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Wolves looking to take a bite out of Mississauga...if the Majors let them

Welcome to the start of another Ontario Hockey League season. It seems like just yesterday the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors said goodbye to another year and a lot of talented players. This Fall brings change, which is no surprise to a lot of people.

After finishing preseason with a 1-3-2 record, the Majors take the journey four hours north in their season opener to the Sudbury Community Arena for the first time since sweeping the Wolves in April. Revenge, anyone?

There’s no question that Sudbury will be a great team this year. To help in tonight’s matchup are top-line fowards Michael Sgarbossa and Josh Leivo who have returned from NHL main camps (San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively). Although, the team will be without defenceman Frank Corrado and Josh McFadden.

Let’s take a second to break down Mississauga:

JP Anderson is back, so no doubt he’ll get the start between the pipes tonight. His backup, I’m going with Spencer Martin. He looked good in preseason and he’s young. At 16-years-old, the Majors coaching staff can mold and develop Martin into the netminder they need him to be over the next few years. He has a lot of potential and I like what I’m seeing from him so far. He went 1-2 in exhibition, stopping 35 of 36 shots in his first tilt against Peterborough in which he earned a win. He then took losses against the Petes and Owen Sound, but made 30 saves in that final game against the Attack.

Joseph Cramarossa will be taking his centre position in the lineup tonight. I think he has the potential to move into a more offensive role this year, but still not top line. I have to admit, he didn’t impress me during the exhibition games he played with the Majors before leaving for Ducks rookie camp. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. I know he’s a good player; I referred to him as a beaut on skates several times last year with his speed and puck handling abilities, and of course his epic head-first fall into the Majors bench during the Memorial Cup game versus Owen Sound. All players are allowed to have off games and preseason is the time to do it.

Stuart Percy is Stuart Percy. After being cut by the Leafs yesterday, he will be back to anchor the blueline for another season.

Devante Smith-Pelly is still away and they’re going to miss him tonight. The big body out in front generating offence is a force most teams would like to have. Once his future is decided, we’ll see who can fill his role if necessary.

As for the top line, I think Jordan Mayer will have no problem being the centre leader. Had Smith-Pelly been back, you could count on him left-winging Mayer. Riley Brace took top line while he was away, so I’ll look to him to fill that position again. On the right, I’m going with my main man Derek Schoenmakers. I’m counting on him to produce a lot more this year, so he’d better not let me down. He and Brace have been gelling together quite nicely so right now I don’t want to break them apart. However, if Smith-Pelly returns, I think it would be very interesting to see him on the left with Russian Sergey Kuptsov on the right. Two big guys (Smith-Pelly 6’0” 216 lbs; Kuptsov 6’2” 212 lbs) surrounding Mayer. Makes ya think, doesn’t it?

I think as the year goes on, we could be seeing a lot more from Kuptsov, the 16th overall pick in the CHL Import Draft. It will be hard for him to fill Maxim Kitsyn’s shoes, but he has the ingredients to do it. All he needs is some more time. He’s only 16-years-old after all (17 on October 6). He’s big and fast. In his scouting report he was considered a very solid all around player and can play decently on defence. Now let’s see if he can deliver. Oddly enough, he is the pick the Majors got from Sudbury.

Last season, fans and media had such high expectations of Mississauga. And the team certainly delivered. On paper, they were the second best squad in Canada behind Saint John, and they lost to the best team in the nation, despite some critics who thought they wouldn’t make it to the Memorial Cup final. So if you look at it from that perspective, they did exactly what they were supposed to do, which was finishing second best. If only everything were that simple. Of course, if they weren’t the host team, they wouldn’t have been there due to their loss against Owen Sound.

But moving on from that, this team has a lot less pressure on its shoulders. I believe this is the Majors chance to show everyone what they’re made of and prove that they’ve still got what it takes to be a top team. I’ve heard opinions from both ends; some saying they’ll still be a top team, others saying they’ll just barely make the playoffs. Either way, it seems like they can’t go wrong.

As for James Boyd…it’s time to give the guy more credit. He’s been with the organization for years; three years as an associate with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors and four years as co-coach with Mississauga. He knows his players well and he knows hockey. Not nearly as intimidating as Dave Cameron, but for someone in my position, I’m not complaining about that.

Prediction time: I’d like to see the Majors win, but I don’t think they have it just yet. I’m going for Sudbury to take this one in a close game, 4-3.

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