The 2017-2018 season figures to provide for a plethora of opportunities for overage goaltenders in the Ontario Hockey League.
Led by OHL championship goalie Troy Timpano of the Erie Otters and Memorial Cup winning backup Mario Culina of the Windsor Spitfires, the 2017-2018 campaign stands to feature several overage stoppers, some of whom are the object of off-season trade discussion.
While there are a few who could move up to the minor pro ranks (or end up in another junior league) there is a definite dearth of quality overage goalies who could return to the OHL for the 2017-2018 season.
Let’s take a look at several of the overage goalie candidates for the 2017-2018 OHL season. In alphabetical order they are as follows.
Zack Bowman. Just as he was putting together a solid campaign with the Sudbury Wolves with a save percentage above the .900 mark, Bowman suffered a season-ending injury in late December. Sudbury could try to trade Bowman or bring him back in 2017-2018 to form a tandem with second-year goalie Jake McGrath.
Evan Cormier. A National Hockey League draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, Cormier won 23 games and had a record above the .500 mark for a Saginaw Spirit team that missed the Western Conference playoffs in 2016-2017. If the big goalie returns to the OHL as an overage in 2017-2018 it will be with Saginaw as it is highly doubtful that Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill would trade a veteran workhorse such as Cormier.
Mario Culina. After two seasons as the backup to 2017 Memorial Cup winning goalie Michael DiPietro, Culina will not be returning to Windsor in 2017-2018. To be sure, there is definite interest among other OHL teams in trading for slender tender Culina, who before joining the Spitfires, backstopped the Soo Thunderbirds to a Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League championship. There is little question among onlookers that Culina has the ability to be a first-rate, first-string goalie in the OHL.
Justin Fazio. He has posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Sarnia Sting. And if Sarnia opts to not bring Fazio back as an overager, the Sting is likely to find a taker for the veteran starter.
Garrett Forrest. A 19-year old rookie in 2016-2017, Forrest shared crease time with the Flint Firebirds with veteran OHLer Connor Hicks. Not big, Forrest nonetheless produced his share of highlight-reel saves with Flint over the course of last season.
Jeremy Helvig. An NHL draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, the 6-foot-4 Helvig won 29 games for the Kingston Frontenacs during 2016-2017 season and then back-stopped them to a seven-game, first-round playoff series win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. If Helvig returns to the OHL as an overage in 2017-2018, Kingston is most likely to hold on to him rather than trade him.
Connor Hicks. Big at 6-foot-4, Hicks worked in tandem with the aforementioned Forrest in Flint last season. After winning 18 games during the regular season while battling consistency, Hicks gave seventh-seeded Flint a chance to win in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs before the Firebirds lost to the second-seed Soo Greyhounds.
Luke Opilka. An NHL draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, Opilka returned from major hip surgery to win 13 games for the Kitchener Rangers in 2016-2017 and then faced a barrage of shots in a gutsy playoff effort as the Blueshirts were overwhelmed by the Owen Sound Attack in the first round.
Troy Timpano. After three seasons in Sudbury, Timpano was traded to the Erie Otters prior to the start of the 2016-2017 season. All Timpano did was win 52 games for Erie — regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup tournament included. Timpano helped the Otters to the Memorial Cup title tilt match only to lose a 4-3 thriller to the hosts from Windsor.
At a glance, Flint with two potential overage goalies in Forrest and Hicks, could keep one and trade one. Or, the Firebirds could try to move both and trade for an overage to play ahead of highly-touted, 2017 draft pick Luke Cavallin.