The Minor Midget AAA regular season kicks off in under a week and features the #NextOnes stepping up into the spotlight. Many players have put in time during the off-season to continue developing their skills and continue playing the sport they love 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 continue hitting 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 across the ETA and SCTA based on how each team fared last year in Bantam.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: N/A
Notable Graduates: Andy Andreoff (Los Angeles Kings), Drake Caggiula (Edmonton Oilers)
Outlook: Ajax-Pickering had a very strong second half to the season and will need to carry that momentum over. They seemed to find their groove on both the offensive and defensive ends. The Raiders beat many of the top teams last year and could be the hunted this season.
Barrie Jr. Colts
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Barret Kirwin (Guelph), Connor Corcoran (Windsor), Braden Henderson (Sarnia), Dennis Busby (Flint), Jacob Ingham (Mississauga), Rhys Brown (North Bay), Christen Taylor (Barrie), Matt Nastasiuk (Ottawa)
Notable Graduates: Josh Leivo (Toronto Maple Leafs), Matt Beleskey (Boston Bruins), Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks)
Outlook: The Colts finished fourth last year but have all the reasons to show they deserve to be in the discussion of top teams in this group. They do not give up a lot of goals and can score a bunch of them. If they stay consistent they should be around in Playdowns.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: N/A
Notable Graduates: Peter Holland (Toronto Maple Leafs), Tyler Randell (Boston Bruins), Brett Murray (Penn State)
Outlook: The 45’s showed the ability to win the close games last season. They are a strong defensive group and have good goaltending but can also score lots of goals if needed. Brampton will look to improve on its bronze medal finish.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: N/A
Notable Graduates: Austin Osmanski (Mississauga Steelheads)
Outlook: The Regals will need to find a way to break through offensively to take some of the pressure off of the defence. They may just need some more puck luck in the closer games.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Nicolas Daws (Guelph), Evan Ilkos (Sarnia)
Notable Graduates: Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay Lightning), Josh Jooris (New York Rangers), Josh Anderson (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Outlook: Burlington had a strong middle of the season and will need to keep their play consistent over the season. They are a hard working group who can move the puck around and will play to the final buzzer. A few bounces going their way can change some games for them.
Central Ontario Wolves
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Jordan Kooy (London), Ty Dellandrea (Flint), Owen Smith (Flint), Braydon Leeking (Flint), Quinn Yule (Ottawa)
Notable Graduates: Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche)
Outlook: The Wolves keep a lot of games close but will need to find a way to tilt the goal differential to be slightly more in their favour. That said, this group is still defensively sound and could be a team to keep an eye on.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Mitchell Doyle (Guelph), Liam Robertson (London), Riley McCutcheon (Ottawa), Mason Snell (North Bay), Riley Girard (Niagara)
Notable Graduates: Josh Bailey (New York Islanders)
Outlook: Clarington can light the lamp but will need to do it more consistently. They seemed to find a bit of scoring magic towards the end of the season but need to combine it with more of a defensive effort.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Brendan Cederberg (Peterborough), Connor Roberts (Hamilton), Lucas Pfeil (Kitchener), Chet Phillips (Saginaw), Zack Trott (Sault Ste. Marie)
Notable Graduates: Kurtis MacDermid (Ontario Reign), Kevin Czuczman (Manitoba Moose)
Outlook: The Highlanders work hard and battle each game. They finished with 11 ties last year and just need to find that extra push to get ahead. Still, they can hang in every game and will battle to the end.
Guelph Jr. Gryphons
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Mitch Morrison (Saginaw), Keanan Stewart (Owen Sound)
Notable Graduates: Brock McGinn (Carolina Hurricanes), Tye McGinn (Tampa Bay Lightning), Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener Rangers)
Outlook: The Jr. Gryphons played better as the season progressed and will look to carry that momentum into this year. Many of their games were close and their defence kept other teams in check.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Adriano Mamome (Sault Ste. Marie), Mitchell Hewitson (Oshawa), Luke Beamish (Owen Sound)
Notable Graduates: Jason Dickinson (Dallas Stars), Mark Visentin (Milwaukee Admirals), Michael Sgarbossa (Anaheim Ducks)
Outlook: The Hurricanes had no problems finding the back of the net and rarely allowed more than a few goals each game. Halton is one of the teams to watch and will look to translate their regular season success into the Playdowns.
Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Adrien Beraldo (Peterborough), Wesley Weir (Sault Ste. Marie), Jack Wismer (Flint), Alex Jerome (Flint), Jackson Doherty (Owen Sound), Marino Moro (Owen Sound), Tanner Sheppard (Hamilton), Bobby Harrison (London), Trevor LeDonne (Hamilton), Matt Bridgewater (Guelph)
Notable Graduates: Cam Talbot (Edmonton Oilers), Kevin Bieksa (Anaheim Ducks), Tyler Gaudet (Arizona Coyotes), Andrew Campbell (Toronto Marlies)
Outlook: Hamilton burst out of the gates and got off to a hot start. They still had a good finish but did not play as consistent as earlier in the year. Many of their games were close and went either way.
Kingston Jr. Frontenacs
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Nolan Hutcheson (Sudbury), Mathieu Halle (Owen Sound), Jack Duff (Erie)
Notable Graduates: Taylor Hall (New Jersey Devils), Mike Smith (Arizona Coyotes), Scott Harrington (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Outlook: The Jr. Fronts will need to find the ability to break ties and put teams away. They can battle with any team that is against them and put away some early struggles to finish the season strong.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Tyler Davis (Owen Sound), Connor Gillanders (North Bay)
Notable Graduates: Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Michael del Zotto (Philadelphia Flyers), Brendan Gaunce (Utica Comets)
Outlook: The Waxers did a decent job on home ice but will need to pick up a few victories on the road as well. The offence will need to score a few more goals each game to have a shot at some additional wins.
Niagara North Stars
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Riley McCourt (Hamilton), Adam McMaster (North Bay), Dustyn McFaul (Kingston), Hunter Holmes (Flint)
Notable Graduates: Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes)
Outlook: The team’s netminding was on par with how other’s similarly finished in the division so some games could have easily gone in their favour. They keep a lot of games close and are rewarded with ties.
North Central Predators
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound), Isaac Emon (Peterborough), Patrick Brown (North Bay), Aidan Graham (Kingston), Mitchell Pellarin (Oshawa)
Notable Graduates: N/A
Outlook: North Central will need to keep games closer. They sometimes give up too many goals too quickly and can’t dig themselves out of that hole. The Predators found some magic in the final third of the season and to put themselves in close battles.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Eric Cerantola (Owen Sound), Harrison Rees (Erie)
Notable Graduates: Steve Mason (Philadelphia Flyers), Scott Wilson (Pittsburgh Penguins), Matt Spencer (Peterborough Petes)
Outlook: The Rangers started off slow last season but turned it around and never looked back. This is a strong defensive group who can play with any team they are up against. They have found the balance between offence and defence.
Oshawa Minor Generals
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Tyler Masternak (Saginaw)
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 keep games close with their strong defensive play. Turning the one-goal games in their favour could lead to a different finish this year for Oshawa.
Peterborough Minor Petes
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Matt McNamara (Peterborough)
Notable Graduates: Cody Ceci (Ottawa Senators), Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks), Mike Fisher (Nashville Predators)
Outlook: The Petes can stay in a lot of games offensively but need to keep the puck out of their own net. Shoring up the defence can change where they finish this season.
Richmond Hill Coyotes
2016 OHL Draft Picks: N/A
Notable Graduates: Jordan Sambrook (Erie Otters)
Outlook: Like many teams, the Coyotes have problems on the defensive end that can undo any offensive success they may put together. If the Coyotes can turn a few of their ties into wins it could help get the ball rolling.
Quinte Red Devils
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Nathan Dunkley (Kingston), Dawson Baker (Sudbury), Joe Roy (Niagara), Matt Sherwin (Owen Sound), Evan Morrison (Flint)
Notable Graduates: Nick Cousins (Philadelphia Flyers), Andrew Shaw (Montreal Canadiens), Justin Williams (Washington Capitals)
Outlook: The Red Devils nearly took home the gold last year and that’s all the motivation they need for the upcoming season. They don’t have any problems scoring goals and have the ability to put teams away.
Southern Tier Admirals
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Owen Cole (Oshawa), Blair Coffin (Sarnia), Kurtis Henry (Erie), Tyler Angle (Windsor), Daylon Groulx (Owen Sound)
Notable Graduates: Matt Schmalz (Ontario Reign)
Outlook: The Admirals battled for lots of wins but also plenty of ties during the season. They found their offensive game close to the end of the season and have a strong presence in net.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Sean Blimkie (Hamilton), Chad Yetman (Erie), James Waldron (Hamilton), Christian Clark (London), Jacob Roach (Sudbury), Mateo Nicastro (Barrie)
Notable Graduates: James Neal (Nashville Predators), Matt Mistele (Sarnia Sting), Troy Josephs (Clarkson University)
Outlook: After winning this group in Bantam, the Wildcats will look to carry over their winning ways into Minor Midget. From start to finish, Whitby seemed to be in control on both ends of the ice. They have a very strong chance of repeating this year.
2016 OHL Draft Picks: Cam Hillis (Guelph), Robbie Cranston (Niagara), Richard Whitaker (London), Ian Vucko (Kitchener), Michael Aloise (Windsor), Justin MacPherson (Niagara), Matt MacDougall (Barrie), Carter Robertson (Ottawa), Luke St. John (Peterborough), Andrei Berezinskiy (North Bay), Ian MacLean (Barrie), Rhys Forhan (North Bay)
Notable Graduates: Chris Tierney (San Jose Sharks), Brian Elliott (Calgary Flames), Dan Catenacci (Buffalo Sabres)
Outlook: Win or lose, the Express are in every game and play in a lot of close matches. The minor midget group from last season won so York-Simcoe will be looking to make it two in a row.