The team that eliminated the Soo Greyhounds in the second round of the 2013-2014 playoffs looms as a formidable foe again in 2014-2015.
A high-powered, hard-skating, well-coached outfit in 2013-2014, the Erie Otters have more of the same in 2014-2015.
The Otters put up 106 points to finish second overall in the 20-team OHL in 2013-2014 and they are once again a top contender in 2014-2015.
Erie takes a record of 9-0-1 into the Soo for a game tonight against the 9-2-0 Greyhounds.
As good as the Greyhounds are again this season — they managed 95 points of their own last season — the Otters also have their sights set on the big OHL prize.
Well-coached by Kris Knoblauch, Erie is a team that has been well-constructed by director of hockey operations Dave Brown and director of scouting Scott Halpenny, who both report to owner-general manager Sherry Bassin.
After years as an OHL cellar-dweller, Erie returned to prominence in 2013-2014, thanks in a large part to the re-construction efforts of Brown and Halpenny and the move by Bassin to bring aboard Knoblauch as bench boss.
And it’s not as though the Otters are a one-or-two-year wonder.
One look at the Otters and their high-scoring threesome of Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat tells a story of how well Brown and Halpenny have done their jobs.
As players who were all born in 1997, McDavid, Strome and DeBrincat are very young by OHL standards — and are having big-time, point-producing seasons thus far.
Through 10 games, McDavid has 9 goals, 20 assists, 29 points while Strome is 7-18-25 and the rookie DeBrincat is 13-6-19.
Compare the rosters of the Otters and Greyhounds and both are deep in talent up front and back of the blueline. Both teams also have better-than-average goaltenders in the starting position with Devin Williams the no. 1 guy in Erie and Brandon Halverson as the Soo’s first-stringer.
Point is, as the Greyhounds evolved as a Western Conference powerhouse in 2013-2014, so too did the Otters.
Let’s not forget that the Greyhounds not only lost to the Otters in the second round of last spring’s playoffs, they were swept right out of the post-season.
Yes, the Greyhounds are a very-good team again this season.
But so too are the Otters.
Who will be the ultimate winners in all of this?
Fans from both teams, that is for sure.
PHOTO: Connor McDavid is averaging almost three points per game for the Erie Otters thus far this season. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)