Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Sarnia Sting bring NHL draft buzz with DeAngelo, Goldobin: OHL Burning Questions

The Ontario Hockey League regular season beginsthis week. 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.

Sarnia Sting

In 2012-13 — 35-28-1-4, .551 point pct., 242 GF/250 GA. Seventh, Western Conference. Lost 4-0 to Plymouth in first round.

Final Dynamic Dozen ranking — 13th OHL, 35th CHL.

Drafted — None.

2014 NHL draft watch — RW Nikolay Goldobin is one of the league's most gifted attackers and D Anthony DeAngelo has been the epitome of a high-reward, high-risk puck rusher over two seasons. Six-foot-three D Tyler Hore and LW Jordan Addesi each have NHL size and should get consideration from teams looking to stockpile prospective role players.

1. How big a leap does Goldobin make in his second season Stateside (Sarnia is on the Canada-U.S. border, people)?

A lot of first impressions of the Sting's second-newest Russian sensation — everyone, Nikita Korostelev; Nikita Korostelev, everyone — were likely formed New Year's Day when Goldobin had four goals in the OT win that ended the London Knights' 24-game win streak. However, he's less a finisher than an all-around playmaker who can distribute the puck and blaze a path to the goal. Goldobin, rated as a potential top-15 pick, did not score a goal in preseason, notching five assists. That might actually be an encouraging sign since it could be evidence that the 6-foot, 185-pound forward is trying to use his teammates well.

Goldobin will have to adjust to having more checking lines and shutdown defence pairings in his face now that the Sting have shed Alex Galchenyuk, 108-point man Charlie Sarault and 62-goal scorer Reid Boucher from the roster. The Russian, who turns 18 just before Canadian Thanksgiving, has some teammates who are on the same wavelength with veteran alternate captain Daniel Nikandrov,
the 16-year-old Korostelev and Belarus-born rookie import Vladislav Kodola. The latter two are in the 2015 draft class.

2. How will having a new coach, Trevor Letowski, work out for Anthony DeAngelo?

Like Chip Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles coach who's brought his innovative college offence to the NFL, DeAngelo will be the subject of a season-long debate over whether his style will play in the pros. Such is life with all 5-foot-11 defencemen who like to rush the puck. He led OHL defencemen with 49 assists as a sophomore and counted 58 points, but like every 17-year-old is going to have his defensive lapses. Then-Sting coach-GM Jacques Beaulieu also didn't seem like the type to easily forgive mistakes, so it was a trying situation for the New Jersey native.

DeAngelo's credentials as an offensive defenceman are beyond dispute. Now he's in his draft year, where his defensive zone play will likely be under a bigger than usual microscope since the Sting will be a younger team. Along with promoting Letowski to head coach, the Sting also have former NHL defenceman Andy Delmore on staff as an assistant coach. There's definitely some expertise there to help DeAngelo mature into a well-rounded future pro.

3. Why such a glum outlook?

Letowski has his work cut out for him. The Sting, who were 4-2 in preseason, might be that type of team that keeps its head above water for the first two months. It has a decent overage duo in forward Nick Latta and defencemen Craig Duininck, which typically helps a team as long as it stays in contact with the playoff pack. Sustaining whatever early success they find might be challenging. It's going to take a mildly outlier performance — goalie Brodie Barrick becoming a bona fide No. 1, 19-year-old forward Bryan Moore busting out, that kind of thing — to vault Sarnia into the playoff picture.

Update: The Sting are down to two overagers, since defenceman Alex Basso asked for a trade after returning from an audition with the Minnesota Wild.

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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