Playoff-Bound Ottawa 67’s Bolstered by the Postseason Pedigree of Kyle Maksimovich and Lucas Chiodo
It has been six years since the Ottawa 67’s made it passed the first round of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs. This week, they take on the defending champion Hamilton Bulldogs in their opening round series.
The short-term goal for this Ottawa team remains the same: break the streak. But this time around, the 67’s head into the playoffs as the top-ranked team in the OHL with a stacked group of forwards, deep defensive core and two top-tier goaltenders.
A pair of talented forwards were acquired at this year’s trade deadline to not only up the talent level of an already uber-talented team, but also to bring the knowledge and familiarity of what it takes to be successful in the playoffs. That could prove valuable considering many of the current 67’s have little postseason experience, save for a few games each season.
Lucas Chiodo and Kyle Maksimovich, the newest 67’s, have the unique experience of having both matched up against and alongside this year’s dominant team.
“Really deep group. Scary to play against,” said Chiodo.
Chiodo and Maksimovich were traded for within a day of one other this January. The pair was targeted for specific reasons both on and off the ice, according to Ottawa head coach Andre Tourigny.
“They had to fit our DNA. Fit the way we want to play,” said Tourigny. “Character, type of person was huge for us when deciding to trade for them. Helps that they are great players on both sides of the ice.”
The 21-year-old Maksimovich spent four and a half seasons in Erie with the Otters and was a part of the 2017 squad that won the OHL and made a run to the Memorial Cup Final. That Erie team lost to the Windsor Spitfires in the Final, led by star goaltender Michael DiPietro.
The 67’s acquired DiPietro as well in early December as the first move in an impressive pre-deadline haul. Now DiPietro and Maksimovich are teammates in Ottawa who, along with Chiodo, bring much-needed postseason lessons.
“I try to bring my leadership and my experience with me,” said Maksimovich.
Maksimovich has experienced virtually everything that junior hockey has to offer but has saved his best season for last, setting career highs in both goals and assists. It is also the fifth straight season that he has averaged over a point-per-game.
“It’s a great group of guys,” said Maksimovich. “We have the talent and the skill and the determination to go far in the playoffs. It’s going to be a great ride with these guys and no better chance in my last year in junior hockey to go far and win with these guys here.”
Chiodo was with the Barrie Colts for 3.5 seasons before coming to Ottawa and was a consistent scoring threat. Though he only made the playoffs twice with Barrie, Chiodo helped lead them to an opening round victory last season over Mississauga and tallied 12 points over the Colts’ 12 playoff games.
The two veteran forwards will be graduating from the OHL following the completion of the playoffs but they are not the only ones seeking to go out on top as they complete their careers in Canadian junior hockey.
Other graduating 67’s include DiPietro, 59-goal scorer Tye Felhaber, San Jose Sharks-draftee Sasha Chmelevski, Washington Capitals-draftee Kody Clark, stud defenseman Noel Hoefenmayer and talented set-up man Austen Keating.
If you could not already tell by the laundry list of high-profile graduating players, the scoring depth of the Ottawa lineup has been something to behold. The 67’s had seven players finish with 20 or more goals this season. Two of those were Chiodo and Maksimovich.
They have been on a line together, including over the last few weeks, with Mitch Hoelscher but have also been separated on the second and third lines.
Having players of their caliber on separate lines behind the Tye Felhaber/Marco Rossi-led first line is an overwhelming prospect for any opponent to game plan and perform against. Whether or not they play apart or together, both Chiodo and Maksimovich will be dangerous this playoffs.
“I think we just need to stick to our game, play our systems and we will do a lot of damage here in the playoffs,” said Chiodo.
The 67’s dealt draft picks and players’ rights for Maksimovich and Chiodo in moves that signified, in many people’s eyes, a commitment to win big this postseason. Coach Tourigny doesn’t agree with that interpretation however.
“You can see it different ways. Adding scoring pieces for a cup run, or wanting our younger players to be around more experienced players,” said Tourigny. “At some point we wanted to take a step forward as a team.”
Tourigny says he has not talked about the long-term goals of the team this season. No mention of an OHL championship or a Memorial Cup title. A short-term focus has been important for Ottawa all season.
“That is the approach we have had all season long and we have been really successful. We don’t want to change that,” said Tourigny. “It is not a win-now situation for us. It is a win the next game [situation]”.
The next game for the 67’s is game one of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Hamilton Bulldogs this Friday night at TD Place.
For the first time in years, the Ottawa 67’s and their fan base not only have hope heading into the playoffs but high expectations. Expectations that they can stake their claim as the best team not only in the Ontario, but perhaps in all of Canada.