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Mississauga Steelheads due to move on up, in theory: OHL Burning Questions

September 24, 2014

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.Day demonstrated potential more frequently in the second half of his rookie season (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

Day demonstrated potential more frequently in the second half of his rookie season (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

Starting from the top of last season’s standings, it is time for OHL Burning Questions. For your consideration, the Missisauga Steelheads.

Last season went like — Mississauga won the tortoise race for the last Eastern playoff berth by taking 12-of-16 possible points vs. Niagara and Ottawa over the final two months of the season. Their workhorse goalie helped make them a tough out in a first-round loss to Oshawa, while rushing defenceman Sean Day began to settle down down the stretch. 

2013-14, by the numbers — 24-38-1-5, .397 point pct., 163 GF/262 GA. Eighth, Eastern Conference. Lost 4-0 to Oshawa in first round.

Drafted — G Spencer Martin (Colorado Avalanche, third round).

2015 NHL Draft watch — LW Jesse Barwell made the biggest contribution of any of the Trout’s 1997-born cohort; D Sean Day is still a season away.

1. How will Sean Day fare in Year 2?

Now that he is less of  a lightning rod for the endless development debate, the defenceman with world-class wheels can simply go about seeing how he rates against the rest of the loop’s 16-year-olds. Day seemed more dialled in during the second half and began to show flashes of his considerable potential. Most of the minus-34 stat was accrued before the Jan. 10 trade deadline; Day managed to play close to even in each of the final three months. Plus/minus is hardly a contextual stat, but that was no mean feat while playing on a team that scuffled to score three goals a night.

Point being, the early start might help Day show that he’s one of the OHL’s best 1998-born players.

2. So … about the paucity of production?

Whether it’s been as the Steelheads or as the Majors, ‘Sauga has always earned the ‘hard-working team’ appellation. Coach-GM James Boyd teaches a structured system, which helps Missy hang around and make foes with more natural offence earn the two points. The name of the game, though, is scoring goals and Missy has failed to hit the 200 mark for three years running (with 198 in 2011-12 and 175 in ’12-13).

The Steelheads have had back-to-back seasons with a Top 5 draft slot (taking Day in 2013 and centre Michael McLeod this spring). It also was a seller last season, moving its two best players at the deadline. Eventually that is supposed to be bubble up to the top. Presently, the club is also counting that the Bryson CianfroneJosh BurnsideLucas Venuto trio can be a reasonably good veteran production line. Cianfrone, who had 44 points as a newcomer, might need to put up 65-75. Mississauga is also relying on 20-year-old import Sam Babinstev, who had two hat tricks in the final seven games of the season, to produce more regularly.

3. What is the likelihood they end up becoming a seller again?

Who knows, but it’s at least worth pointing out that, in 19-year-otd goalie Martin, the Steelheads have an asset several contenders would covet come December. A drafted goalie seems to be rarer in the contemporary OHL than a six-leaf clover. 

The downside of relying so much on Martin, who played an OHL-most 3,562 minutes last season, is that a heir apparent has not had a team to develop with the team. The bottom line is Mississauga will need to take a significant step in order to show that there is a case for Martin to remain home.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

Article source: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/jrhockey-buzzing-the-net/mississauga-steelheads---ohl-burning-questions-015907940.html

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