November 24, 2014

Abou-Assaly Rejuvenated In Gatineau; Update On Ex-67's Around Major Junior

It was October 24, 2008 that Tye McGinn, a forward cut by the Ottawa 67's, officially joined the nearby Gatineau Olympiques, continuing a major junior career that appeared to be on life support.

October 24, 2014, six years to the day, ex-67 Andrew Abou-Assaly made his debut in an Olympiques uniform.  If his career trajectory is anywhere close to that of McGinn's, the best days of his career aren't gone by just yet.

To say that the move across the provincial border was a good choice for Abou-Assaly would be an understatement.  The local product put up four points in his first five games as a second-liner; he only scored nine in the first 108 games in his CHL career with the Barberpoles as he was used sparingly. 

Benoit Groulx, the head coach of the Olympiques and the Canadian national junior team next month, is the key to the success of so many players who fell out of favour in Ontario.  
It didn't take Abou-Assaly to get high praise from his new bench boss, who says he possesses an “NHL wristshot”.

When it comes to players filtered out of the OHL and onto Groulx-coached Gatineau teams, three names instantly come to mind -- Philadelphia Flyers superstar Claude Giroux, Calgary Flames speedster Paul Byron and McGinn, who now plays in a checking-line role with the San Jose Sharks.

Abou-Assaly may not reach the ceiling of those three, but it's certainly an exciting idea for a player once touted as a can't-miss OHL prospect.

Higher-ups in the Quebec League typically scout the Midget AAA circuit to find hidden gems, but the young man with the initials AAA may be the extra piece to the puzzle that Gatineau needed.

Mathieu Desautels (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)

It seemed inevitable that the QMJHL's back-to-back runner up in Baie-Comeau would face a downward trajectory this season, especially in a league with so much turnover, where contenders frequently trade first-round picks, and a league where star players' refusal to play in small towns is an epidemic.

Part of the solution to stay relevant in the Q's standings?  Sign a disgruntled ex-OHLer who already attempted to play elsewhere in the league last season.

Desautels' story was a well-documented one -- Ottawa cut him after training camp in 2013, he attempted to sign with Drummondville without yet passing through waivers, and the 67's in turn refused to hand him his official release until he officially passed through all the other 38 OHL and QMJHL teams.

The controversy frayed nerves on both the side of the player and the team, as the puck-moving defenceman took on a heavy workload in the CCHL.

This season, he's back in major junior, playing on the second pairing for a Baie-Comeau team that finds itself fourth in the QMJHL.

There's no doubt that there's a better fit for offensive-minded Desautels in the Q, a league where teams need more mobility from their back end, and generally employ a 1-2-2 umbrella powerplay.

Joseph Blandisi (Barrie, OHL)

The 67's made a 94-for-94 trade last season with the intentions to pick up two extra third-round picks, along with Erik Bradford, assuming Blandisi wouldn't return for his last year of OHL eligibility.

To no fault of the assets they picked up, this deal came back to bite them. With 40 points in 23 matches, Blandisi leads the Eastern Conference in scoring.

Blandisi was also recently named the captain of his new squad.

"The leader is a big role, it's definitely an honour getting the recognition from a great organization and a great coach," said Blandisi, who took over the honours from NHL first overall pick Aaron Ekblad.  "Nobody's going to lead quite like him, I just have to do the best job I can."

Despite only spending a year here, the offensive specialist remembers his time in the Nation's Capital fondly.

"There are definitely a lot of good memories (in Ottawa).  I can't say enough good things about some of those guys.  The coaching staff I had last year isn't here this year, they're all new, but there's a good feeling from them too."

Connor Brown (Saginaw, OHL)

The Blandisi-Bradford wasn't the only trade in 2014 that involved a potential top-line player being dealt for a grittier, less-offensively minded grinder while helping stock the shelf of draft picks.

Finally, the Brown trade looks like it’ll pan out a bit better for Ottawa.  Jeremiah Addison has found perfect chemistry with Dante Salituro, although Brown has been no slouch in Saginaw, putting up 13 points so far this year (Addison has 14).

David Perklin (Georgetown, OJHL)

It's entirely possible the Brown-Addison trade works out for both Ottawa and Saginaw.  But when you think of a trade that didn't work out for either team, it's the trade deadline deal from 2012 between the two squads.

John McFarland had a junior career-ending shoulder surgery almost immediately upon coming to the Nation's Capital, and Perklin has been bumped around the junior circuit.

After falling out of the QMJHL, Perklin has landed in Tier II.

Sean Callaghan (Ottawa's favourite trade partner, apparently, Saginaw)

Callaghan leads Saginaw in penalty minutes while still taking a regular shift on the blueline; in other words, not a lot has changed since he left here.

Brett Gustavsen (Belleville, OHL)

As much as the 67's had to get rid of their gritty overager, Gustavsen is enjoying his time in Belleville with 14 points in 24 games.

Mark Petaccio (Des Moines, USHL)

Petaccio, unable to land an overaged spot in the OHL, is on the Des Moines Buccaneers top line with Univeristy of Massachusets commit Ryan Dymowski.  He's putting up over a point-per-game and leads the Bucs in penalty minutes.

Jonathan Duchesne (Sudbury, OHL)

Sudbury has doubled their win total on the year since acquiring Duchesne for Evan deHaan.  Unfortunately for Duchesne and the Wolves, that only brings their record to a league-worst 4-19-0.

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