Following a perfect 2-0 start to the season, the Ottawa 67’s shift to No. 1 in this week’s Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.
The fourth ranked team in the pre-season list pieced together back-to-back shootout victories Friday night in an OHL championship rematch against the Guelph Storm, and Saturday against the always competitive Owen Sound Attack to grab an early lead atop the OHL’s East Division just one season removed from finishing first overall with a franchise record 106 points.
While the club could be hard pressed to top last year’s impressive campaign, third-year head coach Andre Tourigny is excited by the challenge, telling Chris Kurys of 1310 News Ottawa, “Expectations are enormous … We don’t have the same depth, but we have really good leaders up front and we have guys with experience, with a good mix of talented players. It will be a different look than last year. This year we will have more talent and more IQ.”
Led by returning left-wing Austen Keating, who came second in team scoring in 2018-19 with 89 points, the talented overager has picked up where he left off in tallying four points in his club’s first two contests, including an assist on defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer’s game-tying goal in the season opener vs. Guelph as he finished with two helpers and first-star recognition. Keating was back at it the following night in Owen Sound, notching his first goal of the season as he was named the game’s third star in a 4-3 final. This season, Keating looks to become the primary offensive weapon for the 67’s following the departure of Dallas Stars prospect Tye Felhaber, who finished third in league scoring last year with 109 points.
Up front, Keating is joined by Austrian-born sophomore Marco Rossi, who looks to continue to impress this season after finishing second among all OHL freshmen in 2018-19 with 29 goals and 36 assists, good for 1.23 points per game and a spot on the OHL Second All-Rookie Team. A projected early selection in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft in Montreal, Rossi is a dynamic centre who has turned heads amongst the scouting community given his tremendous skill set paired with his willingness to compete.
Other returnees for the 67’s include Hoefenmayer, a veteran blue-liner who wrapped up last season with 62 points, just shy of a point-per-game pace to rank fourth among all OHL rearguards. The North York, Ont., native has a keen ability to generate offense from the back end, as evidenced by his early start to the 2019-20 campaign in which he has collected three points counting one goal and two assists.
Rounding out the key returnees includes netminder Cedrick Andree, who held down the starter’s role for much of last season, coming away with a 34-5-2-2 showing and a .910 save percentage, plus four shutouts that ranked second league-wide. In the early goings of 2019-20, Andree has reached another level, winning both of his appearances while allowing just five goals on a combined 64 shots to earn a 2.31 goals-against average with a .922 save percentage.
While the 67’s are primarily known for their ability to create offense – the club finished last season with 296 goals, the second-highest in the OHL – Ottawa also benefits from valuable depth, a group that includes versatile right-wing Graeme Clarke, a third-round selection by the New Jersey Devils who has had a strong start to the new season in registering one goal and eight shots across two contests. On the back end, Hoefenmayer is flanked by Arizona Coyotes prospect Kevin Bahl, a hulking presence who brings a tantalizing mix of size and skill. The club will also soon benefit from the return of 18-year-old blue-liner Nikita Okhotyuk, another Devils prospect, who is currently sidelined with a finger injury.
“We started two years ago to build a culture, an identity in our team,” Tourigny detailed. “So we want to play the same way for sure. We want to be really fast and be a really intense team in all three zones. We’re really confident with the team we have.”
Together, the 67’s bring a solid core with key offensive contributors and valuable depth throughout the lineup that hopes to guide the club to the winner’s circle after falling short in last year’s league final against the high-flying Storm. With a 2-0 start to the season, Ottawa will now look to push its win streak to three games when the club takes the ice Friday against the Kingston Frontenacs before wrapping up the weekend Sunday in its home opener against the Peterborough Petes.
2019-20 Kia CHL Top-10 Spotlights
Week 1 – London Knights