A look at what’s happening in the world’s best Jr. hockey league, the OHL.
Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome are 1-2 in the league in points through 10 games. That is hardly a surprise to anybody, McDavid is likely going to be the #1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft and Strome will probably end up in the top 5 too. However, the leading goal scorer for the Erie Otters is an American rookie Alex DeBrincat. When DeBrincat decommitted from U-Mass, there were definitely some doubters. It’s not like DeBrincat was a top 10 recruit, or top 30 for that matter. Wouldn’t his career be better served by spending four years developing in the NCAA? Apparently not ! DeBrincat has 13 goals and 6 assists for 19 points in 10 games played.
For those of you not familair with DeBrincat (97′), he’s an undersized (5’7-160) speedy, skilled center who came up with the Victory Honda (Michigan) program. Last season he played for Lake Forest Academy where he had 54 goals and 57 assists for 111 points in 50 games. Great stats for sure, but Lake Forest Academy isn’t a very well known program and the competition is “eh”. DeBrincat wasn’t ever drafted by an OHL team. He committed to U-Mass as a 16 year old in 2013.
DeBrincat isn’t the only American off to a hot start in the OHL this year. Cole Cassels (95′) son of Andrew and a Vancouver Canucks draftee (round 3/85) is fourth in the OHL in points with 4-18-22 points in 10 games. Cassels, the captain in Oshawa, is a dual citizen (Canada and United States) who’s Father had a long NHL career. He grew up playing in the States for the Cleveland Barons and then the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets prior to landing with Oshawa (OHL) where he is currently in his forth season. Cassels has appeared internationally for Team Canada (World U-17’s), so he can’t be on a USA roster.
Another 95′, Kevin LeBanc from Staten Island, NY is 10th in the OHL points race with 3-12-15 points in 11 games. LeBanc is pretty small (listed at 5’11-146), but is property of the San Jose Sharks. LeBanc spent two seasons with the USNTDP prior to signing with Barrie (OHL). While at the USNTDP he verbally committed to play at Notre Dame.
And another 95′, Williamsville, NY native Justin Bailey is 11th in the league with 8-6-14 points in 9 games. Bailey is a mountain out there at 6’3-195 and plays a pro style game. The Buffalo Sabres drafted the local product in round 2 (52 overall) of the 2013 NHL draft. Bailey is a great skater with a great release. His Father Carleton had a career in the NFL. Bailey came up with the Buffalo Regals prior to joining the Pat Lafontaine led Long Island Royals U-16 team in 11′-12. Kitchener drafted him and he’s steadily grown into a star for them as expected. In my opinion, Bailey has a legitimate chance to become a regular NHL player. He has the size, the demeanor and the skills to play at the highest level.
95′ Gabe Guertler came to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds with a colorful background. The Florida native moved to play with better competition for midgets (Team Illinois), then spent two years with the Fargo Force (USHL) where he had a 30 goal year and committed to the University of Minnesota. Not too many Florida natives on that roster. As a freshman for the national championship runner-up he appeared in 24 games and had a 2-3-5 line. Guertler was also in some trouble with the law for a drinking incident and suspended from the team for a month. Between that and limited playing time on one of the deepest NCAA teams in the country, the move to the organization that drafted him in 2011 doesn’t seem overly surprising.
Carl De Lucia Hockey Blog
Photo Credit : Dan Hickling