The Vancouver Canucks are up next. Lots of OHL talent to discuss here.
1. Jared McCann - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Canucks have two of the OHL's best two-way forwards (would have had 3 in Horvat if he returned), so it's obvious that they've focused on that part of development. McCann projects as a slightly more involved offensive player at the next level (than Cassels) IMO, because of his shot, release, and skating ability. McCann doesn't need a ton of space to get his shot off and he's got great velocity on it. As he continues to learn to read defences and gets stronger, he could be a big time goal scorer at the next level. McCann is also a terrific defensive player and face off man who excels on the penalty kill and without the puck in general. Only thing missing is that I'd like to see him play a little more physical, especially without the puck on the forecheck. If he's returned to the OHL next year, McCann is a slam dunk to be named the new captain of the Hounds (at least IMO) and he should be a candidate to find the top 5 of the OHL scoring leader board.
2. Cole Cassels - Oshawa Generals
Absolutely terrific prospect. Was a tough choice as to whether I prefer McCann or Cassels, but I felt McCann's potential is slightly higher so I ranked Cassels second. For the Champion Generals, Cassels did everything this year. Particularly impressive was his play in the playoffs, where he was asked to score and shutdown the opposition's best. Without question, Cassels is one of the most well rounded prospects in the OHL. Because of this, I don't think he's far from being able to contribute at the NHL level. His playmaking ability and vision is top notch, he's aggressive with and without the puck, and his skating has really improved over the course of his OHL career. I do hope that the Canucks start him in the AHL though, where he can work his way up the lineup and see some special teams play. Definitely a potential 2nd/3rd line guy who could chip in 50 points consistently.
3. Jordan Subban - Belleville Bulls (now Hamilton Bulldogs)
Offensively, there is a ton to like about Subban. Despite being undersized, his ability to protect the puck through the neutral zone is terrific and he does a great job getting the puck over the opposing blue line. Subban's shot is also world class and he does a great job reading defences and knowing when to jump up to get himself a look. His skating ability, offensive instincts and pure skill level make him a good bet to continue to put up points in the AHL next year. That said, he still struggles defensively at times. The effort level to engage physically is there, but against bigger players with speed, he struggles in containment. For being so mobile, Subban can also have issue keeping forwards in front of him and his reads/positioning still needs refinement. I'll be interested to track his progress professionally, but I still worry about his ability to defend at the next level.
4. Evan McEneny - Kingston Frontenacs
The Canucks made the right call sending McEneny back to the OHL for his overage season. It gave him the opportunity to play a significant leadership role and continue to grow offensively and defensively. He looked more comfortable and confident leading the rush, although probably wasn't as aggressive as he once was in doing so. He's learned to pick his spots and has become more confident using the stretch pass too. As a power play QB, he still doesn't look natural, but he was efficient this year and did a good job keeping pucks in and getting low shots through. Ultimately, McEneny's calling card at the next level will be his play in his own end IMO. This year his defensive game was terrific and he really took that next step in using his size more aggressively in the corners and in front of the net. His mobility and size makes him a big asset as he can use a good stick check or his body to keep forwards to the outside. I think he could definitely develop into a third pairing guy at the NHL level, and he should be able to play that role in the AHL next year (although I wouldn't be surprised to see him see some time in the ECHL too).
5. Kyle Pettit - Erie Otters
Pettit was a bit player on a terrific Otters team this year. He missed most of the playoffs with a fractured hand (blocking a shot), but he moved around the lineup between C and W and played his role well. As a big body, Pettit is asked to play more of a possession style game to wear down opposing defences, and he's asked to play well at both ends. Offensively, I don't think we've quite seen what he's capable of, especially if he shifts back to center. Getting quicker, improving his puck handling, and learning to use his size more physically remain areas needing growth. Next year, he's going to likely be asked to play a top 6 role and should receive some power play time too. Whether he plays down the middle or on the wing depends on whether Strome makes the NHL, and Marchment is returned as an OA. I think a realistic expectation for him would be the 25 goal mark.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
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