Off to the Arch!
1. Robby Fabbri - Guelph Storm
As much as I love Fabbri, I'm not so sure it was a terrific year for his development. This is not uncommon for players in his position, who have a terrific first NHL camp, get a solid taste of professional action (NHL preseason games), and then get sent back. Upon returning to Guelph, he didn't seem to have that same drive, that extra bounce in his step that he had displayed his first two years. Keep in mind that the expectations were sky high too. He was still scoring, but there were some issues with turnovers and undisciplined penalties. Then the WJC's came, followed by his ankle injury. Upon returning in the final month, Fabbri continued to press a bit and then struggled big time (along with the rest of his teammates) in the playoffs. He remains an outstanding prospect and a guy I have a TON of faith in. He's going to be an excellent NHL player. The question is…when? Blues fans continue to rave about his performances at team camps. Could he push for a spot this year with the Blues? It seems likely. If he's back in the OHL, he'll need to stay healthy and I'm sure he'll have a terrific year. Whether he's in the NHL or OHL next year, I have high expectations that I expect him to meet.
2. Vince Dunn - Niagara IceDogs
Dunn fell at the NHL draft to the end of the 2nd round, which surprised me greatly. There aren't many defenders in this draft that have more potential than Dunn does. His skating ability and offensive skill set make him a juggernaut. He averaged a goal every other game in the 2nd half. Defensively, I think he's better than people give him credit for. His mobility and willingness to engage are pluses, once he learns to settle his game down a bit. Next year the IceDogs aim to be one of the top teams in the league. Dunn could have an absolutely monster season. I'm going to make a bold prediction here. The last OHL defender to score 30 goals was Allan Rourke 15 years ago. Dunn will reach that feat (pending he stays healthy).
3. Liam Dunda - Owen Sound Attack
Was a big fan of the Blues using a late round pick on Dunda. He deserved more credit than he got from scouting agencies heading into the draft (I think I may have been the only one to have him ranked). The offensive numbers weren't there. And that's for a reason. His hands, shot, and ability to carry the puck are still very raw. BUT, he's a really big guy who plays exceptionally well away from the puck. His board work and forechecking ability make him a noticeable player for the right reasons. As the youngest player available this past year, he still has a ton of filling out to do. As he gets stronger, he could become a real beast. I think back to the way guys like Hunter Smith and Justin Auger looked in their first draft year, and Dunda is ahead of them IMO. Owen Sound is going through a bit of a rebuild next year (a ton of graduations), which means Dunda is in line for way more ice time and even power play time if he's up for it. I expect a pretty big jump in production and at least a 20 goal season.
4. Dmitri Sergeev - Kitchener Rangers
The Blues signed Sergeev last year after inviting him to training camp. Kitchener was a pretty inconsistent young team, but Sergeev was largely pretty solid for them and their most dependable defender IMO. His skill set is pretty well rounded, doing most things pretty well. To some degree that might be the issue. I'm still not sure how his game projects to the next level. I'd like to see his offensive game really blossom this year. The Rangers are going to need someone to really QB their power play as they'll have some firepower up front. Sergeev should be that guy. I'd also like to see him take more chances in jumping up in the play as he's a pretty decent skater. As Kitchener looks to take that next step in 2016, they'll need players entering their final year (like Sergeev) to really step up.
5. Chandler Yakimowicz - London Knights
A big power forward who has done well in a limited role with London thus far. C.J. gets himself involved on the forecheck and does well to create offensive chances from being physical. At times this year, he showed himself to have the potential to develop into a more well rounded offensive player (a guy who can drive the net and make skilled plays coming across the blue line), but that part of his game remains pretty raw. I'm not sure how good his hands are either and just how much potential he has as a goal scorer. Even with some of the big acquisitions the Knights have made this year (Jones, Tkachuk, Sherwood, etc), he could still slot into a scoring role with some limited power play time. It'll be a big year for him as he plays for a contract and he's probably a guy on the fence right now.
*Of Note, St. Louis Blues 5th rounder Luke Opilka will be heading to Kitchener next year, where he'll be the club's starting netminder. The Rangers could be a very good team next year if they can get good goaltending from him.