Scary Erie Otters could win it all this year
Can this be the year for the scary Erie Otters? They haven’t had blossoming National Hockey League star Connor McDavid in their lineup for two seasons now, yet the Erie Otters remain an ongoing threat to the Ontario Hockey League title hopes of the Soo Greyhounds.
Erie – which has been a thorn in the side of the Soo in each of the past three seasons in eliminating the Greyhounds from the playoffs all three times – is once again chasing what has been an elusive OHL championship for it.
The Otters have yet to win it all despite boasting powerhouse teams the past three years with and without McDavid – who, amazingly, could still be playing in the OHL for Erie as a 19-year old instead of starring in his second NHL season with the Edmonton Oilers.
Just as amazingly, Erie has been denied an OHL title despite three consecutive 50-win, 100-point seasons under 38-year old head coach Kris Knoblauch.
Can this be the season that Erie finally takes all that it has to an OHL championship and Memorial Cup berth?
Yes, it could, though playing in the Western Conference, the Otters once again have serious competition from not only the Greyhounds, Windsor Spitfires and Owen Sound Attack but the reigning Memorial Cup champion London Knights.
Still, it’s hard not to like this Knoblauch-coached Erie team, which over the past three seasons may be the best example ever of a major junior hockey club that has been so good without winning a league championship.
Just look at the Erie roster, which begins between the pipes with Sudbury Wolves castoff Troy Timpano, who is doing what he is asked of – mind the net and give the Otters a chance to win every game.
On the blue-line, Erie recently added to the presence of high-scoring, overage sensation Darren Raddysh by luring 19-year old puck whiz Owen Headrick away from the Lake Superior State Lakers of the Division 1, Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Headrick, by the way, has two goals in his first five OHL games with Erie.
Up front, the Otters are Erie-scary. Not only does Erie boast league scoring leaders Alex DeBrincat and Taylor Raddysh but franchise scoring leader Dylan Strome is averaging more than two points per outing in the 14 games since he returned from the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.
If that isn’t enough, Otters general manager Dave Brown traded for Team Canada forward Anthony Cirelli from the Oshawa Generals and overage forward Warren Foegele from the Kingston Frontenacs at the January 10 trade deadline.
It’s not just about being a good coach in this age of junior hockey. It’s about being a coach who relates to his players by creating a positive environment.
As the premier development program in Canada, the Ontario Hockey League has more than its share of coaches who not only know how to instruct, teach and develop but to do so within an atmosphere that is about the best interests of the team and its individual players.
The good coach is not the one who needs to scream, yell and berate to make his point, however good that point may be.
The good coach can be effervescent, without yelling or being overly-authoritative.
The good coach can also be a man of few words who nonetheless can use his knowledge of the game to command the respect – and maximize the performance – of his players.
The respected coaches of – in this case – the OHL are the ones whose names are mentioned in varying circles with these words: “Good coach, good person, positive atmosphere.”
They are the ones who can get maximum effort from their players without having to resort to screaming, yelling or – worse – bullying.
Old and young, the OHL coaches whose names are most-often mentioned in overall terms of endearment (to me at least) are, from Eastern Conference to Western Conference, Stan Butler of the North Bay Battalion, Jeff Brown of the Ottawa 67’s, Bobby Jones of the Oshawa Generals, Jody Hull of the Peterborough Petes, John Gruden of the Hamilton Bulldogs, David Matsos of the Sudbury Wolves, Dale Hunter of the London Knights, Drew Bannister of the Soo Greyhounds, Kris Knoblauch of the Erie Otters, Rocky Thompson of the Windsor Spitfires, Jay McKee of the Kitchener Rangers and Ryan Oulahen of the Flint Firebirds.
A rather impressive list.
Just some food for thought, no more, no less.
Espanola Express captain Cameron Anklewich has committed to play at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 3 level for the Kings College Monarchs effective the 2017-2018 season.
In 27 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League games with Espanola this season (as of February 3) the 1997 birth-year forward has 10 goals, 7 assists, 17 points.
“I’m really looking forward to the new opportunity that Kings College presents to me. It’s been a dream of mine to play NCAA hockey since I was 13 years old. It’s been a lot of work since then but to have it come true now is really exciting,” said Anklewich.
The 2017-2018 hockey season will be the first for Kings College, which is based in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
“I love the feel of the campus and how it is a small, private university in northeastern Pennsylvania,” added Anklewich.
Espanola president and general manager Chad Clarke spoke about his team captain on behalf of the Express.
“I couldn’t be happier for Cameron. Out of all the schools he has talked to, this is the perfect fit for him,” noted Clarke. “I have watched Cameron grow not only as a player but a young man over the last few years and the Monarchs will be more than satisfied with what he brings to the table.”