Connor who?? The Oilers have a ton of riding on the development of their OHL prospects.
1. Connor McDavid - Erie Otters
The best player that I've ever seen in the OHL and now it's time for him to move on to face a new challenge. While I'm sure every OHL fan was hoping McDavid would end up on their favourite NHL team, there's no way any of them are cheering against him. McDavid had one heck of a season in 2014/2015. Dominating on the score sheet. Winning the Red Tilson. Winning World Junior Gold. Dominating in the playoffs. Sure, a Memorial Cup would have looked great, but beggars can't be choosers. His 49 points in 20 playoff games speaks for itself. And even though it's hard to fathom it, his game actually continues to improve. He was less predictable offensively this year, changing up pace consistently and not just relying on his speed entering the zone. He was also considerably better in all three zones, showing a consistent commitment to the back check. McDavid is just one heck of a hockey player. So what can we expect from him at the NHL level next year? There's no question that I expect McDavid to be physically ready for the challenges of the NHL. Not only is he talented, but he's also committed. With his speed, skill, and hockey sense, I have no doubt that he will instantly become Edmonton's top player and a serious candidate to hit the point per game mark. Will the Oilers as a team be better next year? That's up for debate. But as far as McDavid goes, I expect him to find instant success.
2. Darnell Nurse - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Like McDavid, Nurse had a very successful final season in the OHL. In all honesty, I'm not sure his game improved a ton from his 2013/2014 season, but that's not really a bad thing. As I wrote last year, I thought he was pro ready then. Defensively, he's a rock with plus mobility, smarts, and the desire to run you through physically. Offensively, he's a solid player who can do a lot of things (rush the puck, jump up for a scoring opportunity, run the point on the power play, start the breakout), but I do think that this year has taught us that his offensive ceiling at the next level may not be outrageously high. If you're expecting him to be a 50-60 point NHL defender who wins multiple Norris trophies, I think you're setting the bar too high. So what can we expect out of his first pro season (and of him in general)? At this point, I think I see Nurse settling into a role similar to that of Brent Seabrook in Chicago. A hard nosed, physical defender who can put up some points, but it's not his main role on the club. I've seen some insinuating that Nurse should start at the AHL level to let him gain some confidence offensively. In all honesty, I don't think that should necessarily be the case. If he's in the AHL next year, it should be because you want his defensive game to gain confidence, for him to adjust to the size and speed of the pro game. This is because that will be his calling card and that's how he's going to best help this club. If his defensive game looks ready in camp, put him on the team and bring his ice time along slowly (kind of the way the Preds have with Seth Jones). Whether he's in the AHL or the NHL, I think he finds success this coming year. I'd be willing to bet that he's with the Oilers for at least half the season though.
3. Kyle Platzer - Owen Sound Attack
What a great year for Platzer. He was probably playing for a contract this year and he came through in the clutch. Platzer paced the Attack to a very solid season, showcasing great development in his offensive game (in nearly every area). He looked quicker, which helped him attack the offensive zone and create scoring chances off the rush. He was more aggressive, attacking the net and on the forecheck. He looked stronger, on and off the puck, which helped his shot and his ability to maintain possession. And, he looked more confident and poised. While he may not possess great size, Platzer is a smart offensive player who is now also a well rounded one. He'll start his AHL career and could find success in a variety of roles. The coaching staff could ask him to play an energy role on the 3rd/4th lines, or they could stick him on a scoring line as a complimentary scorer. I expect him to be a 20 goal scorer in his first season and for him to establish himself as a solid pro prospect.