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CHL Season Preview Series: OHL’s Central Division

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Part of a coast-to-coast series previewing the 2019-20 Canadian Hockey League season features the Ontario Hockey League’s Central Division:

Barrie Colts

Last 5 Years

2014-15: 41-24-1-2, 85 Points (1st in Central Division)
2015-16: 43-22-0-3, 89 Points (1st in Central Division) ▲
2016-17: 17-44-6-1, 41 Points (5th in Central Division) ▼
2017-18: 42-21-4-1, 89 Points (1st in Central Division) ▲
2018-19: 26-38-3-1, 56 Points (5th in Central Division) ▼

Best Playoff Result: 2016 – Lost 4-0 vs. Niagara in Round 3

Need to Know

Head Coach: Warren Rychel*, 1st Season
2019 Priority Selection (Top Pick): 1/4 (D) Brandt Clarke (Don Mills Flyers MMAAA)
2019 CHL Import Draft (Top Pick): 1/11 (G) Arturs Silovs (Riga SK Riga)
2018-19 Notable Graduates: (LW) Ben Hawerchuk
NHL Prospects: (D) Mathew Hill (Anaheim, 6/186, 2019), (C) Matej Pekar (Buffalo, 4/94, 2018), (C) Ryan Suzuki (Carolina, 1/28, 2019), (D) Tyler Tucker (St. Louis, 7/200, 2018)

*Earlier this month, the Colts announced Dale Hawerchuk will take a leave of absence from his head coaching duties due to a medical issue.

Players to Watch

Returning Leader: (C) Ryan Suzuki
On the Horizon: (RW) Riley Piercey

Following his first-round selection in this summer’s NHL draft, centre Ryan Suzuki is expected to return to the Colts in 2019-20, where he’ll be looked upon to once again lead the team offensively after topping the charts with 75 points last season. Up front, Suzuki is joined by 16-year-old winger Riley Piercey, the club’s top pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection who broke in as a freshman last season, notching 14 points in 60 appearances, with expectations for a greater offensive output in the coming campaign.

Mississauga Steelheads

Last 5 Years

2014-15: 25-40-2-1, 53 Points (4th in Central Division)
2015-16: 33-30-2-3, 71 Points (4th in Central Division) ▲
2016-17: 34-21-6-7, 81 Points (1st in Central Division) ▲
2017-18: 33-32-1-2, 69 Points (4th in Central Division) ▼
2018-19: 32-29-5-2, 71 Points (3rd in Central Division) ▲

Best Playoff Result: 2017 – Lost 4-1 vs. Erie in J. Ross Robertson Cup Final

Need to Know

Head Coach: James Richmond, 4th Season
2019 Priority Selection (Top Pick): 1/12 (D) Ethan Del Mastro (Toronto Marlboros MMAAA)
2019 CHL Import Draft (Top Pick): 1/32 (D) Ole Julian Holm (Colorado Thunderbirds 16U)
2018-19 Notable Graduates: (D) Ryan Barbosa, (RW) Cole Carter, (LW) Alan Lyszczarczyk
NHL Prospects: (D) Thomas Harley (Dallas, 1/18, 2019), (RW) Cole Schwindt (Florida, 3/81, 2019), (C) Keean Washkurak (St. Louis, 5/155, 2019)

Players to Watch

Returning Leader: (D) Thomas Harley
On the Horizon: (C) Aidan Prueter

One of the OHL’s top offensive blue-liners last season, Thomas Harley returns to the Steelheads for 2019-20, where he will continue the leadership role he assumed following a handful of key departures at last year’s trade deadline. The Syracuse, N.Y., native ranked third in team scoring last season with 58 points and could finish first this year following the graduations of scoring forwards Alan Lyszczarczyk and Cole Carter. Helping carry the offensive burden will be 17-year-old centre Aidan Prueter, who put up 19 points in 30 games after joining Mississauga.

Niagara IceDogs

Last 5 Years

2014-15: 37-27-2-2, 78 Points (3rd in Central Division)
2015-16: 35-26-4-3, 77 Points (3rd in Central Division) ▼
2016-17: 23-35-6-4, 56 Points (3rd in Central Division) ▼
2017-18: 35-23-7-3, 80 Points (2nd in Central Division) ▲
2018-19: 44-17-7-0, 95 Points (1st in Central Division) ▲

Best Playoff Result: 2016 – Lost 4-0 vs. London in J. Ross Robertson Cup Final

Need to Know

Head Coach: Billy Burke, 3rd Season
2019 Priority Selection (Top Pick): 1/17 (D) Isaac Enright (Pembroke Lumber Kings MAAA)
2019 CHL Import Draft (Top Pick): 1/47 (D) Giancarlo Chanton (Langnau SCL Young Tigers Jr.)
2018-19 Notable Graduates: (D) Matt Brassard, (G) Stephen Dhillon, (C) Ben Jones (Vegas), (RW) Ivan Lodnia (Minnesota), (RW) Kirill Maksimov (Edmonton), (LW) Jason Robertson (Dallas), (D) Johnathon Schaefer, (C) Jack Studnicka (Boston)
NHL Prospects: (C) Akil Thomas (Los Angeles, 2/51, 2018), (RW) Philip Tomasino (Nashville, 1/24, 2019)

Players to Watch

Returning Leader: (C) Akil Thomas
On the Horizon: (RW) Philip Tomasino

Akil Thomas will shoot for a spot with the Los Angeles Kings, but should he require more seasoning in the junior ranks, he’ll return to the IceDogs for 2019-20, where he will be expected to fill a leadership role following the departure of several of last season’s veterans. After his 102 points finished tied for fifth in scoring league-wide a year ago, Thomas remains a contender for Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy honours this season. Also playing a greater role in 2019-20 will be right-wing Philip Tomasino, a first-round selection by the Nashville Predators in last year’s NHL draft.

North Bay Battalion

Last 5 Years

2014-15: 37-20-6-5, 85 Points (2nd in Central Division)
2015-16: 35-23-6-4, 80 Points (2nd in Central Division) ▼
2016-17: 24-38-5-1, 54 Points (4th in Central Division) ▼
2017-18: 30-28-7-3, 70 Points (3rd in Central Division) ▲
2018-19: 30-33-3-2, 65 Points (4th in Central Division) ▼

Best Playoff Result: 2014 – Lost 4-1 vs. Guelph in OHL Championship

Need to Know

Head Coach: Stan Butler, 22nd Season
2019 Priority Selection (Top Pick): 1/9 (C) Liam Arnsby (Don Mills Flyers MMAAA)
2019 CHL Import Draft (Top Pick): 1/23 (D) Martin Hugo Has (Tappara Tampere Jr.)
2018-19 Notable Graduates: (RW) Justin Brazeau, (LW) Luke Burghardt, (D) Theo Calvas
NHL Prospects: (C) Mason Primeau (Vegas, 5/141, 2019)

Players to Watch

Returning Leader: (C) Matthew Struthers
On the Horizon: (RW) Brandon Coe

After making a marked improvement last season to finish second in team scoring with 81 points, veteran centre Matthew Struthers returns for 2019-20 as the the Battalion‘s top offensive force following Justin Brazeau’s exit. Meanwhile, North Bay also expects to receive strong offensive contributions from 17-year-old right-wing Brandon Coe, a 2020 NHL Draft prospect who tallied 37 points in his sophomore season, a 14-point increase from his rookie year.

Sudbury Wolves

Last 5 Years

2014-15: 12-54-1-1, 26 Points (5th in Central Division)
2015-16: 16-46-5-1, 38 Points (5th in Central Division) ▲
2016-17: 27-34-7-0, 61 Points (2nd in Central Division) ▲
2017-18: 17-42-9-0, 43 Points (5th in Central Division) ▼
2018-19: 43-20-3-2, 91 Points (2nd in Central Division) ▲

Best Playoff Result: 2019 – Lost 4-0 vs. Ottawa in Round 2

Need to Know

Head Coach: Cory Stillman, 3rd Season
2019 Priority Selection (Top Pick): 1/15 (C) Landon McCallum (Brantford 99ers MMAAA)
2019 CHL Import Draft (Top Pick): 1/41 (G) Frederik Nissen Dichow (Vojens)
2018-19 Notable Graduates: (D) Cole Candella, (G) Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo), (LW) Darian Pilon, (RW) Drake Pilon, (C) Adam Ruzicka (Calgary)
NHL Prospects: (C) Blake Murray (Carolina, 6/183, 2019)

Players to Watch

Returning Leader: (C) Shane Bulitka
On the Horizon: (C) Quinton Byfield

All eyes will be on Wolves centre Quinton Byfield, who finished with 61 points in 64 games last season to earn CHL Rookie of the Year honours. The first-overall pick from the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Byfield is once again on the radar of the scouting community, with early projections showing him as a top-two pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. While Byfield is expected to drive Sudbury’s offense, he’ll receive support from veteran forward Shane Bulitka, who returns after notching 54 points across 68 appearances last season.

Last 5 Years: OHL’s Central Division

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2019-20 CHL Season Preview Series

Day 1 – WHL’s B.C. Division
Day 2 – OHL’s Central Division
Day 3 – QMJHL’s West Division
Day 4 – WHL’s Central Division
Day 5 – OHL’s Midwest Division
Day 6 – QMJHL’s Maritimes Division
Day 7 – WHL’s U.S. Division
Day 8 – OHL’s East Division
Day 9 – QMJHL’s Central Division
Day 10 – WHL’s East Division
Day 11 – OHL’s West Division
Day 12 – QMJHL’s East Division

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