Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2014 Edition)

For those that have read the blog for a while, this is a yearly tradition. It's always a fun list to look back on after.

Three of the players on this list have already signed NHL contracts, but they're still included because it's meant to be a guide of the top OA free agents this season in the OHL.

Likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not and those players will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.

Secondly, this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (like Kurtis Gabriel). This list is for those players who are (or were) NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on birth date).

Here's the list:

10. Remy Giftopoulos - Windsor Spitfires
Giftopolous has gotten better each year he's played in the league, working himself up from 4th line energy guy, to top 6 scoring forward. He's a very versatile player who can find success in several different roles. If he's to go on to the pro ranks, he'll have to keep using his size offensively and continue to battle in front of the net and along the boards. He certainly has the potential to be a 4th line worker at the NHL level IMO.

9. Zach Hall - Barrie Colts
If only he was a bit bigger, he'd probably already be drafted. Hall is a dynamic offensive player and playmaker. He's gotten stronger over the years and has even added a bit of sandpaper to his game. He reminds me a lot of former Kitchener Ranger Jason Akeson, who did eventually get a contract (and even a taste in the NHL).

8. Franky Palazzese - Sudbury Wolves
Palazzese started the year kind of slowly (perhaps disappointed he had to return for an OA year?), but he's gotten better and better each month. He has the Wolves playing like contenders in the Eastern Conference. If he can take this team far in the playoffs, I think he'll have a great shot of getting a contract because he's an incredibly athletic goaltender who's often able to come up with a lot of saves for his hockey club.

7. Michael Moffat - Kingston Frontenacs
Definitely wouldn't have thought that I'd have him on a list like this a few years ago. But he's improved so much as an OHL player over the years. Moffat has gone from being a one dimensional offensive defender with questionable decision making skills, to a sturdy two-way defender. He sees the ice in all situations and has the size and skating ability to perform at a higher level. 

6. Carter Sandlak - Plymouth Whalers
A pure sandpaper kind of guy. Sandlak is a very solid two-way player who is always battling for position on the ice. He often attacks the net hard and is quick to come to the defense of teammates. He's already signed an NHL contract with Carolina and that's because he has the size and skill set to develop into a 4th line winger.

5. Ryan Van Stralen - Ottawa 67's
Van Stralen is a big guy who plays big. At 6'3, 207lbs, he's one of the best power forwards in the league because he's worked hard to improve his offensive game, while continuing to be one of the league's most physical players. He makes his presence felt on the ice in a lot of ways. If he were playing for a better team, I think he'd be getting more hype, but I definitely think he has NHL potential, ala Oshawa's Scott Sabourin last year.

4. Zach Bell - London Knights
Without a doubt, Bell is one of the hardest defenders to play against in the league. It's not an uncommon site to see him throwing around an opposing forward like a rag doll in the corners or in front of the net. He's also one of the league's top shot blockers. Offensively, he doesn't have much upside at the next level, but his defensive game and intensity level make him a pro prospect.

3. Barclay Goodrow - North Bay Battalion
Apparently turned down a contract offer from Grand Rapids of the AHL this year in order to return to North Bay for his overage year. Shows a lot about his character and that's why he's the Battalion captain. Goodrow is one of the league's top two-way forwards and a monster along the wall, working the forecheck and the cycle like a pro. He also possesses a big shot, although he's never really had a top notch distributor to play with. I think he's a lock to be playing professionally somewhere next season.

2. Tyler Gaudet - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Gaudet has a terrific story. Joined the Hounds last year as a rare 19 year old rookie, then had to battle to keep his spot as an overager this preseason. But Sault Ste. Marie is certainly being rewarded for their faith in him. He's emerged as one of the top two-way centers in the OHL, using his size and skating ability to excel in a shutdown role. However, he's also shown a willingness to drive hard to the net and has been able to open up room for his linemates offensively. Has the exact tool set that you'd look for in a PK specialist, 3rd/4th line center at the NHL level, which is precisely why the Phoenix Coyotes already signed him.

1. Dane Fox - Erie Otters
No brainer. Fox is the best OA free agent to be available since Jacob Muzzin, and Muzzin has certainly done great for himself in the NHL thus far. He's still on pace to be the first 70 goal scorer in the OHL since John Tavares and Eric Lindros (obviously great company). He's the complete package as a player, possessing one of the best shots and releases in the league, but also possessing the size and intensity to excel in other facets of the game. The Vancouver Canucks won the prize by signing him and I think he'll work his way up their ladder pretty quickly.

Honorable Mentions

The top two not on the above list are definitely Sarnia's Nic Latta and Saginaw's Kris Kontos. Latta has worked hard to stay in the league, improving every year. He's finally had a breakout season and has enough offensive skill to go with tons of grit. Kontos has finally broken out offensively after a few disappointing seasons. He's got great size and has worked hard to improve his skating. Likely a tweener though. Barrie's Mitchell Theoret was an unsigned NHL draft pick who I felt at one time had NHL potential. He's had an up and down year and hasn't established any consistency with his ability to use his size. Still has talent though and if he could ever figure it out. At one point, I figured Belleville's Cameron Brace would top this list, but he continues to get himself in trouble with the league and hasn't found a real groove offensively. He's got speed and tenacity, but he's undersized for the role he'd play in the NHL. Guelph's Zack Mitchell, Sault Ste. Marie's Andrew Frtisch, and Oshawa's Dylan Smoskowitz are solid offensive players, but I'm not sure they're quite talented enough to play a top 6 role in the NHL.

Like Cameron Brace, London's Alex Basso has long been a guy on "re-entry" lists since his first year of eligibility, but he just hasn't had the best of years. He's still a terrific skater and has potential offensively, but I don't think his all around game profiles him as an NHL prospect. Oshawa's Colin Suellentrop and Saginaw's Justin Sefton are both unsigned NHL draft picks who've had decent OHL seasons. They still have size and can profile as pro defenseman. But I see Bell and Moffat as having greater potential to reach the NHL. Nelson Armstrong is a bit of a wildcard. He does a lot for Peterborough and has good size, but I'm not sure I see him in a specific role at the next level. Lastly, Craig Duininck has really emerged as a great shut down guy for Sudbury this year and probably has the greatest chance of earning a contract of all the HM's.

I actually seriously considered putting Ottawa's Phillipe Trudeau on this list. I think everyone in the league has been impressed with his play in Ottawa this year. He does quite well considering how much rubber he sees. He's absolutely massive and maybe an NHL team finds themselves curious to see how he can continue to develop (ala Jason Missaien).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 Top Prospects Game Performance Reviews

This year's Top Prospect's game in Calgary was definitely a great game to watch. Had a bit of everything. Truthfully, I expected it to be a pretty high scoring game based on the fact that I wasn't confident enough in the goaltending and defense. But that was hardly the case, although a lot of that probably has to do with the strong play of the goaltenders (and the NUMEROUS posts hit).

The OHL had half of the participants in the game (would have had over half had Sam Bennett played), so let's examine the performances of those players. Warning, these performance reports are based on viewing on t.v. and not live, so they're not ideal. But I think it's still worth talking about.

Team Cherry

Roland McKeown
Had a relatively quiet game IMO. He didn't stand out for better or for worse. I would have liked to see him try to use his skating ability to jump up in the play a few times, but he played a relatively safe game.

Anthony DeAngelo
The casual viewer got a pretty good idea of what DeAngelo is all about. Offensively, he was impressive. He did a great job on the point of the power play and has great vision back there. He was also very aggressive in jumping up in the play 5 on 5. But in his own zone, he was passive at times and did not look terrific.

Robby Fabbri
He didn't get on the score sheet, but I thought he played a terrific game. As always, he was a factor on the forecheck and excelled on the penalty kill. He did a great job of working with whatever line he was on (seemed to play with a bunch of different guys) and did have a couple of scoring chances. I still think he's a great pick in the 20-30 range of the first round.

Nick Ritchie
Thought he was relatively quiet offensively, but was an absolute force physically. He had at least 5 or 6 huge hits, many of them in the offensive zone as he tried to put pressure on opposing defenseman. A few of those hits resulted in turnovers and he really opened up some space for his line mates. That said, he didn't really get much of an opportunity to show his skill with the puck.

Jacob Middleton
Everyone is talking about the clearly staged fight with Aaron Haydon. I get it. Middleton has to prove to scouts that he can play a tough game and profiles as a solid guy in his own end at the next level. I fear that he might have left a sour taste in the mouths of a few though. Even though he finished a -2, I thought he played decently. He had a few nice rushes to showcase his offensive potential (one on the power play) and wasn't really at fault for either of the two goals scored while he was on the ice.

Matt Mistele
Picked up an assist on the Nikolai Goldobin wrap-around goal, but wasn't very noticeable during the game. I expected him to play more physical and to really get his nose dirty to show he has power forward potential moving forward.

Michael Dal Colle
Scored a beautiful goal on a great shot. Had another shot on a pretty much identical play, hit the post. Was able to show his terrific release and pro scoring potential. Was also able to show that his skating has improved in the last year. Might not have been as consistent of a scoring chance producer as a few other guys in the game, but he still showed strongly.

Ryan MacInnis
Thought he had a great game. He definitely showed why it's more important to watch games than just follow stats. His stats in Kitchener haven't been terrific, but he has such great potential. In the game he was able to show that he can be a strong puck carrying centre with great speed and size. Helped to set up a few scoring chances and was even more involved along the wall than I've seen him in the past. I think he's definitely trending up.

Nikolai Goldobin
Why this game can be dangerous. Goldobin was easily one of the best and most impressive players. He was absolutely electric and showed what he can do when on his game. His speed, creativity, and puck control ability make him a treat to watch. But, for all those loving him after this game, have they seen a game in Sarnia where he was disengaged and floated around the ice, which has happened? His play away from the puck scares me. That said, his game has really picked up the last month or so in the OHL and I plan on seeing Sarnia more in 2014.

Alex Nedeljkovic
I think the only goal you can really fault him on was the first one to Blake Clarke. He didn't quite take the angle away from Clarke who beat him high glove side. It was a great shot too though, so it's obviously nitpicking. But as a goalie who doesn't have elite size, those are the stops he's going to have to make to prove he can continue to find success as he moves up the pro ladder. The other two goals he had little chance on, especially the Ho Sang mid air swat. He made some big saves and had a great poke check to give his team a chance to win. He wasn't the best goalie at the event, but I don't think he did anything to suggest he doesn't deserve to be one of the first goalies off the board come June.

Team Orr

Alex Peters
Thought Peters was great. He had a couple of terrific one on one defensive plays that showed his potential to develop into a great stay at home at the next level. Moves well, has size, plays hard, and is smart. All good things. He also never stood out in a negative way with the puck, which suggests he was able to avoid pressure on the forecheck and make good decisions.

Aaron Ekblad
Ekblad is generally as consistent as you can get. Thought he played great. Was solid at both ends of the ice, creating chances offensively, while playing generally solid defensively. He did have a few blunders with the puck where he might have been trying to do too much, but he was generally very solid. However, I don't think he was the best defender in the game. Was most impressed by Haydn Fleury. But, he's still a lock to be the first defender taken.

Eric Cornel
Unfortunately, Cornel wasn't a factor in the game.

Brendan Perlini
Perlini was one of the more disappointing players at the event for me. He's starting to really climb up some draft lists into the top 10 now and he certainly didn't play like that in this game. I've seen him a fair amount this year and I think that was probably the worst game he's played of those games. He just wasn't much of a factor.

Jared McCann
Hard to argue against your performance when you score the game winner on a beautiful shot from just outside the slot. His release and wrester are definitely among the best of his age group in the OHL. Like Dal Colle, I'm not sure he was the best player (or most consistent in the game), but he showed well, had some good rushes and gave fans a glimpse of what he's capable of as an offensive player.

Brendan Lemieux
Played as advertised. People expecting Claude Lemieux's son, got that. Was all over the ice, getting under everyone's skin. He worked hard in the corners, battled in front of the net and played physical on the forecheck. While battling near the crease on the power play, he scored a very nice redirect. His skating isn't the prettiest but he continues to show that the rest of his game is good enough.

Aaron Haydon
The other participant in "the fight," Haydon played a pretty solid game. He showed how his strong mobility can be very useful in the back end. His line, in particular, always seemed to face a ton of pressure on the forecheck, but he was often able to skate out of it and worked hard to battle in the corners.

Josh Ho-Sang
Ho-Sang had a fabulous game. Scored a great goal showing his hand eye skill. Then had a terrific pass to McCann for the game winner, showing great vision as he noticed him coming in late. He's worked incredibly hard to improve his game over the past year and I really think he should start receiving consideration for the top half of the first round.

Blake Clarke
He scored! Clarke scored his first goal in nearly four months, a marker on the power play. It was a beautiful shot as he beat Nedeljkovic glove side. He was pretty quiet otherwise, but he was at least able to show scouts that he's still capable of being a goal scorer.

Spencer Watson
Didn't seem to have any chemistry with Draisaitl. As a result, there wasn't much to his game on the night, other than one great scoring opportunity where he ripped the puck just over the net from the slot. When he's not hitting the score sheet, he's not really the type of guy you notice.

Keep in mind. If you really want to know what these players are all about, go see an OHL game or two. Judging based solely on this game can be a dangerous thing to do. It's only one piece of the puzzle. HERE is a great article on that. Still a fun game to watch though.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

OHL Trade Deadline Report Cards

As a feature written for The Ultimate Hockey Network (@UltimateHKY), here are report card grades for every OHL team based on their performance at the trade deadline.

Mississauga, Oshawa, Owen Sound, and Sudbury receive the top grades, while Plymouth and Windsor receive the lowest.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

Yesterday NHL Central Scouting released their midterm rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Here's how OHL players ranked.


1. Sam Bennett (1)
2. Aaron Ekblad (3)
3. Michael Dal Colle (5)
4. Nick Ritchie (7)
5. Brendan Perlini (8)
6. Anthony DeAngelo (10)
7. Jared McCann (11)
8. Nikolai Goldobin (14)
9. Roland McKeown (15)
10. Joshua Ho-Sang (18)
11. Eric Cornel (23)
12. Robby Fabbri (25)
13. Aaron Haydon (28)
14. Connor Chatham (30)
15. Ryan MacInnis (33)
16. Alex Peters (36)
17. Michael Bunting (37)
18. Brendan Lemieux (38)
19. Spencer Watson (43)
20. Blake Siebenaler (47)
21. Matt Mistele (51)
22. Nick Magyar (52)
23. Mike Amadio (56)
24. Christian Dvorak (69)
25. Kyle Jenkins (75)
26. Brandon Prophet (76)
27. Nikita Yazkov (77)
28. Josh Wesley (78)
29. Jacob Middleton (87)
30. Kevin Labanc (88)
31. Dylan Sadowy (89)
32. Blake Clarke (93)
33. Jaden Lindo (96)
34. Ryan Foss (99)
35. Aleksander Mikulovich (108)
36. Darby Llwellyn (113)
37. Cristiano Digiacinto (117)
38. Jacob Busch (120)
39. Cordell James (126)
40. Stefan Leblanc (131)
41. Hunter Smith (140)
42. Ryan Verbeek (147)
43. Kevin Spinozzi (149)
44. Yannick Rathgeb (153)
45. Darren Raddysh (154)
46. Niki Petti (163)
47. Frank Hora (165)
48. Alex Protapovich (167)
49. Damir Sharipzyanov (176)
50. David Tomasek (182)
51. Dylan DiPerna (185)
52. Josh Sterk (195)
53. Phil Baltisberger (205)
LV (Limited Viewing) - Kyle Wood


1. Alex Nedeljkovic (5)
2. Brent Moran (6)
3. Brandon Halverson (9)
4. Devin Williams (14)
5. Nikita Serebryakov (17)
6. Matt Mancina (18)
7. Ken Appleby (33)

If you want to see the full rankings, check them out HERE

Some thoughts on the rankings...

1. It really shouldn't surprise people when Central Scouting ranks smaller players lower than other scouting agencies. They have historically put more emphasis on size than independent and even NHL scouts. So it really shouldn't surprise you that guys like Fabbri and Spencer Watson are lower ranked than they have been on other lists. Don't really agree with it, but it's the way it is. At least they're generally pretty consistent.

2. Biggest "no-shows" for me on the list are Alex Lintuniemi and Brandon Robinson. Lintuniemi has size, has been improving every month defensively and has untapped offensive potential. I think it was Sam Cosentino who had him listed in his top 10 among OHL players available for the draft this year. While I do think that's absurdly high, not ranking him at all is also confusing. In regards to Robinson, his stats certainly haven't been great and he's already in his 3rd year and on his 2nd team, but you can't ignore his potential. Size and scoring ability doesn't grow on trees. Didn't expect him to be high, but I definitely think he still deserves to be in the "100's."

3. The real shocker high rating people have been talking about is Connor Chatham. I actually really like him as a prospect and I think he's better than his numbers have suggested this year (which forward IS actually living up to his potential in Plymouth this year?). However, I think his ranking is definitely too high. He's a solid checking line prospect who has size, hits hard and can finish in close, but he shouldn't be ahead of some of the guys he is ahead of. Don't see at all how a guy like Nick Magyar is behind him when he brings many of the same qualities, but is a better offensive player with greater potential.

4. Truth be told, the thing I'm most shocked about is Alex Nedeljkovic's ranking. I don't think I've seen a ranking yet that hasn't had him as the top goaltender available for this draft. Yet, Central Scouting has him as the 5th best in North America. Huge discrepancy there. Maybe it's a size thing, since Nedeljkovic isn't the biggest goalie on the planet. But with the way he's played this year, this is a really big head scratcher for me, although I must admit that I haven't seen the guys ahead of him play much or at all.

5. The general lack of "re-entry" guys from the OHL isn't a huge shock. The crop from the league isn't as good as it has been in previous years. Hunter Smith is probably the top guy there so I think they got that right.

6. Also really like the aggressive rankings of guys like Haydon, Siebenaler, and Bunting.

7. Lastly, I suppose I should talk about the whole Bennett versus Ekblad thing. It's tough for me. I love both players to death and wouldn't hesitate to take either inside the Top 5...or even 3. The fact that Central Scouting is the first to put Bennett ahead of Ekblad is what has surprised people and has them talking. Bennett deserves to be in contention for the first pick and it will be an interesting race heading into June. I've still got Ekblad first, but as I've mentioned many times, it's crazy close.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Midseason Top 30 for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2014 calendar year is upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2014 Draft. The OHL season is past the half way mark which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

The 2014 Draft is obviously an incredibly strong one for the Ontario Hockey League. They could make up close to half of the first round this year and currently have over half (21/40) of the players participating at the Top Prospect's Game this year. Not only is the top end talent available very strong, but so is the depth. There are a ton of draft eligible players having strong seasons and I could see upwards of 60 players drawing interest from NHL teams in June. As such, this was not an easy list to make as many of these players are very close to each other in ability and projection. For example, I probably could have extended the honorable mentions list to upwards of 20 players, but cut it off at 12.

Here's my updated midseason list.

1. Aaron Ekblad - Defense - Barrie Colts
I think he has really cemented himself in this position with his play at the WJC's thus far. As a 17 year old, he's been Canada's best defenseman (at least IMO). I think he takes that confidence back to the OHL with him and has a monstrous second half. Everyone knows about his ability defensively, but it's certain aspects of his offensive game that have impressed me most this year. In particular, his ability to get his point shot through to the net and his ability to control the point have really improved to the point where I think he has definite powerplay QB potential at the next level to go with his shutdown ability in his own end.

2. Sam Bennett - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Continues to be a perfect example of consistency, as he rides out a 20 game point scoring streak (as I write this). Even if the Fronts (as a team) have been hot and cold this year, Bennett certainly hasn't been the one to blame for their cold streaks. He continues to round out his game and work hard at both ends of the ice, while creating offensive chances through perseverance and skill. I don't see how he's not a top 10 selection come June.

3. Michael Dal Colle - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Similar to Bennett, Dal Colle has been on a roll all season long. With or without Scott Laughton, Dal Colle has been able to use his big body to create offense in Oshawa. His skating is noticeably improved over last year and it's made him quicker to the net and to loose pucks, which has resulted in his line generally dominating time of possession. I'm not sure I see him being a true power forward in the NHL, more like a Bobby Ryan, but he still holds a ton of value and (like Bennett) should be a definite top 10 selection in 2014.

4. Jared McCann - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
While he might not be as consistent as Bennett and Dal Colle, he's also not as physically mature and has nights where his lack of dominant strength hurts him. He'll need to beef up to be tougher to knock off the puck and better at winning battles along the boards, but it's not for a lack of trying. McCann works hard at both ends of the ice and has one of the top shots of his age group. He's definitely progressing very well in Sault Ste. Marie this year.

5. Nick Ritchie - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Starting to remind me a lot of his brother Brett in his draft year. He has all the tools to completely take over games, but he hasn't been able to do so consistently. As a late '95, it's his 3rd year in the league and I think we need to have slightly higher expectations for him, even if he had injuries derail his development last year. Ritchie can do it all (hit, fight, score, carry the puck, skate) but if the results aren't there he's going to find himself further down the draft board than he'd like. Even as an enigma, he won't slip far though because of his power forward potential.

6. Robby Fabbri - Forward - Guelph Storm
If he were a few inches taller, we'd be talking about Fabbri as a lottery selection in the same vein as a guy like Bennett. He's been on an absolute terror in December/January (10 game goal scoring streak, 19 points in that time). Fabbri is just an electrifying player to watch. He works his butt off every shift, but he's also got a ton of skill. The two things that really jump out at me when I watch Fabbri play are his ability on the forecheck and his ability to read offensive situations. Forces turnovers and scores goals not just because he knows where to be on the ice, but also because he's working and skating harder than the opposition. Has put himself right in the conversation with McCann, Ritchie, and Perlini as the next best behind Bennett and Dal Colle.

7. Roland McKeown - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
McKeown has really had an up and down season so far. Started off the year so well, then went into funk, but appears to be breaking out of it lately. Offensively, he's incredibly smart and moves the puck up ice with ease, either by carry or by pass. He's slowly gaining more confidence in jumping up in the play and using his shot too. It's his play in the defensive end that has wavered this season. He has the defensive instincts to be a strong two-way player but he needs to engage forwards in the defensive end and be a tougher player to win one on one battles against. His passiveness in his own end is what has him down in the 15-25 range of the first round, instead of the lottery.

8. Brendan Perlini - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Came out of the gate gangbusters, but has fallen back down to Earth a bit of late. He remains a very solid prospect though and the type of power winger that has a lot of great things going for him. When he went through a bit of a funk in November, it was because he lost that physical edge to his game and became a bit too preoccupied with the offensive side of things. He needs to be the type who uses his size to his advantage in the offensive end, especially when it comes to getting in good position to use his terrific shot. The Jeff Carter comparison are very apt, as this was something Carter struggled with in his draft year too.

9. Alex Nedeljkovic - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers
Nedeljkovic continues to play well and keep the Plymouth Whalers in games they don't deserve being in. The Whalers currently find themselves sitting in 8th in the West, despite being the lowest scoring team in the entire OHL. Only Spencer Martin has played more minutes this year and only Philippe Trudeau has had to make more saves, yet Nedeljkovic sits in the top 5 with a save percentage close to .915. He's not the biggest goalie (certainly doesn't have the size teams have been looking for in netminders in recent years), but his agility allows him move so well in his crease that it compensates for a lack of size (if you want to call 6'0 a lack of size). Brian Finley was the last OHL goalie to be the first goalie taken in the draft and I think Nedeljkovic has a shot to do that (although let's hope he turns out better than Finley did).

10. Josh Ho-Sang - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Has improved leaps and bounds this year. With the departure of Rychel (and maybe Brady Vail next), Ho-Sang has emerged as the offensive leader for a Spits team that isn't slowing down despite trading away two of its top players. While he can still be prone to overhandling the puck, he's largely making better decisions in the offensive end and has become a consistent scoring threat. He's also using his creativity with the puck to help set up chances for his linemates, as opposed to the more selfish play he showed last year. Lastly, he's backchecking and starting to learn how to play without the puck. He's still a work in progress but you certainly can't overlook the progress he's made this year.

11. Anthony DeAngelo - Defense - Sarnia Sting
DeAngelo is running away with the defensive scoring title right now, 13 points up on Darnell Nurse. At this point (considering his nomination last year), you have to think he's a good bet to be OHL defenseman of the year. He's ranked lower because of the lack of balance in his game. He's such a dynamic offensive player whose skill set should likely translate well to the next level. But he still looks disengaged defensively at times. He does have some truculence to his game though, if only he could channel it consistently to make him a better player in his own end. Big time high risk, high reward selection who I'm sure a team jumps up and selects at the back of the first round.

12. Spencer Watson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Like Fabbri, if Watson were over 6'0, he'd be getting a long look inside the lottery, instead Watson is even smaller. But it's a testament to his skill level that he's still getting consideration at the back half of the first round. He's slowed a bit lately, but scouts will undoubtedly carry his performance at the Ivan Hlinka's with them all season. He's small, but incredibly illusive in the offensive end, darting in and out of traffic, always keeping his feet moving. His instincts and his ability to put the puck in the net are also top notch. The rest of his game will need to grow in order to compensate for his lack of size, but he's just scratching the surface of what he's capable of offensively.

13. Nikolai Goldobin - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Goldobin can be an incredibly impressive player to watch. With the puck on his stick, he's about as electric as they come. He's a top notch one on one player who can also create opportunities for his linemates by biding time with his puck skill. But I haven't liked his disappearing act at times this year. The last few times I saw Sarnia, he was completely disengaged without the puck. He's also been more of a perimeter player than what I saw last year from him. The skill is obviously there but if he can't develop a more well rounded game, he's not likely to be a favourite of NHL coaching staffs.

14. Ryan MacInnis - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Slowly starting to gain more confidence at the OHL level after a rough start. He's definitely a long term project with potential (think along the lines of Calgary's Jankowski selection). MacInnis has the size, skating ability, puck skill, and poise to be a prototypical top 6 center at the NHL level. He's getting better, but I still want to see him play with more conviction without the puck. As a center (with his size), he's going to have to learn how to control the boards and play in his own end. I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of physical maturity at this point too, as there's no question that he needs to get stronger on and off the puck. Lots of potential and teams will be drawn to the bloodlines.

15. Nick Magyar - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Quickly becoming one of my favourite players available from the OHL this year. As an OHL rookie, he's already established himself as a terrific forechecker and worker along the wall. He keeps his feet moving and wins a lot of battles for loose pucks. And don't let the low penalty totals fool you, he can be a factor physically and I expect this part of his game is really only starting to blossom. While he may not be as naturally as talented as some of the other players available around him on this list, he's not devoid of skill either. He has good scoring instincts and has a developing ability to protect the puck on drives to the net. IMO, he's been Kitchener's most consistent player this season.

16. Jacob Middleton - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Middleton seems to be a pretty polarizing player for the draft at this point. I'm glad he got an injury fill in spot at the Top Prospect's Game as it will give him a chance to stand out outside of playing for a pretty bad 67's team. It's always hard for a player in Middleton's situation to stand out on a regular basis. He's playing top minutes for a (relatively) poor team, and is being thrust into situations he's probably not quite ready for. He can certainly be prone to trying to do a little too much, especially offensively. But he's a terrific defensive player who is tough to beat one on one, shows toughness and does a great job pinning along the wall. I don't think he's a first rounder, but he should be a solid 2nd/3rd rounder at this point. Reminds me a lot of the way Adam Pelech was forced to mature quickly in Erie.

17. Blake Clarke - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
At this point, how much more leeway can we give him? He hasn't scored a goal since September and looks nothing like the potential lottery selection we saw last year as a rookie. He's had a tough time with injuries, but that excuse can only go so far in the scouting community. Hopefully the trade to Saginaw can really ignite him and bring back the tremendous talent I saw in Brampton many times during 2012/2013. Another player that I'm glad got a nod to the Top Prospect's game. It's obvious NHL general managers want to take a look at time in comparison with his peers.

18. Alex Peters - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
A rock. Peters is the mold of stay at home defenseman at the next level. Big, mobile, can make a first pass, is physical. Has all the attributes you'd look for in that type of player. I don't see a ton of offensive upside, but he's a very mature kid who could play many years in the NHL. I've probably got him ranked lower than others, but he's the type of player NHL teams jump at in the second round.

19. Eric Cornel - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Isn't playing nearly as well as he did at the start of the year, but Cornel has still progressed well in his 2nd OHL season. He's a rangy playmaking center who has a lot of potential once he fills out his frame. In a lot of ways he's a similar player to Ryan MacInnis. If he wants to play center at the next level though, he's going to have to round out his game and become more involved defensively and along the boards.

20. Jaden Lindo - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Pretty close to Nick Magyar for me, but Magyar has been the more consistent player. Lindo brings a lot of the same qualities to the table. He brings a lot of sandpaper to the ice and is a terrific player away from the puck, where he excels physically and along the boards. He's also an opportunistic scorer who has pretty good hands in close and probably projects as a solid 3rd line winger at the next level. Would like to see more development in his ability to carry the puck at full speed and start to generate his own scoring chances.

21. Blake Siebenaler - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Reminds me a lot of T.J. Brodie when he first came into the OHL. Siebenaler is still learning the position (only been playing defense for a few years), so he's very raw. But he oozes potential. His skating ability is top notch and could make him both an effective offensive and defensive player. His reads in the defensive zone really aren't all that bad for a guy with his lack of experience. With Jesse Graham out, he's slowly gaining confidence offensively, running the powerplay and looking to jump up in the play. Someone will steal him earlier than you think come draft day.

22. Aaron Haydon - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Man the Dogs are going to have quite the terrific team in a few years (they drafted well this past year too). Haydon hasn't been quite as good as I thought he'd be this year, but he hasn't been bad either. Since Jesse Graham was traded, he's seeing regular powerplay time and is starting to blossom as an offensive player. Defensively, he has a lot of terrific tools. He's got great size and reach. He's mobile. And he's physical and mean. But his zone coverage can have some lapses and he can get himself taken out of position. Lots of potential though.

23. Brendan Lemieux - Forward - Barrie Colts
By this point, I think many draft followers and OHL fans know what to expect from Lemieux. Hard nosed hockey. He is like a buzzsaw on the ice, constantly getting under the skin of the opposition by finishing his checks and working hard away from the puck. He definitely has some offensive skill too, especially as a goal scorer. He has a good wrist shot, but is still learning how to get himself in good position to use it. The only issue I have is his lack of explosiveness and high end skating ability. Typically, energy players at the next level need to have that extra least the really good ones. Lemieux will need to work on his quickness in order to really excel as a checking line player in the NHL.

24. Matt Mistele - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Had such a terrific season last year, the expectations for him were very high heading into his 3rd OHL season (late '95). But he hasn't been able to get it done consistently, and much like the rest of his Whalers' teammates, he hasn't been able to put the puck in the net. Last year he had a lot of success playing with more skilled players, allowing him to just keep things simple and play that power game, crashing the net for loose pucks and using his tenacity to create room. This year he hasn't really had that luxury and he's having trouble creating his own chances consistently. Still a solid grinding, yet skilled forward prospect who could rebound well in the future.

25. Darby Llewellyn - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Llewellyn is a very interesting prospect. He's not the most skilled player on the ice, yet he's finding a fair amount of success as a goal scorer this year. The most impressive part of Llewellyn's game is his ability to disrupt on the forecheck. He goes hard after the puck and is an aggressive player in the corners and in front of the net. It's with that tenacity that he's managing to find the net, as he's beating opposing checkers to pucks near the crease and is proving to be a difficult tie up in close. His good scoring sense and his hands in close make him a candidate to fill that sort of net crashing role at the next level too.

26. Cristiano DiGiacinto - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Signed as a free agent by the Spits, DiGiacinto has been a real find for them. He's a very exciting player to watch because of the tenacity and energy he plays with. When he signed, I saw some on twitter comparing him to Andrew Shaw and that comparison isn't far off. He combines that irritating style of play with a pretty decent skill set. In particular, I've been impressed with the quality of his shot and his ability to get himself in scoring position. As the season goes on and everyone starts to get a better look at him, I could see him rising up most lists.

27. Nikita Serebryakov - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
He hasn't been great lately, but before the WJC's, he was really starting to push Jake Paterson for the starting job in Saginaw (based on the fact that he was playing fantastic and Paterson was struggling). Since Paterson left and the starting job was handed to him, he's struggled mightily (a sub .860 save percentage). But he's also being left out to dry by his defense and as a team Saginaw is in a real rut right now. Serebryakov has a lot of potential as a very athletic and agile goaltender. When he's on, he's the type who can steal games for you.

28. Matthew Mancina - Goaltender - Guelph Storm
Admittedly, I've only seen him play once this year. Every time I've watched Guelph, Nichols has started (save one time). Like most young goalies (especially ones in their first OHL season), Mancina has battled consistency issues. He's your prototypical butterfly goalie who relies on his positioning and ability to track the play to make saves. Will need to try and see him play more in the second half.

29. Michael Bunting - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Bunting has been a very impressive first year player as a late '95 this year. Of late, he's developed terrific chemistry with another of the Soo's great young players, center David Miller (a late birth date '96 and 2015 eligible). Bunting is a high energy player who is a terrific skater and he and Miller have been incredibly dangerous working together off the rush (Miller is also a high tempo player). Bunting isn't afraid to go into the corners or to the front of the net to make a play, although he's not an overtly aggressive player. With his play of late, he definitely seems to be rising on most lists.

30. Alex Lintuniemi - Defense - Ottawa 67's
He struggled big time at the beginning of the year, as he adjusted to the speed and physicality of the OHL. But he's been getting better and better each month. Specifically, his defensive game is growing leaps and bounds. He's got terrific size and he's not chasing the play as much which has made him an asset when defending off the rush. Offensively, he's slowly gaining confidence and is starting to involve himself more. He definitely seems to have some untapped potential there. 

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Christian Dvorak - Forward - London Knights
Hard player to scout because of how little ice time he sees at times. I like him and he's probably my 31st ranked player right now, but I'm not sure he deserves to be ahead of some of the others above him right now. Creates scoring chances by driving the net, but needs to get stronger. Tough break for him as he's going to miss a good chunk of time with a lower body injury (upwards of a few months).

Kyle Jenkins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Another of the Soo's great young players. Jenkins is a terrific powerplay QB in the making and I've been impressed with his poise running the point. But he's also been susceptible to turning the puck over in his own end and can have some trouble tying up bigger forwards in his own end. Good potential as a mid round pick.

Kevin Lebanc - Forward - Barrie Colts
A what you see is what you get kind of prospect. He'll be drafted and he'll probably even play in the NHL, but I don't see much potential. Works hard at both ends of the ice and is very involved without the puck, but doesn't have a ton of skill or offensive instinct. Low ceiling, but he deserves to be selected.

Stefan Leblanc - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
A very smart two-way defender in Sudbury. Makes good decisions with the puck, can QB the powerplay, but also has good positioning in his own end and can even lay the body at times. As an offensive distributor, I wonder how much potential is there because he's not the most dynamic of players (lacks elite skating ability, puck skill), so he could be a tweener depending on how he develops the rest of his game.

Aleksander Mikulovich - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Could be a big riser in the second half if his offensive game can gain some steam. He's starting to see some powerplay time with Jesse Graham out of the mix. What he can do is play a very physical brand of hockey in his own end and with his size and skating ability, he could end up being a very tough player to match up against.

Brent Moran - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
With Chris Festarini leaving the team, Moran has been thrust into the starter's role. He'll likely continue to battle consistency issues (can get caught too deep in his net, give up bad rebounds), but you can't teach his size in the net. He's got the physique and natural skill set NHL teams are looking for in netminders these days. Even without a big second half (which he's capable of doing), he'll be an NHL pick.

Brandon Prophet - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
I think Prophet is very close to being in the same group as Peters, Siebenaler, Haydon, Lintuniemi at the back half of my top 30, but he's slightly behind those four because he's not as good of a skater as them. He can be beat off the rush at times because his lateral and backwards mobility needs some improvements. But he's calm with the puck and has developed a bit of a mean streak when defending the net and corners.

Brandon Robinson - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
I wish he would put it all together, because he always seems to play well when I see him. Needs to find a way to play with more intensity, consistently. He's at his best when he's using his size away from the puck and opening up space for himself and his linemates. He's also got great goal scoring potential. But he's also in his 3rd year in the league (late '95) and the expectation is that he should be performing better than he is. Reminds me a lot of Stephen Harper last year, who eventually went undrafted.

Dylan Sadowy - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
At this point, Sadowy is a good complimentary offensive player. He works hard and has no issue doing all the dirty work for his linemates. As a goal scorer, he's got good hands in close and projects as a crash and bang type winger. Seems like a solid mid-late round pick at this point with potential to develop his offensive game further.

Damir Sharipzyanov - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Sharipzyanov (say that five times fast) is a very intriguing prospect. He's kind of one of those "sum of all his parts" players. By that I mean he has a lot of terrific qualities. He's a very physical player and has potential as a strong defender. But he's also a budding offensive defender with a big shot from the point. But he's inconsistent and seems to chase the play and make some questionable decisions. High potential here though.

Kevin Spinozzi - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Quickly rising on my list (probably right behind Dvorak on my HM list). Is getting better and better every month in the Soo and is earning more ice time because of it. He's a solid two-way defender who doesn't appear to have any glaring weaknesses from my perspective. Interested to see just how much his offensive game can grow.

Devin Williams - Goaltender - Erie Otters
Williams (and Moran) are right there with Mancina and Serebryakov for the second netminder rated behind Nedeljkovic. All four are solid prospects with the chance to be drafted. Williams battles consistency, but he's an incredibly athletic goaltender who makes a lot of highlight reel saves. He can look a little small in his crease at times though.