Before the pandemic abruptly ended the 2019-20 OHL season, the Ottawa 67’s had a ton of talent all over their roster and sat comfortably in first place in the OHL standings. After 62 games, they held an incredible record of 50-11-1 under highly regarded head coach, André Tourigny, who is now the head coach for the Arizona Coyotes. They led the league in scoring with 296 goals scored and had the fewest goals against with 164.
The 67’s were well on their way to not only finishing first in the league, but were also favourites to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup, awarded to the winner of the OHL playoffs. They were also strong contenders for the Memorial Cup.
However, on March 12, 2020, with six games still remaining on their schedule, the season was postponed due to COVID-19 and was never finished.
The 2020-21 OHL season was cancelled due to COVID-19. It would be almost a year and a half until the 67’s took the ice again in September of 2021 for training camp.
A few weeks before they returned to the ice, the 67s brought in Dave Cameron to become the 10th head coach in franchise history after Tourigny left to pursue opportunities in the NHL. Cameron had previous head coaching experience in the NHL for the Ottawa Senators and has proved to be a solid coach, especially on offense.
Despite having a roster that has seen a lot of turnover compared to their roster from 2019-20, the 67’s still have a lot of talent and depth on both sides of the puck. Under Cameron’s guidance, the 67’s are having a solid season, with a 15-17-2 record, good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference. However, they’re only six points back of the third-place Hamilton Bulldogs, who are 17-9-4. However, the Bulldogs do have four games in hand.
So far this season, the 67’s have a well-balanced attack. They move the puck well and generate chances. At the beginning of the season, the 67’s could score goals and generate offense at will. They got the puck into the offensive zone quickly and took advantage of their scoring chances. They currently rank 12th in the OHL in goals scored with 101.
Key injuries to several key offensive players have limited their ability to score and create chances as of late. In their tough stretch in December, they didn’t capitalize on their chances and didn’t look like themselves on offense.
They also have a good special teams unit. They scored 25 powerplay goals on 132 chances, clicking at 18.9% efficiency, the 13th best in the league. They are killing 75% of their penalties, which is decent, but rank in the bottom five in the league. They’ve also scored four shorthanded goals, tied for 10th best in the league.
However, their defense and goaltending have not been as good as they were in 2019-20. The 67’s rank third-worst in the OHL in goals-against with 128.
The 67’s started the season well, ending October with a 6-4 record. In that span, they showed their ability to score goals, recording three or more goals in all of their wins. However, in their four losses, they gave up 21 goals. The goalies couldn’t make key saves and the defensemen couldn’t get out of their own zone.
In November, they started to struggle, finishing with a 5-7 record. December is really where their season took a steep fall. In December, the 67’s went 2-8, including losing three games in a row and five games in a row on two separate occasions. In their three game losing streak, they gave up 12 goals and only scored two. In their five game losing streak, they gave up 26 goals and only scored nine.
After not playing a game for two weeks due to COVID-19 outbreaks, the 67’s finally started 2022 strong after winning back-to-back games against Peterborough and Sudbury.
Despite their recent struggles and the large number of goals they give up, the 67’s have shown the ability to win close games; seven of their 15 wins came by only one goal. Two more of their wins have been by two goals. They can win in offensive shootouts and close, low-scoring defensive games.
They’ve had stretches where they give up a lot of goals, scoring chances, and spend a lot of time in their own end. For most of the season though, they’ve played well defensively, limited their own zone time, goals against and increased their offensive production using the counter-attack.
Granted, the 67’s have a young defensive core. Four of the eight regulars are rookies. The rookies have been improving as the season goes on and they are continuing to get mentored by the veterans on the roster. However, with so many rookies there will be stretches in the season where they give up a lot of goals, especially against top-tier talent in the OHL.
Their tough stretch in December can be blamed on poor play on both sides of the puck, but it can also be attributed to a tough schedule, a plethora of injuries as well as players isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.
The 67’s are equally as talented and young on offense. Of their 15 forwards, seven are rookies. All seven have unique skillsets, but Luca Pinelli, Chris Barlas, and Brady Stonehouse have all been the main contributors in their first season with the team.
Cameron has always stressed the importance of having a next-man-up mentality, and how crucial it is for guys to step up in the other guys’ absences. For their tough stretch in December, it wasn’t really the case but otherwise, the team’s depth has really proven to be an asset that has helped them win games. In their two games so far in 2022 – as they still continue to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and injuries – guys have stepped up for each other.
When fully healthy, this team can be dangerous on both sides of the puck. They also have two solid goalies in Will Cranley and Max Donoso. They aren’t as good as they were in 2019-20 when they were first place in the OHL and the best team in almost all statistical categories.
However, they are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and only three games back of third place. If they get fully healthy, they have the potential to go on a run, record a couple of long win streaks. If that’s the case it’s not difficult to imagine the 67’s not only making the OHL playoffs, but also making a deep run. I predict the 67s will finish fourth in the East, and advance to the semifinals before eventually losing.
That would be a pretty good year for Cameron in his first season as head coach. In future years, the players will improve and gain more experience and with time, Cameron will develop more chemistry with the team and potentially lead them further into the playoffs. Whatever happens this season, the future looks bright for the 67’s.