OHL coach ascension

Randy Russon
June 20, 2018

As the Ontario Hockey League develops players for the professional ranks, so too is it a training ground for coaches.

Over the past year alone, no less than five head coaches have advanced from winning programs in the OHL to jobs in either the National Hockey League or the American Hockey League.

Last summer, Kris Knoblauch moved up from the OHL champion Erie Otters to assistant coach with the NHL Philadelphia Flyers, Ryan McGill advanced from the Owen Sound Attack to assistant coach with the Vegas Golden Knights, Paul McFarland progressed from the Kingston Frontenacs to assistant coach with the Florida Panthers and Rocky Thompson graduated from the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires to head coach of the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

And just recently, Drew Bannister departed the OHL regular season champion and playoff finalist Soo Greyhounds to become the head coach of the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Given all of those coaching ascensions, the next coach who could be headed for a job in either the NHL or AHL is John Gruden of the 2018 OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs.

After guiding Hamilton to first place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, Gruden led the Bulldogs to a 16-5 record through four rounds of the 2018 OHL playoffs that culminated with a stunning, six-game upset of the top-seeded Soo Greyhounds in the championship series.

The coaching expertise of Gruden was clearly on display in the OHL championship series as Hamilton was able to defeat a powerhouse Soo team that had finished 23 points ahead of the Bulldogs during the 2017-2018 regular season.

Gruden has an exceptional, honest, clean reputation as a coach and is in a good situation. He can either choose to remain in the OHL with Hamilton or wait for a choice opportunity to move up to either the NHL or AHL.

Either way, as the OHL is a training facility for players, the same is true for coaches, given of all the multiple ascensions within the last year.

PHOTO: Hamilton Bulldogs head coach John Gruden.

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