A talent-laden Team OHL roster hits the ice in Owen Sound on Thursday for Game 3 of the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series, inheriting split decisions by the WHL in Games 1 and 2 earlier this week.
Two OHL players in Mississauga Steelheads winger Owen Tippett and London Knights forward Alex Formenton are coming off career-shaping experiences this past month, both suiting up in the National Hockey League to start the 2017-18 season.
From one great opportunity to another, both players will now put their best foot forward in an effort to represent Canada at the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo this Christmas.
“Getting those seven games in the NHL has shown me what it is I really need to work on,” said Tippett, who scored his first NHL goal with the Florida Panthers on October 26th against Anaheim. “Playing in the NHL is something I always dreamed of and for it to happen the way it did was something I’ll never forget.”
The 10th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Tippett helped the Steelheads reach the OHL Championship Series last spring after scoring 44 goals during the regular season. The Peterborough, Ont. native says older teammates were supportive of him during his time in South Florida.
“I had guys and their families invite me over for dinner or just offer to take me out places which was really nice,” he said. “They knew how young I am and took the time to consider what I might be going through, so I’m very appreciative of the guys there. It says a lot about the team they have.”
After a 1-8-0-0 start, the Steelheads have won five of their last six games and will get one of the OHL’s most accomplished offensive wingers back in the lineup next weekend.
Another highly touted team that got out of the gates slowly, the London Knights lost eight of their first nine games before getting fleet-footed winger Alex Formenton back from an extended look with the Ottawa Senators. London is 5-1-1-0 since his return, with Formenton recording a goal and seven assists over those seven contests.
The 18-year-old King City, Ont. native made his NHL debut with Ottawa back on October 7th against the Detroit Red Wings. He was the Senators’ second round (47th overall) pick this past summer.
“It’s hard to describe what it’s like playing on the same ice surface as the guys you grew up watching,” he reflected. “It’s a night I’ll never forget, I can tell you that much.
“It leaves you wanting more.”
A guy who can relate to both young players, Team OHL head coach Trevor Letowski (Windsor Spitfires) followed up a prolific OHL career in Sarnia with a 616-game NHL career that spanned parts of nine seasons. The Canadian National Junior Team assistant coach is eager to see what both Tippett and Formenton bring to the ice on Thursday.
“Both of those guys have been through a lot these past few months and being able to participate in the day-to-day NHL lifestyle is valuable experience for such young players,” he said. “Hopefully they can take what they’ve learned at the pro level and apply it in their effort to try and earn a spot on Team Canada.”
Tippett makes his second CIBC Canada Russia Series appearance after suiting up in North Bay last year where he recorded two assists in a 4-3 loss. He’ll join Steelheads teammate Ryan McLeod in the Team OHL lineup after the two were announced as injury replacements for Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound Attack) and Givani Smith (Guelph Storm).
Team OHL carries an all-time record of 23-4-1 into action on Thursday. Game 3 from Owen Sound can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific when the puck drops at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.