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Dave Jewell The Hockey Writers

Published on Monday, May 25, 2020





Windsor Spitfires’ All-Time OHL Roster

When you think of Windsor Spitfires’ hockey, nearly 50 years of incredible memories come flooding in. Rich in history, the organization has seen hundreds of hopeful talents lace up the skates, aiming to not only impress the pros but the local fans, too. It makes you wonder who had the biggest impacts on the team over the years.

After looking at the Spitfires’ All-Decade Club and their All-Time Starting Six, we finish up the series with their All-Time Roster. These players are, in no particular order or position, the 13 forwards, 7 defencemen, and 2 goaltenders who made the biggest overall impact both on-and-off the ice.

As the Spitfires entered the OHL officially in 1975-76, we’ll use that as the earliest marker. Sit back as we explore the best of the best of this historic franchise.

Spitfires’ Phenomenal Forwards

Let’s be clear — this isn’t about pure production. We aren’t taking the top-13 scorers and calling it a day. That’s not how this should work. In reality, every forward group needs offence, a team-first approach, and leadership. If any of those are missing, the group won’t function correctly. These decisions weren’t easy but let’s look at the 13 forwards who stood out in a variety of areas and deserve to be on this all-time roster.

First Line: Steve Ott – Craig Kennedy – Bill Bowler

When you think of famous Spitfires’ lines, the “M.O.K. Line” comes to mind very quickly. From 1999-01, Steve Ott and Craig Kennedy were two-thirds of this infamous line (along with Shawn Mather) that could beat you on the scoresheet, with a big penalty kill or with the body.

Steve Ott, St. Louis Blues, NHL
Steve Ott (9) was the second piece the Buffalo Sabres sent to the St Louis Blues in the Miller deal. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 6-foot, 190-pound Ott played Jr. B. nearby in Leamington then immediately made his mark with the Spitfires. With 237 points and nearly 500 penalty minutes (PIM) in 174 games, when he wasn’t producing, he was one of the elite pests in the game. How many players can say they made Eric Staal drop the gloves in juniors? Named captain in 2001-02, he was a true throwback who could (and would) do anything his team needed.

On his line was one of the best two-way forwards the Spitfires have seen in Kennedy. A rare combination of strength, grit, and offence, the 6-foot, 190-pound, Sault Ste. Marie-native became a fan favourite for doing the little things very well and his longevity. He’s one of just a few players in team history to reach 300 games and had 244 points along the way.

Rounding out the line is one of the most recognized names in team history, current Spitfires’ general manager Bill Bowler.

Windsor Spitfires' GM Bill Bowler
Windsor Spitfires’ general manager Bill Bowler. (Dave Jewell/THW)

A 13th-round pick in 1991, the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder didn’t let anything get in his way. He started off with 88 points in 1991-92 and continued to dominate from there. Through 250 games, he was untouchable with 318 assists (best in OHL history) and 467 points (third behind Stan Drulia and Wayne Groulx). There may never be another like him.

This trio brings incredible offence, a tremendous work ethic, and that agitation level you can’t help but enjoy. They’re a fun way to start this off.

Second Line: Adam Henrique – Adam Graves – Taylor Hall

In 2009 and 2010, the Spitfires celebrated the organization’s first Memorial Cup wins. Two players, in particular, were key to their title runs — Adam Henrique and Taylor Hall.

From the moment Hall was drafted second overall in 2007, he did what he wanted on the ice. A 45-goal rookie season was capped off with 280 points in 183 career games. Add in his playoff and Memorial Cup totals and the future NHL star was virtually untouchable on the ice.

Taylor Hall Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes’ forward Taylor Hall. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Not to be outdone, Henrique was Mr. Clutch. With 228 points in 238 games, he was the two-way forward teams crave. Add in fantastic leadership, earning the Spitfires “A” in 2009-10, and fans knew he would have a long NHL career.

Henrique’s biggest moments came in 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Fans will never forget his overtime winner against the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the 2009 Memorial Cup semifinal. It became one of the biggest moments in team history. In 2010, he captivated with 20 goals in 19 OHL playoff games, then another 9 points in 6 Memorial Cup games. He was the guy for big games.

Adam Henrique
Anaheim Ducks’ Adam Henrique celebrates his goal with the bench. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Rounding out the line is one of the most popular local players the team has seen, Tecumseh-native Adam Graves. The sixth-overall pick in 1985, the 6-foott, 205-pounder was everything you’d want in a hometown player. With 224 points and 212 PIM in 165 games, he could produce, protect, and was loved by the fans. Everyone knew him and he was as big-game-ready as they come.

The team retired Graves’ number in 1998 as he enjoyed an outstanding NHL career. No Spitfires’ team would be complete without him.

This is a fun trio who deserve to be on this all-time roster.

Third Line: Cory Stillman – Claude Loiselle – Aaron Luchuk

Our third line features players from three very different eras, but with the same style in mind.

First on this line is a heart-and-soul player that’s still talked about around town. A second-round pick in 1990, Cory Stillman immediately endeared himself to fans with his hardworking, offensive style.

While he only played in two seasons with the club, his 101-point rookie season in 1990-91 will be tough to match, even in our new high-skilled era. Stillman’s leadership was clear and the Spitfires gave him the captain’s “C” from 1991-92. In 1992-93, he was traded to his hometown Peterborough Petes for their Memorial Cup run.

Cory Stillman Carolina Hurricanes
Former Carolina Hurricane Cory Stillman enjoyed a long NHL career. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Next, few players can come in and make the immediate impact that Claude Loiselle did. Born in Ottawa, he came to the Spitfires in 1980-81 and dropped a mere 38 goals and 94 points in 68 games. That caught the Detroit Red Wings’ attention and they took him in the second round in the 1981 draft. He thanked them with 197 points in 112 games from 1981-83, which the fans also appreciated.

Rounding out the line is a modern leader of the organization. The Spitfires drafted 5-foot-11, 180-pound Aaron Luchuk out of Kingston in 2013 and he left his mark on the organization and the City of Windsor as a whole.

From 2014-17, Luchuk continuously improved every aspect of his game, whether it was scoring, playmaking, or defensive responsibilities. He had incredible durability, too, missing just one game in four seasons.

Windsor Spitfires Aaron Luchuk
Windsor Spitfires’ 2017-18 Captain Aaron Luchuk. (Dave Jewell/THW )

The Spitfires named Luchuk captain in 2017-18, but unfortunately traded him to the Barrie Colts that December. It was an emotional farewell, though he went on to a 50-goal season. Whether it was on-or-off the ice, he was invaluable and deserves to be recognized among this group.

Fourth Line: Cam Janssen – Ernie Godden – Blair Barnes

This line might turn some heads, but every team needs that combination of skill and intimidation.

We start with one of the most popular players in Spitfires’ history – Cam Janssen. The St. Louis-native came advertised as energetic and hard-hitting and didn’t disappoint.

At 6-foot, 210-pounds, Janssen played like a bowling ball on caffeine. With 22 points and over 260 PIM in 2001-01, fans loved his willingness to do anything for the club. He became a Spitfires’ leader and was respected throughout the league. In 149 games, he finished with 48 points and 623 PIM, plus several thousand fans.

In 2004, the Spitfires made the tough decision to trade him to the Guelph Storm for their playoff run. Janssen is one of the good guys in hockey and went on to have a solid pro career before moving to podcast and sports radio in St. Louis.

Joining him is a guy who did it all — Ernie Godden.

From 1978-81, he was the classic Spitfire. While just 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, he’d run you over then score with ease. In 1980-81, Godden reached the unheard-of 150-150 club with 153 points and 185 PIM. Oh, and that league-record 87 goals in 68 games still stands to this day. He was a true blue-collared throwback and one who fans have never forgotten.

Finally, Godden’s teammate, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Blair Barnes, rounds out the line in a huge way. With nearly 300 career points and over 400 PIM from 1977-80, Barnes was a machine. A sixth-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 1979, he later went on to play a game with the Los Angeles Kings in 1982-83. Sadly, he passed away in 2010 while in Chicago.

This is an intimidating trio who could do it all. They deserve a spot on this all-time roster.

Extra Forward: Luke Boka

You can have all the offence you want, but having a player who puts his body on the line every shift is essential. This is why Luke Boka is getting this spot.

Luke Boka Windsor Spitfires
Luke Boka (61) was a heart-and-soul player for the Windsor Spitfires. (Dave Jewell/THW)

The Spitfires’ captain from 2018-20, Boka was not an elite producer (30-40 points per season), but he more than made up for it in penalty killing, durability, and team-first approach. He blocked shot after shot, doing anything the club needed, and refused to back down. Do that for a team-record 313 games and it’s certainly a value that can’t be overlooked.

While Boka wasn’t overly vocal, he led by example and his leadership influence will be felt for years to come. This was a hard decision to make with several players being considered. However, leaving off a player with a resume that included multiple OHL Coaches Polls, multi-season team captain, and team record-holder simply couldn’t be justified.

Defensive Masterminds

Like the forward groups, every defence needs two-way production, intimidation, and leadership. The ideal group isn’t about having the most points or awards, but a combination of talents that can get the job done no matter what situation is thrown at them. Here are the seven defencemen that deserve a spot on defence.

First Pair: Ryan Ellis – D.J. Smith

There aren’t two defencemen who defined their Spitfires’ eras better than D.J. Smith and Ryan Ellis.

Ellis was drafted in the second round of the 2007 OHL Draft and instantly became a household name. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Hamilton-native brought the perfect combination of skill, physicality, and leadership. Named captain in 2010-11, his list of awards is never-ending and his 313 points in 226 games may be insurmountable.

Ryan Ellis
Former Windsor Spitfires’ defenceman Ryan Ellis while with the Nashville Predators in 2018. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Similarly, when you think of the Spitfires in the mid-90s, the tough-as-nails Windsor-native Smith is at the forefront. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was everything the team and its fans had hoped for. From 1993-97, he proved he could do it all, racking up 143 points and 651 penalty minutes in just 188 games. In his final season, 1996-97, he earned the team captaincy.

Following his pro career, Smith joined the Spitfires’ bench from 2004-12 becoming one of the most well-respected staff in team history.

Ottawa Senators head coach D.J. Smith
Ottawa Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

In terms of production, leadership, and value to the club, you can’t get much bigger than Ellis and Smith. That’s why they’re on the first pair of this roster.

Second Pair: Ed Jovanovski – Harry Young

Not surprisingly, our second pair is also a local duo. There must be something in the City of Windsor’s water. Like Smith and Ellis, Jovanovski and Harry Young were staples of their era. They brought different things to the table but were incredibly effective.

The Spitfires drafted Jovanovski second overall in 1993 out of the Windsor Bulldogs and he did everything they could have asked of him. From 115 points and 419 PIM in 112 games to OHL and CHL awards, the man they called “JovoCop” became a celebrity around town. The Florida Panthers took a serious liking to him, making him the first-overall pick in 1994. While he spent one more season in the OHL, his pro career took off soon after.

In January 2015, the Spitfires retired his number 14 and it rests proudly above the team benches in the WFCU Centre.

Not every elite defenceman scores on a regular basis, though. Some are the strong, silent, defensive type. That’s how it was with Young. Former general manager Warren Rychel traded for the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder in 2006 and it was one of the best deals of his resume.

While Young only put up 55 points over 277 games, he was as steady and reliable as they come. His quiet, serious demeanour became his staple and his 549 PIM showed he was willing to stand up for anyone at any time. Off the ice, he was a true leader, captaining the 2009 and 2010 Memorial Cup teams before moving on to the New Jersey Devils’ system in 2011.

Young has since moved on to other ventures in Windsor but, to this day, he remains one of the most well-liked Spitfires of all time. He and Jovanovski are both very deserving of spots on this roster.

Third Pair: Joel Quenneville – Todd Gill

When you talk about top defencemen, you can’t forget about the early years of the Spitfires’ colours. Windsor-native Joel Quenneville and Brockville-native Todd Gill walked into the Windsor Arena during the mid-70s and early-80s, respectively. While they didn’t play on the same roster, they each made their mark on team history.

Gill wasn’t a local product but he sure became a local guy during his time with this club. Spitfires’ fans have always loved the rough-and-tumble, blue-collared approach to the game and he delivered. Whether the team needed a big goal or a big hit, he was tapped on the shoulder and hopped the boards.

Since leaving the Spitfires, he enjoyed a lengthy, 19-year NHL career before moving onto various management roles.

Like Smith, Quenneville started with local minor hockey before becoming a star. He was part of the inaugural season and became a player that could do anything and everything that you needed. With 229 points and 344 PIM in 197 games, what was there not to like? The man they called “Q” was a true leader and was named team captain for his final two seasons.

Joel Quenneville Florida Panthers
Florida Panthers’ head coach Joel Quenneville. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For his outstanding contributions both on-and-off the ice, Quenneville had his number six honoured by the Spitfires and he was inducted into the Windsor-and-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Gill and Quenneville are shining examples of the in-your-face, productive styles from the earlier Spitfires’ eras. They’re both deserving of a spot on this all-time roster.

Extra Defenceman: Mike Weber

This was another very tough decision but one that needed to be made.

The Spitfires’ third-rounder in 2003, Mike Weber made the club near the end of training camp, beating out fellow rookie Tom Jefferson. He ran with the opportunity.

At 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, his physical, in-your-face play was perfect for the team. From 2003-06, he was a fixture on the Spitfires’ defence with 55 points and 448 PIM in 231 games. A teammate of Janssen and Kennedy, Weber played the role of shutdown defenceman very well and his leadership qualities stood out when the team named him captain in 2006-07.

In January 2007, Weber was traded to the Barrie Colts as part of the team’s new ownership rebuild. After the OHL, he played 11 seasons in the pros before a knee injury forced his retirement. The Spitfires brought him back in 2018 to join the bench staff as an associate coach.

Mike Weber, Buffalo Sabres
Former Buffalo Sabres’ defenceman Mike Weber. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From the moment he made the club in 2003, Weber has been well-known around the Spitfires’ circles. His intelligence, skill, and leadership make him a nice addition to this all-time roster.

Crease Kings

Starter: Michael DiPietro

This might have been the easiest decision on the roster. From the moment the Spitfires drafted Amherstburg-native Michael DiPietro in the second round in 2015, he became their golden child in the net. He refused to settle for anything but the starter’s job, grabbing it from three other goaltenders. From there, he was everything the team could have asked for.

Michael DiPietro Windsor Spitfires
Former Windsor Spitfires’ goaltender Michael DiPietro. (Dave Jewell/THW)

DiPietro started with the OHL First All-Rookie team in 2015-16, grabbed the 2017 Memorial Cup MVP, and then finished off in style with the 2017-18 OHL Goaltender of the Year. Add in the Key to the Town of Amherstburg and the Spitfires’ record for games played (174), goals-against average (2.52), career shutouts (16), and wins (86); what more was there? It was his crease, period.

From the start, fans knew that he was going to be something special. DiPietro had everything the team had wanted since the back-to-back Memorial Cups and it was almost a perfect pick. The kid they call “Mikey” is now entering a promising career with the Vancouver Canucks. He has cemented himself as the best in team history and the unquestioned starter on this all-time roster.

Backup: Andrew Engelage

This is another incredibly tough decision. Through the years, the Spitfires have had several talented goaltenders come through the system including Phillip Grubauer, Roland Melanson, and Michael Leighton. In the end, though, one name can’t be left off of this roster — Andrew Engelage.

Andrew Engelage Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires’ goaltender Andrew Engelage after the 2009 Memorial Cup in Rimouski. (2009, Aaron Bell)

Drafted in the 13th round in 2005, Engelage became the goaltending poster boy for the new era. He took the crease from veteran Anthony Guadagnolo in 2006-07 and became a total workhorse. From 2006-09, he played in over 66% of the Spitfires’ total games and is right behind DiPietro for team goals-against average, wins, and shutouts.

While he had some serious talent in front of him, no team is successful without a reliable goaltender. Engelage didn’t always get the accolades he deserved but now it’s time to show what he meant to the club. He’s earned a spot on this all-time roster.

Their Captain Forever – Mickey Renaud

Finally, there’s one player that absolutely needs to be a part of this. Leaving him off would have been unacceptable.

From 2005-08, forward Mickey Renaud was the heart-and-soul of the Spitfires. The youngster from Tecumseh, Ontario, became everything the club needed and more — producer, leader, and family. The Calgary Flames’ prospect set an example both on-and-off the ice and was as loved as any player the team has seen.

Mickey Renaud Windsor Spitfires 2008
Mickey Renaud (18) just days before his sudden passing. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Sadly, it all came to a tragic and sudden end. In February 2008, prior to a team event, Renaud, 19, collapsed at home while eating lunch. Despite all efforts, he passed away shortly after. The unthinkable news shook the organization and community like nothing else. It was later determined that he suffered from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a condition that thickens the heart muscles causing blood flow issues. With few symptoms, it goes largely undiagnosed.

The team took a couple of weeks off to mourn and figure out how to continue. Now, Renaud’s memory lives on within the organization with several memorials, including retiring his number 18. His spot on this roster is absolute and he will live on as the Spitfires’ “Captain Forever.”

Rose City Success

The purpose of junior hockey is to develop young talent and prepare them for the next level, both in hockey and in life. Through nearly 50 years, the Spitfires have seen hundreds of players walk through the doors of the Windsor Arena and WFCU Centre, eager to show the city and the team what they’re made of.

Windsor Arena
Windsor Arena in Windsor, ON – Jan 2017. Dave Jewell/THW

While some have come and left just as quickly, others have made a tremendous impact. They became one with the community, showing the best combination of production, dedication, and leadership, and fans haven’t forgotten. They’re the pride and joy of the Spitfires’ organization and have earned a spot on this all-time roster.

The post Windsor Spitfires’ All-Time OHL Roster appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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