Sunday, August 2, 2015

30 Teams in 30 Days - Dallas Stars

The Stars have spent a lot of their mid round picks on OHL players in recent years and thus we've got lots to talk about here.

1. Remi Elie - Erie Otters
Difficult to rank 1 and 2 here, as both are solid prospects. But I give a slight nod to Elie because I think his offensive upside is a tad higher, all the while bringing the same type of "grinding" qualities. Elie is easily one of the OHL's most undervalued prospects. He had a terrific final season in the league, split between Belleville and Erie. Once surrounded by more talented players, Elie's numbers really exploded (pro rated to a 90+ point season). Sure, he saw a ton of time along side Connor McDavid, but Elie's a talented player in his own right. He's not incredibly tall, but he's so strong on and off the puck. On the puck, it's very difficult to get it off of him and he's able to keep plays alive in the offensive end because he creates time and space. Off the puck, it's very difficult to prevent him from taking the puck off of you because he's aggressive, smart, and is great at using his size as leverage in the corners. His skating continues to get better too. Elie also has an underrated shot that he does well to get off in traffic. Because he's such a well rounded player, it can be tough to project his upside at the NHL level. I could see him as a complimentary piece on a 2nd line, or as the focal point to a 3rd line. In the AHL next year, I think he'll have a good year and should be a good candidate for a 20/20 first season.

2. Jason Dickinson - Guelph Storm
I don't think Dickinson was bad this year. Far from it. However, I will say that I was slightly disappointed with the progression of his offensive game. I expected that part of his game to really hit the next level, and it didn't. If anything, I think that might prove that Dickinson's ceiling at the NHL level might not be higher than a 3rd line center. Let's talk about the things he does well. He's one of the OHL's top defensive forwards and has developed into a terrific player away from the puck. He's the kind of guy who does all the little things right (winning face-offs, battling in the corners, anticipating on the forecheck). His vision as a playmaker is definitely the highlight of his offensive skill set and he's able to create good scoring chances for his line mates. His shot and scoring instincts never developed completely at this level, but there are a lot worse things than developing into a potential shut down 3rd line center. Like Elie, Dickinson will be starting his pro career next season in the AHL. Perhaps he and Elie will even play together (they could actually have good chemistry together). I could see Dickinson around the 30 point mark for his first year, as his offensive skill set adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

3. Aaron Haydon - Niagara IceDogs
Quietly had a very good year for Niagara. Was a consistently strong defensive presence on the back end. In his draft year, it seemed like he was trying to find his identity as a player, focusing on the offensive aspects of his game at the expense of the defensive end. This year, he made the choice to focus more on the defensive side of things and was a terrific partner for the offensively talented Vince Dunn. Haydon moves well for a bigger defender, so defending off the rush is something he does well. But he greatly improved his positioning and his coverage reads this year, and he's among the more physical defenders in the league. All this points to a prospect who has emerged as a quality stay at home presence. Offensively, he still has potential though. He's got a heavy shot from the point, and now that he's become a much more confident defender, I wonder if he tries his hand at being a bit more offensively creative again next year. Niagara is set to be one of the top teams in the OHL in 2015/2016, on the strength of their deep and talented defence. I think Haydon takes another step forward again next year, and reaches the 35 point mark, all while continuing to play great in his own end.

4. Alex Peters - Plymouth Whalers/Flint Firebirds
A lost year of development for Peters, after tearing his ACL at the beginning of the season. It was set to be a good year for him too, after being named captain of the Whalers for 2015. It was Peters' injury which set forth a spiral of awful luck for Plymouth this year and helped to explain their disappointing performance. Next year, because of the injury, will be a big one for Peters. He'll have to re-establish himself as a solid defensive player, but also improve upon his confidence in using his size. I've also felt that he has more offensive potential than his numbers would indicate, so it will be interesting to see just how much of an offensive side his game contains next year. The newly formed Flint Firebirds could be a half decent team next year, on the strength of a good defence and goaltending. I think the goal for Peters has to be returning healthy, playing a full season, and establishing himself as one of the league's premier shutdown defenders. If the Stars are really that curious about his offensive potential, they could always send him back to junior for his overage year too, to make up for the lost year of development. Very curious to see how he bounces back in 2015/2016.

5. Chris Martenet - London Knights
A behemoth defender who got better and better as this season went along. By the end of the season, I was quite impressed by his play at both ends. Defensively, he actually has gained a ton of confidence as a physical force in his own end. As he fills out his 6'7 frame and gets stronger, the Stars have to be excited by how dominating of a presence he could be. His mobility isn't bad either, and as long as he continues to work on his turns and overall lateral mobility, it could be an asset for him defensively, especially when combined with his reach. Offensively, his point shot could be a big weapon if he works on getting it off quicker. At the start of the year he had some problems with turnovers from the forecheck, but his exit pass and decision making also improved as the year went on. London is set to be one of the top teams in the league next year and it's likely that they lean on Martenet as a top 4 defender. Depending on how well his offensive game progresses, he could even see power play time. Expect a big numbers increase with all the firepower on this team for 2015/2016. Doubling his point output and then some is very possible.

6. Brent Moran - Niagara IceDogs
Definitely not a good year for Moran. Niagara's struggles at the beginning of the year were much publicized and Moran was at the thick of that (although not the sole reason). He seemed to really have trouble focusing on his positioning and angles, as with each weak goal allowed, his confidence seemed to decrease. Niagara then eventually brought in Brandon Hope to take over as the starter. Moran has the size and athleticism, but he definitely needs to work on a few things going into next year (overcommitting to shooters, mental toughness, rebound control, etc) if he wants to establish himself as a true starter in the OHL. As mentioned, Niagara hopes to be one of the top teams in the league in 2015/2016, so it will be a big year for Moran's development. He'll either have a great year and be a big part of their success, or he'll flounder and force the team's hand to bring in another net minder. I still have faith in him as a prospect, so I think it will be the former.

7. Patrick Sanvido - Windsor Spitfires
A big defender who is definitely not as polished as Martenet. The Spitfires struggled mightily defensively this year and that was because some of their younger defenders failed to take that next step forward. Sanvido has the physical advantage, but he's still quite raw in other ways. His skating still needs to be upgraded, as he can get himself tangled up in the defensive end, especially when trying to defend off the rush. He's also awkward at times, caught between playing the man and using his reach. And he struggles with his first pass and getting the puck cleanly out of his own end. But, he was a bit better in the 2nd half. He just needs to continue that progression heading into next year. The Spits will need Sanvido to be a top 4 defender if they want to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference yet again.

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