Here are six Ontario Hockey League teams — three from each of the Western Conference and Eastern Conference — to keep an eye on as play resumes in the second half of the 2014-2015 season.
This could well be the best Greyhound team to take to the ice in about 20 years.
Skilled, solid and deep on the forward lines and the defensive side, the Hounds are also a character crew led by overage forward Jean Dupuy.
Dupuy won’t lead the Greyhounds in scoring and is not likely to hit the 20-goal mark but the strong-skating, self-made front-liner is a leader and highly-valued OHLer whose stock has risen dramatically since being acquired in a low-profile trade with the Kingston Frontenacs during the 2013-2014 season.
To be sure, the Hounds have offence aplenty led by Sergey Tolchinsky, Blake Speers, Gabe Guertler, Bryan Moore and Jared McCann to go with an airtight defence backed by Gustav Bouramman, Kyle Jenkins and Darnell Nurse.
As long as goalie Brandon Halverson makes the routine saves and manages the games that the Hounds should win, this is a team with a shot at the OHL crown.
Make no mistake about it, the Otters can turn on the red light with the best of the OHL and along with the Greyhounds, are the forward class of the Western Conference.
Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome, Nick Betz, Nick Baptiste and Alex DeBrincat are all high-end, impact forwards.
But does Erie have the goaltending to win it all? Does old-style general manager Sherry Bassin have a few tricks up his sleeve prior to the January 9 trade deadline?
Sorry anti-London fans, the Knights are again a Western Conference contender.
London has multiple difference makers on the forward lines and on defence.
Point-producers of note are Mitchell Marner, Max Domi, Christian Dvorak and mammoth Michael McCarron, a Montreal Canadiens first-rounder who can dominate physically.
The Knights also boast a pair of dandy defenders in Aiden Jamieson and Dakota Mermis, among others.
The Gennies have the best record in the Eastern Conference and the OHL’s best goalie in North Bay product Ken Appleby.
In front of Appleby are point-per-game defencemen Mitchell Vande Sompel and Chris Carlisle.
Up front, Oshawa has three impact skaters in Michael Dal Colle, Tobias Lindberg and Cole Cassels.
This is a team than score and deny.
NORTH BAY BATTALION
It starts behind the Battalion bench where Stan Butler may be the best in the business.
Go-to-guys who lead the way offensively are Nick Paul and Sault Ste. Marie native Michael Amadio.
Brenden Miller is the high-end blueline leader in front of goalie Jake Smith.
Under Butler, North Bay plays a playoff-style game during the regular season with plenty of 2-1 and 3-1 decisions over Eastern Conference opponents.
Huh, you ask?
Kingston took a just-below-.500 record into the second half of play and has been without star forward and Calgary Flames first-rounder Sam Bennett all season because of a shoulder injury.
The Frontenacs also played multiple games before Christmas without top forwards Spencer Watson, Lawson Crouse and Juho Lammikko.
Put them back with Robert Polesello and Ryan Kujawinski in the New Year and Kingston will be a dangerous outfit.
The Frontenacs often out-shoot their Eastern Conference opponents and have a better-than-average goalie in Lucas Peressini to keep them in the games.