OHL Roundup: Guelph struggles, Otters rise
By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor
Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - A look at some of the storylines around the Ontario Hockey League.
There was plenty to be excited about in Guelph coming into this season.
Taylor Beck was coming off an impressive 93-point campaign, Michael Latta had a breakout year and Peter Holland chipped in with a strong season of his own.
One year later, the maturing 19-year-old trio has flattened out, unable to carry the heavy expectations put on their shoulders.
Holland, the Anaheim Ducks' first-rounder in 2009, has 16 goals and 29 points while Latta and Beck, both third-round picks of the Nashville Predators, have contributed 31 and 28 points respectively.
Although the three have put up respectable numbers - despite none of them cracking the league's top-20 - the Storm occupy the Western Conference basement and risk missing the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season in 1991-92.
It's unfair to pin the inadequacies of the team on three guys, but for the Storm to have the league's fourth-worst offense while riding these stars is concerning to say the least.
With Mike Kelly named the new Vice President and General Manager, the former Executive of the Year will have to quickly decide the direction he wants to take the team moving forward.
There is plenty of time for Guelph to turn things around, but losing six straight in the Wicked West is a recipe for disaster.
Strangely enough, if Guelph played in the East it would be in sixth place - how does that old proverb go, something about ifs and buts?
MCKEGG POWERS OTTERS' SURGE
After a sluggish start to the season, it looks like the Erie Otters are finally getting into midseason form, and their 3-0 mark this past week is the perfect indication of the heights this team can reach.
The Otters received a healthy input from Anthony Luciani, Phil Varone and the steadying presence - yet at times erratic - of netminder Ramis Sadikov, but if the Otters plan on making the post-season they will need Greg McKegg to maintain the assault he put forth in Week 9.
Erie's captain was on fire this week, ripping up the opposition with six goals and nine points in wins over Belleville, Guelph and the dangerous Kitchener Rangers.
The pinnacle of his performance was a four-goal outburst against the Bulls on Thursday, followed up by a three-point night versus Kitchener and capped off by setting up David Shields' overtime-winning goal with four seconds remaining in Sunday's affair.
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect now has 20 goals and 40 points on the season, good for fifth in the league.
Despite spending time in the Conference cellar, the McKegg-led Otters are right back in the thick of things, holding down the eighth seed and trailing the fifth-place Whalers by three points.
It will be interesting to see how the Otters fare if McKegg is selected to represent Canada at the World Junior Championship set to kick off in less than a month.
Despite getting thrashed 7-2 by the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday, the Petes, for the first time all year, have been playing good hockey.
The departure of disgruntled forward Ryan Spooner earlier in the month marked the low point of Peterborough's dismal season, but its performance this past week should bring some much needed confidence.
After nearly upsetting the Mississauga Majors last Sunday, the Petes pulled off two road wins in Saginaw and Plymouth.
Adding to the gradually increasing optimism is the production of sophomore sensation Alan Quine, the biggest piece coming back in the Spooner deal.
In nine games with the Petes, Quine has scored six times, with all but one of them coming this past week.
If Quine can build on his recent offensive outbreak, the Petes can easily make ground in the top-heavy Eastern Conference. Through Sunday's action, Peterborough trails eighth place Sudbury by three points with a game in hand.
If highly touted draft prospect Matt Puempel continues to fill the net and Austin Watson picks up his play, the Petes have the firepower and foundation to turn the tide.
In a bizarre decision this past week, the OHL announced a mid-season rule change aimed at eradicating staged fighting.
The new rule, which went into effect Nov. 26, states:
"If two or more players should enter into a fight, prior to, or at the drop of the puck at the commencement of any period of a game, then such player(s) shall be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to any penalties assessed, the OHL Member Team shall be fined $500.00 and the player(s) suspended for one (1) game. For any subsequent offence by the same team, the fine shall increase in $500.00 increments, and for any subsequent offence by the same player the minimum suspension would double from the previous occurrence."
While the decision certainly warrants a lengthy debate regarding the merit of fighting in hockey, it likely won't change or reduce the frequency players decide to drop the gloves.
In other news, Oshawa Generals forward Christian Thomas was named the OHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 21 after leading the league with an astounding five goals and 10 points in two games.
11/29 14:26:58 ET