The Green and Gold may have lost some talent, but also bring in a stunning recruiting class heavy on American blue-chippers. Can anyone contest the Knights’ claim to the throne in 2015-16?
The London Knights have been a powerhouse for years now and while GM Mark Hunter is now part of the Toronto Maple Leafs brass, there’s no reason to believe the OHL franchise will take a step back. In fact, thanks to a demonic recruiting summer and the return of some of the league’s top offensive lights, London is poised to dominate after an uncharacteristically short playoff run last year.
Who will be chasing the Knights? Below you’ll find my rankings, based off surveys of OHL experts. You will also find players to watch for each franchise. Two teams have moved since last season: Belleville is now Hamilton, while Plymouth is now Flint. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
1. London Knights – Scoring machines Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Christian Dvorak (Arizona) get some excellent reinforcements in top 2016 prospects Matthew Tkachuk and Max Jones.
2. Niagara IceDogs – Josh Ho-Sang (New York Islanders) and Brendan Perlini (Arizona) will pace the offense, while Vince Dunn (St. Louis) jumps up from the back end.
3. Barrie Colts – Mackenzie Blackwood (New Jersey) will rule the crease and Kevin Labanc (San Jose) will rack up points. Will be fun to see what newbie Julius Nattinen (Anaheim) can do up front.
4. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – A lot of talent left, but a lot remains with right winger Zach Senyshyn (Boston), goalie Brandon Halverson (New York Rangers) and center Jared McCann (Vancouver).
5. Kitchener Rangers – Look for Ryan MacInnis (Arizona) to lord over the offense while newcomer Luke Opilka (St. Louis) tends to the netminding duties.
6. Erie Otters – What can Alex DeBrincat (2016) do without Connor McDavid? It’ll be fun to find out, especially if Dylan Strome (Arizona) comes back too.
7. Sarnia Sting – Jakob Chychrun (2016) is the man to watch and he’ll be joined by Josh Jacobs (New Jersey) on defense. Will Pavel Zacha (New Jersey) return?
8. Saginaw Spirit – Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay) and Dylan Sadowy (San Jose) provide heart and offense. Watch for huge 2016 hopeful Keaton Middleton on defense.
9. Ottawa 67’s – There’s gonna be a whole lot of scoring with Travis Konecny (Philadelphia), Dante Salituro (undrafted) and Travis Barron (2016) all returning.
10. Mississauga Steelheads – With 2016 prospects Sean Day, Mikey McLeod and Alexander Nylander, this is the most exciting ‘Sauga squad ever.
11. North Bay Battalion – Super-veteran squad is led by Mike Amadio (Los Angeles) up front and Kyle Wood (Colorado) on the back end.
12. Oshawa Generals – If Michael Dal Colle (New York Islanders) returns, he’ll be the MVP front-runner. Memorial Cup hero Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay) is back for sure.
13. Peterborough Petes – Goalie Dylan Wells (2016) was as good as gold for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka. Can center Eric Cornel (Buffalo) bounce back to lead the offense?
14. Windsor Spitfires – With power forward Christian Fischer (Arizona) joining big 2016 prospects Logan Brown and Luke Kirwan up front, the Spits will be a load to handle.
15. Owen Sound Attack – Liam Dunda (St. Louis) and Jaden Lindo (Pittsburgh) are heavy threats, but D-man Thomas Schemitsch (Florida) might end up with the points.
16. Hamilton Bulldogs – Local boy Brandon Saigeon is one to watch for the 2016 draft, while OHL Cup hero Matthew Strome (2017) is the last of the famous brothers to debut.
17. Sudbury Wolves – Top Russian import Dmitry Sokolov (2016) and first overall OHL pick David Levin (2018) of Israel provide hope for the future.
18. Guelph Storm – Even if Robby Fabbri (St. Louis) returns, he’ll likely be traded in this rebuild year. Givani Smith (2016) will be fun to watch, however.
19. Kingston Frontenacs – Unsuspected bonus: Juho Lammikko (Florida) is back! Fellow Panther prospect Lawson Crouse will probably be there too, which is key.
20. Flint Firebirds – The ex-Whalers welcome offensive defenseman Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit) into the fold, but star goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina) is recovering from hip surgery.