Today's Top 10 is dedicated to blabbing about the most impressive 16 year olds in the league this season. Fresh off a selection at the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, it can be hard to jump right into this league and make a serious impression. Players are stronger, faster, and smarter than in midget and it takes a really special player to be able to jump into a crucial role for an OHL team in their "natural" rookie season. The guys on this list (and many who aren't) are definitely special players.
The one thing this list isn't, is an early ranking for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Where these players get taken a year and a bit from now is still relatively unknown and it is not my intention to rank them yet for that. However, it is my intention to highlight some of those 1993's that have caught my eye this year.
Just for comparison's sake, here is my list last year of the most impressive 1992's.
Without further ado, the year's most impressive 1993 born players:
10. Michael Curtis - Belleville Bulls
Only Matt Puempel scored more goals than Curtis this season as a 1993. The Bulls winger had a very inconsistent season (as most 1993's do), but finished the year with 19 goals. He appears to be the perfect player for the big ice in Belleville. Very good skater, knows how to use open ice, elusive and tenacious. In time, he probably develops into a quality two way forward too. Let's not forget that Curtis was the captain of the 2009 OHL Cup champion Toronto Marlboros too. He seems to have a lot going for him, and despite not being named to Team Ontario for the Under 17's, I thought he had a very solid year.
9. Nick Cousins - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Hounds have a lot of good young players, and first overall pick Daniel Catenacci is one of them. But I thought forward Nick Cousins had the better and more impressive first season in the league. Cousins looks to be a future firecracker in the league. Not very big (5'9), but he's not afraid of anyone already. Willing to pay the price to go to the net, or win battles in the corners. Seems like he's already doing a good job of getting under the skin of opponents too. On top of that, he's got good hands in close to the net and a pretty solid set of wheels. For his sake, I hope he grows a bit more before June of 2011.
8. Alan Quine - Kingston Frontenacs
I think Quine has developed very well in Kingston this year. Really solid overall player who's accepted and relished a third line energy/checking role this year despite being billed as an offensive player (and 2nd overall pick). He's active on the forecheck, not afraid to get a little dirty in the corners or in front of the net, and he's got a very good shot that tells me he could be a pretty good goal scorer in this league once he gets stronger. He's been quite noticeable for the Fronts in the playoffs thus far too.
7. Dougie Hamilton - Niagara IceDogs
Hamilton jumped right into spot in the top four this year for the Dogs. He's taken his lumps, but playing in every situation as a 16 year old can be tough. There's obviously going to be a learning curve. But he's got great size and I think a bit of a hidden mean streak. He's not afraid to throw the body and as he gets stronger and more confident, I think we'll see his physical tendencies increase. He's already very defensively sound and makes (mostly) smart decisions with the puck. The Hamilton brothers should be the face of this franchise for the next couple of years.
6. Stuart Percy - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
While the likes of Hamilton, Harrington, Sefton, and Murphy appear to be getting all the hype, Percy has quietly come in and done a great job for the Majors this year. Their first round pick in 2009, Percy has stepped into a top four role on the blueline, with overager Blake Parlett as a usual partner. Most impressive to me have been Percy's defensive skills. He's a top quality one on one defender and he reads and reacts to the play at an elite level. Once he gets stronger, he'll be an even more effective defender in the zone. Offensively, he shows a lot of promise too. Good playmaker and he's seen a fair amount of time on the Majors powerplay. He needs to learn timing and when to bring the puck up ice, but with experience and the tutelage of Dave Cameron, he's likely to become a very good two way defender.
5. Scott Harrington - London Knights
We all know the story by now. Harrington was supposed to be a top 3 pick in 2009. He wasn't because he said he was 'likely' going the NCAA route. The Knights pick him up and he magically joins their line-up. Such is life in the OHL. Not going to harbour any ill will against a kid who wanted to play for an elite program if he was giving up his NCAA eligibility. But it's the Knights who have gained most by acquiring Harrington. He's jumped right into this league and become an elite level defender. He pairs with Michael D'Orazio on the Knights "shutdown" pairing and has managed a +25 on the year despite going up against some of the OHL's best as a 16 year old. Offensively, he might have been a bit underwhelming, but jumping into the league and being such a good defensive player is impressive.
4. Garrett Meurs - Plymouth Whalers
Next year, I think we'll be talking about this guy as one of the most offensively talented players the OHL has to offer for 2011. Meurs has fantastic offensive skills. A top notch puckhandler, great hands in close to the net, reads the play well. He's the complete package...offensively. For as impressive as he was offensively, he's got a ways to improve in other areas. Meurs turns the puck over a lot, especially in the offensive zone when he tries to be too fancy. He also needs to spend more time backchecking and playing without the puck. But there is a ton of potential in Meurs.
3. Boone Jenner - Oshawa Generals
Jenner is a future force to be reckoned with. A future power forward, Jenner is at home in front of the net and is already handful for OHL defenders. He's a good skater for his size too, which makes him tough to handle one on one as he drives the puck to the net. With a summer of conditioning, Jenner probably comes back next season even meaner and asserts himself as one of the top prospects for the 2011 NHL Draft.
2. Matt Puempel - Peterborough Petes
Say hello to your future OHL goal scoring champion. Puempel had an outstanding rookie season in Peterborough, where he ended up leading the Petes in goals with 33. He's just a solid all around offensive player though, not just a goal scorer. He finds space on the ice and is one of those guys who always manages to get open for a pass or a loose puck. He's got a killer shot already too. On top of that, he's already showing the makings of a complete player who's not afraid to forecheck, play in the corners or play in his own end. With a guy like Ryan Spooner feeding him the puck next year, don't be surprised if he's among the league leaders in goals for 2010-2011. Also don't be surprised if he wins the Emms Family Award this year either.
1. Ryan Murphy - Kitchener Rangers
With all due respect to Puempel, Murphy was the guy who impressed me the most this season. Yes...he needs to improve defensively, especially in his zone coverage. But the things he can do with the puck are potentially legendary. His skating, awareness and puck handling ability are already among the league's elite as a blueliner...at just 16 years of age (well he turns 17 in a couple of days). He carves through the open ice with precision and is no stranger to the end to end rush. As he improves his strength, his shot from the point will improve too, further advancing his play as an offensive blueliner. Here's hoping he grows a little bit more before the 2011 Draft. By the way, this marks the second year in a row a Kitchener Ranger tops my list (Skinner was number one last year). I guess they're doing something right!
Just a quick honorable mention to Vincent Trocheck of the Saginaw Spirit. On offensive production and impact to his team, he should probably make this list. But truthfully, I just didn't see enough of the Spirit to put him in my top 10, especially considering that the times I did see Saginaw, he didn't make much of an impact. Maybe the Spirit fans out there can tell us how good this guy is.