Friday, June 1, 2012

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 50-31

Here's Part 2 of my Top 50, with players ranked 50 through 31.

50. Garrett Hooey - F - Belleville Bulls
I actually thought Hooey would have a pretty big offensive year after putting up some seriously strong numbers in the preseason. But he never really seemed to find a stride offensively and was essentially a similar type of player that he was in his 16 year old season with Sarnia. He can play all three forward positions, but looks most comfortable on the wing IMO. He keeps the game simple and plays a north, south kind of power game. He drives hard to the net with and without the puck and gets in the face of opposing defenses on the forecheck. He wins battles along the boards and once he gets stronger, could be a very hard guy to contain in the cycle. But his offensive game really needs to improve, and at this point, I'm just not sure the offensive hockey sense is there for him to develop into anything significant.

49. Matthew Campagna - F - Sudbury Wolves
Campagna is a guy who had a disappointing season. As a high OHL draft pick, and a very highly skilled player, much was expected of him in his second season. But consistency issues, a lack of ice time, and a concussion really held him back this year. He's definitely a highly skilled playmaker, who is actually one of the league's premier shootout specialists. He has a ton of puck skill. But it's the other facets of his game that didn't really take a step forward this year. His play away from the puck still leaves some to be desired, as does his defensive zone play. There's also a lot of talk that things in Sudbury aren't great for him and that he's on the trade block this summer. A fresh start might do him good, because as of right now, he has to be considered a disappointment. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also check out Campagna in action courtesy of HPTV.

48. Joseph Blandisi - F - Owen Sound Attack
The Attack had a very successful season thanks in part to contributions from up and comers like Blandisi. He's one of those meat and potatoes kind of guys who does all the little things on the ice to help his team win. He can play any forward position, but looks most comfortable down the middle. He plays hard at both ends of the ice. He battles on the forecheck and in the corners. He's not tall, but he seems to have a lot of strength and is pretty stocky. I actually think he's got more offensive upside in him, once he gains more confidence and gets more ice time. He shows flashes of puck skill coming down the middle and has an extra gear. I also like his hockey sense and ability to get to the net for garbage goals. Definitely a guy who's flying under the radar right now.

47. Brock McGinn - F - Guelph Storm
McGinn is a terrific energy forward who projects as a checking line winger at the next level. He's got a motor that's always running, but also has good hockey sense and gets himself in good position for scoring opportunities. His hustle, especially on the forecheck and along the wall, also creates scoring opportunities for his linemates. The main concern is that he's not overly big, (around 5'11, 170lbs), and that he relies on his aggressiveness away from the puck to be successful. He'll definitely need to get stronger to be more effective offensively. And to stay away from injuries, like the broken wrist he suffered this year that limited him to just 33 games. Considering the success that his brother has had in the NHL, McGinn definitely has the genetic make up to be an effective NHL player.

46. Chris Marchese - F - Windsor Spitfires
The trade to Windsor did wonders for Marchese, who was clearly unhappy in Erie and his play on the ice was suffering because of it. In Windsor, he put up close to a point per game to close out the year and put himself back on the scouting map. Marchese has very good size at 6'0, 210lbs, but there are a lot of whispers out there that his conditioning isn't up to snuff. This would explain a lot of the problems he's had with consistency. And while he's a big guy, he's probably classified as more of a finesse player than a potential power forward. Marchese has a good shot and is especially dangerous on the powerplay off the one timer. He's got good hands in close to the net too. His play away from the puck fluctuates, some times he's engaged, some times he's not. Finding that consistency away from the puck, improving his conditioning, and adding more of a physical element to his game would greatly benefit his play.

45. Connor Brown - F - Erie Otters
Brown put up a ton of points this year and was really one of Erie's only bright spots offensively. Yet, I found myself having a tough time getting a read on him. There were a couple of things I noticed though. For one, his skating needs to improve. It seemed like he lacked that overall explosiveness in his game. Secondly, as you can assume with a -72 rating, his play away from the puck needs improving. I found him to be too prone to standing around watching things unfold. Which is interesting considering his brother was former Spitfire and General Jeff Brown, who was probably the exact opposite as a player. What Brown does possess is offensive skill. He's kind of one of those guys who you don't really notice until he jumps on a loose puck and puts one in the back of the net. This definitely points to his hockey sense being a strength. Playing in his first year in the league, what he did offensively was quite impressive. Everything else about his game is very raw, but with good coaching and dedication away from the rink on strength training, could make him a very interesting gamble. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also check out Connor in action courtesy of HPTV.

44. Kristoff Kontos - F - Mississauga Majors
Kontos has gotten better and better every year in the league (this being his third as a late '93), which is definitely promising. Also promising are his genetics, thanks to NHL father Chris Kontos. I felt like Kontos' game really blossomed in Mississauga, especially later in the season. In the playoffs, he was playing some of his best hockey too. At his best, Kontos profiles as a strong two way center who can win faceoffs and take the puck hard to the net. His play away from the puck is inconsistent, but when he's on his game, he can be hard to contain and is hustling at both ends of the ice. His skating has really improved over his three years in the league, and I'd now classify him as above average. Offensively, he can power his way to the net and protects the puck well with his big body. I'd like to see his playmaking ability improve, as he can be prone to bad passes in the offensive end, trying to force plays. Could be a confidence thing. Could be a hockey sense thing. It'll be interesting to see if his progression continues to have an upwards curve, especially offensively. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

43. Zach Leslie - D - Guelph Storm
Leslie was an OHL rookie this year, and largely had a successful season. However, there's no doubt that his first half was better than his second half. He actually went pointless in his final 27 games of the year (including playoffs). I'd contribute this to fatigue, as he was playing in his first year in the league. In the first half of the season, he looked like a smart, mobile two way defenseman who was playing in all situations for the Storm. He can carry the puck out of the zone, moves the puck well on the powerplay, and played a steady game in his own end. He even showed some glimpses of physicality and didn't seem afraid to throw a big hit or drop the gloves, despite lacking the strength to be consistently effective at it. I think he's got a good head on his shoulders and makes good decisions with the puck. I was particularly impressed with his ability to throw pucks to the net and keep pucks in the offensive end. I think it's just a matter of how much potential he has once he hits his physical peak.

42. Warren Steele - D - Kingston Frontenacs
Essentially an OHL rookie, Steele came out of nowhere this year to lead the Frontenacs defensive group. He had his ups and downs in his first OHL season, but showed a lot of potential as a smart puck moving defenseman. He can skate well which aids in his ability to make things happen off the rush. As the season went along, he also started to become more comfortable defensively and physically. The physical part of his game, in particular, improved as he began to engage more in the corners, in front of the net, and in the open ice. Steele was named to the Under 18 team, but received little playing time, especially after the arrival of Ryan Pulock. In the action he did see though, he looked a little bit overwhelmed and over his head. Not being the biggest guy, the key for him moving forward will be adding strength to his frame to handle larger forwards in the corners and in front of the net. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

41. Gianluca Curcuruto - D - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I really liked Curcuruto in his 16 year old season, and felt like he had the potential to be an NHL first round pick. But few players in this OHL crop had worse seasons than Curcuruto. It was the lack of progression of several of the Hounds players that really contributed to their disappointing season. His offensive numbers regressed significantly, and he looked a lot more tentative to take chances with the puck. He has previously shown an ability to rush the puck and quarterback the powerplay well, but these areas were not strengths this year. His confidence offensively looked quite poor, as he even became prone to some bad turnovers in his own end. Defensively, he looked OK, but didn't take any steps forward in his ability to physically intimidate the opposition. I also felt like he lacked chemistry with any of his defensive partners, and as such was the victim of shoddy defensive zone coverage in certain instances. Now there is still a lot of potential here, as he had shown in his rookie season. My only concern is him falling behind on the depth chart in the Soo. Is he going to get more powerplay ice time next year with Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller returning, as well as the inevitable improvement of Darnell Nurse?

40. Nathan Pancel - F - Sudbury Wolves
Pancel isn't getting a ton of attention from scouting services for this year's draft, and I'm not entirely sure why. He was one of the better producers of offense among draft eligible players in the second half of the season (he had 15 goals and 10 assists in his final 27 games). Sure, he's not a big guy at 5'10, but he's stocky and his size doesn't seem to give him a lot of problems on the ice. He's also a pretty hard worker and an excellent skater, which allows him to find scoring opportunities despite possessing only average size. When he's not hitting the scoresheet, I often find that he's fairly noticeable on the forecheck and isn't afraid to engage physically. In fact, I think he has a lot of pest like qualities. Offensively, he's got good instincts, especially around the net and has the hands to finish off plays or tip in shots. I'd like to see him create more offense for himself by using his skill to drive to the net, but for a player in his first year in the league, I felt like he showed a lot. Personally, I think there is a lot to like about a stocky two way winger who can put the puck in the net.

39. Justin Kea - F - Saginaw Spirit
Kea is one of those guys who's statline doesn't tell the whole story. On paper, his 3 goals and 14 points aren't impressive at all. But it's all the little things that add up to a guy who has more value than he appears to. For one, Kea is a really big body at 6'4 and over 200lbs, and he plays center. He's that big, powerful center that a lot of teams are looking for right now. He uses that body very effectively to clear out space for his linemates, to take the puck hard to the net, and to keep plays alive along the boards. He's also a strong two way player who sees a lot of time on the penalty kill and who'll block shots and pay the price to make a play. In similar fashion to Tom Wilson, Kea is also a pretty good skater for a big guy and it's what allows him to be such an effective player in many situations. Size and speed can be a lethal combo. Kea was absolutely fantastic in the playoffs IMO and he showed some vision and playmaking ability that he hadn't really previously shown. I think he's a very interesting prospect and someone who could have some nice potential to improve over the next few years.

38. Ben Johnson - F - Windsor Spitfires
It certainly took Johnson a long time to get going, but once he did, he became an integral part of Windsor's offense. It took him 24 games to score his first OHL goal, but he finished the season with 18. The best thing about Johnson is that when he's not scoring, he's still a very effective player. He's a tremendous skater and his speed causes a lot of problems for the opposition on the forecheck. And when he gains possession in the offensive zone, he's excellent along the boards and wears out opposing defenses. Johnson is also a human torpedo who loves to throw his body around. While his play away from the puck is excellent, his offensive game is definitely inconsistent. He's still learning to channel his energy into production and how to use his speed to be an effective offensive player. The development of his shot and puck carrying ability will be crucial to his high end potential.

37. Marcus McIvor - D - Brampton Battalion
McIvor is an interesting player because he hasn't necessarily developed the way many people expected he would. I've been told by a lot of people that he was actually an offensive, puck carrying defenseman in midget, but that offensive ability hasn't really translated to the OHL level yet. Instead, McIvor has developed into one of the league's best young stay at home defenseman. His size, mobility, intelligence, and aggressiveness make him a rock in his own end. He's especially very hard to beat off the rush and in the corners. Offensively, he does see time on the powerplay and looks pretty comfortable back there. He'll also occasionally rush the puck up ice with effectiveness. It makes you wonder if there is some real offensive potential in there waiting to come out. I think he just needs the confidence to begin to start taking more chances offensively.

36. Daniel Altshuller - G - Oshawa Generals
It was a tough year for Altshuller and the Generals. After backstopping Canada to Gold at the Ivan Hlinka, he came into the OHL with a lot of hype and the expectation that he would lead the Generals to the top of the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, Altshuller battled consistency issues all season long and eventually lost his starting job to Kevin Baillie. That isn't to say that people have given up on him though. In fact, after replacing Baillie in the playoffs, I thought Altshuller played fantastic against the IceDogs and kept his team in a few games they had no business in being in. He's raw in every sense of the word, but he's got great size and athleticism in the net and appears to have a lot to work with. He'll need to improve his positioning and ability to harness rebounds. I found that he can be particularly beatable down low and in the five hole once you get him moving. But as this year's playoffs showed, it's too early to give up on his potential. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

35. Ryan Rupert - F - London Knights
If he was taller, Rupert would be inside my top 10, but there are definite concerns as to whether he can be successful with the type of game he plays, at pushing 5'9. He's one of the most complete players in the draft and one of the top two way centers. His tenacity away from the puck and compete level makes him a very good defender. This particular skill also lends favorably to his ability to win loose puck battles in the offensive end. His forechecking ability was absolutely massive in London's victory over Niagara in the OHL Championship. As a playmaker, he sees the ice well and is patient with the puck. He'll work the cycle in order to tire the opposition, and is able to create plays for his linemates with his puck protection ability. But he can also finish off plays, especially around the net. He's smart and picks his spots well to hit the net hard, often finding loose pucks to put into the net. The one thing he'll have to work on is his ability to stay out of the penalty box, as he can cross the line between rough and dirty. Being a pest is a great quality to have for a smaller player, he just needs to cut down on the undisciplined penalties. Even though Rupert remains unranked by Central Scouting, a terrific playoff run should at least see him drafted in the later rounds. Check out Ryan in action courtesy HPTV.

34. Alex Gudbranson - D - Kingston Frontenacs
Gudbranson was definitely one of the most improved players in this draft crop from the beginning of the season to the end. At the beginning of the season, he was not inside my top 50, but finishes in the mid 30's. I felt like nearly every part of his game improved greatly in the second half. On the defensive side of things, he played a more controlled game, allowing the game to come to him and using his size, reach, and physicality to prevent scoring chances. His physical aggressiveness increased as he became very hard to beat one on one, in the corners, and in front of the net. I especially love seeing a young defenseman take charge in front of his crease. It's quite impressive that he managed to have a zero +/- on one of the league's worst teams. Offensively, he's a major work in progress, but there was some progression. He still has trouble with intense forechecks and can be prone to turnovers. He also needs to work on his first pass out of the zone. But, again, there was some improvement in these areas. At least enough to suggest that they could become adequate. Gudbranson, obviously, also has the bloodlines thing going for him, with his brother Eric excelling as a young stay at home defender with many of the same qualities. You can listen to Alex chat about the draft on The Pipeline Show.

33. Max Iafrate - D - Kitchener Rangers
Steve Spott did wonders to bring out the best in Iafrate's game this year, after a bit of a rough start to his OHL career in Plymouth as a 16 year old. Spott definitely helped to refine Iafrate's game, limiting his turnovers by simplifying things in his own end. He's definitely still very much a work of progress, but there are a lot of things to like. For one, his size on the back end. He's already very strong and ideally suited to play the physical, stay at home game. Secondly, he's a great skater for a bigger defender and it allows him to be a very effective defender off the rush. Thirdly, there's definitely some offensive potential. He has a big shot like his father, he just needs to learn how to use it. He also has puck skill and rush the puck, but he needs to pick his spots better. When Iafrate keeps the game simple, he excels. When he forces things, he struggles with mental errors and turnovers. But the improvements he made this year were encouraging and suggest (along with his bloodlines) that the best may be yet to come. Check out his Draft Tracker segement with Yahoo's Neate Sager. Also, check out Max in action courtesy HPTV.

32. Jake Dotchin - D - Owen Sound Attack
Dotchin is a first year OHL defenseman who had an excellent season in the OHL. Owen Sound just keeps finding these diamonds in the rough who make big contributions to their club. Dotchin has a lot of things going for him. He's got great size on the back end (6'3, 200lbs) and loves to use it. He has a penchant for the open ice hit and makes it hard for forwards to gain access to the offensive zone. It seemed like his skating improved over the course of the season too, especially while defending backwards. His zone coverage I think is still a bit of a work in progress, as he can get caught running around a bit, but there's room to grow on a player still learning to play in this league. Offensively, he's surprisingly skilled with the puck. He can be effective as a puck rusher and uses his big body to protect the puck well. He also looked comfortable working the point on the powerplay. I think he oozes potential as a physical two-way defender. There's no doubt his coaching staff has confidence in him since they moved Petgrave and Schemitsch to Oshawa in order to give him more ice time. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

31. Michael Clarke - F - Windsor Spitfires
Michael Clarke got off to an absolutely blazing start with the Spits, scoring 8 goals in the first 11 games of the season. At one point early on, I think TSN draft guru Craig Button actually had him in his first round for the draft. But then the wheels fell off. As Clarke's play slipped, so did his ice time and play on special teams. But he caught fire again towards the end of the season and finished strong to help save his draft ranking. For Clarke moving forward, it's going to be about finding consistency, whether it's improving focus, conditioning, or whatever was preventing him from contributing through the middle part of the season. When he's on, Clarke is a very effective all around player. He's not big, but he's stocky and isn't afraid to go hard to the net without the puck. He's in your face. He's battling along the boards. And he's backchecking hard and playing the PK effectively. His offensive game is fueled by his play away from the puck. When he's not out there working and skating hard, he's not effective and not really noticeable. Interestingly enough, Clarke reminds me a lot of Former Spitfire Adam Henrique who had similar consistency issues in his draft season. He obviously figured it out and I think Clarke can too. Check out his Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager.

No comments: