Let's drop into the Shark tank!
Freddie Hamilton - Niagara IceDogs
Hamilton had another good year, posting back to back 80 point seasons. Truthfully, I'm not really sure he progressed much this year, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. His big leap came two years ago when he became a more active player away from the puck, got stronger, and improved his consistency from shift to shift. Hamilton is just a very versatile player. He can play pretty much any role you ask him to, at any forward position. He can provide offense by driving hard to the net and is excellent along the boards. He can provide energy as a solid forechecker. He plays both ends of the ice and is an excellent penalty killer. The one thing I will say about this year is that I felt like he was a bit more physical. If he can continue to build off that, it would add another dimension to his game. This coming season, he'll be in Worcester. The Sharks look like they have some solid veteran depth at forward, but there may be a chance for Hamilton to earn a top 6 spot. Even if he's playing 3rd line minutes, I'd expect him to still have a good year. I think he's built well for the professional game. I could see him having a 20-20 year in his freshman pro campaign.
Dylan DeMelo - Mississauga Majors (aka Steelheads)
Huge step forward for DeMelo this year. From the start of the 2011/2012, to the end, he improved a lot. He really cut down on his turnovers in his own end, and was being much smarter with the puck. He was picking better spots to jump up in the play, and looked a lot calmer running the point. Defensively, the biggest improvement was the heightening of his mean streak. By the end of the year, he was really looking to hit guys in the corners and in front of the net. His defensive zone coverage also improved. He really transformed himself into a fully capable two-way defender at the OHL level. Going into next season, I have high expectations for him, considering the massive improvement he showed this year. He'll be part of Mississauga's top 3 again (with returnees Stuart Percy and Trevor Carrick), and he'll continue to wear a letter and be part of the leadership group there. I look for him to shoot the puck more to try and increase his goal numbers from the back end. I also look for him to continue to amp up the physicality in his own end. A 50+ point season isn't out of the question.
Justin Sefton - Sudbury Wolves
I was a little disappointed in Sefton's play this year when I saw Sudbury play. I found like a lot of the things that plagued him in his draft year, did not improve enough this past year. Offensively, he definitely didn't take the next step like I hoped he would. He's got a big point shot, but his puck skills didn't improve enough for him to be able to use it. He saw some powerplay time, but looked uncomfortable at the point. Defensively, his skating still limits him. He got exposed off the rush a fair amount and really needs to work on keeping the play in front of him. When the play slows down in the defensive end, he's effective as a physical bruiser who protects the front of the net, but there's more to being a good defenseman. At this point, I'd say he's pretty much the exact same player the Sharks drafted in 2011. Going into next season, he'll continue to be one of the Wolves top defenseman. The only difference is that he might see increased powerplay time with Josh McFadden gone. Hopefully his game takes that next step this year.
J.P. Anderson - Sarnia Sting
It was a bit of a tough year for Anderson. He had such a strong year in 2010/2011, getting to the Memorial Cup. But this year, he looked a little off, maybe even a little unmotivated. Even when he got traded to Sarnia, he never really found his game. He was prone to giving up some bad goals, which substantiates the whole lack of focus thing I mentioned. As an undersized goaltender, Anderson needs to do a better job of consistently challenging shooters to fill up more of the net. His rebound control took a step backward this year too, as at times it felt like he was fighting the puck. Truthfully, I think Sarnia expected more from him when they traded a big package of draft picks to get him. This coming season, I'm not really sure what to expect. The Sharks have a bit of a logjam at the position in the minor league ranks. I'd say there's no chance he supplants Stalock or Satteri in the AHL. That leaves him fighting for time with Thomas Heemskerk in the ECHL. But Anderson could also be sent back to the OHL for his overage season, something I'm sure Sarnia is hoping for since they currently lack anything resembling goaltending depth right now. Would Anderson be better off starting 50 games in the OHL as an overager, or 30 games in the ECHL next year? An argument could surely be made for either. Wherever he is, hopefully he bounces back strong.
Chris Tierney - London Knights
I really like Tierney as a player. He really improved and adapted his game this past year. As a 16 year old, he was primarily a finesse type player who was struggling to create offense and had some trouble with injuries. But he adapted to win the hearts of the Hunters and became a much more well rounded player. He became a solid three zone player. A guy who'll battle for every loose puck, who'll work the boards in the offensive end, who'll win key faceoffs, and who still has the ability and creativity to produce offense off the rush. I think we're only scratching the surface of his potential because of the role he was asked to play last year. This year, he'll have a great chance of taking on more offensive responsibility, as the Knights look to replace the likes of Vlad Namestnikov, Jared Knight, Greg McKegg, and Austin Watson. He'll likely see some powerplay time on the second unit, and has a serious chance to center a scoring line. I expect a good year out of him, perhaps even as good as hovering around the point per game mark.