You have to give it to the London Knights. It ain't easy winning the OHL championship and the green and gold look primed for a three-peat.
They're the obvious favourite heading into the OHL season and lead the way in a team-by-team breakdown in today's paper.
Capsules contain the basics - records, team info, key players/losses and some other nuggets-o-info.
As for predictions? I'm not going to do the 1-8 in each conference, because I'm always way off. This I will say -- west's best are London, Plymouth and Guelph. I like Erie and Saginaw to improve on last year.
Kitchener will take a step back as well. How can it not? Too many vets out and too many rooks in. But I do like the direction the team is headed.
Over in the east, I have the Fronts winning the title. Maybe a bit aggressive, considering it would be quite a leap from last year's seventh place finish. Barrie and Sudbury are in the mix for the east banner as well. Niagara, Oshawa, Mississauga and Belleville should all take steps back.
Kitchener is naming its captain this afternoon. As mentioned earlier, defenceman Ben Fanelli is the favourite.
So, I got lots of feedback regarding the release of defenceman Owen Stewart.
It's a bit of a head scratcher in some respects. London was scouting the guy and were obviously interested. Surely, you'd think a strapping 6-foot-3, 200-pound lad who looked good last year and is only 18 is worth something.
Count me as surprised he didn't at least warrant a conditional pick that rises the more games he plays. As a consolation to him, he has a one in four shot of winning a Memorial Cup if he sticks with the club.
Alas, I am not a GM, nor do I pretend to be one. So I have to assume Murray Hiebert tried to get something in return and there wasn't a lot out there.
He could have kept Stewart around and tried to trade him down the road for something small, but not sure that is fair to the blueliner, who signed with Kitchener with the understanding that he'd play in the OHL.
A couple of messages came out of the move. First, parents of prospects, and the players themselves, can know that if it doesn't work out in Kitchener - and let's be honest, sometimes it doesn't - their kids will be treated with respect under Hiebert.
And two, the focus is squarely on development. Hiebert is making room for 16 and 17 year olds with an eye to the future. The back end was crowded. They still have eight defenceman they like, so they're somewhat covered should injuries arise.
But it certainly makes one feel as though vets will be moved if the Rangers fall out of contention. They sort of have to be if you're going to play the development card.
I thought Stewart looked good in the pre-season. Ty Learn too. So far, I'm 0-for-2. I will refrain from touting the next player for fear that he'll be shipped out or reassigned to the Dutchies.