Kingston, Soo are OHL teams to beat

September 16, 2014

Kingston Frontenacs and Soo Greyhounds are being tabbed as the teams to beat in the Ontario Hockey League this 2014-2015 season.

Pre-season rankings tabled by National Hockey League scouts on behalf of the Canadian Hockey League rate the Frontenacs and Greyhounds as the OHL’s top two teams.

Kingston plays in the Eastern Conference while the Soo is part of the Western Conference.

The CHL rankings cover the OHL, the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.

For the record, Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL is the no. 1 ranked team ahead of Kingston at no. 2. The Soo is ranked no. 6.

At any rate, let’s take a look at the the two top-ranked teams from the OHL with the 2014-2015 regular season slated to begin next week.


There’s a new coaching staff in Kingston with highly-regarded 28-year old Paul McFarland taking over as bench boss from the fired Todd Gill.

McFarland, who was an assistant coach with the Oshawa Generals prior to being hired by Kingston, is the OHL’s youngest head coach.

McFarland will be assisted in Kingston by 52-year old John (The Snake) Goodwin, the former Greyhound and OHL scoring champion who was a well-respected assistant with the North Bay Battalion in 2013-2014.

With a number of veteran players back from a Frontenacs team that finished with 84 points — which was second-most in the Eastern Conference — in 2013-2014 only to lose to the Peterborough Petes in the first round of the playoffs, Kingston is projected as a top contender again in 2014-2015.

To be sure, the Frontenacs boast a dangerous lineup led by Calgary Flames first-rounder Sam Bennett. The fourth overall pick at the 2014 National Hockey League draft, Bennett led Kingston with 36 goals, 55 assists, 91 points while racking up 118 penalty minutes in 2013-2014.

Also expected to be a leader up front for the Frontenacs in 2014-2015 is big-bodied, fourth-year forward Ryan Kujawinski, an Iroquois Falls native and third round NHL draft pick of the New Jersey Devils.

Another Kingston forward of note is Lawson Clouse, a hulking 6-foot-3, 200 pounder who could be a first-round pick at the 2015 NHL draft. A 1997 birth-year, Clouse potted 15 goals as a rookie with the Frontenacs in 2013-2014.

The Kingston blueline will be younger this season with the graduation of Michael Moffat, Evan McEneny and Mikko Vainonen to the pro ranks. But Frontenacs general manager Doug Gilmour addressed the youth of his defensive corps during the off-season by acquiring 19-year-old Chad Duchesne from the United States Hockey League via the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.

In goal, 19-year-old Lucas Peressini — who won 11 games as a backup in 2013-2014 — and 17-year-old rookie Jeremy Helvig will tend the twine with the graduation of overager Matt Mahalak.

Newcomers to the Frontenacs include their top two picks from the 2014 OHL draft — defenceman Reagan O’Grady and forward Zack Dorval.

O’Grady played for NHL Hall-of-Famer Paul Coffey with the Toronto Marlboros minor midgets in 2013-2014.

Meanwhile, the speedy Dorval scored 48 goals for the Soo Thunder minor midgets in 2013-2014.


Fresh from a 95-point season in 2013-2014 — which was still only the fourth-most in the tough Western Conference — the prime-time Greyhounds are well-coached by Sheldon Keefe and well-assembled by former general manager Kyle Dubas, who has moved up to the NHL as assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Expected to be the straw that stirs the drink again in 2014-2015 is splendid centre Sergey Tolchinsky, who had 31 goals, 60 assists, 91 points in 2013-2014.

Behind Tolchinsky and projected as primary points producers in 2014-2015 are forwards Jared McCann, Bryan Moore, Michael Bunting and Blake Speers, among others.

Former Edmonton Oilers first-rounder Darnell Nurse has the tools to be a candidate for the OHL’s best defenceman as a 19-year old although there are those Houndtown fans who are of the notion that the big blueliner makes too many mistakes and is shown favouritism by Keefe and the coaching staff.

Nurse aside, the Greyhounds boast a better-than-average, no-name defence led by overager Alex Gudbranson in front of second-year goalie Brandon Halverson, the New York Rangers second-rounder who assumes the starter’s role from graduated workhorse Matt Murray.

Without question, Dubas has left a full cupboard for Keefe and his staff to work with and for new GM Kyle Raftis to babysit while he prepares to re-stock for further seasons ahead.

To be sure, the Greyhounds will be out to improve on a 2013-2014 campaign that ended with a loss to the Erie Otters in the second round of the playoffs.

PHOTO: Zack Dorval, formerly of the Soo Thunder minor midgets, is a rookie forward with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. (Photo by Kingston Whig-Standard.)

What you think about “Kingston, Soo are OHL teams to beat”

  1. OGrady and Dorval are going to be good ones and I will bet that they become NHL Draft Picks to. Love your articles Randy!

  2. If the Fronts get the goaltending I can see us finishing 1st in our Conference no doubt about that. New Coach is also a question mark always is with a rookie Coach.

  3. As usual, you hit the nail right on the head, Randy. Nurse thinks he is much better than he actually is so why not trade him for a treasure trove of draft picks and/or players to an Eastern Conference team who thinks it is a contender. Nurse or not, if the Hounds get goaltending, they will again battle Erie and Guelph for Western Conference supremecy. Also, don’t count out the Plymouth Whalers.

  4. Finally some one who tells it like it is ! Right on RR. Nurse is good however he is over-rated in my opinion at least and can do no wrong in the eyes of Keefe.
    I agree with “ohlfan” and that is trade Nurse to Oshawa or North Bay.

  5. Hey Greyhounds Fans: We will glady take Darnel Nurse offa your hands!! He would look great with a big “K” on front of his uni!!

  6. The Hounds have to get a back-up for Halverson. Status aside Raymakers has shown he is not ready to make the leap to the OHL. It doesn’t make sense that a talented 16 year skater should be cut in place of a goalie who isn’t ready. A year with the Thunderbirds would do Raymakers wonders as he enters next year as a 17 year old. Can anyone say Bryce O’Hagen part 2. There has to be an 18 or 19 year old a team is willing to get a draft pick in return. There’s always the free agent route. O’Keefe has shown he is a master of bringing in cast-offs and making them legitimate OHLers.

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