Martindale, Toffoli, Prince all among Top 10 in OHL scoring
Brian Kilrea has seen his share of explosive forward units in his time, but even the legendary coach is awestruck by the performance of the Ottawa 67’s top line these days.
Ryan Martindale, the lanky play-making centre, an Edmonton Oilers prospect; Tyler Toffoli, the surefire sniper, selected by the L.A. Kings in front of their home crowd at last summer’s draft; and speedster Shane Prince, who celebrated his 18th birthday Tuesday by seeing his name listed in Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings for the 2011 NHL draft. Prince is the OHL’s 18th-ranked skater.
“It’s a real good line, and they’ve had a couple of offensive explosions lately, but the second half (of the season) will tell the story,” said Kilrea.
“With the way they’re playing, there will be a lot more defensive lines keying against them and playing more of a trap to try and contain them, so it’s going to depend on the finish before you start comparing them to some of the great lines (of the past) who were together for a full season or two.”
All three are among the Top 10 OHL scorers, and it’s safe to say no one forward unit has been as consistently dominant as Ottawa’s big three this season.
And while Martindale (14 goals, 18 assists) and Toffoli (18 goals, 16 assists) were known quantities coming into the season, Prince (eight goals, team-leading 27 assists) has been a pleasant surprise.
A native of Spencerport, N.Y. and a product of the Maksymum junior hockey program, Prince had a rather inauspicious start to his OHL career as the last pick of the 13th round (260th overall) by the Kitchener Rangers in the 2008 priority selection.
After making the roster, Prince was buried on the depth chart until catching Kilrea’s attention, and the Ottawa GM sent a third-round pick to acquire Prince’s services in January.
Even then, Prince’s game in the latter half of the 2009-10 campaign gave few hints of the breakout he was poised to make.
“I can’t really say that I thought he was going to be as outstanding as he is this year, but we did think he would be a good, solid player for us for three years, and he is,” said Kilrea. “Our game here in Ottawa hasn’t changed with (second-year coach) Chris (Byrne) from when I was here as coach. It’s always built on speed and (Prince) fit the bill.”
And while Prince was excited to celebrate his birthday with a glimpse into his future, he’s not content to rest on his early season success.
“It’s great to be on the (Central Scouting) list and it’s great to be recognized. I think I deserve to be on the list and maybe a little higher, so I’m going to keep working throughout the season and hopefully move up,” said Prince. “Obviously, it’s a big year for me. I’ve been working toward this year my whole life, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself.”
He doesn’t need to look too far for advice, with a pair of linemates who have been through the draft carousel and the experience of an NHL training camp.
“Last season, I started really slow, and I was on that list and throughout the year I went higher and higher,” said Toffoli. “(Prince has) just got to keep working hard and keep putting pucks in the net and his stock will rise.”
Martindale warned against getting too caught up in the rankings.
“It’s out of his control, so you don’t really focus on it,” he said. “You just worry about your own game and the team’s success, and if the team is doing well, then (individual) success will come with it.”