Camp, where they will have a chance to compete with other top talent from across Canada, to earn a spot at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.