Saturday, October 22, 2011

One Month In, Here's A Look At Pleasant Surprises And Some Disappointments

We are one month into the OHL season, and it's time to take a look at some of the surprises and disappointments as teams hit double digits in games played.

Looking at the draft eligible goaltending situation, Malcolm Subban (Belleville Bulls) takes the disappointing tag. Subban didn't get off to a great start and was even giving up starts but his opportunity to win back games came to an end with an ankle injury. While the injury is an uncontrollable part of the game, we wish we could have seen more from Subban in his first three outings. On the flip side, Matt Murray (Soo Greyhounds) and Dan Altshuller (Oshawa Generals) have come as expected, and maybe more. There was some hype surrounding both at the start of the year, yours truly included, and they've been all that and then some.

On defense, Nick Ebert (Windsor Spitfires) is my biggest disappointment. I expected much more early on from him and while he is racking up assists I thought he would be more dominating than he has been, especially with the expectations of him coming into the season. Jessie Graham (Niagara Ice Dogs) is another disappointment. But in fairness to him, injuries on the Ice Dogs back end have left him playing big minutes for Niagara, maybe a role he is not ready for. Niagara has shored up it's D and I expect Graham to rebound.

There are plenty of pleasant surprises however. After watching Olli Maatta (London Knights) on opening night, I wondered to myself what all the hype was about. Maybe it was jitters. Since then, he's shown the patience of a seasoned veteran. His skating and puck movement and calmness are better than what was originally thought. Warren Steele (Kingston Frontenacs) is playing for a young inexperienced team, and let us not forget he is just that as well, but he is starting to garner attention with his play at both ends of the rink. This could be the defenseman that makes the most significant gain come NHL Draft Day.

Dan Blujus (Brampton Battalion) was known for his defense as was Matt Finn (Guelph Storm) prior to the season but both have found an offensive part of their game. Early on, both are among the leaders in offensive categories of draft eligible defensemen. Finally, there is Cody Ceci (Ottawa 67's). While it's not much of a surprise, we did have him ranked 4th among d-men, we just weren't sure how much of a next step Ceci would take. But Ceci has taken leaps not only to be among the leaders of draft eligible defensemen in offensive categories, but all players. He should be the top ranked defenseman from the O now.

At forward there are plenty of surprises. Through no fault of their own, injuries have kept the likes of Alex Galchenyuk and Matia Marcantuoni from making any progress up the charts. Andreas Athanasiou (London Knights) although coming off of a 7 game point streak has not been as dominating as he was in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Same could be said of Eric Locke (Barrie Colts). 

The list of pleasant surprises is almost never ending up front. Take your pick from the Rupert Twins (London Knights), Michael Clarke (Windsor Spitfires), Gemel Smith or Artur Gavrus (Owen Sound Attack). Early indications are these players are on an upward trend and will continue to do so.

As for our updated rankings for the month of October, look for them to be posted in the first week of November. There will be one or two surprises.

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