With the World Juniors just having finished (Congrats Team USA) and trade deadline quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to look at the state of each team in the States.
There’s really not much to say about the team in Flint this season. That is an improvement over last season when they were making news for all the wrong reasons.
The Firebirds started off the season strong at home and has continued to have the home ice advantage going 12-6 in 18 games at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Centre.
On the road is a different picture. Going 6-11-0-2 in 19 games is not the best. In fact, it is the same winning percentage as they had on the road last season.
Overall the Firebirds are doing better than expected in their second season in the league. The ship seems to have been steadied and they look like they will make the playoffs with Sports Club Stats giving them a 79.5% chance of playing extra hockey come this spring.
The Western Conference is currently in a dogfight between Windsor, Erie, London, and Sault Ste. Marie for the top spot. In terms of the trade deadline for Flint, they have a veteran in the GM seat that knows how to find the right pieces for the team in the long term.
I see Flint building for the next season and beyond, but with Flint having a lot of picks already if they do make trades, expect players coming to Flint for the picks that they have now.
(Note: Flint made a trade bringing Maurizio Colella from North Bay in exchange for Mississauga’s 5th-round pick in 2019 as this article was being written)
The Spirit started their 15th season in the OHL off pretty rough. It was not pretty, and it was not until November until Saginaw started to add W’s to the win column.
Don’t fret Spirit fans, the season is not lost. At least, not yet.
While the team is currently on the outside looking in, the Spirit are 5 points back from 8th place Flint, (with a game in hand) and 6 points behind Sarnia (with 2 games in hand). While Flint has been consistent throughout the season, if you look at the Sarnia Sting’s past 10 games you will notice that they have a 2-6-2-0 record.
I can see Flint moving up to the 7th seed, Saginaw moving into the playoffs, and Sarnia missing the playoffs with the Guelph Storm at the end of the season.
As for what moves they will be looking at the deadline. This is another team that will be looking for the long term trade. They are more of a seller, but I would not expect to see many parts leaving the team.
Saginaw does need to reduce opposing shots on goal while generating more offense on their own. If they bring in someone, I would see them adding a young defenseman to their roster.
Will this be the year that Erie makes it to the Mem Cup?
While my Magic 8 Ball is telling me that the outlook is hazy, the Otters are in the fight for the top of their division (2 points behind London) and top of the Western Conference/OHL (3 points behind Sault Ste. Marie with 2 games in hand)
If you are an Otter fan you have a lot to be excited about heading into the second half of the season. In fact here is a list of the reasons why the Otters will have a hot second half.
Alex DeBrincat leads the OHL in goals and points and well on his way to his third 50-goal season
Taylor Raddish leads the league in assists and was league leader for points when he left for World Juniors.
Dylan Strome has only played 7 games since being sent back from Arizona and heading to World Juniors and is averaging more than 2 points per game.
Troy Timpano is leading the league in wins by a goaltender and third in the league in goals against average
Erie is on fire on home ice with a league-best 18-0-1-1 record in 20 games (That’s a 95% win percentage)
While the Otters have been hot at home, they have had some trouble getting wins on the road. They are on the wrong side of .500 with a 7-8-1 record. The Otters have more road games this half with 18 of the remaining 32 games on the road.
The Otters will be buyers at the deadline. They were a young team last year that made a run to the conference finals. Erie expects to make a long run this spring and they might need to make a move here and there to tweak the lineup.
Erie did make a trade this week acquiring Warren Foegele from Kingston earlier this week and might make one or two more. There is a great core here and the team will be contenders next season as well. Don’t expect the Otters to sell the farm here.