Thursday, July 20, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days - Vegas Golden Knights

The team responsible for the renaming of this segment! The Vegas Golden Knights make their debut on the blog.

1. Nick Suzuki - Owen Sound Attack
Great pick-up by the Golden Knights in the 1st round this year. I think that in the future, they're going to be very happy with this selection. Suzuki gives it his all, every shift and every game. His work ethic is fantastic. And when you combine it with his great hockey sense, vision, and playmaking ability, you've got a great hockey player. The progression he has shown every year since minor midget has been incredible and there's no reason to believe that he can't continue to get better. This offseason, he'll likely focus on getting stronger, like every OHL player. But more specifically, his leg strength to increase the power in his stride to make him a more explosive and dynamic skater (a weakness of his). Next year, Owen Sound should be one of the top teams in the OHL's Western Conference (so long as they can get a starting goaltender). They return the majority of their star players. As such, I don't think it's outside of the realm of possibility for Suzuki to lead the OHL in scoring next year. A lot of the guys he'll be competing with will also likely lose time to the WJC's, and a 105+ point season (even with missed time during the holidays) is very likely. Of course, I've seen some on social media recently suggesting that they think Suzuki could steal a spot on Vegas' roster next year. I think that's a long shot given his need to get a little quicker. One more year in the OHL and he should be ready, given his already great head for the game. Physical skills just need to catch up.

2. Nic Hague - Mississauga Steelheads
Another great selection where the Golden Knights took him in the second round. Gigantic blueliner is a very solid prospect. His season had some ups and downs, but he finished very strong with a great performance in the playoffs for Mississauga. A late '98, Hague is still only a two year OHL veteran and will need that third (and likely final) year to continue to develop. His footwork in the defensive zone will need some refinement so that he's better suited to handle the forecheck and defend off the rush. But he really took a step forward in using his size to make himself tough to play against this year. By the playoffs, he was tossing guys around with regularity. Offensively, he's got that heavy point shot and he's great at picking his spots to jump up. But I do want to continue to see his overall vision with the puck improve, as well as his confidence in leading the rush (using his size and decent forward mobility). Mississauga will likely be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference next year and Hague will be a big factor for them once again. They're losing Saarijarvi and Leblanc, their two best offensive defenders outside of Hague, which means he'll have to take on an increased role offensively. I think he hits 20 goals next year and finishes with close to 60 points.

3. Ben Jones - Niagara IceDogs
Was really happy to see Jones get drafted this year as he was one of my favourite under the radar prospects heading into June. Hard nosed forward who's only scratching the surface of his ability as a pest. Jones is also a talented playmaker who's going to be a big part of very talented young IceDogs team moving forward. Like most prospects, Jones just needs to get quicker and stronger; with an emphasis on the last one. As he gains strength, I really expect him to start throwing his body around and becoming a tough player to match up against at both ends. The smarts are definitely there. Would also love to see Jones shoot the puck more and gain confidence in his ability to carve up the neutral zone. I fully expect him to take a nice step forward next year (along with the rest of his teammates). I'd be shocked if he wasn't a point per game player with a chance for a much bigger breakout in his 19/20 year old season.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days - Washington Capitals

Well another year down for the Washington Capitals without an OHL player. That's 5 years now after not taking one in the 2017 Draft. Longest streak in the NHL after Nashville finally took an OHL player at this year's draft.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

31 Teams in 31 Days: Winnipeg Jets

Summer has arrived and that means that it's time for my annual '31 Teams in 31 Days' segment (well I guess it's the first annual because of the addition of Vegas bumping it to 31 teams). I review the progress of each NHL team's OHL Prospects and provide some level of prognostication as well.

Each year I alternate which way I start the list. Last year was Anaheim, so this year we'll do reverse alphabetical order and start with Winnipeg.

Here's Winnipeg's (limited) review.

1. Logan Stanley - Windsor Spitfires
Can you really say it was a "tough year" for a prospect when he wins a Memorial Cup? Certainly open to debate. A torn meniscus in his right knee cost him the last three months of the OHL season, but he worked hard to return for the Memorial Cup (a testament to his work ethic). And at the Memorial Cup, he might have played the best hockey that I've ever seen him play (again, a testament to the work he put in off the ice). Not easy to go from a four month layoff to playing against the best teams in the CHL; no rehab assignments. I still have reservations about Stanley's offensive impact at the next level, but it's clear that he's worked hard to continue to improve his mobility. His skating just keeps getting better. And he's still a physical beast who's one of the toughest guys to compete against below the hash marks in the OHL. Next year, he'll return to Windsor where I'm sure the Jets front office staff would love to see him improve his offensive output. And with the way that he's improved every year in the league, I wouldn't be shocked if he did. I could easily see him with 10 goals and 40+ points next year for a Windsor team that will be in tough to mimic this past year's success.

Friday, July 7, 2017

2017 CHL Import Draft Review

On Tuesday, June 28, the Canadian Hockey League held its annual Import Draft. It is here, CHL teams get the opportunity to add import talent to their roster. There are two rounds of the draft, and a team can pass on their pick at any time. Import picks can not be traded. Goalies are not allowed to be selected.

Just to remind you, CHL clubs are permitted to carry only two import players on their team or protected list every year. However, if a CHL team has an Import who was an NHL first round pick (such as London with Olli Juolevi), they receive the opportunity to add another player to their protected list to cover should that first round import (like Juolevi) make the NHL. There are other scenarios which can allow you to carry the rights of three (such as having an OA Import, having an Import on their protected list who didn't show the year prior, etc). Overall, it's pretty complicated.

While the Import Draft can be a bit of a crap shoot, many of the players drafted do come over and can have an impact. Let's breakdown the results of previous five Import Drafts.

In 2012
22 of 27 players selected came to the OHL (81%)
17 of 27 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (63%)
9 (open for debate) of the 20 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (33%)

In 2013
22 of 25 players selected came to the OHL (88%)
20 of 25 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (80%)
7 (open for debate) of the 25 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (28%)

In 2014
19 of 25 players selected came to the OHL (76%)
18 of 25 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (72%)
11 (open for debate) of the 25 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (44%)

In 2015
23 of 28 players selected came to the OHL (82%)
17 of 28 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (61%%)
10 (open for debate) of the 28 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (36%)

In 2016
23 of 30 players selected came to the OHL (76%)
21 of 30 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (70%)
12 of 30 (open for debate) of the 28 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (40%)

This article will provide you with some information and scouting reports on those selected.

Of course this article wouldn't have been possible without the help of these experts:

The Guys over at Future Considerations. Make sure you give them a follow. More specifically...

William Hogberg (@whoegberg)

Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory)

Matt Grainda (@graindaiv)

Anton Vasyatin (@Av1376)

Chapin Landvogt (@Csomichapin)


Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst  (@TheDraftAnalyst)

Marco Bombino of McKeens Hockey and FinnProspects (@marco_bombino)

Jakub Homola (a former contributor to (@Jakub_Homola)

Karel Malek of juniorskyhokej (@karl_karlsson)

1. Barrie Colts - Andrei Svechnikov - Forward
The worst kept secret in the CHL; the Barrie Colts selecting Svechnikov 1st overall in the draft. Long been rumoured and it finally came to fruition. This is a massive get for the Colts. Svechnikov is a potential 1st overall candidate for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and immediately fast tracks the clubs rebuilding phase. I watched this kid play at the U18's this year and he was easily one of the most impressive players in the tournament. Last year in the USHL (as a 16/17 year old 2000 born), he won the rookie of the year, finished top 5 in goal scoring and doubled the point totals of the next closest age equivalent. Impressive stuff. Can't wait to see this kid in the OHL.
Scouting Report: Matt Grainda says, “Andrei Svechnikov is without a doubt a very high-end hockey player. After signing a tender with the Muskegon Lumberjacks last season, Svechnikov came into the USHL as a 16 year-old and proceeded to put up 58 points over 48 games. He earned USHL Rookie of the Year honors and was a member of the USHL First All-Star team and the USHL All-Rookie team. He also had fantastic showings in the U17 World Hockey Challenge and the U18 World Championships. Svechnikov plays with all the tools you are looking for in a big-time prospect and is one heck of a natural-born scorer. He’s got great speed that is enhanced by a quick motor and he packages those tools with highlight-reel puck skills. His superb playmaking ability and excellent shot release help him generate chances on most shifts. He is often unpredictable when the puck is on his stick as his puck-handling allows him to keep defensive players off balance. It is unwise to leave him alone in the offensive zone due to his scoring capabilities and he is also incredibly dangerous on the rush. Not only does he play with skill, Svechnikov also plays a very physically strong game and he has no fear driving the net for an opportunity. He should develop into a very good NHL player down the road.” Future Considerations has Svechnikov ranked second right now for 2018 and here's a few snippets from their draft guide. "An electrifying, shoot first winger with an explosive, and powerful stride, especially for a larger player. Possesses edge of your seat puck skills and can dangle around opponents or drive through them. Goes to the gritty areas and thrives in traffic. Has near unlimited potential."

4. Guelph Storm - Alexei Toropchenko - Forward
The Storm take a teammate of Dmitri Samorukov's at the recent U18's in Alexei Toropchenko. A 6'3 winger, Toropchenko (a '99 born) was selected in the 4th round by the St. Louis Blues in the 2017 NHL Draft. His draft rankings were a little all over the place, but you have to think that he has the potential to be a top 6 forward for Guelph this year. His reports from St. Louis Blues prospect camp were very encouraging, especially reading about how impressive his speed was. Sounds like a great fit for the Storm.
Scouting Report: Steve Kournianos (of the Draft Analyst) had Toropchenko rated 62nd heading into the draft and says "Toropchenko is super-talented scoring winger who uses his speed, length and tenacity to cause matchup problems. He makes his living causing havoc in front of the net, and his finishing skills off rebounds and loose pucks are among the best the 2017 draft has to offer. Toropchenko is both physical and has game-breaking skills with top-line upside."

7. North Bay Battalion - Filip Chytil - Forward
North Bay opened up an import spot by dealing forward Max Kislinger to Flint and made a pretty big gamble with that open spot. They selected NY Rangers first rounder (in 2017) Filip Chytil. A lanky forward from the Czech Republic, Chytil was very impressive Internationally this year and if he comes to the OHL, he could be an impact player. His agent has already said that it's AHL or back to Europe for Chytil this year, so it looks very unlikely. Bottom line is that I loved what I saw of this kid at the Hlinka and the U18's this year and hope he (or the Rangers) change his mind.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations had Chytil at 70th heading into the draft (which was low compared to other scouting agencies), and had this to say: "Chytil is a terrific skater with excellent balance and edgework. Very effective at carrying the puck into the zone and he uses his good vision to quickly find open lanes. A sneaky good forechecker and stronger on the puck than he looks." The Hockey News had him rated 63rd and said, "strong, two-way pivot who does all the right things."

10. Saginaw Spirit - Martin Necas - Forward
The Spirit continued the trend of OHL teams swinging for the fences with their import selections. Necas is a highly touted prospect who was selected 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes at this year's NHL draft. He struggled a bit internationally this year, but was solid in the Czech league against men and should he decide to come over to the OHL, he would be an impact player who could slot on to Saginaw's top line. His speed would play well in the OHL's Western Conference.
Scouting Report: Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst says, "Dynamic offensive threat with an exceptional understanding of nearly every facet of the game. He’s an excellent skater with a smooth, graceful stride, using quick bursts and lateral movements to not only breach an opposing zone, but hang onto the puck long to enough for support to arrive. Necas is a two-way player who can be used on the top unit of either the power play or penalty kill, and all plays generally run through him. He is an accurate passer and can create or finish plays with a high degree of difficulty. Slight of frame, Necas has very good balance and is difficult to knock off the puck. He is a fierce competitor who plays with emotion and enthusiasm. A star in the making." The Hockey News had Necas rated 12th and said, "His skating is as good as anybody's. He has high end offensive touch. Necas plays a responsible, mature game and takes care of defense first."

13. Niagara IceDogs - Timothy Liljegren - Defense
Leading up to the draft, Liljegren was rumoured to be the target of the London Knights. Shockingly, the IceDogs swooped in and grabbed him instead. Of course, immediately the Liljegren camp took to the media to say that he would not be coming and that the OHL was not in consideration. The NHL 1st rounder of the Maple Leafs would be a huge get for the IceDogs and the league, but it does seem far fetched at this point. Only hope is that the Leafs (and their OHL heavy front office staff) convince Liljegren to come over to develop.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations, who had Liljegren as the 22nd ranked player for the 2017 draft, says, “Top-tier puck slinger leans towards offense and does well managing the pace of the game. Elite skater that has all the gears and the lateral/transition technique to be shifty on the line or defend the rush. Puck skill and protection ability to hold onto pucks for extended periods of time. Gets rangy defensively a bit to cut men off early and pressure gap control. Not a physical guy, relies on offensive stick skill to turn play around.”

16. Ottawa 67's - Nikita Okhotyuk - Defense
The 67's head to Russia for their first selection in the draft. A 6'1, 2000 born, defender who played at both the Under 17's and the World Junior A (U19) Challenge for Russia this past year. He's got a December birth date, so he's not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2019. Just another piece of a talented, but young, 67's blueline.
Scouting Report: Anton Vasyatin says, "Okhotyuk is one of the most promising Russian defensemen of the 2000 year of birth. Hockey school from Chelyabinsk is known as the best in Russia, and that's why Okhotyuk has increased attention from fans and scouts. He played at least at 10 international tournaments with Russian national teams U16, U17 and U18 (And in one of them he was a team Captain for U17) in last two years. He was one of the key d-men for Belye Medvedi in the MHL (Primary junior league in Russia), has good first pass and doesn't shy to shoot the puck a lot. Needs to be more confident in his defensive game. Likely to become a solid two-way defender in the future. Has a chance to make the Russian Hlinka team this summer."

19. Sudbury Wolves - Zack Malik - Defense
Bloodlines can often be a good thing for the game of hockey, and the Wolves' Import pick hopefully exemplifies that. Zack Malik is the son of former NHL'er Marek Malik. He played a lot for the Czech Republic this year, including the World U17's. Only 6 players under 17 played more than 20 games in the Czech U20 league this past year and Malik was one of them. So he looks like a great pick for the Wolves, who we all know could use an upgrade on the backend.
Scouting Report: Karel Malek says, "Zack is quite a good skater, moves his feet really quick for a tall guy. He should add pounds over the summer to improve his physical game. He has sweet hands, likes to carry the puck and isn't afraid to play even under pressure. Usually makes good decisions. Needs to work on his shot accuracy - shoots really hard but often misses the net. Great character, does everything for a win and team mates also like him off the ice."

22. Sarnia Sting - Hugo Leufvenius - Forward
With the success of Adam Ruzicka this past year, the Sting opt for another huge forward in Swedish center Hugo Leufvenius. The 6'3, 220lbs, 1999 born forward went undrafted in 2017 and will be looking to use the OHL as a way to draw interest from NHL scouts. Possibly looking at a big kid whose game is better suited for the small ice in North America. That said, Leufvenius did not make Team Sweden's roster for the Hlinka or the U18's this past year, so not sure how much of an impact he'll be able to make.
Scouting Report: William Hogberg of FC says, "Thick and sturdy power-winger with an Ovechkin-like build: measuring in at 6'3 and weighing close to 220 lbs. Leufvenius has above-average speed in a straight line but everything else about his skating leaves a lot to be desired, his edgework and overall agility in particular. More of an honest north/south player as he lacks high-end creativity and hockey sense. Is responsible defensively and can be relied upon in his own zone to break up plays and transition up the ice. Has a hard shot, but is not as much of a goalscorer as you would expect as he is too predictable when it comes to shot selection. A power forward in the sense that he plays every shift with intensity and a purpose, but he has not yet learned how to use his big frame fully to his advantage. With the tools at his disposal, Leufvenius could be an impact forward if he refines his skill set, but he has his work cut out for him."

25. Flint Firebirds - Nikita Alexandrov - Defense
Hilariously one of two Nikita Alexandrov's drafted in the Import Draft this year (the other was a forward who went to Charlottetown, QMJHL). The Firebirds version is a massive, 6'6 blueliner who was passed over in this year's NHL Draft (a '99 born) after playing in the MHL this year. Like Leufvenius, here's a kid looking to come over to try to draw the ire of NHL scouts. However, like Leufvenius, Alexandrov did not make any of Russia's international teams this year (like the Hlinka or the U18's), so it looks like a bit of a long shot for him to be an impact player.
Scouting Report: Anton Vasyatin says, "didn't ever play for Team Russia. He was one of the worst HK MVD d-men this season. But I like his skating and consider that he may become a strong stay-at-home defenseman. He also has a very hard shot. Dynamo (HK MVD is its' junior team) has financial problems right now, so maybe he will try to come overseas this summer (but it's only my guess)."

28. Hamilton Bulldogs - Joni Ikonen - Forward
The Bulldogs selected one of my favourite players available for the 2017 NHL Draft this year, in Finnish forward Joni Ikonen. The Montreal Canadiens second rounder was very impressive at the U18's this year where he was among the tournament's leading scorers. His skill level and creativity would provide a massive upgrade to the Bulldogs' forward group. Unfortunately, you can add Ikonen to the list of high profile players selected who have stated that they will not be coming to the CHL and instead will stay in Europe. Again, let's wait and see as sometimes NHL teams can temper those initial shock reactions.
Scouting Report: According to Steve Kournianos, the Draft Analyst, "Ikonen is a dynamic playmaker with top line upside who excels in all three zones. He’s an inside player willing to take whatever punishment awaits as he dangles and spins his way into the tough scoring areas. Ikonen has excellent balance and is a strong puck carrier who can make high-percentage plays either off the rush or after collecting loose pucks during board battles. When the puck is on his stick, you get a sense that he wants to be in command and dictate the tempo, especially on the power play. Ikonen is both fast and incredibly shifty, going full bore to hunt down pucks off the forecheck and stopping on a dime with his head up. He’s a strong competitor and is the last kid looking for a line change as his motor enables him to maintain the same compete level from the beginning of a shift to the very end."

34. Kitchener Rangers - Adam Liska - Forward
Kitchener had an excellent Import Draft and with their first selection they nabbed a highly touted 2018 NHL Draft prospect in Slovakian forward Adam Liska. A late '99 born, Liska was Slovakia's top performer at this year's U18's (outscoring Adam Ruzicka of Sarnia). I thought he was very impressive at that event and should jump right into Kitchener's top 6. He comes into the year as a potential top three round pick (rated in the 3rd round by Future Considerations and the top 40 by Recrutes), but he could rise quickly with a strong year.
Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Adam Liska has captained Slovakian teams this past season and can help a team in many ways. He is a true leader on the ice and communicates very well with team mates. Can play a strong game at both ends of the ice and backchecks hard and with consequence. He has the ability to kill time when playing shorthanded as he can keep the puck away from his own zone with good puck protection and board game. He is strong on the skates and hard to knock off the puck. He does a lot of small things right, although not having high-end offensive upside. Offensively, he is somehow limited in his ability to create scoring chances, however, he possesses good awareness of his line mates and his puck protection skills are good as well and can be used to keep the puck in the offensive zone." In addition to that, Jakub Homola says, "Versatile player, really decent skater, willing to play back and forth. He's physically well-prepared but his size limits and will always limit him a bit. He might be a one of the top rookie in the league."

37. Mississauga Steelheads - Albert Michnac - Forward
Well there's a familiar name. The Steelheads take the former Guelph Storm forward after the Storm released his rights prior to the draft. It's good to see him back in the league. Thought he was great to start last year, but really lost steam in the second half of the year. I think he should be a great depth scoring option for Mississauga this year.
Scouting Report: Interesting to contrast what I wrote about Michnac early on in the year versus what I wrote at the end. Had him in the mid 30's (among OHL'ers for the 2017 Draft) for October and February. In October, "A real sparkplug. Michnac has been extremely noticeable every time I've seen Guelph thus far. Like a little waterbug out there, darting around through traffic. Definitely has some skill too. Would love to see him on the PP more." In February, "The stats don't jump out at you, but if you watch Guelph play, you'll no doubt notice #20 for the Storm. Like a little water bug out there, darting in and out of traffic. Type of guy I could really see producing once he gains confidence in his ability to play with the puck at this level." But by June he had fallen out of my top 50 and I wrote, "Michnac was a fixture in my top 50 all season long, but thanks to a pretty rough second half, I've dropped him to the HM list. Don't get me wrong, I still like Michnac as a player, but I'm less convinced he's an NHL prospect than I was in November or December. He's like a little waterbug out there. He's deceptively quick and very elusive in traffic, showcasing quick hands and creativity to make plays. But he had only 2 goals in his final 19 games, and developed a bad habit of overhandling the puck and making poor decisions in the offensive end in the second half (although that might sum up the entire Guelph roster). Just not sure I see high end hockey sense. And when you add in the fact that he's a late '98 and undersized, I think that likely equals an undrafted prospect. Would love to see him stick in the OHL, but with a high Import pick and Dmitri Samorukov outplaying him, I think we've also seen the last of him in the league."

40. Oshawa Generals - Nico Gross - Defense
The Generals went to Switzerland for their import selection, taking a highly touted '2000 born defender named Nico Gross. Gross is considered a possible top 3 round selection for the 2018 NHL Draft. This past year he was one of the only 2000 born players at the World Juniors (U20's) and also suited up for Switzlerland at the U18's and the Hlinka (as an underager). Remains to be seen whether he's coming over or not, but he looks like he could have an immediate impact.
Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Nico Gross is an offensive-minded defenceman who likes to join rushes and get things going offensively. He is mobile on his skates which helps him to escape from forecheckers when under pressure with quick turns and overall quickness. Good backwards skater and is pivoting nicely. Gross played pro-hockey last season in Switzerland and has a coolness in his game which is seen rarely at his age and competing against men. He keeps calm when under pressure and can make plays in tight and when pressured by opposing forecheckers as he is good in buying himself time and ice with quick turns when in puck possession. Gross possesses fine hands and can contribute offensively with crisp passes and decen puckhandling. He sometimes reminds me of 2018 top prospect Rasmus Dahlin with his rushes from the neutral zone into the offensive zone while putting up moves and going into one-on-one situations. His biggest room for improvement is definitely the physical game, which does not really exist at all. He does not show great balance on skates and gets knocked down easily when taking a hit. He also showed issues in the men’s league when opponents played the body on him. However, we need to keep in mind at that point that he was 16 and playing in a pro-league is always challenging, especially physically."

43. Peterborough Petes - Gleb Babintsev - Defense
Looking to replace the likes of Spencer, Jenkins, and Prophet, the Petes selected a young Russian defender who they hope can play in the top 6 and help out on the powerplay. He didn't make the Russian U17 team this year, but he did put up some pretty impressive offensive numbers in the Russian U17 league, where he was among the leading scorers from the blueline.
Scouting Report: Anton Vasyatin says, " is an offensive-minded defenseman and is my favourite player of the Russians selected by OHL teams. Reads plays well in his own end. Has good mobility and puck possession. Always knows where he need to be. Could be an elite player with his hockey IQ. Has a chance to make the Russian Hlinka team in the summer."

46. Windsor Spitfires - Kirill Kozhevnikov - Forward
There's no doubt that the Spitfires expect Mikhail Sergachev to stick with the Tampa Bay Lightning this year. And Julius Nattinen is moving on to the pro level. So this was an important Import Draft for the defending Memorial Cup champions. Their first pick was a '99 born Russian forward who was passed over in the 2017 NHL Draft (was ranked in the mid 90's by NHL Central Scouting among European skaters). Kozhevnikov didn't play internationally for Russia this year (e.g. the U18's), but he did play the full year in the MHL where he put up some decent stats, finishing just outside the top 10 in scoring among U18 year olds (as a comparison, Guelph's pick and NHL draft pick Toropchenko was 4th).
Scouting Report: Anton Vasyatin says, "is the only player of this five who made a professional debut. He is compared with Vladimir Tarasenko on his nature. Big, strong, skilled, likes to shoot. A very dangerous attacker who can play physical. He started 16/17 season in the KHL team Yugra, but then was assigned to junior team. They say, Kirill is a little bit lazy, and it's his main problem. Not listed as having a contract right now with Yugra."

49. London Knights - Jesper Bratt - Forward
A 2016 6th rounder by the New Jersey Devils, Jesper Bratt was the Knights' first import selection. Bratt recently signed with the Devils and the assumption was that he'd play in the AHL this year. But this gives New Jersey another option on where to assign him. This would give London a veteran forward to inject into their lineup, a guy who could play in their top 9. That said, this does scream like a "someone else took our guy," selection. Have to wonder if London had someone else in mind, like Liljegren.
Scouting Report: Before the 2016 NHL Draft, Future Considerations had Bratt as the 78th best prospect. They had this to say: "An offensively inclined winger who is dangerous with the puck in space. A strong and explosive skater who maintains possession at top speed. Can be prone to turnovers from trying to do too much at times. Effective at driving the net and has a nasty, quick release. Anticipates plays well in the defensive zone and is a solid penalty killer. Needs to work on his consistency but is a player who could become a primary scoring threat."

52. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Rasmus Sandin - Defense
After losing both of their imports next year, the Hounds went big with their two selections; both being top prospects eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. The first, Sandin, was excellent for Sweden internationally this year (including the U17's) and is considered a potential first round pick next June. He's already signed a contract with Rogle for next year though, so it remains to be seen whether he's going to come over or not. Seems like a long shot right now.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations has Sandin rated 38th for 2018 and says, "Sandin is a gifted two-way defenseman. His hands are an asset, as is his confident passing ability. A decent skater with good speed, but needs to work on his edgework. Strong at fending off forecheckers and possesses excellent defensive awareness. He has some impressive potential as puck mover who can also be effective in his own zone."

55. Owen Sound Attack - Vasili Filyayev - Forward
The Attack go to Belarus for the second year in a row in the Import Draft. With the success of Maksim Sushko, it seems like a worthy gamble. That said, Filyayev's stats certainly aren't impressive. The 6'3, '99 born went pointless at the U18's and definitely didn't light the Belarussian U20 league on fire either. To give you an idea, Sushko was putting up over a point per game in the Belarussian men's second league as a 17 year old when the Attack drafted him. I'd be shocked if this pick turned into anything. Perhaps a friend of Sushko's who the team is hoping can be a diamond in the rough?
Scouting Report: None of my contacts had any real, solid information of Filyayev. So here's tome snippets of interviews with Dale DeGray, one from the Sun Times in Owen Sound, and the other from Bayshore Broadcasting. Courtesy Rob Gowan's article, "He is skilled and is an average skater, but he has very good vision and is a smart player." Meanwhile, courtesy Kevin Bernard, "He's a big body who is a presence down the middle of the ice and combines a high level of skill with great skating to make an impact on the game." DeGray later goes on to compare him to Sushko.

57. Erie Otters - Stephane Patry - Forward
With their only selection in the import draft, the Otters selected an undersized Swiss forward who played for Switzerland a ton internationally this year. This included the U18's, where he played as an underager, which tells you that he must be one of the more well regarded Swiss players in his age group. He was also the 3rd highest scoring U17 player in the Swiss U20 league last year. Patry, a 2000 born, looks like he could be a potential top 9 player for a re-tooling Otters team next year.
Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Stephane Patry is an undersized Swiss forward who possesses good offensive upside. He has good hands and can stickhandle very nicely. Patry is a player who is good around the net and can contribute offensively big time. He is smooth on his skates and can move over the ice with good speed and agility. Given his smallish size, he can outskate bigger opponents with his speed. He spent the season at U20-level and took over responsibility in important moments of games, which is good to see as he was one of the younger players on Servette’s U20 roster. He can play all game situations and also saw ice time when playing shorthanded. Although he is rather small in size and underdeveloped in his physical game, he does not shy away to go into board battles. Patry is a good skater, however, I would like to see his first steps getting more explosive."

70. Saginaw Spirit - Tom-Eric Bappert - Defense
With their second import selection (due to Markus Niemelainen heading back to Finland), the Spirit look to Germany for a potential replacement. Bappert was the highest scoring defender on the Germany U18 team that played in the 2nd division tournament (but failed to qualify for the top division next year). The '99 born blueliner wasn't selected in the 2017 NHL Draft, so he'll likely be looking to come over to play well enough to draw attention from NHL scouts.
Scouting Report: Chapin Landvogt says, "We're talking about a defenseman who is a bit of an all-rounder and has a decent frame to work with. He's undergone excellent physical development in recent years and has become a pretty nice physical specimen who brings a little bit of everything to the table. Still, he isn't going to show up in North America with expectations of having an (immediate) offensive impact. He'll need time to adjust to what will be better competition and a lot more games. The U18 national team had him firmly planted on one of the power play units this past winter and he's always produced at an above-average, but not necessarily outstanding pace. What can be expected is that he'll have a high willingness to learn and is a capable skater with decent lateral movement. Furthermore, he has shown himself ready to play with physicality and looks like the type of player who just needs to continually work on everything bit-by-bit in order to progress accordingly as an all-rounder. He'll be ready to place an emphasis on defensive assignments. There is a very good possibility that his developmental curve in the OHL will be similar to that of recent Winnipeg Jets draftee Leon Gawanke. He's also a likely candidate to be on the German U20 team next winter in France, should Saginaw release him for the event."

76. Ottawa 67's - Oliver True - Forward
The 67's choose a second time, but still retain the rights to star Artur Tyanulin, in case he decides he wants to return as an OA. If he does, only one of their picks will play. True looks like a solid player though. Was only one of three U17 (2000 born) players to see full time action in the Danish top league against men, a league which is filled with former OHL stars (like leading scorer Dale Mitchell). His father, Soren, was an NHL Draft pick and his cousin is Winnipeg Jets young gun (and former CHL'er), Nikolaj Ehlers. Good bloodlines. Good production. This guy could be a diamond in the rough.
Scouting Report: None of my contacts had solid information on True, but Chapin Landvogt did put his production into perspective for us. "He's obviously Alex True's brother and thus, also a cousin of a one Mr. Ehlers. He's not as tall as Alex, but also not as skinny as his brother was at the same stage. He played a TON of hockey last season, even slotting in for 32 games in Denmark's highest pro league which is almost at about the ECHL level. Four points in 32 games is something many of the more talented 16-year olds in recent years have achieved, but doesn't quite compare to what i.e. Rondbjerg did the season before. In 55 total games last season, he 73 penalty minutes, most of them in the junior leagues." Also, from the Ottawa 67's website, new GM James Boyd says, "“Oliver True is a right-winger with excellent skill. With a year of professional hockey under his belt in Denmark during 2016-2017 season, Oliver has experience against older and stronger players,” commented Boyd. “His brother played for WHL Champions Seattle Thunderbirds during 2016-2017.”

94. Kitchener Rangers - Rickard Hugg - Forward
As mentioned, the Rangers had a very solid import draft. Their second pick also has a chance to be a top 6 impact forward for them. Any list I saw of the biggest surprises that went undrafted in the NHL this year contained Hugg, the captain of the Swedish U18 team. He was also named the top forward in the junior U20 league this year. Hugg has long been considered one of the top forwards of his age group in Sweden and he should be a solid player for the Rangers. With a good year, he could find himself back on the NHL radar.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations had Hugg ranked 111th heading into the draft and said, "Hugg is an offensively engaged player who controls the puck well and has a strong ability to set up his linemates. He isn't the swiftest skater but has good overall mobility and balance. He makes up for his lack of speed with excellent hockey sense. He needs to improve his defensive commitment, but his reads and understanding defensively show promise. A projected two-way center but with lots of room to improve." Interestingly enough, The Hockey News has a bit of a conflicting opinion of him and has him ranked 87th, saying "heady two-way playmaker makes linemates better but needs work on his skating."

106. Windsor Spitfires - Lev Starikov - Defense
As mentioned, the Spits get a 3rd Import to protect because of Sergachev's first round status (and likely NHL exit). Starikov is a behemoth (6'6), 2000 born defender who also has a late birthday and isn't eligible until 2019 for the NHL draft. Lots of time for him to develop so Windsor may have to be patient. But among 2000 born defenders, Starikov did have the most points in the MHL, the KHL's junior feeder league. That's very promising.
Scouting Report: Anton Vasyatin says, "is a huge defender who can play clean hockey without penalties. A very consistent player who tries to be extremely useful when he is on the ice - doesn't matter it's full strength, power play or penalty kill. But his gritty game is a room for improvement."

109. London Knights - Adam Boqvist - Defense
The Knights gave up the rights to Janne Kuokkanen to make a second pick in the draft (I suppose he's definitely heading to the AHL next year). The pick was a very highly regarded defender for next year's NHL draft. Boqvist played at the U17's and U18's this year and seems to be universally ranked as a potential lottery selection in 2018. The bad news is that it seems he won't be coming. His agent stated that he'll be staying in Sweden next year, for his draft year. Maybe a stash for next year?
Scouting Report: Future Considerations has Boqvist rated 14th going into next year draft and says, "Boqvist is a confident, puck moving blueliner. Solid and efficient skater who keeps the game simple. Plays the point very well and keeps pucks in at the line. Very active stick at both ends and very active feet that help him contain the attack. Thinks the game at a high level and is a potential top four, two-way defender. Size is his only drawback."

112. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Rasmus Kupari - Forward
Previously mentioned, the Hounds used their second import pick on another top prospect heading into the 2018 NHL Draft; Rasmus Kupari. Kupari is a talented two-way center who played at the U17's and at the U18's (as an underager) this year. I thought he was noticeable at the U18's as a depth player for the Silver medalist Finns. Unfortunately it looks like he's staying in Finland next year with the Karpat program. Again, still early so lots of time for him to change his mind. He sounds like the perfect player for the Greyhounds program.
Scouting Report: Marco Bambino of McKeen's and the awesome FinnProspects, says, "Rasmus Kupari is a versatile two-way center with a lot of potential. He's a powerful skater with good edge work, mobility and quickness in his first few strides. He works hard away from the puck, being consistently strong on the forecheck. He takes away passing lanes effectively from opponents. A highly intelligent and responsible player defensively. He has poise, skill and awareness with the puck. Has quick hands, handles the puck well at top speed and shows puck protection skill along the boards. His offensive game seemed to get better throughout the past season and he played really well in the U20 league playoffs. He is signed with Kärpät in Finland until 2019, but would be an excellent add to the Greyhounds in the OHL. Kupari will be a top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft."

BONUS - Barrie Colts - Alexei Lipanov - Forward
I thought I would include a report on Lipanov here, considering he's signed to come over and play with the Colts after being drafted in last year's Import Draft. He was a 3rd rounder of the Tampa Bay Lightning this year (although fell in the draft as he was ranked in the early second by most scouting agencies). This Barrie Colts franchise sure has turned around their rebuild pretty quickly.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations had Lipanov as the 43rd ranked prospect for 2017 and said, "Lipanov is a speedy, slick puckhandler who is an explosive skater. His understanding of the offensive zone and on the ice is impressive. He is also a tenacious forechecker and a solid defensive player who can use his body to separate his check from the puck. He is still quite lanky so will need to add considerable strength, but he possesses sky high upside." The Hockey News had Lipanov ranked 42nd heading into the draft and said, "First jumped on the radar at the World Junior A challenge where he paired with Andrei Svechnikov to help the team to Bronze. An Igor Larianov type of player who is a playmaker, good on faceoffs and a solid team guy. He has high end hockey sense."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 NHL Entry Draft Results

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft commenced this weekend and 42 OHL players had their names called by NHL clubs.

Below you can find the results for OHL players, as well as my draft ranking before the draft (for comparison's sake).

Some general thoughts on how the draft played out:

- Matthew Strome, Adam Ruzicka, Sasha Chmelevski, and Markus Phillips were some of the guys that I had ranked quite highly who fell outside of the Top 100. Chmelevski fell the furthest, lasting all the way until the late 6th round. I suppose, given his disappointing season, that it's no surprise that he fell. But his offensive upside remains sky high.

- Eight players from my Top 40 (but only two from my top 30) went undrafted: Greg Meireles, Linus Nyman, Austen Keating, Macauley Carson, Jacob McGrath, Brady Lyle, Adam Thilander, and Dylan Seitz. Those guys will obviously have many more opportunities to impress scouts. Every year re-entries are selected (especially from the OHL).

- Matthew Villalta, Eemeli Rasanen, and Jack Studnicka were among the players who went higher than I had them ranked, however I don't think any of the three were a massive surprise. All well deserving and possess NHL potential.

- I suppose it came as no surprise to see Michael Dipietro fall to the early 3rd round, considering his lack of elite size in an era that's obsessed with size at the goaltending position. I sure hope he's able to prove everyone wrong; the most exciting goaltending prospect to come from the OHL in the last few years.

- Speaking of big goaltenders, I'm shocked that Stephen Dhillon went undrafted yet again, after a terrific season where he essentially carried the Niagara IceDogs into the playoffs. Someone get this guy an NHL contract at a rookie camp (ala Michael McNiven).

- here's a link to the full draft results.

My RankPlayer NamePOOHL TeamNHL TeamRDPick
1Gabe Vilardi
2Owen TippettFMississaugaFLA110
3Nick SuzukiFOwen SoundVGS113
4Robert ThomasFLondonSTL120
5Nic HagueDMississaugaVGS234
6Conor TimminsDSSMCOL232
7Michael Dipietro GWindsorVAN364
8Jason RobertsonFKingstonDAL239
9Jonah GadjovichFOwen SoundVAN255
10Isaac RatcliffeFGuelphPHI235
11Matthew StromeFHamiltonPHI4106
12Mackenzie EntwistleFHamiltonARZ369
13Ivan LodniaFErieMIN385
14Adam RuzickaFSarniaCGY4109
15Alex FormentonFLondonOTT247
16Morgan FrostFSSMPHI127
17Dmitri SamorukovDGuelphEDM384
18Nate SchnarrFGuelphARZ375
19Sasha ChmelevskiFOttawaSJS6185
20Markus PhillipsDOwen SoundLA4118
21Zach GallantFPeterboroughDET383
22Jack StudnickaFOshawaBOS 253
23Noel HoefenmayerDOttawaARZ4108
24Eemeli RasanenDKingstonTOR259
25Kirill MaksimovFNiagaraEDM5146
26Jacob PaquetteDKingstonNSH7216
27Greg MeirelesFKitchener

28Linus NymanFKingston

29Marian StudenicFHamiltonNJD5143
30Maksim SushkoFOwen SoundPHI4107
31Austen KeatingFOttawa

32Macauley CarsonFSudbury

33Matt VillaltaGSSMLAK372
34Jacob McGrathGSudbury

35Ryan McGregorFSarniaTOR6172
36Brady LyleDNorth Bay

37Ben JonesFNiagaraVGS7189
38Fedor GordeevDFlintTOR5141
39Adam ThilanderDNorth Bay

40Dylan SeitzFKitchener

41Sean DurziDOwen Sound

42Liam HawelFGuelphDAL4101
43Nick Deakin-Poot FGuelph

44Kyle KeyserGOshawa

45Gera PoddubnyiFErie

46Kaden FulcherGHamilton

47Cole CoskeyFSaginaw

48Joseph GareffaFKitchener

49Shaw BoomhowerFMississauga

50Zach RobertsFOwen Sound

1Stephen DhillonGNiagara

2Drake RymshaFSarniaLAK5138
3Kevin HancockFOwen Sound

4Justin BrazeauFNorth Bay

5Matthew TimmsDPeterborough

6Matt BrassardDOshawaVAN7188
7Brandon SaigeonFHamilton

8Brandon CrawleyDLondonNYR4123
9Artur TyanulinFOttawa

10Petrus PalmuFOwen SoundVAN6181

N/ACole FraserDPeterboroughDET5131
N/AJacob GoldenDLondonMIN5147
N/AReilly WebbDHamiltonDET6164
N/ATrenton BourqueDOwen SoundSTL6175
N/ABrady GilmourFSaginawDET7193

Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 NHL Entry Draft Primer

With the 2017 NHL Entry Draft slated for this weekend, here is everything you need to know about the players available from the Ontario Hockey League.

My Rankings:
Honorable Mentions

Media/Scout Poll

Top Draft Re-Entries (second and third year eligible)

2017 Mock Draft 

Best of luck to all the OHL players eligible this year!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Final Media/Scout Poll for the 2017 NHL Draft

The NHL draft is now only a few weeks away, so it's time to conclude our yearly media/scout poll.

For comparison's sake, here are the preliminary (from November) and the midseason (from February) consensus lists.

Preliminary List
Midseason List

It's always interesting to note some of the major changes/trends from the beginning of the year to the end. Matthew Strome is the guy who has really fallen off, going from 4th in November, to 6th in February, to just outside the top 10 in June. Ottawa's Sasha Chmelevski has had a similar slide due to consistency issues. He received 12 votes for the Top 10 in November. Then 7 votes in February. Then zero votes in June. If we look at some of the "risers," Robert Thomas in London stands out. He received a single vote (from NACS's Mark Seidel) in November. But has firmly entrenched himself in the Top 10 since and looks like a potential top 25 pick come the end of the month. With his play in the OHL playoffs and down the stretch, Jason Robertson has really elevated his status in the eyes of scouts too, despite some skating concerns. He got only two votes for the Top 10 in February, but in June he finds himself on the majority of lists and firmly placed inside the top 6 as a potential first round pick.

Similar to last year, there are a lot of faces on this list, which speaks volumes to the high end depth that the OHL has to offer this year. 19 names received consideration for the Top 10. As I've said before, when all is said and done, it wouldn't shocked me at all if the OHL has one third of the players taken inside the first two or three rounds.

As always, these lists wouldn't be possible without the contributions of the voters. This time around we've got:

Corey Pronman - ESPN scout and writer (@coreypronman)
Dominic Tiano - Writer for The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)
Dan Stewart - Director of Scouting for Future Considerations(@StewartFC)
Brendan Ross - Director of Scouting for
Peter Kneulman - Provides OHL coverage at OHL Writer (@PeterKneulman)
Tony Ambrogio - PA Announcer for the Mississauga Steelheads & TSN editor (@Tony_Ambrogio)
Mike Morreale - Staff writer for (@mikemorrealeNHL)
Anthony Mauro - Director/Founder of Draft Buzz Hockey(@draftbuzzhockey)
Ryan Kennedy - Associate Senior Writer for The Hockey News(@THNRyanKennedy)

Peter Harling - Managing Editor of Dobber Prospects (@pharling) 
Scott Wheeler - OHL scout with Future Considerations and editor for the The AthleticTO (@scottcwheeler)
Mark Seidel - Scouting Director for NACS Hockey (@MarkSeidel
Reed Duthie - Play by Play voice of the Hamilton Bulldogs (@rcduthie)
Scott Crawford - OHL scout for McKeens Hockey (@Crawford1Scott)  
Steve Kournianos - Founder of The Draft Analyst(@TheDraftAnalyst
Mark Scheig - OHL writer for The Hockey Writers (@THWMark)
Grant McCagg - President of Recrutes Hockey (@grantmccagg

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten

The list is as follows:

1. Gabriel Vilardi - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Total Votes: 18
High/Low Ranking: 1st (14x)/2nd (4x)
"While he may “figure it out”, the question remains whether he will ever improve his skating enough to play as a center in the NHL. Windsor’s coaching staff wasn’t comfortable using Vilardi in the middle this season even after Logan Brown was sidelined with several injuries. If Vilardi already has problems playing a defensive role at center in junior, it’s anybody’s guess whether he will ever improve his speed enough to do so at the pro level." - Grant McCagg

"Big powerful kid that can make subtle plays or run right through you, his feet are an issue but he has taken a big jump from the beginning of the year, great Memorial Cup showed that this kid can step up, may not be the best in 3 years but look back after 8 and he will be." - Mark Seidel

"Windsor coach Rocky Thompson told me that when it comes to charting the success of Vilardi, there was one common denominator and that was Vilardi is the engine on the team because whoever plays with him, their Corsi or puck possession numbers go through the roof. Without him, they dropped significantly. That's the type of player Vilardi has become. Yes, he'll need to improve his skating but he's a three-zone player with good size (6-3, 201) and he works hard down low. Has a relentless motor." - Mike Morreale

"A top offensive catalyst for the Memorial Cup Champs this season, early on in the season he had some issues with injury/illness but put those behind him and looked very effective as a big bodied power forward in the Joe Thornton playmaking mold. The vision and puck creativity he has with his playmaking mesh really well with his smart ability to drive the net and protect the puck in possession utilizing his size advantage, buying time for his teammates to get into position. He has top line potential with just some marginal improvement needed in his skating to reach his upside." - Dan Stewart

2. Owen Tippett - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Total Votes: 18
High/Low Ranking: 1st (4x)/4th (2x)
"I'm not sure when Tippett will go, because there is a huge variance in how teams view him. But there are true believers out there and they made a pretty good case to me about how his weakness (defense) can be cured with coaching, while his strengths (speed, shot, goal-scoring) cannot be taught." - Ryan Kennedy

"Was first at midseason and did nothing to change my mind now. He was especially impressive in the OHL Finals against Erie taking over stretches of games by himself showing off his top-end speed and skill. Should be gone in the top-5 come draft night." - Mark Scheig

"People seem to be jumping on the nitpick bandwagon with arguably the 2017 draft’s top goal scoring prospect. Tippett is a bulldozer on skates with excellent speed, a heavy, accurate shot that he shoots off the pass and is tough to knock off the puck. He is deadly off the rush but he’s smart enough to get open and wire it with a quick release. Getting top-six minutes at the highest level is in his future, and the team that drafts him should salivate at the thought of Tippett using his quickness and strength to exploit the shrinking NHL defenseman." - Steve Kournianos

"NHL ready shot right now. Continues to work on other aspects of his game. Had some great games in the OHL final against Erie. If he brought it like he did in those games all the time, scouts would feel more certain with this pick." - Tony Ambrogio

3. Nick Suzuki - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Total Votes: 18
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (4x)/4th (3x)
"The kid that most expected to be a solid 200 foot player has shown incredible offensive instincts, wants to be the best player he can be, smart, sneaky in the offensive end, reminds me of Bryan Little in his year." - Mark Seidel

¨Underestimated OHL star terrorized the league with his dazzling array of jukes and creative exploits with the puck…incredible one-on-one attacker who has a sneaky quality about him where he also finds himself on a lot of breakaways…a pure finisher who is a playmaker in the truest sense of the word…he doesn’t even know how powerful of a shooter he is, but hammers the puck because he lives to score...linear speed is generally good with its highs and lows…strides can refine with strength and become tighter...the beauty of his work is that it’s imperfect and sometimes choppy, but explosive, exciting, and effective...not immune to inconsistency and going MIA because he’s also not a physical player...we may be seeing a recalculation on this type of player league wide at the draft, which means he should be off the board by pick 15." - Anthony Mauro

"Suzuki is a player who has really earned my respect as the season has progressed. He's still a few years from becoming a regular in the NHL, in my opinion, but boy do I like what he has to offer. His coach at Owen Sound, Ryan McGill, told me Suzuki reminds him a lot of Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames and he could one day be a second-line center in the NHL. What I like about Suzuki is his ability in the clutch. He scored 14 power-play goals, 6 game winners, 5 shorthanded goals, and 23 of his 45 goals this season gave Owen Sound the lead or tied the game." - Mike Morreale

"Spoke to someone who saw Suzuki play in his bantam days. Says that if I would have told him back then that Suzuki would have been the highest scoring player of this age group a year removed from the priority draft, he would have called me crazy. Bottom line is this. He was one of the most improved players from bantam to minor midget. He's been one of the most improved players in the OHL this year. He just keeps getting better every year. His work ethic is outstanding. And with his hockey sense, you have to wonder just how much more he's going to continue to grow as a player when the physical qualities (size, speed, strength) get better." - Brock Otten

4. Robert Thomas - Forward - London Knights
Total Votes: 17
High/Low Ranking: 2nd (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
"There is no junior hockey coach more respected than London’s Dale Hunter, so when he uses a draft-eligible center in all important situations, scouts won’t have to dig too deeply into that player’s character or deeply question his hockey sense. By the playoffs Thomas may well have been London’s top forward - certainly in terms of ice time, surpassing Cliff Pu as Hunter’s go-to center on a line with Janne Kuokkanen and Mitchell Stephens." - Grant McCagg

¨Dating back to his York Simcoe minor midget days, Thomas has always impressed me. A gifted player who has a tremendous feel for the game, he is the type of player who processes the game quick and dissects defences with high intelligence level. He's not the flashiest player yet he always impresses with his ability to create from nothing, maximizing the time and/or space afforded to him. Extremely talented in tight quarters, Thomas displays crafty handling control and can deliver difficult passes with precision. He's a very efficient player who elevates the play of his teammates through smart puck management. As he adopts more responsibility in his draft plus one season, look for Thomas to surge up the OHL scoring charts. He was consistently one of London's best forwards on a nightly basis regardless of his ice time Personally, I am higher on Thomas than most and think he should be considered for selection in the 11-15th range.¨ - Brendan Ross

"It's an easy comparison to say he reminds me of Bo Horvat in that he constantly got better and can play up and down the lineup, very high IQ, has learned a lot from Dale Hunter and will be a key player on a winning team." - Mark Seidel

"Thomas is an interesting prospect that comes from a solid program that develops skilled, but smart players, the London Knights. Thomas’s best attribute is his high IQ based on his understanding of reading plays and knowing when to react at the exact moment he can create a competitive advantage for his team on both ends of the ice. With the puck, Thomas does not rush plays he knows will turn the puck over, as an example he will drop the puck back to his defenseman if he is pushed to the boards. Away from the puck Thomas is a great interceptor of the puck as he closes off passing lanes to the point opponents don’t want to play around him. It doesn’t hurt that he is also a fast skater in all three zones and possesses strong puck handling abilities that he uses to move around the offensive zone. Making light of his offense Thomas was one of the best two-way Centre in the OHL, understanding the 411 on back check while also understanding to shift from back checking to defensive zone coverage around his opponents." - Scott Crawford

5. Nic Hague - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Total Votes: 16
High/Low Ranking: 3rd (3x)/Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
"His strengths include his obvious size and reach but also his powerful shot and willingness to play a physical brand of shutdown defense. Sure he has his deficiencies, but they are all areas that will be addressed and improved upon. I am not sure why people have fallen out of love with this big six-foot-six behemoth who has decent speed and plays a real strong two-way game. He might not have great offensive upside at the NHL level but he has more potential than Windsor's Logan Stanley did and many of the same scouts that have dropped Hague down had Stanley in their top ten rankings." - Dan Stewart

"Great combination of skill and size. Has a better offensive game than some people give him credit for. Once he figures out how to use his size to his advantage, watch out. Still growing into his body." - Tony Ambrogio

"Hague showed himself very well in the OHL Finals against Erie. He played Alex DeBrincat tough at times, while providing a calming influence on the blueline. He should be the first OHL defenseman off the board given what all he brings to the table." - Mark Scheig

"Hague beats all draft-eligible OHL defenseman when it comes to upside and top-pairing potential.  He’s obviously got the size, but his booming shot and an improving defensive game are two more reasons why people need to start taking him seriously as a possible lottery pick. He has a nasty side to his game, and staying within himself is one of only a few areas he could stand to improve upon. Hague is mobile and physical, and his strong one-on-one play in the second half earned him critical late-game responsibilities." - Steve Kournianos

6. Jason Robertson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 17
High/Low Ranking: 4th (3x)/Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
"There is no one player on this list who scored more relative to his teammates than Robertson. The Kingston Frontenacs were a wasteland for offensive talent this year and Robertson carried them with 42 goals (16 more than his next closest teammate), 39 assists (tied for the team lead), and 81 points (30 more than his next closest teammate). Most scouts would probably want a winger of Robertson’s size to be more physical, but it's his finesse that distinguishes him. For a player who doesn’t overwhelm as a skater or shooter, Robertson is damn good." - Scott Wheeler

"Hockey IQ and goal scoring will drive Jason Robertson to the NHL, able to adapt and adjust his game to whoever is put on his line, Robertson is a chameleon on ice, able to effortlessly slip defensive coverage and scoring lanes. A contributor on special teams, both PP and PK makes him another very versatile player coming out of the OHL that NHL teams will covet." - Reed Duthie

"Has a great touch around the net and has good hockey sense. He accounted for 45.3 percent of Kingston's offense, scoring 42 goals. I think he might be the most improved player from start to finish in the OHL. He's 6-2, 182 pounds and knows how to protect the puck and has a shoot-first mentality, as evidenced by the fact he finished third in the OHL with 301 shots on goal." - Mike Morreale

"If his average speed wasn’t so obvious, Robertson might have been a lock for the top five. He had an outstanding season for Kingston, leading the Frontenacs in both regular season and playoff scoring. His soft hands and quick release helped him tally 42 goals in 68 games — 29 at even strength — but he is far from a garbage-goal scorer. Robertson is a smart winger who not only knows where to position himself, but how to remain there regardless of the beating he’s taking." - Steve Kournianos

7. Isaac Ratcliffe - Forward - Guelph Storm
Total Votes: 15
High/Low Ranking: 3rd (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
"Big Ratcliffe has been one of my favorite guys to track this season as he has big upside potential but also a ways to climb to reach his ceiling. His size and eventual strength will be an asset making him hard to handle anywhere close to the net or along the walls at the NHL level and his skating and shot have improved dramatically making him an danger to score off the rush." - Dan Stewart

"This guy just screams off the board pick in the first round. I had him going 17th to Toronto in my mock draft and if he went higher than that, I wouldn't be shocked. Massive kid who's already a strong net presence who possesses one of the better shots in the age group. As he fills out, the potential is quite high. The million dollar question for me is, are the inconsistencies (especially physically) due to a lack of strength, or a lack of sense and desire? Could easily be an Eric Daze type of player if everything falls into place." - Brock Otten

"Ratcliffe is an intriguing big man with a lot of upside to his game. Standing at 6’5 Ratcliffe is a physical specimen that plays a controlled physical game that causes opponents to be weary of what he is going to do in their own end. His big frame allows him to have great puck possession numbers when he is controlling the puck in the offensive zone.  Puck moving abilities are his best skill because his big body and long stick can move at a fast pace that opposing forwards find difficult to take away or challenge. One area of improvement Ratcliffe needs to make is his skating as his edge work is decent, but his strides slow the momentum of his team’s offensive rush. Ratcliffe deserves to be in the first round because it’s often rare to find a big player like him that can move the puck around the ice with his stick so quickly." - Scott Crawford

¨Skinny skyscraper has had a rollercoaster of a development track over the last few years that stabilised right at the start of this past winter…announced his arrival with a package of long legs, quick stick, and fairly strong skating…knows what to do with the puck and is looked upon as an offensive leader in Guelph…his shot is a standout characteristic and just like his skating patterns is not easy to read…can snap top shelf moving, blast it from stand still, take it to the net and beat the goalie – point is he’s not a one trick pony…above average pass reception that extends plays and is a safety blanket for teammates a notch below in talent…nice stickhandler who has room to grow...needs to work on becoming less disconnected and loose defensively…somewhere in between Logan Brown and Riley Tufte as a comparison…massively underdeveloped tower found a way to be a scorer on a bad team and based on data is less of a projection pick than you would think.¨ - Anthony Mauro

8. Conor Timmins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 15
High/Low Ranking: 5th (4x)/Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
"One of the oldest players of this year's draft class (born Sept. 18, 1998), Timmins has high-end hockey sense and is excellent at transitioning the puck out of his zone. He's very poised and can run a power play, has a good shot and earned his role as a top-pair defenseman for the Greyhounds." - Mike Morreale

"Great puck moving defenceman who does a fantastic job of avoiding the forecheck in the defensive zone which gives him extra time to start the breakout. ES beast as he finished 2nd among OHL defensemen in even strength points." - Peter Kneulman

"He is the best two-way defenseman to be taken in the draft and who will make any coach happy to coach him. He listens and is a great teammate for anyone that plays on his line. His skating is unique for a defenseman and allows him to drive more to the net and make good plays up ice. When he is skating up the ice he usually is not a pass first type of defenseman as he will charge down the ice with the puck entering the zone as the F1 either dumping the puck in or taking a quick shot on net. His skating is what makes him a valuable defenseman due to his ability to recover when offense turns to defense and he is mobile on the back pedal when an opposing offensive rush is penetrating his zone and he will always be ready to close the gap. He is on the right track in his development to become a first round draft pick and thanks to his hard work and commitment to being a better player he has branded his own style of play." - Scott Crawford

"Timmins is on the older side of this draft class, which contributed to his success as a draft-eligible, but he remains a top prospect in his own right. Even if you extend scoring among OHL defenders to all under-19 skaters, Timmins finished second with 61 points and a 0.91 points per game clip, ahead of last year’s top prospects, including Mikhail Sergachyov, Olli Juolevi and Victor Mete. He led a strong Sault Ste. Marie team to the top of the division and he did it while driving play and dictating possession in all situations." - Scott Wheeler

9. Michael Dipietro - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
Total Votes: 10
High/Low Ranking: 4th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (8x)
"One can only hope this backstop with cat-like quickness ends this seemingly decades-long trend that goalies need to be a certain height to succeed. Listed at 6 feet tall, DiPietro is a tremendous competitor with impeccable positioning and net awareness, and both were on display as he led the host Spitfires to a perfect record at the Memorial Cup, including a pair of stellar wins against Erie’s powerful offense." - Steve Kournianos

"The best goaltending prospect the OHL has seen in several years (better than Malcolm Subban was for sure and he was a first rounder). If he were 6'3, we'd be talking about him as a potential lottery pick (even as a goalie). We know about the athleticism and his ability to make remarkable saves. But what many people don't know is how amazing this kid is as a human being. Lost his mother at a young age and carries himself like a true professional. Someone who has coached him told me that he's one of the best kids he's ever coached and that his work ethic is second to none. As Toronto Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman has famously stated, "height doesn't measure heart." - Brock Otten

"The best goalie in the draft despite his size limitations, very good feet, tracks pucks well, reads the play, plays big in big games, mentally strong." - Mark Seidel

"The OHL's prized draft eligible goaltender for 2017 and Memorial Cup champion could be even higher on my list here but for the reason I have been fooled before by an OHL goaltender who I thought was a sure thing NHL starter, thanks for that shot to the confidence Thomas McCollum. Regardless of that Dipietro is a battler, a hard working, athletic, butterfly stopper who has NHL starting potential." - Dan Stewart

10. Morgan Frost - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 7
High/Low Ranking: 6th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (11x)
"Frost confirmed to the scouting world just how fast he was during the Top Prospects skill testing, finishing at the very top in all of the skating drills. However, The main issue with Frost’s game concerns his defensive game, and there are some scouts who wonder if at his size he will be able to handle larger top-two centers in an NHL setting and opine that he may end up being a playmaking winger on an offensive line." - Grant McCagg

"Very underrated 2-way player. Dynamite on the power play. Has shown steady growth at even strength and should see a spike next year as he adds speed and strength in the offseason." - Peter Kneulman

"Frost, like London's Thomas, doesn't get the credit he deserves while being surrounding by a very talented team in Sault Ste. Marie. Coming off his 1st 20 goal OHL season, he is taking a development curve very similar to that of teammate/linemate Zachary Senyshyn. A different player from Senyshyn though, its Frost's passing and vision that will WOW scouts and he should only continue this improve." - Reed Duthie

"Every time I saw him he got better. Really smart player away from the puck. Has an edge to his game you can't teach." - Tony Ambrogio

Honorable Mentions

Matthew Strome - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs (7 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 7th (3x)
"Sniper's hands with a coach's mind. Matt Strome is a hockey savant, when you talk to the Bulldogs forward about game plans, opposition tendencies, and how to break down opposition its as if the game is happening right in front of him on a screen. After debuting with 16 goals in 15-16, Strome took his production to the next level in 16-17 with 34 goals and 28 assists while continuing to be a force both on the power play and shorthanded. With the man advantage Strome can use his incredible hand eye coordination infront of the net or his hockey IQ to play the high boards in the umbrella set up making him a threat in multiple locations. Improving his skating stride and top speed will be paramount challenge but with Strome's work ethic he's more then up to the challenge." - Reed Duthie

"This big and strong playmaking winger who also works his tail off has much upside but also some deficiencies that will scare some teams away. His size, strength and vision combo is impressive but if he can not improve his feet and quickness they might all be for not. The good news is that his brothers also had mobility issues but have since made big strides, pun intended." - Dan Stewart

"Admittedly number 11 on my list, but I don't question anyone who has Strome in their top 10 because of how close players ranked 8 through 10 are. These are all guys who have a shot to be top 45 picks come June. Everyone talks about how bad Strome's skating is. And it seems like he's only generated negative press lately (especially after a poor U18's). But he's a solid prospect and deserves respect for the things he does well. His mention in the OHL Coaches Poll as one of the smartest players in the Conference it a testament to his ability to create offensive scoring chances for his linemates. He has terrific vision and patience for a bigger player. The offensive upside is most certainly there. The U18's proved how his skating limits him right now (playing on the big ice). But IMO, the key to his development might be the increased consistency of his physical game. He's never going to be a top notch skater, but he can still be an NHL top 6 player if he can continue to harness the power forward game that he flashes from time to time." - Brock Otten 

Ivan Lodnia - Forward - Erie Otters (5 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 5th (1x)
"Although his numbers don't show it, Lodnia is a vastly improved two-way player. With the Otters deep on their top-six, Lodnia played on the third and fourth line in a defensive role and did well with it. When given the opportunity, he's dangerous with the puck on his stick. With all of Erie's departures next season, Lodnia jumps straight to the top line and will have more of a chance to show what he can do." - Mark Scheig

"A personal favourite of mine because of the offensive upside he possesses. Puck skills are among the best available and his skating and hustle improved this year." - Anonymous

"Lodnia managed to net 57 points in 66 games despite suffering the misfortune of playing behind the Otters’ top line that combined for 130 goals. He’s got a wicked shot, and his strength on the puck is evident every time he hits the ice. Two undervalued aspects of his game are his poise and hockey sense – this kid under pressure is as cool as a cucumber and can lure opponents well out of position. Lodnia, who missed 2018 eligibility by two weeks, was deadly for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka, and Erie’s expected exodus of graduating superstars makes him primed for a breakout season in 2018." - Steve Kournianos

"The fact he has been able to take on a shutdown role with the veteran Otters is a big checkmark. We know he can produce offense and next year he'll be back in a plum scoring role, so Lodnia's in a really good situation." - Ryan Kennedy

Alex Formenton - Forward - London Knights (4 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
"Formenton is one of those prospects that impresses scouts a lot more the first time he’s seen live than when they watch him on video or look at the stats sheet, predominantly because it soon becomes apparent just how fast he moves around the rink. His skating skills and size combo alone will likely get him picked in the top 50, and perhaps even in the top 40." - Grant McCagg

¨He made a significant contribution in his first OHL season for the Knights. He's a strong 200-foot player with good size and excellent skating ability. He can execute skilled plays at top speed and generate scoring opportunities off the rush or below the dots.¨ - Mike Morreale

"I've been up and down on Formenton all season. And I wonder if NHL scouts feel the same way. Just like some London Knights from past drafts, his wavering ice time really made it difficult to properly scout him this year. The speed is noticeable every single game, and every time he touches the ice. But the offensive game really is hard to peg. At times, it looks like his feet are moving faster than his brain and he out-skates himself out of scoring chances. And for a player who's so quick, the consistency of his play away from the puck needs to improve IMO. Even with limited ice time, I want to notice him and I didn't the majority of times I saw London in the second half and playoffs. But you also have to trust the London Knights program and the way they develop prospects. If there is a team who can harness his goal scoring potential and ability to utilize his speed as a weapon in all three zones, it's London." - Brock Otten

Jonah Gadjovich - Forward - Owen Sound Attack (4 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 8th (2x)
¨The most improved player in the Ontario Hockey League this past season, Gadjovich picked the perfect time to have his coming out party. A late '98 birthdate allowed the Whitby native to develop his confidence and his astonishing 46 goals blew scouts away - more than tripling his sophomore production. He's a strong sturdy player who has a knack for finding his way to the net and a timely ability to cash in on pucks with his quick shooting ability. While he leaves some room for improvement in terms of his speed and natural puck skills, he does display smarts and strong positioning that allow him to be a factor on many plays, and support his line mates well. His work ethic helps him maximize his power forward style of play because he's shows a willingness to get his hands dirty to earn his chances. Come draft day, Gadjovich should start receiving interest anytime near the end of the first round and likely landing in a second round position at the end of the day.¨ - Brendan Ross

¨Young OHL veteran has nearly 200 games played yet has been under the radar as a power forward shooting maniac…most attribute his production to stud 2017 Nick Suzuki, but make no mistake, he is every part the competent half as the quintessential shotgun winger…a simple forward who doesn’t over-complicate the game…if he had a motto it would be play physical and shoot a lot...often gets his way physically and has detail around the crease that some pro’s can’t dream of…has very good straight line speed and an explosive first few strides despite being filled out like a grown man and 200 plus pounds at 18…agility is average and not the most natural puck handler in flight….overall has decent, working class hands that get the job done…will shoot from everywhere and anywhere and can really put his weight into his shots…we all want highlight reel plays and incessant puck dragging, but everything about this minimal kid screams he will be a better pro than junior and he’s already pretty damn good.¨ - Anthony Mauro

"Love this player. He's a real throwback. Loved him in his rookie year, but he did struggle last year. This year, he got better and better every month. The skating concerns are overblown IMO. I think that area really saw improvement as the year went on. He knows his role on the ice is to be a net presence and he's an absolute beast there; an impossible tie up for many OHL defenders. But he's also a very smart two-way player who is a coaches dream. That combination should definitely make him an NHL player IMO." - Brock Otten

Mackenzie Entwistle - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs (3 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
"This big forward is smart and willing to use his strengths to his advantage. He needs to fill out still but you love that he uses what strength he has to play a physical game. He is also an impressive skater, reads the play well, makes smart decisions and contributes in all facets. The one area that keeps him down the list is his lack of offensive upside." - Dan Stewart

"One of my personal favourites, standing 6'3'' MacKenzie Entwistle has ideal NHL size, tremendous speed for his size, excellent hockey IQ, and best of all top notch character. Entwistle is a player who will be trending upwards at a steep angle, playing behind Stephen Harper & Niki Petti/Brandon Saigeon in his rookie season & Petti & Will Bitten/Brandon Saigeon in his sophmore season, it will be the 17-18 where Entwistle will see his biggest opportunity. A staple on the PK since arriving in Hamilton, Entwistle will be moving up the depth chart with the ability to play C or W and will likely be moving into a regular role on the Bulldogs PP. Get ready for a breakout player!" - Reed Duthie

"He will never be an offensive force but he will be on the ice for the final minute of every period, smarter than some coaches in the OHL, phenomenal on the PK, sneaky offense that may come but that will be a bonus." - Mark Seidel

Markus Phillips - Defense - Owen Sound Attack (2 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
"Has the potential to be an all situations, all around type of defender because of his plus skating. Offensive skills aren't the best of any defender in the draft, but he's crafty." - Anonymous

"Phillips is perhaps the most underrated OHL player in this draft. He had a slow start to the season but vastly improved as the season went on. He reduced his turnovers and became a steady force on Owen Sound's blueline. He projects well to the next level and is expected to make noise on Team Canada in the next couple of seasons." - Mark Scheig

Adam Ruzicka - Forward - Sarnia Sting (2 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
"A slow start as a CHL rookie import knocked this towering Slovak center out of draft radar detection, but he responded with an excellent second half statistically.  Ruzicka, who finished with 24 points in his last 28 games, tied for the most 5v5 points by an OHL rookie (34 in 61 games), and his 171 shots ranked second among Ontario League newcomers. He’s got a very good shot and continues to find ways to get open despite being one of the bigger players on the ice. Ruzicka can play in all three zones, and is both physically and mentally capable of taking over games." - Steve Kournianos

"Sarnia’s best puck handler he can make good moves around the ice. He can even play a North-South style of game because he can play the top and bottom halves of the neutral zone good enough to create an open ice play near the zone entry for a teammate. His specialty with his puck handling comes from his passing, as he likes to make quick light passes with his stick on offensive rushes to fool his opponents into thinking he is dumping the puck. Another complimentary passing skill is his saucer passes, he can make long range saucer passes to teammates that turn into break away chances or he can make a fast and smooth cross ice sauce pass to a teammate going directly to the net. When he is unable to convert on a play he is good at recovering the puck using a quick C-cut to draw the opponent to the opposite side and using his quick hands to form a backhand forehand motion to keep the defenders guessing. Ruzicka possesses such raw natural talent, it’s going to be exciting to see what he can do in the pros once he is of age." - Scott Crawford

Eemeli Rasanen - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs (1 Vote)
Highest Ranking: 10th (1x)
"Unheralded defender out of Kingston that caught and surpassed the highly touted Paquette, great frame mixed with a healthy dose of nasty, feet are ok, big shot on the PP, Very underrated." - Mark Seidel

"Had to include a bit on the best player no one is talking about. 6'7'' 205lbs, the Finnish rookie was an impact player in every sense of the word for Kingston. The defensive specialist added 39pts in 66gp, thanks to a high level first pass from the defensive zone and a bomb of a shot that would scare some professional goaltenders. Add all that into the fact the 18 year old also knows how use to his massive frame to make life miserable for the opposition's best players and he is a player that NHL scouts should be drooling over! SUPER SLEEPER!" - Reed Duthie

Austen Keating - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
"If there’s one player who hasn’t received the buzz he deserves in the overexposed OHL, it’s Keating. He was a low-scoring Ottawa 67’s team’s best centre from start to finish and while he doesn’t possess elite ability in any one area of his game, he does everything at such an efficient, high level that he nonetheless dictates and controls play and tempo. He’s probably the fourth-best passer out of the OHL in this class behind Suzuki, Vilardi and Thomas and yet he hasn’t been given much attention as a legit prospect." - Scott Wheeler