Bolts Prospects Front and Center in OHL Power House Showdown
Anthony Cirelli and Taylor Raddysh host Mitchell Stephens and the London Knight in the biggest OHL game so far this season.
This year’s OHL trade deadline saw a number of big time deals go down — the biggest of which involved Lightning prospects heading to the best two teams in the league.
Mitchell Stephens was moved from Saginaw to London, while the Erie Otters acquired Anthony Cirelli from the Oshawa Generals. Both players were captains of their former teams and were acquired as part of an arms race in the OHL West.
Tonight, the Knights will travel to Erie, as the two battle for first place in the OHL and more importantly, the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The Knights have been playing well lately. They come into tonight’s game having won eight of their past ten games and sitting two points behind Erie for first place.
Stephens was one of two huge acquisition for the Knights at the deadline. Along with Islanders prospect Mitch Vande Somel, Stephens has brought a level of depth to the team that didn’t exist earlier in the season.
The 2015 second rounder has eight goals and 16 points since moving to London and is going to be a key piece to any chance the Knight have at making it back to the Memorial Cup.
STEPPHEENNS!! @Stephens2727 gets the puck off the stick for a power play goal! Knights lead by four! pic.twitter.com/37fdE0vXL9— London Knights (@GoLondonKnights) February 4, 2017
While the Knight have been playing well lately, no one in Junior hockey has been playing as well as Erie. The Otters come into tonight’s game sitting first in the OHL and riding a ten game winning streak.
Erie has been absolutely dominant offensively. They lead the league in scoring with 247 goals in only 52 games — an impressive 21 goals more than the second highest total - and two Lightning prospects are a big reason why.
Taylor Raddysh has been incredible for the Otters all season. He sits second on the team in scoring with 87 points in 42 games played - 19 of them coming during the current ten game win streak.
While Raddysh has been good, it’s the acquisition of Cirelli that has propelled the Otters to the top of the CHL. After being a standout for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship, Cirelli got off to a pretty slow start after being traded away from his beloved Generals.
Struggling to adapt to the much harder Western Conference, Cirelli went his first eight games in an Otters uniform without scoring a goal – he contributed only six assists. Since then, Cirelli has been on a tear recording 10 points (5 goals & 5 assists) in the next five games. He was held off the score sheet on Sunday, but Anthony Cirelli is a player that always shines when the lights are the brightest, he will look to break out of the one game ‘slump’ tonight.
Erie Otters forward Anthony Cirelli with skilled moves to score vs Kingston, had two goals in a 6-1 win. #Bolts #TBLightning #OHL pic.twitter.com/JFLQu8359r— Marco Bombino (@marco_bombino) February 5, 2017
What to watch for
Unfortunately this game isn’t being carried by either Sportsnet or the NHL Network, so it will be hard to get your eyes on - unless you want to pay the ridiculous $6.99/game to stream it on OHL Live. Wait, that’s $6.99 Canadian - that’s like what, a buck for you guys down in Tampa?
If you do already have OHL Live - or find another way to stream it - you could be getting a preview of an incredible playoff series with three future Lightning forwards right in the middle of things. As I mentioned, Cirelli has always played his best in big moments, so a matchup with the hated rival could lead to some magic from the young center.
Aside from the Bolts angle, Alex DeBrincat is currently sitting at 46 goals on the season. When he reaches 50, he’ll be the first player in the history of the OHL to do so in three consecutive seasons. It’s not likely he’ll get all four and make history tonight, but it wouldn’t be the first time the sniper pulled off the Joe Thornton hat trick.
2017 Draft eligible players
For those already looking forward to this summer’s draft, tonight’s game features three very skilled forwards that are likely to be selected somewhere in the 25-50 range.
For Erie, Ivan Lodnia is a highly skilled offensive right winger that has been a key piece of the top-6 since the trade deadline.
At the other end of the ice, both Robert Thomas and Formenton have been climbing up the draft rankings after a slow start to the season. Both are tremendously skilled and will be guys to watch going forward.