TORONTO, ONT. -- For many, it was a summer that never arrived as the weather was never quite as good as you would have liked. Regardless of how you look at it, it's a summer that is over now as the calendar has flipped its page to September, which can only mean one thing: Hockey is back.
In a tournament that has morphed into a nearly week-long event, the Toronto Titans Minor Midget Prospect Tournament kicks off Tuesday night as the unofficial welcome of the OHL Draft season.
This year's edition of the Titans Tournament will feature 11 divisions and absolutely no shortage of activity between today and Sunday as OHL scouts get themselves acquainted with an '02 age group that we have high expectations for. After what has proven to be a few down years for minor hockey in Ontario, the 02's could be poised to remedy that as there's no shortage of talent capable of playing their way into the pro ranks down the road.
For us, the big storyline of the weekend will be what we see out of a Little Caesars 15U team that is almost undoubtedly the most talented 15U squad we've seen from the area to date. With a team that features more than a few players who are capable of playing 16U right now, the team largely stuck together to spend the season with an opportunity to play a schedule at the same age level. Headlined by Michigan commit Jacob Truscott, it'll be interesting to see what type of statement the team can make in Toronto this weekend.
While the hype will be fixated on teams like the Toronto Marlboros, York-Simcoe Express, Mississauga Reps, and Vaughan Kings - just to name a few - we'll also be intrigued to see what we get out of a Buffalo Jr. Sabres 15U squad that also has the potential to make some definite noise within the USA 15U age group this season.
Red Wings Tournament set for Thursday puck drop
The Titans tournament ain't the only show in town this weekend, as the tournament we most look forward to at the start of each season also gets under way on Thursday: the Toronto Red Wings Tournament.
Unlike the Titans', the focus here is stricly on the '03 age group, otherwise known as Bantam Major by our friends south of the border. The always excellent field features a nice splash of American participation with Belle Tire, Victory Honda, and Buffalo headlining the group.
While most OHL scouts eagerly await the Titans Tournament as their first opportunity to really get a handle on what the next wave of OHL Draft prospects has to offer, the Red Wings Tournament is our first look at the wave behind them. While we've got a bit of an idea from some late-season hockey at the end of the Spring, this tournament is our start of a two-year journey.
USHL Fall Classic is the big ticket in September
As is usually the case, there's a period of some calm after the two earlybird tournaments conclude later this weekend. League play will kick off across the province and the Alliance will take centre-stage with their Opening "Face-Off" weekends across all of their age groups.
For us, the focus shifts firmly to the USHL Fall Classic East, which is really the can't-miss tournament of the month. Taking place in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, the tournament will see 20 of the top 14U and 16U teams play in the backdrop of the USHL's pre-season scout showcase. While the NHL scouts will have their hands full taking in the USHL games, the showcase has an excellent field in both the 14U and 16U age groups, marking this as a viewing opportunity that can't be bypassed.
Oh, and don't forget about Ottawa
HEO can be maligned by those Southwestern Ontario elite(ists) for their unique regional setup - we jest, we jest - but it's important to note that the league is well-stocked with OHL Draft prospects this season.
Unlike the '01 age group, which certainly wasn't an iconic crop, the 02's represent considerably more promise and it hasn't taken long for that to translate into results on the ice. Led by the obvious name in Dylan Peterson, expect OHL teams to be pleasantly surprised by the depth that this age group offers this season - even when you consider that the region has lost several exports by way of the Minor Midget circuit elsewhere, such as Cameron Butler and Kyle Jackson.
We've got at least a couple of trips planned to the nation's capital this season as we look forward to seeing how said 02's make the jump from Bantam to the U18 loop.
That's it for today, stay tuned as our season of content kicks into high-gear starting this weekend. For super important information, you best be following us on the Twitter @PrioritySelect. And if you would like even more super important information, consider becoming a year-long subscriber for just $50.00 CAD.