Next stop, Carolina.
Ryan Murphy - Kitchener Rangers
This was the first season since his rookie year that he didn't average at least a point per game. In fact, his offensive numbers have declined every year since his draft season. That's precisely why no prospect in the OHL is more widely discussed (often in a negative manner). Opinions are definitely split on Murphy. Where does my opinion lie? Probably somewhere in the middle. On the negative side, I don't think Murphy took many steps forward over the course of his OHL career. His defensive game is still prone to lapses. He still can be prone to trying to force plays offensively and making bad pinches. And he can still get outmuscled in the corners and in front of the net. On the positive side, he's still a dynamic offensive defenseman whose skating ability and shot make him a valuable weapon. And even if his defensive game isn't great, I don't think it's quite as bad as some make it out to be. Bottom line is this. Murphy didn't have a good year. I thought he looked disinterested and "over the OHL" at times. But that doesn't mean he can't develop into a useful NHL player. The evidence is how quickly he was able to make an impact at the AHL level following the completion of the OHL season. It remains to be seen whether he's in the NHL or the AHL next year, but I do think that eventually he'll make an impact in the NHL. If his minutes are sheltered as an offensive specialist, he could probably have a nice little season in the NHL (~25 points). In the AHL, I'd expect him his offensive numbers to be quite strong, in excess of the 30-35 point mark.
Austin Levi - Plymouth Whalers
Even though his offensive numbers took a big hit, I think it was a smart choice for Carolina to send Levi back for his overage year. His offensive contribution took a hit because he was clearly more focused on playing a safe, defensive first game. When he wanted to, he could hit a forward with a breakout pass, and he's not one to fumble the puck in his own end. But his days of trying to lead the rush and jump up offensively were behind him. He excelled defensively this year in that shutdown role and made himself into a very difficult defenseman to match up against. Moving forward, it'll be about adding even more muscle to his frame so that he can push forwards around in front of the net, and win battles in the corners at the pro level. He has the make-up of a solid 5-6 defenseman at the next level, but he might take a few years to adapt to the speed of the pro game.
Brock McGinn - Guelph Storm
McGinn had a fantastic year in Guelph, playing in all 68 games this year (refreshing considering his injury problems in his draft year). He's a high energy guy who also has the offensive skill set to contribute on the score sheet. He crashes the net hard and is the perfect guy to put on a top line with more skilled players, so that he can create more room for them and get possession along the wall. He's also a terrific forechecker and someone who makes his presence felt physically. Next year Guelph will be returning most of their key forwards (minus Tanner Richard and Cody McNaughton), so they should have a solid offensive team. McGinn will be right in there again. I'm hoping he can take his offensive game to the next level and be more assertive with the puck. Would like to see him take more chances and look to make things happen himself, rather than playing the strict puck retrieval, crash the net game. Diversify his offensive skill set. Given the type of production he had this year, I'd be very surprised if he's not a 30 goal scorer next year.
Daniel Altshuller - Oshawa Generals
In his first year as starter, Altshuller was solid for Oshawa. He was largely very consistent and kept his team in games, a large reason as to why they were able to start the playoffs with home ice advantage. He's a big body and he takes up a lot of the net. Both his rebound control and his lateral movement improved this year I thought, two things that were outlined as areas of need during his draft year. Next year, the Generals will be losing a lot of talent, which will mean he'll have to play an even more crucial role in his team's success. I was a bit surprised that he didn't get an invite to Hockey Canada's summer camp for netminders (19 were), but there's no reason to suggest that he can't put himself back on HC's radar with a strong start to his 2013/2014 campaign.
Trevor Carrick - Mississauga Steelheads
Even though his offensive numbers jumped considerably, I felt like Carrick's game didn't develop a ton from the previous year. He's still prone to mistakes in his own end, both with and without the puck. Turnovers and bad passes are a real issue right now. As are bad pinches where he gets himself trapped up ice. I felt like his defensive game actually took a bit of a hit this year at the expense of trying to produce more offensively. On the positive side, his point shot is pro caliber and he generates a lot of scoring chances with it. He also looked a bit quicker this year and that allowed him to jump up in the play more effectively. Next year, he'll be the go to guy on the back end, thanks to the graduations of Stuart Percy, Dylan DeMelo, and Alex Cord. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it and whether the Steelheads choose to pair him with young phenom Sean Day.
Brent Pedersen - Kitchener Rangers
I liked this selection for the Hurricanes. Pedersen is a big bodied winger with power forward potential. He was pretty inconsistent this year, but he also saw fluctuating ice time and little special times action. Next year, the Rangers will be losing much of their talent on the wing, which translates to an increased role for Pedersen should he want it. I think he's talented enough offensively to be a winger on one of the Rangers top lines next season and should see a nice increase in his offensive numbers. I think he's a pretty likely candidate for at least a 25-25 season.
Tyler Ganly - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
No Ryan Sproul. No Colin Miller. That means a seriously increased role for Ganly on the Hounds blueline next year. With those two out nursing injuries at the beginning of the season, Ganly actually played some of his best hockey filling in for them. That bodes well for his future contributions I think. As does the fact that the Hounds already named Ganly as an assistant captain for next year. This offseason he'll have to focus on getting quicker and more agile. That will allow him to take that next step as a defender off the rush, and as someone who can occasionally jump up and make an offensive contribution. The hockey sense and dedication are obviously already there. I think he'll definitely be able to crack the 25 point mark next year.
*of note, the Hurricanes elected not to sign Plymouth goaltender Matt Mahalak, making him a free agent.