Completely inspired by The Scouting Report's "OHL Sleepers to Watch" (found here), I've decided to mold the theme of today's Top 10 in a similar fashion. I'm going to take a look at 10 players you may not have heard of right now, but by season's end you likely will have. These are NHL Draft prospects in their first year of eligibility (you've got to draw the line somewhere!). Thus a lot of them are OHL rookies, or guys who saw limited time last year. These are also guys who come June, could be hearing their name called at the 2010 NHL Draft, even though they are on few scouting lists right now.
I didn't rank them because at this point I think that defeats the purpose. It's too early in the season to determine what order these players should be ranked in. However, it's not too early to identify them as players to keep an eye on, and that is my purpose with today's Top 10.
Here they are...
Domenic Alberga - Brampton Battalion
Alberga led the OPJHL's Villanova Knights in scoring last year and is currently centering the Brampton Battalion's all rookie "92" line (with Phil Lane and Ian Watters). Scored his first OHL goal the other night and I think it's only a matter of time before that line starts to get comfortable. Alberga is strong on the forecheck and he appears to love to drive the puck to the net. He's also a budding physical player who might just have power forward potential. His skating looked only average, but he has lots of time to improve it.
Brandon Alderson - Sarnia Sting
Alderson played mostly midget AAA last year with the Oakville Rangers and is entering his first season in Sarnia. He has good size and appears to have a good nose for the net. He's been seeing some action on a line with Kale Kerbashian, who might be Sarnia's best offensive player, and he ended up scoring the game winner in Erie the other night. Sarnia's going to need some players to help fill the net this year and Alderson looks like a candidate to do so early in the season.
Chris Buonomo - Peterborough Petes
Buonomo split last season between the Petes and Peterborough in the OPJHL. He's not the biggest defenseman in the world at 5'11, but he's definitely aggressive. He gets right in there in the defensive end and is a really hard nosed player. He's been getting a fair amount of ice time thus far, even seeing some time paired with Jamie Doornbosch. Offensively, he appears to be no slouch either, scoring in Peterborough's first game of the season. If he can continue to show a physical two way dimension, he could be an attractive option on draft day.
Michael Houser - London Knights
Don't look now, but the Knights have found their goaltender of the future. Houser played for the atrocious Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL last season, where he performed admirably under the conditions (considering the other goalies on the team had SV% nearly .50 lower than his). The Knights found him and signed him this offseason, likely before he could make a decision on an NCAA scholarship. He was outstanding for London throughout training camp, and he has carried that over into the season. He got his first start of the season against Windsor last week (talk about throwing him into the fire) and he made 42 saves for the victory. London was horribly out shot in the game and he kept them in the game. He's not likely to get a lot starts this season behind the solid Michael Hutchinson, but it should be enough to catch scouts attention (ala Steve Mason behind Adam Dennis in 2006). He's also barely eligible for this year's draft, born September 13. That has to make him one of the youngest, if not the youngest, player available for the draft.
Philip Lane - Brampton Battalion
While yet to hit the scoresheet, Lane is bound to do so eventually. A budding power forward, Lane played last season for Buffalo of the OPJHL where he excelled. He's a high profile American player who has previously attended U.S. development camps. He signed with the Battalion this offseason and is likely to eventually make a big impact in the league. He's got great size, great wheels and a good attitude. In the game I saw, he was all over the ice, throwing hits, forechecking, causing turnovers. In a similar situation to a guy like Austin Watson, he'll take his time getting used to the league.
Dalton McGrath - Barrie Colts
One of the stars of the OHL preseason, Mcgrath has yet to start a game in the regular season for Barrie. But the late 1991 born goaltender is definitely one to keep an eye on. He was a rookie of the year in the OPJHL last season while playing for the Couchiching Terriers and didn't lose a single game during the regular season. Taking nothing away from Peter Di Salvo, I could see Mcgrath slowly taking starts away from him as the season progresses, similar to the way Di Salvo did to Michael Hutchinson last year. I'll be curious to see how McGrath fairs in his first start.
Matt Petgrave - Niagara IceDogs
A free agent acquisition by the IceDogs this offseason, Petgrave seems to have the potential to develop into a quality two way defender. He played last season for the Toronto Titans midget AAA team (and sparingly for Bramalea of the OPJHL). Throughout the two games he's played for the Dogs this season, he's been active at both ends of the ice. A solid skater who's capable of carrying the puck up the ice, but also a potentially strong defender. He also seems to have a penchant for throwing the big hit, although he needs to be careful in not taking himself out of the play defensively. Once he gains more confidence, we could see big gains from him on an arguably wide open Niagara blueline.
Charles Sarault - Kingston Frontenacs
Even though Sarault played for the Frontenacs all of last year, he's a player who saw limited ice time and produced very little in the way of offensive stats. This year, he's playing a larger role and is starting to see playing time with some of Kingston's better offensive players. He had a three assist night last night against Peterborough and appears to be poised to breakout. Sarault, only moderately sized at 5'10, is a real spark plug. He brings a lot of speed into the offensive zone and keeps his legs moving in attacking the puck carrier. He's got some offensive creativity too, although needs to be careful in getting too fancy.
Geoffrey Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack
Another player signed as a free agent this offseason, Schemitsch is a two way defender who played midget AAA in Mississauga last year. He's got adequate size at 6'1, 180lbs and he has been playing in all situations for Owen Sound thus far. He brings the puck up the ice confidently, he runs the powerplay well and he even does a good job positionally on defense. He had a goal and an assist against Windsor last night and now has 4 points in 5 games to start the season. Seems like a really good find for Owen Sound and potential NHL draft pick.
Dalton Smith - Ottawa 67's
Saw little time with Ottawa last year, instead playing closer to home for Whitby of the OPJHL. But he did excel towards the end of the season and into the playoffs for the 67's. A big forward, Smith actually uses his size to his advantage, parking himself near the crease. He's got good hands in close, as evidenced by his 4 goals already this season. A real power forward prospect. Definitely one to watch this season.
Cameron Wind - Brampton Battalion
Wind played sparingly for the Battalion last season, but this year is taking on a much larger role, playing in all situations for the Battalion. He's a strong two way defender who has excellent size at 6'1, 200lbs. He's composed with the puck, does a good job of getting shot through to the net and he's a willing combatant in the defensive zone. He skates well for a big man too. While he hasn't put anything up on the score sheet yet, I'd say it's only a matter of time.
Whoops, was that 11? My bad!
All jokes aside, I do seem to have trouble sometimes keeping these lists at 10.
Anyone have any additional comments about these players, or for that matter, any players you've felt I missed?