Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018/19 OHL Season Preview: Award Predictions

The conclusion to my three part season preview sees me look at potential award candidates for 2018/19.

Red Tilson Trophy - Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound Attack)
Coming off a 100 point season last year, Suzuki seems like a pretty safe bet to return to Owen Sound for his 19 year old season. He'll be able to play alongside his longtime running mate, Kevin Hancock, one last time. As such, he's going to put up a ton of points (even with a likely appearance for Canada at the WJC's) and the Attack are going to win hockey games. Sounds like a recipe for a Tilson vote. Obviously, Morgan Frost is a serious candidate too. 2nd leading scorer from a year ago and should be better this year. Problem is that the talent surrounding him won't be quite as good. Jack Studnicka is a serious candidate for me too. If he cracks the 100 point mark and the Generals are as good as I think they'll be, Studnicka could get a lot of votes because of how he impacts the game in so many different ways. What about Michael Dipietro if he can get the Spits to the top of the Western Conference? Sasha Chmelevski is a nice darkhorse candidate many aren't talking about right now, as I think he could be a top 5 scorer in the league this year. Ben Jones, Kyle Keyser, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Akil Thomas are others who I could see getting consideration.

Goaltender of the Year - Kyle Keyser (Oshawa Generals)
I went against Dipietro last year, against my better judgment. And it looks like I'm doing it again. I must be insane. Here's the thing. I think the Generals are going to be really good. And I think Kyle Keyser is going to put up some really strong numbers. His game has really come a long way. That said, I wouldn't be shocked if Dipietro won it again. He is going to be so crucial to Windsor's success, so even if his numbers aren't the best, he is still going to get votes. OA's Joseph Raaymakers and Stephen Dhillon could be considered candidates heading into the year. Ditto for the Soo's Matthew Villalta. But what about Ivan Prosvetov in Saginaw? The Spirit are going to be very strong defensively and Prosvetov could put up some very solid numbers.

Max Kaminski Trophy - Joey Keane (Barrie Colts)
A candidate last year, I think Keane is going to have a very big year in Barrie. Because of how solid he is at both ends, Keane attracts attention from voters. His goal scoring numbers will need to be better this year though. If Evan Bouchard returns, he's a near shoe in IMO. Sean Durzi, once he returns from pro camp, is a serious candidate again. He's going to put up insane offensive numbers this year on that Owen Sound powerplay with Suzuki. Matt Brassard, another OA, should also be a candidate once he returns from pro camp (assuming he does). He had a terrific second half and will be in a position to be a point per game player. How about Adam Boqvist? Hard to imagine that he's not in the running once he joins the OHL from Blackhawks' camp. Ryan Merkley is going to put up a TON of points, but I'm not sure voters will give him a serious look if his defensive game remains an enigma. How about a darkhorse candidate? Mac Hollowell is one of the highest scoring returning defenders and he's going to be riding shotgun on the Hounds powerplay with Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton.

Emms Family Award - Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves)
I'm all in on the Byfield train. This kid was dominating the OHL preseason by the end and is going to have some talent surrounding him in Sudbury. He could be the first 16 year old to be over the 70 point mark since Travis Konecny. Ottawa's Import Marco Rossi is someone I could see putting up a ton of points and being a serious contender here too. He performed well in the preseason and is considered a potential top 5 pick for 2020 (late birthday). Another import who will be put in a good spot to put up points is London's Matvei Guskov. Just recently named to Bob McKenzie's preseason draft ranking, Guskov looks like the real deal. A few other 16 year olds to keep an eye on are Will Cuylle, Jamie Drysdale, and Cole Perfetti.

Leo Lalande Trophy - Sean Durzi (Owen Sound Attack)
Man, this is a tough one. There are some REALLY good OA's playing in the OHL this year. Wouldn't be surprised if 3-4 of the top 10 scorers are OA's, and 3-4 of the top 10 defenseman scorers are OA's. Durzi just seems like the logical choice here, pending he returns (which I think he does). Should be well over a point per game on a strong team. Teammate Kevin Hancock would actually be my second choice as I see him as a potential top 5 scorer in the OHL this year, riding shotgun with Suzuki. Up front, Justin Brazeau and Tye Felhaber are candidates. As is Brandon Saigeon, who was just returned by the Avalanche (much to the surprise of many). On the back-end, so are Mac Hollowell, Matthew Timms, and Matt Brassard. And in net, Joseph Raaymakers and Stephen Dhillon should be right there. Many other names that I'm not mentioning too. Just a really solid OA crop this year.

Matt Leyden Trophy - Greg Walters (Oshawa Generals)
I've mentioned that I'm bullish on the Generals this year and I think that makes Walters a big time front runner for this award. The Generals jump from 5th to 1st in the East and become serious Championship contenders. 2nd choice here would be Troy Smith in Saginaw. Again, big jump here from 8th to a division title (potentially) and that could earn him the attention from voters. If the London Knights are as good as everyone expects, Dale Hunter can obviously throw his hat in the ring. Some others to consider as preseason candidates include Billy Burke (Niagara), George Burnett (Guelph), Todd Gill (Owen Sound), Andre Tourigny (Ottawa), and Cory Stillman (Sudbury). If Stillman can get the Wolves back to the top 4 of the East, he could be someone who really deserves this award.

Eddie Powers Trophy - Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound Attack)
I chose him for the Tilson, so I'm sticking with him for the scoring title. He's going to miss time for the WJC's, this is true. But so will other top candidates like Morgan Frost, Sasha Chmelevski, Jason Robertson, and Jack Studnicka. Does that open the door for another OA such as Kevin Hancock or Tye Felhaber, who are surrounded by a ton of talent and should put up a ton of points? Or what about Ben Jones or Akil Thomas in Niagara, since I'm not sure either end up suiting up at the World Juniors. They could put up a ton of points on a strong Niagara team. But if I'm a betting man, it's one of the guys I mentioned in the opening sentences of this paragraph. I didn't mention Robertson as a Red Tilson candidate, but if he gets dealt, sooner rather than later, he could end up taking this one home.

Goal Scoring Leader - Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm)
Had 40 last year and I think he hits the 50 goal mark this year. I'm also not sure he ends up playing at the WJC's, which will help him lock this down. Guelph's powerplay is going to be fantastic this year and Ratcliffe's size and shot will be a big time asset. Niagara's Kirill Maksimov is another guy that I think could be a 50 goal scorer. Love his game. What about Nick Suzuki, my pick for the Powers? Along with Morgan Frost, he's the highest scoring returning player. Again, Robertson is someone worth a mention. How about big overager Justin Brazeau or fellow OA Brandon Saigeon? They could easily be a 50 goal scorers too. Last name I'll mention is Sasha Chmelevski. A guy who hasn't received enough love for the improvements that he has shown.

1st Team All Stars:
LW - Isaac Ratcliffe
C - Nick Suzuki
RW - Jason Robertson
D - Sean Durzi
D - Joey Keane
G - Kyle Keyser
Coach - Greg Walters

2nd Team All Stars:
LW - Kevin Hancock
C - Morgan Frost
RW - Kirill Maksimov
D - Matt Brassard
D - Mac Hollowell
G - Michael Dipietro
Coach - Troy Smith

3rd Team All Stars:
LW - Matthew Strome
C - Jack Studnicka
RW - Justin Brazeau
D - Adam Boqvist
D - Ryan Merkley
G - Ivan Prosvetov
Coach - Dale Hunter

1st All Rookie Team:
LW - Cole Perfetti
C - Quinton Byfield
RW - Kaleb Pearson
D - Jamie Drysdale
D - Daniil Chayka
G - Jet Greaves

2nd All Rookie Team:
LW - Will Cuylle
C - Marco Rossi
RW - Ty Tullio
D - Jake Murray
D - Robert Calisti
G - Kari Piiroinen

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018/19 OHL Season Preview: Western Conference

Part two of my season preview brings us to the Western Conference.

At this point, I think we have to consider the London Knights as the front runners, even if the state of their roster is extremely contingent on NHL training camps. I expect Saginaw and the other teams in the Midwest to push them. Owen Sound could be extremely dangerous if they get good goaltending. And Guelph, well they should be great but they also give off a vibe that makes me somewhat nervous still. A lot of the West teams had terrific preseasons (dominating the East), but I'm just not sure that we can use those results to say that the West is that much better.

1. London Knights (Midwest Division Champions)
Evan Bouchard. Adam Boqvist. Alex Formenton. Brady Tkachuk. The Knights could get all of them, or none of them. And the timetable surrounding that decision is also of importance. If all four get NHL playing time to start the year, it could be November until we see them back. London can't afford to get off to the start it did last year in the first two months. But this year's team is most definitely deeper and should be able to withstand the uncertainty. The addition of Matthew Timms was a really savvy move to make sure that the team's powerplay and offense still clicks with Bouchard and Boqvist unavailable to start the year. And they still have Regula, Perrott, and Golden to keep them afloat (although I could see Golden being dealt at some point). Up front, Matvei Guskov was recently named to Bob McKenzie's early draft list and produced well in the preseason. And it's now a full year of guys like Foudy, Moskal, Dunkley, McMichael, etc, playing key roles that they excelled at in the second half last year. Did I mention that London also drafted extremely well this past year and added 3 fantastic young forwards (Stranges, Evangelista, Panwar) into the fold. The depth is there and the top end talent will eventually show. Between Kooy and Raaymakers, the goaltending should be solid. Even if London can go a few games above .500 for the opening month or two, once they get themselves to full squad (even if it's 3/4 of the above), they should still have enough to surge and take the Conference.

2. Saginaw Spirit (West Division Champions)
What a terrific offseason for General Manager Dave Drinkill and the Spirit. This was already a solid team coming into the year, but they managed to add Albert Michnac, Bode Wilde, Ivan Prosvetov, and Cole Perfetti into the fold. The results this preseason spoke for themselves. This is going to be a tough team to beat this year. At forward, the team doesn't have any stars, but what they do have is depth and heart. This team can roll three scoring lines that can match up against the opposition's best. In particular, I really think that Cole Coskey is an underrated player and he could emerge as an OHL star this year. And there's no way that Brady Gilmour can be as ineffective as he was last year. The defense though, that's the highlight. Like Oshawa in the East, size is a big time strength. Wilde, Middleton, Everett, Davis, Webb. They're all over 6'2. I'm very intrigued to see Wilde play. Also excited to see Ivan Prosvetov manning the pipes, as I've heard great things from those who watched him in the USHL. If London really does get off to a slow (or average) start, this Spirit team could have a chance to take this Conference.

3. Owen Sound Attack
Last year, the lack of goaltending really hurt this team, whose offense was fantastic; and quite frankly wasted. This year, goaltending is still a question mark, with the Attack banking on Mack Guzda to be a capable starter in his draft year. It's a safe bet IMO, as I'm a fan of Guzda and I obviously think he'll do just fine considering where I have the Attack ranked. I'm also operating under the assumption that Sean Durzi returns and solidifies a defense which is, IMO, one of the strongest in the OHL with him in the lineup. Durzi, Lyle, Phillips, Robertson/Bourque (if they keep Bourque as an OA) is very solid. And at forward, this team returns a lot of key players including Nick Suzuki who could be a front runner to lead the league in scoring. The Hancock/Suzuki pairing returns for a final kick at the can and they will be unstoppable. But Dudas and Sushko form a quality 2nd line that gives Owen Sound a terrific one/two punch. The team's preseason performance was very encouraging, especially given the performances of some players who would have otherwise been considered scoring depth (Robinson, Groulz, Pearson, Wilson, etc). All signs are pointing to this team being elite, yet again.

4. Guelph Storm
I'm doing it. Against my better judgment, I'm taking this team to have home ice in round one. I'm getting flashbacks to Mississauga and Peterborough of recent years, going off what should happen on paper. But I'm doing it. This Guelph team has been built to make this run; to make this the year that they compete for a Championship. A solid group of 99's, complimented by quality 2000's and you have a team that should be extremely competitive. Scoring goals will definitely be this team's strength. Ratcliffe, Hillis, Schnarr, Toropchenko, Hawel, Ralph, Bertuzzi, Poirier. That's 8/9 pieces to a terrific top three scoring lines. Ratcliffe is coming off a 40 goal season and you have to think he'll improve upon that even more. On the back-end, Ryan Merkley helps to elevate that terrific offense even more. But can they keep pucks out? Will Merkley round out his game? Will Samorukov take that next step? Is Chayka ready to play a key role? The Jack Hanley addition was a very good one as he provides stability to a back-end that was erratic at best last year. In net, Anthony Popovich is the man. And I like him. He had issues with consistency last year, but he stole some games for Guelph and has that game breaking ability. I see him improving and really being the solid backstop that this team needs (given the high risk style they are bound to play).

5. Windsor Spitfires
Proof that quality goaltending really can carry you a long way. Reigning OHL goaltender of the year Michael Dipietro returns and will be the veteran rock that this young team needs yet again. Will they or won't they trade him? That's the million dollar question. Until then, you have to operate under the assumption that this team will be competitive yet again. Their young talent stood out last year and now they're all a year older and stronger. And Will Cuylle and Jean Luc Foudy have been added into the mix. Cuylle was a standout in the preseason, taking little time to adjust to the league and should be a future star. Kind of like Barrie in the East, this forward group will scrape and claw it's way to goals and victories. Defensively, I'm most intrigued to see the improvements from Lev Starikov and Nathan Staios, as they will likely be responsible for primary puck moving duty. The Spitfires just recently picked up Sean Allen too, who is a nice addition because of the physicality he brings. This team will go through ups and downs because of the age of their key players, but that's where having Dipietro really comes in handy because the team doesn't have to be at their best to win. Not every team in the Conference can say that. In fact, very few can.

6. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Honestly, don't count this team out folks. See lots of people writing this team off, assuming that they will inevitably falter due to the rebuild carousel that is the CHL. But the Greyhounds still have star power and they've drafted so well in recent years that it is safe to assume that guys like Joe Carroll, Cole Mackay, LeGuerrier, Calisti, Roth, Trott, etc, are all capable of stepping up and finding success with larger roles. This team still has Morgan Frost. It still has Mac Hollowell. It still has Barrett Hayton, Jordan Sambrook, Matthew Villalta, and Keegan Howdeshell. Star power can carry you a long way in this league, especially if you have it at every position. I look down the middle and see Frost and Hayton, two of the best players in the OHL and have a ton of faith in their ability to elevate the production of their wingers, regardless of who they end up being. And while Villalta has his detractors, he's still a talented goaltender who is entering his 19 year old season. I guess the question I have is...if this team does find themselves in the middle of the pack, do they start looking at dealing Frost, Hollowell, Villalta, etc, to bring back the assets that they lost in recent years during their Championship runs (only one second in the next four drafts)?

7. Kitchener Rangers
Honestly, I found it really tough to put the Rangers at #7 because I still like their make-up and think that they're a quality team. IMO 3-7 on this list are pretty interchangeable heading into the season and I wouldn't be surprised at all if they finished only a few points from each other. Parity is great for the league. So why do I have Kitchener as the worst of the best? Ultimately I'm not convinced that this team has the offensive firepower to compete, day in and day out, with the big guns of the West. And I'm not convinced (even with Luke Richardson's terrific preseason performance) that this team will get the consistent goaltending that they will need to win lower scoring games. And while I like the size and physical make-up of their defense, I don't see someone who can be the primary puck mover and powerplay QB that this team will need. Michael Vukojevic could be that one day, but it would be a lot to ask of the talented draft eligible defender this year. Now, if Axel Andersson reports, then it's a different story. But that looks far fetched at this point. Up front, it will be on the likes Joseph Gareffa, Riley Damiani, Greg Meireles, and Rickard Hugg to be the primary focal points. The only issue is that their average height is about 5'9 (and none are above 5'10). Height doesn't measure heart, this is true. But having some support would be a big help and this is just a small forward unit overall. Could be tough for them to compete, night in, night out in a tough Western Conference. We'll see.

8. Flint Firebirds
They should be better this year, but are they a slam dunk as a playoff team? Likely not. I do have faith that they'll squeeze in because of a solid defense and some scoring up front. Ty Dellandrea is obviously the star here and this team only goes as far as he carries them. But I'm a big fan and I think he's up to the challenge. Look for some of his support wingers to have better years like Connor Roberts, Ethan Keppen, CJ Clarke, etc. I'd also expect a healthy Hunter Holmes to bounce back. As mentioned, this team's defense is a key component and is underrated IMO. I think Fedor Gordeev is going to have a big year. He looked very good the second half of last year and his size and skating ability should allow him to dominate at both ends. Dennis Busby, Riley McCourt, and Nilsen/Gretz rounds out the top 4 and all can move the puck and start the breakout. The acquisition of Emanuel Vella was a very smart one this offseason as he will help ease Luke Cavallin into the starter's role. There will be some nights that aren't pretty. This team is still rebuilding. But they're trending upwards.

9. Sarnia Sting
On paper, this team is probably better than Flint. But I do see them making some deals this year (guys like Ruzicka, McGregor, Leufvenius, Eliot, etc) to start the rebuild and help the team get back assets that they lost last year in trying to make that run. That could mean a rougher second half depending on when that trade frenzy starts. This team does start the year with a terrific group of overagers though and that can take you a long way in this league. In fact, the group is too strong as one will have to be moved between Mitch Eliot, Theo Calvas, Franco Spoviero, and Anthony Salinitri. This team does have some talent at forward with guys like Ruzicka, McGregor, Leufvenius, Jamieson Rees and the OA's. They all play the game hard and will at least make this team tough to play against. But preventing goals could be an issue. Not extremely confident in an Aidan Hughes/Ethan Langevin combo, especially considering that I'm also not confident in the team's defense to limit premium scoring chances. That said, this team does have heart and veteran leadership. I could see them getting into the top 6-7 in the Conference if their veterans all improve (similar to a Barrie situation last year).

10. Erie Otters
After some absolutely amazing years near or at the top of the Western Conference standings, the time has come for this team to find the bottom. It's the inevitable cycle that is the Canadian Hockey League. It already started with the Ivan Lodnia deal, but expect the exodus to continue through the season as the Otters try to bring back the assets that this team lost over that four year run. Overager Kyle Maksimovich is the big fish here, about as consistent as you can be offensively and would make a great addition to any team's top 6 for a playoff run. He'll lead the offense until he is dealt, along with Hayden Fowler, the big name acquired last year by the team. On defense, the best player may actually be 16 year old Jamie Drysdale, who will jump right into a key role and earn a ton of minutes, which will be great for his development. In goal, Daniel Murphy and Noah Battaglia will likely platoon, taking turns on who takes the barrage on any given night. Nothing to be ashamed about here though. This is the nature of the OHL and with some good trades, in addition to savvy drafting and recruiting, this team will be back in the playoff hunt again in a couple years. At this point, the Otters have to be considered the favourite in the Shane Wright lottery sweep stakes (assuming he does end up gaining exceptional status).

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018/19 OHL Season Preview: Eastern Conference

It's that time again! The 2018/19 season starts this week so it's time to make some predictions. 

At this point, I see the Eastern Conference as a three horse race between Oshawa, Niagara, and Ottawa with Oshawa as a front runner. Barrie and Sudbury could surprise and contend, especially as they push Niagara for the division. But I think the Generals, IceDogs, and 67's are the cream of the crop right now because of their depth and the veteran talent they have at their disposal. 

1. Oshawa Generals (East Division Champions)
Fresh off a perfect preseason performance that saw them play mostly without their big guns, the Generals look poised to take a serious run at an OHL championship this year. No question, Oshawa is the most well rounded team in the Conference, perhaps even in the entire OHL; star talent and depth at every position. It starts in net with Kyle Keyser, who emerged as one of the league's elite last year and with a better team in front of him, he has to be considered a front runner for the Goalie of the Year award. Their defense is scary, especially if Matt Brassard returns for an overage year (which I assume he will). Nico Gross is the smallest player at 6'1 and nearly every defender brings an element of physicality to the table. Up front, captain Jack Studnicka is the star and should be one of the top players in the OHL this year; his final one in the league. But they've got great depth and a lot of really underrated players (like Kyle Maclean, who I think could have a big year now that he's finally healthy). New import Nando Eggenberger looks like a beast too, as one of the top goal scorers this preseason. Now, if Studnicka makes the Bruins and Brassard doesn't return, things become more complicated, but I see that as being far fetched.

2. Niagara IceDogs (Central Division Champions)
I really like how this IceDogs team has come together heading into the season. Bringing in Ivan Lodnia gives the team a much needed veteran injection into their top 6 and should give them two terrific scoring lines centered by Ben Jones and Akil Thomas. I also expect Kirill Maksimov to have a massive year where he could contend for the goal scoring title as a potential 50 goal scorer. In net, Stephen Dhillon returns as an OA and I would expect him to continue to improve his consistency and be a rock for the Dogs as he searches for an NHL contract. My only true question mark is the size of their back-end. They are relying on a lot of undersized defenders in key roles, with no guarantee that a guy like Daniel Bukac becomes a dependable rock. But this isn't 1999. Puck movement and mobility on the back-end are critical in today's game and Niagara will be able to play an uptempo style that puts pressure on the opposition and keeps it out of their end. A guy like Liam Ham is such an unheralded player, as he's a reliable force at both ends. The powerplay also needs to be better this year, which means that guys like Ham, Constantinou, Roberts has to step up as a top flight point man. But I like this team as a favourite for the Central Division, even with a few minor question marks,

3. Ottawa 67's 
The depth that this team has accrued is insane. They have drafted very well the last couple of years and it has made them four lines and three pairings deep. Let's not forget that Ottawa has a thousand second round picks at their disposal should they want to upgrade at some point. While young talent up front is exciting (Graeme Clark, Marco Rossi, Jack Quinn, Cameron Tolnai, etc), it's veteran leaders like Chmelevski, Felhaber, Kody Clark, and Austen Keating that are the lifeblood here. In particular, I think Chmelevski and Felhaber are going to have huge years and I would expect both to be top 10 in scoring  or close to it. The improvement that Chmelevski showed last year as a three zone player was staggering. Defensively, they're going to need a big year from Noel Hoefenmayer who is playing for an NHL contract. But I also expect a big step forward from Nikita Okhotyuk in his second year in the league. The real question mark is in goal. Most people have linked the 67's to a guy like Michael Dipietro or another trade target. And that may end up needing to be the case. But Cedrick Andree was sensational this preseason and he'll be given every chance to prove he can be the guy. Management just can't allow this season to go like Owen Sound's did last year, where goaltending was a constant lingering issue yet never truly addressed and prevented a talented roster from going deeper than they could have.

4. Barrie Colts
No Andrei Svechnikov, no problem. This team returns most of it's core and has added two premium imports in Matej Pekar and Maksim Zhukov. Ryan Suzuki looks poised for a huge draft year after a strong Hlinka and preseason. But I just love the lunch pail mentality of their forward group; the same one who surprised last year (thanks to guys like Willms, Peca, etc). Not sure they'll get Zach Magwood back, but that would be a huge boost too. The defense largely returns intact too, led by Joey Keane, who IMO is a front runner for the Max Kaminsky this year. Nathan Allensen should be able to replace what TJ Fergus brought to the top 4 too, as he will be hoping to be an impact player in his draft year. In goal, the Colts have a logjam which is a great problem to have. Between Zhukov, Jet Greaves, and returnee Kai Edmonds, goaltending should not be an issue. The Colts are flying under the radar right now because they're not the prettiest bell of the ball, but I think they'll be an effective group with a clear team identity and some strong top end talent in place. Don't be surprised if this team quietly pushes for the division.

5. Sudbury Wolves
Am I crazy? Predicting the Wolves to finally break out of their funk and be firmly in the playoff picture? Not this year, even if their preseason record wasn't pretty. Quinton Byfield is for real and that first line with Carson and Levin looks like it will be deadly. But a second line anchored by Blake Murray and supported by the Pilon twins could be equally as dangerous and give the Wolves a serious one/two punch. The depth may not quite be there yet up front, but a solid one/two punch is often good enough to make you a solid playoff team in this league. This team will score goals but will they be able to prevent them? The defense is still a little rough. Cole Candella needs to be an anchor as an OA and a guy like Liam Ross needs to take a big step forward too. But the real difference maker will need to be Ukko-Pekka Lukkonnen. Team defense will be a weakness here so he is going to need to be able to stand on his head at times and shut the door when needed. No guarantee he does that, but I like the dynamic make-up of this team and I think they'll get better as the season goes on.

6. Hamilton Bulldogs
No question, losing Ben Gleason hurts, as the talented blueliner signed on with Dallas last week. He was set to be the rock of a pretty decent defensive core. Not only have they now lost their rock, but they've also lost their powerplay QB in what I figured would be a major strength for them this year. This is going to put a lot of pressure on Nic Mattinen as a returning veteran as he will now be looked upon to play a ton, and in all situations. This is even more troubling considering the Bulldogs look like they'll lose Kaden Fulcher to the pro ranks and have to roll with Donofrio or Roy as their starter. They struggled in the preseason. But this team still has a ton of firepower up front with Matthew Strome, Mackenzie Entwistle, Arthur Kaliyev, Isaac Nurse, and a few young players ready to step into larger roles. It won't be pretty at times, but I could see them figuring out how to put it together at some point.

7. Peterborough Petes
I honestly don't know what to expect from Peterborough this year. I could easily see them finishing out of the playoffs. Or I could see them surprising and finding their way into the top 4/5 of the Conference. Predicting them 7th seems like a solid middle ground. Up front, there is talent. This team will score goals. Der-Arguchintsev, Gogolev, Gallant, Robertson, Paquette, Timleck, and more. I think Nick Robertson is in for a big year as a draft eligible player. But goaltending and defense are major question marks. Can Hunter Jones be a top flight starter? He struggled last year and wasn't great this preseason, but he's their goalie of the future and they need to ride him to see what they have. On defense, the same players who struggled last year, return. Chisholm, McNamara, Beraldo, Supryka. These are guys that this team needs more from this year. Ditto for their veterans in Cole Fraser and Austin Osmanski. Hamilton and Peterborough are pretty interchangeable for me here, as both will not struggle to score. Ultimately whoever figures out how to keep pucks out is going to be a potentially solid playoff team.

8. North Bay Battalion
A lower prediction for them than what I've seen so far. Again, I think that the 5-10 spots in the Eastern Conference are pretty wide open and interchangeable. So why is North Bay on the bubble for me? This defense is just so young and there are going to be some major rough patches. Cole Cameron was a terrific pick-up though and he's going to be a great influence on this team, especially on the penalty kill. The goaltending should be pretty reliable with Christian Propp, but I'm just not confident that they can stop the offensive firepower of Niagara, Barrie, and Sudbury within their own division. On the flip side, Justin Brazeau looks poised for a monster year and the combination of he and Matthew Struthers is going to be an absolute load for the opposition to handle, especially on the powerplay. Brandon Coe should also take a nice step forward. But I'm not sure this team has the depth or defensive ability to win consistently. A true toss up though.

9. Kingston Frontenacs
A lot of people seem to have the Frontenacs as a shoe in for the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It's certainly possible, but I don't see it as a slam dunk. On the blueline, their top 3 consists of OHL veterans Jacob Paquette, Jakob Brahaney, and Mitchell Byrne, all of whom were big components of a strong Frontenacs team last year. They can serve as great role models to talented youngsters like Evan Brand and Jake Murray. And let's not forget that this team still has Jason Robertson, one of the most talented forwards in the OHL, AND could still get Gabe Vilardi back thanks to his back flaring up again. But it's not just those two. Solid group of 98's and 99's here up front with guys like Ryan Cranford, Matt Hotchkiss, Tyler Burnie, and Brett Neumann. That's a lot of veteran talent for a last place club in this league. That said, goaltending is going to be a major issue in all likelihood. And depth is a real issue too. Plus, I see this team having a massive firesale at some point with guys like Robertson, Paquette, Cranford, etc all being shipped off to recoup assets. Kingston doesn't have a 2nd until 2026 and they don't even have a 3rd rounder until 2021. If it's the choice between finishing 7th and 10th, this team badly needs to replenish the system by dealing off the veterans that they do have. Until that happens though, they could be a half decent team.

10. Mississauga Steelheads
Just way too much pressure on Jacob Ingham heading into this year IMO. He struggled in his draft year with consistency and now he's going to be faced with the task of being the last line of defense behind a blueline that is weaker than last year's. Reagan O'Grady is a solid OHL defender, but if you're asking him to be your team's number one, I think you're going to be in a bit of trouble. Owen Tippett is a major wild card. IF, he returns to the OHL (which is a big if), it likely won't be until November (IMO). And then he's likely dealt soon after to help the Steelheads with their rebuild. That leaves Ryan McLeod as the go to leader and I think that's a lot to ask of him. And he's a likely trade candidate too. The 2001 and 2002 crop for the Steelheads looks quite strong and it's time for the team to start the rebuild and gather assets to surround that age group. Like Kingston, the Steelheads need to trade off veterans to get back the draft picks that they've used over the last few years to stay competitive (only one 2nd rounder in the next 5 drafts).


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Performers of the 2018 Preseason


 The 2018 preseason is over and the regular season is just around the corner. It's time to take a look at some of the top performances of this year's exhibition action.

As always, this list is populated by players without NHL affiliations (first or second year players, and undrafted veterans), because they get into more games.

Here were the preseason standings (ignoring divisions):

Eastern Conference
1. Ottawa 67's (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Oshawa Generals (3-1) - .750%
3. Barrie Colts (3-2) - .600%
4. North Bay Battalion (2-3) - .400%
5. Peterborough Petes (2-3) - .400%
6. Niagara IceDogs (1-3) - .250%
7. Mississauga Steelheads (1-3) - .250%
8. Sudbury Wolves (1-5) - .166%
9. Kingston Frontenacs (0-3) - 0.00%
10. Hamilton Bulldogs (0-4) - 0.00%

Western Conference
1. Saginaw Spirit (5-0) - 1.00%
2. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (2-0) - 1.00%
3. Windsor Spitfires (4-1) - .800%
4. Kitchener Rangers (4-1) - .800%
5. London Knights (3-1) - .750%
6. Owen Sound Attack (3-1) - .750%
7. Guelph Storm (3-1) - .750%
8. Flint Firebirds (2-3) - .400%
9. Erie Otters (2-3) - .400%
10. Sarnia Sting (1-3) - .250%

Here are your top 10 OHL preseason performers, with several HM's and a team by team breakdown of some other standouts. 

1. Justin Brazeau - North Bay Battalion
Entering his overage year, the behemoth winger will be gunning for an NHL deal. He has improved every year in the league so far (from 6 goals, to 22 goals, to 39 last year) and will need to do so again to get that ELC. As he tries to hit the 40 goal mark for the first time, Brazeau has gotten off to a terrific start. He's been an absolute beast in the preseason with 5 goals and 5 assists in 3 games. He will definitely be an interesting player to track this year, and at this point looks like he could be one of the most in-demand CHL free agents come January.  

2. Quinton Byfield - Sudbury Wolves 
The reigning Jack Ferguson Trophy recipient as the first overall pick, Byfield did not disappoint this preseason. He had 3 goals and 6 assists this preseason, which is extremely impressive for a 16 year old, hyped or not. With Byfield (and Blake Murray) having great preseasons, perhaps the Wolves have finally turned a corner and can work to establish themselves as Eastern Conference contenders yet again.

3. Will Cuylle - Windsor Spitfires
Scoring 5 goals in 4 games is tough enough for any 16 year old breaking into the league for the first time. But the fact that Cuylle missed pretty much all of training camp as he awaited a trade from Peterborough, makes this even more impressive. The big winger is going to be a massive piece for the Spitfires moving forward and as of right now, he has to be considered a front runner for the Enns Family award (ROY).

4. Greg Meireles - Kitchener Rangers
The Rangers are going to really need Meireles to step up this year with so many graduations from their forward group of last year. Meireles is coming off a season that saw him take a step back offensively, but he's going to get all the ice time he can handle in 2018/19 which should allow him to breakout. He had 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 games while wearing the "C" this preseason for Kitchener. The former highly touted priority selection should be a point per game player this year.

5. C.J. Clarke - Flint Firebirds
An underrated component to Flint's offense, Clarke was the team's 4th leading goal scorer last year and the 2nd leading powerplay goal scorer. But if the Firebirds want to take that next step as a legitimate playoff team this year, they'll need to see big improvements from all their support players like Clarke, now entering his 4th OHL season. In the preseason, Clarke was among the OHL's leading scorers with 4 goals and 5 assists in 5 games, including three multi point games. A potential breakout candidate?

6. Matthew Struthers - North Bay Battalion
The second Battalion forward to crack the list, as Struthers and Brazeau formed a heck of a 1-2 punch this preseason. Struthers had 5 goals and 3 assists in 3 games and the big center is hoping to have a big year to prove to NHL teams that he should have been drafted this past year.  

7. Cedrick Andree - Ottawa 67's
Who says the 67's need a goaltender? The second year goaltender struggled mightily as a rookie last year in a back-up role to Leo Lazerev. But the former late round pick has apparently looked quite impressive in camp this year and that has carried over to the preseason where he is 3-0 in three games with a .944 save percentage. This is HUGE for the 67's, if Andree can prove to be the guy and a breakout star.

8. Luke Richardson - Kitchener Rangers
Kitchener was one of a few OHL teams with some questions surrounding their goaltending heading into the 2018/19 season. Entering his 4th OHL year, Richardson has yet to post a save percentage over .900 and consistency issues have been a major reason. But he was sensational this preseason as he looked to prove that he could be the starter that the Rangers needed. He won all three games that he participated in and posted a stellar .929 save percentage. 

9. Macauley Carson - Sudbury Wolves
Last year was such a disappointment for Carson, dropping from 30 to 11 goals and struggling to stay in the lineup due to injury. The veteran needs to have a big year for the Wolves and be the presence who helps alleviate pressure from youngsters like Byfield and Murray. This preseason, he's developed fantastic chemistry with Byfield to the tune of 3 goals and 6 assists in 9 games. I guess the only concerning thing is that Sudbury went 1-5 despite getting such good production from some of their forwards.

10. Tag Bertuzzi - Guelph Storm
Injury issues plagued Bertuzzi's rookie season in the OHL last year. The former 2nd overall pick really struggled to be a factor for the Storm, even if he was only receiving 4th line minutes when healthy. But he wouldn't be the first (or last) sophomore to explode after a disappointing start to his OHL career. Heading into his NHL draft year, Bertuzzi had 3 goals and 3 assists in 4 games and looks to be headed in the right direction. Historically, when NHL draft eligible players appear on this list, it bodes well for their success in the coming year.

Honorable Mentions


Ryan Suzuki - Barrie Colts
Speaking of NHL Draft eligible players, Suzuki heads into the year as the top ranked OHL for the 2019 Draft. After a terrific performance at the Hlinka, Suzuki had an equally terrific preseason that saw him post 4 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. The increase in goal scoring is encouraging as this was an area of focus for Ryan heading into the year. If he can prove to be every bit the goal scorer as he is a playmaker, Suzuki could climb into the Top 10 come June.

Mason Millman - Saginaw Spirit
An OHL rookie after a solid year in the GOJHL, Millman had a fantastic preseason for the Spirit as he fights for playing time and looks to secure a consistent spot in the lineup. Millman was on my annual unheralded rookies list (here), and could be one to watch for the NHL Draft. He had 2 goals and 1 assist to go with a league best +9 this preseason. Pretty impressive start.

Nico Daws - Guelph Storm
While Anthony Popovich has to be considered the starter in Guelph, Daws had a terrific preseason for the Storm, stopping 79 of 80 shots over parts of three games. Popovich was great in his one game of action too which suggests that maybe the Storm are in good hands this coming year.

Connor Roberts - Flint Firebirds
Likely fueled by a bit of anger from not being selected at this year's entry draft, Roberts has had a very strong preseason with 4 goals and 2 assists. The big power forward could be in for a big year flanking Ty Dellandrea.

Antonio Stranges - London Knights
Another youngster, 16 year old to have a terrific preseason. Was such a steal for the Knights to get him in the second round since if he had made his intentions clear, he would have been a potential top 5 pick. Keep 'em coming London. 4 goals in 3 games for the future star this preseason.

Cameron Lamour - Saginaw Spirit
While Ivan Prosvetov is all but assured the starter's job, Lamour had a terrific camp and has earned the back-up job with a .936 save percentage this preseason. The former high pick may still be the starter of the future.

Luke Kutkevicius - Windsor Spitfires
8 points this preseason for the gritty, overage center. This year's Spitfires team is young, but if veterans like Kutkevicius can lead by example, they could surprise a lot of people as a top team in the West.

Billy Constantinou - Niagara IceDogs
Defenseman scoring wasn't exactly high this preseason, but the second year IceDogs defender did lead the league with 4 points. If you read by preseason draft rankings, you know that I'm a huge fan of his potential.

Hayden Davis - Saginaw Spirit
A former IceDogs defender, Davis is a rock in the defensive end going +5 this preseason for the Spirit, who looked good. But he also chipped in with 4 points and could be ready to step up as a top flight two-way defender in the league.

Cade Robinson - Owen Sound Attack
Unheralded acquisition from Erie last year who will look to provide scoring depth for the Attack this year in a top 9 role. Robinson had a terrific preseason with 2 goals and 5 assists in 4 games.

David Levin - Sudbury Wolves 
Looks like the Wolves might have their first line with Levin teaming up with Byfield and Carson this preseason and having great success. 7 points for Levin, who needs to have a big year so badly to prove that he can still be a focal point of this Wolves' resurgence.

Team by Team Breakdowns

Barrie Colts
Jason Willms (4 goals)

Jet Greaves (1 win, shutout in only appearance)

Erie Otters
Hayden Fowler (2 goals, 2 assists)

Kyle Maksimovich (1 goal, 3 assists in 2 games)

Flint Firebirds
Jack Wismer (2 goals, 3 assists)

Hunter Holmes (1 goal, 4 assists)
Riley McCourt (2 goals, 1 assist)

Guelph Storm
Daniil Chayka (2 goals, 1 assist)

Hamilton Bulldogs
Arthur Kaliyev (1 goal, 4 assists)

Matthew Strome (3 goals, 1 assist in 2 games)

Kingston Frontenacs
Ryan Cranford (2 goals, 1 assist)

Ian Derungs (2 goals, 1 assist)

Kitchener Rangers
Rickard Hugg (2 goals, 4 assists)

Justin MacPherson (1 goal, 3 assists)

London Knights
Matvei Guskov (1 goal, 5 assists)

Tim Fallowfield (4 assists)

Mississauga Steelheads
Filip Reisnecker (2 goals, 1 assist)

Niagara IceDogs
Oliver Castleman (3 goals)

North Bay Battalion
Brad Chenier (2 goals, 4 assists)
Brandon Coe (3 goals)

Oshawa Generals
Nando Eggenberger (4 goals)

Ty Tullio (1 goal, 4 assists)
 
Ottawa 67's
Marco Rossi (2 goals, 2 assists)

Quinn Yule (2 goals, 2 assists)

Owen Sound Attack
Kaleb Pearson (3 goals, 3 assists)

Daylon Groulx (5 goals)
Griffin Wilson (3 goals, 1 assist)

Peterborough Petes
Adam Timleck (2 goals, 2 assists)
Nick Robertson (1 goal, 3 assists)

Saginaw Spirit
DJ Busdeker (4 goals, 1 assist)
Cole Perfetti (5 assists)

Sarnia Sting
Jamieson Rees (1 goal, 2 assists)

Ethan Langevin (.951 save percentage)

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Zack Trott (2 goals, 1 assist)
Ryan O'Rourke (1 goal, 1 assist in 2 games)

Sudbury Wolves
Blake Murray (3 goals, 2 assists)

Windsor Spitfires
Cole Purboo (3 goals, 2 assists)

Lev Starikov (2 goals)
Curtis Douglas (3 goals, 1 assist in 2 games) 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2018-19


This annual article looks at some of the rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next year. And by that I mean players not selected in the Import Draft or the recent priority draft (or new midget draft for that matter). I'm talking about 2001 (possibly even 2000) born players who should finally crack their respective teams this year. The list of successful players of this ilk is long (see Mark Scheifele, Remi Elie, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Senyshyn, Nic Hague, Boris Katchouk, Alex Formenton, Cam Hillis etc).

In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports from TheScout's priority selection guide and picked out a few tidbits from that.

Here's the list (sorted by alphabetical order and position):

Goaltender:

Gabriel Carriere - Kingston Frontenacs
The list starts off with two Kingston Frontenacs goaltenders. Carriere was a draft pick of Kingston in the inaugural 2017 U18 draft. Didn't make the Fronts then, but he played in the CCHL last year and was one of the league's top netminders as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie team. Remains to be seen if he is considering the OHL or not, but the Fronts have some big holes in net and it would be a great idea to try to bring him into the fold.
Scouting Report: Don't have a scouting report on Carriere.

Ryan Dugas - Kingston Frontenacs
Second Fronts netminder to appear and the one more likely to suit up for the team this year. Dugas backstopped the Mississauga Reps to an OHL Cup title two years ago and was a standout in the GOJHL with Ancaster last year, finishing with a .931 save percentage and a GAA barely above 2. He's long been considered one of the top netminders in the age group and profiles as a potential starter for Kingston this season.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Dugas is a good sized butterfly goaltender with excellent athleticism and body control. He displays strong mental focus, rarely giving up a bad goal. His glove and blocker are lightning quick and he rarely gives up rebounds to his upper extremities. He does have a tendency to play deeper in his net, which could be problematic against OHL shooters."

Matthew Dunsmoor - Mississauga Steelheads
With the move of Vella to Flint, someone is going to have to backup Jacob Ingham. Recent pick Joe Ranger is a serious candidate, but as is 2017 pick Matthew Dunsmoor. Dunsmoor spent the majority of last year playing Midget in Guelph, but did get in three games with Burlington of the OJHL where his stats would suggest he wasn't over his head (.898 save percentage).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Might be the biggest gamer of the 2001 crop, emitting a confidence and swagger. He combats below average size with outstanding competitiveness, using quick athletic limbs to steer away shots."

Jet Greaves - Barrie Colts
Remains to be seen what happens in the crease with Barrie this year. Import pick Maksim Zhukov has yet to sign, but did suit up for Barrie's summer league team. If he arrives, he'll no doubt be the starter. Last year's back-up, Kai Edmonds, is returning. And the team has top prospect Jet Greaves ready to take his next step after a solid year in the GOJHL with Guelph where he was named to the All-Rookie team. Greaves is a highly touted prospect, so one would have to wonder if they would consider moving Edmonds, should Greaves show well and Zhukov plays.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "One of the most athletic netminders in the 2001 age group, relying on this athleticism and post to post agility, more than technical efficiency. Excellent recovery quickness to turn away second and third chance opportunities. Is not tall, but rarely gets beaten high because of his competitiveness battling screens."

Ethan Langevin - Sarnia Sting
With Justin Fazio moving on, the crease in Sarnia remains wide open. Aidan Hughes will look to finally take hold of the starter's job, but nothing is set in stone. Insert Langevin, an undersized netminder who is coming off an excellent season in the OJHL with Pickering that saw him post a .914 save percentage and be named to the prestigious OJHL First Team All Prospect (which has alumni like Michael McNiven and Michael Giugovaz).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "His toolbox is full of all the qualities that you look for in elite goaltender and he couples that with outstanding work ethic. Challenging shooters and staying square to the puck allows him to limit holes despite his lack of size. Rebound control is not an issue for him as pucks stick to him like glue and he diverts pucks to the corners."
Luke Pearson - Ottawa 67's
One of the greatest mysteries heading into this OHL season is what the 67's are going to do with their starting goaltender position. The team could compete for the Eastern Conference Championship, yet has no starter in place. Cedrick Andree is returning, but remains relatively unproven. They drafted Will Cranley in the 2nd round this year. But they also have Luke Pearson in the pipeline, a former OHL Cup standout who was solid for Whitby of the OJHL this year. Not in 67's camp currently, however Pearson could definitely be worth a long look. Funny enough, Pearson was Langevin's platoon mate in minor midget.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Plays a composed style relying on positioning and technique. Good at limiting rebounds. Will need to improve his quickness to better handle second and third chance opportunities."

Defense:

Anthony Aguanno - Guelph Storm
After spending part of last year with the Storm, it seems very likely that Aguanno will spend the entire year with Guelph in 2018/19. Looks to be heading into the season as the 7th defender, but his development will be critical if injuries arise. Aguanno was excellent for Oakville in the OJHL last year, especially in the playoffs, where he averaged a point per game from the back-end.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "On the defensive side of the puck, Aguanno's physical presence leaves opponents timid below the goal line. With a strong frame he is rarely outmuscled for the puck. He consistently makes a crisp pass heading up ice, but if none are available, he is confident enough to rush the puck up ice. He is not the smoothest offensive defender, but his eagerness, quickness, and unpredictability make him successful at creating chances. He is a hard defender to play against and that should translate well to him being competitive in all situations."

Evan Brand - Kingston Frontenacs
Massive defender at 6'7, 200lbs who got into about a half season in Kingston last year. Split time between the OHL and OJHL, also suiting up for Canada Red at the U17's. Rebuilding, the Frontenacs defense will be going under a make-over thanks to the losses of Sean Day, Eemeli Rasanen, and Liam Murray. Brand (along with a guy like recent 1st rounder Jake Murray), could end up as a top 4 defender by season's end.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Brand displays an impressive combination of size and physicality on the defensive side of the puck. He proves difficult to beat along the boards and suffocates opponents with his strength, length, and reach. His skating has improved, although it will never be a standout trait. He handles the puck with grace and control, identifying smart options and executing heads up passing. He may never be leaned upon as a prime puck carrier but can support the rush well."

Robert Calisti - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Like many on this list, Calisti got into a few OHL games last year, but was mostly a standout in the NOJHL with the Soo Thunderbirds, where he averaged nearly a point per game in the playoffs as a defender. Likely a third pairing defender for the Greyhounds next year, Calisti could push for more playing time if his play dictates it.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Calisti is a defender who seeks out opportunities to lead the rush and gain the offensive zone by slicing through the neutral zone with slippery hands and elusive feet. He is undersized, but handles contact well because of his strength on pucks. When opponents think they have him beat, he uses his speed and physical play to knock larger opponents off the puck. His competitiveness is an asset in all situations."

Jake Gravelle - Hamilton Bulldogs
Originally a Mississauga Steelhead draft pick, Gravelle got into a few games in Mississauga this year until he was traded to Hamilton. This was a trade obviously made for this coming year when Hamilton knew that they would be losing some talent on the back-end. Gravelle should at the very least be a third pairing defender for the Bulldogs this year, after a strong performance in the OJHL last year with Mississauga (when he wasn't in the OHL).
Scouting Report: Not much in the way of a scouting report for Gravelle.

Xavier Henry - Hamilton Bulldogs
Remains to be seen whether Henry intends on going the OHL route (especially with him being a USHL pick this year too). The 6'4 defender played with St. Andrew's College this year where he won a CISAA championship. Like mentioned with Gravelle, the Bulldogs have some serious holes on the back-end entering the year so he'd most definitely get playing time should he sign.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a rangy raw defender with plus size and skating ability with some consistency issues. At his best when keeping the game simple, however does own impressive upside."

Mason Howard - Niagara IceDogs
No doubt about it, the Dogs have some impressive depth on the back-end currently. Even with the MacPherson deal, they may have upwards of 9 OHL quality defenders for training camp. Howard, already signed, is coming off an excellent year with Thorold where he led them in scoring among blueliners.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Offers a likeable and intriguing blend of a throwback style defending and modern day puck moving. One of the best checking defenders in the age group. May not be a pure powerplay option for the OHL, but is an intelligent puck mover. Skating needs work (especially start ups and lateral agility), but it shouldn't hold him back."

Ethan Lavalee - Sudbury Wolves
A once hyped prospect for the OHL draft, Lavalee has yet to crack an OHL roster. Could simply go the NCAA route at this point, but his rights were traded to Sudbury last year and I would assume that he will try to crack the Wolves' roster this coming year. The hulking defender (6'7, 220lbs) had a great first year in the NOJHL with Rayside-Balfour and could be a solid third pairing option for Sudbury in 2018/19.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Has shown improvement in his footwork and skating stride but it's an area that will continually need attention. Projects as a nasty shutdown defender so long as he can improve the consistency of his nastiness."

Mason Millman - Saginaw Spirit
Millman got into a few games with Saginaw last year but spent the majority of the year with St. Thomas of the GOJHL. He excelled there and was named the Top Rookie defender and to the All Rookie team. With the addition of Bode Wilde, Millman probably ends up as the 7th defender in Saginaw next year but should still see decent playing time with injuries.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "strong skating defender who owns a good level of skill and smarts. Thrives at getting point shots through to the net and at moving the puck up ice. Plays a relatively quiet game, but that shouldn't hide his upside because of his high IQ."

Daniel Nardi - Niagara IceDogs
Like Mason Howard, Nardi is facing an uphill battle on a crowded Niagara blueline. But he is signed and got into a few games last year as an injury replacement. Like Howard, he was a standout in the GOJHL for Fort Erie, where he too led his team in blueline scoring. Have to think one of these guys will be used as trade bait at some point.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "cerebral and calculated are two important characteristics of a player and that's precisely what Nardi is. A smooth, effortless skater who always makes the right decision. Nardi is an excellent stick on puck defender with great recognition of gaps. Underrated."

Ashton Reesor - Sarnia Sting
Reesor got into one OHL game last year, spending the rest of the year with Stouffville of the OJHL. With Stouffville, Reesor was a key defender on a younger, rebuilding team. The Vaughn Kings product projects to be an everyday player for a Sting blueline that has incurred some changes.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Reesor is a tall, tenacious defender who can control the pace of the game and be relied upon to be a shut down defender. Skating is a work in progress, but Reesor involves himself in the defensive zone by outworking opponents and using his long reach to push opponents to the perimeter. He must improve his zone exits, but he does possess the ability to read the play well and find options."

Cameron Supryka - Peterborough Petes
Brother of Josh, a part time player of the Kingston Frontenacs a few years ago, Cameron is a lanky defender out of the Quinte program. He got into a few games in Peterborough but spent most of last season with Lindsay of the OJHL where he was an everyday player. The Petes have a lot of depth on the back-end currently, so he'll have to battle some second year players like McNamara and Beraldo for playing time.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Supryka is a smooth skating defender with high hockey instincts and the athletic ability and skills to lead the rush. High level of efficiency transitioning the puck up ice, using his lively skating ability to gain the offensive zone. Has potential as a powerplay QB. With his impressive footwork he is able to stay square to the puck and maintains strong defensive positioning."

Payton Vescio - North Bay Battalion
Local product who got into one game with the Battalion last year but spent the rest of the year with Powassan of the NOJHL, where he was an everyday player on a playoff team. The Battalion will have to completely revamp their blueline this coming season (with Bruce, Saban, and Thilander all gone), so Vescio figures to get a lot of playing time if he proves capable.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "easy blueliner to like with his natural mobility, competitive demeanor, and two-way efficiency. Gifted skater who moves about the ice, acting as a cerebral puck carrier. Will need to add strength to improve his shot and separate attackers from the puck."

Forward:

Camaryn Baber - Saginaw Spirit
While the Spirit have built up some nice depth up front that could complicate Baber's role with the club this season, you have to believe that they will try to make room for him to play consistently. Baber was a point per game player in the NOJHL last year with the Soo Thunderbirds and even scored an OHL goal in limited action with Saginaw.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Unique player who has a knack for capitalizing on his opportunities, which comes from his ability to consistently push the pace of attack. He's got good puck touch around the net and displays good creativity in his attacks. Would benefit from adding size."

Brendan Bowie - Sudbury Wolves
The top scoring 2001 on the prestigious St. Andrew's College team last year, Bowie could end up being a nice diamond in the rough for the Wolves this year. Bowie is a former standout with the Toronto Nationals who were runners up at the 2017 OHL Cup (on a team featuring Brandon Coe, a guy he might see a lot of soon).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "intelligent offensive winger with elusive skating ability. He's a smaller forward but he owns good strength on the puck relative to his height. Shows a high level of patience in possession and has the potential to develop into one of the better offensive players in the age group."

Jacob DiDanielli - Ottawa 67's
I remember DiDanielli being a favourite of Matt Barbera (formerly of TheScout, now Assistant GM of Whitby) before the OHL Draft (info from my primer here). The good sized center will be in a dogfight for a roster spot at 67's camp, but could be an ideal 4th line center for the team this year who can bring physicality after a strong year with Pickering of the OJHL in 2017/18.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Two-way pivot who uses his strong, long frame to engage and separate opposing players from the puck. Has shown some intriguing creativity as an attacker, but mostly uses his strength to drive the net and keeps things simple. Highly competitive player."

Curtis Fabbro - Kingston Frontenacs
A member of the CCHL all rookie team last year playing for Navan. The offensive numbers don't immediately jump out at you, but it's all relative because his 11 goals were right near the team lead on the last place team. There's no guarantee that Fabbro plays for Kingston this year (as he may keep NCAA options open), but given that they may lose 5 of their top forwards from a year ago, they could use the added depth.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a tenacious pivot who relishes the opportunity to carry the puck into traffic. Excels at maintaining possession while absorbing contact. His high work rate also makes him an effective penalty killer. Not the greatest skater or most creative player, but he is a bull in the offensive zone."

Peter Fleming - Barrie Colts
Looks to be leaning towards avoiding the OHL, after joining the Toronto Patriots of the OJHL for next year. But with some forward spots open, it is worth mentioning Fleming as a candidate for the Colts, none the less. Fleming is a big winger who had a good year in the GOJHL with St. Thomas last year, as one of the team's leading scorers in the regular season and playoffs.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "plays a very sound game and has a high hockey IQ. Excels with and without the puck and has underrated passing skill. Can play down the middle or on either wing. Someone who is reliable in all three zones and can generate offense to boot. Safe bet to be an OHL player (if he chooses that route)."

Jordan Frasca - Windsor Spitfires
The Spits are a talented young team with some wide open races for 3rd/4th line forward spots heading into the 2018/19 season. Frasca is one of the guys in the mix. He got into 11 games with Windsor last year, but spent most of the year in a starring role for Chatham of the GOJHL.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Determined and driven pivot who plays a north/south attacking style, using his speed to be effective. Has room to grow as a finesse player, but he's committed at both ends and projects well as a middle 6 forward at the OHL level."

Dennis Golovatchev - Guelph Storm
Remains to be seen if he has any interest in playing in the OHL, but the former OHL Cup champion and high draft pick would definitely be in Guelph's plans as a potential bottom 6 player should he sign. Spent last year with Burlington of the OJHL, but has since seen his rights transferred to Trenton.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "An impressive attacker who possesses elite potential if he can iron out inconsistencies in his game. His skating and power gives him separation that allows him to be a lethal finisher. Can be prone to forcing plays but owns one of the best shots and releases in the age group."

Alec Lovisek - Owen Sound Attack
Another St. Andrew's grad, Lovisek was a 4th rounder by the Attack in 2017. As part of St. Andrew's and their Championship squad in 2017/18, Lovisek was an integral component and a near point per game player. Owen Sound has some graduations at the forward position heading into this year and Lovisek could be an intriguing option for a 3rd/4th line role if he intends to take the OHL route.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "drives the puck to the net well with a strong power forward type game. At is best when competing with an edge and his attacking style can be hard to contain. Also possesses an excellent shot which makes him a potential goal scorer."

Tanner McEachern - Flint Firebirds
One of the top scorers on the Welland Jr. Canadiens last year (GOJHL), McEachern could be a candidate for a bottom 6 spot on the Firebirds this year should he choose the OHL route. The former 4th rounder recently had his rights transferred to Oakville (OJHL) though, which could suggest an interest in the College route.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "former captain of the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs who had a ton of injuries in his OHL draft year. He's a smart two-way center who possesses good speed and hand eye coordination. Needs to fill out, but should be a safe bet to be a competent OHL player."

Jack Quinn - Ottawa 67's
Possibly the player on this list with the chance to make the biggest impact. Quinn is a potential top 6 forward who was named the CCHL rookie of the year last year and the league's top prospect (5 of the last 6 have been NHL drafted). Spent most of the year with Kanata, but did see some limited time with Ottawa, including a couple playoff games. They'll make room for him on the roster this year to, at least, play a bottom 6 role.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Quinn's best attribute is his ability to finish, but also possesses above average puck skills. Top speed will need to improve, but he moves well without the puck. Will also need to improve his interest in the defensive end. But potential is high as an impact offensive player."

Jake Partridge - Peterborough Petes
Not too often that a team's recent 11th round pick gets into some OHL action, but that was the case for Partirdge last year. Played 4 games with Peterborough, but the rest of the year with Rayside-Balfour of the NOJHL where he was nearly a point per game player and a standout in the playoffs. He was also the highest scoring U17 player in the league. Should be a candidate to play a top 9 role with the Petes this coming year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Possesses terrific skating ability that makes him a consistent threat. Controls the tempo in the offensive zone with good puck skill and displays efficiency as a passer."

Emmett Pierce - London Knights
Hulking winger signed on with London but did not get into any game action last year with the Knights. Spent 2017/18 with Strathroy where he was an offensive contributor, as his 15 goals were third on the team. He'll have his work cut out for him in making the Knights, but his size could definitely play in their bottom 6.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "sky is the limit for this winger as he learns to better utilize his range to his advantage. Pierce is displays advanced mobility for a big man. If he can improve his consistency as a physical player and become a little more selfish as a goal scorer, he will have NHL scouts interested in him."

Levi Siau - Sudbury Wolves  
Siau was one of three 2001 born players to hit the 40 point mark in the NOJHL last year (along with Partridge and Bowie). He did get into a few games with Sudbury though and should be in for a larger role potentially this coming year. Like I said with Partridge, not bad for a 12th round pick.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "At his best in possession as a crafty distributor. Very efficient below the hash marks and a quality skater. Definitely a subtleness to his playmaking game and is excellent under pressure and in traffic."

Eric Uba - Flint Firebirds
A late birth date 2000 who looks like a potential offensive difference maker as an OHL player in the future. Got into 4 games with Flint last year, but spent the majority of the year in the OJHL (split between Wellington and Oakville). Should be a bottom 6 winger for Flint this year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a strong, competitive forward who plays with authority and confidence. Skating could stand to improve, but his strength on the puck is excellent, allowing him to maximize possession opportunities. Creates havoc for defenders by driving through traffic and powering towards the net. Plays an aware and responsible two-way game. Going to be a versatile OHL player."

Liam Van Loon - Hamilton Bulldogs
Reigning GOJHL Rookie of the Year was over a point per game for Ancaster last year, while also suiting up in the OHL for a few games (including one in the playoffs). But Van Loon is going to get a big opportunity to be a top 9 forward this year on a Hamilton team who is going to lose players to graduation. Could definitely be one of the more impactful players on this list.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "brings energy and a tremendous work ethic on every shift. Will challenge any defender, at any time and usually comes out on top. Drives the pace of play by being a confident puckhandler. Owns natural hockey sense and is able to control possession, exhibiting poise with the puck. Not the most innately skilled, but makes up for it with sheer determination."