2019 Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic: Tournament Preview

The Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic is one of the most significant events on the annual Minor Midget hockey schedule, as it affords more than 50 teams and their players with an excellent opportunity to showcase their respective talents ahead of the OHL Priority Selection in April. In 2019 the situation will be no different, as there are a handful of deadly teams as well as elite-level prospects eager to leave a lasting impression in the eyes of scouts and fans alike.

And, if the 2019 Whitby Silver Stick Tournament can serve as any precursor, don’t be surprised if the 2019 Toronto Marlboros Classic is dominated by clubs from the United States. As we witnessed at the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, teams who hail from south of the border are increasingly competent and skilled, and boast the ability to compete with and dismantle the very best which Ontario has to offer at the Minor Midget level. Further, owing to the absence of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in this tournament, American-based teams will face one less significant hurdle in the path of their championship ambitions.

However, with this being said, there are a plethora of Ontario-based teams who have the talent and drive necessary to cast aside their American counterparts and piece together a championship run. Of note are the host Toronto Marlboros, the Toronto Nationals, the London Jr. Knights, the Southern Tier Admirals, and the high-powered Quinte Red Devils — five teams whose play has been remarkably consistent and devastating thus far this season.

With this being said, let’s take a closer look at each Division set to compete in this year’s Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic.

Divison 1:

  • Cambridge Hawks
  • Clarington Toros
  • Detroit HoneyBaked
  • Niagara North Stars
  • Vaughan Kings

Despite the balance present within this division, it would be shocking to see any team other than Detroit Honeybaked emerge as the top club in this group. After claiming the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament with relative ease, HoneyBaked stands as a legitimate powerhouse and one who should challenge for the Holiday Classic championship. Yet, with this being said, don’t count out the Niagara North Starts or Vaughan Kings, as both teams as rather deep and boast the potential to surprise their opponents on a nightly basis.

Division 2:

  • Buffalo Regals
  • Detroit Little Caesars
  • Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs
  • Oshawa Minor Generals
  • Toronto Nationals

Although there is no clear cut favourite present within this division, expect the Toronto Nationals and Detroit Little Caesars to do the most significant damage within the tournament. Both the Nationals and Little Caesars feature a great deal of team depth as well as highly skilled forwards who can shift the direction of any given game over the course of a single shift. If you have the opportunity, be sure to focus on Zak Lavoie of the Nationals — he is one of the most natural goal scorers eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft.

Division 3:

  • Ajax Pickering Raiders
  • Detroit Belle Tire
  • Thunder Bay Kings
  • Toronto Marlboros
  • Windsor Jr. Spitfires

In what is yet another well-balanced division, expect the host Toronto Marlboros to emerge as the team to beat within the round-robin portion of the event. With solid goaltending, capable defending, and an arsenal of talented forwards, the Marlboros are an incredibly deep team who put forth a solid effort each and every time they take to the ice. Outside of the Marlboros, the Ajax Pickering Raiders and Detroit Belle Tire will certainly present a challenge, as both teams are deceivingly talented.

Division 4:

  • Burlington Eagles
  • Kingston Jr. Gaels
  • Kitchener Jr. Rangers
  • Oakland Jr. Grizzlies

The Oakland Jr. Grizzlies stand as the unquestionable favourite within their division, as the champions of the Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournament should have little issue dominating their competition en route to the elimination round. Leading the way for the Jr. Grizzlies will surely be Rutger McGroarty — one of the best 2004-born players in the world who is an exceptional two-way talent. Alongside the skillful play of defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz, expect the Jr. Grizzlies to stand as yet another remarkably skilled skilled and dangerous American team.

Division 5:

  • Barrie Jr. Colts
  • North York Rangers
  • Oakville Rangers
  • Waterloo Wolves

If there was a division within this tournament with no clear cut favourite to advance, it would be division five. Incredibly balanced, any of the Barrie Jr. Colts, North York Rangers, Oakville Rangers or Waterloo Wolves could emerge from this division owing to their strong play to begin the tournament. Of these four clubs however, it is Oakville and Waterloo who hold a slight edge — both teams feature strong offences and stand in positions of prominence within their respective leagues.

Division 6:

  • Cleveland Barons
  • London Jr. Knights
  • Markham Waxers
  • Southern Tier Admirals
  • Toronto Red Wings

Division six is yet another grouping which features a remarkable amount of balance, as no one team stands significantly above the rest. However, if one was to pick a favourite to move on, it would certainly be one of the London Jr. Knights or Southern Tier Admirals — both clubs are solid from the net out and have played well in tournaments of late. In fact, while the Admirals knocked off the Chicago Mission during the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, the Jr. Knights pushed their way into the quarter-finals.

Division 7:

  • Markham Majors
  • South Kent Select Academy
  • Sun County Panthers
  • Whitby Wildcats

While the Whitby Wildcats may appear to be the favourite to move on in Division 7, doing so will not be an easy task. In order to stand as the top seed, the Wildcats will need to overcome both the Markham Majors and South Kent Select Academy — two clubs who feature impressive depth and play the game with consistent pace and purpose. One player in Division 7 who will certainly be tough to stop is David Goyette, a decisive two-way player who can score goals as well as create them.

Division 8:

  • Detroit Compuware
  • Huron Perth Lakers
  • Mississauga Rebels
  • Peterborough Minor Petes

Claiming Division 8 should be a walk in the park for Detroit Compuware, as the American powerhouse recently competed in the championship game of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament owing to a perfect 4-0 round robin record. In those games played, Compuware outscored its competition 16-4, and secured wins over highly talented teams such as the Toronto Nationals, Toronto Titans, and Buffalo Jr. Sabres in the process. So, although Huron Perth, Peterborough and the Mississauga Rebels feature  capable rosters, they’ll likely be no match for Compuware.

Division 9:

  • Don Mills Flyers
  • Halton Hurricanes
  • Quinte Red Devils
  • Rochester Selects

The Quinte Red Devils are unquestionably the team to beat within this division, and especially so after charging into the semi-finals of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament. Bolstered by a high-powered yet balanced offensive attack and stable goaltending in between the pipes, the Red Devils are a persistent threat who should have little trouble casting aside the Don Mills Flyers and Halton Hurricanes — despite their respective skill. One team which could surprise is the Rochester Selects, as seemingly every American-based team comes north of the border with a renewed sense of purpose and overwhelming ability.

Division 10:

  • Brampton 45’s
  • Central Ontario Wolves
  • Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
  • Mississauga Reps

The battle for Division 10 will surely be fought by the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs and the Mississauga Reps. In league play thus far this season the Chiefs have yet to lose a game, having skated to a sparkling 19-0-8 record thus far. The same can be said for the Reps, who have pieced together a 13-8-4 record in GTHL action following a somewhat slow start to their campaign. Ultimately, both teams defend and attack incredibly well, and can do so without bouts of inconsistency. If able, be sure to watch Alec Leonard of the Reps — he’s an aggressive defender who can dish out devastating body checks in addition to pushing the pace of the game.

Division 11:

  • Brantford 99ers
  • Buffalo Jr. Sabres
  • Guelph Gryphons
  • North Central Predators

Although all of the Brantford 99ers, Guelph Gryphons and North Central Predators will test the Buffalo Jr. Sabres to the best of their ability, claiming Division 11 should be nothing other than a formality for the Jr. Sabres. Fresh off of an appearance in the semi-finals of the Whitby Silver Stick Tournament, Buffalo will return to Canada hungry for redemption and will enjoy somewhat of a feast to kickstart their tournament. One of the top goaltenders to watch throughout this tournament and the season as a whole is the Jr. Sabres’ Austin McNicholas — a highly technical and intelligent goaltender who boasts the ability to steal wins for his team single-handedly.

Division 12:

  • Grey Bruce Highlanders
  • Hamilton Huskies
  • Richmond Hill Coyotes
  • Team Illinois

Unlike other divisions within this tournament, who will move on from Division 12 is anything but certain. Realistically speaking, any of the four teams present within this division could move on, as each has the skill and capability to do so. Yet, with this being said, it is the Hamilton Huskies and Richmond Hill Coyotes who hold a slight advantage, as both have played strong and consistent hockey within their respective leagues thus far. However, do not count out Team Illinois — like most U.S.A. based teams they’ll pack a serious punch.

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