By: Steve Irving
Photo: Aaron Bell – OHL Images
After a two-season road trip to Kanata for home games, the 67’s return to Lansdowne to open the new TD Place arena against the Niagara Ice Dogs. Coincidently, that’s the same franchise they faced off against in 2012 OHL Eastern Conference final, which was the last game to be played in the arena before construction crews took over.
Over half that 2012 Ottawa roster has since gone on to play pro hockey. Petr Mrazek, Shane Prince, Cody Ceci, Sean Monahan and Tyler Toffoli have all seen time in the NHL. Toffoli even assisted on the Stanley Cup winning goal this past June. The only remaining player from that 2012 67’s team is Mike Vlajkov who missed most of last year with an injury.
The 67’s will have a new look team and coaching staff at TD Place. On ice, the 67’s will be lead by last year’s CHL Rookie of the Year Travis Konecny. Konecny is forecast by many to be a top pick next June in the 2015 NHL entry draft. A few other 67’s that could hear their name called in the draft are Dante Salituro, Troy Henley and newcomers Leo Lazarev and Artur Tyanulin. Lazerav and Tyanulin are both Ottawa draft picks from last spring while Henley and Salituro both played for the 67’s last season.
The 67’s expect to have a blue line bolstered by the return of LA Kings 2014 draft picks Alex Lintuniemi and Jacob Middleton. Local boy Nathan Todd, who had a breakout Junior A season last year, and Travis Barron, the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 OHL Draft, are also expected to contribute after having strong pre-seasons for Ottawa. Overagers Brendan Bell and Erik Bradford are expected to have a big role in pushing for the 67’s return to the post-season. Brandford will be particularly inspired as he attempts to prove to NHL scouts he’s completely over a serious leg injury suffered last spring.
Not only has the player roster changed substantially but the coaching staff is brand new as well. Chris Byrne (LA Kings), Misha Donskov (Hockey Canada), Travis Crickard (Kelowna Rockets) and Shean Donovan (Ottawa Senators) have all moved-on to different organizations.
The 67’s brought in some new blood and moved some parts around to create a new look front office. It started at the top with Pat Higgins taking over as GM after serving as Assistant GM and before that Head Scout. The 67’s then welcomed former NHL’er Jeff Brown as head coach. Brown has a strong coaching pedigree at the junior level after leading Indiana to the USHL championship last season. Mike Eastwood, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons, will serve as Assistant Coach. The only person who was on the bench the last time the 67’s played at Lansdowne is former Equipment Manager Chris Hamilton, who now serves as Director of Hockey Operations.
TD Place has already hosted sold-out REDBLACKS games, an NASL record crowd for the Fury FC home opener and it’s received rave reviews as a world class venue. The arena renovations include a massive new HD video screen, modern concessions for food and beverage service and a new menu from Levy Restaurants. There’s also a new premium seating area with food and non-alcoholic beverages included in the ticket price.
Fans can purchase tickets and onsite parking by linking from Ottawa67s.com or calling 613-599-FANS (3267)