The Los Angeles Kings are the next stop.
Colin Miller - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
What a breakthrough year for Miller. Not only did he play on the team's number one pairing (and shutdown tandem) with Darnell Nurse, but he also was on the first powerplay unit with Ryan Sproul. Needless to say, Miller was a cog for Sault Ste. Marie last year. Of his 20 goals, only 8 were scored on the powerplay, which speaks volumes for his ability to jump up in the play. He certainly gained a lot of confidence in his offensive game this year. He was looking to shoot more, was more aggressive in carrying the puck, and was dangerous on backdoor plays and jumping up on odd man rushes. Defensively, he remained very solid and rarely makes a mistake in his own end. He's turned himself into a very well rounded defender. I'm not entirely sure how much I anticipate his offensive production will carry over to the pro level, because he doesn't possess elite skating ability or dynamic puck carrying ability, but he is a very smart player. There should definitely be some spots available on Manchester's blueline next year and I think he can make an immediate impact. I could definitely see him staying in the line up full time while putting up 20-25 point in his first pro year.
Nick Ebert - Windsor Spitfires
It was a slightly better year for Ebert, after the disaster that was his draft year. He's very much still a work in progress though. Offensively, he looked way more confident running the point on the powerplay and was more patient in letting the play develop, especially when looking to use his big shot from the point. He also looked more confident rushing the puck again and made fewer mistakes on bad pinches. All that being said, I still don't think he's returned to the level of play that he flashed during his rookie campaign of 2010/2011. He can still make bad reads and bad passes in the defensive end. Also, the edge that he played with when he entered the league has yet to return. He's still not consistently physically aggressive and needs to battle more for positioning in his own end. The Spits were (on most nights) a disaster defensively and unfortunately Ebert has to be partially to blame for that. On the plus side, I do expect big things from him next year. Windsor will have a better team and he'll be counted on as an elder leader. His pro experience in the ECHL at the end of the year should have made him hungry to get his game to that level. I think he reaches the 50 point plateau while improving on some of the other areas of his game.
Kurtis MacDermid - Owen Sound Attack
MacDermid made pretty good strides this year, really his first full OHL season. He managed to stay healthy and was a key cog in Owen Sound's line-up, as the anchor of their third pairing. He actually moves pretty well for a bigger, stay at home type of guy. At this point, he plays a pretty safe game; not very active offensively. I do love the fact that he's hard to play against too and is very physical in the corners and in front of the net. Next year the Attack will be losing three of their top four defenders (Ceci, Cutting, Chiarlitti), which means MacDermid will definitely see increased ice time. Depending on how Owen Sound plays it, he could even be Chris Bigras' partner on the top pairing. I'd expect him to see time in all situations next year, even as the quarterback on the second powerplay unit. It'll be interesting to see him expected to make plays with the puck and I'm very curious to see how his offensive game develops in 2013/2014. I expect that he'll definitely show some gains and will hover around the 25 point mark.
Justin Auger - Guelph Storm
Auger had a solid 2nd year in the league, playing mostly on the Storm's 3rd line. I very much like this pick up by Guelph as I think he's got a lot of potential to improve as he grows into his body. Already this year he significantly improved his skating from his first year in the league. Don't get me wrong, it's still an area of concern, but he went from being one of the worst skaters in the league to being just below average. He also got noticeably stronger this year which helped him dominate along the wall on some shifts. He's going to be a real tough guard for a lot of defenseman in this league once he completely fills out. Next year he'll have a chance at an increased role with Guelph, perhaps on the 2nd line. And he should definitely see more powerplay time. If his skating takes another step forward, we could see him become more involved with the puck in transition. It'd be great to see him evolve into the type of winger who can confidently carry the puck down the wing and look to go hard to the net. It'd also be great to see him become more physical, especially on the forecheck. Considering the improvements he made this year, I could see him cracking the 50 point barrier next year.
Zac Leslie - Guelph Storm
Another savvy "overage" pick up by the Kings. Leslie is actually a fairly similar player to Colin Miller. He's a jack of all trades kind of guy who plays bigger than his size. He's counted on in all situations by the Storm and was actually a better player than Matt Finn (Leafs 2nd round draft pick) this year for Guelph (at least IMO). He's certainly not flashy but he gets the job done. Like Nick Ebert, I think Leslie has the chance to crack the 50 point plateau next year and I'll look for him to become a premier point man on the powerplay (similar to what Miller became this season).
Dominik Kubalik - Sudbury Wolves
Kubalik got better and more comfortable as his first OHL season went on, actually saving his best performance of the year for the playoffs. At this point he's a solid complimentary offensive player. Seems to have a good head for the game and gets himself in good scoring position. Next year, I'd like to see him be a little more noticeable when he's not hitting the score sheet. That includes getting more involved without the puck, and being more confident with the puck in situations where he can look to go hard to the net or use his shot more. I honestly didn't get a terrific gauge of just how skilled he might be, because in my viewings he let his linemates do most of the talking for him. He's returning to Sudbury for another year and will remain an important offensive piece for that club moving forward. He's going to get time on a scoring line and with the man advantage. Let's see what he does with it. A 25-25 season would be a great step in the right direction.
*of note, the Kings elected not to sign forward Michael Schumacher, making him a free agent.