Another week of exciting hockey action around the Ontario Hockey League is complete. Let’s see what happened around the league this week.
The Niagara IceDogs got a bit of a surprise this Thanksgiving weekend when the Minnesota Wild decided to assign winger Ivan Lodnia to the OHL team.
Lodnia had 45 points in 41 regular-season games in his only season in Niagara and was expected to graduate to professional hockey this year given his sound two-way game.
The IceDogs had thought they dealt with their overage situation already. Prior to the season, Niagara dealt Jacob Paquette to Peterborough and Bradey Johnson to Hamilton for picks. It was thought at the time that Castleman, Drew Hunter, and Elijah Roberts would be the three overage players for the team.
Where Lodnia immediately fits into the Niagara lineup is a bit of a mystery. Lodnia has serious chemistry with Akil Thomas and could slot with the Kings’ prospect to rekindle that chemistry.
The problem with that is that Lodnia comes with a cost as one of Roberts, Castleman or Hunter would have to come out of the lineup.
The decision could be made easy for Niagara though as Castleman could face supplemental discipline for flipping a puck into the netting after a whistle on Saturday night. Castleman was given a ten-minute misconduct on the player but the league will often suspend for events like this.
One thing for certain is that Lodnia will play. In speaking with GM Joey Burke on Sunday following the announcement, he indicated they were happy to have him back and that he will play. The definitive statement squashes what many immediately assumed was an immediate trade of the former OHL champion.
Could he be traded in the future? Absolutely. Trading Lodnia makes a lot of sense but there is no hurry to do so for the player or the team. Until a decision is made, IceDogs fans will enjoy Lodnia’s return to the team as he immediately helps them in all facets of the game.
FIVE IN THE BOX
“Cool Hand Luke” as he’s been dubbed by Battalion radio voice Matthew Sookram has four goals in his first eight contests this year.
The 19-year-old is not necessarily known for his offense around the league as he has yet to hit double digits in goals in his OHL career. What he is becoming known for is his ability to score on the penalty kill.
Moncada has actually yet to score at even strength this year with three of his goals coming short-handed and the other during four-on-four play.
He has become known as one of the better penalty killers in the league and has now created enough offense while shorthanded to make teams aware he can make you pay for powerplay errors.
He is likely a guy contending teams will call Stan Butler about at the trade deadline; however, he is also the perfect fit for Butler given his strong defensive ability.
While he may not get the attention he deserves around the league, Moncada is quickly turning heads given his early-season play when the Battalion are forced to play away from the standard five-on-five.
The former second overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection Draft has started his OHL career rather slowly.
Bertuzzi entered the league as a highly-touted prospect but only scored seven goals in his first 71 OHL contests.
Bertuzzi was dealt last year to Hamilton in a trade that allowed the son of former NHL forward Todd Bertuzzi a new lease on his hockey life.
Bertuzzi was only able to play one game in Hamilton before suffering a season-ending injury.
The Bulldogs had hoped that a reset would benefit the once-promising talent and it appears to have worked.
Bertuzzi has four points in eight games this year for the Bulldogs and has been able to take advantage of an increase in ice time. While not outstanding production expected from a second overall pick, it is a step in the right direction in getting his hockey career back on track.
The Bulldogs are certainly hoping Bertuzzi can get back on track as he could be a valuable component for them in their continued rebuild.
Erie’s rookie goaltender Campbell has won the first four games of his OHL career despite a rocky start in his debut.
Campbell gave up five goals in that one but the Otters rallied to get him the win against the Bulldogs back on September 21st. Since that rough debut, Campbell has surrendered just five goals in three games to backstop Erie to a win in each game he has played.
After an excellent preseason incumbent Daniel Murphy has struggled out of the gate winning just once in five contests.
Murphy was thought to be the number one goalie in Erie this year but Campbell’s play has certainly made the decision a bit tougher on Head Coach Chris Hartsburg.
I’m not sure about you but there are some players that feel like they have been around forever. Aidan Brown is one of those players for me.
When I think of the Barrie Colts, Brown is one of the first guys I think of in word association with the franchise.
Brown has never lit up the scoresheet in his OHL career. Prior to this year, he had a career-high 30 points last season but with players like Brown, you do not measure his contributions on the scoresheet.
Or do you?
Brown has come out of the gate with four goals and six points in his first seven games as an overage player. Brown is also amongst the league leaders in penalty minutes and has developed into a really solid contributor in his overage year.
If Brown can continue to contribute offense at this level, he solidifies a solid top-six group in Barrie this year. The Colts do not boast the most known group of forwards around the league but have enough size and talent to make things very difficult in the playoffs.
The Colts got to an Eastern Conference final in Brown’s first year and you can bet he would like nothing more than a deep playoff run in his final OHL season.
The London Knights defender is benefitting from his experience providing him an opportunity to play a lot this season.
After a 39 point campaign in 2018-19, Regula has come out of the gate on fire this year averaging two points per game through his first five games.
While we likely won’t see Regula continue to produce two points per game, the talented rear guard will certainly inherit the powerplay time previously occupied by Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist. That will likely lead to career highs in points and it would not surprise this writer if he was in the mix for defenceman of the year.
Of course, this could potentially change if London adds on defense at the trade deadline but Regula will be a key player for London regardless of who they add.
2016 Priority Selection Draft
The 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft promised a lot of hope for the teams at the top of the draft. It was headlined by what many felt were two franchise cornerstone defencemen in Ryan Merkley and Owen Lalonde.
The scouting community was correct in that they would be good players but missed on the fact that they would be cornerstone defenceman. As predicted, both players went in the first two picks but would move around quite a bit in the future.
This week Lalonde was dealt to the Flint Firebirds and joined his third OHL team. As we already know, Merkley also joined his third OHL team this year and the pair have continued to be linked together in the draft by joining their third team.
We all know what happened with Merkley in Peterborough. Lalonde’s situation is different in that Flint acquired him to help a blue line that needed a boost in what they hope will be a strong season.
The pair are not alone though as players moving around from the 2016 draft.
Kirill Nizhnikov is on his fourth OHL organization. Other top ten picks Connor Roberts and Pavel Gogolev are also on their second organization while five others in that first round are playing for their second OHL club as well.
Is it just a 2016 Draft thing?
It seems like a lot of players moving around from that first round. Was it the cost of winning for teams or is there something to it?
A review of the 2017 Priority Selection Draft continues to indicate that the 2016 draft is not an anomaly.
From the 2017 draft, six players in the first round are playing for other teams while seven from the next two rounds are also playing in different cities. There are a lot of players taken that chose not to come to the league.
As a percentage, there are a lot of players moving around each year and certainly more on aggregate than I actually realized. It may not be the first two picks moving around, but there is a lot of movement.
The one conclusion we can take from this is that 2016 was not an abnormal draft. It is also apparent how quickly things can change from the draft day as teams use these early picks as chips to go all-in for a championship.
Players will always remember their OHL draft day well but history says that they should not get too comfortable in their new billet home. They may not be there long.
Thanks for reading this week’s OHL Monday Night Major. Happy Thanksgiving to those in Canada.