• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa 67’s Season Preview: An Experienced Roster Poised to Compete

Photo credit: Valerie Wutti, Blitzen Photography

Expectations are high for the Ottawa 67’s heading into the 2018-19 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season. Between players retained, star prospects added and experience gained, the club has set itself up nicely to make the leap into contention for the 2019 J. Robertson Cup.

The 67’s were inconsistent last season, a typical characteristic of a young hockey club. With an average age of 18.6 years old, Ottawa was the second youngest team in the OHL. There was an impressive six-game winning streak but there were also four separate stretches where the team had a losing streak of at least four games.

Still, the team snuck into the playoffs as the fourth-ranked team in the East Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa fell 4-1 in the opening round to the eventual OHL champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs.

With another year of experience and maturity under their belts, Ottawa is bringing back 19 veterans from last year’s squad. One of those returning players is Sasha Chmelevski, last year’s team leader in points. The 19-year-old American totaled 76 points last season and should be an offensive catalyst once again this season with Ottawa. The experience gained last season however was not limited to the 67’s players.

This will be the second season for 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny and general manager James Boyd, who were both hired last June. Tourigny spent the summer as the head coach of Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, an under-18 tournament where Canada captured the gold medal. One of the players Tourigny, a former Senators’ assistant coach, led at the international tournament is the 67’s own Graeme Clark. The 17-year-old, Ottawa-native scored 14 goals in his rookie year with Ottawa in 2017-18.

Including Chmelevski and Clark, Ottawa is returning seven of their top ten scorers from last season. That includes Kody Clark, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs legend Wendel Clark, who was taken in the second round of this year’s National Hockey League (NHL) draft by the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals.

Star defenseman Nikita Okhotyuk is also back in Ottawa, but he will have to wait until next year to hear his name called at the draft. Okhotyuk tied the 67’s team lead in (+/-) with a mark of +12 last season. He is projected to go in the first round in 2019.

The blue line unit as a whole is shaping up to be special for the 67’s. Along with Okhotyuk, two defensemen of the Arizona Coyotes will be returning to Ottawa this fall: Kevin Bahl (second round, 2018) and Noel Hoefenmayer (fourth round, 2017). As is the case with the team as a whole, another year of not only experience, but shared experience should elevate the Ottawa defensemen this season.

The major addition this season will be Marco Rossi, a star in the making 16-year-old from Austria. Rossi is projected to be a top two pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Following years of playing in Switzerland, it will be Rossi’s first year of hockey in North America.

As is the case with virtually every OHL team from season to season, the 67’s will have their roster holes to fill. Although many on last season’s roster will be returning, the captain’s ‘C’ was left vacant with the departure of Travis Barron this year.

Barron spent three years in Ottawa, including two as team captain. The Brampton-native is off to Colorado to join the Eagles, the Colorado Avalanche’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. As Barron begins his climb of the professional hockey ladder, the 67’s will have to replace him both in scoring (Barron was third on the team in scoring last season) and in leadership. Tourigny has yet to announce a new captain for this season.

Statistics that stick out from last season’s inconsistent play include the difficulties the 67’s had on special teams. Ottawa had the third worst power play percentage and ranked 14th out of 20 OHL teams in penalty kill percentage, which was a problem considering that the 67’s committed the third most penalty minutes in the league.

In terms of goaltending, the 67’s will have a new starter in the crease this season. Last year’s starting goaltender Olivier Tremblay is gone, leaving two goalies on the Ottawa roster. Cedrick Andree started 13 games as the team’s backup in 2017-18 while rookie Will Cranley is set to begin his first season in Ottawa.

Both goaltenders received starts in the preseason but Andree got the nod in two of the three matchups against OHL opponents and figures to be the opening day starter. The 67’s finished the preseason a perfect 5-0. That mark included two wins over the Kingston Frontenacs, a team that finished third in the Eastern Conference last season.

Ottawa will open the regular season this Friday night against the Mississauga Steelheads at TD Place Arena.