Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Oshawa Generals left in lurch if they lose Laughton: OHL Burning Questions

The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins Thursday. They play one of these every winter? Man, it never ends. With the days getting shorter and the season getting nearer, BTN is taking an early look at each team in reverse order of last season's standings.

Oshawa Generals

In 2012-13 — 42-22-1-3, .647 point pct., 231 GF/184 GA. Third, Eastern Conference. Lost 4-0 to Barrie in conference semifinal.

Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — eighth OHL, 20th CHL.

On the junior-or-pro bubble — Nineteen-year-old C Scott Laughton had a five-game stint with the Philadelphia Flyers in January and seems like a good bet to earn at least another NHL audition.

Drafted — Laughton (Philadelphia, first round), G Daniel Altshuller (Carolina Hurricanes, third), C Cole Cassels (Vancouver Canucks, third round), D Josh Brown (Florida Panthers, sixth).

2014 NHL draft watch — LW/C Michael Dal Colle was a first-liner almost immediately as a 16-year-old, stoking talk of him being a top-10 selection next June. Hulking wing Hunter Smith, at 6-foot-6, scored four goals in preseason; he's a re-entry player who only made the 2013 draft's age cutoff by four days.

1. On a one-to-10 #FirstWorldProblems scale, how big is the prospect of losing Laughton?

About a 9.3. That would take coach D.J. Smith's presumptive captain, No. 1 centre, late-game faceoff-taker and leader by example out of the picture. That might not even be the element of Laughton's game that the Gennies stand to miss the most, since he can also be a de facto third defenceman in his own end, where Oshawa is thin on seasoned puck-moving defencemen. Difficulty in the transition game tends to be the root cause of reduced offensive zone time, and Smith's first 'Shwa squad really did well at cycling the puck.

2. Should Oshawa fall off the pace as forecast, why will they still bear watching?

First and foremost, Dal Colle has potential be a first-line forward in the NHL (him and a lot of other guys do), so there's the so-obvious-even-Sager-noticed-it storyline of how he will produce without his former collaborators Tyler Biggs and Boone Jenner, both of whom were in the world junior last season. The stats don't tell the whole story.

Smith and GM Jeff Twohey, rather uniquely, also took over a team which was at the top of a growth cycle. Year 2 of their partnership will offer more of a chance to build anew. Smith's tutoring during his tenure with the Windsor Spitfires had a hand in turning out three defencemen, Ryan Ellis, Cam Fowler and Mark Cundari, who have gone on to play NHL games, with several others reaching the AHL. The blueline will get a lot of attention. Holdovers Brown and Colin Suellentrop are each in a contract year, while the first-rounder and the 18-year-old import, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Jimi Kuronen respectively, are also D's whom Oshawa needs to make first-pairing worthy.

3. How will they approach a potential trying season?

Please keep in mind this is an exercise in dealing with hypotheticals. The only Graves pertinent to the Generals is part of their ownership group, until this season starts to play out. It is worth pointing out Smith and Twohey's recent experiences with young teams differ. Smith was in Windsor when Warren Rychel and Bob Boughner decided to take their roster down to the bare bones and build around a 2007 priority selection crop that included Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis. Twohey was in Peterborough, where the Petes were always good for shooting for a playoff appearance rather than blowing it up. By no means, though, does that imply anyone is married to any one approach.

Altshuller, who was in net for 36 of Oshawa's 42 wins and posted a 2.62 average, would be the biggest trade chip. The Carolina pick is on track to turn pro in 2014-15, plus Altshuller offers more experience than the pencilled-in goalie tandems on projected contenders in Barrie, Guelph and North Bay. Oshawa has also invested two seasons in 6-foot-4 goalie Ken Appleby and needs to find out before next season if he can be its No. 1. Point being, there will be a strong case to hold a sell-off.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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