I smell something cooking in Stormland.
Like all good dishes, it takes a while to prepare, but eventually it should be something very satisfying.
As most fans understand, junior hockey is by and large a cyclical process based on a team peaking at a certain point in time. From an on-ice perspective a team should be either contending or building toward being a contender.
Everything else is spinning your wheels.
I think it’s fair to say that the Guelph Storm are in the midst of a pretty good rebuild.
They are competitive and fun to watch this season, but aren’t yet quite old and seasoned enough to be considered a true contender.
That should, in theory, change starting next year when this squad should be a contender in the Western Conference. Likely, given the age make-up of the roster, for two seasons.
A focus on drafting skilled forwards two seasons ago, being lucky in getting the third overall pick – and arguably the best defenceman in the draft – this year, more good fortune with the arrival of Sasha Pastujov and what appears to be the emergence of some solid home-grown goaltending all bode well for the future.
While acquiring pieces in trades is usually part of the contending process, the base of any contender is the draft. More specifically, I would say you need two solid drafts in a row.
The building block for the 2014 Memorial Cup ‘shouldawons’ was the 2010 and 2011 OHL Priority Selection drafts.
The 2010 draft netted them Matt Finn, Scott Kosmachuk, Brock McGinn, Zach Leslie and Justin Auger. The following year it was Jason Dickinson, Ben Harpur, Tyler Bertuzzi, Chad Bauman and Hunter Garlent (later dealt for key pieces).
While it is too soon to predict that this year’s team, and the most recent two drafts, will come close to that group’s level, it certainly has the look and feel of that group.
Four from 2021 draft (Cam Allen, Charlie Paquette, Chase Coughlan, Jakob McCrae) and the team’s first five picks from the 2020 draft (Matt Poitras, Michael Buchinger, Jake Karabela, Ryan McGuire and Jacob Oster) are on this year’s team. One or two more from those drafts may eventually join them, as was the case in 2014.
If you can take that kind of base, watch the majority of it develop into solid OHLers, find or develop solid imports, keep the right overagers then finally add important and key finishing touches via trades, you will contend.
No guarantees, but that appears to be exactly where this team is heading.