Next stop Dallas!
Radek Faksa - Sudbury Wolves
More of the same this year for Faksa. His first year in the league continues to be his best and it`s been downhill from there. The Wolves gave up an awful lot for him this year and had high expectations for him in the 2nd half, but he was a mega disappointment. The last two years in the OHL, he really hasn`t shown us anything to suggest that he has offensive potential at the NHL level. He has some good vision and playmaking potential, but lacks intensity as an offensive player. He never became the type of guy who could take over a shift by controlling the boards, or by dancing around the open ice. He remains a solid defensive presence and that will be his calling card at the next level. That said, he`s not a physical player, so will that impact his effectiveness as a two-way player at the next level? He'll start his pro career in the AHL next year and I don't expect him to produce much offensively. I wish I could be more hopeful but he was a very disappointing player in the OHL the last two years.
Jason Dickinson - Guelph Storm
One of the most improved players in the OHL this year for me. He had an absolutely fantastic year. In his draft year, he showed flashes of being a very difficult player to match up against; the type of guy who could come at you physically and outwork you. Well this year, that was consistent from start to finish. He's become a very difficult player to play against at both ends of the ice. He forechecks as hard as anyone in the league and has become the type of guy who can win battles and control possession in the cycle. Defensively, he's one of the first guys back in the defensive end and he rarely misses an assignment. Offensively, he exhibits patience and poise with the puck and has learned to limit his turnovers. His vision and ability to create for his linemates really took a step forward. Next year, I look for the confidence in his ability to shoot the puck and create his own scoring chances to increase. What a great year for him. My guess is he cracks the 80 point mark next year and is a strong candidate for the Canadian WJC team.
Remi Elie - Belleville Bulls
Along with Dickinson, was another of the league's most improved players this year. He WAS Belleville's offense this year. Every single aspect of his game improved. Most noticeably was his confidence with the puck. He was able to create a lot of scoring chances for himself and for his linemates by making moves and controlling the puck in ways I didn't think he was capable of. His puck skill greatly improved, or at least was very hidden before. He's a powerful force with and without the puck who looks to charge the net. His physical game remains solid as he's a terrific forechecker and presence in the open ice. I feel like not a lot of people had a chance to see Belleville this year (because they weren't good), but Elie was one of the league's breakout stars. If he continues to improve and the rest of Belleville's roster improves with him, I could see an 80 point season next year. He's certainly made me re-think his high end potential. There's more in him than just a 3rd/4th line grinder.
Gemel Smith - London Knights
Statistically, he had a pretty decent year (his best in the OHL), but I was still surprised that Dallas signed him. Even if his numbers improved, I'm not really sure he did. Throughout his OHL career, he was pretty consistent offensively, but he never really took that step as a dominating offensive force. This was evident in the OHL playoffs this year where his struggles with the high intensity of the game caused London to move him down to the 4th line. While he is skilled, I don't know if he's skilled enough to play a top 6 role. And while he can provide energy, his size and skill set doesn't really make him an ideal candidate for a bottom 6 role. He strikes me as a tweener. He'll likely start his pro career next year and he'll probably be given little ice time to start, allowing him to get used to the size and speed of the pro game. I think it could be good for him too, forcing him to play with more of an edge which would help his potential moving forward.
Alex Peters - Plymouth Whalers
Peters was a great pick by Dallas in the 3rd round. I really like his game and I think there's more to it than just a physical, stay at home guy. He's very solid with the puck, and has good mobility. At times, he'll skate the puck out of the zone, but stops short of pushing into the opposing end. As a midget player (in his OHL draft year), he was one of the most improved players in the draft class, so he's a hard worker and an astute learner. I see that carrying over to his OHL career. As he gains confidence in his abilities, I think his offensive game will really come around to match his excellent defensive potential. We're not talking a Drew Doughty, Shea Weber here. But, he has enough skill with the puck to elevate him over other defensive first guys who can be a liability in their own end when counted upon to make a quick play. A 30 point year is well within his reach IMO.
Brent Moran - Niagara IceDogs
Moran got better and better as the year went on for Niagara, taking over the starter's role around mid-season. He was great in the playoffs and almost allowed the Dogs to upset the eventual East champion North Bay Battalion. He's a big kid who's athletic and has the composition of the ideal NHL goaltender. He'll need to continue to work on his angles, taking advantage of his size by challenging shooters and trying to stay up longer to take away the top part of the net. Niagara should be one of the top teams in the East next year and if Moran continues his solid play from the second half of last year, they'll be in great hands.
Aaron Haydon - Niagara IceDogs
Haydon is a similar player to Peters in that he's a big guy with good mobility. But he's much less polished. He can struggle with his decision making at times and will need to improve his zone coverage reads to really establish himself as a dominant stay at home force. In his OHL rookie year, I saw a guy who flashed a ton of offensive potential and appeared to be on the cusp of developing as a strong two-way presence (and potential puck rusher). But this past year he wasn't terrific and really seemed to lack confidence offensively. I'm interested to follow his development moving forward though, as I could certainly see him as a guy who could improve. Rome wasn't built in a day. Next year, he'll get a chance to increase his offensive numbers as Niagara will be looking for one of their young defenders to step up as their primary powerplay QB.
Patrick Sanvido - Windsor Spitfires
Not all that surprising to see him get drafted late, as one of the biggest players available in the draft. I had high expectations for him coming into the year, but he didn't have a strong sophomore season. He did look a bit better towards the end of the year, but he remains a work in progress. His skating will have to improve a lot if he wants to be a primary shutdown defender. Keeping forwards to the outside shouldn't be hard with his reach if he can manage to stay with them. Windsor's defensive alignment is kind of up in the air right now for next year. There is ice time available for the taking. Will Sanvido put in the work this offseason to grab a top 4 role? I guess we'll see.