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OHL 20 in 20 Spotlight: Historic NHL Draft sets stage for big year in Windsor

The Windsor Spitfires were a club mentioned early and often at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo this past June, producing three first round selections for the first time in the franchise’s 41-year history.

Mikhail Sergachev (9th overall, Montreal), Logan Brown (11th overall, Ottawa) and Logan Stanley (18th overall, Winnipeg), barring outstanding training camps and NHL pre-seasons, are all expected to be back with the Spits for what’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting and important seasons in the team’s history.

Windsor will host the 99th Mastercard Memorial Cup beginning May 18th, 2017 at the WFCU Center.

“There’s a lot of excitement around town, we’ve had a lot of volunteers step up to help with the cause,” said Spitfires vice-president and general manager Warren Rychel, a former NHL forward who has been at the helm since 2005. “We’re going to be great hosts, but I know the city of Windsor doesn’t just want to host it, we’re here to win.”

With three first round NHL picks spread across the depth chart joined by a strong supporting cast, the Spitfires are gearing up for a big run.

Big 6-foot-6 centreman Logan Brown will steer the ship offensively for Windsor. His strong second half to 2015-16 caught the attention of many.

“He really came on strong and started shooting the puck more in the second half of the season,” said Rychel. “His fitness has improved as he’s continued growing into a man’s body. He’s that big two-way centreman that every coach covets and we’ll be expecting big things from him.”

Brown, who was among the OHL’s top faceoff men last season, will look to build off 21 goals, 53 assists and 74 points in 59 games as a 17-year-old. He won bronze with the United States at the World Under-18 Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota last April, recording three goals, nine assists and 12 points over seven tournament games.

Sergachev and Stanley are both slated to see time in all situations. Rychel says the team benefitted from their rapid development last season as the Spits returned to the OHL Playoffs after missing out in 2015.

“We were fortunate that they came along the way they did, they really helped us,” he said. “Sergachev’s mobility is outstanding and his shot has come a long way. He’s but a lot of work into it. Stanley has put a lot of work into his skating. He’s got a ways to go before he’s at an NHL level with that, but he’s been focused on it. He has soft hands and he distributes the puck really well. We’re looking forward to seeing him more on the power play this season.”

Stanley gave glowing reviews of the Spitfires organization on draft day.

“It says a lot about the organization,” Stanley said after hearing his name called. “The scouting staff … and Warren’s a great GM. He’s brought in three good players and we just have to show that.”

The MasterCard Memorial Cup returns to Windsor for the first time since 1981, an event that saw eventual hockey legends Dale Hawerchuk and Doug Gilmour lead the QMJHL’s Cornwall Royals to Canadian Hockey League supremacy.

The Spitfires, who weren’t a part of the festivities on home ice in 1981, are now eyeing an opportunity to add a Mastercard Memorial Cup title won on home ice to the memory books alongside their unforgettable back-to-back crowns in 2009 and 2010.

“It’s a bit of a different mentality coming into the season when you know what lies ahead, but our guys know what’s at stake,” Rychel said. “You win and you’re a champion for life.”

ontariohockeyleague.com will feature one team each day in advance of the 2016-17 season which begins Wednesday September 21.

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