Now that the draft is over, and we have a couple of new kids running around the junior leagues, I’ll be taking a look at big games for each prospect in each league.
Today we start with the Ontario Hockey League, where we have (potentially) three prospects on the reigning OHL Champions, the London Knights.
Since it’s July, I’m going to list the junior eligible prospects, whether they end up on the Leafs, Marlies, or Solar Bears is a matter for the fall. The ones that can move on to the pro’s I’ve marked with an asterisk*, but I will explore each of their schedules no matter what their possibilities are.
J.J. Piccinich*/Mitch Marner*/Nicolas Mattinen - London Knights
Piccinich: 66GP - 30G - 36A - 66P
Marner: 57GP - 39G - 77A - 116P
Mattinen: 39GP - 4G - 6A - 10P
Two of three Knights asterisks. Piccinich isn’t signed to a contract, but he could leave the Knights for two reasons: 1) He as drafted out of the NCAA so the CHL-NHL agreement doesn’t apply and 2) he’s 20 now so the Leafs could sign him and move him to the minors. I don’t think he will leave though, as the Knights have the ability to make another run for the Memorial Cup, and next year it will be just down the road in Windsor.
Marner is either a Leaf or a Knight. He’s done everything he can do in the NHL, but he may get sent back to junior for more ice time or to keep the Leafs from going over the cap due to bonuses.
Nicolas Mattinen is the one we want to see the most growth from. Only playing half of the season last year, he has no where to go but up from here on out.
September 21: Visiting Sarnia Sting / First game of the season
The season begins on the road and we could see four Leafs prospects in one game.
September 23: Home vs Erie Otters/ Home Opener & Memorial Cup banner raising
The Knights will raise their championship banners while the Erie Otters watch, wondering if it could have been them had they, you know, not gotten swept by the Knights.
November 19: Visiting Niagara IceDogs / OHL Finals rematch
The Knights make their only stop to St. Catharines early this year and there will be a packed house to
welcome, no, the opposite of welcome, the conquering heroes to the place where they captured the J. Ross Robertson Cup last season.
January 13: Home vs Saginaw Spirit / First game post-trade deadline
Do the Knights load up for back to back Memorial Cups? Did they get Marner back after the Juniors probably plays into this, but I can see them making a serious run for it since they were terrible in the last tournament they hosted, they’d want to win one close to home.
March 17: Home vs Flint Firebirds / Final Home Game
March 19: Visiting Sault Ste. Marie / Final Game
Do the Knights finish the season on top of the Western Conference, or have they crashed and thrown away a chance to be the first back to back Memorial Cup champions since the 09/10 Windsor Spitfires?
Travis Dermott* - Erie Otters
2015/16 Stats - 51GP - 6A - 37A - 43P
Dermott is one of many overage kids the Leafs could have in the OHL this year. Dermott is signed to a contract, so he looks to be more playing for the Marlies instead of the Otters.
September 22: Visiting Windsor Spitfires / First game of the season
The Otters open up the season against the Memorial Cup hosts. After last year, the Otters window is rapidly closing on their chances, so this could be the biggest game they play in Windsor this season.
September 23: Visiting London Knights / Memorial Cup banner raising
The only team that would have a worse time being the tema picked to watch this occur would be the OHL Championship Series losers, Niagara IceDogs. The Otters tied the Knights in regular season points, but ended up getting swept in the Western Conference Final, and now have to watch the Knights celebrate their victory.
October 1: Home vs Kingston Frontenacs / Home Opener
The home opener is a highlight of any teams schedule and the Otters get a team that is most likely sick of them by October 1st. The Fronts will have had their own, Hamilton’s, AND Niagara's and then get to go through it all again with Erie’s. This may be a win due to ceremony fatigue.
October 15: Home vs London Knights
The OHL Champs come to town for the first time, and I’m sure they’ll get a lovely reception.
December 31: Home vs Sudbury Wolves / New Years Eve Game
New Years Eve games are always a lot of fun at OHL rinks with player skates afterwards, this one’s more of a fan date. Also, they’re playing Sudbury, so easy win!
January 10: Home vs Kitchener Rangers / First game post-trade deadline
This is where we see if the Otters are still going for it, begin a quick turnaround for next season or have admitted defeat and want to start over.
March 18: Home vs Guelph Storm / Final Game of season
I don’t know where to predict the Otters right now, but middle of the conference, seed 4-7 feel right.
Jeremy Bracco* - Kitchener Rangers
2015/16 Stats - 49GP - 21G - 49A - 64P
Bracco is another NCAA draftee, so he’s AHL eligible now. All that would send him back to Kitchener is if the Marlies are jammed full and he wouldn’t make the roster.
September 23: Home vs Flint Firebirds / Home & Season Opener
Kitchener Square Gardens will be rocking with the Rangers under a new coach, and looking for a good start to the season over the beleaguered Flint Firebirds, who are starting their first season under OHL control.
October 10: Home vs Guelph Storm
The battle of Highway 7 starts Thanksgiving weekend when these rival neighbours start their season series.
November 11: Home vs Owen Sound Attack / Remembrance Day Game
Few teams do Remembrance day ceremonies and jerseys like the Rangers do, and many of their designs are superior to their regular home uniforms. I can’t wait to see what they have this year.
November 15: Home vs London Knights
Another close to home rival comes to town for the first time and it’s the OHL Champions themselves, the team that swept the Rangers in the second round.
January 10: Visiting Erie Otters / First game post-trade deadline
What will the Rangers look like post-deadline?
March 17: Home vs Erie Otters / Final Home Game
March 18: Visiting Owen Sound Attack / Final Game
The final weekend in the OHL is always fun because there’s usually a close playoff race to squeeze into the bottom of the standings.
Stephen Desrocher* - Kingston Frontenacs
2015/16 Stats - 52GP - 6A - 29A - 35P
Desrocher is also an OA, so also Marlies eligible, but doesn’t have a contract and wasn’t a stand out star so I’m pretty comfortable assuming he’ll be back with Kingston, trying to make another run at the Memorial Cup.
September 23: Home vs Barrie Colts / Home & Season Opener
The Frontenacs open at home against a tough opponent, and the two can commiserate about being swept by Niagara in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
September 30: Visiting Niagara IceDogs
Speaking of, the Frontenacs show up for the IceDogs home opener (of their 4th home opener games) and would enjoy ruining the IceDogs special night.
October 22: Visiting Windsor Spitfires
The Fronts will be checking out the area, scouting potential hot spots for their goal of coming back in May.
November 3: Visiting Peterborough Petes
With the Bulls gone, the Petes are the closest team and rival they have, and fans will wait 6 weeks before these two collide on ice.
January 13: Home vs Peterborough Petes / First game post-trade deadline
Well Kingston, where are you looking?
January 19: Visiting Ottawa 67s / Hockey Day in Ontario
Every January TV Cogeco airs OHL games all day, no matter the market, and this year Kingston will be in Ottawa on that day.
February 19: Home vs London Knights
The OHL champions make their only stop in Kingston.
March 17: Home vs Hamilton Bulldogs
March 19: Visiting North Bay Battalion
The final weekend of the season sees Kingston making the trek north after hosting the former Bulls, and Hamilton will be playing hard looking for their first playoff series since the move.
Nikita Korostelev - Sarnia Sting
2015/16 Stats - 53GP - 23G - 19A - 42P
Korostelev will be back with Sarnia next season, looking to improve his numbers and stay healthy for all 62 games.
September 21: Home vs London Knights / Home & Season Opener
Opening the season against the OHL Champions is a way to draw in the crowds, and there’s hope from the Sarnia camp the Knights will be tired from their extra long season, to get a W here.
October 1: Visiting Flint Firebirds
The battle of I69 starts in Flint, but the Sting won’t start the season lying down to the Firebirds.
January 1: Home vs London Knights
The "Hangover Classic" is in Sarnia this year against London. Expect a very low key crowd, dimmed arena lighting, and only the softest of soft rock played during warm ups.
January 11: Home vs Hamilton Bulldogs
It’s my birthday and I’m being honoured with a game! No, this is the first post-trade deadline game for the Sting.
January 29: Home vs Saginaw Spirit / Hockey Day in Ontario
The Sting celebrate with a game vs an American team, but eh, it’s ok.
February 20: Home vs Saginaw Spirit
A holiday game vs the Spirit, allowing many to spend an afternoon watching Leafs prospects.
March 15: Home vs Windsor / Final Home Game
March 17: Visiting Guelph / Final Game
The season ends with a brighter outlook to the playoffs than last season.
Keaton Middleton - Saginaw Spirit
2015/16 Stats - 66GP - 1G - 6A - 7P
Middleton was one of the younger kids taken in this years draft and will be back with the Spirit for the next OHL season.
September 21: Visiting Flint Firebirds / Season Opener
The season kicks off with the Michigan rivalry as the Spirit head to Flint for the first time of the season.
September 24: Home to Guelph Storm / Home Opener
Opening the season at home vs a conference rival, but there’s not much history between these teams.
January 10: Home to Flint Firebirds / First game post-trade deadline
A rival opponent for the first game post-deadline.
January 14: Home to London Knights
The OHL Champions come to Saginaw pretty late in the season, but a win versus the Knights could give the team a boost down the stretch.
January 29: Saginaw at Sarnia Sting / Hockey Day in Ontario
As covered above, it’s nice of Saginaw to enjoy the festivities.
March 18: Home to Windsor Spitfires / Final game of season
Will the Spirit be in high spirits about their playoff seed?
TL;DR - When is it prospect vs prospect so I can buy tickets?
I wouldn’t buy anything when they go on sale if you want to see Bracco, Marner, or anyone else who could be on a pro contract. Below are the games for prospects who will be in the OHL for sure next year.
September 21: London (Mattinen) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)
October 21: Saginaw (Middleton) @ London (Mattinen)
October 29: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ London (Mattinen)
December 2: Saginaw (Middleton) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)
December 8: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ Saginaw (Middleton)
December 10: London (Mattinen) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)
December 17: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ Saginaw (Middleton)
December 30: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ London (Mattinen)
January 1: London (Mattinen) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)
January 6: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ Saginaw (Middleton)
January 13: Saginaw (Middleton) @ London (Mattinen)
January 14: London Knights (Mattinen) @ Saginaw (Middleton)
January 18: Sarnia (Korostelev) @ London (Mattinen)
January 29: Saginaw (Middleton) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)
February 4: London Knights (Mattinen) @ Saginaw (Middleton)
February 20: Saginaw (Middleton) @ Sarnia (Korostelev)