OHL Preview: Eastern Conference

The Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors aim for redemption after losing Game 7 of the OHL championship in overtime, but they’ll be hard-pressed against the surging Niagara IceDogs, Oshawa Generals and Ottawa 67’s.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Barrie Colts: 15-49-4 (5th Central, 10th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Went from J. Ross Robertson Cup final in 2009-10 to worst record in the OHL … Allowed a league-leading 348 goals … Missed the playoffs for the first time in Colts history.

Ekblad Era: From a franchise-high 57 wins to a franchise-low 15, Barrie used the first-overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection to take 15-year-old Aaron Ekblad, who became only the second player granted exceptional status (John Tavares was the first in 2005).

Brampton Battalion: 29-32-7 (3rd Central, 6th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Brampton matched up with a tough Niagara squad, who finished 31 points ahead in the standings … The IceDogs swept the Battalion in four straight.

D is Key: Brampton scored 190 goals last season (only Belleville scored fewer with 175) but the team will count on strong goaltending from import Matej Machovsky and veteran defenceman Cameron Wind is back to patrol the blue-line.

Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors: 53-13-2 (1st Central, 1st in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Finished first in OHL standings … Goaltender J.P. Anderson posted 38-10-1 record with six shutouts … Swept Belleville and Sudbury then dispatched Niagara in five games to take the Eastern Conference … Finally met their match in the final against Owen Sound, lost 3-2 in overtime of Game 7 … Hosted the Memorial Cup, lost in the final to the Saint John Sea Dogs.

Rebuilding or Contending?: Head coach Dave Cameron joined the Ottawa Senators as an assistant coach. James Boyd takes over a team that will miss captain Casey Cizikas and Russian import Max Kitsyn. Toronto Maple Leafs 2011 first-round pick Stuart Percy could return to man the blue-line and Anderson will be between the pipes again. They may not be the favourites but they could contend.

Niagara IceDogs: 45-17-6 (2nd Central, 3rd in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Had a franchise-best 96 points … Goaltender Mark Visentin posted four shutouts … Swept Brampton and beat Oshawa in five games … Finally stopped the Mississauga juggernaut but only for one game, losing in five.

Hot Dogs: The IceDogs will contend with Visentin shutting the door again. Visentin will probably get the nod for Team Canada at the world junior championship again. Niagara is counting on the New York Islanders to return 2011 fifth-overall pick Ryan Strome, who scored 106 points last season.

Sudbury Wolves: 29-35-4 (4th Central, 7th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Finished 16 points ahead of Belleville for seventh place … Sudbury shocked Ottawa with first-round sweep but were then swept by Mississauga in the second round.

Upset Again?: The team will have a hard time to repeat their playoff magic this year without forward Marcus Foligno and goaltender Alain Valiquette but centre Michael Sgarbossa had 62 points in 37 games after coming over from Saginaw and could do wonders in a full season with Sudbury. Defenceman Josh McFadden led the Wolves with 72 points and is expected to do the same this season.

EAST DIVISION

Belleville Bulls: 21-43-4 (4th East, 8th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Although they finished with one win less than in the 2009-10 season when they missed the playoffs, the Bulls squeaked into eighth with a three-point lead over Peterborough … Belleville only scored 175 goals, the lowest in the league … The Bulls’ season lasted just four more games as they were swept in the first round by Mississauga.

Pedigree: Forward Dylan Corson is the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs Shayne Corson and the team features siblings Malcolm and Jordan Subban (older brother P.K. plays for the Montreal Canadiens).

Kingston Frontenacs: 29-30-9 (3rd East, 5th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Lost in five games to Highway 401 rival Oshawa Generals in the first round … Kingston avoided the sweep by taking Game 4 at home.

Killer’s Crew: Doug Gilmour served as head coach for three seasons and hands the reigns over to former Leafs teammate Todd Gill. Gilmour moved up to general manager and traded prospect Max Domi for a package of draft picks. The team continues to rebuild and haven’t made it to the second round of the playoffs since 1997-98.

Oshawa Generals: 39-19-10 (2nd East, 4th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Christian Thomas led the team in scoring with 54 goals and 45 assists, just missing the 100-point mark … Oshawa breezed through Kingston in five games in the first round but ran into Niagara in the conference semifinals and lost in five games.

Stumpy’s Son: Steve and Christian Thomas became the first father/son combination to each score over 50 goals in a single OHL season. Christian is still in training camp with the New York Rangers. If he returns to Oshawa, expect another 50-goal campaign.

Ottawa 67’s: 44-19-5 (1st East, 2nd in Conference)

2010-11 Recap:  Ottawa’s Tyler Toffoli tied Kitchener’s Jason Akeson for the league lead in points with 108 … The 67’s were shockingly swept in the opening round by the Sudbury Wolves.

Redemption: Although it was close (Game 1 and Game 3 were decided in overtime), a first-round sweep is still a first-round sweep. Head coach Chris Byrne adds general manager to his resume after the legendary Brian Kilrea retired.

Peterborough Petes: 20-45-3 (5th East, 9th in Conference)

2010-11 Recap: Finished three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot … The Petes were OHL champs in 2005-06, but since then have either missed the playoffs or been knocked out in first round … Peterborough’s 20 wins was the lowest total for the franchise since 1997-98.

Pummeling Puempel: Leading scorer Matt Puempel (34 goals, 35 assists) returns for a third season with the club. The Ottawa Senators selected the Essex, Ont. native 24th overall at the NHL Entry Draft in June.