With some recent draft picks and signings, the Sharks have greatly increased their influence in the OHL. They are next for the '30 in 30' treatment.
Chris Tierney - London Knights
Can't say enough good things about Tierney and the way he developed as a player since he was drafted. This year he was one of the best players in the OHL IMO. While it's guys like Domi, Zadorov, Horvat who get all the press, it was Tierney (the captain) who stole the show this year and led London to another solid year. His overall game really improved this year and he was just as much of a factor defensively as he was offensively. His tireless work ethic was refreshing and contagious and was terrific to see from a player who was criticized for a lack of intensity in his draft year. He also was significantly more confident with the puck. Previously, he'd be a strictly pass first kind of guy who'd enter the zone or force a turnover and then look to pass it off. But this year, he demonstrated confidence in his ability to finish off his own creations and was looking to go to the net with more aggressiveness. He's always possessed a good shot, but had never really utilized it until this past year. With all the improvements he made this year I'm very excited to see him perform in the AHL next year. I think he's got a very bright future and I expect him to produce offensively right away (similar to the way Seth Griffith did this past year).
Barclay Goodrow - North Bay Battalion
I'd been lobbying for him to be a draft pick in every single draft he went through. And then I lobbied hard for him to be a free agent signing, of which he FINALLY was. So glad to see the Sharks take a chance on him. I don't think they'll be disappointed. Look at how he took over this year's OHL playoffs and led the Battalion to a surprise Eastern Conference victory. He impacts the game on so many different levels. He works the boards and the possession game. He forechecks hard and forces turnovers. He's physical. He's one of the top penalty killers and two-way forwards in the OHL. His skating has come a very long way since he entered the league. He'll never be mistaken for Mike Gartner, but he's really improved his first few steps to make him more explosive coming off the boards and in driving to the net. Now, I don't think we're talking about a guy who's going to be an Art Ross trophy winner at the NHL level. But with all the things he brings to the ice, I think he can develop into a real asset on a checking line. I'm very excited to see how he performs in the AHL this year, an opportunity that he's truly earned.
Nikolay Goldobin - Sarnia Sting
There's absolutely no questioning Goldobin's offensive talents. When he wants to be, he is a dynamo with the puck who creates scoring opportunities with his ability to play the middle of the ice. Look no further than the Top Prospect's game, a spectacle which properly showcased his potential. Problem was, there were too many times this season in Sarnia where he floated, looked disengaged and stuck to the perimeter. Granted, Sarnia was not a good team. But, that's no excuse. Sarnia has an exceptionally talented group of young players who need Goldobin to be a leader. Sarnia could be better next year if their younger players take steps forward. But they'll also need Goldobin to lead by example and to put forth a consistent effort every game. To battle just as hard without the puck on his stick as he does with it. The development of his overall game will be the key to his development moving forward. And as a late '95, this could be his final year in the league, hopefully he can make it a memorable one.
Dylan Sadowy - Saginaw Spirit
I really like Sadowy. He's the type of guy who does all the little things on the ice; the things that help you win hockey games. He's already a committed two way player who is one of Saginaw's top penalty killers. He battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. He brings a consistent physical presence on the forecheck. As such, he profiles very well as an NHL player, barring he improves his skating. At this point, that's what is holding him back from having a more consistent and profound impact on the offensive side of things. As it stands, he's already got good hands and scoring instincts. If he can add that extra gear, it will really help to open up the game for him. Saginaw could be pretty poor this year, but his goal scoring numbers should stay around the 25-30 mark.
Kevin Lebanc - Barrie Colts
Admittedly, I was a tad underwhelmed by Lebanc this year. I had heard great things about a potential elite checking line player, but did not exactly see that in 2013, his rookie season in the OHL. As a late '95, I also figured he'd have a bit of a leg up, but his age certainly didn't help him. While he was a competent backchecker and proved to be a decent two-way player, he didn't appear strong enough, or willing enough to consistently win battles in the corners. He wasn't much of a physical threat or someone noticeable on the forecheck either. A lot of Barrie's games that I saw this year, he just wasn't a consistently visible player. This upcoming year, the Colts are going to need him to step up. They'll need to replace four of their top forwards and Lebanc will be counted on to produce as a top 6 forward and powerplay guy. I look for him to play with a little more confidence, considering it will now be his second year in the league.
*Of note, Sharks 2nd rounder Julius Bergman will be suiting up for the London Knights next year after being chosen in the Import Draft. He's going to get all the ice time he can handle (possibly on the first pairing and the first powerplay unit). Hopefully he's up to the challenge!