There are my predictions on what the final standings will be now that the rosters are set.
*The lines are based on talking to certain media members/fans, so may not be 100% accurate*
I didn’t love the Petes deadline, for the price they paid for Paquette they probably could’ve gotten an elite player and made themselves head and shoulders better than the rest of the East (if Korostelev doesn’t come back next year (AHL or KHL) then I really hate their deadline). Petes have 3 very balanced lines and one of the best goalies in the OHL this year. They get outshot almost every night but Dylan Wells seems to thrive under those circumstances. I think PBO and MISS will be very close the rest of the season, but PBO starts with a 10 point lead over them, so I think the Petes finishing 1st in the Eastern Conference is a pretty safe bet.
Extra: Rollo, Tammela (hurt), Schulz, Bricknell
Extra: Chisholm, Henley, McNamara
Mississauga will benefit from being in the terrible Central Division and I think they’ll have no problem winning that, which would put them into 2nd place automatically. On paper this team has looked pretty good all year but it hasn’t translated into on-ice success yet. Adding depth forwards like Fox and Cascagnette is what this team needed, they already have the top end talent. Matt Mancina will be a key for this team once the playoffs come, but I think they will be able to take the Central Division (and therefore 2nd place) fairly easily.
Extra: Titus, Little
Extra: Ramalho, Wells
They didn’t get better at the deadline (got Garagan/Templeton but lost Fox/Laishram/Saban) but I still think they can finish 3rd. It’ll likely come down to OSH and HAM for 3rd, and the Gens start with a 7 point lead on Hamilton but Hamilton is a more veteran team and now that they have 2 strong goalies, they should steal them some games too. Matt Luff staying healthy could be a key for this team if they are going to finish 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
Extra: Webb, McCourt
The Gens are currently in 1st place but Roger Hunt took one look at the rosters of London/Erie/Windsor/Sault Ste. Marie and realized that he can’t compete so he smartly sold off and got elite young talent and picks back. The impressive thing about this being a “rebuild year” now for the Gens is that they will still likely finish top 4 in the Eastern Conference and get a home playoff series. I could see the Gens finishing 3rd, but more likely that they finish 4th. They will rely on a lot of young players for the rest of the year, which will likely mean a few extended losing streaks. Bob Jones will give the young guys lots of playing time, which is great long term, but will also likely cost a few points in the standings this year.
Extra: Sparkes, Gottschalk
A team that will struggle to score (especially if Sokolov has a cold streak) but has enough talent that I think they can finish 5th in the East. McGrath has taken over the net, which is good for Sudbury’s future, but there will be some growing pains there this year. Their 3rd/4th line aren’t going to be adding much offensively which puts even more pressure on McGrath. Although the Sanvido pickup will help in that regard, a good veteran defensive D-man.
Dr. Pilon-Pezzetta-Da. Pilon
This is the wildcard team in the East to me. I could see them finishing as high as 3rd or as low as 7th. Consistency is an issue for them but they have the top end scoring and goalies to make a serious push. They have a very inexperience D-core but picking up Chris Martenet at the deadline should help that. If Foget gets comfortable in the OHL and starts to put up points then this team could surprise a lot of people in the 2nd half.
Extra: Gardiner, Bitten
Extra: Robertson, Wilson
Back to another down year for the Fronts after going all-in last year and getting swept in the 2nd round. They have a pretty strong top 4 on D and Jeremy Helvig which should combine to make it pretty tough for other teams to score, but I don’t expect Kingston’s offence to be putting up a ton of goals, which is why I think they’ll finish in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Extra: Supryka, Burnie
8th: North Bay
A tough year for Stan Butler, who usually relies on systematic play and strong goaltending. They’ve had a ton of injuries in the crease already this year and they just don’t have the depth to put up much of a fight in the Eastern Conference. If things go their way I could see them getting up to 6th, but I think it’s more likely that they end up in the 8th spot.
Extra: Dineen (injured), Lyle
Similar to the Generals in the 2nd half in that they’re a very young team, which will likely result in a lot of growing pains. The difference being that the Generals have 50 points already and Niagara has 31. Will be a good development year for the young players but won’t be a good year for Niagara in the standings.
Likely the worst offensive depth in the Eastern Conference along with the worst starting goalie is not a recipe for success. These struggles were expected this year for Barrie and I think they’ll live up to expectations and get the 1st overall pick in the draft next year.
Good luck trying to score on these top 4 D-men (who each play 20+ minutes a night) and Tyler Parsons. Add in these deep 4 forward lines and I think London is the best, and most deep team in the OHL. What puts London over Erie for me is that they have the better defence and goalie. You can’t win if you can’t score, and I don’t see London giving up very many goals the rest of the season.
2nd: Sault Ste. Marie
One of the deepest and most explosive offences in the whole league. Everyone in their top 12 can score and that’ll carry SSM to a lot of wins down the stretch. Their defence is obviously their biggest question mark but it should be good enough with how much help it’ll be getting from the offence each night. I think Erie will end up with more points, but Sault Ste. Marie will win their division, which puts them in the 2nd seed in the Western Conference.
3 very strong lines for Erie post-deadline will make them very tough to play against. I have them in 3rd (2nd most points in the West) because I think their D+Timpano is much more susceptible to a bad game here and there than London’s D+Parsons is. Erie’s real calling card will be puck possession and how many times they’ll get easy puck possession off Cirelli/Strome/Pettit winning draws. All 3 are above 60% which is unheard of to have on one team. They also will have a guy who’s over 60% on draws on the wing (Foegele) because they can’t even fit all the great centres into their natural position.
Windsor has one of the more balanced teams in the OHL but the fact that they are in the Memorial Cup no matter what might hurt them in the standings. They will be more likely to roll all 4 lines and keep guys out of the lineup longer to ensure they’re fully healthy than other teams might because they know that they just need to be healthy and ready to go for the Mem Cup tournament. DiPietro is a future superstar in the league but is he ready to carry a team down the stretch at 17 years old? That’ll be a big question for Windsor in the 2nd half.
5th: Owen Sound
A real dark horse in the Western Conference because they are playing with house money. They aren’t expected to win until next year but they have so much talent that they’ll play spoiler to a ton of good teams down the stretch. Nobody in the Western Conference wants to play these guys in the 1st round of the playoffs. Also Michael McNiven is probably the best goalie in the league, which just adds to why this team is no joke.
Extra: Groulx, Pryce
They traded away Bracco but still have enough top end scoring talent to get by, unfortunately the top teams in the West are so strong this year that Kitchener will likely end up down in the bottom half of the standings. Season ending injuries to 2 key D-men (Hall and Blaisdell) also are a big factor in Kitchener not getting a home playoff series (and likely one of the reasons they decided to sell Bracco).
Another team that went younger this year and likely won’t do much in the standings, but it will be a big development year for them to make a run in the future. They hung on to Spinozzi to anchor the back end and still have some elite scorers and Justin Fazio in net so I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarnia snuck up into 6th but I think that might be their ceiling this year.
Love what Flint has done this year after the circus that was last year. They have put together a very solid team but it just doesn’t have the stars to compete in the Western Conference this year. I think they are a playoff team though and could push for as high as the 6th spot if they get a big 2nd half from Sherwood and Moore
Extra: Kirwan (injured)
Extra: Nilsen, Steinocher
Guelph is still paying the price for deciding to keep Bertuzzi, Dickinson, and Fabbri (got a 3rd for him but we all know they could’ve gotten a ton more) and letting them walk with no return in terms of young players or picks. I don’t think Guelph will make the playoffs, for the 2nd straight season but I don’t have them finishing last in the West this year. Merkley one of the dynamic young players in this league and with time and maturity he will turn into a superstar, but the team just doesn’t have enough scoring depth or ability to keep the puck out of their own net to make the playoffs in the West this year.
Extra: Ralph, Moncada
Extra: Hall, Hanna, Tetrault
Saginaw wasn’t good to start with so obviously trading away their best player (and captain) will be too tough for them to overcome. They actually have a very good D-core but have one of the worst offensive groups in the OHL. They will struggle big time to score in the 2nd half of the season and I think they’ll have them end up in last place in the West.