Some favourites from the OMHA AAA Showcase

OAKVILLE, ONT - Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs forward Jaxson Zurby (#15) during warm-up for a game between the Hamlton Jr. Bulldogs and the Oakville Rangers at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex on December 9, 2018. (Photo from Steven Ellis/World Hockey Magazine)

I wanted to try something different here.

If you’re reading this, you’re reading the first article on my mostly-unfinished personal site, something I’ve wanted to do for many years now but never bothered to get up. Think of this as my own personal portfolio site.

Anyways, I run the video scoreboard at Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, home of the 2018 OMHA AAA Showcase in early December. The event started with a AAA midget all-star game, which I didn’t really take notes on. Afterwards, there were 10 games between the 10 teams involved: Brampton, Buffalo, Burlington, Grey-Bruce, Guelph, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, Oakville and Southern Tier.

Let me be clear: these weren’t necessarily the best players overall in the showcase. I worked the video scoreboard for all the games on the main rink, so I could only watch the games involving them. And, of course, there’s no such thing as publicly-available stat sheets for games like these. So, I can’t verify any stats, but I can tell you which players I liked watching the most from the five-full games I saw.

Here are a few of the guys that really stood out to me at the event.

Matteo Giampa, F (Niagara North Stars, #19): I only got to see Giampa play in one game, Saturday’s match-up against the Guelph Jr. Gryphons, but it was easily one of the best games by any draft eligible players that I’ve seen this year. In that game, Giampa had three assists, including a beautiful give-and-go passing play with Zach Mambella. Late in the game, he split between two Guelph defencemen after starting with the puck in his own zone and created a breakaway, only to get stopped. His whole game is based on speed: his hands are quick, he almost always wins the battles to the puck and his wrist shot is rather quick, too. His speed makes him a first-round talent, but there were a few shifts where you would have liked to see him attack more aggressively.

Owen Wilson, D (Oakville Rangers, #49): Not to be confused for the actor famous for providing the voice for Lightning McQueen, Owen Wilson is a big 6'3, 195-pound defender that has impressive speed for a kid his size. Wilson isn't afraid to get physical and moves the puck fairly well. In a game against the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs on the final day of action, Wilson scored on the power play to tie the game up at two. If he was to make it to the OHL, he’d be a good second-pairing power-play quarterback that can simply fire a shot through a brick wall. Wilson likes to rush the puck up the ice doesn't take himself out of position when throwing a hit, but not every hit is always well-timed. Still, very noticeable every time I’ve seen him this year and typically in a good way.

Eric Randall, G (Southern Tier Admirals, #40): Randall’s goaltending partner, Benjamin Bonisteel, may perhaps be one of the best goalies in the SCTA, but his effort against the Guelph Jr. Gryphons on December 9th was one of the best goalie performances of the weekend. The Admirals ended up tying Guelph 2-2, and while there was no shot count listed, Randall was the busier goaltender of the two. The 6’3 moves very quick and is quite athletic for a goalie his size and the Admirals wouldn’t have had a chance if it wasn’t for him. The Admirals aren’t a good team this year and Randall’s stats are far from impressive, but he has the ability to steal wins and is getting a lot of shots against this year, something that’s great for a young, developing goalie.

Jaxson Zurby, F (Hamilton Bulldogs, #15): I’ve seen Zurby in person twice this year and he scored both times, so that’s impressive enough. One play in particular at the OMHA Showcase really impressed me: against the Oakville Rangers on the final day, Zurby rushed behind the net after a faceoff, stealing the puck off a defenceman. He then quickly moved back in front of the net and jammed the puck past goaltender Noah Pak to score after some good momentum by his team. Zurby is a tenacious forward that brings a lot of energy to the table and, in this game in particular, he kept his pace throughout the game. He was tough to take the puck off of when shielding himself from defencemen and while he wasn’t the most creative player with the puck, he can get a good amount of power out of his wrist shot. I’d like to see how he plays later in the year while trying to escape Jacob Maillet’s shadow.

Adam O'Marra, C (Oakville Rangers, #22): O’Marra has played both centre and left wing for Oakville this season and had a couple of good scoring chances in his game against the Hamilton Bulldogs. Slick and crafty with the puck, O'Marra is smart when dancing around in the offensive zone and has a nice quickness to his game that would translate well to Junior A next year, which seems like a good fit for him at this point. There are times, like Giampa, where you would like to see him attack the puck more in the offensive zone and he can probably engage a bit more physically, but O’Marra has a lot of pure skill and factors into a lot of Oakville’s scoring chances during a game.

Joseph Blackley, D (Buffalo Regals, #4): Admittedly, I only saw him play for a few minutes against the Brampton 45s on Saturday, but it seemed like he was the only player on the ice during that time. Blackley is very quick and controls the puck very well, especially when skating backwards to get out of trouble. One of the best defencemen from the SCTA, is a great playmaker with impressive top speed and a good release on his shot, something he isn't afraid to unleash often. Whenever the Regals win, it seems like Blackley is involved in some way, and if he adds a bit of size to his game, he could be a very well-rounded defenceman going forward.