Last night saw the beginning of the unofficial second half of the OHL season begin and it could be a couple of long weeks for some OHL teams.
The London Knights have lost their three top defensemen to the World Junior Championships - Scott Harrington (Canada), Jarred Tinordi (USA) and Olli Maatta (Finland) as well as rookie sensation Max Domi and Bo Horvat to Team Ontario in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. And it was evident yesterday afternoon as the CHL's top ranked team took a 6-1 beating at the hands of the Plymouth Whalers. London is a young team with more than a handful of draft eligible players that are going to have to step it up to stay on top. The Whalers themselves were without number 1 goalie Scott Wedgewood (Canada), Rickard Rakell (Sweden), J.T. Miller (USA) and Dario Trutmann (Switzerland) who are all at the WJC along with Mitchell Dempsey (Ontario) who is participating in the WJC U17.
The Niagara Ice Dogs were able to hold off the Owen Sound Attack 2-1 despite missing Freddie Hamilton (Canada), Dougie Hamilton (Canada), Ryan Strome (Canada) and number 1 goaltender Mark Visentin (Canada). That's an all star team in itself. Other than the injured Artur Gavrus, Owen Sound had a full roster with only defenseman Chris Bigras (Ontario) at the WJC U17.
The Soo Greyhounds knocked off the Sarnia Sting 6-3 while missing number 1 goaltender Jack Campbell (USA) . The Sting were without potential number 1 pick in 2012 Nail Yakupov (Russia) and Ludvig Rensfeldt (Sweden).
The Saginaw Spirit were able to take down the Windsor Spitfires 3-1 with Jamie Oleksiak (Canada) and Brandon Saad (USA) taking part in the WJC. Windsor's only participant in the WJC is Alexander Khokhlachev (Russia) while Jordan Maletta and Adam Bateman (Ontario) are at the WJC U17.
The Erie Otters lost 4-1 to the Oshawa Generals with only Stephan Harper off to the WJC U17. Oshawa is without Boone Jenner (Canada) and Nicklas Jensen (Denmark) at the World Juniors. Also missing is Cole Cassels (Ontario) at the WJC U17.
The Mississauga St Mikes Majors held off the Guelph Storm 6-4. The Majors' only player participating in either tournament is backup goaltender Spencer Martin (Ontario) who is at the WJC U17. Guelph is without Tanner Richard (Switzerland) who is at the WJC.
While NHL Scouts have flocked to Edmonton and Calgary for the WJC, many of the big names have already been drafted. But there's always that chance of finding that diamond, those players that they hardly get a chance to see and of course the big guns available for 2012 like the Yakupov's and Grigorenko's.
But scouts haven't completely closed their eyes to the OHL. This is a chance for players to show that they can step it up in the absence of their star players. Guys like the Athanasiou's, Ceci's, Finn's, Subban's and Marcantuoni's of the world.
Take all the cliche's you want: This is their time to shine, they have to take the ball and run with it. Whatever the case may be, it is a major opportunity for them to showcase themselves.
"...but it ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward...."