Travis Konecny was captain of the Ottawa 67’s three seasons ago when he was traded to the Sarnia Sting, who were making a championship run. (Photo: Courtesy of Terry Wilson / OHL Images)
Amid all the logistical changes of moving from one team to another at age 18, one thing Travis Konecny remembers about being traded is what Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt told him.
“Know that when we go for the Memorial Cup that you’re gonna be part of it,” Hunt told Konecny. “Some of these picks are gonna be why.”
Ottawa got 10 draft picks in the trade that sent Konecny and Sam Studnicka to the Sarnia Sting.
This season, Ottawa sits atop the Ontario Hockey League’s East Division by a country mile and they’re doing exactly what Hunt said they would. Instead of being sellers at Thursday’s trade deadline, the 67s were buyers and acquired Erie Otters captain Kyle Maksimovich and Barrie Colts leading scorer Lucas Chiodo.
“The way I looked at it is Ottawa wasn’t necessarily getting rid of me because they didn’t want me anymore,” Konecny said. “It’s a new opportunity. You just gotta look at where your team’s at. If I was to look at that (Nick) Suzuki trade, for instance, I’m sure Guelph is gonna be in a better position than Owen Sound was. It’s gotta be an exciting time for him and that’s the way you should look at it. It could be his last year in junior, too. It could be a good opportunity for him.”
Suzuki was traded to the Guelph Storm this week, where Flyers prospect Isaac Ratcliffe is captain, because they’re making a run for it also.
Rarely do teams in Canadian junior hockey get to make multiple runs at a league championship or Memorial Cup, which pits the host city and the champions of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League against one another.
Most players who come from Canadian junior still follow to some degree. Sean Couturier follows a little closer because he’s part owner of the defending champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan where his father is the general manager. The Titan just had a fire sale before the trade deadline to retool for another run in a couple years.
“In junior, unless you’re the London Knights, (it’s hard to repeat),” Konecny said. “You know what, the Knights are a good organization. It helps that kids want to go there, go to your team. They’re able to pull kids out of school all the time (as they did with Anthony Stolarz, who was at University of Nebraska-Omaha) to come play there because it’s the London Knights. It’s exciting.”
With so much interest in the team’s prospect group, the Courier-Post will check in on the promising young players each week. Here’s the latest progress report with insights from Sam Cosentino, a commentator of the Canadian Hockey League for Rogers Sportsnet.
* all statistics through Friday, January 11.
Matthew Strome, left wing, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 209 pounds
Acquired: fourth-round pick in 2017 draft (106th overall)
This season: 42 games, 18 goals, 31 assists
The skinny: There were some rumblings this week that Strome might’ve been on the move at the OHL trade deadline. His Bulldogs won the Memorial Cup last season but aren’t having a great season this time around. The deadline passed and he’s still in Hamilton for what will be his last junior season. He signed his entry-level contract last March.
Cosentino’s take: “Strome is still coming into his own, maturing in the way he takes care of himself off the ice. The puck seems to find him and he has good finish and net-front presence, hard to move, good hands for tips and rebounds. He’s really good disrupting the breakout because of his reach, stick and body positioning. His biggest challenge will be whether or not he’ll be able to pace the game the way it’s played today. He has smarts and that makes up for a half step, but at the next level, he’ll still be two steps behind unless his skating improves.”
Maksim Sushko, left wing, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds
Acquired: fourth-round pick in 2017 draft (107th overall)
This season: 37 games, 7 goals, 20 assists
The skinny: Last season was a big one for Sushko who captained the Belarus World Junior team and played in World Championships among the men. Belarus was regulated in the World Junior Championship last season, so they played in Division 1A this year and he had three points in four games. He’s scoring less in the OHL than last season on an Owen Sound team that just traded its two biggest scorers at the deadline. Like Strome, Sushko signed his entry-level deal last season so he’ll likely be with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms next season.
Cosentino’s take: “I like the offensive upside, but he will be tested now with Owen Sound moving to a younger team and Maksim will now be a top line go-to guy, where over the last year and a half he was the benefactor of favorable matchups. He projects as a back of the lineup type who will need to refine his play away from the puck and his defensive zone play. His offensive play is inconsistent where his production is in bunches and streaks. He shoots the puck extremely well with a lightning quick release and there is a heaviness to his shot that can surprise goalies. He does make plays and can make plays at pace, but not always great when he chooses to change his pace.”
Yegor Zamula, defense, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 165 pounds
Acquired: signed as free agent Sept. 20, 2018
This season: 41 games, 9 goals, 30 assists
The skinny: In training camp, Zamula was very impressive with his poise and calmness against more experienced competition. The weight above is no typo, though. He certainly has to put weight on. Perhaps the Flyers struck gold with the undrafted blueliner, though. Like Phil Myers a few years ago, Zamula’s offensive game has taken off after signing a contract. He’s in the top five in the WHL in scoring among defensemen and the potential for that wasn’t as clear in training camp.
Cosentino’s take: “Fascinating story in that he went to summer camp in his own backyard in Calgary before his invite to Philadelphia’s camp. He’s a pro, good size, excellent skater, has unearthed an offensive side to his game that will make him a second-unit power play option if he were to get to the NHL, but should see AHL power play time on a first unit. Zamula is a good thinker of the game and has an excellent stick that is his best asset on the defensive side, which is an ever-evolving asset for defenseman.”
Dave Isaac; @davegisaac; 856-486-2479; email@example.com