Sunday, December 9, 2012
Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2013
We're inching ever closer to the Christmas break and the halfway point to the 2012/2013 season. You've seen draft lists from pretty much every major scouting organization (CSS, ISS, McKeen's, FC, Craig Button at TSN, etc). In about a month's time, NHL Central Scouting will release it's midterm list; their first which amalgamates all leagues in North America. In my opinion, it's a perfect time to highlight some guys who are flying under the radar right now. Guys we're not hearing much about, but who are slowly turning themselves into NHL (some considerable) prospects.
It was hard to narrow this down to ten players (thus I've included several honorable mentions). This list is also in no particular order of ranking; as I've used alphabetical order. An argument could certainly be made about the criteria used to separate the "under the radar" players. No question it was quite subjective. But I didn't include a guy like Justin Bailey based on how much "hype" he's been receiving from the media as of late (deserving of it too).
Here's the list:
Nicholas Baptiste - Sudbury Wolves
He was nearly universally seen on top 10 draft lists for the league prior to the start of the season. The former 6th overall priority selection teased us last year with the potential to take over games physically and offensively. But this season did not start well for him. Little improvements were shown in his game and he started with a single goal in the first 15 games. This caused him to plummet on draft lists, to the point where he didn't even crack NHL Central Scouting's preliminary top 25. But look out, he's averaging a point per game over his last 10 (4 goals, 6 assists), is getting more powerplay time and is using his size more effectively offensively. If this sort of output continues (key word is consistency), he'll find himself rocketing back up draft lists by June.
Josh Burnside - Mississauga Steelheads
I've talked about Burnside many times on this blog and you know I'm a huge fan. But he's still not getting a ton of credit. He sees a ton of ice time on Missy's first line with Riley Brace and Dylan Smoskowitz and he creates a lot of room for those two by going hard to the net and doing the dirty work in the corners. His speed is also quite impressive and keeps defenses honest. Would I like to see him play a bit more physical? Yeah. Do I have concerns about an under 6 ft crease crasher? Some. But he's consistently been one of Mississauga's top forwards all season long and he deserves more credit than he gets.
Remi Elie - London Knights
The offensive output hasn't really been there, but he's an impressive physical specimen. He moves around constantly in the London lineup, used as a spark plug to get a particular line going. His tenacity away from the puck is impressive and he's a great forechecker. A perfect example of this was a play from Friday night's game against Niagara, where he forced a turnover by crushing Jesse Graham near the boards, leading to a goal by Matt Rupert. At this point, I'd like to see more in the goal scoring department, but his torpedo-esque style is certainly fun to watch.
Tyler Ganly - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
An OHL rookie, Ganly has been a pleasant surprise for the Hounds this year. During their bout with injuries and suspension (when Sproul and Miller were absent), Ganly saw his ice time increase and he didn't look out of place. At this point, he's primarily a defensive first kind of guy, but he does make good decisions with the puck in his own end. He's got size and is aggressive in throwing his weight around. As he gains more confidence, we could see even bigger things from him offensively. He'll need to improve his skating to do that though. Reminds me a lot of Plymouth Whaler, Austin Levi, in his sophomore season.
Charlie Graham - Belleville Bulls
The coming month is going to be huge for Graham. He's been terrific in a limited role thus far, serving as Malcolm Subban's back up (.903 SV% thus far). But with Subban gone at the WJC's, he'll get upwards of 7 starts to show what he can do with an increased workload. He's not the biggest goaltender, but similar to Subban, he tracks the puck well and uses his athleticism to make saves. If he can help Belleville to a good record without Subban, he's going to throw his name in the ring for the title of second best draft eligible goalie behind Spencer Martin.
Nick Moutrey - Saginaw Spirit
If you throw out his first six games where he was held pointless, you've got a 6'3, 200lbs winger with 21 points (9 goals, 12 assists) in his last 24 games. And only one of those points has been with the man advantage. We're looking at a power forward with terrific offensive potential who is starting to learn how to create his own goal scoring opportunities. A nice package of size, and skill. There's no doubt that the fact he plays in Saginaw is limiting his exposure to certain lists (heck I've only seen Saginaw play once this year).
Nick Paul - Brampton Battalion
Another big winger who is starting to come into his own. Paul is playing in his first OHL season after being passed over in the priority draft following his minor midget season. He's a big body who controls the wall well and helps his linemates by creating space for them. He's been playing on the Troops top line (with Goodrow and Lewis) of late and looks comfortable out there. His skating needs work, but here's another guy with size and skill.
Brent Pedersen - Kitchener Rangers
I had him ranked pretty aggressively on my preseason rankings (14th) after being impressed with him during his freshman year. I had high expectations for him this season. Similar to Baptiste (above), he started the year off very poorly (1 goal in his first 15 games) and has fallen off the radar (failed to be ranked by Central Scouting). But I've caught the Rangers a few times in the last few weeks and he's looking MUCH better out there. He's back to the basics of creating offense through hard work, and physicality. He also looks more confident with the puck and is starting to try and create his own opportunities by going hard to the net. If he can continue to string together consistent performances, like Baptiste, he'll get his name back into NHL draft consideration.
Brody Silk - Sudbury Wolves
Similar to Baptiste and Pedersen, great things were expected of him this year but he started off the season poorly (goalless in his first 11 games). As a late '94, playing in his 3rd year in the league, that lack of production was alarming. He needed to be better, and he certainly has been of late. 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) in his last 14 games. He's certainly not a fun player to play against, some might even call him a bit of a "dirty" player. But as long as he's playing an in your face style and producing offensively, he's going to regain his draft hype.
Carter Verhaeghe - Niagara IceDogs
Reminds me a ton of Windsor's Brady Vail from last year. A real hard working, blue collar centerman. He works his butt off in the offensive end, and does a great job of coming away from scrums with the puck. Niagara's secondary offense has been inconsistent this year (mostly because they're relying on a lot of inexperienced forwards), but Verhaeghe has been the team's most consistent forward outside the big three (IMO).
Greg Betzold - Peterborough Petes
Big guy with skill who can take the puck to the net. Goal scoring numbers need to improve in order to stand out more on a struggling Peterborough squad.
Jordan DeKort - Windsor Spitfires
I admit that I haven't seen him play yet this year, but the stat line is impressive for (essentially) a rookie goaltender. Have to love the size. Hope he starts to play more as season goes on.
Anthony DiFruscia - Niagara IceDogs
Scrappy goal scoring winger who generally keeps things simple and goes to the net hard. Needs to gain strength coming from Prep school.
Michael Giugovaz - Peterborough Petes
I actually like him a lot, and wanted him on the above list. But I forced myself to limit it to 10. He's been keeping the Petes in a lot of games they don't deserve to be in. I worry that he'll get tired as the season goes on though and his production will plummet. Peterborough will need to be cautious with his psyche if they don't start winning consistently.
Mitch Jones - Plymouth Whalers
Stats aren't impressive, especially for a 5'11 defenseman. But every time I've seen Plymouth play this year, he's been a rock defensively.
Miles Liberati - London Knights
Slowly gaining confidence offensively in his rookie OHL season. He has the potential to be a solid two-way defenseman with a mean streak.
Trevor Murphy - Windsor Spitfires
The trade to Windsor was great for him. He's a terrific puck moving defenseman and he's getting a ton of powerplay time in Windsor. So far, 5 points in 7 games. We'll need to continue that production to get his draft stock back on track.
Danny Vanderwiel - Plymouth Whalers
He hasn't scored a goal yet this year, but it's only a matter of time. He's a big guy who can skate and throw his weight around. He gets his fair share of chances but has been snake bitten.
Thomas Welsh - Mississauga Steelheads
A lot of hype around his recent signing in the OHL. A real stocky, physical defenseman who has offensive potential. His skating will need work to adjust to the pace of the OHL, but once he gets accustomed, he could be a late season riser. Heard great things.