With the OHL season past the mid way point, the end of 2009 upon us and the NHL Central Scouting midterm ranking coming out in about two weeks, I figured what a great time to release my Top 30 OHL players for the draft.
This is, of course, the second of three lists that I release during the season. The initial ranking from early October can be found here.
For my midterm ranking, I generally don't comment on the guys inside my Top 30. I usually leave that for the comment section if I receive any questions. Instead, I comment on three different categories of players. Under the radar guys outside of my top 30, risers, and fallers.
Here is the midseason Top 30:
1. Taylor Hall - F - Windsor Spitfires
2. Tyler Seguin - F - Plymouth Whalers
3. Cam Fowler - D - Windsor Spitfires
4. Erik Gudbranson - D - Kingston Frontenacs
5. Jeff Skinner - F - Kitchener Rangers
6. Alexander Burmistrov - F - Barrie Colts
7. John McFarland - F - Sudbury Wolves
8. Ivan Telegin - F - Saginaw Spirit
9. Austin Watson - F - Windsor Spitfires
10. Ryan Spooner - F - Peterborough Petes
11. Tyler Toffoli - F - Ottawa 67's
12. Stephen Silas - D - Belleville Bulls
13. Steven Shipley - F - Owen Sound Attack
14. Ryan Martindale - F - Ottawa 67's
15. Brandon Archibald - D - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
16. Brock Beukeboom - D - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
17. Joey Hishon - F - Owen Sound Attack
18. Jared Knight - F - London Knights
19. Devante Smith-Pelly - F - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
20. J.P. Anderson - G - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
21. Philip Grubauer - G - Belleville Bulls
22. Christian Thomas - F - Oshawa Generals
23. Geoffrey Schemitsch - D - Owen Sound Attack
24. Mark Visentin - G - Niagara IceDogs
25. Dalton Smith - F - Ottawa 67's
26. Andrew Yogan - F - Erie Otters
27. Justin Shugg - F - Windsor Spitfires
28. Petr Mrazek - G - Ottawa 67's
29. Greg McKegg - F - Erie Otters
30. Austin Levi - D - Plymouth Whalers
10 Players to Watch That Aren't in the Top 30:
Philip Lane - F - Brampton Battalion
Admittedly, Lane was the last guy I cut from my list. So label him number 31 if you wish. As much as I like the package of skill he brings to the table, I'm concerned about a few things regarding his high end potential. His offensive consistency needs to improve. He goes through stretches of 3-4 games where he looks like a budding power forward who can really put the puck in the net, but then disappears offensively for stretches of games after that. In those stretches, he seems to have trouble handling the puck and finishing off his chances. Is he a big forward who's still growing into his hands, or will he always be a strong forechecking/energy forward who's offense is inconsistent?
Bryce O'Hagan - G - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Unfortunately for O'Hagan, the Hounds found themselves Robin Lehner in the Import Draft. I'm sure the late 1991 tender was hoping that this could be his year to show his stuff. He started out really well, but he's been plagued by inconsistencies. Again, unfortunately for O'Hagan he's playing for a highly competitive team who can't afford to play him if he's struggling, especially when they've got Robin Lehner right there. O'Hagan may have as much talent as any goaltender in this OHL draft class, but as a late 1991 in his third OHL season, there comes a time when you've got to start putting it together every night.
Joe Rogalski - D - Sarnia Sting
I know that there are quite a few people out there who are high on Rogalski. And admittedly I like him too. If Lane would have been 31, Rogalski would have been 32. But I have question marks regarding him going forward. Again, we are looking at a late 1991 player in his third OHL season who's faults just haven't improved enough this season. He still turns the puck over way too much in his own zone and he struggles with the breakout. Mobility isn't the issue, nor is his one on one defensive game. I think it could be a hockey sense problem, which tends to scare me away from defenseman.
Brandon Alderson - F - Sarnia Sting
With Alderson, I think we're looking at a guy who could be in the Top 30 by the end of the season. Tremendous size at 6'4, 200lbs, but a very good skater at that size. Offensively, he was inconsistent to start the season, but he's starting to get more and more ice time and he's benefiting from it. 7 points in the 9 games of December and he currently sits second on the struggling Sting with 10 goals on the season. Big guys who can skate and put the puck in the net don't grow on trees, as much as scouts wish they did.
Corey Durocher - F - Kingston Frontenacs
While he's struggled a bit recently, Durocher is another big, lanky forward who skates well and has some offensive ability. For Durocher, I think it's a matter of conditioning and strength. He tries to be a physical forward who plays a power game, but he doesn't have the strength to win the majority of lose battles or take the puck hard to the net. He's in his first season in the OHL, which means there's likely to be that learning curve. I like his potential though and I think he's a guy to keep an eye on.
Matt Petgrave - D - Niagara IceDogs
Here's a guy with a very high ceiling, IMO. With a strong second half on the score sheet, he could easily find himself in the Top 30 too. Only averaged sized, but plays a lot bigger than he is. Has become one of the more feared open ice hitters in the league in his rookie OHL season. He skates very well and has the potential to become a quality puck rusher. He needs to do a better job with the puck, as he can be turnover prone, but I think he's already shown marked improvement in this area. A potential smooth skating, two way physical defenseman, sounds good doesn't it?
Freddie Hamilton - F - Niagara IceDogs
I like Freddie Hamilton a lot and I have no doubt that he'll be an NHL draft pick come June. However, I don't rank him in my Top 30 because I'm not sure I see the potential in him that I see in some of the other guys I've ranked. He's one of those jack of all trades players. Solid both ways, can skate fairly well, can put the puck in the net. But there's nothing about him that really makes you say wow, and in a draft crop like this year's OHL one, that can hurt.
Sam Carrick - F - Brampton Battalion
Started off the season tremendously well. But then went into a very long stretch of offensive inability, and as a result he became a bit of a pugilist and got away from some of the things that makes him a great player. Quite often, he's the only Brampton forward generating offensive chances, which has no doubt hurt his offensive statistics. That being said, I think there's more to Carrick than we're seeing. As a more complimentary player who can do the dirty work on a line and put the puck in the net, I think he'd be having a lot more success. Instead, he's being counted on as an offensive catalyst which IMO he is not as well suited.
Roman Berdnikov - F - Owen Sound Attack
Missed a large portion of the first part of the season as he recovered from offseason surgery. But he's starting to come around slowly. He's kind of a pesky winger and you can tell he's got offensive skills. Many Imports often take a few games to get used to the speed and rigor of the OHL game, and I think Berdnikov is no different. With Joey Hishon returning, he's got himself a linemate with high end offensive ability and he's got 3 goals in the two games since Hishon returned. I think he's someone to keep an eye on in the second half.
Dalton McGrath - G - Barrie Colts
McGrath may not be pretty in stopping the puck, but he's efficient. In his first year in the OHL, McGrath is backing up Peter Di Salvo in Barrie and he's doing a damn fine job. In fact, he's yet to really have a bad game. His rebound control is very poor, but he's very athletic and does a good job in recovery. He ends up making more saves than he has too on most nights, but the important thing is that he has a natural ability and sense to put himself in the right position to make the save. Rebound control can be improved and technicalities can be taught, but innate ability to follow the puck and make the save can not.
Rising Up the Charts:
After struggling with health problems, Knight finally got a diagnosis on his concerns. He has diabetes. While it sucks to learn that you've any life altering illness, in some ways it is great to know that what you have can be controlled. Many professional athletes (hockey players included) have battled through diabetes and come out on top. Since the start of treatment, Knight has become a new player. He's got 12 goals in his last 14 games and he's playing the best hockey of his OHL career.
Underrated for too long, Skinner is now starting to get the attention he deserves. Just a tremendous and dynamic offensive player who's tenacity in the offensive zone makes him a threat every time he's on the ice. Sure he's undersized, but you can't teach the hockey sense and goal scoring ability he possesses. He's one goal away from first in the OHL (27) and if he ends up finishing the season at or near the top of OHL goal scoring, I just can't see an NHL team passing him up inside the Top 15.
Here's a guy who's not getting the love he rightfully deserves. Really, how much separates him from a guy like Stephen Silas (whom I really like too)? In a lot of ways, I see Calvin de Haan in Schemitsch. However at this point of the season, de Haan was already receiving a lot of hype and attention. Schemitsch moves the puck well, he plays in all situations, he has good mobility, he seems to think the game at another level. Just a very solid defenseman, who's not flashy but effective. If Owen Sound can go on a bit of a run with Hishon back to form, I think Schemitsch will start receiving more attention as the best defenseman for an improving team.
Playing for a struggling Belleville team, Grubauer has been excellent this year. He's just a solid butterfly goalie who challenges shooters and actually does a good job of controlling rebounds. A very capable technical goalie who just happens to be very athletic too. He completely dominated the Division IA World Juniors for Germany. While Germany was head and shoulders the class of the tournament, he played his part and was excellent (from what I've heard). I think he's pretty close to being the best goalie available from the OHL.
I'd bet a lot of people may label him a faller, but I'd say his time of "falling" is over. He's back and healthy and playing with fire in his belly for Owen Sound. When he struggled at the beginning of the season, a lot of it was out of frustration over how poorly the rest of his team was playing too. With Owen Sound playing better, Hishon's return marks great timing. In the two games he's played since returning, he's got 5 points and according to Owen Sound fans, he looks fantastic.
Falling Off the Charts:
I've still got him as the top OHL goaltender available, but I admit it's getting REALLY close. Guys like Grubauer, Visentin, and Mrazek are putting a lot of pressure on him. I also admit that his ranking probably has a lot to do with how impressive he was as a 16 year old. I still have faith him, but he hasn't had a good year (after all I believe I had him pegged for OHL goaltender of the year). He's been outplayed by Chris Carrozzi and really needs to step up his game. Anybody who saw the OHL playoffs last year knows the ability is there, but he needs to start showing it. If he doesn't pick it up in the second half, he runs the risk of falling completely out of my Top 30.
I know a lot of people are high on Shalla, but I'm not one of them. If you erase his 5 point game against Owen Sound in November, he's got 2 goals and 4 assists in his last 15 games. He got off to a great start with Saginaw, but he's cooled off considerably lately. As a late 1991, I'd like to see him putting up even better numbers, especially considering the talent he plays with in Saginaw. He's got decent hands and offensive instincts, but he's one of those guys who leaves you wanting more and it makes me question how high his NHL ceiling is.
Now let me get this out there. I like John McFarland. I like the skill set he brings to the table and I think he's got a lot of NHL potential once he realizes the type of game he needs to play to be successful. But there is no question he's had a disappointing season (even if he's been a lot better in December). So while I still like him and would still draft him in the Top 20, I think he's getting passed by players who are performing at a higher level and who have similar NHL upsides.
Yogan is really struggling lately. With his side and skill combination, he was an anonymous bet for the first round of 2010 at this time last year. But as a late 1991 in his 3rd year in the league, he just hasn't taken the necessary steps forward this season. He uses his body away from the puck, but he's become too much of a finesse player with the puck. He needs to get back to doing the little things that made him successful with Erie to end last season. The package is there, but an adjustment in play is needed. He's got 4 goals in his last 15 games and is a -17 in that span.
A lot was expected of Sedlak this season. He was a highly touted Import selection, one that was supposed to develop into an excellent two way defender. But he hasn't developed as well as many had hoped this season. A nice package of size and mobility, there are questions about his hockey sense and his ability to play through the forecheck. He's still got time to put it together. Maybe a recent cut from the Czech Republic World Junior team will motivate him.
After starting the season so well, Houser has struggled in the last two months and has seen his starts starting to diminish as Michael Hutchinson has played better and better. One thing that does make Houser still an intriguing prospect is that he's one of the (if not THE) youngest prospects available for the 2010 Draft (September 13 birthday). He's also playing in his first season in the league coming over from the USHL. There's potential there. I'm interested to see how he finishes the season, but right now I've got him as the 6th best goalie available from the OHL.
That's it folks. I'd love to hear your comments or your questions. If you want to know more about a player, or a reasoning behind a ranking, just ask.