There is little doubt that the Leaf 5th round selection in the 2001 draft Kyle Wellwood hasn’t been inking up the scoresheets this year like he did in 2000-2001 when he won the OHL scoring title with 118 points. A quick look at his points per game average, down .30 from a year ago, will tell you that much. To be sure, there was a shoulder injury to deal with earlier in the campaign and the timing to be found after coming back from it but there was also the criticism that without Branko Radivojevic and Randy Rowe putting the biscuit in the net he never would have piled up all of those assists.
Now comes a completely different challenge. Wellwood is going from a high octane ‘who cares about defense’ brand of hockey in Belleville that has them 4 points out of first place in the OHL’s East Division to distinctly regular ‘how do we light this thing anyway?’ team in Windsor pulling up the rear in the West Division two points south of London. Jason Spezza is gone and many have Dallas first rounder Steve Ott heading out on the next bus seeing as he may well end up playing at least AHL hockey next year. Should the Spits deal ‘The Rat’ for youth before the upcoming trade deadline, things will look very different indeed for Wellwood’s new team.
It’s possible they still could squeak into the playoffs on the back of goaltender Ryan Aschaber who has shown in the past that he is capable of carrying a team but what is really going to tell the tale is the new #97. The local kid, particularly if Ott is moved, is going to have to be the big wheel on offense down the stretch. Almost to a man, the entire Spitfire team has more assists than goals. If there was ever a team that was in need of someone who could turn a couple of good goalscorers into great snipers, this one is it. Whether or not it happens only time will tell, but for good or ill, onlookers are about to find out just how much of Wellwood’s point totals last season were due to Belleville and how much were due to him.