top of page

Mississauga Steelheads 2023-24 Season Preview

A graphic shows Angus MacDonell, Porter Martone and Luke Misa in front of a Mississauga Steelheads logo
Graphic by Reid Nyenhuis

By: Mitchell Fox

The Mississauga Steelheads kick off their 2023-24 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season on Friday with their home opener against the Erie Otters. The game could mark the beginning of a new era in Mississauga, with new faces and a young roster ready to lead the Steelheads back to past glory.

Since last year’s first-round playoff defeat at the hands of the North Bay Battalion (a valiant effort against a far superior team), the Steelheads have bolstered their roster with promising young talent, while using their overage and import slots to fill out their depth.

Let’s have a look at some of the big stories heading into the season.

New faces of the franchise?

Entering the 2022-23 season, the faces of the Steelheads’ franchise were three promising NHL prospects: Ethan Del Mastro, Owen Beck and Luca Del Bel Belluz. After the trade deadline, the faces changed: long-time Steelheads James Hardie, Charlie Callaghan and Kasper Larsen were the most noteworthy names in town.

With those three having moved on from the OHL (Hardie to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL, Callaghan to St. Francis Xavier University and Larsen to Brynas IF of HockeyAllsvenskan in Sweden), some younger stars are now the centrepieces of a potential new era of Steelheads hockey.

Angus MacDonell is now the sole NHL-drafted player on the team, having been picked in the sixth round of the 2023 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars. Porter Martone, who was also traded from the Sarnia Sting at last year’s trade deadline, has already been touted as a potential top-12 player for the 2025 NHL Draft. Luke Misa, eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft, could also be a very important piece for the team.

Other fan favourites might include long-time Steelheads Zander Veccia and Chas Sharpe, as well as Mississauga natives Parker von Richter and Jack Ivankovic (but more on him in a bit).

Steelheads welcome new overagers, import players

Additions: Ryan Del Monte, Marc Boudreau, various OHL and Import draftees

Subtractions: James Hardie, Charlie Callaghan, Kasper Larsen, Alessio Beglieri, Brice Cooke, Ryan Struthers

In the NHL/AHL: Kai Schwindt

With last year’s overage players having aged out and Kai Schwindt moving on, the Steelheads found themselves with space to add some overage depth, adding Ryan Del Monte from the London Knights and Marc Boudreau from the Sudbury Wolves for a 15th-round pick each.

Alongside additions through the draft and offseason moves, the Steelheads also needed to move away two forwards, Brice Cooke and Ryan Struthers. Cooke, who had 11 points in 66 games and played in three playoff games last season, was traded to the North Bay Battalion for a sixth-round pick in 2024. Struthers, who played 33 games in 2022-23, was traded to the Windsor Spitfires for future considerations.

The other noteworthy subtraction is goaltender Alessio Beglieri, whose return to Biel-Bienne in the Swiss U20-Elit league gave the Steelheads an import slot to work with this season. With Beglieri and Larsen both departing, the Steelheads were able to use both of their picks in the CHL Import Draft over the summer, selecting Czech defencemen Jakub Fibigr and Tomas Galvas. Fibigr who signed with the team in August.

Finally, the Kai Schwindt situation is a fascinating one. Jordan Davidson broke last week that GM and head coach James Richmond confirmed to fans Schwindt will remain with the Florida Panthers organization. The addition of Boudreau around the same time thus makes sense.

The Steelheads’ three overage spots are now used by Del Monte, Boudreau and Chas Sharpe.

The Steelheads are currently only using one of two import slots, for Fibigr.

How does the forward group shape up?

Predicting the opening night lineup for a team filled with young talent, gritty depth and everything in between is not easy. Some players are obvious locks, but even veterans may find themselves in and out of the lineup if Richmond decides to focus on giving youngsters more opportunities.

So, how might the forward lines shape up?

Adam Zidlicky - Angus MacDonell - Porter Martone

Lucas Karmiris - Luke Misa - Zander Veccia

Mason Zebeski - Jack Van Volsen - William Eggleton

Justin DeZoete - Ryan Del Monte - Marc Boudreau

Scratches: Keiran Witkowski, Gabriel Chiarot, MacGregor Richmond

Angus MacDonell and Porter Martone developed a connection on and off the ice last year, both with the Steelheads and Canadian national teams. Adding Adam Zidlicky forms a line that found chemistry last year while giving the Czech winger an opportunity to prove if he can turn his straight-line speed, slick skill and tenacity together into a high-end OHL performance.

A potential second line features three players with impressive speed. Luke Misa has been subject to criticisms about not shooting the puck enough, but on this line, he may have no choice but to add scoring to his strong playmaking. Zander Veccia’s aggressive forechecking and strong positioning, plus Lucas Karmiris’ smart backchecking and stickwork, could help Misa focus more on driving play. Karmiris and Misa could also be swapped between center and wing.

The third line is the least certain. Mason Zebeski could almost play anywhere in the lineup, bringing bottom-six tenacity but also the potential to turn increased ice time into improved scoring. His all-around game is a good fit beside Jack Van Volsen, who was a top-ten OHL Draft pick because of his mix of skill and size but is still putting it together at the junior level. William Eggleton is a left winger, but an impressive showing in preseason could mean he sees more ice than he did in just 10 games last season, even if on his off-wing.

Justin DeZoete, Ryan Del Monte and Marc Boudreau are all established bottom-six players in the OHL. Boudreau and DeZoete are physical presences Richmond can move around the lineup as needed (perhaps letting players like Martone focus more on offence), while Del Monte, a Mississauga product, will hope to bounce back from an injury-affected season last year.

One other player who could start the season in the lineup is Kieran Witkowski. The Steelheads’ 2023 second-round pick has shown flashes of skill, defensive awareness and aggressiveness that could fit anywhere in the lineup, including special teams.

There is lots of room for anybody in this year’s forward group to move into and out of the top six. Knowing Richmond, he will have no issue moving players around based on merit and opportunity.

A mix of young guns and veterans patrol the blue line

On defence, things are a bit less clear. With familiar names and a couple of new faces ready to make their mark, the Steelheads have options on the blue line to match their balanced lineup up front.

Here is a potential lineup:

Jakub Fibigr - Chas Sharpe

Stevie Leskovar - Parker von Richter

Luke Dragusica - Finn Harding

Scratches: Dylan Gordon, Liam Spencer

The first thing worth noting in any potential lineup for the Steelheads is new import player Jakub Fibigr is likely the top left-side defenceman, maybe unless Parker von Richter or Finn Harding can excel on their off-hand side. Fibigr was Mississauga’s first-round pick in the CHL Import Draft and has since had a strong performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and in training camp.

Chas Sharpe is the most experienced defenceman on the roster and seemed to find chemistry with Fibigr during the preseason. Sharpe’s lockdown defensive style is matched well by Fibigr’s quick feet and strong puck protection, creating a nice mix of fire and ice.

The Steelheads will really want von Richter to break out this year, perhaps adding more offence to the stout defensive play he showed in his rookie year. Stevie Leskovar’s strength is as a physical defensive defenceman, while Luke Dragusica has been touted as such ahead of his rookie season, so von Richter should have opportunities to move the puck up the ice more often in either pairing.

Dragusica will need time to break in as a sure-fire OHL player but if he can provide a well-rounded game to fill out the top six, Mississauga can look forward to having a strong defensive group.

The Steelheads also have depth on the blue line, with Dylan Gordon looking to equal or surpass his role as the team’s go-to seventh defenceman last year (he played 33 games) and Liam Spencer providing another big presence (he is 6’4” and uses it well) to use when needed.

Two youngsters battle for the crease

It might be burying the lede to include the goaltending storyline last.

Ryerson Leenders was one of the best young goalies in the OHL last year, having essentially taken the starting goalie job from Alessio Beglieri, whose return to Switzerland means the second spot is open to a new candidate.

With Jack Ivankovic entering the picture, Leenders may not be the young star in the Steelheads’ crease. The Mississauga product was picked with the seventh overall pick in the most recent OHL Draft and immediately turned heads through training camp with his impressive side-to-side movement and reaction time.

Still, Leenders has experience from last year’s playoff appearance and an opportunity this year to become a bonafide starter. He did not get to play at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup over the summer, but the fact he was picked speaks to his notoriety around junior hockey. If he can start the season strong, he may be able to secure himself the 1A position in a tandem, if not a starting role.

Whoever takes the net on Friday, the Steelheads will enter the 2023-24 season with two very promising young goaltenders. If they can do their jobs and fill in for each other when needed, a promising youthful roster could win a lot of games.

There will be few easy games in the OHL this year but the Steelheads could easily be one of the best stories of the year if they kick things off as hot as they did last year.

Intermission Sports will have you covered on all things Mississauga Steelheads and the OHL this season.


bottom of page