At the outset of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season, Kingston Frontenacs management cautioned local fans that this would be a lean year due in part to their all-in approach the previous season. They didn’t lie. What can only be described as a season to forget mercilessly came to an end on Sunday Mar. 17, 2019 in Ottawa with an 8-3 loss to the 67’s.
While there were some bright spots, they were far and few between. The outstanding play of Jason Robertson and Brett Neuman prior to both being traded was a plus. Wins against Peterborough at the end of December and the aforementioned 67’s on February 22 showed that this group had character. However, the successes were sporadic as they set a league record for fewest goals scored in a season by one goal. Their 144 goals scored this season was one less than the hapless 1998-99 Mississauga Ice Dogs who tallied 145 goals.
Is there hope for next year? Cautious optimism would be the best way to describe the next campaign. The Fronts will have the first selection the upcoming Priority Selection Draft on Saturday Apr. 7. In the second-worst-kept secret amongst local fans this season, the Fronts will select 15-year-old Shane Wright of the OHL Cup Champion Don Mills Flyers. Wright has been granted ‘exceptional status,’ which will allow him to enter the league a year early.
The big question for people who follow the team is: Who will Wright play with? There is a possibility that Nick Wong, who came to the Fronts from Oshawa as part the Neuman trade, will move from center to wing. The other wing is open to debate. In all likelihood, it will be another selection from the Priority Draft or one of the two European players they will select in June.
On defense the Fronts have a solid top four who are eligible to return, led by Jakob Brahaney, who is a candidate for team captain in his overage year. Jacob Murray had a good rookie season and should be bigger and stronger by training camp. Adrien Beraldo was a great addition after being acquired from the Peterborough Petes. Evan Brand, who was perhaps the teams most improved player as the season progressed, rounds out the top four.
The goaltending situation has many questions, as the team heads into the off season. If Brendan Bonello, who was this season number one goaltender, is to return for his overage season, it will cost Fronts a draft choice, which was a condition of the trade that brought Bonello to Kingston from Saginaw last season. Marshall Frappier and Ryan Dugas could have a training camp battle with Mathias Onuska, who was the team’s fourth selection in last year’s draft. In the past they have opted to take on overage goalie, so the key would be to find one that comes at less expense than the one they already have in Bonello.
In any event, the pressure is now squarely on the shoulders of General Manager Darren Keily and Head Scout Aaron Van Leusen to bring in a solid draft class that can hit the ground running come next September. With that said, Shane Wright will be a very special player to watch for the next few seasons as a Frontenac.
Tim “The Coach” Cunningham has played every sport ever. His inside knowledge can be heard and seen on radio, television and in print across Canada. Follow him on twitter at @TheCoachTC.