Flint Firebirds have put last season in the rear view mirror. After winning just 16 of 68 games in 2018-2019, Flint has a 12-5-0 record through 17 outings thus far in 2019-2020.
The team turnaround has the fired up Firebirds in a race for first place in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League with the likes of the Windsor Spitfires, Saginaw Spirit, London Knights and the surprising Guelph Storm in what is a tightly-bunched group.
What stands out about the Firebirds thus far is that nine of their players, including two defenseman, have put up 10 points or more in the early going of the campaign.
Import rookie Evgeniy Oksentyuk (a play-by-play man’s pronunciation nightmare) is tied with fourth-year forward (and captain) Ty Dellandrea for the Flint scoring lead.
Oksentyuk (8-11-19) and Dellandrea (7-12-19) are followed closely by Riley McCourt (6-10-16), Jake Durham (9-6-15), Connor Roberts (5-9-14), Ethan Keppen (7-5-12), Vladislav Kolyachonok (4-8-12), Cody Morgan (4-8-12) and Evan Vierling (2-8-10 in just 11 games.)
McCourt and Kolyachonok are both defensemen.
And knocking on the door of double digit figures is rookie forward Brendan Othmann, who has five goals, four assists, nine points despite having played in just 12 of Flint’s 17 games. Othmann was Flint’s first-round pick (second overall) at the 2019 OHL priority selections draft.
Another notable is that Flint has had just 155 minutes in penalties through the 17 games. By comparison, the Soo Greyhounds — who are in last place in the Western Conference with a record of 6-12-1 — have racked up a whopping 244 penalty minutes in 19 games.
Meanwhile, overage goalie Anthony Popovich has been as advertised for Flint since being obtained from the reigning champs of Guelph in a pre-season trade.
Popovich has a record of 8-3-0 to go with a .906 save percentage and 3.21 goals against average.
PHOTO: Flint Firebirds forward Ty Dellandrea, in recent action against the Soo Greyhounds. (Photo by Todd Boone.)