Monday, December 26, 2016

Midseason Top 50 for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2017 calendar year is nearly upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2017 Draft. The OHL season is nearly at the half way mark (for most teams) which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

I think we're really starting to get a good grasp on the type of crop the OHL has to offer this year. It's certainly not high on first round talent. We may only see around 6 OHL players go in the first round, which would be the lowest total since 2007 (when the league only had 3 NHL first rounders). But, I really like the depth and potential outside of that. Quite a few guys who could make excellent 2nd round picks. I could actually see the OHL occupying a third of all picks by the end of the 2nd round. Certainly not unrealistic. 

For those unfamiliar with my lists, I only include first time eligible players. So a guy like Stephen Dhillon isn't listed despite the fact that I'd expect him to receive draft consideration. I do a list of "re-entries" or second/third year eligible players prior to the draft.

And for comparison's sake, here's my preliminary top 50 from October.  

Let's start it off with a change at the top.

1. Owen Tippett - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
We've got a new number one. Here's why. Tippett's play has been way more consistent the last month and a bit, and his effort level in all three zones has also greatly improved. The last few times I've seen Mississauga play, Tippett has used his size and speed to dominate all three zones and has been the best player on the ice. His shot and release are just so good and are already NHL caliber. I think that the questions surrounding his hockey IQ and vision are legitimate to some degree, because he can struggle at times with his decision making in the offensive end. However, I think even that area of his game has shown growth. I think he's finally starting to put it all together and looks like a legitimate franchise winger. He and Vilardi are definitely going to go back and forth the rest of this year.

2. Gabriel Vilardi - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Has only played 16 games this year so far because of a knee injury, and most recently an appendectomy. When he's been on the ice, he's been great. But with the way Tippett has played of late, holding on to that top spot would have been tough. Let's be honest, Vilardi will still be number one among OHL players for a lot of people. It's extremely close. It's interesting too, because he's quite the contrast from Tippett. Rangy center with a great head for the game who excels when the game slows down in the offensive end. His vision off the cycle is especially impressive. His skating isn't nearly as dynamic, but he uses his head and size to gain leverage over defenders. I'm extremely curious to see how he performs when he comes back, and how he plays down the stretch and into the Memorial Cup. As I said, these guys are pretty much 1A and 1B for me right now.

3. Nic Hague - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
His 12 goals are 2nd most in the OHL among defenders. That's an impressive feat for a draft eligible defender (even a late birthday '98). Offensively, he plays the game a lot like Brent Burns. He loves to utilize his big point shot, and he is extremely aggressive in his pinches, staying down low and looking to use his size to drive the net. Defensively, he's an impressive prospect because of his reach and potential physically. One thing I have noticed recently though, is that Hague has had some problems with the forecheck. His footwork in receiving passes in the defensive end could use some work and teams are keying in on this. Because of this, he's been a bit turnover prone. This is something he's going to have to continue to work on. But Hague is a hard worker and a very intelligent kid (defending academic player of the year), which will appeal to scouts.

4. Matthew Strome - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Has slowed down a bit offensively since the start of the season, but so have the rest of the Bulldogs. He remains their most consistent player and a very intriguing prospect. I love his combination of size and hockey sense. He's a big man who really sees the ice well and understands how to play without the puck in the offensive end. The skating concerns are real, but they were with Dylan and Ryan too. I'd actually say that Matthew has improved his skating to the point where he might be the best of the three of them in their draft years. That's impressive considering he was definitely the worst of the three in his OHL draft year (from minor midget). 

5. Nick Suzuki - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Huge fan of Suzuki as a player. He's going to be a real fan favourite for whatever team ends up drafting him. Never takes a shift off. Gets after it on the forecheck, plays way bigger than his size and just always seems to make the right play. His league leading 4 shorthanded goals this year are no fluke. He's a real pain in the ass to play against. Really, the only thing Suzuki doesn't have going for him is the size you want from a center in today's game. If he had that, we'd be talking about him for the top 5 IMO. 

6. Michael Dipietro - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
Dipietro is having one heck of a draft season so far. He leads the league in goals against average, is 2nd in save percentage and 4th in wins. All this despite his team, the Spitfires, going through some serious injury issues to top players this year. At this point, he'd be a serious candidate for first half MVP of the OHL. He doesn't have the ideal size NHL scouts look for in the position these days, but I don't really care. He's so athletic, but his approach is already incredibly refined. It's rare to find him out of position and he covers angles exceptionally well for an average sized goaltender. If he continues to play this well and plays well at the Memorial Cup, it's hard to imagine that he's not a top 50 selection come June.

7. Robert Thomas - Forward - London Knights
Massive riser and with good reason. He's emerged as one of the catalysts for London offensively in the last month or so. You could probably even make a case for him being the team's best player in that run. His speed is such an asset. And he's a very creative and intelligent player with the puck too. The combination of that makes him an incredibly dangerous player off the rush. But he's also a well rounded player who has become an asset in the defensive end and on the PK. I've also really liked him on the powerplay, where he's seen an increase in ice time. So patient with the puck, which is really an asset for his line's puck movement. If he continues to play at this level, he's challenging the likes of Hague and Strome for the 3rd spot from the OHL IMO.

8. Ivan Lodnia - Forward - Erie Otters
Lodnia seems to be a bit of a forgotten man in this draft class right now. But he's been an offensive workhorse for the top team in the OHL, with the 5th highest point per game average among first year draft eligible players. A lot of that likely has to do with his lack of elite stature (5'10) and because he plays the wing and not down the middle. But his skill level with the puck and smarts in the offensive end are incredibly good. And he's battler who is far from a perimeter player. Of note, only one of his 15 goals and 8 of his 32 points have been on the powerplay. If he was getting the time with the man advantage, his stats would be even more impressive.

9. Isaac Ratcliffe - Forward - Guelph Storm
Now the leading scorer in Guelph thanks to a terrific run the last month or so. In his last 12 games, Ratcliffe has 10 goals. At 6'6, that's going to draw a lot of intrigue from NHL scouts. Ratcliffe is a very solid north/south player who's definitely a pretty good skater for a big man. I really like his scoring instincts and his willingness to find his way to the front of the net. That hockey sense is displayed at both ends too, making him a pretty well rounded player. I think he's definitely more likely a complimentary offensive piece at the next level, but I'm sure there are lots of teams salivating over his potential once his 6'6 frame fills out. 
10. Mackenzie Entwistle - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Entwistle slips a bit from my preliminary rankings. The reason for that is a combination of a drop in offensive production and improved play from some other guys rated around him. Entwistle has only one goal in his last 15 games. The rest of his teammates are really struggling right now too though and I think he's been a bit snake bitten. I've seen Hamilton play a few times in that stretch and he's still had some good scoring chances. At the end of the day, Entwistle is still 6'3, can play any forward position, can skate, can kill penalties, and has better hands and scoring potential than some give him credit for. But there's no question his production will need to increase if he wants to get himself back into 1st round consideration.
11. Morgan Frost - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Frost is another guy really rocketing up draft lists. In a lot of ways, he's a similar player to Robert Thomas in London. Average sized, but skilled, smart, and contributing in a multitude of ways for a team right up near the top of the OHL standings. I really like the way Frost operates on the powerplay for the Soo. He opens up a lot of ice due to his patience with the puck and his aggressiveness in attacking lanes, when the time comes for it. Overall decision making is top notch. Seems like he's really gaining confidence in attacking off the rush lately too. Could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg here.
12. Jack Studnicka - Forward - Oshawa Generals
I seem to be higher on Studnicka than others are (considering that the guys I've got ranked behind him are all going to the Top Prospect's Game). His offensive ceiling may not be as high as a guy like Chmelevski or Formenton, but I just see him making a really solid pro hockey player. Certainly not flashy, but you can't overlook the way he's performed for the first place Generals this year. He plays in all situations. He's been good on the draw. He has size. He has a very good head for the game and is an above average playmaker IMO. I've said this a million times, but guys like Studnicka can often be perceived to lack offensive upside just because they're already solid two-way players. Don't see any reason that he can't develop into a Jarrett Stoll type at the next level.

13. Sasha Chmelevski - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Highly skilled offensive player who loves to play up tempo, using his speed to cut through the middle of the ice. His hands and ability to create are definitely top notch and will only get better as he gets stronger on the puck. That said, he drops a bit for me because I think he needs to really improve his play away from the puck. Too often he floats around, rather than engaging in the backcheck or in scrums along the wall and he needs to use his speed to be more aggressive in attacking the net. The production has continued to be there, but I see a lot of players ranked around him that have similar skill sets but bring more to the table in other areas.
14. Adam Ruzicka - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Got off to a really slow start to the year, but that's not uncommon for first year Imports. Moving away from home, and playing in a new league can be quite an adjustment. The last month or so, Ruzicka is showing signs that he's finally getting comfortable. He's been a lot more aggressive with and without the puck, looking to utilize his size to control play in the offensive zone. He's a pretty tough customer to separate from the puck in the corners and he's proven to be very adept at coming off the wall to create scoring chances. Good shot and release that should profile him as a goal scorer moving forward. Hopefully he keeps it up.
15. Alex Formenton - Forward - London Knights
I'm slowly getting on the Formenton train, although I'm obviously still not on it as much as others are. His speed is a major asset. He might just be one of the quickest players in the OHL. I've seen quite a few defenders have trouble with him driving wide of late, as he gains more confidence in attacking with the puck. Like the overall energy level without the puck too. He can be a major factor on the forecheck with that speed. At this point, I hesitate to rank him higher still because I don't feel like I've got a good grasp of his offensive potential for the next level. Given his lack of ice time, is he this year's Christian Dvorak?
16. Jason Robertson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Really like this player, even if he has some short comings. Size and skill from the wing. His skating could use some work, but I think it has also been overblown a bit. His top speed isn't bad. It's his start ups that are a bit sluggish. Once he gets going though, he can be really tough to stop because he protects the puck really well. I really like his aggressiveness in driving the net and his hands in close. Definitely a potential goal scorer at the next level. His two-way play could become a bit more consistent, as could his play without the puck (in general), but I think that as his skating improves, he will improve in this area. Overall, I just like his potential to develop into a pro style power winger who can play a solid north/south game.
17. Conor Timmins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This is a guy who is really growing on me. He's passed Paquette, Samorukov and Phillips as the 2nd best defender available behind Hague for me. The late '98 blueliner is only average sized (6'1), but he's extremely effective at both ends of the ice. Love the intensity he plays with in the defensive end. Really loves giving opposing forwards the gears in the corners and in front of the net. Like how he runs the point of the powerplay too. Walks the line well and does a good job getting his point shot through to the net. Also makes good decisions with the puck exiting the zone. Like I said, just a really solid two-way defender. Think an Alec Martinez type.
18. Jacob Paquette - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
The offense hasn't really been there this season (he got a late start to the year recovering from an UBI), but I still think he's a quality NHL prospect. Defensively, he's been an absolute stud. He's got size, mobility, smarts, and he plays aggressively. Paquette is such a tough guy to get around off the rush. All that points to him having the potential to be a real lock down defender at the next level. There were times last year (as a rookie) that he showed offensive potential as a puck mover, but that hasn't really been the case this year. Remains to be seen how much he's got there. If he can find confidence in his offensive game in the 2nd half, he'll rocket up my list again, but until then, I see him more as a solid 2nd rounder.
19. Dmitri Samorukov - Defense - Guelph Storm
Samorukov has been really up and down for me this year. Was absolutely fantastic the first few times I saw him play. Then he was downright awful the next couple. I saw Guelph again last week and he looked really good again. Just depends what night you catch this guy on. Consistency issues are certainly not uncommon for a rookie import so I think patience is critical. When he's on, Samorukov looks like a world class two-way defender who does a great job playing the body to separate his man from the puck, and leading the rush to kick start the offense. But when he's off, he can be turnover prone and gets caught running around in the defensive end. One thing he really needs to improve on is his ability to get his point shot through to the net on the powerplay. He has an absolute howitzer, but he misses wide way too often. Love the potential though, but like Paquette, he looks more like a solid 2nd/3rd rounder.
20. Nate Schnarr - Forward - Guelph Storm
Has missed the last month with a shoulder injury, but should return following the Xmas break, or at least shortly after the new year. The only concern being that this shoulder injury doesn't become nagging or effect his performance offensively moving forward. An OHL rookie, Schnarr has been inconsistent in my viewings of Guelph. Ultimately, I think it comes down to a strength thing. Schnarr is lanky at 6'3, 180lbs and I think that's preventing him from making a consistent impact. But the potential is super high as a puck protection/possession type of center who can control play in all three zones and be an offensive workhorse. Definitely a long term project, but one that could pay off.
21. Greg Meireles - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
An undersized, but scrappy center (who I think might be better suited for the wing at the next level), Meireles has had a pretty successful first season in the OHL. He plays with a lot of energy, using his speed and tenacity to be disruptive on the forecheck and push the pace of attack. He's taken a bit of a hit on my midterm rankings, but I think a lot of that has to do other players around him elevating their play. I also have found myself wondering about his offensive upside at the NHL level. And if he's being considered an energy 3rd line type of player, is he undersized for that role? Lots of question marks that are sure to make Meireles a polarizing prospect come June.

22. Markus Phillips - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Phillips is a stocky, two way defender who brings a ton of leadership potential to the ice. I really like his positioning in the defensive end. You rarely see him get beat, despite his lack of reach. Defends a lot like a Travis Dermott, using a low center of gravity and bravado to keep guys honest. I don't see him as, as natural an offensive player as Dermott though. His decision making when jumping up into the rush isn't great and he's at his best when he's making safer plays with the puck. That can certainly improve, but I don't know how that will translate moving forward. Definitely a future potential captain though and that will go a long way to ensuring he's a top 100 pick.

23. Eemeli Rasanen - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Rasanen is a guy that's REALLY growing on me as a prospect (no pun intended, thanks to his 6'6 frame). Saw him at the beginning of the year a bunch and thought he looked a bit awkward out there. But I've seen Kingston a few times lately and he's improved a lot already. Love how aggressive he is in using his size to crush the rush defensively. He really seems to revel in putting guys on their asses. And he's doing a better job getting the puck out of his own end and is showing some pretty decent mobility on the attack. When all is said and done, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's the 2nd OHL defender off the board come June.

24. Zach Gallant - Forward - Peterborough Petes
The Peterborough Petes are absolutely rolling lately, winning 8 in a row. One of the main reasons for that has been the improved play of former 5th overall priority selection, Zach Gallant. He's been getting better and better every month and during that 8 game win streak, he's got 11 points. Gallant plays the game hard and finally seems to be gaining confidence in his offensive game, to be more of a catalyst than a bystander. A center with size who could be a solid two-way contributor, if Gallant keeps up this level of play, he's going to be much higher on this list come the end of the season.
25. Austen Keating - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Keating is definitely a polarizing prospect at this point of the season. Some really like him and he'd be a heck of a lot higher than 25th on their lists. Others (like NHL CSS) seem to see him as more of a mid round prospect. I suppose I'm in the middle here. I like Keating's hockey sense and ability to play without the puck. He's just a really smart player who works hard out there and has a pretty significant amount of skill. He can also slide pretty much anywhere in your lineup. But, he's an average sized forward who lacks game breaking speed. Think of him as this year's Taylor Raddysh. I know what you're saying, look at how well Raddysh is doing this year. Skating can be improved. Point is...these are the types of guys who can struggle to find a role in the NHL.
26. Jonah Gadjovich - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Gadjovich is criminally underrated for the draft right now IMO. Yes, he's a late '98. And yes, he got off to a miserable start to the year. But, he's been absolutely fantastic the last month or so. Since Remembrance Day (15 games), he's got 11 goals. In that span, he has two games where he registered 12 shots on net! At 6'2, 200lbs, with good hands and a good head for the game in the offensive end, Gadjovich has the potential to be a dominating force. Skating is only average, but it hasn't stopped him from taking over games of late. His stock has to be on the rise (especially if there were any scouts in the building on those 12 shot nights).
27. Kaden Fulcher - Goaltender - Hamilton Bulldogs
After a hot start, Fulcher definitely hasn't been great of late. Hamilton has been down in the dumps and Fulcher has to take some of the blame for that. During that stretch, he's been prone to giving up some bad goals, where the focus and confidence seems to be lacking. But, the problem is, for every bad goal he gives up, he makes an incredible athletic save and dominates for periods at a time. He has all the tools that NHL teams look for in potential goaltenders, but he just can't seem to put it all together right now. Continued coaching could iron out some of those issues, and that should still make him a potentially attractive option for someone come June. Few goalies in the OHL are as quick, post to post, as Fulcher.
28. Macauley Carson - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Carson is definitely an interesting prospect for the Wolves. One of those coaches' dreams kind of players. He's already wearing an "A" and he plays the game very hard. Big kid who really gets after it on the forecheck, along the wall, and in front of the net. He's got good hands and his skating and play with the puck continues to improve. This is especially true considering he's been playing center for the better part of the last couple months (although I think he most definitely profiles as a winger moving forward). Just a really solid player who continues to produce offensively and has really put himself on the scouting map for June.
29. Ben Jones - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Another guy who seems to really have caused a split among scouts so far this season. Some (like Redline) really like him. Others, (like NHL CSS), don't seem to have him on the draft radar. I'm definitely much closer to the fan side, and that dates back to his minor midget days too. There are definitely consistency issues, but I think a lot of that has to do with a lack of strength, and the fact that he plays on a very young team. I just think that once he fills out, Jones could be a very good two-way center who can use his speed to be a solid playmaker and energy guy. 
30. Adam Thilander - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Late '98 import who came into the season as a player receiving early consideration for the first round. But his production has been a bit disappointing thus far. As mentioned with Ruzicka, it can take import players some time to make adjustments to playing on the smaller ice (and being away from home in a new country). I think the biggest problem I have right now when it comes to evaluating Thilander is, I just don't know what to make of his NHL potential and future role at the next level. Not sure he's naturally gifted enough offensively to be a powerplay guy and offensive catalyst. And he doesn't have the ideal size or make-up of a "shutdown" guy. In a way, he's kind of vanilla. Makes smart plays with the puck, seems to make good reads in the defensive end and could be generally classified as a "solid" two-way defender. But the physical skills aren't sexy and he's not a guy who'll blow you away when you watch him.
31. Hayden Davis - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
I've liked his play of late as he's making the simple play and not trying to force things offensively. Big kid with solid mobility who plays the game hard in his own end. If the offensive skills improve, he could be a top 90 selection.
32. Brady Lyle - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Thought long and hard about ranking him ahead of Thilander. I think the potential is definitely higher than Thilander. Shows flashes of being a very good two-way defender (and solid PP QB), but is still very raw IMO. Certainly working with the right coach.
33. Ryan McGregor - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Speedy, energy winger who plays a solid North/South game for the Sting. Has lots of potential as a goal scorer as he fills out and is able to be more of a catalyst than a complimentary finisher.
34. Dylan Seitz - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Consistency is the name of the game for the OHL rookie. One game he looks great, then the next 3-4 he's pretty invisible. When he's on, he contributes in a lot of different ways and has some real sand paper to his game. Could be a mid round gem.
35. Noel Hoefenmayer - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Thought he looked great early in the season when he was being aggressive offensively. But lately, he seems hesitant to commit to taking chances and it's caused a decrease in production. Not big enough or strong enough defensively yet to have a ton of value when he's not producing offensively.
36. Albert Michnac - Forward - Guelph Storm
The stats don't jump out at you, but if you watch Guelph play, you'll no doubt notice #20 for the Storm. Like a little water bug out there, darting in and out of traffic. Type of guy I could really see producing once he gains confidence in his ability to play with the puck at this level.
37. Linus Nyman - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Hard to truly ignore a guy leading OHL rookies with 16 goals at the holiday break. He's undersized, but I like his fearlessness in attacking high traffic areas and finding scoring lanes. High upside, but I wish he was a little quicker. Certainly not slow, but for his size, he's not elite IMO.
38. Cole Coskey - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Playing better of late after a slow start. I think he's definitely a good NHL prospect and the best draft eligible guy on Saginaw. I've always liked his vision and playmaking ability from the wing. Just needs to play with more consistency, like the rest of his team.
39. Daniil Vertiy - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Had extremely high hopes for Vertiy coming into this season, but man did he struggle out of the gate. 2 goals in his first 24 games. But he's been way better lately (6 in his last 8) and seems to be turning a corner. Stocky winger who drives the net well and has good hands in close.
40. Maksim Sushko - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Has missed some time with injury and with Belarus at the Division 1A World Juniors (where he helped them win gold), but curious to see how he plays upon returning. Winger with skill who has played in all situations for the Attack. Impressive when looking to drive the net.
41. Tom Hedberg - Defense - Barrie Colts
Like Thilander, Hedberg entered the year with some draft hype. But he's struggled at times for a rebuilding Barrie team. Offensive skill set is good, but he's struggled to cope defensively. One of the youngest players eligible for 2017 though.
42. Kyle Keyser - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Looks like a solid mid-round option at this point. Lots of athleticism, but has a tendency to over commit and give out some big rebounds. Goalie of the future in Oshawa and well worth what they gave up to acquire him from Flint.
43. Matthew Villalta - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Who? An undrafted free agent find by the Hounds who has emerged to push Joseph Raaymakers for playing time. Admittedly have only seen one of his starts so far this year, but was impressed by his composure and positioning. Still going through a feeling out process.
44. Jacob McGrath - Goaltender - Sudbury Wolves
This year's Dylan Wells IMO. McGrath was a guy who I thought would challenge for the 2nd round this year, but he's really struggled to put everything together. Has given up some real stinkers. Or he's posted a 44 save shutout. No biggie. Point is, everything is there but consistent performance. 
45. Nick Grima - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Not the biggest guy, but I've been impressed with his decision making offensively. I think he's got a lot of potential as a powerplay QB and puck carrier. Doesn't hurt you defensively either, although could stand to play a little tougher in his own end.
46. Cole Fraser - Defense - Peterborough Petes
A guy who might just be scratching the surface of his potential. Great size on the backend and he's really starting to gain confidence in his ability to push people around at this level. Puckhandling ability getting better too. A prospect trending upwards.
47. Cole Purboo - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
First year player who continues to catch my eye. Has been good when asked to fill in on a scoring line. Big body who excels at driving the net and demonstrates good hands to finish off plays. A complimentary piece, but intriguing because of his size.
48. Liam Hawel - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This year's Tim Gettinger for the Hounds. Huge kid (6'5) with a lot of potential, but just doesn't play hard enough on every shift. Would love to see him use his size more. Has been better lately though IMO.
49. Reagan O'Grady - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Not sure how much higher he'll get on my list by season's end. What you see is what you get IMO. But he'll be an NHL draft pick (also IMO). Good size, mobility and defensive acumen.
50. Elijah Roberts - Defense - Kitchener Rangers 
Has fallen pretty far down my list after a great rookie season and Hlinka performance. Big thing holding him back is his lack of shot. Undersized defender who is starting to run the risk of falling off this list, despite how much I've liked him at times.

Honorable Mentions:
Oliver Castleman & Mathew Philip - Forwards - Niagara IceDogs
Wanted to squeeze these two guys in, but just couldn't find the room. Both have done great things as OHL rookies for the Dogs this year. They play hard with, and without the puck and definitely have skill. Just don't know what type of players they'd make for the next level.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2017 OHL Trade Deadline Preview

The 2017 OHL Trade Deadline is set for January 9th (for overage players), and January 10th (for all other players) [edit as per official OHL release].

This is a very interesting year in the OHL for a variety of reasons. And a lot of those reasons could have major bearing on the activity level of this year's deadline. Firstly, the OHL (and Windsor Spitfires) is hosting the Memorial Cup this year, which means that if the Spits end up winning the Western Conference, whoever wins the East also guarantees themselves a trip to the Memorial Cup. Secondly, the race for playoff spots in each Conference is still incredibly wide open. Can any team truly say that they're out of it? A hot streak and you're right back in it. Look no further than the way the Saginaw Spirit have been playing of late. Thirdly, quite a few teams (more than usual) have flexibility with their overage spots.

So what does it all mean? Well, we could see teams in the Eastern Conference loading up because winning the Conference could get you a trip to the Memorial Cup. We could also see teams really bleeding a few teams (the ones willing to rebuild) dry of assets. On the other hand, we could see very little movement due to teams wanting to make the playoffs. And because of so few teams looking to move players, the asking price could be driven too high for certain teams to pay. A team like the Erie Otters just doesn't have a ton of assets left (unless they want to move young roster players) to move after several years of "going for it."

If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on it being a relatively quiet deadline (outside of some OA movement, and a few minor depth deals). But we'll see. I do have quite a few predictions in terms of deals, so I suppose that's a contradiction in itself. At least it makes for more interesting reading material than me saying "everyone is staying put."

Warren Foegele - Kingston Frontenacs
The Frontenacs got a major boost when Foegele was returned for his overage season by the Hurricanes, but it hasn't been enough to make them a threat to take the East. As such, it would be smart of them to capitalize on this opportunity and deal Foegele to recoup some assets to help their rebuild, or at least "retool." Foegele is a premier two-way forward who can slot anywhere in your lineup. As an OA, his possible destination list isn't huge. Erie, Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, and Owen Sound are the competitive teams who'd likely look at him. All four could be very likely destinations with all four possibly needing some veteran help down the middle for the stretch run. Ultimately, I see Erie as the best fit. They don't have the resources to go after a big fish like Mitchell Stephens, so with Foegele being an OA, his value would be a tad lower.
Prediction: Foegele goes to Erie (along with Liam Murray) for Brett Neumann, Josh Wainman, Jake Lawr, a 4th in 2017 and 3rds in 2019 and 2021.

Liam Murray - Kingston Frontenacs
Murray isn't the type of guy whose value is shown on the score sheet. But he's a hard-nosed, physical defender who could be a very valuable addition to the 3rd pairing of a team with Championship aspirations. The first team that really jumps out is the Erie Otters who've been relying on some rookies on the back-end probably more than they would have liked. A team like London could look at him hard too, to add a bit more physicality to their blueline. Really, the vast majority of teams in the league could use a guy like Murray for the stretch drive, if the price isn't extraordinary.
Prediction: Murray goes to Erie (along with Warren Foegele) for Brett Neumann, Josh Wainman, Jake Lawr, a 4th in 2017 and 3rds in 2019 and 2021.

Stephen Desrocher - Kingston Frontenacs
This is a guy whose name has come up a lot in trade rumours the last little while. And with reason. His experience in the league (42 playoff games) and his booming shot from the point make him a very desired commodity. Obviously, as an OA, the list of teams vying for his services won't be long. The Hamilton Bulldogs are a team he's been linked to and they could certainly use a guy like him to help their powerplay and to provide more stability to their defense. Erie or Owen Sound could bring him into the fold too. But I think the Soo Greyhounds are a very logical destination. His experience would go a long way to helping a "youngish" blueline and his point shot on the powerplay would be a great weapon to go with all of the high tempo forwards they've got at their disposal.
Prediction: Desrocher goes to SSM in exchange for Anthony DeMeo, 3rds in 2018, 2019, and a 4th in 2017.

Jeremy Helvig - Kingston Frontenacs
If the Fronts are going to retool, Helvig is obviously a guy who they should look at moving. Problem is, there really isn't a market for a quality netminder right now. None of the truly competitive teams appear to be looking for an upgrade. If Kitchener decided they wanted to go for it, I could see them maybe being interested, but that's a stretch. Helvig could turn pro next year, but I think it seems more likely that Carolina returns him to the OHL for another year (especially as a 2016 draft pick not needing to be signed until 2018). As such, Kingston should wait until the offseason when there's bound to be a team needing an upgrade that they could move him to.
Prediction: Helvig stays in Kingston.

Ben Fanjoy - Ottawa 67's
Fanjoy had asked for a trade this offseason and didn't receive one. He came to camp anyway and had started the year with the 67's. But he has apparently left the team now, which could mean he's thinking about schooling options, or he's looking for a trade. Fanjoy is a solid OHL player who could be a good depth piece for a competitive team because he can play any forward position and kill penalties. A few teams in the East with some younger forward groups like Mississauga or Oshawa could likely use a guy like this, especially if the asking price isn't exceptionally high. The Steelheads, in particular, could really use a guy like Fanjoy to help round out their top 9 and give them a boost on the PK.
Prediction: Fanjoy goes to Mississauga for a 3rd in 2019.

Jared Steege - Ottawa 67's
The market for an OA like Steege probably isn't incredibly large. He's a solid glue guy who can chip in a bit offensively, play physical, and be relied upon in different situations. There are a few teams like Sudbury and Guelph, who might find use for Steege to help their young rosters try to get into the playoffs. And the cost would most certainly not be high. IMO, Steege would be a perfect fit for the Wolves, taking a bit of pressure off their very young 3rd/4th lines.
Prediction: Steege goes to Sudbury for a 4th in 2017.

Patrick White - Ottawa 67's
With the firesale looking to be on in Ottawa, overager Patrick White is a name that could definitely come up in trade talks. The alternate captain in Ottawa is a solid secondary scoring option that wouldn't likely cost as much as the likes of Warren Foegele. That said, Ottawa could still make the playoffs and I think they'd like to keep some of their leadership group around, especially if all they could get for White is a 3rd or 4th round pick.
Prediction: White stays in Ottawa.

Ryan Orban - Ottawa 67's
See Patrick White. Orban could be a solid third pairing guy for an experienced team, but I'm not entirely sure his value would be high. There are likely several teams who could use him to solidify a 3rd pairing (Erie, Oshawa, Owen Sound, etc). Like White, he's part of Ottawa's leadership group and could be more valuable there helping a young defense than the 3rd that they'd get for him.
Prediction: Orban stays in Ottawa

Trent Fox - Hamilton Bulldogs
Might be an oddity to see his name here, but this is a guy I feel could use a change of scenery. His production has dropped off pretty significantly this year because his ice time has also dropped. The Bulldogs could trade him to a team looking for secondary scoring depth and get some assets that they could then use to improve their defense. Or they could dangle Fox as part of a package to bring in said defender. A team like Mississauga could no doubt be interested. However, so could a young team like Niagara, who could be looking to next year where Fox could play a huge role as an overager.
Prediction: Fox goes to Niagara as part of a deal for Ryan Mantha.

Damian Bourne - Mississauga Steelheads
Bourne would appear to be the odd man out in Mississauga (already been sat since Spencer Watson returned). The question is...would he be able to find a home with someone else in the OHL or is his OHL career over? I'd be surprised if a young team out there wouldn't want his services to end the year, to help with a playoff push, to provide leadership to the inexperienced, and to add size/truculence in order to protect some younger players. Niagara will have some OA room and they'd be a perfect fit for him IMO. Can play a depth role, protect some of their talented younger forwards, and help them try to squeak into the playoffs. Guelph could take him on for the same reason.
Prediction: Bourne goes to Niagara via waivers (or for a late round draft pick).

Ryan Mantha - Niagara IceDogs
Mantha is definitely one of the biggest fish on the market right now. At least one would assume that the IceDogs will try to move him. They could get some valuable assets in exchange for the overager thanks to his breakout season. At 6'5, he adds size, and with 131 shots on net (and a top 5 ppg average for defenders), he also adds an offensive element to the blueline of a team with Championship aspirations. Of course, like others mentioned, being an overager makes the situation more complicated. But I think Hamilton, and SSM use their final OA spot on a big time defender, so they could get a good deal from them. Considering Mantha already was traded from the Soo before he entered the league, I don't see him accepting a trade there. That leaves Hamilton, which would be a perfect fit for him. They need exactly what he brings.
Prediction: Mantha goes to Hamilton in exchange for Trent Fox, Reilly Webb, and 3rds in 2019, and 2020.

Aaron Haydon -Niagara IceDogs
The former defender has been playing on the wing this year, a conversion I haven't really understood. But what do I know? Regardless, the overage forward/defender could be in demand for teams looking for some more size for the playoff push. But Niagara, too, is embroiled in a playoff battle so I don't see them trading anyone besides Mantha (who would have the most value by far). They already got great value for Graham Knott. Haydon's size and veteran leadership likely stays in Niagara. Otherwise, I could see a team like Sudbury looking at him closely (more for the backend).
Prediction: Haydon stays in Niagara.

Anthony Stefano -Barrie Colts
Has been a very productive OHL player over the course of his career, and he continues to be as an overager for the Colts. That said, the teams that have OA spots available...I'm just not sure he's the best fit for them and I see them looking elsewhere to try to improve their teams. Erie could be a candidate. Ditto for Sudbury. And if Hamilton is able to pick up a quality defender who's not an OA, they could use his services for sure. That said, I think he stays in Barrie and finishes out his career mentoring some young forwards.
Prediction: Stefano stays in Barrie

Roy Radke -Barrie Colts
I think if he had been healthy, he'd generate a fair amount on the trade market. But he hasn't played since late October because of a high ankle sprain. With a few very solid OA's available on the market, I think teams look in other directions to get a player that they don't have to gamble on being healthy or not. Radke's size could definitely be an asset for a team like Erie or Owen Sound though.
Prediction: Radke stays in Barrie

Cordell James - Barrie Colts
This is the one Colt that I do expect to move. James likely would come the cheapest of the three overagers, but he has a lot of value as a two-way player with playoff experience. He's having a solid offensive season, but he'd look great centering the 3rd line for a contender. I think the best fit among teams with OA space is in Owen Sound. He's an Attack kind of player and he gives them experience down the middle, something they lack a bit. Erie could most certainly be a fit too.
Prediction: James goes to Owen Sound in exchange for a 4th in 2018 and a 2nd in 2019.

Noah Carroll - Guelph Storm
What the Guelph Storm do is extremely intriguing to me. They're on the upswing after a rebuild, and they're clearly hoping to snag one of those final playoff spots to give their young players experience. That said, if they could get a king's ransom for some of their players, I wonder if they do it. Carroll is a '97 with NHL ties, so this could be his final year in the league. However, he doesn't have to be signed until 2018 (2016 selection), so I think he's a safe bet to return as an overager next year. Where the Storm would expect him to be a leader of their defense. As such, I don't think they deal him, although I'm sure they take calls.
Prediction: Carroll stays with Guelph.

Garrett McFadden - Guelph Storm
Remember what I said about Noah Carroll? The same applies to Garrett McFadden. As a '97 without an NHL affiliation, he'll most surely return to Guelph next year as an OA. That said, what if an offer knocked their socks off? With a guy like Ryan Merkley in the fold, McFadden isn't needed quite as much and he could likely fetch quite the pretty penny. There are a host of teams in the league who could use a puck mover like McFadden. One team who I could really see targeting McFadden is the Owen Sound Attack. They could really use another slick skating distributor from the back end to take some pressure off of guys like Markus Phillips and Jacob Friend. The Attack have a TON of assets at their disposal and I really think they'll be the team that makes a big splash.
Prediction: McFadden goes to Owen Sound (with James McEwan) in exchange for Aidan Dudas, Sean Durzi, 2nds in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

James McEwan - Guelph Storm
See above with McFadden. McEwan hasn't been nearly as an integral part of Guelph's offense this year, but he remains a very talented player and would most definitely play a pivotal role next year as an OA. However, like I said, I could see the Storm moving him if the right offer came along. And as I've already mentioned, the Attack are a team who I could see putting together a big package for both of he and McFadden. McEwan would add some much needed secondary scoring, in addition to being a guy who can kill penalties and get in on the forecheck as is required of all Attack forwards. A team like Windsor, Mississauga, or London could also sneak in with an offer if word gets around that he's available.
Prediction: McEwan goes to Owen Sound (with Garrett McFadden) in exchange for Aidan Dudas, Sean Durzi, 2nds in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Alex Peters - Flint Firebirds
It´s easy to see the Flint Firebirds selling. They´re a long shot to make any noise in the playoffs and they´re in the middle of a rebuild. That said, the team has performed well this year given expectations, so I do wonder if they will be willing to give up on the playoffs and the experience it would bring their young team. Peters, the captain of the Firebirds, would be an attractive veteran option on the backend for a few teams with OA wiggle room. But would the value of dealing him be worth more than the value of keeping him around a young team that has already been through a lot the past year? I don´t think he moves.
Prediction: Peters stays in Flint

Jalen Smereck - Flint Firebirds
Signed as a free agent by the Arizona Coyotes this year, Smereck could be the player that holds the most value for Flint in a deal. He is a 97 and could turn pro next year, but he could also return as an OA, where he would be an impact player. A deal for him could involve conditional picks upon him returning next year. That said, he has played well this year and was only recently acquired by the team (for a pair of 4ths and a 2nd). Would they get that back? Probably. But it´s no guarantee. Could definitely see a team like Erie, London, or even his old team, Oshawa, looking at him. At the end of the day, I think he holds more value to Flint than he does in a deal.
Prediction: Smereck stays in Flint

Mathieu Henderson - Flint Firebirds
Henderson is the one player I could see moving. He is currently the leading scorer among defenders in the OHL, but as an OA, his value and potential destination is limited. There are some quality OA defenders available (like Desrocher and Mantha) who bring similar things to the table, but have a bit more size and ability in the defensive end. Would they be more preferable to teams like Owen Sound, Hamilton, and the Soo? That´s the million dollar question. It is certainly possible. But, there are only so many spots available so someone is going to have to stay put. And my money is on Henderson.
Prediction: Henderson stays in Flint.

Robert Proner - Saginaw Spirit
Proner, a very talented young defender, has left the Spirit and is seeking a trade. The 99´ born, 6´2 blueliner was playing in his first year, after being a 2nd round pick two years ago. He has a lot of potential at both ends and should generate a lot of interest around the league. Teams like Guelph, Ottawa, Barrie, etc, who are beginning a rebuild, would likely be the best suitors. In the end, I am putting my money on Guelph, who has some extra picks to spend and who could use Proner¨s size on the backend.
Prediction: Proner goes to Guelph for 2nds in 2018 and 2019.

Kris Bennett - Saginaw Spirit
Bennett is a very underrated player in this league. He¨s the type who could fill any role for a team that he¨s on, working hard at both ends of the ice. But he is an overager and with the amount of valuable players on the market, I¨m just not sure there would be a place for him on another team. Someone like Erie or Owen Sound could be very interested, depending on what route they go with their other spot. But...that¨s assuming Saginaw wants to move him in the first place. The team is playing exceptionally well of late and is trending in the right direction. Bennett is a valuable leader for the team and might have value staying put.
Prediction: Bennett stays in Saginaw.

Mitchell Stephens - Saginaw Spirit
The ¨big fish¨ of the trade deadline this year, I´m actually not 100% sold on Stephens moving. Like I said, Saginaw is playing very well of late and I wonder if they see more value in a playoff push with a roster that´s already not getting any younger. However, I do think that Saginaw would be silly not to cash in by dealing him. His value will be astronomical because the market is generally void of high impact forwards. You can bet that London and Windsor will be interested. So will Mississauga. And then a few under the radar teams like Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie. Mississauga would be a great fit, but I don¨t think they have the assets (in particular, a quality ´99 or 2000). No doubt Saginaw would want that if they deal Stephens. Quite frankly, I see Owen Sound (dangling Dudas) or Sault Ste. Marie (dangling Hayton) as very real possibilities. Both could use more experience down the middle (even if they have talent) in order to really go deep in the playoffs.
Prediction: Stephens goes to Sault Ste. Marie in exchange for Barrett Hayton, a 3rd in 2020, and two 2nds in 2021.

Hayden Hodgson - Saginaw Spirit
Hodgson has been on fire lately and has been a big reason for the Spirit playing so well lately. His size and goal scoring ability would be coveted by teams...if he wasn¨t an OA. As I said with Bennett, I am just not sure the market is there for a guy like Hodgson right now. He probably has more value to the Spirit to help them get to the playoffs and carry their hot streak into the 2nd half.
Prediction: Hodgson stays in Saginaw.

CJ Garcia - Saginaw Spirit
I like Garcia as a defender. I think he´s a very underrated player. That said, as an overager, there are simply better options available. The Spirit gave up three quality picks to get him in the offseason and I don´t think there is any chance that they recoup those picks if they deal him now. As such, he would have more value staying in Saginaw and helping them push towards the playoffs.
Prediction: Garcia stays in Saginaw.

Marcus Crawford - Saginaw Spirit
Outside of Stephens, this is the one player I really could see Saginaw dealing. Right now, Crawford has fallen a bit down the pecking order thanks to the arrival of Hronek. And as a '97 who is all but certain to return as an OA, his value may never be higher on the trade market. But I'm sure Saginaw will want a fair amount for him, considering he's one of the few '97 defenders on the block who could step into a team's top four. Will team's be willing to pay that price? Will Saginaw see value in Crawford returning as an OA (when the team's defense should be better)? I could see teams like Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie being interested. In the end, I think he ends up staying because Saginaw doesn't get what they want and they hope he plays a big role in the playoff push.
Prediction: Crawford stays in Saginaw.

Evan Cormier - Saginaw Spirit
This is an interesting one. Cormier is in the same boat as Jeremy Helvig (who I mentioned earlier). Problem is, I'm just not sure there's a market for goalies right now. And Saginaw may see Cormier as a candidate to return as an OA (as a 2016 selection in the NHL). As I said with Helvig, Kitchener is the only team I could see adding a goaltender, as long as they intend to compete and not rebuild.
Prediction: Cormier stays in Saginaw.

Nikita Korostelev - Sarnia Sting
Is he truly on the block? Hard to say. Sarnia is right in the thick of the playoff race in the West, but there's no doubting that they are not likely deep enough to outlast the likes of London, Windsor, etc. The smart thing might be to move him. You have to think a team like Windsor, or Hamilton would love to add Korostelev into the fold. Ditto the Oshawa Generals who could use a real sniper on the wing. And the Sting could get a young player who could help the team next year when they should be better. That said, I don't think Sarnia rebuilds. I see Korostelev saying, with Sarnia hoping to make some noise down the stretch.
Prediction: Korostelev says in Sarnia.

Jeremy Bracco -Kitchener Rangers
Like Korostelev, is Bracco available? Will the Rangers rebuild? I've seen a lot of chatter about those very questions of late and I've done a lot of thinking about it. I do think Kitchener ends up dealing Bracco. The thing is, I think they could deal Bracco and still be competitive in the West, while also building for the future. No doubt, that the big players like London, Windsor, Hamilton, SSM, or even a team like Oshawa, would be all over Bracco. His offensive ability is truly remarkable (even if his play without the puck could still use work). London has so many assets at their disposal, I see them being the front runners. And I think they could use him the most, giving them the talented playmaker that they lost when Mitch Marner didn't return this year.
Prediction: Bracco goes to London in exchange for Liam Foudy, and 2nds in 2018, and 2019.

Jake Henderson - Kitchener Rangers
If Kitchener is going to move a few players, Henderson is another guy that they could afford to move and still stay competitive. He's a solid role player who brings size, physicality and the ability to play a variety of roles to any team. I see him being a target of a team like the Mississauga Steelheads, who could really use some help on their 3rd line and on their PK. The cost likely wouldn't be too high (and it couldn't be with Mississauga's lack of resources).
Prediction: Henderson goes to Mississauga for a 2nd in 2018.

Luke Opilka - Kitchener Rangers
Another guy on this list who could really use a change of scenery. Opilka was great last year for the Rangers until he got sick. He just hasn't been right since and has really struggled in the limited starts he's received this year. The Rangers have a bit of a logjam in net, so giving Opilka a fresh start might make sense. There are a few teams who could use depth at the goaltending position who may want to give Opilka a shot. One such team is the North Bay Battalion. Brent Moran's had shoulder issues all year and is out for the foreseeable future. The Battalion still have aspirations to take the division but they might not be able to hang in there with a bevy of rookies making spot starts.
Prediction: Opilka goes to North Bay in exchange for a 3rd in 2019.

Dylan Di Perna - Kitchener Rangers
If the Rangers do decide to go full rebuild, Di Perna is obviously a guy who could generate a lot of interest, even as an overager. He brings a lot of different things to the table (size, skill, play in both ends) and would most definitely be a candidate to fill the final OA spot of teams like Hamilton, SSM, Erie, etc. That said, as I've mentioned earlier, I think those teams may go for more offensively oriented players. And I also don't see Kitchener going full rebuild. I think they still compete even without Bracco and a depth guy like Henderson. Di Perna gives them the veteran leadership they need on the backend in the face of some injuries.
Prediction: Di Perna stays in Kitchener.

Patrick Sanvido - Windsor Spitfires
Windsor (like Kingston) is still with 4 overagers. Someone has to go. Seems more and more likely that Sanvido is that player, considering the strong performances of DiGiacinto, Addison, and Chatfield. But Sanvido is certainly still worthy of being in this league. His skating never really improved to make him a high impact defender, but his size is an asset in the defensive end. Teams like Ottawa, Sudbury, or Guelph would likely be interested in adding Sanvido's experience and size to a relatively small and young defensive unit. Ottawa, in particular, seems like a great fit.
Prediction: Sanvido goes to Ottawa in exchange for mid/late round pick or on waivers.

So what do you think? Who's going where?