Five Thoughts: OHL Opening Week in the Books

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Michael DiPietro
LONDON, ON - MARCH 26: Michael DiPietro #64 of the Windsor Spitfires keeps an eye on a very high deflection during play against the London Knights in Game Two of the OHL Western Conference Quarter Finals at Budweiser Gardens on March 26, 2017 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Spitfires 5-2 to even the series 1-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Full discretion: It’s impossible to get a proper read on a team during OHL Opening Week.

While some teams are at full strength, others aren’t even close. Some have injured players who missed an entire off-season of training and are just getting their legs under them. Some have stars who got nicked up in camp and need to be managed with the long-term picture in mind.

Then there are the teams that can’t blame injuries. After all, the only reason why Victor Mete is still with the Montreal Canadiens is because he’s that good. The same can be said for a number of guys, including Mississauga’s Owen Tippett and Michael McLeod.

With that in mind, it doesn’t mean that the results from OHL Opening Week can just be dismissed. This is the regular season, and games count. While there’s seven teams still searching for a regulation loss, there are seven still looking for that first win.

Five thoughts on OHL Opening Week

Burghardt’s Booming

It was a relatively quiet deal at the end of June that sent Luke Burghardt to the North Bay Battalion. Through two games, the former Storm has been anything but on the ice. North Bay won their first two games of 2017/18 during OHL Opening Week, and Burghardt was a huge part of that. He scored two goals in the season opener and added his first OHL hat-trick two days later in a big comeback win. The veteran of 171 games is coming off a down year where he scored just nine goals. He’s now four away from equaling that mark, and should be a safe bet to eclipse his previous career-high of 17.

No doubt about DiPietro

The title of ‘Best Goalie in the OHL’ is Michael DiPietro’s until further notice. The Vancouver Canucks prospect proved as much with his performance during OHL Opening Week. DiPietro has Windsor out to a 3-0 record, while posting back-to-back 30 save efforts and already notching his first shutout of the year. The third-year goalie was also named Player of the Week thanks to his wins against Saginaw, London and Guelph. He even appeared in the Saves of the Week for good measure. DiPietro is the Spits’ most important player, and until Gabe Vilardi is back and healthy (back strain), it isn’t even close.

No shortage of tricks for the Generals

Allan McShane has yet to score a goal but leads the Generals in points with seven. He’s also not the story here. In the Generals’ first game of the season, Nick Wong exploded for Oshawa, as the rookie opened his OHL career with a hat-trick. Not bad. The next night against the Greyhounds, the Gens’ offence clicked for seven more…and a hat-trick from Serron Noel. The East Division could be very interesting this season, and one of the reasons for that are the Generals. The fact their offence came out firing on the first weekend puts the rest of the East on notice during OHL Opening Week.

Leo’s revenge, but a letdown later

In Barrie, there were two OHL Opening Week results as different as you could expect. In their first game, the Colts romped. Handing Leo Lazarev a nine goal cushion, the overage goaltender cruised to victory in his first game against his former team. Andrei Svechnikov had two goals in his OHL debut and nine Colts in total had multi-point efforts. Fast forward to game two, and the result was drastically different. Barrie fell victim to the Burghardt-show, and Svechnikov finished minus-three. The Colts are a growing team and the results will vary all year, but fans got a look at the good and bad in the opening weekend.

Swimming upstream

Slow starts seem to be the norm in Mississauga. After last year’s monumental surge over the last two thirds of the season, the Steelheads started slow again on OHL Opening Weekend. It’s very early…..VERY early…but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially without Michael McLeod and Owen Tippett. The offence will be there, and they did have a 2-0 lead against the 67’s, but the Trout are hoping this start lasts no more than their first two games. If the slump goes as long as it did last year and McLeod and Tippett aren’t healthy or there to right the ship, the recovery will be that much harder.

 

Main Photo: LONDON, ON – MARCH 26: Michael DiPietro #64 of the Windsor Spitfires keeps an eye on a very high deflection during play against the London Knights in Game Two of the OHL Western Conference Quarter Finals at Budweiser Gardens on March 26, 2017 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Spitfires 5-2 to even the series 1-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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