The Guelph Storm keep on rolling; St. Cloud State rises in NCAA rankings; Trouble brewing in Lethbridge?

Image courtesy of ca.sports.yahoo.com

Right now, it’s a toss-up between the Guelph Storm and the Oshawa Generals for the best team in the OHL. As of today, I would give the slight edge to the Storm who are currently on an impressive 10-game winning streak.

When the season started many pundits, including myself, thought the London Knights would run away with the Mid-West Division. Well, London hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and some guy named Connor McDavid is playing lights out hockey for the Erie Otters.

But nobody talked about Guelph who are 15-3 on the year.

The Storm are routinely scoring five to six goals a night and their 95 goals in 18 games is good for first in entire OHL. (Sault Ste. Marie is second with 78). The Storm are paced up front by Carolina Hurricanes second-rounder Brock McGinn (Tye’s brother) and Winnipeg Jets third-rounder Scott Kosmachuk. Both McGinn and Kosmachuk have almost identical numbers. McGinn is fifth in the OHL in scoring with 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points in 18 games, while Kosmachuk is sixth in the OHL with 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points in 18 games.

Would it be crazy for Hockey Canada to take a hard look at McGinn and Kosmachuk for the 2014 World Juniors? I don’t think so. Last week both players were selected to represent Team OHL in the Subway Series game against Team Russia in Oshawa on Nov. 21. along with teammate Matt Finn.

Since McGinn and Kosmachuk are relatively new names for Hockey Canada, I don’t know if they will make the squad. However, Hockey Canada loves taking 19-year olds to this tournament. Kosmachuk can shoot and score like a pro, while McGinn  fits the role of former Storm alum Daniel Paille. McGinn is a mid-sized forward who can skate like the wind and hits like a Mack truck. McGinn could fill a role on Team Canada like Steve Downie did in 2006 and 2007 as a player who can play all four lines and do them well.

It’s unlikely that Finn, Kosmachuk, and McGinn will all get the call to evaluation camp. However, I would not be shocked to see two of them get the invite. How all three players perform during the Subway Series will go a long way in determining if they’ll be donning the red maple leaf come late December.

Overshadowed by Guelph’s offensive prowess is their outstanding goalie play. Eighteen-year old Justin Nichols, who was acquired from Sault Ste. Marie just before the season, is developing into quite an NHL prospect. Nichols’s .921 save percentage and .289 GAA are good for seventh among OHL netminders.

Captain Matt Finn, who is a Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder, anchors the blueline. Finn has 5 goals and 12 assists this year in 16 games played and is a downright nasty player to play against. He’s an all-around solid defender who handles the toughest assignments night in and night out. He reminds me to an extent of former Guelph Storm defender Drew Doughty. He doesn’t have Doughty’s offensive talent, but they play a similar game on the ice.

The crazy thing about Guelph’s streak is Dallas Stars first-rounder Jason Dickinson hasn’t really gotten his game going yet. If and when he does, he’ll make an already potent offense that more deadly.

2014 Draft Eligible center Robby Fabbri is putting himself into first-round contention with the season he’s having. He has 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points in 17 games played. He’s undersized at 5’9, 165 pounds, but his offensive instincts and talent is undeniable for the former sixth overall pick in the 2012 OHL Draft. His slick-hands and shiftiness on the ice is Jordan Eberle esque. Guelph will be without Fabbri for the next 10 games as he was suspended by the OHL yesterday for his viscous check to the head of Kitchener Rangers defenseman Evan McEneny last Friday.

It’s good to see teams like Guelph, Erie, and Kingston have success early on this season. Will they continue their winning ways remains to be seen. However, I have a slight suspicion the Storm will continue to be a force this year.

The St. Cloud State Huskies jumped six spots from No. 9 last week to No. 3 this week in the USCHO.com rankings. The Huskies 5-0-1 record and their sweep of then No. 5 North Dakota in Grand Forks last weekend is a major reason why they jumped so high in the rankings. The 2-0 start in NCHC play for SCSU is huge.

SCSU may have lost a lot of scoring and experience with the departure of Drew LeBlanc, Nick Jensen and Ben Hanowski, but goalie Ryan Faragher has been excellent. He stopped 45-48 shots over the weekend and seems to have taken that next step as an upperclassmen. Farragher is undefeated in five starts and has a  2.00 GAA with a .922 save percentage. He could turn into one of the best goalies in the country in due time.

No. 7 Miami comes into the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center this weekend to take on the Huskies. SCSU needs more of the same to remain successful and undefeated. Nic Dowd (LA, 198th overall, ’09) and Jonny Brodzinski (LA, 148th overall, ’13)  have been outstanding early on combing for 13 points in six games played.

It’s not a fun time for Lethbridge Hurricane fans. 2015 NHL Draft prospect Ryan Pilon became the third player to leave the lowly Hurricanes this season. The highly-touted Pilon was looked at as a rebuilding piece for the Hurricanes. Guess not anymore. Lethbridge has only two wins on the season and is dead last in the WHL overall. The Hurricanes also traded disgruntled Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski to the Seattle Thunderbirds a few week’s back.

So what the heck is going on in Lethbridge?

Well, there is an uproar that the community-ownership of shareholders is not working and fans want the team privately owned. Former Hurricane Kris Versteeg actually wants to buy the Hurricanes. There is also issues with the coaching staff.

Former NHLers  Drake Berehowsky and his assistants Mike Craig and Brad Lukowich are first time junior coaches. There is the notion  that all three coaches do not have the coaching experience at the CHL level and age group to succeed. There is also the thought that management brought in an ex-NHLer to appease the shareholders.

The bottom line is there needs to be a complete overhaul in Lethbridge and unfortunately it probably won’t happen anytime soon. What Kris Versteeg wants to do is admirable but it’s not realistic. The Hurricanes are not up for sale according to their board of directors and shareholders.

Also, why would GM Brad Robson send Pilon home instead of trading him? That crushes his trade potential in my opinion.

Clearly when your team’s two best players demand a trade, and your best defenseman since Brent Seabrook quits in less than a month something is wrong. The shareholders must but their egos aside and do what’s best for the fans and community of Lethbridge. With local investors interested it make sense to sell the Canes.