The National Hockey League lockout has meant that the Ontario Hockey League has retained many of its bigger stars that would either be in, or challenging for, spots in the pros.
The fans of the coolest game on earth are just as likely to go to a major junior game to scout an individual as they are to see a specific team.
So here are the Toronto Observer’s top five OHL players worth the price admission:
5) The Subbans (Belleville Bulls)
OK, so maybe the brothers are two people, but picking five in this league is hard enough.
Malcolm, a Boston first-round pick in 2012, is considered by many to be the best goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League. He is the front runner to represent Canada at the up-coming world junior championship in Russia, especially after being the only netminder to start (and win) two contests in the four-game Canada-Russia Super Series this past summer. He’s 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and athletically capable of making any save. The Bulls can beat anyone with him in goal.
His younger brother, the draft-eligible Jordan, is reminding many of their eldest sibling known for wearing Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Tied for third in league scoring among defencemen as of Monday, Jordan shows the same blinding speed, shiftiness, and bomb-of-a-shot that has so endeared Habs fans to P.K. Don’t look away when he’s on the ice.
4) Boone Jenner (Oshawa Generals)
The 6-foot-2, 205 pound captain of the Generals has that perfect mix of snarl and skill that is loathsome to opponents, beloved by fans, and intriguing to scouts. As a second-round selection of Columbus in the 2011 draft, the London, Ont., native would have been a solid bet of making the NHL this season were it not for the lockout. Instead, he is certain to return to play for Canada come Boxing Day.
3) Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia Sting)
Although running mate Nail Yakupov spurned Sarnia for the Kontinental Hockey League, Galchenyuk definitely makes it worth one’s time to go to a Sting game. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, the Wisconsin native possesses a dominant level of strength, speed, and puck skills that should prove to be almost impossible for junior-level defenders to shut down. Along with Portland’s Seth Jones, the Habs’ first rounder from 2012 will be Team U.S.A.’s best player at the world juniors, and is a serious threat to be called the OHL’s most talented player this season.
2) Connor McDavid (Erie Otters)
When the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asked Sidney Crosby what he thought about McDavid, he said: “When I watched him play, he reminded me of myself.” At 15, the native of Newmarket, Ont., possesses uncanny vision, to go along with all the skill and speed a phenom needs for “The Kid” to make such a remark. He leads the league in rookie scoring (as of Monday), all while dealing with the attention of being compared to the likes of Sid (and even the one that Sid is compared to, Wayne Gretzky). Oh, McDavid is already the go-to-guy on a youthful Otters squad. He is not the best player in the league yet, but he will be very soon. To miss a chance to see him when he’s just starting would be a lost opportunity of watching something special.
1) Mark Scheifele (Barrie Colts)
There’s no doubt Scheifele is ready for the NHL now. Measuring at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he is a man among boys and pro-seasoned, having already played seven regular-season games for Winnipeg and 10 playoff contests for the Jets’ AHL team in St. John’s, NL. Barrie’s star has jumped out to the league lead in scoring as we near the end of October, while propelling the Colts to an early first-place standing in the highly competitive Eastern Conference. He is a power forward in the OHL, and his dominance makes him the Observer’s No. 1 player worth the price of admission in the league – at least until the lockout is over.
There are so many talents in the league this season that picking five (or six) was extremely difficult. Here are a few that are certainly worth seeing, but did not make the cut (in no particular order):
Ryan Strome (Niagara), Dougie Hamilton (Niagara), Sean Monahan (Ottawa), Max Domi (London), Tom Wilson (Plymouth), Rickard Rakell (Plymouth), Radek Faksa (Kitchener), Vincent Trocheck (Saginaw), Dominik Kahun (Sudbury)