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ITO Hot-Stove: Who is the best team in the Ontario Hockey League?

This is the third edition of ITO Hot-Stove. Joining me today in this piece is Shawn O'Reilly, Susan Tromanhauser, Brandon Sudeyko, and Thayne Hallyburton.

Without further ado I'd like to introduce you all to today's debate question: Who is the best team in the Ontario Hockey League?

Todd Cordell

Sarnia Sting

For me this is a toss up between the Plymouth Whalers and Sarnia Sting, but I'll go with the Sting. Though the Sting have been absolutely belted with injuries, they remain a top team in the Western Conference and are just four points behind the Plymouth Whalers.

Coyotes prospect Connor Murphy has missed all but two games this season. He just recently came back and will make a huge impact on the team, no doubt. Nail Yakupov has missed a handful of games with back injuries, and Alex Galchenyuk, who was projected to go top five in the 2012 NHL entry draft, has missed the whole season to this point and is not expected back until late in the season or in the playoffs.

Though Yakupov has missed eight games and Murphy and Galchenyuk have played a combined two games, the Sting are fourth in the Western Conference. Now that they're starting to get healthy they'll show what kind of team they can be, and that team is one that should represent the Ontario Hockey League in the Memorial Cup come May.

Shawn O'Reilly

London Knights

Hate to state the obvious here but looking at points it is hard to argue otherwise. With 49 points they are leading the Western Conference by four over Plymouth, and have a game in hand. London has gone 8-2-0-0 in the past ten games, a record only matched by Plymouth. The Knights have scored the most goals in the OHL with 136, and have allowed the fewest, 81 (tied with Kitchener). Their special teams are average, 9th in PP% and 11th in PK%, but it has been good enough for them to keep winning. They have a top 3 goal scorer in Seth Griffin, one of the top rookies in Max Domi and a solid goalie in Michael Houser. Add all of this together and you have the top ranked team in the country as of last week and the best team in the OHL right now.

Susan Tromanhauser

Plymouth Whalers

While my Niagara bias still shows in I believe the Ice Dogs should have the best team in the OHL, they just can’t seem to get the consistency needed. The London Knights have such a jump in the standings, as well as tenacity of a young team, they will still come out top at the end of the regular season. But it is the Plymouth Whalers who are the best team in the league and will be heading to Shawinigan in May.

The team of veterans is well coached by Mike Vellucci. The team is made up of primarily returning players who know exactly what Vellucci wants and needs to win games. They have two top goal tenders in Matt Mahalak and Scott Wedgewood and as Neate Sager from Yahoo’s “Buzzing the Net” points out, they have 8 players with 25 points or more. While Niagara is missing four key players to Team Canada at the up-coming World Juniors, the Whalers will be missing five of their top players to a variety of world junior teams.
 I can sum up the Whalers in one word – experience.

Brandon Sudeyko

Belleville Bulls

Now you can call me crazy (studio audience yells 'you're crazy') but I have the team completely out of left field here. The Belleville Bulls. Player relationships aside, this team just outworks everyone on the ice. And it isn't like they don't have any pieces on their team. They have credible forwards, defenceman and 2 legit goaltenders. Malcolm Subban, yes still young, is going to tear the OHL apart. His hype will be reached unlike Jack Campbell's hype. Their backup Hollywood Chartrand is not as talented a Subban, but when in net. Definitely giving it 150% all the time. And that goes for the D and forwards as well. Offensive talent does not get any better than Zharkov and Gaunce. throw in the OA's of Judson and Payerl. The forwards are not the flashiest or will put up league leading numbers but their hard work and skill set mesh so well that they are able to do what many thought they could not. Their D this year is under appreciated (like the entire team). I mean who would have thought Simon Gronvaldt would be leading the team with a +17. Not to mention Steve (Minus) Silas, needs a new nickname. Most talented team, No. Best defensive team, no. Greatest goaltending in the league... maybe. But it all boils down to those 22 skaters being 1 team who out work every other team on the ice. That is why they are my selection for 'best team in the OHL'... I can not wait for the Twitter Hate @intheoradio.

Thayne Hallyburton

Plymouth Whalers
Hockey, as in life, all starts with Money...and $cott 'money' Wedgewood is the captain of this ship. He is the best goaltender in the OHL and has been underrated for years at the position. Add to him, Matt Mahalak who is easily the best backup in the league...Plymouth's last line of defense looks impenetrable. 
From there, you move up front, and the likes of Jamie Devane, Garret Meurs, J.T. Miller, Mitchell Heard, Stefan Noesen....this is a team with a ton of scoring depth, which you need come playoff time. If they add one big scorer at the deadline, they will be very tough to beat come playoff time by any team. Mitchell Dempsey is a good enough bargaining chip to get anyone they please. Rumours say they are after Jared Knight from the London Knights.
Overall, this is the best team in the O and will be the best team in the O come playoff time. London is too young to make a run this year....Plymouth is ready. They are the best and most complete team. If Sarnia weren't so injured, maybe they would give them a run for the money.

Whalers (2), Bulls (1), Sting (1), Knights (1).

Comments :

Anonymous said...

There is NO way Vellucci would ever trade Heard. I can think of one.. maybe two players that they could trade but it's not one of the forwards.

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