This year’s Oshawa Generals roster contains many unfamiliar names, as the team goes through a “rebuilding” phase.
That is, except for Calum Ritchie, who is high on everyone’s radar.
The 17-year-old has been ranked as a top 10 NHL prospect by every list on the internet for the June draft.
He isn’t the first General with a chance to become a superstar. Legends Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros, Marc Savard, and even the 25th and current Toronto Maple Leaf’s captain, John Tavares, are all Oshawa Generals alumni.
“We’ve had some of the best players to ever play hockey, to ever touch the ice,” says general manager Roger Hunt.
The Generals are one of 20 teams that make up the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and in the last 15 years, the league has produced about 25 per cent of all first-round selections, and seven first overall picks.
“Just over 25% of the NHL’s opening night rosters are OHL alumni. Our 20 teams account for a quarter of the entire NHL. That’s crazy,” says Kyle Pereira, director of player recruitment for the OHL.
So, what makes the OHL the number one supplier of these first-round draft picks?
“Population alone has helped with that,” says Brandon Wright, manager of social media, game day, and media relations for the Generals. “I think being in the centre of Ontario gives us an advantage. All of the best teams are based around these metropolitan centres.”
Ontario’s denser population of nearly 15 million people allows for more competitive minor hockey, which provides more feeder teams for the OHL. The Eastern Hockey League, which includes Oshawa’s minor AAA team, has 13 teams.
In 2021, Ritchie was the AAA Oakville Rangers captain and went second overall to the Oshawa Generals, marking the first time Oshawa has picked second since 2006.
In addition to the sheer number of players, the OHL offers training facilities, reimbursement for off-season expenses for skill development, access to trainers and support staff, and platforms to maintain mental health.
Each player also earns a scholarships to allow them to pursue an education for a career after their time in the league.
“The league makes it such a desirable place for these high-end players and allows them to pursue their NHL goals,” Pereira adds.
The competition in the OHL, with so many teams, also drives players and organizations.
“There is a responsibility coming to this organization, as much as it is a privilege. That responsibility is to be a playoff team,” Hunt emphasizes. “If you come here, you have to understand those are the expectations.”
As for team accomplishments, Hunt takes those seriously. He says they don’t put up every division win or banner, but rather only “the big ones”.
“Our team embraces the pressure,” he says. “Some teams don’t, and those ones never win.”