Sports

OHL this Week: Taylor Raddysh knows powerhouse hockey

By Ryan Pyette, The London Free Press

Topics

Taylor Raddysh is a powerhouse expert.

In his first two OHL seasons, he was knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals and London Knights. Then last year his league-winning Erie Otters made it to the Cup final, where they lost to the host Spitfires at Windsor.

He has only been in Sault Ste. Marie a short time since the post-world junior blockbuster deal sent him from Pennsylvania to northern Ontario — but in his mind, these Greyhounds already measure up to some of those great yardsticks of the recent past.

“It reminds me a lot of last season in Erie,” the 19-year-old Lightning prospect said. “This is a full-depth lineup. Anyone can produce offensively and be just as reliable in the d-zone. Last year we were the powerhouse team with the Otters and that’s what the Soo is this year.

“We’ve got to keep working hard here and good things will happen for us.”

The Hounds are difficult to beat because they are relentless. They have trailed late in games, especially over the last few weeks, and still found ways to wins.

In their only defeat over the last 29 outings — a shootout loss to Mississauga — they were behind three goals in the first period and rallied to force overtime.

“They are really good skaters and they’re not a team that’s just going to give up the puck,” Raddysh said. “They’re going to use that speed and skill and make you work for it. It’s a smart way to play. You don’t want to give up the puck and dump it in unless you have to. I feel that’s a strength of these guys and I’m happy to be part of it.”

In his first three games with the Hounds, Raddysh recorded four goals and nine points.

“It was a fairly easy transition,” he said. “Coming in, there is a little bit of pressure knowing how good a record they have and wanting to contribute. It also helps a lot having a familiar face. I was traded with (defenceman) Jordan Sambrook and that was great.

“We can bring our friendship and experience to help this team.”

Raddysh has already been on the best line in junior hockey. He played alongside Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat with the Otters. That was on the heels of facing another forward trio that put up giant numbers in London two years ago — Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk.

Now he’s trying to form another super line with OHL scoring leader Morgan Frost, a Flyers first-rounder, and world junior pal and fellow Tampa pick Boris Katchouk.

“Frost is tearing up the league and is so skilled and creative,” Raddysh said. “You just have to get open for him. Boris is the same way and he’s a goal scorer. That’s something you need to have and you want your big players to step up. He’s done that very well and playing with them is fairly easy. I want to add a mix. If we keep going the way we are and producing, we can have some similarities to those lines.”

The Greyhounds have been so consistent the last few years, coach Drew Bannister is likely to draw pro interest in the offseason. That’s what happened to Raddysh’s old coach in Erie, Kris Knoblauch, now an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers after four years of 50-win hockey with the Otters.

Every night he’s not playing, Raddysh can flip on the TV and watch his former mates — Connor McDavid, Strome, DeBrincat — forging their NHL careers. Taylor’s older brother Darren, his junior teammate until this year, is in the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He’ll be in the pros next fall too, after another anticipated long playoff run.

“It’s pretty special to be on teams that have gone far,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to never be out before the conference final. If I continue that in the Soo, it just builds my experience to be in those situations not many people get to be in.

“You have an edge on other people who haven’t been able to do that.”

And that edge might be just what the Hounds need to get over the top this time.

rpyette@postmedia.com

LOOK OUT FOR THIS GUY

Nikita Korostelev, RW, Peterborough Petes

Born: Feb. 8, 1997

Hometown: Moscow, Russia

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 201 pounds

Living the dream: The Leafs prospect led the Petes with four goals and eight points in three games, and has nine goals and 17 points in his past 10. That's good, because Peterborough needs the offence after dealing away speedy Jonathan Ang to Sarnia — Korostelev's former club. The over-ager is far-and-away the Petes' scoring leader and he has to keep producing to keep the franchise moving up the standings.

Story so far: It's been a disappointing season. Jody Hull was fired as head coach and the players haven't lived up to expectations. When favoured Peterborough faltered, teams like Hamilton, Kingston, Niagara and Barrie pounced on veteran talent. To return to the conference final, the Petes will have to pull off some upsets.

The numbers: This is Korostelev's fourth straight major junior season with at least 20 goals. He also has a chance to make his final OHL campaign the most productive one. He had 29 goals and 64 points last year, which was split between the Sting and Petes. He's at 52 points already through 39 games.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Sault Ste. Marie at Sarnia, Friday at 7:05 p.m.

The Sting pulled out of their world junior funk with four straight wins. Can you tell Jordan Kyrou and Adam Ruzicka are back? The addition of Cam Dineen at the back end will spark an offence that was leading the league early. The Greyhounds have squeaked out a lot of close ones recently. A dominant road win over their chief foes would make a psychological statement.

NUMBERS GAME

52-5-1-1 That’s Soo goalie Matthew Villalta’s regular-season record through a year-and-a-half of his OHL career. The Kings third-rounder is off to a spectacular start. All he needs is some playoff success. That’s sure to come in the spring.

ROAD TO DALLAS

Riley Damiani is on his way to a 20-plus goal season in his sophomore campaign. You know who else did that as a second-year Kitchener centre 10 years ago? Nazem Kadri, now with the Maple Leafs. The former Rangers second-round pick hustles at both ends and he’ll get some better matchups once injured Logan Brown assumes the team’s top-line role.

HOT

The Battalion. Matthew Struthers has fit well on North Bay’s top line with Justin Brazeau and Luke Burghardt since his arrival from Owen Sound. The Battalion sold off stars Brett McKenzie to the Attack and Cam Dineen to Sarnia but they’re responding the right way, winning five of six to vault from ninth to sixth in the East.

ICE COLD

Sudbury and Flint. Since the trade deadline, they’re the teams in the turtle race for first pick overall in the draft. Though both could use it, there is some hope it goes to the Firebirds, who haven’t owned the No. 1 selection yet. The Wolves had it in 2015 when they picked David Levin and have traded d-man Owen Lalonde, the No. 2 pick a year later.

SPEAKING OUT

"He actually really impressed me. It’s awesome. There’s nothing you can’t do in life and he’s a perfect example. I don’t see a difference.”

— 67’s goalie Olivier Tremblay to the Ottawa Citizen about Cumberland Grads bantam stopper Gabe Ferron-Bouius, who has a prosthetic leg. The youngster practised with the 67’s as part of the club’s “50 acts of kindness” celebration of its 50th anniversary.