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OHL Preview: Western Conference

By Jonathan Brazeau | Posted: Sep 20 2011 11:14 pm

The OHL champion Owen Sound Attack will look to defend the J. Ross Robertson Cup while teams like the Plymouth Whalers and the Saginaw Spirit are hoping to make an impact in the 2011-12 season.

MIDWEST DIVISION

Erie Otters: 40-26-2 (3rd in Midwest, 5th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Erie’s 40 wins was the team’s best since 2001-02 when it finished first in the division and went on to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup … The Otters were eliminated by the Windsor Spitfires in the seventh game of the conference quarter-finals … The Otters have qualified for the playoffs for the past three seasons under head coach Robbie Ftorek, but they haven’t made it to the second round since 2004.

Erie Maple Leafs: Centre Greg McKegg led the Otters last year with 92 points (49 goals, 43 assists). The St. Thomas, Ont. native was taken 62nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010 and will be joined this year by forward Sondre Olden, who makes the leap from Sweden to North America. Olden was also selected by the Leafs in 2010 (79th overall) and could play on the same line as McKegg.

Guelph Storm: 34-27-7 (4th in Midwest, 7th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Former NHLer Scott Walker took over as head coach last December after Jason Brooks was let go … Forwards Taylor Beck, Michael Latta and Peter Holland all cracked the top 10 in league scoring … Guelph faced Saginaw in the first round and was eliminated in six games.

Sparks Fly in the Crease: The Leafs took goaltender Garret Sparks 190th overall in June and the Elmhurst, Ill., native is still at Toronto’s training camp.  Sparks posted an 8-6-1 record in 19 games with the Storm last season and could be the starter this year.

Kitchener Rangers: 38-21-9 (2nd in Midwest, 3rd in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Forward Jason Akeson tied with Ottawa 67’s centre Tyler Toffoli for the league lead in points with 108. Akeson will try to catch on with the Philadelphia Flyers after four seasons with the Rangers … Kitchener was eliminated in seven games in the first round by the Plymouth Whalers.

Murphy’s Law: Defenceman Ryan Murphy was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes 12th overall in June and the Aurora, Ont., native may make the leap to the NHL like another Rangers player did last season: Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner. If not, Murphy will hold things down on the Kitchener blue-line.

London Knights: 34-25-9 (5th in Midwest, 8th Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Held on to the final playoff spot with a 16-point lead over the Sarnia Sting … Knocked out in the first round by Owen Sound … Led by sons of former NHLers Jarred Tinordi (son of Mark) and Vladislav Namestnikov (son of John).

Max-imum Exposure: This will be Max Domi’s team for the next couple years. Max, the son of former Leafs enforcer Tie, plays a finesse game, scoring 27 goals and 30 assists in 30 games with the Don Mills Flyers in minor midget. The Knights traded a package of draft picks to the Kingston Frontenacs to land Domi and hope their gamble pays off.

Owen Sound Attack: 46-17-5 (1st in Midwest, 1st in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Owen Sound defeated the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in overtime of Game 7 to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup … Joey Hishon, tied for first on the team in playoff scoring with 24 points, signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche but is still experiencing post-concussion symptoms from a violent hit in the Memorial Cup, and has not skated with his new club.

Binn It On: Goaltender Jordan Binnington will carry the load this season. Binnington posted a 27-12-5 record in 46 games last season and the Cambridge, Ont., native was selected in the third round by the St. Louis Blues in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

WEST DIVISION

Plymouth Whalers: 36-26-6 (3rd in West, 6th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Upset Kitchener in opening round, winning Game 7 on the road, 4-2 … Goaltender Scott Wedgewood made 37 saves in the decisive game … The Cinderella story ended quickly as the team was swept in the Western Conference semifinals in four games by Owen Sound.

Miller Time: Plymouth nabbed forward J.T. Miller, who spent the last two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team and was selected 15th overall by the New York Rangers in the NHL Entry Draft in June.  Miller is still in camp with the Rangers but may return. The Whalers also acquired overage winger Andy Bathgate from the Belleville Bulls in the off-season. Bathgate is the grandson of the former Leafs forward of the same name.

Saginaw Spirit: 40-22-6 (1st in West, 2nd in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Saginaw finished first in the division for the first time since relocating from North Bay in 2002 … Defeated Guelph in six games in the first round, eliminated in six games in the conference semifinals by Windsor.

Dynamic Duo: John McFarland and Vincent Trocheck were both returned to Saginaw by the Florida Panthers. Trocheck had 62 points last season and McFarland had 33 after coming over from Sudbury in a trade. Both could post big numbers this year.

Sarnia Sting: 25-36-7 (4th in West, 7th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Finished out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season … Barely avoided the cellar as they won their final game of the season to move one point ahead of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who lost their last two … New head coach and GM Jacques Beaulieu held the dual role with the Saint John Sea Dogs from 2006-09 and helped turn them into the team that won the Memorial Cup in 2011.

Tough as Nails: Russian forward Nail Yakupov still managed to pot 49 goals and 52 assists to finish fourth in league scoring in his first OHL season. Yakupov will continue to lead the way for this young group of Sarnia players.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: 24-36-8 (5th in West, 8th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: The Greyhounds finished at the bottom of the division and the conference, one point behind ninth-place Sarnia … Nick Cousins more than doubled his point total from 32 in 2009-10 to 68.

Brolldozer: With a nickname like that, David Broll could be the next big Leafs enforcer. Broll was taken in the sixth round by the Leafs in June. The six-foot-one, 225-pound winger was the biggest player at the Leafs’ rookie camp.

Windsor Spitfires: 39-23-6 (2nd in West, 4th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Captain Ryan Ellis cracked the 100-point barrier with 24 goals and 76 assists to lead all OHL defencemen … Leafs 2009 draft pick Kenny Ryan scored 22 goals and 28 assists … Windsor took seven games to defeat Erie, six to take down Saginaw, eliminated in Western Conference final in five games by Owen Sound.

Starting Over: The Spitfires captured back-to-back Memorial Cup championships in 2009 and 2010, but are in a rebuild stage. Head coach Bob Boughner returns after a one-year stint as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets and will look to bring back his winning touch.


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By: Jonathan Brazeau
Posted: Sep 20 2011 11:14 pm
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Filed in: Hockey, Sports
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