OHL Grads / U SPORT

7 OHLers to watch in U SPORTS

Every year, U SPORTS continues to prove itself as a haven for late blooming hockey players, and pro scouts are taking notice. This past season saw a number of student athletes ink AHL deals straight out of school and even an NHL entry level contract for Alberta’s Luke Philp. With the new U SPORTS hockey season right around the corner, here’s a look at seven former OHL players set to begin their varsity rookie seasons who could still attract interest from NHL teams.

Anthony Salinitri | F, Windsor Lancers

Anthony Salinitri of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo: OHL Images/Terry Wilson

Anthony Salinitri’s explosive 2018-19 campaign was well documented after a trade from Sarnia to Oshawa saw him catch fire. Salinitri went from 27 goals the year prior, to 48 in his overage season ranking him 8th in the league. Salinitri was a factor in all situations, but was a menace in particular on the penalty kill, leading the OHL with seven shorthanded markers. Salinitri’s dynamic combination of speed, explosiveness, finesse, and finishing ability made his acquisition by the Oshawa Generals look like one of the most savvy trades of the season. By the spring, Salinitri had a number of pro teams giving him a good look, but it wasn’t the first time he was in the crosshairs of NHL organizations. The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Salinitri in the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. After going unsigned, Salinitri attended Vancouver Canucks rookie camp, and was recently returned from New York Rangers camp a few weeks ago.

The next chapter of Salinitri’s career begins at the Univ. of Windsor, a school not typically known for bringing in top-tier major junior recruits. Typically the Lancers aim for Jr. A or Jr. B talent from across the country, but getting a player of Salinitri’s calibre was an opportunity too good to pass up. He’ll be the most dynamic offensive threat on a Windsor team that has been searching for goals recently. He’ll get action in all situations, and will be seeing heavy minutes. Even if the Lancers aren’t a top-end OUA team, Salinitri could be in the OUA MVP conversation if his numbers support his case. Many have wondered whether or not Salinitri’s brilliant finish in the OHL was a fluke or for real. But if he’s able to carry the momentum and production over to Windsor, it will definitively answer that question, and may bring with it newfound interest from pro organizations.

Jordan Sambrook | D, Brock Badgers

Jordan Sambrook of the Niagara IceDogs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo: OHL Images/Terry Wilson

The Brock Badgers made some major waves in the OUA recruiting landscape by landing one of the OHL’s most coveted overage defencemen in Jordan Sambrook. Brock also had London’s Kevin Hancock committed before he signed an AHL deal in Tucson, but the fact the Badgers are even in the conversation for recruiting big names like these shows how far the program has come in the last three years.

Sambrook is a well-rounded defenceman who can do everything, whether it’s making a smart play to move the puck, or boxing out tough assignments to clear rebounds. Those traits showed early as he quickly became one of Erie’s best defenceman, and his play was noticed by the Detroit Red Wings who drafted him in the 5th round of the 2016 NHL Draft. Sambrook then saw two seasons of deep playoff runs, going all the way to a Memorial Cup final with Erie in 2017, then falling just short to Hamilton in the 2018 OHL finals with Sault Ste. Marie.

Sambrook comes to Brock with a wealth of experience and a winning track record. He’s proven on both Erie and Sault Ste. Marie that he’s good enough to play important roles on stacked teams. Now he joins a Brock program that has been one of the OUA’s best defensive teams the last two years. Although the Badgers have been strong defensively under head coach Marty Williamson, they haven’t had a player with the two-way calibre of Sambrook in years. He’ll see top-line assignments in the OUA, but will also be relied on as a key part of Brock’s power play. With the track record, toolbox, and opportunity with Brock at hand, he’s not going to be falling off the radar of pro scouts anytime soon.

Kyle Maksimovich | F, UPEI Panthers

Kyle Maksimovich of the Erie Otters. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Photo: OHL Images/Aaron Bell

All of the players on this list have experienced success in the OHL to some degree. But it’s hard to argue any of them have a resume that stands toe-to-toe with that of Kyle Maksimovich. Even prior to his OHL days, Maksimovich became accustomed to success playing with the Toronto Marlboros, a minor midget program which he won a 2014 OHL Cup with. From there, he was a third round draft choice to an Erie Otters organization that was peaking at the right time. With the Otters, Maksimovich reached the western final three different times, winning an OHL title in 2017 and playing in a Memorial Cup final that same year. During that stretch, Maksimovich played on lines with the likes of Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, and Taylor Raddysh among others. After most of Erie’s top threats moved on to pro, Maksimovich stayed behind to lead the rebuild, solidifying himself as a fan favourite. His 292 games played are fourth all-time for the Otters.

After being traded at the deadline to Ottawa, Maksimovich finished his OHL career with one more deep playoff run to the OHL finals. Maksimovich played conference final hockey in four of his five OHL seasons, with all four of those teams winning 50+ games in the regular season (Credit to Aaron Cooney for that stat). Maksimovich is headed to a conference that plays just 30 regular season games, so he won’t be on a 50 win team again anytime soon. But he may well be playing for another championship.

The UPEI Panthers were thrilled to land Maksimovich in the 2019 offseason to bolster their team in a cruelly competitive AUS conference. UNB and StFX remain the favourites out of the east, but the Panthers will have a shot to win it all as hosts of the 2021 U Cup in Charlottetown. This tournament often showcases the best players U SPORTS has to offer, and as a result, NHL scouts take more notice every year. Maksimovich will have a big role right away, and assuming he stays with UPEI for at least two seasons, he’ll have a chance to shine bright for them on the national stage in 2021.

Cole Carter | F, Carleton Ravens

Cole Carter of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo: OHL Images/Terry Wilson

Despite being a mid-pack team last season, the Mississauga Steelheads were an exciting team to watch as they battled for a playoff spot in the east. Leading the way as captain was Cole Carter, who had a breakout season to finish his OHL career. A true veteran, Carter played 253 games over three different organizations, going through two different midseason trades. After tenures with both Windsor and Kitchener as a depth player, the final stop in his OHL career presented his best results. Carter’s 35 goals in his overage campaign with Mississauga was a career mark, 11 goals better than his previous. He tallied 11 power play goals, seven game-winners, and found lethal chemistry to fuel another breakout season for his linemate Alan Lyszczarczyk.

Carter’s numbers may not be out of this world, but he showed he’s got serious goal-scoring ability, and can make his linemates better on every shift. Now he’s looking to help the Carleton Ravens make a run at their second national championship appearance in consecutive years. The Ravens have a fantastic track record recently for picking up steady junior hockey players and turning them into university stars. Look at Brett Welychka, Ryan Van Stralen, and Jake Smith as examples. Having loaded up on recruits this summer from all across the country, the Ravens look primed to be contenders again. They’ll need to find more ways to score having lost Smith to pro, but Carter certainly seems to fit the bill as a goalscorer for the Ravens. Carter may not have been the junior hockey stud some of the other players on this list were, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows his game if he winds up having the best rookie season of them all.

Nicholas Mattinen | D, Ottawa Gee-Gees

Nicolas Mattinen of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Photo: OHL Images/Terry Wilson

After re-building the program from the ground up, the Ottawa Gee-Gees have managed to prove that they are legitimate contenders in a notoriously competitive OUA East conference. However, despite great regular seasons, the Gee-Gees have fallen in the second round of the playoffs each of the past two years. Looking for that elusive breakthrough, they’ve reached out to the OHL to bring in a defenceman no stranger to winning teams: Nicholas Mattinen.

It took Mattinen time to find his way into the OHL as a regular after being drafted by London in 2014. But once he did, he was a magnate for success. After winning an OHL title in 2016 with London, Mattinen repeated the feat as a Hamilton Bulldog in 2018, and went on a run to the eastern conference final with Oshawa in his overage season. In his last two OHL playoff runs, Mattinen showed his value and how much he’s developed as a player. Not only was he relied on for strong defensive play, but he became one of the OHL’s premiere offensive threats from the blueline with a cannon for a slapshot, and improved vision. The 2018-19 campaign yielded 18 goals and 61 points for Mattinen between Oshawa and Hamilton, fifth among all OHL defencemen.

Mattinen will get a chance to make at least a few more deep playoff runs on an Ottawa team that looks strong again with former major junior standouts Jacob Sweeney and Medric Mercier highlighting the blueline. Mattinen will fit in as a big minutes defender, and will be given opportunities to see his offensive game flourish like it did in the OHL. Scouts still want to see him add a physical edge to his game and improve his footwork. As he continues to develop in the OUA, it’s only a matter of time before somebody will want to give him a chance as a pro.

Joseph Raaymakers | G, StFX X-Men

Joseph Raaymakers of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images

Photo: OHL Images/Luke Durda

In a season where the OHL didn’t supply much goaltending to university teams, Joseph Raaymakers stands head and shoulders above the rest as the best OHL goalie moving to U SPORTS. But even in a strong overage goaltending class, Raaymakers would’ve been considered among the best. After three seasons in Sault Ste. Marie, Raaymakers landed in London, where he split time with Jordan Kooy, playing 93 regular season games over two seasons. Not only was Raaymakers in the top 15 for OHL save percentage in every season he played, but his 109 wins ranks third all-time among OHL goalies.

With an impressive junior career behind him, Raaymakers now has a tall task ahead; filling the shoes of Chase Marchand at StFX. The former AUS MVP has moved on to pro where he’s currently auditioning for a spot on the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL. That leaves behind Blade Mann-Dixon who enters his second year of eligibility. Top university hockey teams have been known to stack their crease with at least two major junior goaltenders, and StFX will continue with that trend. Both Raaymakers and Mann-Dixon will be given playing time, with the key starts likely to go to whoever has the hot hand. Timely goaltending is of the utmost importance in a league where playoff series are best-of-three, and the national championship is single game elimination. The league’s best goaltenders have all been renowned for performing in big games, and Raaymakers will certainly play in a few before his time at StFX expires. He’s coming off an impressive showing at main camp for the Florida Panthers who are sure to be keeping a keen eye on his progress at university.

Jeremiah Addison | F, StFX X-Men

Addison_AB41863

Photo: OHL Images/Aaron Bell

Jeremiah Addison is the third player on this list to have played in the 2017 Memorial Cup final. But he’s the only one with a Memorial Cup ring. The former captain of the Windsor Spitfires will not soon be forgotten by junior hockey fans, but you’d be forgiven for losing track of where his career has gone since. After graduating the OHL ranks, Addison was set to join the Montreal Canadiens organization, who drafted him back in 2015. But the injury bug struck, and limited Addison to just six games in the AHL with Laval in 2017-18. After having his shoulder continue to give him problems throughout the summer, the Canadiens terminated Addison’s contract in November of 2018.

Now a year and a half removed from his last meaningful hockey game, Addison is ready to make his comeback at StFX. A son of two parents who both attended the school, Addison’s relationship with the program goes all the way back to his peewee days when he travelled out east and attended summer camps with StFX hockey. Years later, he’s ready to be an X-Man for real. As per U SPORTS rules, Addison was forced to sit out all of last season to become eligible. Although the wait was long, it’s given his shoulder ample time to heal up to 100%. Now back on the ice playing preseason games, the early reports on his game are promising. It may take time to get back up to speed at a high level, but his instincts remain unchanged. Not only will Addison be relied upon for offence, but he’s anticipated to be a leader in the dressing room, just as he was with Windsor. Should Addison stay healthy and retain the same edge he’s been known to play with, it’s not difficult to imagine another NHL team circling back to give him another chance.

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