The Florida Panthers are up next.
1. Lawson Crouse - Kingston Frontenacs
The 11th overall pick in 2015, Crouse was the one prospect who seemed to divide opinions the most. Some felt that he shouldn't have sniffed the lottery, while others felt that he was a legitimate Top 10 talent. Those who read this site know that I'm a Crouse fan and that means that I loved the Panthers choice. Crouse has always been a responsible two way player, a smart player away from the puck, and heavy hitter (in his two years in the league). But offensively he did improve this year. His ability and confidence to take the puck from the wall to the net definitely increased, as did his ability to drive wide and use his size to create scoring chances off the rush. He's very much a North/South player at this point, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. His shot and hands in close are good, but his numbers suffered this year because he didn't have a top notch playmaker to get him the puck. There's a reason why his numbers increased once Sam Bennett returned. As he continues to get stronger, quicker, and better with the puck, he's going to be better at creating his own scoring chances and should increase his offensive output. 2015/2016 will be a big year for Crouse as he looks to lead Kingston to a good year. Their year could go either way right now. He'll also be an important member of Canada's WJC team. So what to expect from Crouse? Spencer Watson is going to need to have a big year to get a contract so I think he'll be highly motivated, which will give Lawson a playmaker to play with. I see Crouse being in the 35+ goal range, and hopefully around 65 points.
2. Thomas Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack
Massively improved over his rookie season in the OHL. Schemitsch was a key contributor in all situations for the Attack, playing nearly 30 minutes a night on occasion. He's a very smart player at both ends, using his instincts to jump up in the play to finish off scoring chances, or to be in position to make a good read defensively. For a player who hasn't been playing defence very long, he's shown great progress thus far. Moving forward, I think two things will be key to his development. First is improving his skating to make himself a more dangerous puck rusher and to help him evade the forecheck. Second is learning to use his size more consistently defensively. I have a lot of faith that he'll develop into a quality NHL prospect though. Next year Owen Sound will be going through a bit of a rebuild and they could struggle offensively, so if Schemitsch can post similar numbers to what he did this year (around 50 points), all the while improving on the above traits, I'd consider that a success.
3. Juho Lammikko - Kingston Frontenacs
Decent first OHL season for the power winger. There were definitely things that impressed me about his game. Plays a power, North/South game, using his size to drive the net. He's also effective at working the corners and has good puck protection ability. Lammikko also proved to be a good two-way player and was excellent at using his size to separate the opposition from the puck on the back check. I must say that I'm not entirely sure how high his offensive ceiling is though. His shot and overall scoring instincts did not prove to be incredibly impressive this year, and for as good as he was in the corners, and in working the cycle, the play did tend to die on his stick at times. Unfortunately, he won't be given the chance to improve his numbers in the OHL next year as he's returning to Finland to play for Assat.
4. Josh Brown - Oshawa Generals
Captain of a Championship winning team. You can't really beat that as an accomplishment. Brown led the Generals to the Memorial Cup, establishing career highs in point production and in +/- along the way. The overager has long been known for his physical play in his own end, but he's grown a lot as a player over his junior career. While he'll never put up points at the next level, he has worked hard to improve his breakout pass and is a lot less susceptible to forechecking turnovers than he used to be. And defensively, he's improved his overall mobility/agility, to make himself a much better defender off the rush, to go with his staunch defence of the crease and the corners. As he moves on to the pros next year (whether it's the AHL or ECHL), I do think that there will be a learning curve as there was in his OHL career. The quicker pace could expose his mobility and his puck skill at first until he's able to adjust. But there's no denying the terrific OHL career that Brown wrapped up has made him a potential NHL defender somewhere down the line.