Although the Kingston Frontenacs surprised most and bowed out of the first round of the OHL playoffs, most would seem to call it a day on this year’s hockey season. However, for a select couple of Fronts, they now turn their attention to the National Hockey League Entry Draft taking place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This is a monumental time in a junior, heck, every hockey player’s career. It can justify all the decisions that were made soundly or made in haste. Three players on the Frontenacs squad are looking at being taken by teams in the first round. Roland McKeown, Spencer Watson and superstar Sam Bennett who seems to be in the race to be taken first overall.
A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Bennett has been with the Frontenacs for two seasons. His resume for the past year is an impressive one. He won double gold last summer for Team Canada at both the World U18 Championship and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament over in the Czech Republic. Returning in the fall on a high for the Frontenacs, Bennett managed to put together an impressive 24 game scoring streak before a minor injury put him out of commission for a few games. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau ranked Bennett as the top North American player to be drafted in their mid-season ranking. I’m sure that rank hasn’t changed much.
Bennett managed to become almost a two point a game player. His final point total for the 2013-2014 season saw him notch 91 points in 57 games. Pretty impressive for a lad who suffered a mid season injury. He was an essential asset to Kingston as well in their limited playoff run. In 7 games against the Peterborough Petes, Bennett notched 5 goals and 4 assists.
There’s no doubt the Sam Bennett will be drafted into the National Hockey League this summer. The question now turns to what rank and to what team. He would be an essential asset to a club like the Buffalo Sabres or the already youngster filled Edmonton Oilers. We won’t find out where the teams fall for a few more weeks.
There are a few times in every team’s history where a full roster just seems to come together. Years of drafts picks and scouting seem to pay off. Coaches direct. Players gel. Goalies become brick walls.
This year could turn into just that for the Kingston Frontenacs. A historical year where everything just goes right. After going through a rebuilding year that only amassed 19 wins, the Frontenacs picked up 24 picks in 2012’s OHL draft. Those picks have become almost a full roster. A roster of players centered around a core of three; two forwards and a defenceman. 3 U18 World Champions.
Defenceman Roland McKeown was selected second overall in the 2012 OHL Priority draft. At 6’1”, he is a towering presence on the blue line; a Drew Doughty type player if you will. Collecting 29 points in 61 games, he was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team. Now entering his second year with the black and gold he will enter with a gold medal under his belt after winning with U18 Team Canada back in April of this year. International competition experience can never hurt.
Left winger Sam Bennett has an incredible eye for hockey. His hockey sense is what makes his game excel. Sharing his rookie year with McKeown, Bennett notched 40 points in 60 games leading him to be a part of the OHL Second All-Rookie Team. He not only comes into his second year with an U18 gold medal; he comes in with two. Within four months he’s been an U18 World Champion twice.
Then there’s Spencer Watson. An explosive and dynamite forward from London, Ontario. A sharp shooter with a keen eye for knowing just where to put the puck. He led the U18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in scoring for Team Canada while capturing his own gold medal.
All three players have had one year of playing time together to get used to each other on the ice and started to really gel at the end of last season. With Bennett and Watson playing on one Team Canada squad while McKeown and Bennett played on the other, there’s no reason to not expect exciting things from these three once the puck drops in September.
With Coach Todd Gill entering his third season and his second with the boys, they will already know what to expect from each other. I won’t be surprised to see a long post season run in the Limestone City. It’s time for optimism.
Get ready Ontario Hockey League. The Frontenacs are back to prominence.
Team Canada has announced who will be donning the “C” and the “A” for the U18 Ivan Hlinka tournament taking place at this very moment in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Exhibition matches are already underway with Canada playing it’s next one against the Czech Republic on Monday.
Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad will lead the team as he was chosen as Captain today. Kingston Frontenacs forward Sam Bennett and Victoria Royals defenseman Joe Hicketts will don the “A” as alternate captains. Bennett has already won gold this year back in April at the U18 Worlds in Sochi, Russia.
A native of Belle River, Ontario, Ekblad was selected first overall in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League entry draft. He is one of three players who was granted “exceptional” player status (and the first defenseman) to allow him to play in the OHL before the respected age requirement at 15. John Tavares was the first in 2005. Spending the past two years with the Barrie Colts, he has notched up 63 points in 117 games.
Sam Bennett is one part of what I like to call the “Kingston Trio” in the form of the Frontenacs young killer threesome comprising of Bennett, Roland McKeown and Spencer Watson. Bennett played in his first OHL season during 2012/13 and notched a solid 40 points in 60 games.
Joe Hicketts also played in his first Western Hockey League season last year with the Victoria Royals. He scored 24 points in 67 games and was named captain of the Team Canada Pacific U17 squad.
The 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament gets underway on Friday, August 9th after a week of exhibition. Other nations in the tournament include the United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Hockey Canada announced its final roster for the upcoming 2013 U18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament and all three Kingston Frontenacs selections have made the final roster.
This year’s tournament, also known as the U18 World Cup, will take place at the beginning of August in Breclav, Czech Republic and Pietsany, Slovakia. Team Canada has been dominant coming home with gold the past 5 years. This year’s team is ready to make it 6. They open up the tournament with their first exhibition game August 3rd against host nation Slovakia.
Roland McKeown, Sam Bennett and Spencer Watson impressed the Team Canada brass at exhibition games over the past few days. The games showcased the best the Canadian Hockey League has to offer. Watson exploded in the 3rd period with 2 goals in Saturday night’s game and added 2 assists Monday afternoon. All three showcased there tremendous skills and hockey sense to help the big red machine as they head to the Czech Republic.
Upon returning to North America, all three will suit up into the black and gold of the Kingston Frontenacs as training camp opens up on August 29th. Pumped and still in hockey mode, the three will be eager to get back on Ontario Hockey League ice. The Frontenacs will be a strong team this year and will be looking to make a long trip into the post-season.
Team Canada’s roster also includes hard shooting Aaron Ekblad from the Barrie Colts and another strong forward Jared McCann from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. 2014 will shape up to exciting draft year.