Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Ottawa 67′s enter Year 2 of rebuild with star Sean Monahan’s status in limbo: OHL Burning Questions

The Ontario Hockey League regular season begins in fewer than 10 days. 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.

Ottawa 67's

In 2012-13 — 16-46-0-6, 204 GF/317 GA, 10th Eastern Conference, out of playoffs.

Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — 20th OHL, 60th CHL.

On the junior/pro bubble — C Sean Monahan is on the shortlist of teens who stand a decent shot of staying in the NHL.

Drafted — Monahan (Calgary Flames, first round), C Joseph Blandisi (Colorado Avalanche, sixth).

2014 NHL draft watch — C Dante Salituro is undersized but his 40 points were tied for seventh among the OHL's 'true freshmen'; Ds Alex Lintuniemi (6-foot-3, 227 pounds) and Jacob Middleton (6-2, 208) will get plenty of work as part of the league's likely youngest defence corps. W Tyler Hill, who's 6-foot-6 with deft hands, is entering his second crack at reaching the draft floor.

1. Whither Sean Monahan?

It is easy, from a strict junior hockey-watching perspective, to slide Monahan in with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier, who also leaped directly into The Show as 19-year-olds. Monahan's upside is likely somewhere in between those 2011 NHL first-rounders. There's seldom been a a question of his perspicacity on the ice, although there is always a caveat with every teen who looks like a world-beater in the late summer.

From Darren Haynes:

Monahan continues to look comfortable in this level of hockey and I have no doubts he could play at the NHL level this year, just not sure how effectively over an 82-game grind and in the tough Pacific Division. I still say one more year of the OHL, a couple weeks under the national microscope at the World Juniors, and perhaps a trade to an OHL playoff contender if Ottawa doesn't turn out to be one, is the prudent route to go. (Flames From 80 Feet Above)

The Flames, for once, also have a glut of young centres in the pipeline.

If Monahan returns, it might end up setting the market in the OHL before the trade deadline. Ottawa certainly is not planning on missing the playoffs, although it's probably more in its interest

2. What is their case to be a playoff team?

The Eastern's eighth-place team has averaged 59.75 points since the shootout/three-point game combo was introduced in 2005-06. So coach-GM Chris Byrne's club, which was 10-21-0-6 in one- or two-goal games (combining the two to reflect games sealed by empty-netters), merely has to scrounge for another 10-12 wins in order for their youngsters to garner some playoff experience. Even without Monahan, Blandisi, Salituro and first overall choice Travis Konecny provide a modicum of strength in the middle. Lintuniemi and Middleton are a pair of exciting young defencemen, although at this writing the club doesn't have a 19-year-old or overage on the back end to soak up a ton of minutes.

Last fall, the bottom fell out of Ottawa's season during a length road stretch in November that coincided with Monahan sitting out a 10-game headshot suspension. The 67's play 15 of their first 24 at the Canadian Tire Centre, but have a nine-game road stretch across late November and early December that might be the litmus test for how they approach the end of the season. It would be ironic if Monahan is getting back around that point.

3. What is the best reason to take an interest in overage goalie Clint Windsor's progress?

Windsor is a data point for the case that developing goalies get pushed along the CHL conveyor belt far too quickly — and perhaps will still even without the presence of European goalies.

The 6-foot-4 tendy's track record includes 100 games for four teams across three years, including two stints with 20th-place teams whose play likely didn't flatter a bigger goalie who's still working on recovery and second saves. Windsor was ranked by Central Scouting in 2011-12, so one can only wonder if he still has a ceiling to reach entering his overage season. That question might not be answered since goalies have to either gain a foothold by age 21 or go to university hockey. Windsor has turned in some stellar preseason performances, though, so who he responds while playing behind a young defence corps will be worth watching.

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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