As it has for a couple of years, a number one centre remains at the top of the Guelph Storm’s Christmas wish list.
Of course it’s not the only thing.
Better team discipline would be nice. Having the second most penalty minutes in the Ontario Hockey League and the third worst penalty killing percentage is a terrible combination.
More consistent goaltending would be a wonderful thing to unwrap. Liam Herbst has been one of the three stars of the game eight times thus far, yet still ranks 23rd in goals-against average and 21st in save percentage amongst goaltenders who have played at least five games.
But topping the list should be a top-line centre.
There hasn’t been a true top-line centre on the Storm since Jason Dickinson, and that is by no means to be disrespectful towards James McEwan. It’s just that McEwan has always seemed more suited to wing than centre in my books. His shot and speed are his greatest assets, which in my eyes suits him on the side and not the middle.
The team’s other top three centres are either inexperienced, inconsistent or both.
Luke Burghardt and Albert Michnac have shown flashes of top-line skill, but have lacked the consistency, at both ends of the ice, that the role demands.
Burghardt has two goals in his past 24 games. Michnac is scoreless in his past 10 games.
Nate Schnarr has the potential to be The Man In The Middle, but it’s still too early in his development to call him a number one.
Former first rounder Matt Hotchkiss is scoreless in eight games and has two goals in his 17 games.
Guelph has tried and the void down the middle has at times be the victim of circumstance. Tyler Boston might have been that veteran presence down the middle this season if things had worked out differently. The team had Cam Hillis pegged as number one playmaking centre at some point. But things didn’t go quite as planned three either.
This year’s first rounder might have been a centre had Guelph not picked first overall and gotten the opportunity at Ryan Merkley. At least that worked out just fine.
The top centre drafted two years ago was Nick Deakin-Poot in the third round.
Problem is, there’s no quick fix. A first line centre is either someone you develop or someone you rent for half a season when you are going for it.
They will continue to develop Schnarr. They will hope the others get better. They will perhaps deal for a young centre at the deadline.
But I would think that almost certainly their top pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection will be a centre.