By Wally Donaldson/The Oshawa Express
If there is one attribute the Oshawa Generals coaching staff has been attempting to impose since the beginning of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) campaign, it is the presence of a sound structure.
Appears quite natural at this point. Certainly all teams, no matter what sport, take the approach of building a bona fide contender from defence to the forward lines.
However, many teams will boast a certain element of “star” quality within their line-up. You know! The guys you rely on to notch that game winner or plant the ball into the seating area with two out in the ninth inning or perhaps take the ball 90 yards into the end zone on the final play of the game.
The Generals are melding a junior hockey club with major league potential when you consider that several prognosticators are confident that three players - Boone Jenner, Lucas Lessio and top import Nicklas Jensen - could become star-studded first-round draft picks of the NHL.
Tag on the players who have tasted the exercise of professional training camps and suffice to say head skipper Chris DePiero has plenty to work with this campaign.
However, DePiero has also been adamant that only a “sound structure” with heavy emphasis on a team concept will take the Generals to the next level, having not had the opportunity to qualify for post-season play since, well, we digress.
Generals took three of a possible four points on the weekend with a 4-3 victory over the Knights in London on Friday and dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to the 67’s in Ottawa Sunday afternoon.
Interesting comparison between the Generals and Maple Leafs as they kick off their respective seasons. Both came out of the gate on a high with a succession of victories, only to, as expectedly, level off somewhat.
Question in Leafs camp was who would be the No. 1 goaltender and the same applied at the GM Centre as Michael Zador, who has shouldered the bulk of the load to this point, and Kevin Bailie, put their best skate forward.
And when you get good goaltending, “It allows the rest of the guys to make plays. We can find ways to score goals and that’s a great recipe,” DePiero said earlier.
Generals, coming out of the weekend, were the second best scoring team in the OHL with a total of 52 goals, second to the Owen Sound Attack, who had accumulated 64 tallies.
Not a bad recipe, indeed.
Christian Thomas holds a big lead among the Generals with 10 goals and 17 points, followed by a hard-working Andy Andreoff with four goals and 11 points. Alain Berger, Jensen, Lessio and blueliner Scott Valentine each have 10 points.
Some work is required on defence. Like the Leafs, there have been far too many giveaways and when that happens, the goaltenders are left hung out to dry. Interesting how the Generals were on a modest four-game win string, that is until talented Calvin de Haan returned from the Islanders.
And DePiero, perhaps more specifically defensive coach and longtime NHL’er Joe Cirella, were busting with pride when de Haan collected a goal and two helpers in the shootout loss at Ottawa.
The culture shock from a professional training camp and return to a junior mode hits players in different respects, I have learned over the many years of covering the Generals. And it took de Haan a few games, with perhaps a little prodding by Cirella, to settle in for another junior campaign.
Oshawa top draft pick Scott Laughton and Berger were the other marksmen in Ottawa. The defence came to the fore in this one by holding the 67’s to a paltry total of six shots in the second and third periods, while compiling 27 shots on the process.
The one element of the Generals game which has improved vastly over last season is their keen ability to push the puck forward with an abundance of confidence. Certainly during the Del Zotto – Tavares era, you know who was going to get the puck.
A fine blend of scoring talent this year on the forward lines gives defencemen intriguing alternatives unless, of course, the path to the opposing net is wide open for them. An interesting mixture, to be certain.
WALLY WORLD – The annual Subway Series is set to go Thursday, November 11 in London and the OHL will have de Haan, Thomas, Jenner and Lessio in the line up.
Hockey fans can also get a glimpse of the Canadian junior squad during a pre-competition match up against Switzerland on Monday, December 20 at the GM Centre. Generals season ticket holders have first dibs on tickets until November 2..Generals are in Peterborough Thursday night and take on the Belleville Bulls Friday at the GM Centre (7:35 p.m.) They travel to Erie on Saturday and for the kids, they entertain the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors on Tuesday, starting at 11 a.m. at the GM Centre.