2019 Toronto Titans Early Bird: Tournament Preview

Just like that, we’re back for another exciting year in Ontario Minor Midget hockey and Prospect Pipeline’s second season.

Summer has officially come to an end with the Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament set to get underway. The annual starting line for young stars in the making in their OHL draft year, the Titans Early Bird always sets the stage for the season and offers an early look into the draft class’ top prospects.

All the top 2004-born talent from across Ontario, and some of the United States, will come together for a memorable week to kick off the 2019-20 season and the 2020 OHL Draft year.

2018 Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament Recap

Last year’s tournament, as usual, provided an excellent forecast into how the 2019 OHL Draft class would develop. The future stars showed their faces early and often, and the majority of teams which found success in the tournament would continue along to have very successful seasons.

As was expected, the Don Mills Flyers rolled their way to the tournament championship, battling to a combined 8-0-0 record. The tournament was led in scoring by the likes of Shane Wright, Danny Zhilkin, Brenden Sirizzotti, Josh Bloom, Wyatt Johnston, Liam Arnsby, and many more, while defencemen such as Brandt Clarke, Artem Guryev, and Roman Schmidt impressed from beginning to end.

All in all, the tournament proved that consistency is key, as those who started off hot and kept grinding throughout the course of the campaign went on to hear their names called very early in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Top-5 Contenders

As for the 2019 version of the Titans Early Bird, there are a few early favourites to come away as champions, and several top prospects who will undoubtedly make up the majority of the top picks at the 2020 OHL Draft.

In the 2019 OHF All-Ontario Bantam Championships, it was the host Toronto Titans who came away with the elusive title, the organization’s first ever provincial championship.

Without further ado, here are the top-5 contenders to challenge for the Titans Early Bird title, along with some of the names to watch as the tournament rolls along.

1: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Toronto Jr. Canadiens Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 28-4-1
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Lost in GTHL Finals

While the ’04 Toronto Jr. Canadiens likely won’t be able to repeat the dominance of the ’03 Don Mills Flyers, they head into the season as the unanimous favourites to take home the Titans Early Bird Tournament, and should dominate all year long.

After a special regular season, the Jr. Canadiens rolled their way to the GTHL Finals where they would meet their rival Marlboros. In somewhat of a surprising result, it was the 2nd-seeded Marlboros who took home the title, winning the final series by a score of 8-4.

However, the Jr. Canadiens reloaded in a big way over the offseason. With the additions of projected 1st overall pick, Adam Fantilli, and likely 1st round pick, D Ty Nelson, the Jr. Canadiens will be bigger, stronger, and more talented at both ends of the ice. Fantilli was a leader for the Toronto Red Wings ’03 team last year, driving them all the way to the OHL Cup Final. Meanwhile, Nelson remained loyal throughout a long season with JRC minor midget squad.

Fantilli, Adam of the Toronto Red Wings. Photo by Dan Hickling OHL Images

Adam Fantilli joins the Toronto Jr. Canadiens after a noteworthy year with the Toronto Red Wings in 2018-19. He is the projected 1st overall pick for the 2020 OHL Draft. (Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

Beyond those, JRC also added offensive defenceman, Thomas Sirman, who had a very impressive season with the York Simcoe Express ’03 team in 2018-19. Further, defensive stalwart, Noah Van Vliet, comes over after a memorable run with Fantilli and the Toronto Red Wings ’03’s. Last but not least, Lleyton McLean joins the team fresh off of a GTHL Championship with the rival Toronto Marlboros ’04’s.

Combined with a deep returning forward corps, featuing the likes of Aidan Puley, Kyan Haldenby, and Brice Cooke, this will be a tough team to match up against. Along the back end, Michael Buchinger and Ethan Best will return to form an admirable and offensive-minded blueline.

2: Toronto Marlboros

Toronto Marlboros Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 25-4-4
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Won GTHL Championship

The team that took down the powerhouse Jr. Canadiens, the Toronto Marlboros will have a tougher time doing so in 2019-20 after their rival’s roster additions. But, they will likely be their biggest challenger.

The Marlboros are equally deep up front, but it’s the team’s two-way play and attention to detail in their own zone that makes them so difficult to play against. That was an integral part of their run to the GTHL Championship last season, allowing just eight goals against in six games in the GTHL Finals against the powerful Jr. Canadiens.

The Marlies had their own significant additions over the offseason. Two-way defender, Lane Hinkley, joins the team after playing up a year with the Vaughan Kings last season. As well, flashy and dynamic forward, Luke Devlin, comes over from the rival Toronto Titans. Both will be huge contributors to the team’s success this year.

Upfront, the Marlies are led by the quick and skilled returnee Paul Ludwinski, along with Lorenzo Bonaiuto, Vincenzo Baiocchi, and Eli Sebastian. Unfortunately, the loss of Lleyton McLean to JRC will certainly sting. On the back end, Isiah George and Matthew Jovanovic will lead the charge with their ability to make effective break out passes or to skate the puck through the neutral zone.

3: Quinte Red Devils

Quinte Red Devils Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 29-2-5
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Gold Medal at OMHA Championships

The reigning OMHA Champions, the Quinte Red Devils are incredibly strong at every position, as indicated by their +128 goal differential over their 36 ETA games last season. They had a relatively easy run, capturing a gold medal at the OMHA Championships and eventually reaching the OHF All-Ontario Semi-Finals.

Quinte is led on offence by the dynamic duo of Dalyn Wakely and Owen Beck, two highly-skilled and intelligent goal-scorers. The surrounding cast is just as dangerous, including Cooper Matthews and Corbin Roach, the Red Devils have some extraordinary depth.

On defence, Quinte boasts a variety of defenders who can be relied upon to take care of any given situation. Donovan McCoy and Aaron Brown are two blue liners who will catch your eye on any given night with their ability to transition the play up ice and produce offence from the point.

4: Toronto Titans

Toronto Titans Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 20-7-6
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Lost in GTHL Semi-Finals

Despite bowing out to the Marlboros in the GTHL Semi-Finals in six games, the Toronto Titans would go on to capture the OHF All-Ontario Bantam Championships; an enviable runner-up prize.

The Titans boast an offensively gifted lineup through and through. Led by the duo of Kocha Delic and Nicholas Moldenhauer, this is a team that isn’t afraid to run up the score, showcased by their 4.09 goals per game in the GTHL last season. They also added Jonathan Melee, a center who had a huge year with the Eastern Ontario Wild last year. It should be noted that Melee is QMJHL Draft eligible. Meanwhile, the loss of Luke Devlin to the Marlboros will leave a clear hole in the lineup.

With that said, don’t expect the Titans to shy away from their defensive responsibilities. With several defencemen capable of playing a shutdown role, the Titans will lean heavily on Mason Chen and Patrick Wrzesinski. Further, goaltenders Rowan Kimens and Liam Sztuska have each shown flashes of possibly becoming top goaltending prospects for the 2020 OHL Draft.

5: Southern Tier Admirals

Southern Tier Admirals Logo

  • 2018-19 Regular Season Record: 28-1-3
  • 2019 League Playoff Result: Silver Medal at OMHA Championships

Sporting an incredible regular season record in the SCTA, the Southern Tier Admirals plowed their way to the OMHA Championship game, coming up just short against the aforementioned Red Devils. Similarly, the Admirals sported a +110 goal differential in 32 SCTA contests.

Unfortunately for Southern Tier, they will be in tough to replicate their success from the 2018-19 campaign as a result of losing one of their top forwards, Owen Mehlenbacher, to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. In the meantime, Sam Alfano will take the reins; a skilled goal-scorer with size and strength to score some highlight reel goals.

Meanwhile, Andrew LeBlanc and Matthew Donnison are two defenders who can turn heads with their ability to shut down momentum in the defensive zone, and then quickly move the puck up ice with the strong skating skills.

 

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