Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 30-11

I bring you part 3 of my rankings as we delve inside the top 30.

30. Brody Silk - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Silk starts off our top 30, but has had sort of a roller coaster OHL career thus far. As a late '94, he just finished his 3rd full OHL season, but has yet to take that giant leap forward offensively. During the 2012 season, he missed large chunks of time due to suspension and injury. This year, he started off very strong, but cooled massively towards the end of the season; then got injured in the playoffs. For a 3rd year player, his offensive numbers certainly don't jump out at you. But Silk does a lot of things well, things that project him as a possible 3rd/4th line player at the NHL level. He brings a lot of sandpaper to the ice and is a very effective offensive player below the hash marks. He can force turnovers on the forecheck and is a very effective player along the boards and with the cycle. Silk is also a pretty good defensive player and does a great job of getting under the skin of opponents. So what's holding Silk back from being more of a consistent impact player? He needs to get quicker. Silk isn't yet a dangerous player off the rush and he's not a threat to carry the puck from the neutral zone on. He has the puck skill, but lacks that separation ability. Adding that speed component to his game would make him that much more dangerous.

29. Jeff Corbett - Defenseman - Sudbury Wolves
There's no question that Corbett is much higher on this list if he could stay healthy. But the constant trips to the infirmary scare me (as I'm sure they scare NHL scouts). Corbett has played only 69 games over the past two seasons, missing time for a variety of reasons (including a couple of dreaded "upper body injuries"). Anytime he appears to get a head of steam, he gets injured again. After the trade of Frankie Corrado this year, he looked tremendous in an increased role (with 7 points in 14 games to start 2013), but then got injured. Corbett has a ton of potential. He's definitely a complete defenseman who has a lot of offer. He's got size (6'1) and is a very smooth skater. This helps him at both ends of the ice. In particular, he's a very impressive and safe player in his own end. He defends off the rush well, is smart in coverage, but also makes smart passes and can skate the puck out of trouble. As an offensive, puck mover, I think there's a lot of upside there, as he continues to gain confidence. But this can only happen if he stays healthy. Sudbury is going to rely on Corbett as (possibly) their top defenseman next year. I hope he's up to the task.

28. Nick Paul - Forward -  Brampton/North Bay Battalion
When analyzing Paul's rookie OHL season, it's hard to ignore the fact that he went scoreless in his final 24 games (including playoffs). But I think it's important to point out that Paul makes an impact on games even when he's not scoring. Firstly, like most players under Stan Butler, he's a very solid player in his own end. He definitely works hard at both ends of the ice. This is especially the case along the boards, where his size (6'2, 202lbs) makes him a difficult guy to win battles against. He's very adept at creating offensive chances off the wall. Basically, Paul might not yet be hitting the score sheet consistently, but that doesn't mean he's not noticeable on the ice. Moving forward, improving his skating has to be his primary focus. He's definitely got some heavy feet and it prevents him from being more of a factor (at least consistently) offensively. I'd also like to see him play with an edge more consistently. He has the size to be a very intimidating player on the ice and in front of the net, but just isn't there yet.

27. Michael Giugovaz - Goaltender - Peterborough Petes
Stole the starting gig away from Andrew D'Agostini at the start of the year and did a very admirable job, despite the Petes' struggles. However, once Jody Hull took over, he began to lose starts to the red hot D'Agostini as the Petes' tried to salvage their season and make the playoffs. Giugovaz only got 8 starts in 2013 (an average of just under 3 per month), so it was pretty hard to evaluate him down the stretch. It's not as if he was playing poorly, it's just that D'Agostini was playing great and Hull decided to run with his veteran netminder. Giugovaz isn't a huge goaltender (~ 6'1), but he makes himself big in the net and plays his angles well. He never gives up on the play and has great agility in the crease; making many 2nd and 3rd saves. Like any young netminder, he needs to improve his ability to control and direct rebounds. Next year it'll be interesting to see what happens with Giugovaz. Hull returns (after doing a terrific job in the 2nd half), and so does D'Agostini as an overager. Does that mean Giugovaz goes into next season as the back-up yet again?

26. Josh Burnside - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Burnside is easily one of the best and quickest skaters on this list. And he uses this speed to be a very effective three zone player, as well as forechecker. The fact that he's so terrific defensively should come as no surprise, he actually just started playing forward after his minor midget season (transitioning from defense). His ability to read plays, especially in the neutral zone, makes him a very valuable commodity on the ice. Offensively, he's a very fearless player. He loves to play near the crease and will pay the price to score a goal. On the season, he scored several goals on re-directions in front of the net, which shows great hand eye skill. I feel like sometimes he skates around a little aimlessly in the offensive zone, but he's still learning how to play the position and managed to play on the Steelheads first line with Riley Brace and Dylan Smoskowitz nearly all season. The one aspect of his game that I'd like to see him improve is his physicality. He's definitely got to add more muscle to his frame, but when he does, I think becoming more physical without the puck is going to be key to his potential at the next level. If he's going to develop into a scrappy-two way forward, becoming a consistently physical forward is a necessity.
Burnside's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

25. Brent Pedersen - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
A former first rounder, Pedersen was receiving a lot of criticism for his lack of production and development at the start of the season. But as he started to play with more aggression, the rest of his game slowly came around. Towards the middle part of the season, he was playing some terrific hockey. When he's on, Pedersen is a power winger who can skate reasonably well and has the ability to take the puck hard to the net. He gets involved in the corners, in the cycle, and can have a very positive impact on the game by exhausting opposing defenses. The key is consistency. He didn't start the season well, and he actually didn't finish the season incredibly well. He was pretty invisible in the playoffs, a time that Kitchener needed his secondary scoring ability the most. But the potential (and size) is there for him to develop into a power forward, if the physical effort/consistency is there 100% of the time.

24. Charlie Graham - Goaltender - Belleville Bulls
Graham has drawn a lot of comparisons to former Bulls netminder (and one of the best OHL goaltenders ever IMO) Mike Murphy, and with good cause. He plays a very similar style and has a similar build to Murphy. Graham has terrific reflexes and agility and makes a lot of acrobatic saves. Just when you think you've got him beat, he finds a way to make the save. As Malcolm Subban's back-up this year, Graham was tremendous and gave Belleville a chance to win every time he started. In fact, when Subban returned from the WJC's with a bit of a hurt ego, Graham was splitting starts with the talented Bruins' first rounder. In today's NHL scouting community, Graham doesn't really have the size that scouts look for in the position. But he's definitely talented. I'm sure he gets drafted lower than where I have him ranked (if he gets drafted, something Mike Murphy didn't do the first time around), but he's a very talented and entertaining goaltender who is going to have a lot of success in this league.

23. Cole Cassels - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Growing up, Andrew Cassels was always one of my favourite players. I always admired his ability to set-up his teammates and how he could hit the tiniest hole with a pass. Well Cole is Andrew's son and he has a pretty similar skill set. Cole's best attribute is his playmaking ability. He's a very skilled passer and was a pretty consistent contributor all season long for Oshawa. He is turnover prone though. I find that Cassels tries to force plays occasionally; attempting to hit holes that aren't there. He has this tendency to make bad passes to the middle of the ice. Patience is a virtue and it's something Cassels will have to learn in order to take that next step as an offensive pivot. Cassels will also have to work on becoming a more explosive skater. His father was never a burner, but without elite size, having that extra gear could make him a more difficult player to contain. The one thing that Cole possesses that his father never really did, is a mean streak. Cole is already a solid three zone player who is actually a bit of a pest on the ice. He'll drop the gloves, throw hits, is aggressive on the forecheck, and he'll get his nose dirty in the corners. This truculent side of his game is something I expect to grow even more as he gets older and stronger.

22. Greg Betzold - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Anytime I saw Peterborough this year, Betzold was one of the best players on the ice. And this sentiment is echoed among others I talk to and trust in the league. So it sort of boggles my mind how he only ended up with 32 points this season. Betzold has good size at 6'2, 195lbs and has a consistent motor. If he gets the puck, he's aggressive in trying to take it wide to the net. If he doesn't have the puck, he's in on the forecheck and working hard to get it. Most of his offense, at this point, is generated through hard work. It doesn't hurt that he's a very solid skater with deceptive quickness either. He closes the gap fast without the puck. I'm not entirely sure what his potential is at the next level because I feel his offensive upside might be slightly limited. He doesn't yet possess a terrific shot and he's not going to dazzle you with puck skill. But he will work hard, force some turnovers and create offense from havoc. Not bad for a free agent walk on this offseason!

21. Sergei Tolchinsky - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A highly skilled little guy, Tolchinsky is an electrifying talent. He is both quick, and elusive. His ability to handle the puck at top speed makes him a serious threat every time he's on the ice. Outside of being a very skilled creator, Tolchinsky is just a solid all around offensive player. The thing that I like about his game is that he's relatively fearless and will battle hard to keep plays alive. He's certainly not a perimeter player. That said, at this point in time, he gets pushed off the puck too easily. A lot of times, he's able to gain access to the offensive zone relatively easily, but he's just not strong enough yet to outmuscle OHL defenseman on a consistent basis. If he can't beat them with speed, he's usually not able to create a significant scoring opportunity. A lot of flash and dash, but the results are thus far inconsistent. I will say that I was relatively impressed with his playoff performance; or should I say surprised. I expected him to have trouble in the post season, but he stepped up his game and played among his best hockey of the year. The million dollar question is, how will NHL scouts view his lack of size?
20. Remi Elie - Forward - London Knights
Elie has really grown on me as the season has gone on. Originally, I liked him for the energy and physicality he brought to the ice, but I didn't see someone with a lot of offensive potential at the next level. But the more I've watched him play, the more my opinion has changed. In the 2nd half of the season (and in the playoffs), he's been creating his own offensive opportunities through puck possession skills I didn't know he possessed. When he has possession of the puck in the offensive end, he has the skill to drive to the net and beat defenders. His goal scoring ability and shot is still developing, but he's able to create scoring chances for linemates with these surges. On top of his improving offensive skills, he remains a physical force. He's a very aggressive forechecker and a very effective player along the wall. He's hard to win battles against, and difficult to separate from the puck once he gets it. He's a terrific body checker (maybe the best of any player on this list) and is also improving as a three zone guy. He hasn't seen nearly as much ice time as other players on this list, but manages to make himself noticeable in some way when you watch London. I bet he probably goes higher than I have him ranked. Think of Dalton Smith (from a few years ago), except Elie is a significantly better skater.

19. Carter Verhaeghe - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Easily one of the most underrated prospects available from the OHL. Verhaeghe is just a solid all around player. For most of the season, he served as Niagara's 2nd line center and did a very admirable job. He's a very hard worker in all three zones who knows how to play without the puck. He's aggressive on the forecheck, effective along the boards and works hard on the backcheck. He's also a cerebral centerman who is adept at finding linemates off the rush or below the hash marks. He's smart with the puck on his stick and has great vision. He's also got good size and I think profiles well as an aggressive two-way centerman at the NHL level (think Windsor's Brady Vail). He was the final add to the Canadian Under 18 team this year and I thought he did a fantastic job given the depth role he received. He killed penalties well for Canada and was a factor in outworking opposing defenses. Next year, Niagara will need a new captain and I believe he's a serious candidate for that position. Verhaeghe is just a solid meat and potatoes guy who I think plays in the NHL in the future.

18. Stephen Harper - Forward - Erie Otters
Harper is probably the biggest enigma on this list. He came into the season as a possible first round selection, but finishes it as a probable mid rounder. Known as a potential power forward/goal scorer, Harper's goal production actually dropped this year from his rookie season; from 24 to 18. That's not the type of progression you'd expect from someone who looked so strong as an OHL rookie last year. Quite frankly, the lack of production is pretty easy to explain. It's completely tied to effort and consistency. Of the games I saw Erie play this year (several), Harper had one good game. And it was a tremendous game where he was maybe the best player on the ice. The other times he was invisible (as in...if I wasn't looking for his number, I wouldn't have noticed him). His production and level of play is directly correlated with his level of physical intensity; at least from what I've noticed. If he's engaged physically and throwing his weight around, it translates to more confidence with the puck and an increased engagement in the offensive end. But when he's playing small, that's when he disappears. So why is Harper 18th still? Because I believe in his potential and I think it's too grand to pass up over some of the other players I've ranked behind him. They may work harder and may have had better years, but they don't have a chance of becoming as good of a pro as Harper. If he can figure it all out and get himself back on the right track, he could be a very solid top 6 power forward. The physicality, size, skating, puck skill, and scoring ability are all present.
Harper on "The Pipeline Show" 
Harper's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

17. Jordan Subban - Defenseman - Belleville Bulls
Obviously, Jordan is the 3rd of the three Subban brothers to play for the Belleville Bulls. Like his brother P.K., Jordan is a slick skating offensive defenseman. Offensively, they have very similar skill sets. Jordan uses his terrific and effortless skating ability to both skate the puck out of traffic in his own end, and to jump into the rush as a 3rd or 4th man in. He's got very good vision and makes tape to tape passes to start the breakout. He is definitely very good with the puck in his own end. As a powerplay quarterback, he's got a great, low, and hard shot which he does a great job of getting through to the net. He also demonstrates patience in setting up plays from the point. But that's where the similarities to P.K. end. In terms of stature, they're built differently. P.K. was a very stocky 6'0 when he played in the OHL. He had terrific leg and core strength and was a difficult player to beat one on one. He also was a physical player who thrived on the big hit. Jordan is 5'9 and wiry and can have difficulty defending bigger forwards in this league. He's also not a physical player. That's not to say that he backs down from physical confrontation, it's that he doesn't actively seek it. Jordan, as of now, can be outmuscled in the corners and in front of the net. He relies strictly on his skating ability defensively, to keep him in good position to make stick checks. I worry about his ability to defend consistently at the NHL level. He reminds me a lot of former star WHL defenseman Kris Russell, whose size has held him back from being more than a third pairing/powerplay kind of guy. Offensively, Jordan is a star. Defensively, I have reservations about his physical limitations.
Subban's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

16. Nick Moutrey - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Moutrey hasn't received a ton of recognition this year, but I know there are some who feel that he's actually a better pro prospect than teammate Jimmy Lodge. He certainly has a tantalizing skill package. Moutrey is 6'3, 208lbs and plays a power/skill game. I do see some inconsistency in his power game though. At times, I feel like he's not aggressive enough with the puck. A guy his size should be looking to create by driving hard to the net, but he's too often kept to the outside, where he circles, looking pass first. There are times when he takes over shifts thanks to his wall work and puck possession skill, but the power part of his game requires an injection of confidence. I'd also like to see him become more consistently physical. All that said, I think he's a terrific prospect. He's got pretty good vision on the ice, especially for a big guy and he's a hard worker in the offensive end. I could see him being a very difficult player to contain eventually and he's certainly got enough skill to play a top 6 role at the next level, if everything progresses the way it should. There's probably an argument to be made that he's closed ground on the likes of Jason Dickinson and Ryan Kujawinski as a prospect for this draft (thus their close ranking on my list).
15. Spencer Martin - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads
With the way he started the season, it looked like Martin was on the fast track to being a potential top 30 selection. Mississauga was playing inspired hockey and Martin looked tremendous in net. But as the season wore on, things started to come apart a bit for Martin. He battled some minor injuries and consistency and saw his draft ranking take a hit. I thought he might have had a chance of salvaging his ranking by getting the starter's job at the U-18's, but he fulfilled the role of back-up to Philippe Desrosier. Martin remains a goaltender who has a lot of potential. He's got good size and is very athletic, which allows him to challenge shooters well and move post to post quickly to cover angles. He's a very difficult goaltender to beat in the shootout for this reason. But at this point, his rebound control needs major work. He kicks way too many shots back out into the slot and gives teams too many second and third chances on weaker shots. He's also prone to giving up weak goals and collapsing after. There seems to be some mental focus issues at play there. But...he played well enough at times this year (like the CHL Top Prospect's Game) to show he's capable of better. Martin is still unquestionably the top goaltending prospect available from the OHL this year.
Martin on "The Pipeline Show" 
Martin's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

14. Jason Dickinson - Forward - Guelph Storm
I had such high expectations for Dickinson this year, especially since he came out gangbusters to start the season. But it just was not meant to be. After starting the season with 9 goals in his first 16 games, he scored only 9 goals in his final 50. For a guy that's being touted as a skilled goal scorer for the next level, that type of production isn't going to cut it. And unfortunately for Dickinson, he got hurt at the U-18's, which prevented him from showcasing his talents on a greater stage. There is still a lot to like about Dickinson. He's a committed two way player and flashes a physical game which could project him as a high energy checker at the next level. He's also got size and is a terrific skater, which will only further aid him play a scrappy role moving forward. The issue is his lack of offensive production this year, as well as his consistency. In the second half of the season, I saw Guelph play a few times and I wouldn't have noticed Dickinson on the ice had I not been looking for his number. Just not enough urgency in the offensive end. He needs to have more drive with the puck and look to create by using his size and speed down the wing. And he's got to involve himself more consistently without the puck in the offensive end in order to earn more scoring chances. These criticisms are coming from someone who loved Dickinson's game last year and who had him as a first rounder in the first couple of months. But his lack of drive in the second half really hurt his draft stock. The great news is that there is still lots of time for him to improve. I remember another former Guelph player who was equally as frustrating to watch in his draft year; Dustin Brown.
Dickinson on "The Pipeline Show"

13. Ryan Kujawinski - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Similar to Dickinson, Kujawinski saw his draft stock crumble this year due to consistency issues. Going into the season, I had him as the 3rd best prospect available from the OHL and figured he was a lock for the first round. There was just too much not to like about his game. After coming over from Sarnia last year, Kujawinski was a force for Kingston to close out 2012. And he was playing very well to start this season too. But like Dickinson, things fell apart after that. I think a lot of it had to do with confidence and having to deal with not being "the man" offensively for Kingston. As the season went on, the Watson/Bennett/Ikonen trio became Kingston's go to offensive unit and top powerplay, pushing Kujawinski to the back burner a bit. When that trio was absent near the holidays for the U-20's and U-17's, Kujawinski looked like a new man as the go to guy. The other thing that hampered his season a bit (I think) was the shift between center and wing. From what I've seen, his skill set seems more suited to play the wing at this time. The last blow to his season was the omission from the Canadian U-18 team (shockingly so), which prevented him from earning back some brownie points with scouts. All in all, it just wasn't the type of year many people expected him to have. That said, I still like him and his potential a lot. When he's on, he's the complete package. He's got size, speed, puck skill, two-way awareness, and physicality. He can be a beast. It's about simplifying his game at times, and looking to create more with his size, rather than trying to be fancy or over think with the puck. He's also got to work harder, more consistently, to get himself into scoring position. Again, with his size and hands, he should find a comfort level in working close to the net. If he can overcome the identity crisis that hurt him this season, I have a ton of faith in him as a player and prospect.
Kujawinski's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

12. Justin Bailey - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Bailey is a very raw prospect. This was his first OHL season and he went through some growing pains. But...he's got a very high ceiling, if the team that drafts him is willing to be patient. Bailey has size at 6'3, but is currently very lanky. He can be pushed off the puck too easily right now and needs to add strength to be a more effective player in traffic. But at his size, he's a terrific skater. He changes direction very well and has an extra gear. He's a bit of an awkward skater though, sort of wide strides similar to Wayne Simmonds when he played in the OHL. Offensively, his biggest weapon is his shot. He's got massive goal scoring potential at the next level. His snap and wrist shot are fantastic; both hard and accurate. But, I think there has to be some concern that he scored only 2 goals in his final 21 games (including playoffs). He looked gassed towards the end of the year, further proof that conditioning is an area of concern. The rest of his game is also a work in progress. For his size, he could stand to play more physical and engage in traffic more consistently. His two-way game is evolving and has potential because of his size and skating abilities. When he becomes the sum of his parts, Bailey could be a very good player and that's what has drawn the interest of scouts.
Bailey's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

11. Nicholas Baptiste - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
At this point, Baptiste has to be a massive riser for the draft. He was lumped together with the likes of Dickinson, Bailey, Kujawinski, Moutrey, etc as a potential power forward, sometimes even at the back of that pack. But with the way he finished the season, I think he deserves to be moved to the forefront. If you ignore his slow start to the season, Baptiste was a near point per game player in the 2nd half. He's got good size at 6'1, pushing 200lbs, but he's also one of the premier skaters in the OHL. He moves effortlessly on the ice and possesses a serious extra gear. And he uses that speed pretty effectively to be a nuisance on the forecheck/without the puck. I thought he was fantastic for Team Canada at the U-18's, where he finished 2nd in scoring to Connor McDavid on the team. At the event, he was a very important player in all situations for the Gold medal winning team. In particular, I was impressed with his performance defensively and without the puck, forcing a lot of turnovers that translated to scoring chances. Like some of the similar players listed behind him, he needs to use his size more consistently. I'd love that physical component of his game to be present more often. I think he also needs to learn how to slow the game down in the offensive end and be patient with the puck. But there's a lot to like about Baptiste and the skill set he brings to the ice. The way he finished the season has to be encouraging.
Baptiste on "The Pipeline Show" 
Baptiste's Draft Tracker segment with Yahoo's Neate Sager

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