Though the round robin is mostly a scouts-and-parents crowd, it's hard not to get excited for the OHL Cup when you're there. Whether it's the pounding pre-game techno songs blaring from the Elgin-Middlesex dressing room or the Barrie Jr. Colts rocking dyed blonde, red and blue mullets, you could tell everyone came to play. And with the Ontario League draft creeping up, this was a big showcase for the top talents to make their case for major junior. Here's a look at some of the players that caught my eye.
Travis Konecny, C – Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs
Touted as the potential No. 1 prospect overall, Konecny has great playmaking vision and is not afraid to mix it up. Playing the Toronto Red Wings, Konecny was a target all game long, but he dished out as much punishment as he took and potted a beautiful breakaway goal en route to a 6-1 victory.
“I just have to work through it and get pucks deep. I know a lot of people say I'm small, but I like to play like I'm a six-foot guy and I don't let guys intimidate me. I feel that's a big part of my game.”
As it is, the talented pivot is listed at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, though that could easily change for the 16-year-old before and after he gets to the OHL. And though there's the possibility of Detroit Compuware defenseman Sean Day earning Exceptional Status to enter the OHL a year early, insiders aren't so sure Day would be picked first overall anyway. In that regard, there's Konecny, then Dylan Strome of the Toronto Marlboros right behind him.
“I like to model myself after Jonathan Toews,” Konecny said. “He's kind of a grinder and playmaker and a good leader. I can make space for myself by being physical and it opens up my vision and I can find the guys back door. The defensive zone part of my game is something I need to work on.”
The Chiefs have been one of the strongest teams in the tourney this year and boast alumni such as Boone Jenner and Bo Horvat.
Matt Spencer, D – Oakville Rangers
Another powerhouse at the OHL Cup is Oakville, a team that has assembled a roster from far and wide in order to do damage this season and Spencer has been the leader, wearing the captain's 'C' and earning minor midget player of the year honors for the OMHA.
“The boys just seemed to click,” Spencer said. “Some people came from Philadelphia, Sarnia, a bunch of different places, but we seemed to gel real well together.”
A 6-foot-2, 190-pound blueliner, Spencer logs a lot of minutes for the Rangers and has a good understanding of when to hang back and when to jump into the rush. In a win over the Toronto Canadiens, he clanged one off the post after speeding into perfect position on a rush. When asked what his strengths were, Spencer cited his two-way game.
“Just controlling the play,” he said. “Not making passes that aren't there. Really trying to set everything up. But if I get the chance I can wheel with it too and get scoring chances.”
Along with being a top OHL prospect, Spencer has offers from Michigan and Michigan State. The youngster has also taken a tour of the Boston schools and nearby Umass-Lowell, so the NCAA is also on the table as an option. Defensive play is something he wants to keep working on, as well as speed and physicality.
Cody Petawabano, LW – Oakville Rangers
You need a scorecard just to keep track of Petawabano's history, but here's the story in a nutshell: The 6-foot-3, 225-pound intimidator was born near James Bay on a Cree reserve in northern Quebec, but moved to Montreal when he was five. He played in Pennsylvania last year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before joining up with some friends in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. So even though he's at the OHL Cup, Petawabono is actually a prospect to watch for the Quebec League draft. Not surprisingly, the beast of a teen uses his size to his advantage, but not as a crutch: he still dives for loose pucks and had a couple primary assists in a win over the Toronto Canadiens.
“I don't want to just be known as the big guy on the team,” he said. “I work on my feet and my speed. I'd like to play like Ilya Kovalchuk, but my parents say I play like Milan Lucic; work hard, skate hard, hit and score goals.”
Dylan Strome, C – Toronto Marlboros
In a limited viewing, Strome showed off just why he is considered a contender for the No. 1 crown alongside Konecny. The younger brother of New York Islanders lottery pick Ryan Strome boasts a promising 6-foot-2 frame (at 165 pounds he can easily add pounds as he grows) and great breakaway speed. That explosiveness puts distance between him and defenders very quickly.
Kyle Capobianco, D – Oakville Rangers
A puckmoving defenseman with good size, Capobianco has a brother at Canisius College and has garnered a good amount of NCAA interest himself. Michigan, Boston College and Boston U. are among the schools reportedly in the hunt for his services. The slick blueliner is patient with the puck, which pays dividends when he is quarterbacking the power play.
Nikita Korostelev, LW – Toronto Jr. Canadiens
Part of a Russian contingent on the Canadiens, Korostelev is the most noticeable player on the roster thanks to his incredible offensive gifts. The 6-foot-1 left winger has great speed and hands and will take a hit to make a play. When he doesn't have the puck, he's tracking down the man who has it and tries to force the turnover.
Other standouts: Lawson Crouse and Josh Coyle of Elgin-Middlesex; Mitchell Stephens of the Marlboros and Adam Craievich of Oakville.