While a number of CHL teams were the beneficiary of the NHL lockout; many NHL-ready players returned to Junior because they weren’t eligible for any other level of pro hockey, Ottawa’s star players from last year’s squad made it to respective AHL or ECHL teams.
Of the team that made it to the 2012 conference finals, the 67’s lost a two-time league-leading scorer, his linemate, a top trade deadline acquisition, an elite heavyweight who could also score, the team Captain and Mrazek, all to pro hockey.
Petr Mrazek: The Czech goaltender was a lock to go pro this year as the Red Wings organization came out and said that he was a top prospect for them shortly after his performance at the 2012 World Under-20 Hockey Championships in Alberta. Little did we know that he would play in three professional leagues in a span of five months.
Mrazek suited up for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, winning two of his three starts, and has been a mainstay with the Grand Rapids Griffins, posting a record of 16-7-1. Last week, he was called up to the Wings after an injury to goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
Having given up a league-low 240 goals in 2012-13, Mrazek’s services definitely could have been used by this year’s edition of the 67’s.
Tyler Toffoli: After posting back-to-back 100-point seasons, the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings has made a seamless transition to professional hockey. In 43 games with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, he’s put up 34 points, and joined Mrazek at this year’s AHL All-Star game.
Shane Prince: Fans in the Nation’s Capital are hoping to see Prince, a 2011 second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, again playing here, but for now, he’s doing his part to be a regular in the minors.
Prince has scored 13 points in 33 games with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators, generally playing on Binghamton’s third forward unit with former Gatineau Olympiques forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
John McFarland: 67’s fans didn’t see a whole lot of McFarland. After being acquired from the Saginaw Spirit last January, McFarland had to undergo shoulder surgery, only playing in 13 games for the Barberpoles.
This year, he’s bounced around the minor leagues, racking up more than a point per game with the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones before joining the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, where he’s put up five points since being called up.
Dalton Smith: If Smith still played in the OHL under new rules, he would be one fight away from a suspension. A year after providing the 67’s with toughness and a scoring punch, Smith has fought ten times with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons in 2012-13 and added five points in 36 games.
Marc Zanetti: While 67’s alumni Corey Locke, Matt Foy, Vince Malette and Peter Lee are with the Berlin Polar Bears of the German DEL Elite League, Ottawa’s Captain from last season joined a different team in Germany, the DEG Metro Stars in Düsseldorf.
Zanetti has registered 15 points for the last place Metro Stars. In a German league that no longer hands out game misconducts for fighting, he has also played a tougher role with DEG, adding 57 penalty minutes.
From the class of 2012 that was expected to go pro, only Michal Cajkovsky returned. He surprisingly showed up at 67’s training camp after signing with Bratislava of the KHL, a team that seems to have trouble retaining defencemen with North American aspirations (Lubomir Visnovsky also left their team).
Off to school
Although perhaps not as glorious as playing minor pro, two players from last year’s squad are playing in the CIS, getting an education while playing in a league that’s improving steadily in recent years.
Mike Cazzola: Another 67’s trade deadline acquisition from 2012, Cazzola had a solid end to the season and playoff run for the 67’s before going out east to play for the Acadia Axemen. He is studying kinesiology at Acadia, and on the ice, has 18 points in 26 games.
Daniel Broussard: He didn’t make up his mind as quickly as Cazzola, having not signed in late September, but Broussard ended up joining the University of Guelph’s Gryphons. He has appeared in 22 games at the CIS level while taking marketing management courses.
There’s no doubting that with these eight grads, this team was far better off. While talented and still young, seeing #1 worn by Jacob Blair and not Mrazek, #18 worn by Taylor Davis and not Prince, #3 worn by Jonathan Duchesne and not Broussard and #33 worn by Sergey Kuptsov and not Smith is a strange site to see.
67’s fans became accustomed to and attached to the group of players who donned the Barberpoles last season, whether they were here for five years like Zanetti, or under four months like Cazzola.
As this year’s team struggled through the season, it’s nice to know that the graduating class from last season has moved on to start living their dream of furthering their careers in hockey.