There has been a changing of the guard atop the Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings as the Oshawa Generals move into the No. 1 spot.
The lone CHL club to remain perfect as the season enters its second month, the Generals have had a hot start out of the gate as the squad stands 7-0-0-0, good for 14 points and top spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. The Generals’ success continued over the past week as the club pieced together three consecutive wins versus the North Bay Battalion, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Saginaw Spirit.
Headlining the flawless Generals is fourth-year forward Allan McShane, a 2018 fourth-round draft choice by the Montreal Canadiens who has put up a team-leading 11 points counting three goals and eight assists to sit tied for sixth in OHL scoring.
McShane’s strong start to the new campaign was most evident versus the Bulldogs on Saturday when he came up with three assists including the primary helper on defenceman William Ennis’ eventual game winner en route to a 6-3 road victory. In all, McShane has been held off the scoresheet only once across seven appearances this season.
Following offseason departures of key offensive leaders like forwards Brandon Saigeon and Anthony Salinitri, McShane has quickly adapted to an elevated role in 2019-20 and has readily provided an invaluable veteran scoring touch.
Joining McShane up front is another experienced scorer in overager Brett Neumann, who entered the new season with more than 250 career games under his belt. The Toronto native has had a quick start to the season in recording 10 points in seven contests, picking up where he left off last year after joining the Generals in early January when he closed out the season with 20 goals and 11 assists in 29 games to bring his season total to a career-high 79 points.
Perhaps most impressive about the Generals hot start is that the majority of their wins were without captain Kyle MacLean and Florida Panthers prospect Serron Noel. MacLean returns for his overage season after taking part in training camp with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the top minor-league affiliate of the New York Islanders, having scored 60 points in 68 games last season. He made his debut in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Spirit while Noel, one of the league’s premier power forwards, scored twice against Saginaw to bring his point total to five through just two games. His blend of size, speed, and scoring ability registered 81 points a year ago and puts him in the mix for a spot on Canada’s National Junior Team.
The club’s scoring depth extends to youth like first-round OHL Priority Selection pick Brett Harrison, and rookie right-wing Oliver Suni who is a Finnish-born forward and the team’s top pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He’s had little difficulty in adapting to his new surroundings making an immediate impact with his new club. Through the season’s early goings, Suni sits tied for second in team scoring with 10 points, a stretch which featured a one-goal, three-assist outing – including a helper on centre Ty Tullio’s game-winning goal – in just his third-ever game in a 6-5 triumph over the Mississauga Steelheads.
As for Tullio – the son of Generals owner Rocco Tullio – it’s no surprise the younger has been a key player for the club. Spending much of his formative years around the team, Tullio then skated in his rookie campaign in 2018-19, coming up with 42 points in 60 games, while the anticipation now builds as he is off to a strong start in his NHL draft year with five goals and four assists in seven games.
“Ty has grown up here and has been around our team since he was five,” general manager Roger Hunt told Ryan Pyette of the National Post. “He was 12 when we won the Memorial Cup in 2015 at Quebec City. He’d sit on the bus with Boone Jenner and has seen how the players have to work to succeed and get to the next level. He got it first-hand and he has only enhanced the organization with his ability and attitude.”
But it’s not all about flashy forwards for Oshawa. No team can be complete without a keen ability to drive offense from the back end, and the Generals evidently have an emerging talent in third-year Swiss-born blue-liner Nico Gross, a 2018 fourth-round selection by the New York Rangers who has already matched his previous career high in notching four goals on the season. That includes his first career hat-trick in Friday’s 5-1 win over the Battalion in which he was recognized with first-star honours.
Between the pipes, while the Generals saw the departure of Boston Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser, second-year goaltender Andrew MacLean has made an early impression with his new club. After serving in a backup capacity last season with the Owen Sound Attack, the Generals added MacLean in a late offseason deal and elevated him to the top job where he has quickly adjusted to the expanded workload. Not only has the product of Port Huron, Mich., won all six of his appearances, in the process he has also come up with a .920 save percentage that ranks second among netminders who have suited up in as many contests.
“We had a little bit of a book on him because he was 2-for-2 against us (last season),” Hunt said. “That was something in his favour and thus far, he’s been a great addition. He’s fit in well around here.”
With talented forwards up front, offensive-minded defensive leaders, and strong support in the blue paint, the high-flying Generals will look to push their season-opening win streak to eight games when the club returns to the ice Thursday in North Bay before a Friday date with the Sudbury Wolves.