Nineteen games into the 2018-2019 season and it is the Soo Greyhounds with 28 points from a record of 12-3-4 who have been a big surprise among Ontario Hockey League teams.
Expected to be in the lower tier of the 20-team OHL this season, the Greyhounds instead are in first place in the Western Conference despite losing a good chunk of veteran forwards from the 2017-2018 edition that made it to the league championship series before being upset by the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Goalie Matthew Villalta has been outstanding and the puck possession Hounds have continuously out-scored the opposition led by forwards Morgan Frost, Barrett Hayton, overager Keeghan Howdeshell and local product Cole MacKay, who is emerging as a fifth-round steal from the 2017 OHL priority selections draft.
On the blue line, overagers Mac Hollowell and Jordan Sambrook are performing at a point per game level.
And as a team, the hustling Hounds seem to love playing for rookie coach John Dean and assistants Jordan Smith and Jamie Tardif.
Besides leading the Western Conference standings, the high energy Hounds are also in a battle with the Ottawa 67s for first place overall in the OHL.
AROUND THE O
…Just like that, perennial powerhouse London Knights have become an OHL championship contender.
On the same day last week, defenseman Evan Bouchard and left winger Alex Formenton were back on the Knight shift from the National Hockey League.
Bouchard had started the 2018-2019 season in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers while Formenton had done the same with the Ottawa Senators.
Both were standouts in London in 2017-2018 with Bouchard scoring a whopping 25 goals, 62 assists, 87 points from his blue line post and Formenton tallying 29 goals, 19 assists, 48 points in just 48 games.
… Saginaw Spirit received a recent boost when Russian-born goalie Ivan Prosvetov finally got immigration clearance from the Canadian government to travel into the country to play road games against teams from Ontario.
Previously, Prosvetov, an NHL draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes, had been limited to playing in Michigan-based Saginaw home games and road matches against the Flint Firebirds and Erie Otters, who are the OHL’s other American-based teams.
… Sault Ste. Marie product Camaryn Baber scored his first goal of the season in his sixth game for Saginaw in a win over the Guelph Storm last week.
A 2001 birth year centre, Baber was picked by Saginaw in the third round of the 2017 OHL priority selections draft.