As the 2013-14 OHL regular season apporaches, it means that new faces will enter the picture. Last year, OHL rookies like Connor McDavid, Josh Ho-Sang, Blake Clarke, Michael Dal Colle and Nikolay Goldobin injected new blood into the league and they look to continue to raise their game in the new season.
As the players mentioned aren't rookies anymore, the cycles always turns as this year's rookie class look to get their feet (or skates) wet by taking their game to the next level. Here's a list of 10 OHL rookies to watch in 2013-14.
1. Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa 67's-The second cousin of fellow former Elgin-Middlesex Chief Bo Horvat, Konecny has the skill set that teams and scouts drool over. Konecny scored 84 goals and assisted on 96 others for 180 points in 81 games with the Chiefs program this past season. Konecky's physical play is on the underrated side. The new face of the 67's franchise will bring fans to the edge of their seats for the next couple of years in Ottawa.
2. Dylan Strome, Center, Erie Otters-As older brother Ryan leaves the OHL for the New York Islanders' organization, Ryan enters the 'O' as the defending GTHL Player of the Year after racking up 65 goals and 78 assists in 60 games for the Toronto Marlboros. The younger Strome is an offensive dynamo and is good in all three zones. Strome and Connor McDavid provides a nice one-two punch up the middle.
3. Sean Day, Defense, Mississauga Steelheads-The first player with 'exceptional' player status not to go first overall in the OHL Draft, Day was picked by the Steelheads with the fourth pick. The 15-year old blueliner played for the Detroit-based Compuware program this past season where he posted 35 points and a +47 in 63 games. He could be one of the best skaters in the league after opening night.
4. Andre Burakovsky, Left Wing, Erie Otters-"Will he" or "Won't he" was the question after Burakovsky was taken fifth overall by the Otters in July's CHL Import Draft. Otters'GM Sherry Bassin breathed a huge sigh of relief when Burakovsky recently inked an entry-level contract with the Washington Capitals, who took him 23rd overall in June's NHL Draft. He'll be an crucial part of the Otters' playoff push in 2013-14. The duo of Burakovsky and McDavid will give the opposition nightmares.
5. Matt Spencer, Defense, Peterborough Petes-The first defenseman (third overall) taken in April's OHL Draft, Spencer is a highly-skilled two-way puck moving defenseman in the Slater Koekkoek mold. He captained the Oakville Rangers to the OHL Cup this past spring. Spencer must prove to the Petes' organization that he was worthy of being selected ahead of Sean Day.
6. Mitchell Stephens, Center, Saginaw Spirit-Another product of the Toronto Marlboros' hockey program, Stephens entered the OHL Draft as one of the best skaters and the Spirit were happy that they took the Peterborough native with the eighth overall pick. He could be a top-six forward by season's end. His outstanding play in this past spring's development camp is a sign of things to come in Saginaw
7. Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Kingston Frontenacs-Crouse must be grinning from ear-to-ear, because he'll be playing alongside Spencer Watson, Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown. Crouse has a nice set of mitts for a player his size (6'2", 185 lbs) and is also a strong skater. He was a teammate of Travis Konecny in Elgin-Middlesex when he scored 22 goals and 28 assists with 71 penalty minutes in 27 games. Crouse like to pattern his game after James Neal.
8. Brett McKenzie, Center, North Bay Battalion-Hockey is back in North Bay, but like McKenzie, his new teammates are in a new city, who will treat the players like rock stars. McKenzie was the third of three Oakville Ranger players taken as he was selected 10th overall after picking up 102 in 63 games. When he has the puck, the Oakville native is very tough to contain. His play has drawn comparisons to Brett Ritchie.
9. Nikita Yazkov, Right Wing, Windsor Spitfires-Despite getting drafted by the KHL's Metallburg Novokuznetsk, Yazkov will further hone his craft in Windsor, who took him 18th overall in July's CHL Import Draft. The 6'0", 188 lb. forward, who has been described as a high-end skilled forward, helped Russia at this past winter's World Under-17 Tournament in Drummondville with six points in six games. Yazkov could be this year's Nikolay Goldobin.
10. Mitch Marner, Center, London Knights-No matter where the Knights pick, they always seem to strike gold. Another case in point, Marner, who turned down a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan, signed on with the Knights after an 86-point season with the Don Mills Flyers. Marner will be a top-nine forward to start the season, but could be a top-flight forward by the time his junior career is over.
Honorable Mentions: Nikita Korostelev, RW, Sarnia Sting; Ryan Moore, C, Windsor Spitfires; Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa Generals; Kyle Capobianco, D, Sudbury Wolves; Matthew Kreis, C, Barrie Colts