Sunday, November 22, 2015
Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2016
The 2015/16 OHL season is now nearly a third of the way complete. This means that the draft crop has really started to take shape. With my preliminary media/scout Top 10 being released last week, it's a great time to take a look at some of the guys flying under the radar right now.
Here are 10 guys to really keep an eye on over the next two thirds of the season (in alphabetical order).
Nathan Bastian - Mississauga Steelheads
The hulking winger is very quietly close to the Top 30 in OHL scoring and has been sensational since he was elevated to the top line with Nylander and McLeod (following the Josh Burnside suspension). His skating has really improved over the last year and he keeps pace with the speedy McLeod and Nylander, using his size very well to drive the net wide. But he's also exceptionally smart with the puck and has great playmaking vision for a big guy. Doesn't force plays and plays within his game. He's also really starting to play with an edge. At 6'4, 210lbs, his size, skill, and smarts are going to be highly coveted come June.
Will Bitten - Flint Firebirds
The Flint Firebirds are certainly not a terrific team right now. But, they are right in the mix for a playoff spot in the West; hovering around the .500 mark. One of the major reasons for this has been the play of Will Bitten, who has put the team on his back offensively. He currently leads the team in points by 11 (at 29), and is a force in all situations. He kills penalties and sees key defensive responsibilities too. Bitten's not the biggest (5'10), but he's playing with a huge chip on his shoulder right now. I definitely think he's a candidate for the later part of the first round come June.
Cole Candella - Hamilton Bulldogs
The Hamilton Bulldogs might just be the weakest team in the Eastern Conference. But they've also had some tough luck so far this year. They lost captain and defensive stalwart Justin Lemcke for the rest of the year (due to a horrific leg injury). Candella is a second year defender who has really stepped up in his absence to take control of a young defense corps. A jack of all trades kind of defender, Candella has been showing a lot more offensively in recent weeks, and as his confidence grows, so will the production. With good size and a well rounded skill set, he's certainly a candidate for a top 3 round selection.
Cam Dineen - North Bay Battalion
I've been pumping this guy's tires a lot so far this season, so forgive me if you're tired of hearing about him. But he's jumped right into the OHL as a first year player and already looks incredibly comfortable as an offensive defender. He's currently just outside the top 10 in the league in defensive scoring and has done a remarkable job being one of the team's only offensive catalysts from the backend (with Kyle Wood out to start the year, and only recently returning). His skating ability is top notch and he's got great vision leading the rush. Defensively, he's certainly got a lot to learn, but with Stan Butler guiding him, I'd say he's in pretty good hands.
Boris Katchouk - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Hard nosed, high energy winger who's gotten off to a great start in his first full season in the league. Is very dangerous on the forecheck and he does a great job of using his size to separate players from the puck along the wall. As such, he's proven to be a perfect compliment on a scoring line because he's winning battles and opening up space. But he's no slouch in the skill department either. He's proven to have very good hands in close and is capitalizing on a lot of the chances he's getting. The Hounds continue to pump out quality players and NHL prospects.
Alan Lyszczarczyk - Sudbury Wolves
You better learn how to spell his name. Lyszczarczyk is a terrific story out of Sudbury this year; a free agent pickup who played in the Czech Republic last year. He's really taken off after being elevated from the Wolves' 4th line to one of their scoring lines. Not a big kid, but he seems to have great work ethic on the ice, always battling for space. He's certainly not shy of traffic. Given Sudbury's inconsistencies as a young team, there will no doubt be ups and downs. And he'll no doubt look invisible on some nights. But the skill set is certainly intriguing enough to keep an eye on.
Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers
Kind of the forgotten man of this draft class. Was a very high OHL draft pick and a highly touted player. Was part of the struggles that Kitchener had in the scoring department last year and as such it seems like people have forgotten about him a little bit. Bottom line is, Kitchener is playing terrific hockey this year and Mascherin looks like a totally different player. He's driving the play and is terrific in possession, working the middle of the ice just as well as he controls the boards. He's not tall, but he's stocky; built very much like Max Domi. His shot is a big weapon and I think he's only going to get better. No doubt he's going to get a ton of exposure in the second half on a good team.
Markus Niemelainen - Saginaw Spirit
Niemelainen is an import defender with an incredibly imposing frame (6'6), but who is looking more and more comfortable in the league by the week. He moves incredibly well for his size and that makes him very difficult to beat off the rush. He plays a very safe offensive game right now, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Moves the puck up ice very quickly and efficiently with a great exit pass. He's not taking many chances with the puck and I do wonder how much offensive upside there is, but, the fact that he's already improved this year makes him a big time player to watch down the stretch.
Givani Smith - Guelph Storm
Make no bones about it, the Guelph Storm are absolutely awful this year. But one of the reasons to watch them play is Smith; a real throwback power forward who plays like a bull in a china shop in the offensive end. Without the puck, he's an exceptionally aggressive player who throws his weight around and hits with a purpose. But he's also got great puck protection ability already and uses that to drive the net to create scoring chances. If he were playing with some more talented playmakers, I guarantee that we'd be talking about this guy as a potential first rounder. At this point, you'd have to consider him a shoe in for the U18 team, where he'll have a great opportunity to impress scouts.
Logan Stanley - Windsor Spitfires
Making waves recently because of how high (28) TSN scout Craig Button had him. Now, I'm certainly not ready to put him that high (especially ahead of Max Jones), but he has shown great improvement in his game from a year ago. Possesses great size at 6'7, and is already aggressive in using that to assert physical dominance in the defensive end. The Spits have been a surprise team this year and a big reason for that has been how improved they are defensively. Lately, Stanley has been jumping up in the rush more and looking to be more of an offensive catalyst. If he can show that side of his game has significant upside, he could very well end up as high as Button has him.
Cole Carter - Windsor Spitfires
A very small player (5'8, pushing 160lbs), but he's done a fantastic job as an OHL rookie this year. Has displayed terrific chemistry with Logan Brown. He does everything at top speed and seems to really think the game well. He's also way better operating in traffic than you would expect from such a small kid in his first OHL season. Don't know what his NHL draft chances will be, but he's certainly put his name in the discussion.
Domenic Commisso - Oshawa Generals
Who knew that it would only take Commisso's promotion to the top line to get Michael Dal Colle producing? The two of them have developed some serious chemistry and it's made Commisso a high impact player for the Generals. Average sized, but Commisso seems to have a very high hockey IQ. If he continues to see time with Dal Colle (unless he gets traded), NHL teams are going to take notice (just as they did with Anthony Cirelli last year).
Austin Osmanski - Mississauga Steelheads
Osmanski is a big defender who is really starting to blossom into one of the Steelheads top blue liners. Coach Boyd has really started to give him more ice time and his game is flourishing. Both his offensive and defensive capabilities are very raw, but he's definitely a guy worth watching.
Cliff Pu - London Knights
Started the year injured and took a bit of time getting going, but he's playing the best hockey of his OHL career right now. He's a noticeable player on most of his shifts and is making the most of his sometimes limited ice time. Pu displays some real power winger qualities and I think that as he adds strength and confidence, he could be a real force offensively and without the puck. Would be curious to see what his production would look like if he was getting consistent power play time.