Summertime means one thing; my annual review of each NHL team's OHL prospects. 30 Teams in 30 Days returns again! New this year, I'll be ranking the prospects (on each team) on top of reviewing them.
Because I'm tired of Winnipeg fans giving me the gears, let's start at the bottom of the alphabet and work our way up this year.
1. Brendan Lemieux - Barrie Colts
One of the main components to that blockbuster deal with Buffalo, Lemieux had a very solid season. He was one of 12 players in the league to hit the 40 goal plateau. Towards the end of the season he suffered a hand injury (and a suspension), and wasn't incredibly effective in the playoffs upon his return, but that shouldn't be held against him. This past year, Lemieux's shot and goal scoring ability really elevated to the next level. He's always had great hands in close, but his wrist shot gained velocity and accuracy and he really appears to have worked on his release. His confidence level was quite high all season. Lemieux's skating also looked improved and it helped him be a more consistent force away from the puck, and more of a factor off the rush. I think he's actually very pro ready and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets NHL time this coming year. He could easily play a supporting role on a checking line. If he's returned to the OHL, the 50 goal plateau might not be far fetched. The Colts will be one of the league's powerhouses next season.
2. Jimmy Lodge - Mississauga Steelheads
The stat line may not do justice to how much Lodge grew this year as a player. After the trade to Mississauga, his game really exploded as their go to offensive catalyst. He didn't have a ton to work with, but he made the best of the situation. Any time I saw Mississauga, he was their best player and incredibly noticeable. After a disappointing year last year, it was refreshing to see him reestablish himself as an NHL prospect. In particular, his aggressiveness with the puck and protection ability off the rush were significantly improved. This would point to both an attitude shift (towards being aggressive) and improvements made in conditioning (strength). I'm curious to see how Lodge's first AHL season goes this coming year. Hopefully he continues to build off the improvements he made this past year, as he'll need to play aggressive (even more so) to find success in a limited role at the next level (at least until he gains confidence offensively).