'Heartbreak' for young prospects as OHL season put on ice

·3 min read
Cédrick Guindon of Rockland, Ont., has been drafted by OHL's Owen Sound Attack, but he has yet to play a single game for his new team (Marie-Josee Duval Berini - image credit)
Cédrick Guindon of Rockland, Ont., has been drafted by OHL's Owen Sound Attack, but he has yet to play a single game for his new team (Marie-Josee Duval Berini - image credit)
Cédrick Guindon of Rockland, Ont., has been drafted by OHL's Owen Sound Attack, but he has yet to play a single game for his new team
Cédrick Guindon of Rockland, Ont., has been drafted by OHL's Owen Sound Attack, but he has yet to play a single game for his new team(Marie-Josee Duval Berini)

The cancellation of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season before it even got underway has both teenage prospects and retired pros concerned about the future of the game.

Last week, Ontario's minister of sport said there's no safe way to play during the pandemic's third wave.

The decision has left many of the league's incoming class of 17-year-olds wondering about their chances of making the big leagues.

"It's for sure heartbreaking," said Cédrick Guindon, a young player from Rockland, Ont.

"Missing a whole year, that's a year that you can take advantage of to get your name out there," he said.

The high-scoring centreman for the Rockland Nationals was drafted by the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, but he has yet to play a single game for his new team. Nor has he been able to gain the valuable on-ice experience of playing and training with athletes three years his senior.

Instead, on his 17th birthday, Guindon learned his spring would be spent with more training and working out.

Jonathan Melee played about 20 games for the Rockland Nationals rather than join the OHL team that drafted him.
Jonathan Melee played about 20 games for the Rockland Nationals rather than join the OHL team that drafted him.(Marie-Josee Duval Berini)

No scouts to impress

For 17-year-old Jonathan Melee, the lost season is potentially even more devastating. Drafted 21st overall by the Hamilton Bulldogs, Melee is eligible for the NHL draft now, but with no scouts to impress, he already risks languishing in obscurity. Nor are there any training camps where he might elevate his game.

Melee doesn't blame the province for refusing to allow OHL games to go ahead, but points out that athletes in other junior leagues haven't lost their year.

"Looking around the world and seeing that every other league is playing except us, we're probably a step behind," said Melee.

Ex-NHL defenceman Marc Methot said the rookie year in the OHL player can be crucial to a player's future.
Ex-NHL defenceman Marc Methot said the rookie year in the OHL player can be crucial to a player's future.(Stu Mills/CBC)

Former Ottawa Senators defencemen Marc Methot sympathized on Twitter, calling the OHL decision "brutal."

Methot's hip check became feared throughout the NHL, but he arrived in the OHL as an unknown, unranked and unheralded 17-year-old. Methot used his rookie year to surprise his London Knights coaches, who didn't know what talent they had drafted.

"Hypothetically speaking, if there [had been a] pandemic, I mean I never would have got noticed. I never would be where I am today," he said.

"I just worry about those undercover, underappreciated guys that perhaps had to work a little harder during that draft year that may now not get that opportunity, and it's sad."

Both Melee and Guindon said they will continue to train in the hopes that the latter half of 2021 will give them the shot at greatness denied by the pandemic.