The OHL Alumni Notebook presents a weekly look at the OHL’s top alumni stories from across the professional hockey ranks.
BYFIELD DEBUTS WITH KINGS
Second overall 2020 NHL Draft pick Quinton Byfield made the jump to the big stage on Wednesday night, making his NHL debut with the Los Angeles Kings at the age of 18. The Sudbury Wolves star and former OHL Rookie of the Year racked up 82 points (32-50–82) in his sophomore OHL season in 2019-20. He was a silver medalist with Canada’s National Junior Team this past December. Byfield got his start this season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign, posting 20 points (8-12–20) over 30 contests. The Newmarket, Ont. product was the first overall pick of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection.
LUUKKONEN WINS NHL DEBUT
Another Sudbury Wolves standout, former OHL Goaltender of the Year and Red Tilson Trophy recipient Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was victorious in his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres on April 23. The 6-foot-4 Finnish talent made 36 saves as the Sabres defeated the Boston Bruins 6-4 on home ice. He followed-up that performance with a 38-save effort in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Luukkonen played on OHL season in Sudbury, going 38-11-2 with a 2.50 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and single season franchise record six shutouts. He also won gold with Finland’s National Junior Team in 2019. Luukkonen is 7-5-2 in 14 games with the AHL’s Rochester Americans this season. He was Buffalo’s second round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
RYAN MCLEOD DEBUTS WITH OILERS
Former Mississauga Steelheads and Saginaw Spirit forward Ryan McLeod had an exciting night on Monday, making his NHL debut at the age of 21 with the Edmonton Oilers. The former second round pick in 2018 helped Edmonton defeat the Winnipeg Jets 6-1, seeing 14:18 of ice time. A Mississauga native, McLeod played parts of four seasons with the Steelheads before joining the West Division champion Saginaw Spirit for the latter part of the 2018-19 campaign. He finished his OHL career with 194 points (61-133–194) over 261 regular season games and won an Eastern Conference title with the Trout in 2017. McLeod has split the 2020-21 season between the pro circuit in Switzerland and 28 games with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors where he posted 28 points (14-14–28).
SHAW ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
Known throughout the game as a tireless worker and fierce competitor, Chicago Blackhawks forward and former OHL champion Andrew Shaw announced his retirement on Monday at the age of 29. Shaw, from Belleville, Ont., suffered a concussion on February 9th and was advised by physicians to prioritize his long-term health. As a result, the gritty winger will hang up the skates following a 10-year NHL career that spanned 544 regular season games between Chicago and Montreal. Read more
TAVARES SET TO ‘PAY IT FORWARD’ IN NEW SPECIAL OLYMPICS PARTNERSHIP
OHL all-time goal-scoring leader John Tavares is reaching out through his foundation, partnering with Special Olympics Canada to promote and raise funds for its Unified Sports programs, which aim to integrate individuals with and without intellectual disabilities on teams for training and competition to promote social engagement and development. Tavares said he hopes students and young people get as much out of the program – which already runs in schools and communities across Canada, as he did when he volunteered with students with intellectual disabilities during his high school days. Get the full story at Sportsnet.
TOLCHINSKY NAMED GAGARIN CUP MVP
Former Soo Greyhounds star Sergey Tolchinsky scored the lone goal on Wednesday as Avangard Omsk was crowned Kontinental Hockey League champions, knocking off CSKA Moscow in six games to claim supremacy in Russia’s premier professional hockey circuit. Tolchinsky was named series MVP as Omsk hoisted the Gagarin Cup, featuring a roster that included other OHL graduates in Igor Bobkov (Kingston Frontenacs), Damir Sharipzyanov (Owen Sound Attack), Reid Boucher (Sarnia Sting), Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting) and Alex Khokhlachev (Windsor Spitfires). The squad was captained by Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk and coached by former long-time NHL bench boss Bob Hartley. Tolchinsky finished the playoffs with 20 points (6-14–20) over 24 contests.
O’REILLY JOINS AHL’s 500 ASSIST CLUB
Former Windsor Spitfires forward Cal O’Reilly is the newest member of the AHL’s 500 assist club. The 34-year-old from Clinton, Ont. is just the 10th player in League history to accomplish the feat and has 19 points (3-16–19) in 24 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, top affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. Older brother of St. Louis Blues star Ryan O’Reilly, Cal was originally a fifth round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2005. He has played in 145 career NHL games, mostly coming with the Preds.
KATCHOUK NAMED AHL PLAYER OF WEEK
Soo Greyhounds graduate Boris Katchouk is the AHL Player of the Week, helping the Syracuse Crunch to a 4-0 mark with nine points (2-7–9) in the process. The 22-year-old from Waterloo, Ont. has 29 points (11-18–29) through 24 games in this, his third AHL season. Formerly a second round pick of Tampa Bay in 2016, Katchouk has been a go-to guy on the Lightning’s top affiliate this season. He posted 202 points (101-101–202) over 199 career regular season games with the Hounds from 2014-18, graduating as a Western Conference champion.
FULCHER REWARDED WITH CALL-UP AFTER FIRST AHL WIN
Former OHL champion Kaden Fulcher was summoned to the Detroit Red Wings’ taxi squad this past week. The 22-year-old former Hamilton Bulldogs netminder got the call shortly after his first career AHL victory as a member of the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Brigden, Ont. native spent last season with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, but got into NHL action with the Wings on an emergency basis. Fulcher entered the OHL with the Sarnia Sting before joining the Bulldogs for three seasons, capping off his OHL tenure as a champion.
BRATHWAITE MAKES EBUG APPEARANCE IN AHL
OHL alumnus and former long-time NHL netminder Fred Brathwaite strapped on the pads at the age of 48 on Saturday. The Henderson Silver Knights goaltending coach was thrust into a backup role and made waves online. Brathwaite played parts of nine NHL seasons between 1993-2004 and was a Memorial Cup champion with the Oshawa Generals as a rookie in 1990. The Ottawa, Ont. native also played for the London Knights and Detroit Jr. Red Wings, scoring a goal for Detroit during the 1992-93 season.
OHL PLAYERS SIGN ATO’s WITH AHL CLUBS
A trio of St. Louis Blues prospects have joined the Utica Comets on amateur tryout offers. Ottawa 67’s goaltender Will Cranley, Soo Greyhounds forward Tanner Dickinson and Mississauga Steelheads forward Keean Washkurak are off to Utica for a late-season tour of duty. Additionally, London Knights overage centreman Billy Moskal will join the Cleveland Monsters on an ATO. The Sudbury, Ont. native has committed to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey program for the 2021-22 season.
NEUMANN, PRIMEAU SCORE FIRST PRO GOALS IN ECHL
OHL all-time consecutive games played leader Brett Neumann has settled in with the ECHL’s Allen Americans. The 22-year-old scored his first pro goal this past week after starting the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a minor league deal. Neumann played five OHL seasons between Erie, Kingston and Oshawa, finishing with 244 points (128-116–244) over 318 games. The Toronto native strung together a League record 311 consecutive appearances between November 22, 2015 and March 8, 2020. North Bay Battalion forward and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Mason Primeau also found the scoresheet in the ECHL, scoring his first pro goal with the Fort Wayne Komets. The son of long-time NHL forward Wayne Primeau, Mason got into seven games with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights before joining Fort Wayne. He was Vegas’ fifth round pick in 2019.