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Kia CHL Top-10 Spotlight: Windsor Spitfires

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The soaring Windsor Spitfires clock in at No. 3 in the latest Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.

Following a trio of victories last week over the Soo, Saginaw, and Owen Sound that pushed the team’s unbeaten in regulation streak to 13 games and an overall record of 15-3-3-0, the Spitfires have taken command of the OHL’s Western Conference with 33 points on the season.

“This is awesome,” Spitfires defenceman Louka Henault told Jim Parker of the Windsor Star. “It brings everyone so close. Everyone has the same thing in their head and that’s the team goal of having success. We’re realizing now we can do something great this year and it’s fun. Like the saying goes, great teams find a way to win. Once you’re ranked in the Top-10 and teams start to notice you, you can expect the best from them every night.”

Leading the charge for the Spitfires is 19-year-old centre and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Tyler Angle, who through 21 appearances this season has tallied 28 points counting 14 goals and 14 assists. Currently riding a three-game point streak, Angle has been held off the scoresheet just four times this season, a stretch that also includes eight multi-point outings.

In all, the Spitfires receive strong offensive support throughout the lineup, already with six skaters counting five forwards and one defenceman who have reached the 20-point plateau this season, tied for the most among any OHL team. That group includes Dallas Stars up-and-comer Curtis Douglas as well as fourth-year forward Cole Purboo, both of whom have collected 23 points across 21 appearances, closely trailed by Russian-born winger and Nashville Predators prospect Egor Afanasyev, who has registered eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 21 games.

Also up front is a pair of enticing 2020 NHL Draft eligibles in centre Jean-Luc Foudy and left-wing Will Cuylle, both projected first-round candidates in NHL Central Scouting’s latest Players to Watch report. This season, Foudy is producing just short of a point-per-game clip with nine goals and 11 assists through 21 contests, while Cuylle continues to grow his offensive game in collecting 16 points through the first three months of 2019-20.

“Coming from last year, I think we only won three straight, so to have 13 games with a point is a big deal, but you can’t get too confident,” Foudy said of the team’s points streak, per Parker. “You just have to keep going.”

On the back end, the Spitfires are led by 19-year-old rearguard Connor Corcoran, a 2018 fifth-round selection by the Vegas Golden Knights who is on pace for a career year after registering seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points through the first 21 games this season. On three occasions, the Beeton, Ont., native has finished with three-point performances, including a two-goal, one-assist showing against the Erie Otters in mid-November that counted the overtime winner in a 7-6 thriller that saw him earn first-star recognition.

Partnering on the blue line is Finnish defender Ruben Rafkin, the Spitfires’ top selection in the 2019 CHL Import Draft who is also earmarked for the 2020 NHL Draft. Already familiar with the North American play style, Rafkin has continued to impress this season as through 21 appearances he has notched 15 points, including 14 assists with seven coming on the man advantage to tie Angle for the team lead.

Notably, no true contender is complete without solid support between the pipes, and the Spitfires have that in spades with Helsinki native Kari Piiroinen who has found the win column in 11 of his 15 appearances this season while sporting a 3.40 goals-against average and .882 save percentage. Piiroinen’s recent string of performances includes Saturday’s 34-save showing against the Spirit that earned him first-star honours as he led his club to a 4-1 road victory.

With strong play in the blue paint, solid puck movers on the back end, and a budding nucleus of scorers up front, the Spitfires bring a well-balanced attack that can continue to climb the ranks this season in pursuit of a fourth national title in 12 years which would be unprecedented in the modern era following Memorial Cup wins in 2009, 2010, and 2017.

In the meantime, the club will look to keep up its winning ways and push its points streak with weekend dates that includes a stop in London to face off with the Knights before returning home to take on the Niagara IceDogs.

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