The 1997-98 Guelph Storm did not have any players among the top ten scorers in the Ontario Hockey League. The only major award a Storm player won that year was the Bobby Smith Trophy, an off-ice award for the Scholastic Player of the Year. Yet, the Storm to the OHL by storm. The team finished first overall during the regular season, won the Robertson Trophy in the playoffs and had a strong showing at the Memorial Cup.
Guelph finished first in the Central Division, nine points ahead of the Barrie Colts. Their 90 points placed them one point ahead of the Ottawa 67’s, earning them the Hamilton Spectator Trophy. After receiving a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, Guelph swept the Sudbury Wolves and Plymouth Whalers in order to meet the Ottawa 67’s in the finals. Guelph dispatched Ottawa handily in five games.
At the 1998 Memorial Cup, held in Spokane Washington, Guelph went 2-1 in the round robin. The Storm met the Portland Winterhawks in the tournament final. The two teams finished the first three periods deadlocked at three goals each. Portland prevailed in overtime.
In 2011-12, six of the players from that great Guelph team were still actively playing professionally. Two others were behind the bench.
Brian Willsie led the team in 1997-98 with 45 goals and 76 points, earning a spot on the OHL First All-Star Team. It was Brian’s third of three years in the OHL with the Storm. Willsie was an NHL prospect after his first season with Guelph, drafted in the sixth round of the 1996 Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, 146th overall. He has appeared in 381 regular season NHL games with the Avalanche, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings. 2011-12 was spent in the American Hockey League with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Kevin Mitchell played four years in the Ontario Hockey League from 1997-98 to 2000-01. His first three were with the Storm and his final season was with the Oshawa Generals. Mitchell was a ninth round pick of the Calgary Flames in 1998, 234th overall. He has yet to play in the NHL and has played in Europe since 2004-05 on teams in Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Austria. 2011-12 was Kevin’s second season with Villacher in Austria’s EBEL.
Kent McDonell played with the Storm for four years from 1996-97 to 1999-00, wearing the ‘C’ in his final campaign. Kent twice entered the NHL Entry Draft, selected by Carolina in 1997 and Detroit in 1999. He has appeared in 32 NHL games, all with the Columbus Blue Jackets. McDonell has spent the past five seasons in Sweden’s Elitserien, the past two with AIK. He also played ten games this past season with Rapperswil in Switzerland’s National League A on a loan basis.
Manny Malhotra played two seasons with the Storm, 1996-97 and 1997-98, along with 5 games in 1999-00. He was the seventh overall pick at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, going to the New York Rangers. Malhotra will enter his third season with the Vancouver Canucks in 2012-13 and has played 855 regular season games to date with the Rangers, Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks and the Canucks.
Eric Beaudoin played three years with the Storm from 1997-98 to 1999-00. The fourth round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998 has appeard in 53 NHL games, all with the Florida Panthers. Beaudoin has played in Europe since 2005-06, appearing on teams in England, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. Eric will start 2012-13 with Biel in Switzerland’s NLA, a team he’s been with for the past two seasons.
Brian McGrattan played for six teams in the OHL over five years from 1997-98 to 2001-02. In his rookie year with the Storm, Brian appeared in 25 regular season games and 0 in the playoffs. The following year, he was traded to the Sudbury Wolves early in the season and his OHL odyssey was well under way. McGrattan was a fourth round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 1999. He has played in 212 NHL games to date with the Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators. He is set to start the 2012-13 season with Nashville.
The two players from the 1997-98 Guelph Storm involved in coaching are Jason Jackman and Bohuslav Subr. Jackman coached University of Ontario Institute of Technology in 2011-12. Subr was the assistant coach for the Netherlands on the Under-18 and Under-20 World Junior teams.