The junior hockey season has been an odd one so far, or at least it has for a lot of the teams currently housing Carolina Hurricanes prospects. Take Ryan Murphy’s Kitchener Rangers for instance, they were struggling a fair bit at the start of the year but have straited to turn things in the right direction over the past few weeks. They won all three of their games in the last week and are 8-1-1-0 in their last 10 games. Murphy hasn’t been the main catalyst for this turnaround but he has been improving a lot after a rough month of October and had another multi-point performance this weekend. The news of both Murphy and the Rangers turning things around is good news for the Canes organization as a whole.
On the other hand, some teams that were flying high early in the year are now going through a rough patch with the current prime suspects being Daniel Altshuller’s Oshawa Generals. The Generals were one of the most exciting teams in the OHL during the beginning stages of the year and were mostly backed by a high-powered offense and one of the OHL’s leading offensive threats in Boone Jenner. At the time, Altshuller wasn’t providing the Generals with remarkable goaltending, but he was performing well enough to prevent them from losing games and maintain their spot at the top of the East Division. Over the last 10 games or so, things have gotten tougher for the Generals as they have won only three games in that stretch and are hanging on by a thread to the top spot of their conference. Their offense appears to have run into a bit of a bad stretch and Altshuller just hasn’t performed well enough to steal games for them, which is something he may need to do eventually.
Brock McGinn’s Guelph Storm could also fit into this category but they haven’t struggled as much and are still in the mix in the Midwest Division. They certainly helped their cause this week by getting a shutout over the first place team, Owen Sound, but that was undone after they dropped their next two games to Sarnia and Brampton respectively. It’s still along season ahead for everyone and we’ve already seen how much can change over the course of a month, so it will be interesting to see how the standings look come mid-December. Some good news is that all but one of the OHL teams with Carolina prospects are in the top-half of their conference so most of the team’s we’re following have had a decent first 20 games or so.
After the jump, we will look at the performance of Carolina’s CHL prospects in more detail.
Ryan Murphy, Kitchener Rangers: 3 GP, 1 G, 4 Pts
The Rangers won all three of their games this past week and Murphy certainly did his part in contributing with four points in three games. It started off with him recording a primary assist on the Rangers game-tying goal in Kitchener’s come-from-behind win against Mississauga. Kitchener would score three unanswered goals in that game and appeared to build off this win over their next two games where they defeated Sault Ste. Marie and Oshawa. Murphy picked up his fourth goal of the season in the Sault Ste. Marie, a game where they outshot the Greyhounds by 20. Murphy would also pick up an even strength assist in the Oshawa game where the Rangers won 2-1 with a pair of goals by Senators draft pick Matt Puempel.
Murphy has really been turning his season around these last few weeks as he now has 15 points in 20 games. That’s still a drop-off from where he has been the last couple of years, but it’s still progress from him nonetheless. The Hurricanes have a lot invested in him right now, so his performance and development this year is critical and it’s good to see him turn things around.
Brock McGinn, Guelph Storm: 3 GP, 1 G, 2 Pts, 5 PIM
The usual case this year has been for the Storm to record a high number of goals with McGinn chipping in maybe a couple points in a week. McGinn maintained his consistent pace by recording two points but the Storm had only six goals in three games this past week including an ugly 5-1 loss to Brampton. The one silver lining of the week being that Guelph’s one victory came against the Owen Sound Attack, who are the top team in the West Division of the OHL. Unfortunately, they couldn’t build off that and ended up losing their next two games and continue to struggle to get beyond the middle of the pack in the Western Conference.
McGinn’s personal performance this past week was highlighted by two-point performance against Owen Sound where he recorded a goal and an assist. He was held off the scoresheet in the remaining two games and received a game misconduct for boarding in the Storm’s 4-2 loss to Sarnia. He was also on-ice for two Brampton goals in their 5-1 loss on Sunday, one of which came shorthanded. McGinn still has a respectable scoring line on the year with 13 points in 21 games, which is fine for a checking liner but it won’t impress many people at the higher levels even if he brings a lot else to the table.
Trevor Carrick, Mississauga Steelheads: 3 GP, 1 G, 3 Pts, 2 PIM
The Steelheads won 2 out of 3 this past week and picked up a very impressive 6-3 victory over the Niagara Ice Dogs where Carrick had himself a three-point night with a goal and two assists. Carrick now has 12 points in 18 games and is still on-pace to have his best offensive season as a junior hockey player, but it’s worth noting that all three points came in that Niagara game.. Still, he’s been a very solid player for the Steelheads this year when it comes to playing at both ends and his team is sitting pretty at third place in the Eastern Conference. Oddly enough, the team’s only loss came to the Kitchener Rangers.
Keegan Lowe, Edmonton Oil Kings: 4 GP, 1 G, 1 Pt, 39 PIM
Lowe may have had the most eventful weekend out of Carolina prospects and the 39 PIMs help explain it. He picked up 28 of those in the Oil Kings’ showdown with the Kamloops Blazers wehere he got into a scuffle with Tim Bozon at the end of the game. Lowe was given a game misconduct for kicking Bozon’s helmet after the two fought. That was definitely a sign of poor sportsmanship on the part of Lowe, but he apparently wasn’t the aggressor in this situation and wasn’t given a suspension whereas Bozon was. Lowe & the Oil Kings ended up getting the last laugh anyway in this game as they took home a 2-1 win, which is no easy feat against Kamloops this season.
Outside of that brouhaha, Lowe and his team had a very solid weekend overall. Edmonton won three of their four games and Lowe scored his second goal of the year n their 4-2 win over Prince Georges. Lowe was also on ice for six total Oil Kings goals, so he appears to be playing well overall even if he is racking up more penalty minutes than points.
Tyler Stahl, Victoria Royals: 3 GP, 1 G, 1 Pt, 6 PIM
Victoria continues to struggle as they dropped two of their three games this weekend but some good news is that Tyler Stahl scored his first goal of the season in their game against Calgary. Stahl has been in and out of the lineup this year, so it’s good to see him make an impact this past week.
Austin Levi, Plymouth Whalers: 3 GP, 0 G, 0 Pts, 6 PIM
Another week has past and Levi has yet to really make much of an impact in terms of boxcar numbers. It’s hard to really evaluate Levi’s defensive performance since there isn’t much game tape to look at and the stats available on the OHL’s site are really unreliable for judging defensemen. What I can tell you is that Levi’s Whalers won two of their three games this weekend but gave up over 35 shots in all of them. I suppose that doesn’t speak well of the team’s defense but I’ll have to take a closer look to really know what’s going on with Levi.
Matt Mahalak, Plymouth Whalers: 3 GP, 9 goals allowed on 110 shots, .918 Sv%
The Whalers defense wasn’t up to snuff this week, but Mahalak played very well in two of the three games. His only blemish was a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the London Knights and even then he had to face 36 shots. Mahalak’s most impressive game was his 36-save performance in the Whalers 4-1 over Saginaw. He now has the 9th best GAA in the OHL among starting goaltenders and has continues to be relatively solid in net for the Whalers.
Daniel Altshuller, Oshawa Generals: 2 GP, 6 goals allowed on 44 shots, .864 Sv%
As the Generals continue to struggle, so does Altshuller. He allowed 2 goals on 22 shots in their loss to the Kitchener Rangers last week and was chased in their 5-3 loss to the Barrie Colts after giving up 4 goals on 22 shots. Altshuller hasn’t really been given a big workload this year in terms of the amount of shots he faces, so his .911 save percentage on the season isn’t terribly impressive and neither have his last couple of starts. I think he will be fine by the end of the year, though. Young goalies are kind of tough to figure out and this is only Altshuller’s second year in the OHL so we’ll have to wait until the end of the year to really gauge his performance.