The Islanders are our next stop.
1. Michael Dal Colle - Oshawa Generals
Hard to argue with the kind of year Dal Colle had. Any time one of your top prospects leads his team to a Memorial Cup championship, you should be happy. Dal Colle certainly had a ton of help, as the Generals were one of the strongest OHL teams in recent memory (depth and size wise). However, the question you have to ask yourself is, did Dal Colle really improve a ton as a prospect and a player? The honest answer is probably not. Did he have to? Probably not. He's an exceptionally talented offensive player whose game is multifaceted. Can create offense or finish off plays off the rush, off the wall, near the crease, on the powerplay, 5 on 5, etc. Is he the world's most dynamic skater? No. Has he developed into a power forward the way many anticipated he would? No. But his shot, offensive intelligence, and puck skill profiles him as a great piece to an NHL top 6 down the line. The one thing that I will say improved this year was his defensive play. Greater effort and awareness on the backcheck, which will make him a more attractive NHL option (to his coaches). Is he NHL ready? Yeah I think so. After winning a championship, I think he's plateaued as an OHL player and needs a new challenge. Unfortunately he can't play in the AHL. Which means that it's the NHL or the OHL. The Islanders have some talented players, but that doesn't mean he can't bump someone. If he does return to the OHL, it'll be interesting to see what happens. The Generals will be rebuilding and I could see them dealing Dal Colle to recoup some of the lost assets traded for their Cup run. If he's in the OHL, he's obviously a favourite to lead the league in scoring. Just not sure what else there is for him to learn.
2. Joshua Ho-Sang - Niagara IceDogs
Ho-Sang had a solid year with Niagara, following the early trade from Windsor. He's still quite the character and the type of person who's not afraid to speak his mind. But that doesn't mean that he hasn't matured. Let's talk about his play on the ice though. In terms of being able to make plays, there are few who can match his ability at the OHL level. His ability to work in traffic and create off the rush is often electrifying. Does he over handle the puck at times? Sure. Is he prone to some offensive zone turnovers? Yeah. But he's cut those down every year he's been in the league, from multiple per game, to about one per game. When you look at how much offense he creates, you'll learn to live with his gambles. There are still next steps though. He still needs to get stronger, and I'd like to see him upgrade his shot and ability to use it off the rush. By developing as more of a goal scorer, he'll be able to keep defences more honest and be a little less predictable. And by adding strength, he should be better at fighting off checks near the crease and in the corners, where he needs to be better. Niagara is set to be one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference this year, and if that's the case, they'll need Ho-Sang to be their offensive leader. They need a 90-95 point season from him and I think they'll get it. This is a motivated kid.
3. Mitchell Vande Sompel - Oshawa Generals
Undersized? Sure. But don't count him out. Vande Sompel competes and has already improved so much over the course of his two year OHL career. His intelligence at both ends profiles him as more than just an undersized powerplay specialist. By far Vande Sompel's best skill is his ability to start the breakout. He transitions up ice with ease and his explosive first few strides help him to evade forecheckers pretty easily. I'd actually like to see him be a little more aggressive next year with his rushes, trusting his speed to bail him out if needed. As a defensive player, it's all about adding strength, to give him a stronger base. That way he can be more successful in the corners and protecting his crease. But his defensive positioning and awareness has already grown a ton. Next year Oshawa will likely be rebuilding, but that doesn't mean that they can't still be somewhat competitive. Vande Sompel will be their leader on defence and they will need him to play a ton (30 minutes a night likely) and in all situations. It'll be a great year for his development if he's up for the challenge. I expect him to finish near the top of the defenseman scoring list.