These are beleaguered times for the proud Ottawa 67’s after finishing last in the OHL last season and still struggling near the bottom of its division. The rebuild for the future is resting on their #1 draft pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection entry draft, Travis Konecny, currently leading all rookie scorers this season (45-16-35-51) by a ten point gap. He was named Rookie of the Month for January for the third time this season after scoring 15 points in 10 games (10-5-10-15). Konecny is an exciting player with the ability to pull the faithful out of their seats with an end to end rush.
He is largely doing it without any high end help on a stripped down Ottawa roster. However, he has found significant chemistry with Erik Bradford and Ryan Van Stralen, 19 and 20 years old respectively, since being united on January 9th. Bradford joined from the Barrie Colts for Joseph Blandisi, the last NHL draft pick on the Ottawa roster, along with two draft picks in a depth building trade. The trio has combined for 22 goals and 54 points in the 12 games they have been together. Konecny will be highly ranked in the 2015 draft.
Jacob Middleton was chosen 8th overall in OHL priority selection in 2012 by the Owen Sound Attack. After an injury marred season (high ankle sprain) he was traded to Ottawa as part of their rebuild. It has provided an opportunity for Middleton to play big, important minutes for the struggling squad with an injury plagued defence. Added as an injury replacement for the BMO/CHL Top Prospects game recently, he played an aggressive game, including a fight for Team Cherry, improving his 2014 Draft prospects in the process.
McKeen’s Hockey's David Burstyn provides game reports on Konecny and Middleton.
Jacob Middleton (2014), D, Ottawa 67’s
Acquired last season with Joseph Blandisi from Owen Sound in exchange for Cody Ceci and Steven Janes .. a sizeable player who applies himself but not consistently throughout the game .. lacks footwork in all directions, limited straight ahead speed, and dull edge work .. routinely beaten to the outside due to a poor ability to transfer his weight and shift laterally .. struggles to make a play under pressure as his puck skills are a work in progress .. strong down low to shelter pucks and hard to knock off stride .. needs to adopt more of a punishing style of play and drive right thru players if he cannot be effective with the puck .. has been thrust into the top defensive pairing this season and is playing in every situation which may be too much ice considering his inexperience and lack of veteran leadership on the 67’s backend to guide him.
Travis Konecny (2015), C, Ottawa 67’s
Winner of the Jack Ferguson award as he was selected 1st overall in the 2013 OHL draft .. average in size, he can create offensive chances due to his speed and creativity .. a deft stick handler who can operate in small places and make plays at varying rates of speed .. aware in the offensive zone as he is always moving his feet and reads plays well to position himself accordingly .. at times he can get ahead of himself by trying moves that worked in minor hockey only to reveal that players are quicker and smarter at the OHL level .. needs to curb some bad habits with the puck but it is encouraging that he is trying to push the envelope .. weak defensively which is a common trait of a first year player .. diligently comes back but lacks structure in his positioning .. gives the 67’s a legitimate center they can build around .. despite his size he is fiercely competitive and is producing impressive offence for a 16 year old leading all rookies in scoring (45-16-35-51) and named rookie of the month three out of four months .. averaging well over a point a game on a porous Ottawa club.
Follow McKeen’s Hockey on Twitter, @mckeenshockey