OHL nods and nots

June 27, 2016

It takes all kinds to make the world spin within the high-profile, high-end, high-stakes, 20-team Ontario Hockey League.


Already assured of a spot in the 2017 Memorial Cup Tournament as host entry, the Windsor Spitfires are serving notice that they intend to be there as one of two worthy reps from the OHL.

Dealing for the 2016-2017 season only, Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel has acquired 1997 birth-year forward Julius Nattinen from the Barrie Colts for 1999 birth-year defenceman Kyle Auger and future draft picks.

Nattinen, a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks at the 2015 National Hockey League draft, netted 22 goals in 52 regular-season games for Barrie in 2015-2016.

The acquisition of Nattinen follows the recent NHL draft in which Windsor had three players selected in the first round — and among the top 18, no less.

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev went to the Montreal Canadiens with the ninth pick of the first round followed by hulking forward Logan Brown to the Ottawa Senators at no. 11 and defender Logan Stanley to the Winnipeg Jets with the 18th overall selection.

Of note, the Spitfires also hold the OHL rights to dazzling centre Clayton Keller, who went seventh overall to the Arizona Coyotes from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

Keller has a commitment to play Division 1 hockey at Boston University in the fall but the OHL, the Memorial Cup tournament and playing in Windsor loom as an attractive alternative for the speedy pivot, who is a close friend of the aforementioned Logan Brown.


It certainly was an eventful week for the second-year Flint Firebirds of the OHL who made a trade, signed a high 2016 draft pick and had the first two players in franchise history selected at the NHL draft.

It began when Firebirds general manager George Burnett used an overage spot to acquire energetic, highly-competitive, 15-goal scorer Everett Clark from the Mississauga Steelheads.

Then, defenseman Dennis Busby became the latest high selection from the 2016 OHL draft to commit to Flint. Busby was selected by Flint in the second round, 23rd overall and joins forwards Ty Dellandrea (first round, fifth overall) and Hunter Holmes (second round, 22nd overall) as the top three picks from the 2016 draft who have all committed to the Firebirds for the ’16-17 campaign.

And the cap to the wild week came when forwards Will Bitten and Nick Caamano made history by becoming the first Firebirds ever to be drafted into the NHL.

Bitten went to Montreal Canadiens in the third round, 70th overall and Caamano went to the Dallas Stars in the fifth round, 146th overall.

As a kid growing up in Gloucester, Ontario, the Canadiens were Bitten’s favourite NHL team.

“It’s an amazing feeling, it was my team growing up and my family is really excited,” said Bitten. “I can’t believe it. Just hearing my name getting called out by the Montreal Canadiens is an amazing feeling.”


At age 30 and with two seasons behind him as bench boss of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, Paul McFarland is considered by some to be a rising star in the coaching ranks.

I am not quite sure why, however. Afterall, McFarland has hardly distinguished himself as an OHL coach, particularly come playoff time.

In two playoff seasons with Kingston, McFarland’s win-loss record is an unimpressive 4-9.

In the 2015 playoffs, McFarland’s Frontenacs were swept in four straight games by the North Bay Battalion in the opening round.

Then, in the 2016 playoffs, the Frontenacs — who were the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference — were blown out in four straight games by the no. 4 seed Niagara IceDogs in the second round.

The 2015-2016 edition of the Frontenacs was a veteran-laden, star-studded team that was built to win — and at least make it through three rounds of the playoffs to the OHL finals.

But despite such a deep, talented roster, Kingston did not even make it out of the second round of the playoffs.

McFarland’s playoff record in Kingston is not pretty with just one series win and two series losses — both by sweeps.

The fact that McFarland made it to the OHL as a head coach at age 28 says a lot about his potential.

But being young and having potential — along with a certain degree of arrogance — does not necessarily add up to success as a coach.

It certainly hasn’t in the case of McFarland, who insiders say was badly out-coached by since-fired Niagara bench boss Marty Williamson during this spring’s playoffs.

McFarland, though, will at least be around to start a third season in Kingston, albeit with career OHL assistant coach Jason Supryka lurking in the background.

PHOTO: Windsor Spitfires forward Logan Brown wears an Ottawa Senators jersey after being selected with the 11th pick of the first round of the 2016 NHL draft.

What you think about “OHL nods and nots”

  1. I think PM is a dam good Coach and that the Fronts did as well as they did because of his Coaching abilities.

  2. Well …. I say the Spits will battle London for 1st over all in the Western Confrence altho I have some doubts about the Spits goal-tending.

  3. Dougie Gilmour should have fired MacFarland’s ass the minute after the Fronts got swept by frigging Niagara.
    No way he should of lost that Series in 4.

    1. I would have agreed, except Niagara swept the second best team in the east in the following round.

      Kingston got beat by a better team. Nothing you can do about it now.

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