Winners of seven of their past 10 games including last week’s victories over the London Knights and Kingston Frontenacs, the surging Peterborough Petes (21-7-1-1) are pushing the pace in the Ontario Hockey League standings with 44 points to sit tied for first place with the Ottawa 67’s and seventh in the latest Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.
Leading the way for the Petes this season is a dynamic playmaker in Russian-born centre and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Semyon Der-Arguchintsev who through 28 contests tops the charts with 40 points including 36 assists that sit tied for first in the circuit. Currently riding a five-game point streak in which he has collected nine assists, this season has also seen Der-Arguchintsev come up with 11 multi-point performances, including a four-point effort against the Niagara IceDogs last month in which his four helpers that counted the primary assist on the overtime winner powered the Petes to a 6-5 comeback victory.
Also up front is British-born left-wing and Arizona Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk whose recent performances include Thursday’s one-goal, two-assist showing against the Knights that helped guide the Petes to a 3-2 victory and earn Kirk first-star recognition. This season, Kirk has found incredible chemistry with another Maple Leafs up-and-comer in Nick Robertson who through 20 appearances has tallied 32 points counting a team-leading 21 goals plus 11 assists to sit fourth in Petes scoring. That performance helped the Michigan native earn a camp audition with Team USA in preparation for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
While Robertson hopes to earn a spot on the national stage, Kirk, who turned down a similar opportunity to compete with his native England in the 2021 World Junior qualifier next month, remains focused on bringing prosperity to the Petes.
“This is a big year for me,” Kirk told Mike Davies of the Peterborough Examiner. “This is potentially my last year of junior and I want to showcase my skills and get a contract with Arizona. That’s my end goal. I love playing for my country and my national team and seeing the guys on these trips. Obviously, I’d like to go back and win another medal, but I want to play hockey which is going to benefit me the most.
“We’re going to have a championship season. That’s what we all believe in. We want to get as many wins as we can under our belt, and learn game-by-game, and develop as a team.”
Rounding out Peterborough’s forward ranks includes captain and San Jose Sharks prospect Zach Gallant, who through 30 games is scoring just shy of a point-per-game pace with 15 goals and 14 assists, as well as rookie centre Mason McTavish, the fifth-overall pick from the 2019 OHL Priority Selection who ranks first among league freshmen with 15 goals. Peterborough’s forward group also includes 17-year-old right-wing Cameron Butler, a projected mid-round selection in the coming NHL Draft who this season has tallied 15 points across 30 appearances.
On the back end, leading the charge for the Petes is Winnipeg Jets draft pick Declan Chisholm who is on pace for a career year after registering five goals and 30 assists for 35 points through 29 games. That stretch included a 15-game point streak through early November as the bonafide two-way defender racked up 21 points for the third-longest streak in the OHL this season and the best among rearguards. In all, Chisholm ranks second in scoring among all league defencemen, a reflection of his ability to move the puck as no defender league-wide has more helpers this season.
Meanwhile, another highlight of the blue line is Austrian-born defender David Maier, the Petes’ top selection from the 2019 CHL Import Draft who after spending last year with the North Bay Battalion has continued to grow his game this season in tallying 14 points through 27 appearances. Maier is currently competing with Austria in the Division I qualifier portion of the 2020 World Juniors.
Between the pipes, the Petes feature another future NHLer in Minnesota Wild draft pick Hunter Jones. With 19 victories this season, no OHL netminder has found the win column more often than Jones, who has won his last six outings including a season-high 43-save performance against the Kitchener Rangers in late November that saw the budding goaltender recognized as the game’s first star in the eventual 3-1 victory. In all, by surrendering only three regulation losses through 23 appearances this season, there has been much to celebrate for Jones, who also ranks third league-wide with a 2.53 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
It’s that sort of high-level goaltending paired with strong puck movers on the back end and a handful of scoring threats leading the offensive ranks that makes the Petes a prime candidate to claim their 10th league title and first since 2006. Peterborough’s road to the winner’s circle continues in the coming days with three games in three nights counting dates with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Oshawa Generals, and Niagara IceDogs.