While the current season of Minor Midget hockey continues to roll on with games getting more intense, it’s always interesting to take a look back at some of the players who were playing in the same rinks one year ago and where they are now.
When it comes to the 2000 born players from the Alliance, there are a good crop of players who are succeeding in their next level of hockey. Some are making an impact at the Jr. B and Jr. C level while others are continuing to play minor hockey at the Major Midget level.
For a select few players though, they were able to jump directly from Minor Midget into the lineups of some OHL clubs. Some have thrived while others are taking their time to adjust to a faster paced game. The players who have made that jump are now one step closer to achieving their dream.
So let’s take a look at some of the former Alliance standouts who now showcase their talents in the OHL.
Brady Hinz – Sarnia Sting
Hinz has been the most impressive rookie to come out of the Alliance in the first month of the OHL season. The Huron-Perth forward was drafted in the 3rd round of the OHL Draft and has had sustained success since the season began. Hinz got his first OHL goal out of the way early in the season and would go on to add another goal and seven assists to give him nine points in his first month with the Sting.
Surrounded by loads of talent in Sarnia, Hinz will be learning from some exceptional players and will use that experience to hopefully take his game to the next level.
Owen Lalonde – Sudbury Wolves
Lalonde, the #2 overall pick in last year’s draft, is helping a rejuvenated Sudbury team return to competitive hockey, somehwere they haven’t been in quite some time. A tight defensive player with a knack for always making the smart play, Lalonde is still adapting to a quicker style of play. Lalonde will be returning to the Sudbury lineup shortly after attending the U17 tournament as a member of Team Canada Black, taking home a silver medal.
Eric Guest – Kitchener Rangers
At one point ranked in the top ten of some people’s mock drafts last season, former London Jr. Knight Guest was considered by many to be a steal for Kitchener in the 3rd round. Guest made the team out of training camp and was put on what Ranger coaches called “the fastest line in junior” alongside rookie Greg Meireles and Nick McHugh.
Guest’s first month had positives and negatives. Guest picked up his first career OHL goal but also was slapped with a five game suspension for comments made on the ice. The Rangers will be happy to have Guest back in the lineup soon as he returns from The Soo as a member of Team Red in the U17 tournament.
Alex Gritz – Soo Greyhounds
A personal favourite of mine from the 2000 born class, American Alex Gritz came to the Waterloo Wolves and was a key piece to their Alliance championship team, scoring the game winner in the clinching game. Now breaking camp with the Greyhounds, Gritz is utilizing his minutes well. Gritz also got his first career OHL goal out of the way early and is now working on his game for when a bigger role emerges on the Greyhounds front line.
Owen Gilhula – Sudbury Wolves
Another Alliance alumni skating with the Wolves this season is former Laker Owen Gilhula. Gilhula battled a lot of injuries during his Minor Midget season, but that didn’t stop Sudbury from selecting him in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. So far this season, it has been a struggle for Gilhula. He has registered just one point and has collected a -7 rating through October, but that is part of the learning curve for a young OHL forward. The Wolves appear committed to have Gilhula in the lineup at this moment, which means he will get plenty of experience to grow his game from.
Chris Playfair – Windsor Spitfires
The captain of the Alliance champions last season, Playfair was able to make the team after a strong showing at the Spitfires training camp. Playing in small doses, Playfair made it into seven games with the Spitfires before he was sent to the LaSalle Vipers. While disappointing to no longer be with the big club, having gotten his first taste of OHL action will be big going forward for Playfair, especially with a Windsor team that will be losing many players to NHL or AHL clubs next season.
Holden Wale – Soo Greyhounds
Last but not least is standout 99er Holden Wale. Wale hasn’t gotten the opportunity the previous players have as Wale has only suited up with the Greyhounds for one game. A cup of coffee have you for the slick offensive defenseman. With his OHL future bright, Wale is now playing an important role with the Jr. B Winterhawks in Cambridge having secured eight points in 18 games.
The 2000 born players are beginning to make their mark on the OHL scene. But before we saw any 21st century players on OHL draft boards, it was the 1999 stars who showcased their talents at your local rinks.
So in case you forgot, here are some more Alliance alumni whose names you will be hearing plenty of in the near future.
Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires
The former Sun County Panther netminder is arguably the top goaltender heading into the 2017 NHL Draft and is considered by some to be one of the best young goalies in the Canadian system right now. DiPietro led Windsor into the OHL playoffs as a rookie last year and will be leaned upon for a deeper run this year with Windsor hosting the Memorial Cup.
Isaac Ratcliffe – Guelph Storm
A big power forward who spent his minor hockey days with the London Jr. Knights, Ratcliffe had a tough rookie year after being a first round pick of the Storm. At over 6’5″ and nearly 200 pounds, the power forward put up 13 points in 16 games this October and has now begun showing up on some mock drafts in the 1st round for the 2017 NHL Draft.
Nick Suzuki – Owen Sound Attack
Jr. Knight teammate with Ratcliffe and brother of current Jr. Knight Ryan Suzuki, Nick was an impressive offensive force with the Attack in his rookie year, notching 20 goals and 38 points. Through his first month of his sophomore season, Suzuki had 14 points in 15 games but more importantly, was a +9 in that span as well. A strong season could see Suzuki sneak his way into the 1st round of the upcoming draft.
Nate Schnarr – Guelph Storm
Former Waterloo Wolves standout Nate Schnarr has started his first full season with the Storm on a tear, picking up 12 points in 16 games. Schnarr, who had a great season with the Siskins last year, isn’t on the radar as a high NHL Draft pick…yet. If he can continue on with this pace, you will start seeing the Schnarr name more frequently.