To the West coast we go. San Jose is up next. Three very solid and underrated prospects who were actually very difficult to rank. Not much separating these guys.
1. Julius Bergman - London Knights
Bergman really impressed me at times this year and I think he definitely has 2nd pairing potential at the NHL level. I figured he'd come in and put up offensive numbers (which he did), but I was actually surprised at his intensity level in the defensive end and his overall play in his own end. Bergman is very active physically, stepping up on players crossing the blue line, and using his size to push forwards to the corners. Overall his size, mobility, and physicality makes him a solid defender off the rush. Coverage is his biggest weakness, but he made strides there. Offensively, he moves the puck well, either by rushing it or by making a solid outlet. His shot from the point is solid too and he could run a power play at the next level. As he moves to the pro ranks this year, I'd expect him to continue to get better and establish himself as one of San Jose's top defence prospects.
2. Dylan Sadowy - Saginaw Spirit
One of the OHL's most underrated players. Sadowy made great strides this year, finishing in the top 10 in goal scoring on a below average team. Biggest difference in his play this year was upgraded skating. Still has some room to grow, but the improvements he made to his first few steps made him significantly more dangerous offensively, whether it was taking the puck wide to the net off the rush, or beating defenders down the ice to create odd man chances. His hands and ability to be creative off the rush actually surprised me too. Showed more there than he did in his draft year. Through all this, he remains a terrific two-way player and one of the OHL's top penalty killers (2nd in the OHL with 7 shorties). Next year Saginaw should be better and Sadowy will be one of their go to offensive catalysts yet again. Difference is, he should have more help this year (with improvements from the likes of Stephens, Felhaber, Clarke, Barwell, Artemov, etc, expected). Wouldn't be surprised if he cracks the 90 point barrier.
3. Kevin Labanc - Barrie Colts
Easily one of the OHL's most improved players this past season. Quite frankly, I didn't think he deserved to be drafted after his rookie season in 2013/2014. But the Sharks proved me wrong, that's for sure. Two things changed in Labanc's game this year. First is skating ability. Massive improvements in that area. Allowed him to be more involved offensively in every facet. Also made him a better player without the puck. Second was his skill level with the puck and his strength in maintaining puck possession. Labanc was a HUGE factor creating scoring chances off the rush this year, dotting in and out and proving to be a very slippery player for defences to key in on. Finishing 6th in league scoring is a huge feat and it sets him up for success in his first pro season this upcoming year. I'm very interested to see how his production is in the AHL. Like he did in his first OHL season, I could see him struggling to be more than a 3rd line energy guy, but given time, he could be an impactful offensive player.