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OHL 20 in 20: Oshawa Generals

Despite several graduates, defending MasterCard Memorial Cup Champs won’t be easy to dethrone in 2015-16

By Josh Sweetland/OHL

It seems like yesterday that Anthony Cirelli planted himself on the doorstep to bang in the biggest goal of his career 1:28 into overtime to give the Oshawa Generals a MasterCard Memorial Cup title, yet here we are just 112 days later ready to drop the puck on another season.

An unforgettable 2014-15 campaign in Oshawa is still fresh in the minds of Generals fans, but with the preseason getting wrapped up and Opening Week just days away, it’s time to get back down to business.

“It’s never something that you’d ever get tired of thinking or talking about,” said Generals Vice-President and GM Roger Hunt with a laugh. “It’s certainly been a shorter summer than usual, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. With D.J. (Smith) moving on to the NHL and several of our guys taking the next step in their careers, it’s been a very busy few months. It was short, but at the end of the day hockey season is what we live for and we’re ready to get back at it.”

With head coach D.J. Smith accepting a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hunt drew from a familiar source to name his successor. Former Windsor Spitfires assistant Bob Jones, who worked alongside Smith during back-to-back MasterCard Memorial Cup Championships with the Spits in 2009 and 2010, will take over behind the bench alongside assistants Eric Wellwood and Greg Nemisz.

“I can’t say enough about the job that D.J. did here,” commented Hunt. “After spending three years together, I can say I have a friend for life and I wish him nothing but the best as he moves ahead in his career. While he and Bob share some similarities, Bob Jones is his own man with his own philosophies and techniques. We’ll be here to support him in the transition as he makes this team his own.”

Despite the losses of high-end character standouts in Cole Cassels, Michael McCarron, Tobias Lindberg and Hunter Smith, Jones will still have a wealth of talent in the Oshawa forward ranks.

Nineteen year-old Michael Dal Colle will attend training camp with the New York Islanders but will return to Oshawa if he doesn’t nail down a spot with the NHL club. He’ll have a highly capable shooter to work with in Los Angeles Kings prospect and Whitby native Matt Mistele who appears to be returning for an overage season.

“Should their NHL clubs decide that another year in the OHL will benefit their development, we’d certainly welcome both Michael and Matt back to lead us offensively,” said Hunt.

“Michael is a marquee player and was a fifth overall NHL pick for a reason. Winning a Memorial Cup after he scored 42 goals last season has placed his name among those of past Generals greats. We’d really like to see him display the leadership skills he’s acquired through watching veterans like Brown and Cassels over the past few years and hopefully compete for a spot on the World Junior Team come December.”

“Matt came in as a hired gun last season and scored goals,” he said of Mistele. “He’s going to continue scoring as long as he plays the game because he just has such a knack for it with his quick shot and ability to find the open areas.”

Drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Lightning this past June, MasterCard Memorial Cup hero Anthony Cirelli will see more minutes through the middle in his sophomore season. After making the squad as a free agent invite to training camp last fall, Cirelli proceeded to collect 13 goals, 23 assists and 36 points in 68 games.

“He’s maturing as a player and as a person he’s already mature beyond his years,” noted Hunt of Cirelli. “We’re going to do everything we can to make him a pro. He’s a first class person who could very well be a solid NHL player in the foreseeable future. Anthony’s story last season was a special one. Maybe we wrote the start of the story but he certainly wrote the end of it – it couldn’t have worked out better.”

The Generals also feature Sam Harding, Kenny Huether and Joe Manchurek as returnees up front while 19 year-old Swedish winger Lukas Lofquist could come in and make an immediate impact after being selected in the 2015 CHL Import Draft.

Newcomers in 2015 OHL Priority Selection additions Jack Studnicka, second generation General Kyle MacLean, Sullivan Sparkes and 17 year-old Domenic Commisso will also compete for playing time.

The loss of overage stalwarts Josh Brown, Dakota Mermis and Chris Carlisle leaves a void on the Oshawa blueline, but recent NHL draftees in Mitchell Vande Sompel (NY Islanders) and Stephen Desrocher (Toronto) along with summer acquisition Jacob Graves will do their best to step in and perform.

“Both Mitch and Stephen were able to learn a lot under D.J.’s defensively orientated system and I know Bob will be stressing many similar things in his approach this season,” said Hunt. “Providing them with that foundation of solid, responsible, defensive-minded teaching will only increase the value of their well-developed offensive tools that are going to be used extensively on our powerplay. We really want our guys to play a well-rounded game back there and I think that’s going to start with Mitch, Stephen and Jacob.”

CHL Import Draft selection Misha Moor and returnees Stephen Templeton and Daniel Robertson are also likely to start the year as blueline regulars while newcomers in 18 year-old Jalen Smereck, offseason acquisition Anthony Kotsovos and 2014 fourth round selection Riley Stillman will also compete for roles.

Perhaps the most underrated member of the Generals’ 2015 Championship team, goaltender Ken Appleby will attend training camp with the New Jersey Devils but could very well end up back in Oshawa for an overage season. After being overlooked at the NHL Draft in June, Appleby has taken things in stride and has fervent believers in Hunt and the Generals staff.

“Kenny has been a General since day one, has worked extremely hard to get to where he is now and was rewarded for that last spring when we hoisted the Memorial Cup. He proved that he could handle the pressure and the big workload, playing in 75 games and standing out as our best player on many nights. While we should spread the credit around to our entire team, the bottom line is that if he isn’t our goaltender last year we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

“The most imporant thing in a goaltender’s development is that he has to play,” Hunt continued. “If the hockey powers-that-be feel that those valuable minutes this season are in junior, than we would obviously welcome him back here in Oshawa to be a core member of our club once again.”

Though the euphoria of a MasterCard Memorial Cup title hasn’t worn off just yet, Hunt says his club shouldn’t be given a free pass this season in the aftermath of one of the greatest seasons in franchise history.

“I don’t think for one minute that any of these guys coming back want to just go through the motions. Realistically a lot of them are going to try and have a career year after seeing guys like McCarron, Brown, Cassels and Mermis all take such huge steps in their hockey careers.

We’re going to have our work cut out for us and we’re probably going to take our lumps some nights,” Hunt concluded, “but we’ll bounce back and carry on the core values and principles of Oshawa Generals hockey – we come to win every night.”

2014-15 Record: 51-11-2-4 (1st East Division)
Head Coach: Bob Jones (1st season)
Key additions: Jack Studnicka, Jacob Graves, Lukas Lofquist, Misha Moor, Kyle MacLean, Sullivan Sparkes, Domenic Commisso, Matt Latin, Jalen Smereck, Anthony Kotsovos  
Notable graduates: Josh Brown, Dakota Mermis, Michael McCarron, Tobias Lindberg, Chris Carlisle, Hunter Smith, Brent Pedersen, Aidan Wallace, Michael Turner, Sonny Hertzberg
Leading scorer: Michael Dal Colle (56 GP, 42-51–93)
Leading scorer (defencemen): Mitchell Vande Sompel (58 GP, 12-51–63)
Leading scorer (rookie): Anthony Cirelli (68 GP, 13-23–36)
Leading goaltender: Ken Appleby (50 GP, 38-7-0-4, 2.08 GAA, .924 SV%, 6 SO)
Fast Fact: The Generals’ 13 J. Ross Robertson Cup titles are the most all-time by any OHL team
#OHLOpeningWeek schedule: Fri. Sept. 25 at Guelph (7:30pm) / Sat. Sept. 26 at Hamilton (7:00pm) / Sun. Sept. 27 vs. North Bay (6:05pm)

* – among returning players

WATCH AND LISTEN: GM Roger Hunt talks about Generals who will defend MasterCard Memorial Cup title in 2015-16.

ontariohockeyleague.com will feature one team each day in advance of the 2015-16 season which begins Wednesday September 24.

Read more OHL 20 in 20 previews:

East Division: Hamilton Bulldogs, Kingston Frontenacs, Ottawa 67’s, Peterborough Petes

Central Division: Barrie Colts, Mississauga Steelheads, Niagara IceDogs, North Bay Battalion, Sudbury Wolves

Midwest Division: Erie Otters, Guelph Storm, Kitchener Rangers, London Knights, Owen Sound Attack

West Division: Flint FirebirdsSaginaw SpiritSarnia Sting, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Windsor Spitfires

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