First off, sorry for the lack of updates recently. My computer access has been limited lately due to some computer/virus related problems again. I should be back up and running soon enough which will mean more updates.
As for the Sunday Top 10, this week we look at 10 player who look like they will be jumping ship to the OHL next season. That is to say, 10 players from outside leagues who look to or have already committed to playing in the OHL next season. This list does not include "natural" OHL rookies, or 93 born players who were just recently drafted in the Priority draft. This is a list of "overage" rookies, if you will. There is a lot of talent on this list, some of whom have already stated they will be playing in the OHL next season. Others is merely speculation on my part based on a little background research. Quite frankly, I'd be surprised if every player on this list isn't in the OHL next year, but you never know.
Here is the Top 10...
10. Chase Balisy - U.S. National Under 17 Team
Balisy is a very interesting case. He actually played last season in Toronto with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens alongside OHL first overall pick John McFarland. Originally from California, Balisy returned to the U.S., accepting an offer to play for the Under 17 Development Program this season, where he had 39 points in 67 games. Balisy also shifted back and forth between forward and defense this year, generating offense from both spots. He's an excellent playmaker with speed to burn, although he is undersized at 5'10. Balisy does not currently have an NCAA committment, and with his previous time spent playing in Canada, it is expected he will make the jump to the OHL next season.
Destination team - London Knights
9. Adam Clendening - U.S. National Under 17/18 Team
Clendening is an averaged sized (5'11), but very skilled blueliner who has long been rumoured to be jumping ship to the OHL. He spent the majority of his season with the U.S. Under 17 team where he had 14 points in 39 games. He did also see some time on the Under 18 team, in particular playing at the recently concluded World Under 18 Championships, where he helped Team U.S.A. capture the gold. This feat is especially impressive considering that Clendening is a late 1992 birthdate, making him one of the youngest players in the program, and not eligible for the NHL draft until 2011. Don't expect him to become an impact player right away, but he should be able to jump right into the top 4 of a team's defense.
Destination team - London Knights
8. Brandon Pirri - Georgetown Raiders (OPJHL)
This is purely speculation on my part, but I have a hard time seeing this talented forward at R.P.I. next season. Pirri is an exceptionally talented offensive forward who had 94 points in 44 games this season, and is expected to go in the top 3 rounds of the NHL draft this year. He was spurned by the Canadian Under 18 team, which had to hurt his stock a bit since scouts were unable to make a comparison against his equally talented peers. However, R.P.I. was one of the worst teams in the NCAA this season. If an NHL team takes Pirri high, which is very likely, I'd say it's also likely they convince him to go to the OHL where he'll be surrounded by a few more talented players. Pirri was originally drafted by Sudbury, but don't be surprised to see his rights traded.
Destination team - Sudbury Wolves?
7. Jerry D'Amigo - U.S. National Under 18 Team
D'Amigo is a 5'11, 200lbs hard working forward who finished second in scoring on the Under 18 team this season, with 56 points in 53 games. He was especially outstanding for Team U.S.A. at the Under 18's, where he finished with 13 points in 7 games in helping Team U.S.A. to gold. He was also named to the tournament all star team. Interesting enough, D'Amigo is another R.P.I. recruit who's slated to go in the first three rounds of this years NHL draft. However, unlike Pirri, his intent to play in the OHL appears to be much more forward. While he hasn't signed a contract yet with Kitchener, like Morin and Maxwell, he has apparently been seen in the Kitchener area, leading you to believe it's just a matter of time. On the other hand, as recently as a few months ago, his family has stated he's still dedicated to RPI. So who really knows, and a lot depends on whoever drafts him in the NHL Should he report to Kitchener he'll be an impact player for them next season.
Destination team - Kitchener Rangers
6. Brandon Maxwell - U.S. National Under 17/18 Team
Maxwell had quite the incident filled year. Maxwell started the season as potentially the best goaltender available for 2009 NHL entry draft. However, as the season went along, things started to happen. First, Maxwell tried to get out of the development program so that he could go play for Windsor. His push was denied by USA Hockey and he was forced to stay with the Under 18 team. From there, things spiraled from bad to worse. His play slipped, and he was eventually booted from the Under 18 team for an altercation with another teammate. He was demoted to the Under 17 team, where he was not incredibly great, finishing the season with a Sv% under .900. However, his rights were traded to Kitchener and he has already signed the contract to play with the Rangers next season. It remains to be seen how talented Maxwell is, simply because of all the drama that surrounded him this year. I guess we'll see how he responds next year in Kitchener where he's going to be responsible for backstopping an up and coming team who expects to challenge for a Division title.
Destination team - Kitchener Rangers
5. Richard Panik - HC Trinec (Czech League)
Panik has long be considered a first round selection for the 2009 draft, at one point last year, even as high as the top 10. However this season has not been kind to him. His stats have greatly slipped with HC Trinec in the Czech junior league and he was completely overshadowed on the Slovakian World Junior team by fellow 2009 eligible teammate Tomas Tatar. Panik was taken last year in the Import Draft by Windsor, but decided to not come over. However, he has since committed to coming over next season and will be a Spitfire in 2009-10. Panik is a big body with a lot of skill and should be an impact player, especially with the talent he'll be surrounded with.
Destination team - Windsor Spitfires
4. Brandon Saad - Mahoning Valley Phantoms (NAHL)
Saad, a talented winger from Pittsburgh, as the 10th overall selection in the 2008 OHL Priority draft by the Saginaw Spirit. However, he did not play in Saginaw this season because he wanted to play one last season with his brother George in the NAHL, even turning down the USDP for that chance as well. Saad is a big time offensive forward who is an especially dangerous goal scorer. He was named the NAHL's Rookie of the Year and he also lead Team USA in scoring with 9 points at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. While he hasn't yet signed to play in Saginaw, it's all but expected he will, with no NCAA committment, and quotes saying that he would head to Saginaw after one more season in the NAHL. He should jump right into the Saginaw line up and become an impact forward.
Destination team - Saginaw Spirit
3. Jeremy Morin - U.S. National Under 18 Team
Jeremy Morin is a winger who lead the Under 18 in scoring this season with 33 goals and 59 points. He also finished second in penalty minutes with 107. He's been considered a first round selection for the 2009 NHL draft pretty much all season, even increasing his stock with a very solid Under 18 championship performance with 10 points in 7 games. He just recently signed his contract to play for Kitchener next season, where he'll likely jump right into the line up and become an immediate team leader and leading scorer.
Destination team - Kitchener Rangers
2. John Moore - Chicago Steel (USHL)
Somewhat surprisingly, Moore was drafted yesterday by Kitchener in the second round of the OHL Priority draft. Even more surprising is the fact that Moore is apparently heading to Kitchener, ditching his committment to Colorado College. This incredibly talented blueliner is slated to be a top 20 selection in the 2009 NHL entry draft after putting up 37 points in 49 games and being named the USHL defenseman of the year. He should enter Kitchener's line up and have a very similar impact to John Carlson's in London this year. In other words, he should be one of the best defenseman in the league next year.
Destination - Kitchener Rangers
1. Cam Fowler - U.S. National Under 18 Team
It should not be surprising to most that Fowler tops this list. This 6'2, 190lbs defenseman is an absolutely elite player. He is the complete package. Outstanding skater and offensive producer, but also a developing dominant two way defenseman. He was absolutely fantastic at the Under 18's, leading U.S.A. to gold and being named the tournament's top defenseman. He could very well go first overall in 2010, likely battling with future teammate Taylor Hall in Windsor. This kid could very well be the OHL defenseman of the year next year, his first in the league. He's that good.
Destination - Windsor Spitfires
I don't usually include any honorable mentions in the Sunday Top 10, however this list is a little different because of the nature of the topic. Here are a few more situations to keep an eye on...
Kenny Ryan, Stephan Johns, Jack Campbell to Windsor. Ryan is a great goal scorer who was a big part of the Under 18 team this year. Johns is a talented and big, imposing defenseman from the Under 17 team. And Jack Campbell was the goaltender who lead Team USA to Gold at the recent Under 18's. All three are potential impact players. All three are potential recruits to Windsor. However, they remain longshots at best at this point, however with Kitchener spending so much money this offseason to bring in talent, don't be surprised to see Windsor make a big pitch to get these guys. Especially Jack Campbell, who could be their goaltender of the future.
USHL star Stanislav Galiev, of the Indiana Ice, is looking to join the CHL next year and will go wherever he is selected in the Import Draft. He's someone to look for if he joins an OHL team as he's an incredibly talented offensive player who could make a big impact. He's also 2010 NHL Draft Eligible.
When Kyle Palmieri was booted from the US Development Program this year, many expected him to announce his decision to join Guelph next year shortly after. However, he has remained adamant about his intent to play for Notre Dame next season. We do now how quickly things can change though, so keep an eye on this situation and don't be surprised to see him commit to Guelph after the NHL draft.
Which brings me to my next point. There are a lot of guys who could have made this list, too many to even mention. A lot can be said about their intentions now, but even more can be said after the NHL Draft, when a team can influence their new draft pick to select the route they decide is best for said players development.
Stay tuned next Sunday for a yet decided Top 10!