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Lynx Alumni in the VHL

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With both the VHL and VHLM drafts having just finished, the Ottawa Lynx have gained a new crop of prospects but have lost many of the ones we already had. In most of these cases, we already knew the player would be up, but it's still bittersweet to see the guys who've been developing here move on to bigger and better things in the VHL. The baby birds have flown the nest, so to speak. While it's a particularly strong feeling this year (a lot of active guys, winning the cup together, most of them new guys so these were some of the first member bonds they'd been able to form in the league) it's never an easy task. What makes it better though is when they go on to be successful VHL players. You can point to them and say that you had a hand in them becoming what they are, even and especially if they pass you up in time. It's a part of a good VHLM GM's legacy to be responsible for the first contact these guys have in the league, and develop that to where they become major players and major members, and I have no doubt that many of the guys in this list will do just that.


For S63 VHL draftees in particular, there were many former Lynx on the list, either having been drafted here, traded for, or signed midseason. The first and most obvious thing that jumps out is the fact that one of the strongest defensive pairings in the league last year, two guys who played a huge role in the cup win, deservedly went with the first two picks in the draft - Ryan Kastelic and Joseph McWolf. McWolf in particular was one of the biggest steals of the S62 VHLM draft (arguably the biggest steal among skaters, although there are several goalies who were drafted lower and worked out very well) having fallen all the way to the 16th pick. Over the course of one season, he climbed to 2nd overall in the VHL draft and will be playing for a New York Americans team that picked up a lot of top talent. Kastelic, having been acquired via trade, went 1st overall to the Riga Reign who pushed pretty well into a wild card playoff run on the back of Podrick Cast and a slew of relatively young players. Were it not for the mile wide five hole of Arvid Aamo, Riga may not have been in a position to even have a lottery pick, yet in the final season of even percentages, the wild card team won the lottery and took Kastelic, who will be ready to jump into a key role in the Riga lineup immediately.


Later in the first round, Dan Wilinsky was selected 7th to New York and will join McWolf, as the draft did not break the two up. Wilinsky signed with Ottawa last season after games had already been underway, but soon proved a valuable asset to the team. The guy who signed at the same time as Wilinsky, Chace Trepanier, looked to be on a similar path until the final weeks leading up to the draft. Trepanier fell off slightly and went 19th overall to the Toronto Legion, but either way he will be a good contributor for them, either as a depth guy at his current pace or a future steal if he gets back to anything resembling his early pace.


There were three more guys of note who signed with Ottawa during the season: Bo Axelsson, Jesse Wilson, and Randoms. Axelsson created late enough that he will be in the S64 VHL draft, but both Wilson and Randoms were selected. Randoms is affiliated with Benjamin Zeptenbergs, GM of the Riga Reign, but is not the designated player (which is Kallis Kriketers, who will be discussed later). Randoms fell, perhaps surprisingly, to 24th pick, where he went to the Quebec City Meute. There's a risk inherent in the build of Randoms, in that he spins a wheel every morning to decide what he'll do in training, but if you want a good player despite build, he'll likely become that. Wilson is perhaps one of the more interesting cases in this year's draft, in that he created much later than most but managed to climb all the way to 13th pick where he went to the Helsinki Titans.


Also going to the Helsinki Titans were the two other major Ottawa players to be drafted, Vaydar Odinsson and Chance Matthews. Odinsson went at 11th, which is a good early selection for a guy who has been around the league. It was unknown until the draft whether Odinsson would play up or return to Ottawa, but it has now been confirmed that Helsinki wants him there for the season. Matthews, on the other hand, does get another season at Ottawa. He went 17th overall, which in a draft this deep is respectable, but he could have gone much higher based on his early pace. Matthews looked like he had the potential to be a world beater for his first few weeks. He slowed down a bit, but has made a bit of a return recently. Much like Trepanier, if Matthews can become what he once was, he'll be a future steal. Matthews will be the one key returnee on Ottawa after Odinsson's departure and will be relied upon to help the new guys develop, several of which already look promising and could be in a similar spot next season.


There are three final players who were drafted in the S63 draft who spent time with Ottawa - two were traded away, and one is a special case who we'll get into shortly. The two traded away were Athanasios Andrianopoulos, who was sent to Yukon in the trade that saw Roctrion King go to Ottawa. King was a great contributor for Ottawa, but Andrianopoulos was no slouch in his own right. Andrianopoulos was never developing at the rate of some of the top guys, but until a few weeks ago, he looked like a good future depth player for cap purposes and the Toronto Legion will be hoping he at least returns to that level. The same can be said for James Lombardi, the other trade casualty formerly of Ottawa. Lombardi was sent to Vegas for 2nd and 3rd round picks, which was an unheard of haul for a 9th round guy, but for most of the season Lombardi worked his way through practice after practice to try to prove himself worthy of that price despite the media reaction to the trade. He has fallen off in recent weeks much like Andrianopoulos, but rumor has it a man with the general look of Lombardi was seen wandering outside the Davos Dynamo stadium just a few hours ago. The special case, the remaining draftee to have been selected who played for Ottawa (and still does) is Rzerk. No one really knows what to make of this mystery man, he has at no point looked like developing to the point of making a VHL roster, but he does still show up to practices on occasion and could be an interesting VHLM lifer - or, with a slight increase in activity, he could be the next Paul Dimirio Jr, the guy who toiled away over half his career in the minors but was finally rewarded with a spot in the bigs.

Now the last player to discuss, and technically not an S63 draftee, but a member of the S63 draft class nonetheless: Kallis Kriketers, the likely future playoff MVP. Kriketers was an interesting story throughout the season, as early on he was quite terrible despite practicing more than most members of the draft class - most members of the entire VHLM, in fact. About halfway through the season, things clicked for him and his numbers started to pull closer to the goalies on the other contenders, but it wasn't until the playoffs where he really shined. Shutting the door on the hopes of both other realistic cup contenders, the Las Vegas Aces and Halifax 21st, he was one of the biggest reasons Ottawa has the S62 Founders Cup in its trophy case. Kriketers is the designated player of the Riga Reign and as such, is ineligible for the draft.


Despite losing all these players to the draft (and more, as Lando Baxter and Roctrion King were both on Ottawa despite their rights being owned by VHL teams as they'd previously been drafted) the future looks bright in Ottawa. There are many players who just joined and look like they could have an article much like this about them next year, although hopefully some are just slightly less active and return for the S64 VHLM season, although that's a bit far to look forward to just yet. There is a trend of GM designated players becoming Ottawa goalies, however, as JB Rift stands between the pipes for the upcoming season. Hopefully our exiting players can make their mark in the VHL, and some of them become the stars they have the potential to be.


1525 words, 3 weeks - ending 14th, 21st, and 28th

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