Motown is reviewed next!
1. Vili Saarijarvi - Flint Firebirds (now with the Mississauga Steelheads)
There were some very impressive components to Saarijarvi's game this year, but there were also some very unimpressive ones. Saarijarvi is an absolute offensive wizard. His skating ability gives him fantastic separation ability off the rush and allows him to gain entry into the offensive zone with ease. He also runs the powerplay very well, showcasing a great point shot and vision when moving the puck. Defensively though, he's a major work in progress. Flint struggled as a team defensively, but Saarijarvi was definitely one of the guys at the root of that. He needs to play with more jam in his own end, as he can tend to get pushed around and his defensive awareness (tends to chase the puck) also needs seasoning. Saarijarvi can also take unnecessary liberties with the puck and can be turnover prone. He needs to pick his spots better. But the potential is very, very high. After an offseason trade, Saarijarvi will be playing for Mississauga next year. The Steelheads should have a fantastic team next year and they've got some quality defenders to insulate him. I expect big things. A 60 point season (which would put him near the top of defensive scoring) is possible.
2. Givani Smith - Guelph Storm
Really, really liked this selection by the Wings in the 2nd round this year. Smith is a throwback power forward and pest. He's one of the OHL's most physical players and I can only imagine how physically dominant he could be in the league as he gets stronger the next couple of years. Guelph was absolutely horrible this past year, but Smith consistently stood out with his ability to be a one man wrecking crew on the forecheck and the cycle. As he gets a bit quicker (could improve his first few steps), as he gains confidence in his offensive abilities (like his shot), and as he is given a better supporting cast, Smith could really breakout. Guelph should be better next year, but likely not by much. I would definitely expect a jump in his production, but I'm not sure if he'll be a point per game player just yet.
3. Dylan Sadowy - Barrie Colts
The Wings gave up a 3rd rounder to acquire the rights to Sadowy, a San Jose draft pick. Sadowy is a back to back 40 goal man in the OHL, scoring 45 this year between Saginaw and Barrie. Sadowy is also a solid two-way player who excels on the penalty kill. Outside of having a good shot and release, Sadowy's best attribute is his hockey sense and ability to anticipate the play. My concern with Sadowy is likely the same as San Jose had before dealing his rights (helping to explain why they chose not to sign him). I'm just not sure where he fits in as a player at the pro level. While he has a good offensive skill set, I'm not sure it's good enough for him to be a top 6 player. And I'm also not sure I see him being an ideal 3rd/4th liner as he's not exactly a physical guy, or the most dominant along the wall, or the quickest. Good at everything, but not great can be a kiss of death and can often label guys as tweeners. Next year Sadowy will begin his pro career with Grand Rapids. I would expect him to start slowly (although probably not as slowly as Zach Nastasiuk has).
4. Jordan Sambrook - Erie Otters
Another great pick up by the Wings at this year's draft, Sambrook is a guy who flew under the radar a bit for Erie due to the depth they had on the backend. When he was called upon to play more (injuries, WJC's), he was an incredibly noticeable player. Just what the Wings have on their hands remains to be seen IMO. Sambrook flashes strong two-way potential, as he can play physical (much bigger than his size), as well as move and shoot the puck. Could he be a powerplay QB? Will his defensive game continue to develop? The questions will likely begin to be answered next year when he receives more ice time. Travis Dermott and Erik Cernak will be gone and Sambrook will have an opportunity to play in Erie's top 4. He should also receive powerplay time (likely on the 2nd unit). He had 27 points this year with inconsistent ice time. As such, I think he could definitely crack the 35, maybe even the 40 point mark next year.
*Filip Hronek - Saginaw Spirit
2016 Red Wings pick Hronek was recently signed by the Wings and selected by the Saginaw Spirit in the Import Draft. Seems like a lock at this point that he'll be playing in the OHL next year. Saginaw has a young, up and coming team. The addition of Hronek is a big one for them as it shores up their weakest area (defense) and potentially gives them an elite puck mover (something else they've been lacking). I expect him to have a very good first season (although I'm sure there will be hiccups). A 40+ point year is a very realistic expectation. Excited to see him play.