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The Windsor Spitfires’ run to the Ontario Hockey League final last year was fueled by the strongest offense in the league.

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However, with defending league champion Wyatt Johnston’s status and older prospect Matthew Maggio uncertain as they attend NHL camps, it remains to be seen how the Spitfires will fill potential offensive voids on the roster this season.

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“I think we’re going to be just as good,” Spitfires center Jacob Maillett said. “Our young guys are looking really good and the older guys are making great strides.

“I think we can still be a very good offensive team. I think we can still be an attacking team and win games.

So far in exhibition play, the Spitfires have backed up Maillet’s words. With Thursday’s 6-5 shootout victory over the Sarnia Sting at the WFCU Centre, the Spitfires have produced 25 goals in five exhibition games for an average of five goals per game. The chances of scoring will get tougher when the regular season rolls around, but that’s a positive sign for a team that averaged 4.49 goals per game during the regular season in 2021-22.

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“So far, from what I’ve seen, we’ve got a pretty good attack and we’ve scored a lot of goals in pre-season,” said Spitfires striker Alex Christopoulos. “Guys move the puck and you don’t see a lot of goals unassisted.”

Two-time OHL scoring champion, Spitfires head coach Marc Savard doesn’t hide his love for the offensive game. Players like Maillet and Christopoulos found new life at Windsor last season after making trades.

“Honestly, just opportunities,” the 19-year-old Maillet said. “In Guelph I didn’t play a lot or have a lot of opportunities, then I came to Windsor and Marc and the staff immediately trusted me and gave me opportunities which I took advantage of and in who I trusted. If you have confidence, you can be the best player on the ice.

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A former second-round pick from Guelph in 2019, Maillet had 12 points in 74 games over two OHL seasons before coming to Windsor. He had 25 points in 46 games with the Spitfires, added 11 more points in 25 playoff games and believes he can play an even bigger role.

“Even though (Johnston and Maggio) are back, it’s a stage that I want to improve and play in a more attacking role,” Maillet said. “At the time, as a minor midget, it was kind of my role. Lead the team to points and contribute to the attack.

Christopoulos was another to find more life offensively at Windsor. He had 18 points in 78 games at North Bay over two seasons, but occasionally found himself on the first line with Johnston and Will Cuylle last season and had 13 goals and 22 points in 47 games. He tied for third with the team with 11 goals in 25 playoff games.

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“It built confidence and opportunity,” said 19-year-old Christopoulos. “I didn’t have a lot of ice in North Bay, but here you have to work hard, be confident and make plays.

A former 49-goal scorer in Minor Midget, Christopoulos also believes he has more to give with several other players he believes will be looking to take another step forward this season.

“I think I can help the team a lot, especially if Johnny and Magg don’t come back, but guys like (Ryan Abraham, Ethan Miedema (both former first-round picks) and Maillet can too,” Christopoulos said. “There are also a few younger guys and Smitty (Colton Smith) has been pretty good.

“We just have a hard-working group and we really work the pucks in the offensive zone and we want that on our stick.”

Christopoulos and Miedema scored in the shootout to secure Windsor’s third exhibition win in five games. Abraham had two goals and an assist for the Spitfires, who had a one-goal lead on five occasions. Oliver Peer, Noah Morneau and Christopher O’Flaherty added single goals for the Spitfires, who held a 34-30 shot lead.

jpparker@postmedia.com

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