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Kia CHL Top-10 Spotlight: Championship aspirations remain for revamped 67’s

CHL

The Ottawa 67’s will have a refreshed look when the new season begins.

Following a dominant year in which the club stood atop the OHL for a second-straight season and appeared poised to challenge for a Memorial Cup championship, the 67’s will return with a revamped roster after key graduations including veteran forwards Joseph Garreffa and Austen Keating plus longtime blue-liner Noel Hoefenmayer.

Also among the departed from the offensive powerhouse includes scoring centre Marco Rossi, the 2020 CHL Top Scorer who led the circuit with 120 points counting 39 goals and 81 assists through 56 appearances. A 2020 first-round selection of the Minnesota Wild, Rossi is set to join the pro ranks, though an upper-body injury at NHL training camp has delayed whether he will do so with the Wild or at home in his native Austria.

Meanwhile, still to be determined is the status of fellow first rounder and breakout star Jack Quinn. One of only two players across the circuit to crack the 50-goal plateau last season, the 19-year-old left-wing is currently part of the extended roster taxi squad with the Buffalo Sabres following an impressive training camp performance. Hearing his name called eighth overall this summer – one slot ahead of Rossi – Quinn already owns a pro-level shot and a keen ability to light the lamp with regularity, though he appears primed to eventually return to the 67’s for further seasoning once the OHL returns to play.

“Right now, the full focus is on the roster for tomorrow and trying to figure out the health situation around players, but we are keeping everybody fit in and around different ways, so (there are) lots of options,” Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger told Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News. “We haven’t made a final decision yet on Jack. He did skate with the taxi squad, where we will have him positioned eventually.”

Added Quinn, per Bill Hoppe of Buffalo Hockey Beat, “No one knows what is going to happen, including me. I think just for myself, I am not looking too far ahead. I am just trying to be in the present. I am in Buffalo now, so I am just trying to make the most of it every day.”

With the 67’s, Quinn will be tasked with leading the club offensively, a more daunting assignment following the departures of Rossi, Garreffa, and Keating, but he won’t be without support as also returning is fourth-year right-wing Graeme Clarke, a 2019 third-round selection of the New Jersey Devils who despite an injury-shortened 16-game season in 2019-20 still produced above a point-per-game pace in recording nine goals plus eight assists. There is also returning veteran centre Mitchell Hoelscher, who finished sixth in team scoring last season with a career-high 76 points coming in just 62 games.

Readying for the next wave, the 67’s also have high hopes for 17-year-old left-wing Jack Beck, who learned invaluable experience last season as part of a modest rookie campaign that saw him register 19 points through 56 games. Beck is expected to take on an elevated offensive role in the coming season.

The 31st overall pick from the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, Beck is also among a CHL-leading five skaters from the 67’s earmarked by Central Scouting as Players to Watch ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft, a list which also includes Russian centre Vsevolod Gaidamak, the club’s top pick from the 2020 CHL Import Draft, as well as soon-to-be sophomore right-wing Brenden Sirizzotti, who was chosen one pick after Beck on OHL draft day. Rounding out the list of top draft eligibles in Ottawa includes blue-liners Ranvir Gill-Shane and Jack Matier.

In Ottawa, the change then continues on the back end beginning with the departure of Hoefenmayer, the 2019-20 CHL Defenceman of the Year who wrapped up his junior days with 222 points counting 65 goals and 157 assists coming in 298 career contests. The North York, Ont., native has returned home and is set to continue his playing career with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Meanwhile, also expected to move on from the 67’s are fellow rearguards Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotyuk, both of whom are a part of the Devils’ organization alongside Clarke.

But with absence comes opportunity, beginning with 18-year-old rearguard Alec Belanger who had an impressive first full season with the club in which he notched 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points to finish second in scoring from the back end behind only Hoefenmayer, and showing his offensive potential to anchor the back end as he continues along his career path.

However, it is not a total makeover in the Canadian capital as the 67’s bring stability between the pipes, returning one of the top netminders league-wide in 20-year-old Cedrick Andree. A top performer over part of three seasons in Ottawa, Andree owns a remarkable 67-21-4-4 career showing highlighted by a dominant 2019-20 campaign in which he finished in the top-four in all major goaltending categories among his OHL brethren with 32 wins, a 2.42 goals-against average, .916 save percentage, and four shutouts.

Much like his Ottawa teammates and fans across the Ottawa Region, Andree is eager to get back on the ice when the OHL returns to play as the 67’s aim to raise CHL supremacy for the first time since 1999.

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