There's an awful lot of positives through the (nearly) first third of the season for the Guelph Storm, but there is an issue lurking in the shadows. Namely, too much reliance on one line to provide the scoring.
"Right now it feels to me as if we're looking to one or two guys to take care of our scoring,” Burnett said following a shootout loss to the Owen Sound Attack.
The numbers back up his perception.
The Storm has scored 71 goals this season, tied for fifth most in the OHL, but Sasha Pastujov’s 18 goals are 25 per cent of that output. Throw in linemate Danny Zhilkin’s seven goals and that’s 35 per cent of the team’s offensive output.
Matt Papais has heated it up lately, with five goals in his past eight games and Braeden Bowman was scoring fairly consistently before being sidelined by an injury, but the team can’t be relying on one line or three players every night.
Pastujov should be leaving for World Juniors duty soon, creating an even greater need for some other players to step up.
The rookies, both the 16 and 17 year old ones, have had spurts and lots of potential, but that isn’t where Burnett is looking for the additional scoring.
The issue is that secondary tier of 18 year olds and 19 year olds who just haven’t been able to contribute much offensively, namely the group of Ben McFarlane, Cooper Walker, Marko Sikic and Jacob Maillet, who in a combined 72 games played this year have a total of seven goals, four of those by Sikic.
Maillet, a former second round pick, is still looking for his first goal of the season. Two of Sikic’s four goals came in the third game of the season.
That’s not to say these players haven’t been part of the team’s success. The Storm is, after all, in third place in the conference and they all see lots of ice time, with McFarlane and Walker are out there in almost every key defensive situation.
But this isn’t a deep team that can afford that luxury of older players who don’t score much.
Teams have already figured out that if you can stop the big line you have a much better chance of beating the Storm.
A Pastujov-less big line will make for an eight-to-10 game stretch without him very challenging unless some other people start stepping up to the plate on a more regular basis.