Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2015

We're inching ever closer to the Christmas break and the halfway point to the 2014/2015 season. You've seen draft lists from pretty much every major scouting organization (CSS, ISS, McKeen's, FC, Craig Button at TSN, etc). In about a month's time, NHL Central Scouting will release it's midterm list; their first which amalgamates all leagues in North America. In my opinion, it's a perfect time to highlight some guys who are flying under the radar right now. Guys we're not hearing much about, but who are slowly turning themselves into NHL (some considerable) prospects.

This list is in no particular order of ranking; as I've used alphabetical order. An argument could certainly be made about the criteria used to separate the "under the radar" players. No question it was quite subjective. But I didn't include a guy like Blake Speers based on how much "hype" he's been receiving from the media as of late (deserving of it too).

Jeremiah Addison - Ottawa 67's
The former first rounder of the Spirit is getting a second chance with the 67's and is finally starting to look confident and comfortable. After starting the year very slowly, he's now averaging a point per game over his last 14 games (8 goals, 6 assists). The hard nosed winger is a very versatile player who's skill set allows him to excel in a variety of roles. Lately, he's shown a lot of chemistry playing with Dante Salituro, opening up scoring lanes and finishing off plays near the crease. If he continues to play at this level, he could elevate himself into the top 100.

Anthony Cirelli - Oshawa Generals
Cirelli was a free agent signing by the Generals this offseason and he's proving to be quite the find. He's lined up both down the middle and on the wing this year and is currently doing whatever Oshawa's coaching staff is asking of him. Right now that includes playing with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Sterk on the Generals' top line. Cirelli isn't the biggest, but he's proving to be very capable of working the corners and digging hard in front of the net. There's no doubt that Cirelli's skill and tenacity has caught the attention of NHL scouts.

Johnny Corneil - Niagara IceDogs
With Brendan Perlini out to start the season, Corneil was the recipient of increased ice time. While the points weren't consistently there, the effort always was. At only 5'10, Corneil plays much larger than that. He's very effective in puck pursuit, and had worked very well with Graham Knott to establish a strong Niagara forecheck. I think it still remains to be seen how much skill he has. And with Perlini back, it's unknown how much ice time he'll get. But Corneil's hard working style of play makes him a noticeable presence on the ice.

Adam Craievich - Guelph Storm
I really felt like Craievich was a big time breakout candidate this season, but that has not be the case as of yet. His skating is still in need of improvement and he's still not getting a ton of ice time, but the talent level he possesses is evident. He's starting be much more noticeable, shift in/shift out, and has been creating offence from the 3rd/4th line as of late. If Guelph were to suffer an injury to their top 6, he could be the leading candidate to fill that role. Maybe during the WJC's (when the Storm will likely be missing Fabbri, Suter, and perhaps Dickinson), he'll get his chance.

Travis Dermott - Erie Otters
Just not getting the respect he deserves (in terms of draft rankings). Guys like Mitchell Vande Sompel, Rasmus Andersson, Matt Spencer, and even Thomas Schemitsch have garnered a lot of attention to start the year, and (IMO) Dermott is right there with them in contention for being the top rated OHL defenseman for this year's draft. The stocky rearguard is a real jack of all trades guy who excels in a variety of roles for Erie. He moves the puck well, but is also a staunch defender of his own end. The "not so sexy" selections like Dermott always attract more attention from NHL scouts than they do the armchair ones.

Matt Luff - Belleville Bulls
Luff has been up and down this year, but that can be expected of someone playing in their first OHL season. When looking at the big picture, Luff possesses a lot of qualities that will be deemed attractive to NHL scouts. He's a big kid and he uses his size well to protect the puck. He has a desire to play near the crease and he shows very good hands in close. His skating is something that will need to be worked on, but the size and hands combo is very intriguing. A "project" pick who could elevate his draft status with a more consistent second half.

Hayden McCool - Windsor Spitfires
His development appeared to have stalled in Niagara, but the trade to Windsor (in the Ho-Sang deal) has really done wonders for his game. He's getting consistent power play time now and has gelled well with fellow youngster Logan Brown. At 6'3, McCool is most effective when he's playing physical and going hard to the net, which he's done so far in Windsor. If McCool can continue to produce offensively (7 points in 9 games) and showcase his power game, he's got a chance to really rocket up the draft charts.

Brett McKenzie - North Bay Battalion
McKenzie's value to the Battalion goes further than a contribution offensively. With his size and skating ability, McKenzie has turned into one of Stan Butler's go to defensive players and has found success centring North Bay's energy/checking/shut down line. But, as someone who saw McKenzie play for Oakville in midget, I can tell you that he's got the skill level and potential to be a big time offensive contributor. North Bay (and Brampton) under Butler, has had a lot of draft eligible guys breakout big time in the second half of the year (I think of Brent Burns and Nick Paul). McKenzie could be the next.

Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack
"All I do is win, win, win, no matter what." McNiven's strong play forced the the Attack to deal Brandon Hope to Niagara, and since then he's begun to earn more and more starting assignments. In 8 starts this year, McNiven has yet to post a save percentage under .913, and has yet to let in more than 2 goals in a game. Pretty impressive stuff. With great size and athleticism in the crease, it wouldn't shock me at all if by the end of the year, McNiven passes Mackenzie Blackwood as the top OHL goaltender available.

Colton White - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Everyone knew that the Greyhounds would be one of the league's top teams this year. But one of the biggest surprises on the team has been the play of their "3rd pairing" (I say this because it's not really a 3rd pairing) of Colton White and Gustav Bouramman. White is a super athletic defender who's only scratching the surface of what he's capable of. A terrific skater, White is only now gaining the confidence to push things offensively. He's also one of Sault Ste. Marie's most relied upon penalty killers. With Darnell Nurse gone at the WJC's, he's going to get an even larger role. He's poised for big things in the second half.

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