Windsor Spitfires Enjoyed Stellar Season in 2021-2022
The Windsor Spitfires 2021-2022 Ontario Hockey League season did not come to a crashing end when the team lost 6-1 to the Hamilton Bulldogs in game seven of the OHL Championship series at the FirstOntario Centre on June 15. The team’s loss in that game simply signaled the end to the team’s season.
Despite coming up short in the Spitfires first OHL title since 2010, there was no shortage of good signs from the Spitfires’ regular and play-off seasons that bode well for the team’s immediate and long term future.
The Spitfires finished the regular season with a 44-17-4-3 record to finish atop the OHL’s Western Division standings while earning the number one seed in the Western Conference for the play-offs. After not having won a single play-off round in over a decade (2010), the Spitfires won three after disposing of the Sarnia Sting, Kitchener Rangers and Flint Firebirds in succession this past spring before falling just one game short of winning a fourth play-off round – and the OHL championship – as a result of the game seven loss to the Bulldogs.
The Spitfires followed up catching the OHL’s 2021-2022 regular season Western Conference title by winning the conference in the play-offs as well.
Any discussion of Windsor’s 2021-2022 campaign has to start with the play of centre Wyatt Johnston. The 19-year-old from Toronto had one of the most amazing seasons in franchise history.
Johnston, the first round pick, 23rd overall, of the Dallas Stars in the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft, won the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy as the OHL’s regular season scoring champion. Johnston finished with 46 goals and 78 assists while playing in all 68 games for Windsor. He then proceeded to win the OHL play-off scoring title by notching another 17 goals and 27 assists in 25 games.
Johnston could play up to ten games with the Stars next season before the NHL team sends him to their American Hockey League team, which would signal the start of his first season of his Entry Level Contract (ELC) or they could return him to Windsor before his tenth game in Dallas, which would delay the start of his ELC.
Johnston was recognized for his efforts in Windsor this past season by winning the Red Tilson Trophy at the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player. He also won the CHL Top Scorer Award at the recently-concluded 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint John, New Brunswick. That award is given to the top scorer in the entire Canadian Hockey League.In addition to Johnston’s highly offensive exploits the Spitfires had no difficulty scoring in 2021-2022 as the team a league-leading 305 goals – a feat that was in part accomplished by left-winger team captain and Johnston’s linemate scoring 43 times in xx games. Right-wingers Matt Maggio and overager Daniel D’Amico also had career-best seasons by notching 38 and 32 goals respectively. The pair spent significant time during both the regular and post seasons flanking Johnston and Cuylle as Windsor’s top line had no set right-winger and players rotated on the right side.
Other scorers of note were Pasquale Zito, whose 22 red-lighters were also a career-best and rookies and first round picks Ryan Abraham and Ethan Miedema who scored 15 and 14 goals respectively in their 64-game rookie seasons.
Abraham was Windsor’s first round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection while Miedema was the team’s top pick in the 2021 OHL player lottery. Abraham played his first campaign with the Spitfires at the same time as Miedema as there was no 2020-2021 OHL season due to the pandemic.
Another top scorer of note for the Spitfires was overage defenceman Louka Henault who had eight goals and 57 assists in 63 regular season games. The Montreal native finished second in scoring among OHL reaguards in 2021-2022 and was his effort was rewarded by signing a one-year contract with the American Hockey League’s Harttford Wolfpack earlier this week.
The Spitfires’ rookie import players – both Russians – did have different degrees of success in their first seasons in Windsor. Defenceman Danil Sobolev, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, played a regular shift from the start of the season and was a top four reaguard. Left-winger Avval Baisov was a frequent lineup scratch and scored just two goals while seeing limited ice-time in 29 games. While Sobolev’s return to Windsor this fall is all but assured, Baisov faces a more unknown future in Windsor.
In the big picture the Spitfires are likely to benefit next season and for seasons to come with the expected growth and development anticipated from the experience of their long-playoff run this past spring. Windsor opens their 2022-2023 OHL regular season on Saturday, October 1 when they host the Sarnia Sting at the WFCU Centre.