Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Top 10 - Jumping Ship to the OHL - Seventh Edition

This has certainly become a tradition of the blog (thus this being the seventh edition). In these entries, I look at some of the players leaving other substantial leagues (USHL, NCAA, QMJHL, etc) to come to the OHL. Usually it just so happens to be American players. Import selections are not included in this article (for that, check my Import Draft review)

This year, all of the players in the top 10 have already confirmed to be coming to the OHL. We've also got a high profiled Honorable Mention who has been heavily rumoured to be "jumping ship."

10. Jalen Smereck - Defence - Oshawa Generals
The last pick of the 2013 Priority Draft (#299), Smereck is an average sized defender who played for Bloomington of the USHL last year. He finished with 18 points in 51 games and saw ice time in all situations. With Josh Brown, Dakota Mermis, Chris Carlisle, Will Petschenig all gone from the team going into next year, the team will be looking to replace 4/6 of it's defence. That leaves tons of opportunity for a kid like Smereck to come in and grab a spot.

9. Jake Henderson - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Henderson is a big, physically imposing forward who has played the last two years with Omaha of the USHL. He was previously committed to Providence but decided to sign with Kitchener instead. With only 11 goals over 100+ games in the USHL, I don't think it's fair to expect a massive offensive contribution from Henderson next year. But, he's a tenacious forechecker, heavy hitter, and a solid player along the boards and that's something Kitchener really lacked consistently last year IMO. Should slot on to Kitchener's 3rd or 4th line and bring some pain.

8. Sam Miletic - Forward - London Knights
At this point, this seems like a very nice under the radar signing by the Knights. Miletic is a good sized (6'2) '97 forward who is a former high school scoring star. With Green Bay of the USHL last year, Miletic posted average offensive numbers (27 points in 58 games) in his NHL draft season. However, Green Bay struggled pretty badly and his point totals were only 5 off the scoring leader for the team as an 18 year old. Miletic apparently can play a power game and is described as a very complete player. Sounds like someone who should be comfortable in a 3rd or 4th line role to start.

7. Cam Dineen - Defence - North Bay Battalion
An 11th round pick by the Battalion, Dineen has surprisingly chosen to sign in the OHL, despite being the 3rd overall pick in the USHL draft. He's coming off a pretty sensational year in the Eastern Hockey League, in which he lead the league in defenseman scoring, was rookie of the year, and named a first team all star. This is a league usually dominated by 19 and 20 year olds (similar to the OJHL). Dineen also suited up for the United States at the Ivan Hlinka and had a couple of assists in their victory for 5th place. The Battalion definitely have ice time to delegate on the backend going into next year with McIvor and Miller graduating. If he plays well, Dineen could find himself in North Bay's top 4 and with power play time.

6. Kole Sherwood - Forward - London Knights
Sherwood, a '97 forward, is property of the Columbus Blue Jackets after signing a contract with them recently. He went undrafted in 2015, but earned himself a contract with strong play at Columbus' developmental camp. Last year, Sherwood played in the Tier 1 EHL (a major midget league in the U.S.) and he finished 2nd in league scoring. The Knights are looking incredibly deep next year, but it seems fair to assume that Sherwood should earn some ice time so long as his play dictates it (at least on the 3rd line with some power play time).

5. J.J. Piccinich - Forward - London Knights
A 4th rounder of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014, Piccinich is a highly skilled offensive player who struggled last year in his freshman NCAA season. At Boston U, he just couldn't crack a very talented and deep lineup on a consistent basis. Thus, him leaving school to sign in London. There were rumours that this move would happen last year, before his freshman season, but a year later isn't bad either. A former USHL scoring star, it's safe to say that the Knights expect Piccinich to play in their top 6. As a '96, Piccinich is likely playing for an NHL contract with Toronto. If he plays well, his stop in London could only be a year long.

4. Luke Opilka - Goaltender - Kitchener Rangers
After some bad goaltending from September 2013 to the Jake Paterson trade in 2015, the Rangers hope to have finally found a more permanent answer in the crease. Kitchener hopes to be a contender in the Conference this year, with a veteran laden lineup, and they hope Opilka can be a steady presence in net. The St. Louis Blues 5th rounder in 2015 was the starting net minder for the U.S. Development Team (although did lose his starting gig at the U18's to the WHL's Evan Sarthou). He's got good size, moves well in his crease and challenges shooters. He has drawn some criticism for inconsistency and the mental side of things, but Kitchener is going to need him to be solid if they hope to challenge the likes of London.

3. Josh Jacobs - Defence - Sarnia Sting
A bit of a surprise to see him jump to the OHL this year after a great freshman year with Michigan State (where he was a member of his Conference's all rookie team), but I don't think the Sting are complaining. Jacobs, a 2nd round pick by the NJ Devils in 2014, is at the very least a solid stay at home defender who can eat up a ton of minutes for the improving Sting. But, he's also bound to get some power play time and it wouldn't be surprising to see him put up better offensive numbers than he did in the NCAA last year. The question is, will Sarnia use Jacobs are a partner for Jakob Chychrun or will they keep them separate?

2. Max Jones - Forward - London Knights
Jones is a hulking power forward prospect who is currently considered to be a potential top 5 pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. At the Under 17's last year, Jones was a near unstoppable force, leading the tournament with 7 goals and helping the U.S. win a Silver medal. Cut from the same cloth as the power forwards of old, Jones should jump right into the Knights' top 6 and be an impact player. I'm incredibly excited to see him in the OHL as he was a treat to watch at the U17's.

1. Matthew Tkachuk - Forward - London Knights
Tkachuk is another player that I can't wait to see in an OHL uniform. Growing up, his father Keith was one of my favourite players and Matthew is not a dissimilar player. He plays a power game and is incredibly gifted near the crease. At the U18's last year, Tkachuk finished the tournament 3rd in scoring on the way to a gold medal. The late '97 is eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft and should be a top 5 pick (along with Jones). London could be scary good this year.

Honorable Mention:

Jeremy Bracco - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Will he or won't he? Boston College or Kitchener? The Toronto Maple Leafs 2nd rounder in 2015 is apparently still committed to go the NCAA route next year, but twitter rumours seem to suggest otherwise. Bracco, an undersized offensive dynamo, would give a massive boost to a Kitchener lineup which struggled to score consistently last year. At the U18's last year, Bracco finished 2nd in scoring behind the awesome Austin Matthews. If he comes to the OHL, he could certainly be a candidate to lead the league in scoring.

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