TORONTO, ONT. -- Another tournament, another trophy. It's a theme that rings true for both the '02 Toronto Marlboros and the '03 Don Mills Flyers as the two GTHL organizations continue to assert their dominance over each of their respective loops.
For the Marlboros, the spoils are the Titans Tournament, a highly visible tournament that serves as the symbolic kick-off to the draft year. For a team that went through no shortage of adversity in bantam, the Marlboros ultimately weathered every storm they hit and emerged as provincial champions.
A few key additions later and the minor midget edition of the Marlboros could very well be one of their finest, ever. And for those who know a thing or two about the history of this program, that's saying a lot.
Sure, there may not be a John Tavares or a Connor McDavid on this roster, but the depth of the forward corps as a whole is credibly on the same wave-length as those great '89 and '96 Marlboros teams. With three over-powering lines up front, the bar has been set with aspirations of nothing less than an OHL Cup title. For the blue and white, this is merely the start they're looking for, but far from satisfaction overall.
On the whole, the age group is playing to par in terms of expectations. Even more than what we saw in bantam, this age group is about the super-team with many of those residing in the GTHL. Sure, the Marlboros are the proverbial favourite but you'd be remiss to think that the Reps, Vaughan, or some of their other GTHL challengers won't cause them some fits at some point.
While it should be clear to scouts where the power in this age group lies, we saw some great things from the re-tooled Niagara North Stars, who look like they're capable of building on an impressive run at Bantam OMHA's.
While it was a bit disappointing for the York Simcoe Express to bow out before the playoff round, they're obviously a team who's best hockey is yet to come. The Oakville Rangers, a team that's seen no shortage of success throughout their history in the '02 age group, had a bit of a speed-bump and will need to find some more consistency up front if they hope to hold their own with the elite of the age group.
Let's talk about the 03's
While our journey with the '03 age group is merely just beginning, it's pretty clear that the path to success will once again run through the GTHL with the two-headed monster at the top being anchored by the Don Mills Flyers and Toronto Nationals.
As was the case last season, Don Mills continues to hold down the top perch as they more or less cruised to the title without too much stress. In a field that featured several high-end American teams, the Flyers victory is an impressive one that sets the tone for a bantam season that should generate no shortage of intrigue.
We'll have more details set to come in our tournament report, but Shane Wright is the name you need to know as the '04-born - yes, that's 2004 - could very well work his way into exceptional status consideration for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection before it's all said and done. The dynamic forward paces the attack for Don Mills and truly sticks out on a team that overwhelms with team speed, forechecking, and a relentless transition game.
While an early upset loss to the Jr. Canadiens de-railed their tournament aspirations, the Detroit Compuware team is almost a certainty to impose their will this season. With one of the deepest rosters you'll find in the crop, the team is strong at every position and has no shortage of names that'll factor in early in our rankings this season.
Stay tuned this week as we release more detailed tournament reports from the Titans Tournament and the Red Wings Early Bird as we focus on the big storylines, trends, and surprises to come out of the opening weekend.