Friday, May 24, 2013

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: Honorable Mentions

The race to the draft is on. We're about a month away from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, so that means it's time for me to release my rankings.

The top 50 will be released in four parts: Part 1 - Honorable Mentions, Part 2 - Prospects 50-31, Part 3 - Prospects 30-11, and Part 4 - Prospects 10-1.

Just for clarification, for my top 50 ranking, I haven't included any players eligible for draft re-entry, such as Eric Locke or Cameron Brace. This has been consistent all the way through my lists. Instead, I did a list of the top 10 draft re-entries, which can be found here.

Also for clarification, this list is MY list of the top 50 OHL prospects, as if I were drafting for my own team. In other words, this isn't a list of where I THINK or believe players will go, but a ranking of my own opinion on the top players eligible for this draft based on my viewings this season. If you want a draft projection and information about players outside the OHL, be sure to order the Future Considerations and/or McKeen's Draft Guides.

This first part includes the Honorable Mentions of my list. These are the players who received consideration for my top 50, but who fell just short. There are 13 in total.

In alphabetical order...

Aaron Berisha - Forward - Belleville Bulls
One of several players to join the OHL from Salisbury Prep this season (DiFruscia, Nichols, Welsh), Berisha had a pretty decent rookie OHL season. I had heard great things about him going into the season, but he wasn't able to make as big of an offensive impact as people expected. He's got some offensive skill, in particular as a goal scorer with a quick release, but I felt like strength wise he was a bit overmatched in the OHL at times this season. Although I will say that later into the season and into the playoffs, I was impressed with his dedication to embracing his role as an energy guy. He upped his intensity level without the puck and even became a bit of a factor on the forecheck. Next year, he'll get a chance to be a more critical component to Belleville's offense and I'll be interested to see if he improves.

Nick Betz - Forward - Erie Otters
A real project. The 6'5 forward was never able to find a groove this year after contracting appendicitis early in the season. The size is obviously very appealing, but I feel like he's yet to fully figure out how to use it to be an effective player. He can play physical, but isn't consistent in that area. His ability to receive passes and carry the puck is also still a work in progress and it prevents him from being more of a contributor offensively. There's obviously potential for him to develop into a terrific board player and a guy you can put in front of the net, but he's not yet the sum of his parts. I felt like I was more impressed with him last year as a 16/17 year old and that his development stalled this season (perhaps because of the abdominal surgery). Could still be a solid pick later in the draft for a team willing to be patient.

Jean Dupuy - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Dupuy finished tied for 2nd in the OHL in fighting majors this year with 13. He's got great size at 6'3 and is a real heart and soul, character type of guy. While he's certainly no stranger to dropping the mitts, I wouldn't necessarily call him a terrific enforcer at this point. In a couple of the fights I saw him engaged in this year, I don't really remember him clearly winning any. But he plays hard at both ends of the ice, will block shots, smash bodies and come to the aid of his teammates. At this point, his offensive upside appears limited but his work ethic should be applauded.

Jake Evans - Forward - Erie Otters
Evans is a player that I had high expectations for this season. I was very impressed with him as a 16/17 year old, but he just didn't take that next step forward in 2013. If anything, I felt like he regressed a bit and was less noticeable on the ice. He's a hard worker at both ends of the ice, and he became a more physical player this season. But his offensive game just failed to progress. He's able to work the cycle on some occasions, but still lacks the strength to consistently win one on one battles and it limits his effectiveness to create scoring chances for his linemates. Erie's depth at the center position continues to get better and better, so Evans might be running out of time to impress.

Ryan Hutchinson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
I felt like Hutchinson was having a very solid sophomore season in the OHL before things started to unravel for him. First was the suspension due to his temper tantrum (which went viral and can be found here). Then, he was sent home by the Fronts for a curfew related incident. But when he played this year, Hutchinson provided a lot of value as a rugged, stay at home defender. He's got size and he's a very physical guy who can help to intimidate the opposition. He'll also drop the mitts and was no stranger to fighting or sticking up for teammates. Hopefully he's able to resolve things in Kingston, or at least find a new home in the OHL next year.

Mitch Jones - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
While he didn't play a ton this year (missed two months with an undisclosed injury), Jones impressed me a lot every time I saw the Whalers and he was in the line-up. He's a real stocky defenseman who I saw make a lot of very solid defensive plays this season. He's got great positioning while defending the rush and keeps forwards to the outside. I also liked how physical he played, despite not being the biggest defender (a shade under 6'0). I think he's got a lot of potential in this league and I see him taking on a much larger role in Plymouth next season.

Justin Nichols - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Looked a bit overmatched at the beginning of the season, when he earned the back-up job behind Matt Murray. But he got better as the season went on (save his two awful performances at the very end of the year). Nearly every facet of his game took a step forward from beginning to end and he looks like he could be a solid starter some time in the future. That said, he's not the biggest goalie and he was prone to giving up some softer goals as he's still learning his angles at OHL speed.

Daniel Nikandrov - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Nikandrov is a smooth skating center with some size and offensive ability. He was used primarily as a depth player by Sarnia this season (his first full one in the OHL), but did see some time on the penalty kill where he was fairly effective. NHL Central Scouting has him ranked a lot higher than I do, but I'm not entirely sure where he fits in at the next level. I didn't see a ton from him this year that would suggest he's a future top line player. But I also didn't see much that would suggest he could be the type of role player an NHL team would want on their bottom 6. Admittedly, I didn't get a terrific read on him this season.

Stephen Nosad - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Not really sure what happened to Nosad this year. I thought he was going to have a great year after contributing so much as a rookie in 2012. But he took a step back this year and not forward. He has some offensive skill and is a pretty cerebral player, but the skating, strength, and play without the puck didn't improve enough to make him a consistent offensive contributor. He was actually quite invisible in the times I saw Peterborough this year. A big disappointment in 2013 (kind of like the rest of his Peterborough teammates).

Mark Raycroft - Defenseman - Brampton/North Bay Battalion
Raycroft is not flashy at all, but he is an effective stay at home defender at this point in his development. He's not a physical player by any means, but he is a good skater and he has some size, which allows him to defend pretty well off the rush. He'll need to continue to get stronger (and maybe a little meaner) in order to take his defensive game to that next level. He barely played this year, as I felt like Butler preferred to role his top 5 defenseman out there more often (with all of them being very solid players). With Cameron Wind gone, he'll have a chance to earn more icetime next year, especially on the penalty kill and in important defensive situations.

Mathew Santos - Forward - Brampton/North Bay Battalion
A walk-on to the Battalion this year, Santos proved to be a pretty effective energy guy who saw ice time in a lot of different roles this season. He's got some speed coming down the wing and he works his butt off in the offensive end to gain and keep possession. Not sure he's the most skilled guy in the world, but if you put him with some solid playmakers, I think he's got offensive potential in this league. As the season went on, I felt like he was also more confident in throwing his weight around and playing physical (something he'll have to do more consistently).

Jonatan Tanus - Forward - Peterborough Petes
A speedy little guy who was definitely one of the more consistent players in Peterborough this year. He's got lot of skill with the puck and is a very effective north/south type of guy. Likes to dart in and out of traffic and can be elusive in coverage. He's also not afraid of playing in traffic despite being smaller and will even get his nose dirty from time to time. He was also a solid contributor for team Finland at the Under 18's this year. I think some might be surprised that he's not in my top 50, but I'm not sure I see enough in him to suggest he'll be anything more than a solid scorer in Europe (when he eventually returns).

Thomas Welsh - Defenseman - Mississauga Steelheads
Welsh joined Mississauga about half way through the year, coming over from Georgetown (Junior A). He was a pretty highly touted prospect for Mississauga, who struggled a bit with adapting to the speed of the OHL game. He's a smaller/stocky defender, but he can look slow out there. He'll need to work on his mobility, especially if he wants to involve himself more offensively in transition. But, I saw some things in his game to suggest there could be a lot of potential in there. He's a very physical player, and he'll be effective in a defensive role when he learns to pick his spots better and improves his agility. I don't think he's a draft prospect now, but I like his potential to develop into something down the road.

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