OHL Monday Night Major: losing Clarke a significant blow to Ottawa

Welcome to another week of the Monday Night Major.  This week we’ll take a tour around the OHL with stops in Ottawa, Oshawa and more.   Without further adieu let’s get to the hockey talk.

Clarke Out Long Term

The Ottawa 67’s suffered a major blow this week when they learned star winger Graeme Clarke would be out for at least four months.

That’s the early diagnosis but Clarke could be out longer than that; a significant blow to an offensively challenged team.

Clarke had seven goals in his first nine games this season, which when extracted over a full season is more than 50 goals.  There are not a lot of teams in the OHL that can sustain such a loss.

This will only intensify the rumors of Akil Thomas leaving the Niagara IceDogs to go to the Ottawa 67’s.  This trade, however, is not one I see happening anytime soon.

IceDogs General Manager Joey Burke has said repeatedly this year that the IceDogs Captain will only be dealt if a 16-year-old is part of the return.  That would indicate a team would need to include their 2019 first-round pick; something that cannot happen until January.

Of course, that does not preclude the Ottawa 67’s from adding elsewhere but with so many teams hovering around .500 it makes finding a seller significantly harder.

The 67’s addressed the need a bit on Sunday by acquiring Joseph Garreffa from the Kitchener Rangers in exchange for draft picks.  While that is a quick answer and response, something tells everyone this is not the final move that Ottawa makes.

FIVE IN THE BOX

Francesco Pinelli

Kitchener’s 2019 first-round selection has had a torrid start to his OHL career with 10 points in his first 10 contests.

While it certainly is not the first time a 16-year-old has averaged a point per game, it is rare to see it with this Kitchener team.

Francesco Pinelli is off to a great start in his OHL career. Photo Courtesy Kitchenerrangers.com

The Rangers are built for a long playoff run and feature a veteran-heavy lineup this year.  Normally, under those circumstances, the 16-year-old can get lost in the offensive shuffle and is forced to play down in the lineup.

It remains to be seen if Pinelli can continue this pace over a full season but the future looks bright for the Rangers with Pinelli a key part of their present and future core.

Daniil Chayka

Speaking of first-round picks, Guelph has a pretty good one in their lineup from the 2018 Priority Selection draft in Chayka.

Chayka was a member of the OHL winning team from a year ago and has seen a dramatic increase in his ice time this year.

The sophomore defender has taken full advantage of it as well, contributing three goals and seven points through the Storm’s first eight games.

Chayka got lost in terms of attention last year playing on a very deep Guelph defensive core but his development benefitted greatly with the apprenticeship with the talent Guelph had a season ago.

The young defenceman is draft-eligible in 2020 and should see a significant amount of attention the rest of the season with his role increasing for the Storm.

Chayka already has an OHL championship to his name, but can he add another before his OHL career is done?  Time will tell but Chayka looks very good thus far.

Ryan Roth

Roth was recently traded to the Sarnia Sting and is making the most of his new opportunity.

Since joining the Sting Roth has eight points in four games and has helped fire up what was a relatively dormant offence for the first five contests of the campaign.

A year ago Roth scored 21 goals for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds without the benefit of top-line minutes.  Now in his third OHL season, Roth is making the most of his time with the Sting.

With six goals in his first 10 outings, Roth is on pace for over 40 goals which could double what he did a year ago.

Roth was not always ticketed for an OHL career having committed to St. Lawrence University before altering plans to join the Greyhounds.

He may not have been on the lists of the NHL scouting community to start the year, he will definitely garner draft consideration if he scores 35-40 goals in Sarnia.

Tyler Angle

The only player in the league currently known to have a fan club that follows him on the road, Angle has started strong for Windsor.

Angle has nine goals in the Spitfires 11 games this year and 14 points overall to lead the team.  Angle continues to build on a 44 point season from a year ago but has taken his game to the next level.

Windsor has taken the next step in their rebuild this year with seven victories in their first 11 games with Angle at the center of the offence.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will be thrilled with Angle’s progression this season as they saw enough in him to take him in the seventh round in this past NHL draft.

While both his teams are likely enjoying his early-season play, we can also bet that the Tyler Angle fan club is thrilled by his progression as well.

Connor McMichael

The London Knights are off to a slow start as they were under .500 this weekend despite a loaded roster.  One player you can’t fault for those struggles is McMichael.

The Washington Capitals 2019 first-round selection has been terrific for Dale Hunter through nine games.  McMichael has nine goals over that span and 18 points; a solid two points per game average.

Connor McMichael of the London Knights. (Luke Durda / OHL Images)

McMichael has also excelled in the faceoff circle as well winning just under 58 percent of his draws.

When the Knights traded Robert Thomas to Hamilton for McMichael, the team knew they were getting a good player.  They just likely did not know how good McMichael would be for them just 18 months later.

There is little doubt that London will turn things around this season.  There is just too much talent on paper for them to continue to struggle.  While it would be conceivably hard to picture McMichael doing more for the team, it is definitely possible.

The Knights are McMichael’s team now and they will go as far as he takes them offensively.  If he gets some help at the trade deadline, the Knights could be very scary in next spring’s playoffs.

Lodnia Homecoming Scripted Perfectly

Last week we discussed Ivan Lodnia returning to Niagara for his overage year in a surprising move.

It took a few days but Lodnia finally made his season debut for Niagara on Saturday night against the Guelph Storm.

The first period saw Lodnia look a bit rusty but Lodnia struck in the second period with his first goal of the season.  It was a big goal as it allowed Niagara to overcome a two-goal deficit and tied the game.

The teams would be tied through regulation and overtime with the game heading to a shootout.

All five of the first shooters were stopped by the goaltenders and it was Lodnia’s turn to shoot and send the Meridian Centre faithful home happy.

Lodnia made the most of the opportunity and beat Guelph goalie Nico Daws to win the game for Niagara.

While Lodnia may not have wanted to be back in Niagara he certainly didn’t disappoint the IceDogs.

Sometimes these stories just write themselves in the OHL.  For Lodnia, the first game could not have turned out better.

Thanks again for reading the Monday Night Major.  Until next week keep supporting the OHL and enjoy the games.