Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Ode to the Brampton Battalion

Growing up as a kid in the GTA, hockey was not actually my first love. My grandfather played baseball in the Boston Red Sox farm system, so as soon as I could walk, he put a glove in my hand. Believe it or not, I didn't really learn how to play hockey until I was 8 or 9. At school, they had started a hockey league during recess and being the sport nut that I was, I desperately felt the urge to be part of it. So I begged my father to teach me to play hockey; a passion was born.

Around that same time (probably a year or so later), I had gotten a paper route. On the weekend, I'd have to spend a few hours putting together the paper and all of the flyers. This was, of course, a very tedious and mind numbing job that required that the television be on at the same time. During one of those weekends, a QMJHL game was televised during the day, featuring a young Daniel Briere (then playing for Drummondville). I remember thinking he was such an amazing hockey player. Not only that, but the hockey was incredibly entertaining and completely captivated me. I dug deeper into the realm of the CHL (researching it); I was hooked. From then on out, my friends and I used to go to Oakville Blades (Junior A) games whenever we could. It wasn't the CHL, but it was the next closest thing.

Fast forward a few years later (1998 to be exact), the GTA (at least the suburbs since downtown had gotten a franchise in 1996; the St. Michael's Majors), the OHL came to my neck of the woods. The Mississauga IceDogs and the Brampton Battalion were born. I was ecstatic. I'd finally have a chance to go see OHL games after following the league for several years previously. My father took me to an IceDogs game and it was incredible. Lou Dickenson was my favourite player that year. Then the next year, it was Jason Spezza dazzling the crowd. Or it was fans feeling empathetic towards Michael Mole after letting in another 10 goals.

But none of those guys were my favourite OHL player. Sorry Lou Dickenson and Jason Spezza, but you couldn't hold a candle to Raffi Torres. I remember seeing my first Brampton game live at the Bunker and thinking "holy crap, this guy is awesome." He could bring you to your feet with a thunderous check, or he could snipe one home top shelf where mother kept the peanut butter. Ever since then, I've always held a deep place in my heart for the Brampton Battalion.

When I was in high school, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be a teacher or a journalist. To fuel my passion, I got a job for a website called HockeysFuture. They wanted me to cover the Mississauga IceDogs, the Brampton Battalion, and the OHL in general. Ultimately, I went down the route of being an educator, but if it wasn't for that first job covering the Battalion, I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog for you today.

So why is it that the OHL continues to fail in GTA markets? I ask myself this question constantly. I won't get into specifics or theories (because that's not the point of this article), but I will say that it's a damn shame. The GTA communities don't know what they're missing. I try my best to promote the game, even in borderline propagandist ways with my students. I have a Steelheads poster hanging in my classroom, and I constantly engage in conversation with my students about the Steelheads game or the Battalion game, or about junior hockey in general. Heck, a few of my students follow me on twitter and seem to be developing the same passion for the league that I have. My biggest fear is that the Steelheads will soon follow the St. Mike's Majors, and the Brampton Battalion. That ownership will grow tired of shoddy gate returns and pack up for greener pastures. will kids of the GTA grow to develop a passion for the OHL, much the way I did?

Alas, Brampton Battalion, I bid you adieu. We've had some great times together. I've always admired Stan Butler's ability to get the most out of his squads, even if they weren't the most talented on paper. In particular, that 2009 Battalion squad with the likes of Hodgson, Duchene, Grachev, etc was a lot of fun to watch. Too bad they lost to Windsor in the OHL finals that year. They were a great team. The Battalion have also had a ton of great heart and soul type of players; guys who I always admired. The likes of Jay McClement, Adam Henrich, Ryan Oulahen (now a Brampton assistant), and Sam Carrick were certainly fun to watch.

If I were to give you my "all time" Battalion line'd probably look something like this:

Raffi Torres - Cody Hodgson - Evgeni Grachev
Adam Henrich - Jay McClement - Luke Lynes
Wojtech Wolski - Matt Duchene - Brent Burns (was drafted as a forward)
Sam Carrick - Ryan Oulahen - Luciano Aquino

Jay Harrison - Rostislav Klesla
Phil Oreskovic - Cameron Wind
Mike Vernace - Mat Clark

Darren Machesney
Patrick Killeen
(Brad Topping and Bryan Pitton would be close 3/4)

Best of luck in North Bay, and know that I'll always have fond memories of the Brampton Battalion and the Bunker.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Team Canada Under 18 Preview

Hockey Canada recently named Vancouver Giants (WHL) head coach Don Hay as the head coach of Team Canada for the 2013 IIHF Under 18 World Hockey Championships (in Sochi, Russia). Peterborough's Jody Hull will be one of his assistants.

The tournament kicks off for Canada on Tuesday, April 23rd, against Sweden. The team earned its first medal in four years (a bronze) last year.

With the tournament occurring slightly later this year, there's actually a chance Hockey Canada could add some players from team's eliminated in the 2nd round of the CHL playoffs, and not just from non playoff teams and first round causalities. This is something Hockey Canada scout Kevin Prendergast suggests in his interview with Guy and Dean on the Pipeline Show (found here). That's certainly great news for our chances in the tournament.

Let's take a look at what OHL players could get the call for the prestigious tournament.

NON Playoff Teams

Erie Otters

Connor McDavid
This is traditionally a tournament for the current draft eligible age group (this year, 1995's), but Hockey Canada has been including more underagers as of late. McDavid is such a dynamic talent, it should come as no surprise that in the above interview (with Guy and Dean), Prendergast suggests McDavid is a lock for the team. His skating ability and tremendous vision on the ice will be an asset for Team Canada. Hopefully he's not too tired from his first OHL season, although the Otters did restrict his ice time down the stretch.
Chances of Being Selected: 99.9%

Stephen Harper
There's no question that Harper did not have the greatest of sophomore seasons. His goal production went down and he suffered from problems with consistency all season long. He's gone from a potential first rounder at the beginning of the season, to a likely 3rd/4th rounder. He's still a forward with a lot of potential. He's got a great goal scorers touch in close and he flashes a power forward type game. It's just a question of whether his inconsistencies this year have scared off Hockey Canada. This tournament could be huge for him to get his draft status back on track.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Ottawa 67's

Dante Salituro
Salituro was a great surprise for the 67's this year. The little guy has great offensive instincts and skill and looks like he's going to be a terrific contributor for them in the coming years. He did look tired down the stretch though (goalless in his final 9 games), and I'm just not sure he's strong enough yet for this type of challenge. He'll have a chance next year, in all likelihood as I can't see the 67's being significant players in the East in 2014.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

Peterborough Petes

Nick Ritchie
While this year was another injury riddled one, Ritchie remains a terrific power forward prospect who combines size, skill, and grit. He looked re-invigorated down the stretch for Peterborough and I think he's got the potential to play a very important role for Canada at this event. His size will make him a very difficult cover near the crease and I think his versatility as a checker or scorer could make him very attractive to Hockey Canada brass. I'd be VERY surprised if he wasn't there.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Michael Giugovaz 
Had a very solid rookie year in the OHL, even stealing the number one job away from Andrew D'Agostini at different points of the season. He struggled a bit down the stretch, but I think he's a solid prospect for the middle rounds of the NHL draft. That said, I think there are probably other goalies Hockey Canada is looking at. However, with Jody Hull on the coaching staff, he could have a fan and advocate there.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

Windsor Spitfires

Josh Ho-Sang
The talented rookie and first rounder from the 2012 Priority draft is clearly a very skilled player. He shows flashes of brilliance on the ice and I don't question the likelihood of him developing into one of the league's top scorers by his 19 year old season. However, right now he's not ready. And Kevin Prendergast alludes to this in the above interview.
Chances of Being Selected: 2%

Jordan DeKort
Goaltenders can be difficult to find for this event. DeKort has a ton of potential in this league, and he's got the size NHL teams are going to find attractive for this year's draft. But, I think Hockey Canada will likely find three other more experienced goalies for this event.
Chances of Being Selected: 2%

First Round Casualities

Kingston Frontenacs

Ryan Kujawinski
Was a solid player for Team Canada at this summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament, and even though he didn't have the greatest of seasons, I think he still holds a ton of value for this tournament. His versatility (scorer, checker, center, wing) will make him a solid option and I think he'd be really motivated to try and elevate his draft status. At this point, I can't see him not being part of the team.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Sam Bennett
Easily one of the most impressive 1996' I saw in the league this year. I also thought he was one of Team Ontario's best performers at the Under 17's. He's skilled, slick, and aggressive without the puck. I think he'd be the perfect energy guy for a 4th line role this year and I really hope Hockey Canada looks at him as an underager.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Spencer Watson
Just as skilled, if not more than Bennett, but Watson doesn't quite have the strength or aggressive that Bennett has thus far acquired. Watson's health is also up in the air currently, following that Ryan O'Connor hit. While he was impressive, I think he's got less chance than Bennett.
Chances of Being Selected: 20%

Roland McKeown
Was impressive as a big time minute eater in Kingston this year, especially when you consider he's a '96. Has terrific potential to develop into a strong two-way defenseman. At times this year, I saw him get outmuscled for pucks and have some difficulty with quick forwards in transition, so I'm wondering if Hockey Canada thinks he'll be effective on the big ice right now. I think he's a toss up at this point, especially when you consider he's an underager.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Saginaw Spirit

Nick Moutrey 
Doesn't get a ton of press from the Canadian media because he plays in Saginaw, but Moutrey is a very solid player. He's a big body who can play a cycle game and tire out opposing defenses. He's also got enough puck skill and playmaking ability to be a factor offensively. His skating ability isn't awful for a big guy either, so I don't think he'd have too much trouble adjusting to the big ice. Has a better chance of making this team than many give him credit I think.
Chances of Being Selected: 75%

Sarnia Sting

I don't see anyone from Sarnia being a serious candidate for the team.

Likely First Round Casualties (at this point)

Niagara IceDogs

Carter Verhaeghe
One of the most underrated players in this draft class IMO. He's been a consistent performer for Niagara all season long and I think he'd be the perfect candidate for a checking line role on the team. He's already a solid two-way player and great forechecker. He's also underrated offensively and with the puck. I'm not quite convinced Hockey Canada sees the same things, but I'd like to hope that he has a chance.
Chances of Being Selected: 25%

Brampton Battalion

Brandon Robinson
Even if he didn't put up the type of numbers some people expected of him in his sophomore season, I still really like Robinson's game and potential. Big body with terrific goal scoring potential. And he really increased his physical play this year and was more consistent in that department. I guess the question for Hockey Canada is whether his skating is going to be good enough for the big ice. Definitely has a chance.
Chances of Being Selected: 50%

Nick Paul
Every year, Hockey Canada brings a few guys to this event that make people go "who?" Paul has the potential to be one of those guys this year. I think he'd be the ideal 4th liner for Hockey Canada. He's a load to handle on the cycle and I think he'd do great as an energy type of guy. He's also got underrated playmaking ability and could be a workhorse on a line with some more skilled guys. Like Robinson, the question is whether the skating will hold him back on the big ice.
Chances of Being Selected: 40%

Guelph Storm

Jason Dickinson
Even if he's been inconsistent this year, Dickinson should still be a no brainer for this team should he be available. He's got everything going for him, it's just that most of the time it's not all working at once. This tournament could really do wonders to re-establish himself as a first round caliber player. The best thing about Dickinson is that (like Kujawinski), even if he's not scoring, he could be moved to a 4th line role and provide strong two-way play and penalty kill ability.
Chances of Being Selected: 98%

Hunter Garlent
Garlent didn't have the greatest of seasons, but he's still a tenacious little skilled guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. At this point, there could be other players that Hockey Canada is looking at because he's had a hard time with injuries this year, but if selected, I think Garlent would do a terrific job in whatever role they'd ask him to fill.
Chances of Being Selected: 25%

Tyler Bertuzzi
A potential candidate for a checking line role, Bertuzzi is a physical crease crasher who could find some success being the garbage man on a line with some more skilled players. I'm sure there would be some concerns as to whether he can stay out of the box though.
Chances of Being Selected: 10%

The Other Teams (Still Battling)

I'll organize these players simply according to their likelihood of being selected should their team be eliminated.

Near Locks: Aaron Ekblad, Jordan Subban, Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Spencer Martin, Michael Dal Colle, Zach Nastasiuk, Chris Bigras, Matthew Mistele, Darnell Nurse, Nicholas Baptiste

50% Chance: Charlie Graham, Jared McCann

Longshots (but still a shot): Brent Pedersen, Remi Elie, Josh Burnside

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Q & A with Dan Stewart, Scouting Director for Future Considerations

One of the rituals of this blog towards the end of the season is taking the time to chat with Future Considerations' Scouting Director Dan Stewart about the draft crop from the OHL. Dan really knows his stuff about the OHL, and the guys at Future Considerations do a tremendous job offering draft coverage.

Here's a transcript of Dan and I's conversation.

Brock Otten - How do you feel about this year's crop of OHL players? If you were to hazard a guess, how many OHL guys go in the first round of 2013?

Dan Stewart - The depth coming up through Ontario this season looks good, not great, but I fully expect a few NHLers to come from this class although not many of the high end nature.
I have warmed up to this group more than I thought I would have, especially if you had asked me this question back in September. Back then I felt this was an extremely weak bunch lacking in high end talent and not being very deep at all.

There are a few guys that really have me excited and who I project to have strong pro careers.
Sault Ste. Marie defender Darnell Nurse in my opinion has the highest upside out of this bunch as he looks to develop into a strong NHL two-way top four talent. I have watched Nurse six times this season and each time have come away impressed with his athleticism, size and senses. After a year of adjustment to the pace of the OHL he is again showing that dominant game we saw in his final season of midget hockey. This leads me to get really excited with how his game should continue to progress as he progresses to the pro level.

London’s big Russian import Nikita Zadorov also boasts some strong untapped potential that will see him high on many draft lists including ours. The big blueliner’s developmental trajectory has been spiking in the right direction since his impressive showing in Windsor, Ontario at the World U17’s in front of our evaluators two years ago.

Ottawa forward Sean Monahan looks like he is on the road to becoming a real strong two-way NHLer before too long and forward Max Domi of London has shown intriguing offensive potential and drive as well.

After these four there is a definite drop off but there are still a few others who have solid NHL potential and could surprise given time to develop. I would guess we would see around six or seven OHLers selected in the first round this of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Brock Otten - There seems to be a few publications inching Darnell Nurse quite close to Sean Monahan as the top OHL player available (some even putting him on top). Just how close has that battle become in your eyes?

Dan Stewart - Well in my opinion it is extremely tight at the top of the OHL class and not much separating Monahan and Nurse.

We recently moved Nurse ahead of Monahan in our monthly top 30 rankings at FC but the margin is still very small. For us it comes down to each prospects projected NHL impact and we believe Nurse just has a little more potential in that regard over what Monahan could bring even though we fully expect Monahan to be a strong and productive two-way force.

Nurse just has so much going for him. His impressive frame and projected strength once he fills it out. His fluid skating and strong overall mobility coupled with that excellent size. His on-ice senses and ability to read the play and play that strong shutdown role when needed. His untapped offensive upside and his ability to jump into the play and contribute on that side of the puck. Just so much to get excited about with this kid.

Brock Otten - What are your thoughts on the three top guys (Domi, Horvat, Zadorov) in London? How would you rank them in order of preference?

Dan Stewart - London always has a solid prospect or two for the draft and this year they have a wealth or riches in that regard. I will rank the three in order of my preference.

Max Domi is a spunky and super skilled playmaker that despite his lack of height is very stalky strong. He has a very big heart and tenacity, can take over a game with the puck and shows no problem getting under the skin of his opponent. Domi looks like a sure bet as a future top six offensive forward in the NHL.

Nikita Zadorov has some of the best natural tools in this entire draft class. He has great size and outstanding mobility when coupled with that size. He hits like a Mack truck and gets his large frame into passing and shooting lanes effectively. He also has some ability to rush the puck up ice and jump into the attack, an area that will continue to develop further. I could see him as a strong two-way top four blue liner at the next level.

Both Domi and Zadorov are ranked just outside FC’s top 10.

Bo Horvat is a two-way forward who does a good job in the role he was given by the Hunters in London. He does not have the immense size of Zadorov nor does he have the flashy offensive skill-set that Domi possesses. What Bo does have is heart and smarts. He thinks the game well and always knows what he is going to do before the situation arises. Horvat is ranked in the mid-to-late first round by our staff and I like him as a smart third line center at the NHL level that can play against the opponent’s top line and contribute some secondary scoring as long as he continues to develop towards that end.

Brock Otten - Jason Dickinson seems to have fallen out of favor with some scouting agencies, thanks to a less than stellar second half to the year. Is he in danger of falling out of the first round?

Unfortunately he is. With Jason there is so much talent and raw ability there but for one reason or another the kid just cannot put it all together on a consistent basis.  You love his projectable size, and his scoring touch, puck protection, pro-type shot and even his two-way efforts.

Consistency is the single largest hurdle for prospects at this age but while some go stretches in games where they are ineffective, Jason can go stretches of games where he is invisible or ineffective and that is at the root of what has caused his slide. Jason could still develop into a strong NHL player down the road but must improve his consistency. With that said however all it takes is one team to see the potential and he becomes a top 30 selection.

Brock Otten - Jimmy Lodge is a player I profiled recently. His production of late has been fantastic and he's now the 2nd highest scoring '95 in the league. Is he a serious candidate for the top 40?

Dan Stewart - I touched on Lodge in one of my recent ‘Director Cut’ articles for the FC website and in two more viewings since I wrote that content he has not disappointed in my eyes.

Here is a quote from that article: “He (Lodge) is on a rabid scoring pace since the calendar flipped and has shown a more consistent game of taking the puck to the net and venturing into high traffic areas for those prime offensive chances. Lodge has all but eliminated those fly-bys that made him so ineffective and held him out of the play back in September and October while earning more ice time from his coach.”

He has been elevated to the top line in Saginaw and has produced like a top line player. His blend of size, speed, vision, playmaking abilities and hands make him a dangerous player and hard for OHL defenses to handle.

Absolutely he could be a top 40 prospect. I know of a couple NHL scouts that are really high on him and it would not surprise me if one of their organizations used a first round pick on him.

Brock Otten - Is Spencer Martin still the top goalie available from the OHL?

Dan Stewart - Yes he is. Goaltenders are extremely hard creatures to project as there is such a mental to the position that really cannot be known until they mature into grown men but when based on just on-ice skill level Martin is the top man from the OHL our list.

While Spencer has had an up and down season and has suffered from injuries that have limited his progress, the crop of tenders from Ontario this season is shallow and Martin is heads and shoulders the top guy at this point. Perhaps in four or five years we could be talking about how someone like Alex Fotinos of Barrie or Michael Giugovaz in Peterborough snuck through the 2013 draft and ended up the top stopper eligible from Ontario, but that is the challenge of projecting talent and looking back after the fact.

Brock Otten - Is there a player (or more) who has really disappointed you this season? Someone you expected a lot more from?

Dan Stewart - There are always those prospects that disappoint based on your expectations of them coming into the year because of potential seen in previous seasons, those who you thought would take the next step but stalled out of one reason or another.

For me centre Jordan Maletta in Windsor and then of Niagara after he was traded is one guy who I had though had more upside, and he still could as late bloomers find their game after their initial draft seasons every year, but I thought he would be a twenty goal fifty point plus contributor and finally start using that size more consistently.

Kingston’s Ryan Kujawinski has been a disappointment for most talent hawks as his offensive game just has not progressed this year as most thought it would. He teased everyone with his offensive outburst after joining Kingston in a trade from Sarnia last year but could not build on that progress.

Another guy who many were high on last season was Stephen Harper in Erie. Harper who had the look of a breakout goal scorer coming into the season. He has fallen off our map and likely many NHL scouts feel the same. His downright bad effort levels and negative body language on most nights might be due to playing in a losing environment for so long. Whatever the reason, his stock has really dipped from a first round possibility to a mid-to-late round probability.

Others like Windsor puck stopper Jordan Dekort and Sault Ste. Marie winger Mitch Dempsey all showed some promise coming into the year but failed to produce results on the ice.

Brock Otten - Conversely, is there someone (or more) who has really surprised you? A guy who came out of nowhere to really establish himself as a solid draft prospect?

Dan Stewart - Saginaw’s Jimmy Lodge is my top surprise performer this year.

Back in June at the US Evaluation Camp he showed our evaluators some impressive abilities like his speed, size, two-way game and good effort levels but when he started slowly in the OHL and was not getting top six minutes for the Spirit at the beginning of the year, he dropped down our list and was flying under my radar during the first couple of months. But as you know he started to force things and earn minutes and now is their top line centre, producing points, playing with confidence and still showing good defensive responsibility.

Brock Otten - Do you have a favourite draft "sleeper" from this year's OHL crop? Maybe a guy you seem to be a lot higher on than others?

Dan Stewart - My top OHL draft sleeper has to be Peterborough winger Greg Betzold.

The kid is just dominant every time I have seen him this season. He works the wall better than most in the league, he generates chances for himself off a strong fore-check, he has a hard shot, good size and solid skating ability. He is not a flashy offensive guy but in my opinion he looks like one of those prospects that will be a better, more effective pro than major junior player.
Following closely behind Betzold with regards to OHL sleepers is Niagara forward Carter Verhaeghe.

The six-foot-one forward has the frame to add healthy amounts of muscle and should become a beast to handle once he does. Has soft hands and can handle the puck well, uses his intelligence to assess situations and makes good decisions. Verhaeghe is a playmaker that sees the ice well and he will get a better chance to produce next season as some of the top Ice Dogs move on.
Others prospects like Sudbury winger Nic Baptiste and London’s seldom used defender/winger Miles Liberati also showed good potential. A candidate for future breakout season, Baptiste has good size, moves well and is dangerous around the net. Liberati is solid on his skates, possesses a good drive and attitude plus some underrated offensive upside.

Brock Otten - The OHL playoffs are inching closer, is there a draft prospect who has the most to gain or lose with their playoff performance, in your opinion?

Dan Stewart - Two guys I will be watching closely and are going to be under the microscope from other scouts as well are both Kingston’s Kujawinski and Belleville’s Jordan Subban.

Kujawinski has a chance to show scouts one more time that there is more to his game than scoring the odd goals if he can help his upstart Fronts make some noise in the post season. To do that he will need to continue to grind it out along the wall, showing off his physical game and playing with a strong two-way effort. The playoffs might be just what he needs to boost his stock where the games mean more and where he can display a more consistent impact night in and night out.

Subban is a smaller puck moving defender who likes to have the puck on his stick and has the smarts and skills to be a difference maker on the score sheet  as the Bulls try to make a push for an OHL title. Scouts see the elusiveness and mobility he has, his escapabliity when forecheckers come at him hard, but there is still some doubt that his game could translate to more than a PP specialist at the next level. Subban can really do himself a favor by making an impact every game this spring for the Bulls.

Brock Otten - Speaking of the playoffs, while not related to the draft, do you have a pick from the East, and a pick from the West, for the OHL final?

Dan Stewart - I like both Belleville and Barrie in the East but have to go with Belleville because of the importance goaltending can play in a short series. Malcolm Subban has the ability to steal a series and I expect him to play a big role in the upcoming playoffs for the Bulls. They also have a good balanced attack. Barrie has some big horses of their own to ride but I feel the Bulls just overmatch them this year.

In the West I like both Plymouth and London as most do. Plymouth is a big strong squad that looks intimidating on paper and when driving down the ice. They have some good skaters but I have my doubts about their goaltending.

Speaking of goaltending, one hitch in London’s run could come in the first round with Saginaw’s Jake Paterson opposing them. Can he dominate the Knights and steal the series for a young plucky Spirit team? I think he will put up a couple gems but still think London still has the goods to take the West and eventually the OHL title.

Brock Otten - Last question Dan. 2014 seems to be shaping up to be a terrific draft for the OHL. What would your top 5 look like (from only the OHL) right now?

Dan Stewart - You are bang on in saying ‘14 will be a strong year for the O as our early projection notes there is the potential of having up to fifteen first round selections from the OHL next season. While that may be a shocking number to many there is an impressive mix of offensive talent and big two-way defensemen potentially coming from the top NHL development league.  I for one am excited to continue my monitoring of these youngsters development next year.

Now to answer your question I personally have the top five as:
#1 – Aaron Ekblad – Barrie Colts - Big two-way rearguard has improved his lateral skating this past season and still possesses the size, smarts and poise that earned him exceptional status.
#2 – Nick Richie – Peterborough Petes - Enormous winger who skates very well for his size, plays nasty and has a heavy shot. Loves to play the physical role and knows he is bigger and stronger than his opponents.
#3 – Roland McKeown – Kingston Frontenacs – A defensive horse in the making. This kid can skate, can move the puck, can play physical and he is smart. A big time two-way minute muncher at the next level.
#4 – Michael Dal Colle – Oshawa Generals – A big strong centre who slid into a prominent role this season in Oshawa. He skates well, plays strong in his own zone and has some offensive upside as well.
#5 – Jared McCann – Sault Ste. Marie – A strong skating, hardworking, two-way forward that has put up good points, played strong defensively and left his mark on the Greyhounds PK this season.

Also, closing in on the top five are Ottawa’s Jacob Middleton, Brampton’s Blake Clarke, Windsor’s Josh Ho-Sang, Plymouth’s Matt Mistele and Sarnia’s Niki Goldobin.
So as you can see there are some impressive talents to get excited about for next year.

Brock Otten - Appreciate your candid responses and thanks for doing this (as always).

Dan Stewart - Thanks for this Brock.

Please visit for loads of great NHL draft content and pick-up our 2013 Draft Guide coming this May.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013 OHL Playoff Predictions: Round One

As is tradition on this blog, the OHL playoffs are around the corner and that means it is prediction time. Last year, I went 9-6 over the course of the playoffs. Not awful, but certainly not great either.

Here's the breakdown:


1. Belleville Bulls vs. 8. Mississauga Steelheads
Season Series: TIE 2-2
My Analysis: Even though the season series was tied, I don't think Mississauga stands a chance in this series. The 2 wins they had against Belleville this year came early in the season when they were playing well and before the Bulls loaded up for their playoff push. In the last two meetings, the Bulls have shutout the Majors. Belleville has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, and Mississauga just hasn't been able to score much of late. That's a recipe for a quick series IMO. At least the Under 18 team will be happy to get Spencer Martin as one of their goaltenders.
Prediction: Belleville in 4

2. Barrie Colts vs. 7. Kingston Frontenacs
Season Series: 3-1 Barrie
My Analysis: Kingston scraped and clawed its way into the playoffs only to have themselves get beaten up by the Barrie Colts. It's a sad reality. Barrie is a much bigger and physically aggressive team, and they'll also get strong goaltending from Matthias Niederberger. The playoff experience will be great for Kingston's young core of players. They'll get to see what it's like to play in the playoffs, and hopefully they'll be better for it next year. Like the above series, I don't see any possible way that the underdog takes this one.
Prediction: Barrie in 4

3. Oshawa Generals vs. 6. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: 2-0 Oshawa
My Analysis: Oshawa was in the thick of things for the battle for top spot in the Eastern Conference nearly all season long, and one could argue that they're just as good of a team as Belleville and Barrie. For that reason, Niagara is going to have their hands full. While I'm sure Niagara's core group of veterans like Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, and Jesse Graham will have the boys roaring to go, I just don't see them having the talent or goaltending needed to beat Oshawa in a 7 game series. The Gennies have the depth offensively to go far in the playoffs, as long as Daniel Altshuller is able to stand tall in the nets. Obviously, the big factor in this series is the bad blood and playoff rivalry that's developed between these two teams. Look for the Gennies to be out for revenge.
Prediction: Oshawa in 5

4. Brampton Battalion vs. 5. Sudbury Wolves
Season Series: 5-3 Brampton
My Analysis: Brampton closed off the season by winning the final 3 matchups against the Wolves, but they're definitely no slam dunk to take this series. This one will likely be the only closely contested series of the Eastern Conference's first round. I think these two teams match up quite well against each other. Both teams get great veteran goaltending from Machovsky and Palazzese. Brampton is the better defensive team, while Sudbury is the more dynamic offensive team. Should be interesting. Obviously, the big story is that this series could see the last game played in Brampton in the OHL. The team is moving to North Bay next year, and I'm sure the veterans of Brampton (guys like Wind, Bell, Goodrow, Machovsky) would love to give their fans (yes there are some core Battalion fans) a nice little run before the move. I think that extra motivation gives them the edge. On the other hand, Sudbury will be looking to avenge their sweep at the hands of Brampton last year.
Prediction: Brampton in 6


1. London Knights vs. 8. Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: 3-1 London
My Analysis: This one definitely has the potential to be closer than your typical 1 vs. 8 battle. Saginaw has played London very tough all season long. That said, it's the playoffs now. London has a group of players who went through a long run to the Memorial Cup last year and they know what it takes to win. At some point, Seth Griffith, and hopefully, Scott Harrington will return to the line up. Those two players are needed at their best in order for London to make a big push. They'll also need strong goaltending from the likes of Stolarz or Patterson. Meanwhile, Saginaw will most definitely get strong goaltending from the underrated Jake Paterson. If London is able to shutdown Saginaw's top line, it could be a long series for the Spirit.
Prediction: London in 5

2. Plymouth Whalers vs. 7 Sarnia Sting
Season Series: 4-2 Plymouth
My Analysis: Since their big trade(Trocheck), Plymouth has really taken it to the Sting, winning the last three games by a margin of 20-4. The Whalers have been a pretty unstoppable force of late. They've certainly peaked at the right time. I think the one wildcard in this series is the goaltending match up. J.P. Anderson has been solid in the playoffs previously, and he'll be looking to finish out his OHL career in style. Meanwhile, the Whalers will likely go with rookie Alex Nedeljkovic, who is relatively untested. I just don't think Sarnia's defense is good enough to handle the constant barrage that is going to come from Plymouth.
Prediction: Plymouth in 5

3. Owen Sound Attack vs. 6. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Season Series: 2-0 Owen Sound
My Analysis: Honestly, I think this is the series I'm most psyched to watch unfold. You couldn't have two teams more different than each other. Owen Sound plays a slower tempo, grind 'em out, defensive styled approach. The Soo employ a full on offensive attack in a run and gun type system. Whatever team is able to sucker the other one into their particular type of game, is likely the one to win. I don't think Owen Sound can keep up with the Soo offensively, while the Soo haven't had a ton of success keeping pucks out of their net lately. In order to win, the Hounds are going to need a massive performance from Matt Murray. It's a real toss up here, but I'm going with my gut and saying the Hounds will win this one.
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 7

4. Kitchener Rangers vs. 5. Guelph Storm
Season Series: 5-3 Kitchener
My Analysis: With John Gibson back and healthy, I think the dynamic of this series has definitely shifted. Without Gibson, I would have thought the Storm had a strong chance to win. They've certainly got a deep group of hard working forwards; guys built to take the pressure of the playoffs. Kitchener's offensive group is certainly not deep enough to REALLY scare teams, but they're a different team when Gibson is playing. They play with more confidence and their slick skating defense is able to take more offensive chances. I'm not sure about Kitchener making a long run in these playoffs, but I do like them in this series.
Prediction: Kitchener in 6

Would love to read your predictions in the comments section.

Friday, March 15, 2013

2013 OHL Coaches Poll

Here are the results to the 2013 OHL Coaches Poll



So...what do you think?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

OHL Coaches Poll - My Ballot (2013)

The results of the OHL coaches poll are likely to be released sometime this week. With that in mind, it's always fun to take a crack at how they might look. If I was voting, here's what my ballot would look like.

Most Underrated Player

1. Zach Hall
2. Matthew Campagna
3. Michael Moffat

1. Colin Miller
2. Cameron Brace
3. Dalton Young

Most Improved Player

1. Tyler Graovac
2. Anthony Camara
3. TIE - Mitchell Theoret & Scott Sabourin

1. Eric Locke
2. Jordan Binnington
3. Reid Boucher

Smartest Player

1. Mark Scheifele
2. Ryan Strome
3. Sean Monahan

1. Vincent Trocheck
2. Scott Harrington
3. Nick Cousins

Hardest Worker

1. Boone Jenner
2. Scott Laughton
3. TIE - Barclay Goodrow & Anthony Camara

1. Ryan Hartman
2. TIE - Tom Wilson & Brock McGinn
3. Garret Ross

Best Playmaker

1. Ryan Strome
2. Sean Monahan
3. Scott Laughton

1. Charles Sarault
2. Vincent Trocheck
3. TIE - Tanner Richard & Nick Cousins

Most Dangerous in the Goal Area

1. Brett Ritchie
2. Boone Jenner
3. Barclay Goodrow

1. Reid Boucher
2. Seth Griffith
3. Kerby Rychel

Best Skater

1. Jesse Graham
2. Andreas Athanasiou
3. Alan Quine

1. Ryan Murphy
2. Alex Aleardi
3. Daniel Catenacci

Best Shot

1. Mark Scheifele
2. Ryan Strome
3. Barclay Goodrow

1. Reid Boucher
2. Ryan Sproul
3. TIE - Seth Griffith & Kerby Rychel

Hardest Shot

1. Ryan O' Connor
2. Michal Cajcovsky
3. Barclay Goodrow

1. Ryan Sproul
2. Cody Ceci
3. TIE - Andrey Pedan, Colin Miller & Kerby Rychel

Best Stickhandler

1. Ryan Strome
2. Alan Quine
3. TIE - Matthew Campagna & Riley Brace

1. Vincent Trocheck
2. Max Domi
3. TIE - Ryan Murphy, Charles Sarault & Nick Cousins

Best on Face-offs

1. Boone Jenner
2. Mark Scheifele
3. Scott Laughton

1. Daniel Catenacci
2. Bo Horvat
3. TIE - Brady Vail & Mitchell Heard (not sure if Heard has played enough games this year to earn this)

Best Body Checker

1. Anthony Camara
2. Mack Lemmon
3. TIE - Matt Petgrave & Zach Bell

1. Tom Wilson
2. Nikita Zadorov
3. David Broll

Best Shot Blocker

1. Zach Bell
2. Boone Jenner
3. Cameron Wind

1. Scott Harrington
2. Cody McNaughton
3. Zach Nastasiuk

Best Defensive Forward

1. Boone Jenner
2. Sean Monahan
3. TIE - Erik Bradford, Scott Laughton & Barclay Goodrow

1. Cameron Brace
2. Ryan Rupert
3. TIE - Rickard Rakell & Josh Leivo

Best Penalty Killer

1. Boone Jenner
2. Joseph Cramarossa
3. Ryan Strome

1. TIE - Vincent Trocheck & Cameron Brace
2. Eric Locke
3. Tobias Rieder

Best Offensive Defenseman

1. Jordan Subban
2. Matt Petgrave
3. Ryan O'Connor

1. Ryan Sproul
2. Cody Ceci
3. Ryan Murphy

Best Defensive Defenseman

1. Cameron Wind
2. Geoffrey Schemitsch
3. Alex Lepkowski

1. Scott Harrington
2. Nathan Chiarlitti
3. TIE - Austin Levi & Tommy Hughes

Best Puck Handling Goalie

1. Malcolm Subban
2. Daniel Altshuller
3. Andrew D'Agostini

1. J.P. Anderson
2. John Gibson
3. Jake Paterson

Best Shootout Shooter

1. Tyler Graovac
2. Ryan Strome
3. TIE - Jonatan Tanus & Jordan Subban

1. Seth Griffith
2. Radek Faksa
3. Cameron Brace

Best Shootout Goalie

1. Mathias Niederberger
2. Malcolm Subban
3. Spencer Martin

1. John Gibson
2. Jake Patterson
3. Jordan Binnington

So, what do YOU think?