WHALERS THIS WEEK:
Wednesday – London (25-7-0-1) at Plymouth (22-9-2-1), 2:00 pm Compuware Arena (1:45pm, 88.1FM WSDP).
Click here for Wednesday’s media package.
Friday – Saginaw (14-18-0-2) at Plymouth, 7:05 pm, Compuware Arena (6:45 pm, 88.1FM WSDP).
Saturday – Plymouth at Windsor, 2:05 pm, Windsor Family Credit Union Centre (1:50 pm, www.plymouthwhalers.com).
The Whalers and the rest of the Ontario Hockey League gets back to business this week.
With four players away at the World Junior Championships (J.T. Miller with the United States, Scott Wedgewood with Canada, Rickard Rakell with Sweden and Dario Trutmann with Switzerland) and one player away at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (Mitchell Dempsey with Team Ontario), Plymouth’s depth will be tested over the next couple of weeks.
The Whalers Kids Club captains look to continue to lead the way.
Kids Club captains Mitchell Heard and Garrett Meurs lead the Whalers in scoring in December – Meurs, the leading goal scorer (five goals with three assists for eight points in six games) and Heard, the leading point scorer (four goals and five assists for nine points in six games).
With 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points through 33 games this year, Meurs has easily surpassed his totals through December of 2010, when he had four goals and 17 assists for 21 points over 36 games.
Although Meurs played with his typical energy last year, if there was a post to hit last season, Meurs hit it. If there was a net to shoot at, Meurs missed it. To his credit, Meurts never stopped working and was selected by Colorado in the fifth round of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Fast forward to this season and Avalanche scout Rick Pracey has a smile on his face whenever he comes to Compuware Arena to check on Meurs.
“We really like Garrett, especially where we got him in the draft,” said Pracey. “It’s a credit to him that he played in an exhibition game for us this fall. He earned the opportunity.”
“Last year, there were a lot of games when I would go in (on the net) and the puck would take a sunnt bounce, or I’d hit the post, stuff like that,” Meurs said. “Things weren’t going my way. This year, things are going a little better. More bounces are going my way.”
With experience (163 OHL games), Meurs is working with a renewed purpose and it is paying off.
“I’m starting to pick my spots a little more this year and things are going my way,” Meurs said. “With experience, you get a better feel about what to do in a given situation and it helps.”
Heard is also productive, with one additional trait. In spite of his size (or because of it), Heard leads Plymouth this season with 10 majors, including three in December – Dec. 3 against Guelph, Dec. 10 against Sarnia and Dec. 16 in Oshawa.
“Nichol clipped me in the nose with his stick, so I wasn’t liking that too much,” Heard said of his fight with Guelph’s Mac Nichol on Dec. 3. “So we decided to go.”
Meurs and Heard feel the Whalers depth may well carry the team over the next couple of weeks.
“Any line can go out on a given night and score goals,” Meurs said. “That helps a lot, because it takes pressure off everyone.”
“We have four strong lines in Plymouth,” Heard said. “We’ve got some young guys who will have to step up. It’s going to be a good opportunity for them to show Mike (Vellucci) and the coaching staff what they’ve got. I feel like they’re ready for the task at hand.”
Meurs and Heard bring the same energy to their duties as Kids Club captains. Parents looking for give their kids some additional fun while being a part of the Whalers experience should consider enrolling their kids in the Kids Club.