After a season that saw many of their top players get traded away, the Oshawa Generals now hold their highest overall draft pick, seventh overall, since selecting Michael Dal Colle, who was also drafted seventh overall in 2012. The OHL holds its annual draft Saturday and the Generals are looking to add a player to their roster who can help them make the transition back to their 2015 Memorial Cup season.
While the Generals thought they were a couple of seasons away from being competitive, their young prospects proved to be valuable clinching the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this past season. Although their opening round playoff series against the Frontenacs was short-lived, getting eliminated in five games, Oshawa general manager Roger Hunt says making the playoffs was a great experience for not only the team, but rookies such as Domenic Commisso, Jack Studnicka and Robbie Burt who will have bigger roles with the Generals come next season.
“A full season under their belt is invaluable, they saw with their own eyes the difference between playoff hockey and the regular season and definitely know the league going into next season,” Hunt says.
The Generals had 15 rookies on their roster at the end of this season and will add to that during the April 9th OHL draft. On the other hand, overagers such as Owen McDade, who has faced several concussions while with the Generals, and Lukas Lofquist, who will likely pursue a career overseas, will likely not return next season. That leaves Alexandre Renaud, Joe Manchurek, and goalie Jeremy Brodeur who are the only remaining players entering their last season of eligibility.
“Really we have three potential overagers in house right now, but we will see what happens over the summer and what players come available to try and make our team even better,” says Hunt.
Proving in their 2015 Memorial Cup year that a championship-calibre team relies on experience, Hunt is optimistic when saying that their leaders, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Anthony Cirelli should be back for their respective final seasons. Hunt is also optimistic in regard to his soon to be second-year group of players.
“The familiarity of being back for a second year will certainly make them more comfortable and ready for the season ahead,” he says.
While hoping that most will return, Hunt emphasized that next season will definitely focus on retooling, considering one-third of the Generals roster were part of that Memorial Cup team.
“I think with their inclusion and being here and showing these guys what it’s all about, the coaches and even management can talk about how we want to play and what we had to overcome to win that Memorial Cup,” says Hunt.
While the OHL priority draft rankings list four out of the six top picks are defencemen, Hunt provides a prototypical answer and reiterated that when the Generals are on the clock, it will come down to the best available player on the board.
“Basically what it comes down to is if the best player at number seven is a forward we’ll take him, if he’s a defenceman we’ll take him, and we will fill in other needs beyond that,” says Hunt.
“As much as it has hit me today that it’s finally all over, the realistic fact is that day one next season it all begins again, and we have to be ready like the Oshawa Generals always have been in the past,” says Hunt.
With five Memorial Cup Championships, 13 J. Ross Robertson Cup’s, awarded annually to the winner of the Ontario Hockey League championship. That includes a long list of alumni playing in the NHL, it is safe to say that the Generals will eventually reach the height that they once achieved in winning the 2015 Memorial Cup. Maybe sooner, then later.