The Minor Midget AAA regular season kicks off in under a week and features the next generation of OMHA hockey talent stepping up into the spotlight. Many players have put in time during the off-season to continue developing their skills and it all leads up to this critical season. This year of hockey is the stepping stone to the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft, where players will look to hit the ice on the next stage.
What’s in store for each team this season? Below is a preview of all 23 Minor Midget AAA teams based on how each team fared last year in Bantam.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Connor McMichael (Hamilton), Ian Martin (Niagara), Cole Brady (Guelph), Matt Altomare (Mississauga), Cole Spencer (Oshawa), Jacob Winteron (Flint), Cullen McLean (Sault Ste. Marie)
Notable Graduates: Andy Andreoff (Los Angeles Kings), Drake Caggiula (Edmonton Oilers), Devin Shore (Dallas Stars)
Outlook: The Raiders had a strong second half and will need to keep turning that into positive momentum. Playing in close games will be key for Ajax-Pickering this year. This is a streaky team and could find themselves rolling with a few wins.
Barrie Jr. Colts
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Mitchell Russell (Owen Sound Attack), Isaak Phillips (Sudbury Wolves), Jacob Patridge (Peterborough), Jeffrey Johnson (Barrie), Payton Schaly (Barrie), Curtis Kuzmyk (North Bay)
Notable Graduates: Josh Leivo (Toronto Maple Leafs), Matt Beleskey (Boston Bruins), Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks)
Outlook: The Colts were one of the strongest teams last year and deserve to be in the discussion of top teams in this age group. A disappointing Playdowns finish in the bronze medal game will keep this team hungry. They opened up last season as a strong defensive unit and teams were lucky to score against them.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Brayden Guy (Sarnia), Andrew Horsley (Peterborough), Drew Wawrow (Sudbury), Christopher Ishmael (Hamilton), Liam Fedak (Barrie), Owen Porter (Sault Ste. Marie), Remy Dal Ben (Subdury), Josh Booker (Sarnia)
Notable Graduates: Peter Holland (Toronto Maple Leafs), Tyler Randell (Boston Bruins), Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey Devils)
Outlook: There were a lot of close games that could’ve gone Brampton’s way with a few lucky bounces and suddenly you’re talking about a very different team. The 45’s seemed to find their groove offensively as the season progressed and could make an impact if they carry that over to this year.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Nicholas Haas (Guelph)
Notable Graduates: Austin Osmanski (Mississauga Steelheads)
Outlook: The Regals will need to take some of the pressure off of the defence by breaking through offensively. They ended their season by stringing together a pair of wins and can start this year off fresh.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Patrick Klazer (Owen Sound)
Notable Graduates: Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay Lightning), Josh Jooris (Carolina Hurricanes), Josh Anderson (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Outlook: Burlington dug themselves into a bit of a hole at the beginning of the season. They are in almost every game and if they can stretch out the consistency over a full year the Eagles could make some noise.
Central Ontario Wolves
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Kurtis Evans (North Bay), Brendan Tomilson (Ottawa)
Notable Graduates: Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche), Ty Dellandrea (Flint Firebirds)
Outlook: The Wolves were one of the strongest defensive teams last season. After leading the league in ties, Central Ontario will be looking to close out games more often. Lighting the lamp is not a problem for this group and they keep defences working all game long.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Bryce Caruk (North Bay), Thomas Loudfoot (Erie)
Notable Graduates: Josh Bailey (New York Islanders), Evan Cormier (Saginaw Spirit)
Outlook: This is a very even team on the scoresheet that didn’t get reflected in their record last season. Clarington can blow games open quickly but also can fall the same way. The Toros battle and could just need some puck luck in closer games.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Emmett Sproule (Erie), Eric Lalonde (Oshawa)
Notable Graduates: Kurtis MacDermid (Ontario Reign), Connor Roberts (Hamilton Bulldogs)
Outlook: The Highlanders burst through the gate but could not keep the same intensity by the end of the year. Grey-Bruce battles every game and may just need to find an extra push to get through the close contests.
Guelph Jr. Gryphons
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Matt Gordon (Kitchener), Matt Dunsmoor (Mississauga), Jonah Burley (Guelph)
Notable Graduates: Brock McGinn (Carolina Hurricanes), Tye McGinn (Tampa Bay Lightning), Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener Rangers)
Outlook: The Jr. Gryphons found their way as the season progressed and will look to carry that momentum into this year. If they can translate some ties into wins it will only help their case. Guelph has the ability to put games away when it’s close which not every team does.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Mitchell Brewer (Oshawa), Lucas Peric (Ottawa), Spencer Hazell (Owen Sound), Noah Arsenault (Barrie)
Notable Graduates: Jason Dickinson (Dallas Stars), Mark Visentin (Milwaukee Admirals), Michael Sgarbossa (Winnipeg Jets)
Outlook: The Hurricanes won seven of their final 10 games. They will need to find the back of the net more consistently but remain very well-balanced. Every Halton game is exciting and will go down to the wire.
Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Ryan Stepien (Saginaw), Tanner McEachern (Flint), Carson Eden (Owen Sound), Joshua Houston (Flint), Christopher Goodwin (Peterborough), Zack Osborne (Hamilton), Kyle Sullivan (Niagara), Matthew Stayshyn (Flint)
Notable Graduates: Cam Talbot (Edmonton Oilers), Kevin Bieksa (Anaheim Ducks)
Outlook: Hamilton got off to a solid start but could not keep the pace up in the second half. This is a team that has proven it can score and needs to do it evenly across all its games.
Kingston Jr. Frontenacs
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Hayden Fowler (Sault Ste. Marie), Tye Kartye (Sault Ste. Marie), Zackery McMahon (Sault Ste. Marie)
Notable Graduates: Taylor Hall (New Jersey Devils), Mike Smith (Arizona Coyotes), Scott Harrington (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Outlook: If the Jr. Fronts can break some ties and put teams away, they can easily turn from ‘very good’ to ‘great’. They can sometimes find themselves in a bit of a funk offensively and will need to find a way to snap out of it quicker for this year to be different.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Charlie Dafonseca (Flint)
Notable Graduates: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Michael del Zotto (Vancouver Canucks), Brendan Gaunce (Vancouver Canucks)
Outlook: The Waxers dug themselves into an early hole and could never fully recover. The offence will need to score a few more goals each game to have a shot at some additional wins. You will always see a full effort from this Markham club.
Niagara North Stars
2017 OHL Draft Picks: AJ Cook (Niagara)
Notable Graduates: Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes), Adam McMaster (North Bay Battalion)
Outlook: Defending home ice is always key to a strong season and the North Stars did an excellent job of that. Teams are lucky to score against Niagara and they can put opponents away. After a silver medal finish in Playdowns, the North Stars are looking to upgrade to gold this year. Watch out for them.
North Central Predators
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Will Redick (Sarnia)
Notable Graduates: Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound Attack)
Outlook: The Predators are rewarded for their effort on both ends of the ice with a goal differential that will keep them in any game against any opponent. North Central burst out of the gate but struggled to maintain the torrid pace the rest of the year. A stronger second half could’ve led to a different result.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Clark Hiebert (Guelph), Alton McDermott (Guelph), Aliesha Song (Hamilton)
Notable Graduates: Steve Mason (Philadelphia Flyers), Scott Wilson (Pittsburgh Penguins), Matt Spencer (Syracuse Crunch)
Outlook: The Rangers were one of the strongest teams in all facets of the game last year and solidified that finish with a bronze medal. Anchored by a great defence, Oakville looks to continue suffocating teams and be very frustrating to play against.
Oshawa Minor Generals
2017 OHL Draft Picks: N/A
Notable Graduates: Micheal Haley (San Jose Sharks), Shawn Thornton (Florida Panthers)
Outlook: Staying consistent over the season will help lead to more success for the Generals. They don’t always score a lot of goals but have shown the ability to hang with many other teams.
Peterborough Minor Petes
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Curtis Trolley (Erie), Riley Bates (Peterborough)
Notable Graduates: Cody Ceci (Ottawa Senators), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Mike Fisher (Nashville Predators)
Outlook: The Petes did a great job of keeping the puck out of their own net. The team can get hot in a hurry and are tough to stop once they get rolling. One of their keys to victory is the ability to win the close games. A disappointing end to their season certainly makes Peterborough hungry for more this year.
Quinte Red Devils
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Cameron Supryka (Peterborough), Emmet Pierce (London), Daniel Panetta (Peterborough), Zachary Uens (Flint), Michael Andrews (Windsor), Jacob Campbell (Kingston), Ethan Taylor (Sault Ste. Marie), Dalton Bancroft (Saginaw), Logan White (Kingston), Graham Dickerson (Kitchener)
Notable Graduates: Nick Cousins (Philadelphia Flyers), Andrew Shaw (Montreal Canadiens), Justin Williams (Washington Capitals)
Outlook: At times, Quinte can have trouble finding the back of the net which makes them settle for ties over wins. That being said, when they do win, they win with a lot of goals so breaking games open could be deciding factor for the Red Devils.
Richmond Hill Coyotes
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Ethan Eliopulos (Guelph)
Notable Graduates: Jordan Sambrook (Erie Otters)
Outlook: The Coyotes need to find a spark on offence more often to be successful. This group has shown they can win the close games and keep every game within reach. If Richmond Hill can put together a few win streaks, things may click this season.
Southern Tier Admirals
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Owen Diodati (North Bay), Liam Del Mastro (Kingston), Maxime Blanchard (Hamilton), Marcus Gillard (Erie)
Notable Graduates: Matt Schmalz (Ontario Reign), Connor Timmins (Sault Ste. Marie)
Outlook: The Admirals tapered off towards the end of the season and lost a bit of their offensive touch that made them such a threat when the year began. Backed by strong goaltending that gives Southern Tier a shot to win every game, putting complete games together will be very important for the Admirals to keep climbing.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Blake Murray (Sudbury), Colton Kammerer (Sarnia), Nathan Porter (North Bay), Ethan Langevin (Sarnia), Luke Pearson (Ottawa), Jacob DiDanieli (Ottawa), Mason Dreger (Sault Ste. Marie), Ethan Doyle (Kingston)
Notable Graduates: James Neal (Nashville Predators), Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound Attack), Dan Girardi (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Outlook: After winning the Minor Midget group last season, this team of Wildcats will look to carry over the winning ways. They started off slow but picked up steam as the season progressed. The Wildcats score enough to keep them in each game but need to tidy up defensively.
2017 OHL Draft Picks: Liam Whitaker (London), Jalen Balbosa (Niagara), Keegan Pulford-Thorpe (Sudbury), Cameron Fulop (London), Tanner Hicks (Owen Sound)
Notable Graduates: Chris Tierney (San Jose Sharks), Brian Elliott (Calgary Flames), Barclay Goodrow (San Jose Sharks)
Outlook: The defending champions of this age group, the Express were one of the most complete teams all year long. This is an offensive powerhouse and any team going against them needs to bring it on both ends of the ice. York-Simcoe has the ability to quickly shake off any bad games which makes them tough to catch off-guard.
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