As the Ottawa 67’s will mark their 50th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday in the same year, the iconic Ontario Hockey League franchise could have more to celebrate in the months ahead.
Fresh from turning a double play that scored them general manager James Boyd and head coach Andre Tourigny, the 67’s have the makings of bringing an OHL contender back to the nation’s capital.
Not only do the 67’s stand to return six of their top 10 scorers from 2016-2017 but their leading and sixth-best point-getters could both be back as overage skaters in 2017-2018.
Then there are three blue-chip defenders who underwent baptism under fire as 2000 birth-year rookies in 2016-2017.
And while there are question marks between the pipes that could be resolved with a pair of potential holdovers, the bright lights of OHL success are not far from shining in Ottawa.
To be sure, 67’s governor Jeff Hunt delivered earlier this week when he brought in a dandy duo to head up hockey operations with the hiring of the 41-year old Boyd as GM and the 43-year old Tourigny as head coach.
Boyd has spent more than half of his life in the OHL as a player, head coach, associate coach and GM. With a clean reputation and old-style work ethic, Boyd built the Mississauga Steelheads into an Eastern Conference champion in 2016-2017 before becoming a prize free agent who was tracked down by Hunt for the Ottawa GM job.
Tourigny is also a man of good repute from his days as a successful head coach in the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League between gigs as a National Hockey League assistant, including a season with the Ottawa Senators.
It should be noted that Boyd and Tourigny will ultimately benefit from the good work that their predecessor Jeff Brown did with the 67’s in the dual role of coach and GM. Brown, who voluntarily departed the 67’s following a 2016-2017 season in which Ottawa finished seventh in the Eastern Conference before extending no. 2 seed Mississauga to six games in the first round of the playoffs, had a hand in drafting or trading for every player on the current roster.
In all, Brown spent three seasons with the 67’s and led them to the playoffs all three times after they had missed out two years in a row prior to his arrival. And without question, Brown has left a healthy cupboard for Boyd and Tourigny to get to work with.
As noted in the prior, six of Ottawa’s top 10 scorers from ’16-17 can return in ’17-18 and all are born in either 1999 or 1998 — forwards Austen Keating, Sasha Chmelevski, Travis Barron, Tye Felhaber and Ben Evans and defenseman Noel Hoefenmayer. Additionally, 1997 birth-year forwards Artur Tyanulin and Mathieu Foget are potential overagers.
Another eligible returnee is 1998 birth-year forward Zack Dorval, a former second-round pick of the Kingston Frontenacs who the 67’s acquired at last season’s trade deadline. Ottawa’s fastest skater and hardest shooter, productivity has somehow eluded Dorval through his first three OHL seasons but there are many who know him from his minor hockey days in Hearst, Kapuskasing and Sault Ste. Marie who remain convinced that the French Canadian power forward will become an impact player at age 19.
Then there are the three aforementioned 2000 birth-year defensemen who all saw regular duty as fresh-faced rookies last season — Peter Stratis, Carter Robertson and Kevin Bahl.
If there is a so-so position with the 67’s it is between the pipes where the now-overage Leo Lazarev and 1998 birth year stopper Olivier Lafreniere both struggled with save percentages well below the .900 mark last season.
But if the 67’s can get adequate goaltending in the ’17-18 season, Ottawa could be on its way to contender status under the experienced watch of the Boyd-Tourigny leadership tandem.
PHOTO: New GM James Boyd (left) and new coach Andre Tourigny (right) with 67’s governor Jeff Hunt.