1. Dylan Strome - Erie Otters
The battle for top spot on this list is closer than some give it credit. There isn't a lot separating Strome and Dvorak as a prospects, except maybe their draft position. End of the day, I give a slight nod to Strome. He's such a talented player one on one. His skating was only moderately better this year (a tad more explosive), yet he was a consistently dangerous player on the ice because of how well he thinks the game and because of how good his hands are. He consistently makes defenders miss and buys a lot of time for himself to make plays with his puck handling ability. Combine that with his size and you've got a player who could be very hard to remove from the puck once he adds strength to a relatively slender frame. One of Strome's other top assets remains his shot release. He's so dangerous from the slot because of how quick he gets rid of the puck. Obviously the key moving forward is the development of his skating. He can be one of those guys who isn't incredibly noticeable until you look at the score sheet and he had a 3 point night. It will be interesting to see what Arizona does with him next year. I'd imagine that they will give him every opportunity to make the team out of camp, but if his skating and strength is still not up to NHL standards, he could find himself back in junior (where he doesn't have a lot left to prove IMO). Playing at the NHL level would be better for his development IMO, even if it's in a limited role that they ease him into. Practicing and training with NHL players would be best. If he does go back to the OHL, he'd obviously be a candidate for the Red Tilson.
2. Christian Dvorak - London Knights
A more NHL ready player than Strome IMO, but it's also important to realize that Dvorak is a year older. That means a year stronger and it shows. Dvorak is one of the OHL's elite two-way players. He thinks the game on another level and has an intensity about his game that is contagious for his linemates. Everything is done at a high tempo and he loves to push the pace of play, whether it be off the rush, on the forecheck, or being aggressive in taking the puck to the net. Like Strome, Dvorak's shot release is fantastic and profiles him as a goal scorer at the next level. He also does a lot of little things well which makes him the more NHL ready player. Like killing penalties, working on the backcheck, winning faceoffs. If it comes down to Dvorak versus Strome for a roster spot, I wouldn't be surprised if Dvorak won that battle. That said, maybe there's a chance both make the team. Either way, Dvorak's pro career will start this year and I'd expect him to find a lot of success no matter whether he's in the NHL or AHL.
3. Jakob Chychrun - Sarnia Sting
Took a big fall at the NHL Draft and he's no doubt going to play with a chip on his shoulder. Chychrun is already an extremely motivated player so I'm very curious as to how this causes him to elevate and re-evaluate his game. A physical specimen, Chychrun didn't have the greatest of seasons. All year, it looked like he was pressing, especially offensively. This caused some to question his decision making, especially in his own end. No question he was turnover prone. But as he learns to relax and trust his innate skating and physical abilities, I think everything will fall into place. As he regains the confidence in rushing the puck and jumping into the play that he showed as a 16 year old, Chychrun could develop into a dominant two-way defender. Is he NHL ready? Physically and defensively, I think so. There aren't many players who win one on one battles against Chychrun in the corners. He's among the best in the league at sealing off. But I think he needs another year in junior to regain his confidence in his offensive game and to improve his decision making in a slower paced game. I'd expect him to be the front runner for the Max Kaminsky and a 60 point season is possible, even with a WJC appearance.
4. Christian Fischer - Windsor Spitfires
110% impressed with Fischer's game this year, in his first OHL season. Such a powerful player. I wouldn't necessarily call him a power forward. He's not a Wendel Clark who throws his body around. But he's definitely a power winger who excels in driving the net and who is extremely difficult to tie up in close to the net. Just a very strong player who showcases a great scoring ability. Whether it's flying down the wing and unleashing a bullet, or crashing the net, Fischer can score goals in multiple ways. Not one to make a ton of comparisons, but he reminds me a lot of former Boston Bruin Glen Murray. Plays that power game to a tee. Even though he's a '97, Fischer can play in the AHL next year because he was drafted out of the USNDP. But I'd be surprised if Arizona decides to do that. Windsor is hosting the Memorial Cup this year and being a part of that would be fantastic for his development. A 50 goal season is certainly possible with an improved supporting cast around him.
5. Ryan MacInnis - Kitchener Rangers
MacInnis definitely had his best season in the OHL to date, in a year where his team was counting on him heavily to be a go to guy. MacInnis was much more aggressive with the puck this year, looking to make things happen by driving the net and utilizing his size to protect the puck and be a tough player to stop off the rush. He shows good vision and hockey sense and I think his two-way game greatly improved. He was more consistently engaged without the puck and that's a major positive. I still think he could stand to really improve his first few steps and his play in the offensive end when things slow down will need to improve for the next level. Playing through traffic will continue to need to be a focus. Adding strength should help both of those things. He also needs to greatly improve his performance at the dot if he wants to stay down the middle. Ultimately, I'm not sure how I view MacInnis' potential. I don't know if I see a player who's got the innate skill level to be a top 6 player. Yet, his game still has growing to do if he wants to make it as a quality 3rd line player. As he starts his pro career in the AHL this year, perhaps we'll get a better idea of the type of player he'll become at the next level.
Definitely a tough year for Perlini and his development. He regressed big time from his draft year and draft year +1 IMO. But that's not news to Arizona fans. I think the biggest issue for Perlini remains how inconsistent he is in using his size, both with and without the puck. He's kept to the perimeter way too much for a player who is 6'3, and 205lbs. His shot remains a major asset, as does his skating ability. But he remains a massive work in progress in every other area. I saw a quote from someone in the Arizona organization suggesting that he'd make a better pro than junior player. That's certainly possible. But first, someone needs to get through to him on how he needs to play the game in order to find consistent offensive success. He'll start his pro career in the AHL this year and I honestly don't know what to expect. If he winds up on the 4th line and is held to under 10 goals, I'd probably say, "I'm not surprised." And if he breaks out and pots 20+, I'd probably say the same thing. He remains a real wild card, and ultimately a big time project that just hasn't progressed since being drafted.
7. Kyle Wood - North Bay Battalion
Hulking defender who doesn't necessarily play like one. Not saying that's a bad thing, but he's not your prototypical 6'5, 225lbs defender. In a lot of ways, he's a pretty unique player. Offensively, his game is fairly complex. He makes a terrific first pass and rarely turns the puck over in his own end. He has great vision up ice. But he's not the type to skate the puck deep out of his own end consistently and isn't a dynamic player in that respect. He does a lot of his damage offensively on the powerplay, where he boasts an absolute cannon from the point and continues to utilize that strong vision on the ice to be a solid quarterback. Defensively, he's purely a positional defender who looks to stay ahead of attackers so that he can utilize his long reach. He's improved his skating over his OHL career and it's made him a better player in his own end. I do think that he'll need to get meaner if he wants to be a good defender at the next level though. And he'll have to continue to improve his skating. Offensively, I'm not sure how much his skill set will translate. I see him as a potentially solid #4-5 who can play the powerplay and eat up some decent minutes as a steady/consistent player. He'll start his AHL career this year and I'd expect him to get around 20 points or so (perhaps half of them goals) as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.
8. Cam Dineen - North Bay Battalion
Big fan of Dineen and I think he was a great value pick up where the Coyotes grabbed him in the 3rd round. His physical skills are relatively weak. He needs to get stronger. He needs to improve his explosiveness as a skater. But he's also coming off his first OHL season and as such, I think there's a lot of untapped potential there as he starts to improve his conditioning. His hockey sense is off the charts good. The amount he improved this year at both ends of the ice was tremendous. He uses this hockey sense and vision to be a fantastic powerplay QB who really does a great job of getting a good, low, hard point shot through and exhibits great patience and poise on the point. Defensively, he improved a ton under coach Stan Butler and with his hockey sense, as he gains strength, he could really develop into a solid two-way defender. He'll return to North Bay next year and should be among the league leaders in defensive scoring again.
9. Kyle Capobianco - Sudbury Wolves
Was a little underwhelmed by Capobianco's performance and development this year. Granted, it was a tough year being the go to defenseman on a very weak team. And while he didn't necessarily have a poor year, I don't think he really improved in any particular area either. Defensively, he still struggles with reads and chasing the play, although he did make an attempt to be a more physical player in the corners. Offensively, his skating ability makes him an asset as a puck rusher, but he hasn't yet showcased an ability to take over a game with that ability. He seems to still lack the confidence to take his rushes deep and be an offensive leader. Sudbury will aim to finally improve this year and make the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Capobianco may be one of their most important pieces and for that to happen, he's going to need to take that next step forward at both ends. I'd like to see him put up 50+ points, but also be a + player for the first time in his OHL career.