Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

Past the halfway point of the season now, NHL Central Scouting has updated their rankings for 2020.

Here's a look at how the OHL players fared. A total of 57 were ranked. And of course, if you wanted to compare, here's my midseason top 50. Also, see below for my thoughts on the list.

Skaters:
1. Quinton Byfield (2)
2. Jamie Drysdale (3)
3. Cole Perfetti (4)
4. Marco Rossi (5)
5. Jack Quinn (9)
6. Jacob Perreault (17)
7. Jean Luc Foudy (20)
8. Will Cuylle (21)
9. Ryan O'Rourke (32)
10. Jaromir Pytlik (38)
11. Antonio Stranges (39)
12. Tyson Foerster (41)
13. Oliver Suni (45)
14. Brandon Coe (47)
15. Tyler Tullio (54)
16. Tanner Dickinson (55)
17. Luke Evangelista (58)
18. Donovan Sebrango (59)
19. Hayden Fowler (66)
20. Jack Thompson (67)
21. Kirill Steklov (69)
22. Ville Ottavainen (71)
23. Ruben Rafkin (72)
24. Rory Kerins (74)
25. Isaak Phillips (76)
26. Evgeniy Oksentyuk (79)
27. Zayde Wisdom (90)
28. Cam Butler (100)
29. Ethan Cardwell (104)
30. Pavel Gogolev (105)
31. Ilya Solovyov (119)
32. Reid Valade (123)
33. Robert Calisti (137)
34. Dylan Robinson (138)
35. Ole Bjorkvik-Holm (140)
36. Jake Murray (155)
37. Igor Chibrikov (156)
38. Tye Kartye (173)
39. Logan Morrison (184)
40. Luka Profaca (185)
41. Anthony Tabak (199)
42. Austen Swankler (200)
43. Louka Henault (201)
44. Jake Uberti (202)
45. Andrei Bakanov (203)
46. James Hardie (213)
47. Kyle McDonald (216)
48. Brendan Hoffman (217)
LV - Evan Vierling

Goaltenders:
1. Nico Daws (1)
2. Owen Bennett (13)
3. Will Cranley (16)
4. Tye Austin (21)
5. Aidan Campbell (28)
6. Zach Paputsakis (30) 


1. In comparison to my list, here are the biggest discrepancies:
I Have Higher:

1. Logan Morrison (-19)
2. Andrei Bakanov (-18)
3. Lleyton Moore (-16) - Not Ranked
4. James Hardie (-11)
5. Mitchell Smith (-11) - Not Ranked
6. Declan McDonell (-10) - Not Ranked
7. Riley Piercey (-9) - Not Ranked
8. Jack Thompson (-7) 
9. Tucker Tynan (-7) - Not Ranked

I Have Lower:
1. Kirill Steklov (+22)

1. Tanner Dickinson (+15) 
1. Ville Ottavainen (+14)
1. Ethan Cardwell (+8)
1. Dylan Robinson (+8)
1. Will Cuylle (+7)
1. Igor Chibrikov (+7)
1. Luka Profaca (+6) - Not Ranked) 

2. In terms of the differences between my rankings and NHL Central Scouting, I think I am most shocked by Morrison and Bakanov. I know that I am higher on Bakanov than most, but Morrison is a quality player who many people have ranked as a top 100 player. His lack of dynamic skating ability probably pushes him down into the mid rounds of the draft, but to have him as a no-draft (which is where he is ranked by Central Scouting) is a head scratcher. 

3. Also not shocked to see NHL Central Scouting have that group of larger defenders ranked higher than me. Steklov, Ottavainen, Robinson, and Chibrikov are big kids and NHL CS loves themselves larger, project defenders.

4. Great to see so many "overage/re-entry" guys listed like Oksentyuk, Gogolev, Solovyov, etc. I think not having Billy Constantinou on there is a big miss though. He has been sensational for the Greyhounds and is one of the top second year eligible players available IMO.

5. Love seeing the aggressive ranking of some OHL players, such as the "big four" and Jack Quinn. NHL Central Scouting has Quinn ranked as a possible mid first round selection and I think that's where he should be at this point in time.

If you're looking for the full list, you can find it HERE.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Midseason Top 50 for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2020 calendar year is now upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2020 Draft. The OHL season is past the half way mark which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

This is a much stronger group for the OHL than 2019, which may have been the weakest draft group that the league has produced in the modern era. The big four (Byfield, Drysdale, Perfetti, and Rossi) have performed up to expectations and all look like possible candidates for the top 10 of the draft. Additionally guys like Jack Quinn, Ryan O'Rourke, Jean Luc Foudy, Tyson Foerster and others have stepped up their games to give the OHL many candidates for the top two rounds. There is some serious high end depth here. And it may only be getting better as Jan Mysak, Martin Chromiak, and Nick Malik are joining in on the fun. It is an exciting year to be covering the league from a draft perspective. 

For those unfamiliar with my lists, I only include first time eligible players. So a guy like Nico Daws isn't listed despite the fact that I'd expect him to receive very heavy draft consideration. I do a list of "re-entries" or second/third year eligible players prior to the draft.

And for comparison's sake, here's my preliminary top 50 from October.  

Here's the list:


1. Quinton Byfield - Center/Left Wing - Sudbury Wolves
For those throwing shade at Byfield for his rather bland performance for Canada at the WJC's, you need to do yourself a favor and watch him play with Sudbury. Am I a little disappointed that he didn't factor in more? Sure. Does it change my opinion of him as a potential NHL superstar? Absolutely not. Byfield is not a polished product. His ability to impact the game without the puck is still a work in progress. He still needs to learn how he can use his size to impose his will in the offensive zone and neutral zone to force turnovers, or to at least apply pressure. He could stand to be a little more assertive with the puck, making quicker decisions below the goal line and in the neutral zone. But, he's a 6'4, 215lbs center who has everything going for him and whose potential impact on the ice is nearly limitless. His power and skill combination is rare to find. He dominates the offensive zone for full shifts, possessing the puck for 30+ seconds at a time, requiring multiple defenders to slow him down. His agility and ability to stop, start, and cut with the puck makes him do difficult to pin down. However, his vision is also top notch. As defenders are drawn to him, he finds open teammates with precise timing. He has that innate ability to process the game that simply can not be taught. As his confidence grows, and as he continues to improve his conditioning, I would expect some of his inconsistencies to iron themselves out. I'm really looking forward to seeing how Byfield can put the Wolves on his back for Sudbury's inevitable playoff push.

2. Jamie Drysdale - Defense - Erie Otters
If Drysdale's skating did not impress you on the big ice during the World Juniors, I might worry about you. Drysdale's skating stride might be one of the more effortless ones that I have seen in the OHL during my time covering the league. As such, he is the consummate modern day defender. I have seen numerous quotes and interviews from his WJC coach Dale Hunter applauding Drysdale for his ability to recover dump ins, handle pressure, and start the breakout. Here in lies the secret to his success. He takes such great routes to pucks and is such a strong mover that teams are rarely able to establish possession deep in the offensive zone with Drysdale on the ice. He is learning how to use his mobility to be more aggressive defensively too, stepping up to deny zone entries and close gaps earlier. Offensively, his shot is not a major asset, but his vision with the puck and decision making are. Not many draft eligible defenders average more than a point per game in the OHL (Ryan Ellis, Drew Doughty, Ryan Merkley are recent examples). The one area of his game that I still want to see improvement from is Drysdale's assertiveness when running the point of the powerplay. His skating ability could be such an asset here in terms of opening up lanes, but he can be too complacent at times. This should improve with experience and greater confidence. As a right shot defender in a weaker draft year for defenders, Drysdale looks like a lock to be the first blueliner off the board and is still a potential top 5 pick IMO.

3. Marco Rossi - Center - Ottawa 67's
I have thought long and hard about this. To be honest, I didn't think I would be convinced to do it, but I have moved Rossi ahead of Perfetti in my rankings. This is starting to become a trend in the scouting community for good reason. Rossi has been too good in recent months and his play simply can not be ignored. Rossi has greatly surprised me this year with how he has been able to elevate his game. I initially saw someone that I thought would be a long time pro, but who was more likely a middle six center who could kill penalties and provide versatility, but lacked the creativity and skating ability to be a truly impactful offensive player at the NHL level. But his skating has improved a lot this year, and he is showing a more complete and creative skill set than I had originally given him credit for. There may not be a better player in the OHL below the hash marks. The way that he controls the wall is exciting to watch. He may not be the biggest kid at 5'9, but his strength and balance are exceptional. He is very difficult to knock off stride. Additionally, his agility is exceptional, especially with the puck, which showcases just how good his hands are. Like Byfield, Rossi often draws multiple defenders down low, drawing penalties or creating open lanes in the slot. Rossi's shot has improved a ton this year too; his release much quicker and explosive. Teams are having to really respect this and it is making him more difficult to defend. Take away his space and he seems to become more dangerous, not less. Throw in the fact that Rossi is also a terrific two-way player who anchors Ottawa's penalty kill and is on the ice late in the third period protecting leads, and you have a player with very few weaknesses now. Best case scenario, Rossi is a first line center who can play in any situation and who elevates the play of those around him. Worst case scenario, he's an elite third line center who can anchor your penalty kill. All the ways that he impacts the game are going to make him very attractive to a team drafting in the top 5-7 in June.

4. Cole Perfetti - Left Wing/Center - Saginaw Spirit
Look, as much as I have been impressed with Rossi's development this year, Perfetti has been terrific lately too. Rossi moving ahead of Perfetti speaks more to my belief that he can be the more complete player, in addition to sticking down the middle. But Perfetti is still a terrific prospect who deserves the consideration for the top 10 that he is getting. He is one of the smartest players in the draft with the puck on his stick. It is rare to see Perfetti make a poor decision with the puck. His hands are also top notch. He makes so many subtle plays in the offensive zone with the puck (be it a quick move between the legs coming off the wall, a self pass behind the net, etc) that help to maintain possession and create scoring chances. Of course, everyone knows about his release by now, which is deadly, especially when he sets up shop in the slot or near the dot. No question, his skating will need to improve though. His overall agility is strong. But his explosiveness and top speed need to improve, something that I have seen Perfetti himself acknowledge in interviews. Improving his strength and conditioning should do this. It should also help him fight through traffic to make plays a little more consistently. I would also like to see Perfetti improve his consistency away from the puck. At times he is fully engaged, active on the forecheck and in applying back pressure. And at other times, he has a tendency to float in the offensive zone, looking to get into scoring position while his linemates do the dirty work. However Perfetti is an exceptionally skilled and intelligent offensive player who has top line potential in the NHL.

5. Jack Quinn - Right Wing - Ottawa 67's
There may not be a hotter goal scorer in the OHL than Quinn right now. 17 goals in his last 15 games, which now puts him just outside the top 5 in goals in the OHL. Every time I see Quinn play, it seems like he gets better. His confidence grows by the week. IMO, Quinn is deserving of top 15 consideration for the NHL Draft and here is why. Firstly, I think he's still scratching the surface of what he is capable of offensively. Quinn may be a late birthday 2001 born (which some use to discredit his production), but it's important to consider that he's only in his second OHL season and has hit a growth spurt (from 5'9 to 6'1) that has him still growing into his skill set. Secondly, the progression he has shown in the areas of his game that needed improvement is extremely encouraging and IMO speaks volumes about his dedication and commitment to being a pro hockey player. His skating has improved considerably, adding a power element to his game that was lacking previously. Additionally, he has become a consistently engaged and committed two-way player who excels on the forecheck, kills penalties, forces turnovers, and is hungry for the puck. Thirdly, his skill set is quite complete. He has a wicked shot release and is gaining confidence in shooting the puck more and being more assertive in seeking out shooting opportunities. He makes quick decisions in the offensive zone and has good vision as a playmaker. Quinn is out there in all situations for the 67's (similar to Rossi) and plays a style that is easy to see translating to the NHL level. One thing I would like to see is him attacking the middle of the ice and playing through traffic more consistently with the puck on his stick, but even this; his consistency and confidence on the attack, is improving lately. Scouts coming to watch Marco Rossi play are going to come away equally as impressed by Quinn and I expect him to be a steady riser as the season progresses.

6. Ryan O'Rourke - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A true two-way defensive stalwart thanks in part to the improvements made to his offensive game this year. A lot of that improvement has come from O'Rourke improving his stride and overall mobility. With quicker feet this year, O'Rourke is involving himself more as an offensive player, be it creating space in his own end to fire up the breakout, or jumping up in the play as the third or fourth man in to find space to unleash his big shot. His overall puck skill would have to be deemed average and he is not likely to be a big time point producer at the NHL level. But seeing him improve his confidence and play with the puck is definitely encouraging. This is especially true considering how good O'Rourke is defensively. He makes you earn every inch of ice against him. A physical defender aching back to yester-years, O'Rourke revels in the opportunity to play the body, be it with a big hit in the open ice or a crunch along the boards to separate his man from the puck. But he is also an intelligent defender who has a good stick and understands his coverage and assignments, showing patience and poise. He is assertive when he needs to be; when it is smart to be. I'm sure NHL scouts wish that he was a little bigger (6'1) given the style of game that he plays, but Ryan O'Rourke has a place in my first round any day.

7. Jacob Perreault - Right Wing - Sarnia Sting
Perreault is such a skilled and creative player in transition. As the season progresses, we're really seeing him gain confidence in his one on one abilities with the puck. He's starting to be a lot more assertive, looking to use his speed and skill to beat defenders wide in order to take the puck to the net. Perreault is also a very intelligent player without the puck in the offensive zone. He has great anticipation of the play and as such ends up with a lot of wide open chances in the "home plate" area, beating defenders to rebounds or open space. This is important because of how good his shot is. His release is one of the quickest in the age group, requiring little time or space to get a quick wrist shot off, which has a ton of velocity. To me, there is a lot of Tyler Toffoli in Perreault's game, only Perreault is a much better skater than Toffoli was at the same age. As a two-way player, Perreault does have some work to do. He needs to be more consistently engaged without the puck, be it in pursuit or applying back pressure. Additionally, I think his decision making with the puck can come into question at times, which is weird considering how good of a playmaker his father (Yanic) was. I find that especially in the neutral zone, he can be turnover prone when he's not able to use his speed or isn't given space to operate. But Perreault has really elevated his game the last couple of months and very much deserves to be in consideration for the first round this year.

8. Tyson Foerster - Right Wing - Barrie Colts
A highly intelligent player, Foerster has really exploded this year with the Colts, forming a dynamic first line with Carolina first rounder Ryan Suzuki and Import Matej Pekar (who has since been dealt). While it is clear that Suzuki and Foerster have remarkable chemistry, even with Suzuki out (with his eye injury), Foerster kept on trucking which had to be a real eye opener to scouts. There are a couple things that really stand out with Foerster. The first is his cannon of a shot. He loves to set up at the dot near the half wall and like Ovechkin/Stamkos, he can unleash a powerful one timer or a quick snap shot that beats goaltenders clean. And he really moves well without the puck, jumping into gaps and anticipating the play very well. The puck seems to find him in the offensive zone and he doesn't waste time getting the puck off his stick. The second thing is his play away from the puck. He is a very intelligent two-way player who gets his stick in passing lanes, wins battles along the boards, and is active on the forecheck forcing turnovers. I love when goal scorers are this active as it helps establish and maintain zone time, which only helps them get their chances. I do have some questions about him though. His skating will need to improve. His first few steps aren't terrific and he isn't much of a factor carrying the puck in transition, meaning that he generally needs someone else to gain the offensive zone for him right now. Will his skating improve and will his ability to carry the puck in transition and play at a faster pace improve? It certainly could. Look at Jack Quinn this year and how much he has upgraded this area of his game (as a late 2001 born). Quinn is built similarly to Foerster. But it's enough to make Tyson more of an early second round candidate for me and not necessarily a first. It will be really interesting to see how he plays in the second half with most of his offensive support now gone.

9. Jan Mysak - Left Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Mysak is a player that I feel pretty comfortable discussing despite the fact that he hasn't played in the OHL yet. I've seen him play a significant amount Internationally (U18's, Hlinka, recent U20's) and I spoke to several scouts before the season started (around Import draft time) to get a better read on him (and to help me write my annual import draft review). It will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs play Mysak alongside Kaliyev (considering Kaliyev plays a lot on his off side), especially with Jenik out. I think Mysak possesses a ton of skill, and while he may not be the skater that Jenik is, does have similar playmaking tendencies because of his creativity and puck possession capabilities. He's always struck me as a fairly aggressive player without the puck too, who applies pressure to force turnovers and can drive the play through the middle of the ice. His skating ability is the one area that will be most heavily scrutinized in the OHL and it is something that I'm very intrigued to see in person. Having seen Mysak and Pytlik play together a few times, I think ranking Mysak just ahead of Pytlik is a fairly safe place to start him on my list. 

10. Antonio Stranges - Left Wing - London Knights
I'll admit, I wanted to put Stranges lower on this list. His game has a lot of warts that have become more apparent as the season progresses. Yet, I find myself still drawn to his offensive potential given his unique skill set. Let's start with the good. Stranges is a very creative player with the puck who is unpredictable in his attack because of his use of the 10/2 skating stride. It's a similar stride to former OHL'er Jeremy Bracco, but Stranges manages to generate a lot more power and explosiveness this way and it helps him protect the puck as he pushes his way across the blueline and towards the net. Stranges is also an improving goal scorer who may possess the best backhand in the OHL, a bit of a last art in today's game. His ability to elevate the puck on his backhand catches goaltenders and defenders off guard. Despite all of this, Stranges' impact on the game is incredibly inconsistent. One may argue that this is because his ice time fluctuates greatly. But the flip side of that argument is that his ice time fluctuates because of his refusal to buy into the way that the Hunters want him to play without the puck. His disengagement from the play away from the puck and in his team's half of the ice is going to be a big red flag for scouts. The offensive upside is tremendous here, but if his overall game doesn't show progression in the second half, he will likely slide on both my list and the real lists of NHL scouts.

11. Jean Luc Foudy - Right Wing/Center - Windsor Spitfires
I view Foudy in a similar light to Stranges in that he may end up lower on my list eventually, but as of right now, the offensive potential is still too high to ignore. Like his brother Liam, Jean Luc's skating is a big time asset. He goes 0-100 in a split second and is nearly impossible to deny entry to the offensive zone once he gets that head of steam going. You'll see him circle back to the defensive zone quite often, in order to take possession of the puck and lead the breakout for this reason. And while he does get pushed to the outside quite often, he is poised with the puck and is content with circling the zone, maintaining possession. As much as I'd like to see him be more aggressive in attacking the middle of the ice and playing through traffic, he doesn't commit many OZ turnovers and is generally able to make plays and create, even if it is from the perimeter. I think Jean-Luc's vision, creativity, and his shot are all better than his brother Liam and I think the offensive potential for him is higher because of it. That said, I do have questions as to whether his game translates to the next level without drastic changes. His speed will play, but he needs to add other elements to his game. Be it improving his play away from the puck. Be it attacking the middle more often. Look at the way his brother Liam played at the WJC's this year. If that physicality and engagement level could be brought to Jean-Luc's game (or Liam's more consistently for that matter), he would be a true impact player. Not impossible at all, but right now he's a second round selection for me.

12. Jaromir Pytlik - Right Wing/Center - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Pytlik is a guy that I'm slightly concerned in the sense that what you see is what you get. By that I mean, I'm beginning to wonder if his offensive potential at the NHL level is capped. In a way, I'm getting flashbacks to fellow countrymen Pavel Zacha and Radek Faksa. Pytlik plays a very pro ready game. It's easy to see him as an NHL player. He is a workhorse down low who is great at using his size and reach to control the wall. He keeps his feet moving and has good enough hands to keep plays alive and/or spin off the wall to drive the net and open up space. His skating has improved and he has become more confident leading the attack across the blueline; aggressive in attacking the middle of the ice. He's also a smart two-way player who is engaged and committed to applying back pressure, and who can provide versatility as either a center or wing. All of that said, he's a relatively straight line player who does lack the creativity and hands to be a consistent driving force and play creator...at least currently. I'm also not sure his shot and release are good enough to be more than a dangerous net front presence. A lot of these same criticisms were said by me about Zacha and Faksa in their draft years, and while both have become quality NHL players, neither are top six forwards. I like Pytlik and I think he's going to be an NHL player, but he's no longer someone that I would feel comfortable taking in the first round.

13. Jack Thompson - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Let me get this straight first. I'm a big Jack Thompson fan and I think his upside is among the highest of any draft eligible defender on this list, even more so than O'Rourke. But the last couple of months have not been the most kind to him (one point and -8 in his last 15 games). Stats certainly don't tell the whole story, but he's become slightly turnover prone and his high risk offensive game has hurt the Wolves at times recently, without much to show for it. At one point, I thought Thompson could end up rising into the first round, but I now see him as more of a second round pick that teams will need to be patient with. Thompson's mobility is a big asset. As is his point shot. As he becomes more comfortable and confident with the puck, look for him to develop into one of the better powerplay QB's in the OHL. Defensively, I think there's definitely potential for him to develop better two-way tendencies. His mobility can be asset in the defensive end and he shows both a good stick and some tenacity when holding the middle of the ice. But his decision making will need to improve. Bad pinches, reads with the puck, and defensive zone turnovers have been an issue during this cold stretch (likely from trying to force the issue and with his team not playing the best hockey either). Thompson is too talented to hold down for the rest of the year, but is also still a very raw defensive prospect who will need patience. 

14. Ty Tullio - Right Wing - Oshawa Generals
Tullio is an underrated prospect who probably deserves to be higher on this list. He has been terrific for the Generals this year. Really like Tullio's engagement level in the offensive zone. He's all in to create offensively and is willing to do whatever it takes to make a play. He is active on the forecheck and is engaged along the wall, using his speed to close in on dump ins and defenders. Tullio is also relentless near the crease, playing much bigger than his size (5'11). He manages to get inside positioning on much larger defenders and has a very quick release which makes him a great opportunistic scorer. Tullio is also a savvy playmaker who is great at creating when working the half wall, spinning off checks and making quick and assertive decisions with the puck. He's not the most creative player with the puck, but his decisiveness makes him effective. What I have not seen much from Tullio (and I've seen Oshawa a lot this year), is the ability to create consistently in transition. I think at this point, he's much quicker without the puck than he is with it. He can struggle to play through the neutral zone at times and he needs to keep his feet moving on the attack. He seems much more comfortable when the game slows down; when Oshawa is able to set up possession in the offensive zone. I don't think skating is the issue. Tullio is a good skater. I think he just needs to improve his ability to receive/carry the puck at full speed, and his ability to protect the puck while in motion. As such, as well as he is performing, I've got Tullio a little lower.

15. Will Cuylle - Left Wing - Windsor Spitfires
6'3, 200lbs wingers who can score do not grow on trees. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that some NHL teams will have him ranked highly and inside the first round. Cuylle does have terrific hands in tight and is very good at using his size to get inside of defenders near the crease. It won't be as easy for him at the next level, but you love to see a big kid who understands where he needs to be on the ice to help his team. Cuylle also has a very powerful shot. He generates a ton of velocity on both his wrist shot and slapper on one timers. I guess my concern right now is, what else can Cuylle bring to the table? When he's not scoring goals, he's not a very noticeable player. His skating will need to improve. As a minor midget player, we saw Cuylle as a dominant player in transition because of his power and skill. But that hasn't translated as well at the OHL level, at least not consistently. I think part of it is because he's not able to accelerate quickly enough to catch defenders flat footed and as such is relying solely on power. Additionally, I'd like to see Cuylle be more consistently engaged physically. I actually don't think he's a poor defensive player. He can make some good plays on the backcheck, using his size and stick to break up plays. But in order to take his game to the next level, he needs to use his size to dominate down low, to help drive possession, and to apply pressure to opposing defenses. Definitely not impossible for him to improve in these areas. Big guys take longer to develop. Quite often guys like Cuylle have to change their games when they move up the ladder and the transition takes longer. Patience will be key, but the potential for him to develop into a top 6 power winger is very much present. 

16. Luke Evangelista - Right Wing - London Knights
Sometimes you have to give a team the benefit of the doubt. The Hunters and the Knights know how to develop forwards into star players in this league and into legitimate NHL prospects. London's first rounder in 2018, Evangelista, didn't score a single goal last year. In the 27 games he played, sometimes he was lucky to see more than a handful of shifts. Yet, here we are discussing him as a potential top 60 selection and as a Top Prospect's Game participant. And with good reason as he's a heck of a player. He's one of the few London forwards who is consistently engaged and willing to battle along the wall and near the crease. He's not always the most effective because he lacks the strength to win those battles consistently, but the effort is there. Evangelista is a highly skilled player with the puck though. I think he's just scratching the surface of his potential as a play creator and distributor. Seems like every time I watch London this year, Evangelista makes at least one play per game with the puck on his stick that makes me go "wow." The problem is assessing the potential of these somewhat sheltered, but talented young Knights forwards. Evangelista is not getting the powerplay time to show his individual skill level, nor is he counted on to gain the offensive zone or drive the pace of play. In other words, he hasn't shown us what he's fully capable of. But what he has shown us is the ability to be a terrific support player who can do the dirty work on a line, has the hands to create space for himself, and who has the vision to create plays for others. 

17. Oliver Suni - Right Wing - Oshawa Generals
Everything was going great for Suni until early in December when he took a hit in the corners and has been out since with an upper body injury. Recently replaced in the Top Prospect's Game, it's safe to assume that he won't be back for at least another month. Tough break. It will be interesting to see how Suni's game is affected when he returns, as power and strength are such a big part of his game. If he loses an edge, he may not finish the season as well as he started it. The one thing I love about Suni's game is how he uses his body and his reach in all three zones. He is not afraid of driving through players to make a play, be it on the forecheck, driving the net, or getting a puck in deep. He's also committed on the backcheck and will use his size to separate his man from the puck. The consistency in his effort away from the puck is great to see from a young player. I also think Suni excels in transition where his stride is surprisingly explosive. His finishing ability may be raw, but he generates chances for his linemates with his drives to the net and has a good enough playmaker's touch to dish off when he needs to. I guess the question I have is similar to the one I posed about Jaromir Pytlik. Does Suni have the potential to be a top 6 player at the NHL level or is he more of a complimentary bottom six player? The development in his shot/finishing ability and creativity/patience with the puck will be key.

18. Martin Chromiak - Left Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Basically what I said for Mysak works for Chromiak. Wasn't sure that I wanted to include Chromiak in these rankings, given that he just started playing in the OHL a few days ago. But I managed to catch a couple of his first few games on tape, have seen enough of him Internationally (Hlinkas and U18's), and talked to a few European scouts prior to the season. That has painted enough of a picture for me to feel comfortable putting him in at least the same range as Suni. Chromiak is a well rounded offensive player who is equal parts goal scorer and playmaker. He'll need to get his timing down in the OHL, but playing alongside Shane Wright, he is going to get a ton of chances. In his first game, he could have had 3-4 goals on top of the deflection he posted just outside the crease, but whiffed on several clear chances in the slot. As he becomes more comfortable, I would expect those to find the back of the net. Internationally, I've been impressed with his skill level along the wall and ability to keep plays alive and that was the case in his initial Kingston games too. It will be interesting to see what his game looks like in a month or so, when he gains more confidence playing with the puck, especially in transition. He is also going to have to prove that he can handle the physicality of the league and show an engagement level in defensive support. Scouts certainly didn't need another reason to see Kingston this year (because of some exceptional fellow), but now they have one. 

19. Brandon Coe - Right Wing - North Bay Battalion
This might be a bit of an aggressive ranking considering that Coe is a third year player (late 2001 born) who started the year off pretty slowly. But his performance since the coaching shuffle up in North Bay has been too good to ignore (18 points in his last 12 games, averaging nearly 4 shots per game in that time span). Coe has always been one of those kids with the entire toolbox, but who just couldn't seem to string together any sort of consistency. Even if he cools off a bit, what this string of play has shown us is that Coe does have the ability to be a game breaker. Not many 6'4 kids can skate like Coe. The difference being that he is now being more aggressive in using this speed to drive the net and create with the puck, carving up space and creating consistent scoring chances. This new found assertiveness and confidence is great to see. Once he hits that full stride, with his size and reach, he can be nearly unstoppable. The thing is, Coe can also be engaged without the puck and is a willing and effective forechecker who will throw his weight around to apply pressure to defenders. He will also fight and jockey for position near the crease and is willing to score the greasy goals. Quite frankly, he is the complete package when everything is working well for him; the reason he was drafted third overall in 2017. No question, if Coe keeps up this level of play under Ryan Oulahen until the end of the season, he will be rated much higher than 19 on my year end list. Consistency is still the main goal here.

20. Logan Morrison - Center - Hamilton Bulldogs
Morrison has a lot of things going for him. He's a real smart offensive player who has looked right at home centering Arthur Kaliyev and Jan Jenik at times this year. He's not the fleetest of foot (or skate), but he's actually quite effective in transition because of how well he protects the puck in full stride and because he's able to maintain possession through cuts to the middle of the ice. Morrison is also effective away from the puck, willing to work below the goal line to win battles along the wall, or drive the net to open up space for his linemates. Morrison also has goal scoring potential because he possesses a real nice wrist shot, that he can use both in full stride or release quickly from the slot off of quick pass or rebound. Don't let the poor +/- fool you either. He's not a one-way player. Morrison has a good IQ at both ends. He just needs to get stronger and a little quicker to really be a difference maker in all three zones. And while his skating has already improved this year IMO (especially his top speed), it will need to continue to get better, especially his explosiveness. But Morrison is a potential middle six center with a good head for the game. Really curious to see how he plays without Jenik in the second half, assuming he gets more touches and is given more responsibility to lead the charge in transition.

21. Hayden Fowler - Wing/Center - Erie Otters
Late 2001 born forward who has had a very nice bounce back year after an injury filled one the year prior. Fowler plays a lot bigger than his size (5'10) and is very aggressive in his attacks, with and without the puck. Can score dirty by crashing the net, or by making a nice move coming down the wing. His game has equal part grit and skill. Fowler is also a quality skater whose explosiveness helps him be a very dangerous player leading zone entry or in terms of creating odd man rushes following turnovers. He is very much a quick strike player. While his offensive production and performance has been a little inconsistent from game to game, he does seem to be consistently engaged without the puck this year. You really like to see that from skilled players like Fowler. So what's the issue and why is he rated 21st? For me, I think the inconsistencies offensively stem from possible limitations in the vision and hockey sense department. When he's operating in transition, I find that he can have tunnel vision and offensive turnovers can be an issue. The same can be said when he's working the cycle, where his patience and poise needs to improve. But I think Fowler has had a very good year for a lower scoring Otters team whose projection as a middle six forward makes him a good candidate to be a Top 90 selection.
   
22. Donovan Sebrango - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Strong skating two-way defender who has shown the ability to play a variety of different roles over the course of the last two years. At times, he's run the Kitchener powerplay. This year, he's settled into more of a defensively oriented role with the Rangers, something he did for Canada at this summer's Hlinka/Gretzky too. Not a huge kid at a shade over 6'0, but he's aggressive in taking away space from his opponents. He's effective and physical crease and below, consistently winning battles in the corners and net front. His mobility also really helps him defend in transition as he's able to keep attackers in front of him with a good stick and feet. Where you draft Sebrango ultimately depends on how you feel about his offensive potential. At times during his OHL career he has shown the ability to use his speed to lead the rush and be an aggressive playmaker. And he has also looked comfortable working the point, keeping pucks in, creating shooting lanes, etc. But his puck management in his own end is a work in progress. Turnovers can be an issue at times, be it from mental lapses, trying to force plays, or bad reads. He needs to trust his mobility more to create those exit lanes, something that should come with confidence. Improving his ability to carry the puck through traffic by adding strength and working on his puck skill would also help him be more consistently involved as an offensive player. I view Sebrango as a quality 3rd/4th round pick with the chance to be a quality NHL defender.

23. Ruben Rafkin - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
I've ranked Rafin and Sebrango right near each other for a reason. I think they possess similar upside as NHL defenders. Both are 6'0, but play bigger than that; excelling at taking away space and playing with intensity in the defensive end. Rafkin is definitely the more aggressive player in open ice. He loves to step up on attacking forwards at the blueline or as they cut to the middle. Where as I actually think Sebrango is perhaps a tad more effective along the wall and near the crease. But both are solid in their own end for their age and project as quality pro defenders. Rafkin and Sebrango are also fairly mobile, with Rafkin also showing potential as a puck carrier and powerplay QB. While I think Rafkin plays a bit safer of a game with the puck, I think Sebrango is the slightly more impressive player with the puck. As such, I'm a little more concerned that there isn't a lot of room for him to grow into a premier offensive player. And with his average size, will he be as effective in his own end at the next level? Not like it is his first year playing in North America. Even if it may not seem like I like Rafkin with that write up, I do. But I have him ranked accordingly as someone whose pro upside may be rather limited.

24. Evan Vierling - Center/Left Wing - Barrie Colts
The Vierling saga in Flint is finally over after the former second overall pick was dealt to Barrie after sitting out since late November awaiting a trade. Hopefully this move can get his game back on track. I think the potential is there for him to develop into one of the better playmakers in this OHL crop. Before his trade request, we did see some nice progression from him compared to his rookie year. His skating definitely looked better, crisper. While I think adding more explosiveness will be important, his balance and agility looked much better. As such, he was able to showcase his ability to work the wall. That half wall area is where he is at his best IMO, using his feet and hands to keep plays alive. And it also showcases his strong vision, where he can spin off the wall and hit a linemate with a crisp pass to set up a scoring chance. We also saw him playing more aggressive without the puck, attacking on the forecheck and supporting on the backcheck. I think how good he can be as a goal scorer remains to be seen. I also still need to get a read on how dangerous he can be in transition. But once he settles in with the Colts, I think we'll see him have a strong finish to the year.

25. Rory Kerins - Center - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Kerins is still a player that I'm having a tough time getting a read on. The production for the Hounds has been great this year though (and last year as a rookie, quite frankly). He's not tall, but he's a stocky kid (5'10, 175lbs) who really excels in that home plate area by driving the net and playing aggressively. Shift to shift, the consistency in effort is there and it's refreshing to see a kid who knows and understands how he needs to play in order to be successful. His hands and release are good too, his 19 goals on the year are no fluke. Kerins skates reasonably well, works the boards well, and brings it on the backcheck. Basically what I'm trying to say is...he's a pretty complete young center. What I am still struggling with is where his offensive ceiling lies. Is he a potential top 6 player at the NHL level? I'm just not sure that I'm convinced. Reminds me a lot of watching Aidan Dudas in his draft year. And I expect and have Kerins ranked in a similar range to be a 3rd/4th round selection at the moment. Admittedly, the Hounds are a team that I want to see more in the second half.

26. Cameron Butler - Right Wing - Niagara IceDogs
There's no secret, I'm always drawn to players who play the way that Butler does. While the game has changed, there is still very much a place for big power forwards like Butler, so long as they can skate. And Butler skates well for a big kid (6'4, 200lbs). Seems like he has one solid explosion into the offensive end every game, which flashes his potential as a play creator. When he gets that head of steam going across the blueline, defenders have a difficult time stopping him. Butler is also a physical player who will throw his body around and make his presence felt in other areas. But the rest of his game is very much raw. If I'm being honest, I had greater expectations for him this year. I haven't seen a ton of development in his vision and decision making, in addition to his skill level with the puck. Very much a north/south player, Butler can be prone to turnovers when forced to deviate from his straight line path. He's going to have to develop more layers to his game. However, I'd still draft him in a heart beat, in hopes that he figures it out because there's probably not much of a difference in the potential of Butler and a guy like Cuylle, yet one will cost you a much earlier selection at this point. Will be interesting to see how much more ice time he gets in Niagara now, especially on special teams.

27. Andrei Bakanov - Left Wing - Guelph Storm
The offensive production certainly isn't eye popping. If you've never seen him play, you'd probably wonder why I have him ranked this high. But if you have seen Guelph play a bunch this year, I am assuming you understand why. The shift to shift consistency just isn't there right now. It could be a conditioning thing. It could be a confidence thing. But he goes large portions of the game without being noticeable. But it seems every time I see Guelph, he has a few shifts where he dominates, makes a pretty eye catching play, and shows off his high end potential. At 6'2, 220lbs, he moves better than I thought he would entering the league. I've seen him net a few breakaways where he starts in line with a defender and gets behind them. There is power in his stride. And he has a very heavy shot and goal scoring potential. But he just needs to hit the net more often. Common to see him plow down the wing, get himself a good look and fire it a foot high and wide of the net. Additionally, the effort away from the puck needs to be better, or at least more consistent. Will Bakanov ever put it all together? I'm not sure. But I'm telling you that the potential for this kid to explode is quite significant, if he puts in a solid summer of work this offseason. Look at the way Yegor Sokolov has exploded in the QMJHL this year and you'll see what I mean.

28. Zayde Wisdom - Right Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Yes, Wisdom plays with Shane Wright. But it's a mutually beneficial relationship. Wisdom is a buzz saw out there, who on a lot of shifts, is the more noticeable player of the two. I'm certainly not trying to say that Wisdom is better than Wright. But what I am trying to say is that Wisdom is having a real nice year and is starting to rise up draft lists. His skating has improved a lot the last few years as he's way more explosive than I remember last year or in his MM draft year. He's the type of kid who just doesn't stop moving his feet. He's always pressing; always circling like a vulture on a dying creature. This high energy is the key to his game as he's first to loose pucks and first to scoring lanes. While he does score a lot of "garbage goals," he also shows a nice shot release from higher up in the slot and from the wing where he's scoring more lately. His confidence in his offensive abilities are growing. As the Frontenacs continue to grow as a team with Wright as their centerpiece, Wisdom is going to develop into a heck of an OHL player. I've moved him up my list pretty significantly (from 42 to 28), but I still see him as more of an energy/pest type at the NHL level right now, and that has him around the 4th round range for me. Still lots of room for him to move up in the second half though, if his confidence with the puck continues to grow and he's able to show more creativity to his game.

29. Reid Valade - Right Wing - Kitchener Rangers
Kind of a similar player to Wisdom, only not quite as physically mature. This means that he's not quite as consistently effective at playing that energy/pest like role (although he's also not receiving as much ice time as Wisdom). However, Valade is a very easy player to like because of how hard he plays and because his skating ability allows him to play at a very quick pace. Explodes into the offensive zone, with or without the puck and has the same sense of urgency whether he's carrying or chasing. Valade also shows a high quality shot that should see him develop into a quality goal scorer at the OHL level. As a complete player who provides a lot of versatility (has played in pretty much every situation for Kitchener this year), he is the ultimate coaches dream. I guess the question I have is, can the hands and processing with the puck catch up to his feet? And as he fills out and becomes more physically dominant, how will that improve his game further? Like Wisdom, right now I see an ideal bottom six winger at the NHL level who looks like a quality mid round selection, but who could still trend upwards with a good closeout to the year.

30. Isaak Phillips - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Phillips is such a projectable pro defender. We know how much NHL scouts love bigger defenders who can skate and that's Phillips. At 6'3, he's one of the better skating defenders on this list. He has these long, effortless strides that allow him to cover so much ground on the ice. He sees a lot of key defensive assignments for the Wolves and it has allowed him to really grow as a defensive stalwart. Yes, he's a late 2001 born, but he's also only in his second OHL season. His game is very much still raw with room to improve. The last few times that I've seen Sudbury, I've noticed him attacking more with the puck, looking to use his mobility as an asset in transition to start the breakout. The key to his development will be improvements to his decision making. He's still very much learning how to best utilize his skill set at both ends of the ice. He needs to be harder and more aggressive in the defensive end, and use his length and size more consistently. Additionally, he needs to be more decisive with the puck and make quicker decisions, especially as he is cutting through the neutral zone. But if you read my work regularly, or follow me on Twitter, you know how much I like this kid and believe in his potential. I really want to see him close out the year strong as Sudbury looks to take home that division and make some noise in the playoffs.

31. Tanner Dickinson - Center/Left Wing - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Talented OHL rookie who has really elevated the secondary scoring performance of the Greyhounds this year. Dickinson has speed for days and his skating ability is one of the first things you notice about his game. Whether he's closing in on pucks in retrieval, forechecking hard, or leading entry into the offensive zone, Dickinson does so at a blazing pace. He's also a very talented and intelligent playmaker who can control the middle of the ice well, despite his slender build. Once he bulks up a bit, I would imagine that we'll see him develop into a more aggressive player who can crash the net and kill penalties effectively. What I'm not certain about is whether his shot can develop into an asset, and whether he possesses the creativity or puck skill to stick down the middle. In other words, is he simply a raw future bottom six player? Or as he fills out and becomes a stronger player on and off the puck, does he become more consistently involved offensively and showcases a bit of a different skill set? He's definitely an interesting draft prospect for this year.

32. Ole Bjorgvik Holm - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Hulking defender who looks bigger on the ice than his 6'3 listing. He's come in as an Import (from Norway, but played in NA last year) and done a very admirable job in a top four role for the Steelheads. What you see currently is definitely not what you are going to get a couple of years from now. There are some flashes of real brilliance here. He moves quite well for a big kid, with big galloping strides that allow him to make an impact at both ends. His overall agility needs some work, especially in his edgework as he tries to allude forecheckers. But four way mobility can be improved. When he has space, or is able to create space with his stride, he makes a very clean breakout pass. Holm is also very adept at winning board battles in his own end. Pins and separates his man very effectively and seems comfortable using his size to take away space. Just how good can he be? Remains to be seen. He'll need to gain more confidence in his offensive abilities, and improve his skill with the puck to get a better gauge of that. However, the package as a defensive player is going to be attractive to NHL scouts.

33. Lleyton Moore - Defense - Oshawa Generals
When you're a 5'8 defender, you're going to need to produce more offensively than Moore has this year (0.42 ppg) in order to truly draw attention from NHL scouts. Without sugar coating it, Moore has been one of the more disappointing players in this OHL draft crop for me so far this year. He's an elite skater in almost every way. His first few strides are explosive, he has a terrific top gear, and his edgework is very crisp and clean. And he can showcase this while carrying the puck. There's a reason why Moore produced just as well as Jamie Drysdale on a stacked Toronto Marlboros team. He is a very skilled offensive defender. But there are definitely some things holding him back and these things may prevent him from being drafted. Firstly, he's too easily knocked off the puck currently. While he can usually gain access to the offensive zone well, his rushes do not create consistent scoring chances because he gets separated from the puck inside the blueline. Secondly, I believe this has led to him taking less chances offensively and being less aggressive in transition. His confidence as a play creator seems to be at a low. Thirdly, his shot and his confidence in using it, needs to improve in order for him to develop as a powerplay QB. However, I will say that I've been impressed with some improvements that he has made defensively. I think he's become a lot more engaged and has learned to use his mobility to defend well in transition. But his playmaking ability is going to be his ticket to the next level and that needs to get back on track. I've still got him ranked higher than I know a few contemporaries have him, and that's because I think that he can do just that.

34. Jacob Murray - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
One hundred percent, I feel like Murray is a vastly underrated prospect for this NHL draft. From start to midseason, few players have improved as much as Murray has. But few are paying attention because he plays on the lowly Kingston Frontenacs and his numbers aren't eye popping. I think there is a ton of potential hidden in there for him to develop into a quality two-way defender and a quality NHL prospect. His play in his own end has improved a lot in recent months. Murray is doing a great job of using his mobility to track the play and he's really elevated his physical engagement level below the hash marks. We're seeing him win those battles in the corners and then use his puck skill and/or mobility to start the breakout. Offensively, he owns a big point shot and looks comfortable controlling the point, either at ES or on the PP. As he gains confidence in his offensive abilities (and Kingston improves as a team), I would look for him to be more aggressive offensively in terms of leading the rush and jumping up in the play. And at 6'2, 200lbs, there's more room for him to grow as a defensive player. I think there's a lot to like here if you look close enough and I expect Murray to blossom and eventually become the defensive leader of this well constructed Kingston team. He's one of my favourite later round gems available this year.

35. James Hardie - Left Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
Hardie has definitely been playing some inspired hockey the last month or so (12 goals, 8 assists, and nearly 5 shots per game in his last 16 games). No question, he doesn't meet too many shots that he doesn't like. A volume shooter, Hardie certainly can sling it. Sometimes, I think his decision making is questionable, as more patience could pay off in certain situations (like spinning off the half wall and firing at a bad angle, rather than continuing to work the cycle or playing it back to a defender). But he does have a very heavy shot and it does generate rebounds that create scoring chances. Additionally, he looks good on the powerplay with that quick release. Unquestionably, he will be among the leading goal scorers in the OHL by the time his OHL career is over. The question is, does his skill set translate and does he do enough other things well to warrant a high ranking? I think his play without the puck has become more consistent in the last month or so as he's fighting for space and battling in the corners more assertively. But I'd like to see him playing between the dots more, especially with his big shot. I also think that he's going to need to improve his skating, given his average size (5'11) to improve his game. Goal scorers are valuable though and Hardie does have enough going for him to draw NHL interest in hopes that other parts of his game round into form. 

36. Ville Ottavainen - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
I look at Ottavainen similarly as to how I look at Jacob Murray. He got off to a really hot start with the Rangers, in his first OHL season. But as Kitchener has heated up as a team, he's found himself with less playing time and offensive responsibility. If the start of the season taught us anything, it's that he does have potential to be an impact offensive defender. He's 6'4, 200lbs and a right shot, something that is going to be very intriguing for NHL scouts. He also moves well, covering ground quickly with his length, although his first few steps could use improvement. His skill level with the puck is definitely raw. But the shot, offensive instincts, and playmaking ability all have a high ceiling. Defensively, his game is still very much a work in progress. Patience will be required there. Additionally, his decision making with the puck also needs to progress. Poor pinches. Poor reads. Sloppy puck management. They're all a part of his game currently. However, this is about a projection. It can be tough for young European defenders to come into this league and play well. The transition is difficult. He has shown enough this year to warrant heavy draft consideration and could be a real nice find for an NHL team if the Kitchener coaching staff can unlock his potential.

37. Ethan Cardwell - Right Wing/Center - Barrie Colts
When I watch Cardwell play, I get a lot of flashbacks to watching Ottawa's Mitchell Hoelscher as a draft eligible player. In that sense I mean, Cardwell is a very intelligent player at both ends who projects as a solid two-way player once his physical development is complete. He has such a good stick in the defensive and neutral zones and his commitment to applying back pressure is excellent. He would force even more turnovers if he was a tad bit quicker and stronger, but the positioning and IQ is one hundred percent there. In the offensive end, he's an opportunistic scorer. He has a good release on his wrist shot and gets himself in good scoring position by finding those soft spots in the defense. He's certainly a hard worker who is comfortable with any role asked of him. If he's playing up in the lineup, he is a support player to slightly more skilled/stronger players. If he's lower, he shows potential in his ability to create with the puck and seems confident in gaining the offensive zone and pushing the pace of play. Like some others on this list, I think his future projection is still very much a mystery. Is he a center or a wing long term? Can he get stronger/quicker? Is there more room for growth as the primary puck handler? I think he's definitely a candidate to be drafted in June though, much like Hoelscher a couple years ago (a pick that looks good for New Jersey right now). I would imagine that with his trade to Barrie and more ice time, some of those questions may get answered.

38. Tucker Tynan - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
In the midst of an outstanding rookie season and draft year, it was a real shame to see what happened to Tynan when he suffered that horrific leg injury recently. It seemed like he was just starting to gain steam as a draft prospect, despite his lack of elite size (6'0) from a position that seems to demand it now. Prior to the injury, he had one of the better save percentages in the league despite seeing among the most rubber and the most high level scoring chances on a rebuilding Niagara team. He was stealing games for the Dogs. His athleticism is outstanding. His post to post movement is elite, as is his recovery ability. The acrobatic, highlight save was routine for him. But his composure for a rookie was also impressive. Even after giving up a bad goal, or giving up several goals, his play rarely wavered which speaks volumes to his mental toughness. As a smaller netminder, he's going to have to become comfortable challenging shooters even more aggressively, on top of improving his rebound control to limit those second/third chance opportunities. This is especially true for his ability to fight through traffic to make saves. But, this kid has the potential to be one of the best goaltenders in the OHL. Small sample size or not, I'd feel comfortable drafting him with a later round pick this year. From what I've been told, the injury did not damage major tendons/ligaments, only muscle, and a full recovery is expected, even if a return this year is unlikely. 

39. Mitchell Smith - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Every time I see the Spirit play, this kid impresses, even if the production isn't what you'd want from a slightly undersized (5'10) defender. It's important to note that his ice time fluctuates on a strong Saginaw team. Additionally, he is the youngest player available this year (Sept. 15 birth date), which, in all likelihood, means you can expect more physical maturation from him. Watching Saginaw, Smith seems to be good for at least one impressive end to end rush per game, where he's able to explode up ice, carve up the neutral zone, and break in for a scoring chance, or to help set up one. As he gains confidence, will the frequency of these increase? Can he impact the game as a puck rusher, as an asset for the transition game, every time on the ice? Additionally, how much growth does he have in him as a powerplay QB and someone who can run the point? Thirdly, will his defensive game improve? It's still very raw. His decision making and physical intensity will need to pick up. But I just can't help but believe that Smith has among the highest offensive potential of the defenders in this age group. He may not pass the paper test, but he certainly passes the eye test. 

40. Declan McDonell - Right Wing - Kitchener Rangers
Love the way that this kid competes on the ice. He has that non stop motor that makes him a very effective support player. A strong skater, McDonnell buzzes around the ice in pursuit of the puck or puck carriers. He's an excellent forechecker, boards player, and backchecker. As he gets stronger, he should become an elite penalty killer in the OHL. McDonnell is also relatively fearless on the ice and excels driving the net looking for scoring chances even if it means taking a beating. I think McDonnell has a lot of potential as a goal scorer in this league because of his work ethic and good hands in tight. His high end offensive potential will depend on the development of his puck skills and shot. He compares pretty well to teammate Reid Valade, except that I feel Valade's offensive skill set is a little more refined at this time. I also wish that McDonnell was a little bit bigger (5'10), to be more confident that his effectiveness as an energy player would translate well to the pro level. But he's en exciting player to watch and very much has a place on a list like this, even if you aren't convinced he has a high ceiling. 

41. Riley Piercey - Left Wing/Right Wing - Flint Firebirds
Big power forward (6'3, 200lbs) who excels at driving the net and who does have good finishing ability. Has shown well in recent weeks, with growing confidence in his ability to handle the puck. His skating seems to be really improving too. Looking more fluid in his cuts to the middle and with his pivots in the corners/explosiveness coming out of them. It's about consistency here. In Flint, there's no guarantee that he receives more ice time than he did in Barrie. So he will need to find a way to impact the game more frequently. That doesn't necessarily mean on the score sheet either. He has fought this year. He has shown a willingness to play the body and use his size to try to force turnovers and dominate near the crease. But it just needs to happen more. Again though, he has been better each time that I have seen him this year. Now let's see how he adjusts in Flint.

42. Dylan Robinson - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
First of three large defenders that I've got ranked in a row here. Robinson is first because I feel like he's the most likely to reach his potential and may be furthest along in his skill development. A big kid at 6'5, Robinson is very lanky and his lack of physical development explains some of his current deficiencies. A solid four way skater, Robinson is mobile, especially for a 6'5 kid. But his first few strides aren't strong and it prevents him from being a consistent threat with the puck. Unless he's given a lot of daylight, he can struggle escaping his own end with the puck. But the hands are decent, and he flashes a lot of potential running the point. He'll need to improve his shot release and make quicker decisions with the puck, but the hands are pretty good. Defensively, he's improving. At the beginning of the year, he was looking a bit like a deer in the headlights. But his confidence in traffic is growing as he learns that his size can be a real asset for him. And he flashes some real physicality, especially in the open ice. He just needs to fill out. 

43. Kirill Steklov - Defense - London Knights
Steklov is an extremely raw Import defender who has some pro qualities. He's 6'4. He's mobile. The rest...well it's a work in progress. In all seriousness, Steklov does flash potential to be an impact player, especially in the defensive end. With that reach and his plus mobility, he can be a real asset in denying zone entry, and in preventing net drives. He's hard to get around. And he does a good job of getting his stick in passing lanes, especially near the crease. However, he can get a little jittery, chasing the puck, or puck watching. Being more assertive and using that size to take away space more aggressively would elevate that defensive game further. Additionally, his puck skill needs to develop. Much like Mississauga's Holm, he can get himself tangled up when trying to evade the forecheck, or trying to recover dump ins. And his forward movement with the puck can be a little rigid. Just how much offensive potential he possesses remains to be seen. This is a player that I am very curious to see develop in the second half...if he's given the chance to after London's deadline acquisition of Markus Phillips. 

44. Igor Chibrikov - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Seems fitting to have Chibrikov and Steklov beside each other in these rankings. They are similar players with a similar NHL projection if all goes according to plan. Chibrikov is a little bigger at 6'7, but he's not quite as fluid of a mover as Steklov. Chibrikov is also a third year OHL player (late 2001 born) who has had another year to develop and is still at a similar level as the first year London import. Big guys (be it forwards or defenders) can take longer to mature as players though. And Chibrikov has made some nice strides this year. I think we're seeing him use his size a little more efficiently this year, especially near the crease. He often collapses down deep and uses his reach to try to prevent scoring chances in the slot. He also is asserting himself physically a little more consistently. Offensively, like Steklov, his puck skill and offensive game are very raw. I think Steklov has shown a little more potential as a puck mover, but Chibrikov's decision making is a little more advanced. As the saying goes, you can't teach size though. Big defenders still have a place in the NHL game, especially if they can move decently.

45. Alec Belanger - Defense/Left Wing - Ottawa 67's
Yes, you're reading that right. Belanger has become a defense/forward hybrid for the 67's this year after being drafted as a defender. This even fluctuates game to game, or shift to shift. The last month or so, he'll take a shift on defense. Then take a shift alongside Jack Quinn and Mitchell Hoelscher on the second line. Then quarterback the second powerplay QB unit. While this has been extremely beneficial to the 67's, who have had to suffer through a substantial amount of injuries this year, it hasn't really helped Belanger a ton in his NHL draft year. The production has been good (22 points in 35 games). But what is he? I really don't know at this point. As a forward, he is a terrific support player, especially when he's with Quinn and Hoelscher. His skating has improved to the point that he can keep up with them (although neither of the three is a complete burner), and he does well to work the boards, drive the net, or get himself in scoring position. As a defender, he controls the point with confidence and has a good, low point shot that he does a good job getting through to the net. He does a good job opening up scoring lanes too, by using head or shot fakes to take shot blockers out of his lanes. As a forward, I'm just not sure he's a dynamic enough player to be an NHL player. And as a defender, I'm not sure he's strong enough in his own end, or possesses the four way mobility, to be an even strength asset. Maybe this versatility is seen as an asset by an NHL team. But confusion is the more likely outcome. 

46. Anthony Tabak - Left Wing/Center - Barrie Colts
Certainly an interesting player because of his size (6'5, 200lbs) and his production (27 points). But closer inspection tells you that nearly a third of that production came in two games (2 four point games) against Kingston and Mississauga. Consistency has certainly been an issue. And Tabak is a third year player (a late 2001 born). But he does certainly look much improved this year, especially in the skating department. Improved his conditioning and cut a bit of weight, which has made him a little more explosive and dangerous in transition. He can certainly be a load to handle when he's powering toward the net. Tabak can also be an asset along the wall where his size helps him to win those one on one battles. I know his ice time has fluctuated with Sarnia, but given his skill set, you have to ask yourself why he isn't able to make more of a consistent impact. Could certainly be a hockey sense issue. His shot isn't much of a threat, but given his size and hands, he should have more than 8 goals this year. I haven't had the opportunity to see him play center this year either, so that certainly has me intrigued. Tabak should be closely watched in the second half with his new team, the Barrie Colts. He likely stands a chance to play a top six role with powerplay time.

47. Will Cranley - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Cranley hasn't been exceptionally sharp this year. He is still very much a work in progress as not just an NHL prospect, but as an OHL netminder. But I will tell you, the sky is the limit for his potential. He's a huge kid at 6'4; has that ideal size that NHL scouts are looking for now. However, he's also extremely quick in his crease. His quickness post to post, or in recovery is outstanding for a goalie with his length. He makes some great acrobatic saves and does a good job of taking away the bottom of the net. But, his play is still very inconsistent. Rebound control needs big time improvement. His ability to track the play, hold his post, and challenge shooters is also below where it needs to be. He'll start a game looking great, then give up a weaker goal and things sort of collapse on him. Honestly though, if he continues to work hard with Ottawa's goaltending coaches and can find more structure to his game to harness his athleticism, he could easily still develop into one of the league's best netminders. For that reason, he is still ranked.

48. Alex Johnston - Center - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I admit, I have a soft spot for Johnston. He continues to impress me with how well he thinks the game. The "physical" or "athletic" skill set is not extremely strong. He's average sized. Is an average skater. He needs to get stronger. But there's this quiet effectiveness to his game. The way he navigates traffic. The way he operates/calculates while leading the charge over the blueline. The way he seems to find loose pucks or beat defenders to the net. He has also become a very competent penalty killer. How much growth he has physically remains to be seen because he's a late birthday 2001. But I think he will eventually become a point per game OHL player (by his OA year). His status as an NHL prospect is definitely in the long shot department. But until another player outside my top 50 steps up and pushes him out, he will likely have a place in my rankings. 

49. Owen Bennett - Goaltender - Guelph Storm
Big 6'3, 200lbs netminder who has done a very admirable job filling in for Nico Daws while he was at the World Juniors. Playing in his first OHL season, Bennett has shown well and looks to definitely have the potential to be a starting netminder in this league. He takes up a lot of the crease and does a good job fighting through traffic to make saves. His rebound control is pretty good for a big netminder, especially a young one. Two things will need to improve from what I've seen. First is his quickness. Can struggle to keep up with the play moving post to post and can struggle to re-establish his position on second/third chance opportunities. Second is his positioning. Can get himself caught too deep in his crease and is prone to some poor goals because he's not covering his post or angles well enough. These two things can be improved. His tutor, Nico Daws, is the perfect example of that.

50. Aidan Campbell - Goaltender - Erie Otters
Another huge rookie OHL netminder who stands at 6'5. It has been tough for him to get into a groove because Daniel Murphy has been seeing most of the action. Like Bennett, post to post quickness is in need of improvement. But when he's able to square up shooters, or face shots head on, he does a great job taking away the bottom of the net. When he drops to the butterfly, there really isn't much space to beat him along the ice or just above. But for Campbell, it will be about finding a way to limit those second chance opportunities and making sure he's directing shots away to the corners, or covering them up quicker. Adding strength to hold his post is another thing needed. But Campbell definitely has the potential to be a starting netminder in the OHL. Even with him being so raw, I could see an NHL team taking a shot at him in the later rounds, hoping that their goaltending coaches can have a real impact on his game.

Honorable Mentions
Aidan Prueter - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Kyle McDonald - Right Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Cameron Tolnai - Center - Ottawa 67's
Nick Wong - Right Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Gerard Keane - Defense - London Knights
Jake Uberti - Right Wing/Center - Niagara IceDogs
Colton Kammerer - Defense - Sarnia Sting 

Limited Viewing
Nick Malik - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds