The Spitfires host the Memorial Cup, but the Knights are the current champs. Who will emerge from the NHL’s best feeder system?
The CHL season is upon us and the Ontario League is the first out of the gates, with games starting tonight. Windsor will host the Memorial Cup this season, so you know the Spitfires will be primed to make a good showing, while London returns as defending champs. Below you’ll find my preview, with a couple players to watch for each team. These power rankings were constructed with help from fellow writers who know the league and is not based off conference or division. As much as possible, I tried not to include players who might jump to the NHL. Let’s get to it!
1. Windsor – Memorial Cup hosts have three 2016 first-rounders in Logan Brown (OTT), Mikhail Sergachev (MTL) and Logan Stanley (WPG).
2. London – The NHL may call for a Knight or two, but Max Jones (ANA) will hold down the fort and Janne Kuokkanen (CAR) has come to town.
3. Kitchener – Look for even more scoring from Adam Mascherin (FLA) and strength from Connor Bunnaman (PHI).
4. Sault Ste. Marie – Blake Speers (NJ) returns to the lead the offense; look for Boris Katchouk (TB) and Tim Gettinger (NYR) to ascend.
5. Mississauga – Mikey McLeod and Nathan Bastian are the dynamic duo up front and they return as New Jersey Devils picks. Owen Tippett (2017) is a speed demon.
6. Owen Sound – Keep an eye on 2017 prospects Nick Suzuki and Markus Phillips as they grow their roles on the team.
7. Hamilton – Mobile, two-way D-man Cole Candella (VAN) will munch minutes, while the 2017 draft spotlight will be on big, gifted Matthew Strome.
8. Ottawa – Sasha Chmelevski (2017) had a great Ivan Hlinka tourney for Team USA while Travis Barron (COL) will try to up his game.
9. North Bay – Swedish import Adam Thilander (2017) joins the dynamic Cam Dineen (ARI) on the Battalion back end.
10. Sarnia – Jakob Chychrun (ARI) will be the big man on defense once again, while Jordan Kyrou (STL) will take on more responsibility for offense up front.
11. Peterborough – Speedy Jonathan Ang (FLA) will build on his good early work, while Dylan Wells (EDM) will be counted on in net.
12. Kingston – There’s a lot up in the air for the Fronts, but goalie Jeremy Helvig (CAR) and Finnish import Linus Nyman (2017) are on board for sure.
13. Erie – Alex DeBrincat (CHI) will need to score a lot again, while Jordan Sambrook (DET) continues to grow into his blueline role.
14. Oshawa – Anthony Cirelli (TB) and Mitch Vande Sompel (NYI) are veterans from the Memorial Cup squad of 2015.
15. Sudbury – Ultra-skilled David Levin (2018) brings hope again, while Dmitri Sokolov (MIN) needs to build off his first OHL season.
16. Barrie – The Colts have lost a lot of talent, but Swedish import Tom Hedberg (2017) and recently acquired Kirill Nizhnikov (2018) bring hope for the future.
17. Guelph – Givani Smith (DET) is nasty to play against, while 6-foot-6 Isaac Ratcliffe (2017) shows tons of promise.
18. Saginaw – With Markus Niemelainen (EDM) and Keaton Middleton (TOR), the Spirit have twin towers on the blueline. Skilled Filip Hronek (DET) joins them.
19. Flint – Dallas picks Alex Peters and Nicolas Caamano will try to erase the memory of last year’s tire fire.
20. Niagara – The Ice Dogs are rebuilding and Graham Knott (CHI) and Christopher Paquette (TB) must take control.