Junior hockey is by definition a cyclical entity, and the fact that the Ottawa 67′s went 17 straight years without missing the post-season is a testament to the organization that was built by Brian Kilrea and his staff of scouts.
That being said, this year there is nowhere to go but up, as the 67′s hit rock bottom last season, finishing dead last in the 20 team OHL. Knowing a rebuild was on the horizon, the 67′s dealt away many talented veterans, including Ottawa Senators 2012 1st round pick Cocy Ceci, to stockpile young talent that will grow together and become a contender once again.
That growth will continue Friday night when the 67′s kick off the 2013-14 regular season at Canadian Tire Centre with a 7:30 start against the rival Belleville Bulls.
While there is a youth movement in Ottawa, there are still a number of reasons to check out the club:
- Travis Konecny was the first overall selection in the draft this past summer, as the 67′s bypassed Sean Day, who was granted exceptional player status into the league as a 15 year old, to take the slick centre from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs.
- Jacob Middleton, who was acquired from the Owen Sound Attack in the Ceci trade in January, was recently ranked in the ISS top 30 rankings for the 2014 NHL draft. The 6’3″, 175 lb blueliner was slotted 17th heading into the season, and will get plenty of opportunity to raise his stock.
- After not having had much success with the import draft in recent years (since Petr Mrazek), the 67′s selected a pair of blueliners in the form of Slovakian Adrian Sloboda and big Finnish product Alex Lintuniemi. Lintuniemi will turn 18 on Monday, while Sloboda just turned 17 in August, and their transition to the North American game will be fun to watch.
The 67′s are eagerly awaiting word on whether or not captain Sean Monahan, Calgary’s 6th overall pick in this summer’s draft, will be returned from the Flames. If he is sent back, at some point the 67′s are going to have to make the decision on whether or not to hang onto him for the season as a mentor to the younger players, or to deal him at some point to a contender. He would fetch a lot on the trade market, and that would provide more long-term assets for the 67′s to build around.
Ottawa will go into the season with the same goaltending tandem as they finished last season with, and hopefully with a stronger blueline in front of them, they will have more success than they experienced last year.
While this team will not likely contend for an OHL championship, they are young but experienced enough to at least get back to the post-season, and this franchise has never missed the playoffs two seasons in a row.