Hollywood here we come!
1. Mike Amadio - North Bay Battalion
Easily one of my favourite prospects in the OHL this past year. The growth he has shown since being drafted in 2014 is enormous. To be a 50 goal scorer in the league, on top of one of it's better two-way players is an incredible feat. First player in Battalion franchise history to score 50 (and they've had some pretty good offensive players over the years). And no teammate even scored 30. If I had a vote, he would have been my vote for the Red Tilson (MVP). His goal scoring instincts had always been there, but this past year his shot and strength really improved allowing him to be so much more dangerous in close. Skates well, but again, the added strength allowed him to be very difficult to separate from the puck off the rush. Had a decent debut with Ontario in the AHL playoffs, and I expect him to continue to build off of that next year. I think he'll be an immediate top 6 player and should be a 40+ point player. I think he'll only need one year in the AHL and then he'll be ready to take on a (at least to start) 3rd or 4th line center role in LA.
2. Erik Cernak - Erie Otters
Certainly not a flashy player, but a very efficient one. Was super impressed with his defensive intelligence and vigor in his first (and likely last) OHL season. Already has pro size and his confidence with the puck in his own end really improved over the course of the season. At the beginning, he had some issues with turnovers (from the forecheck), but he eventually worked out the kinks and was making a great first pass by the end of the season. There isn't much offensive upside, but he has the potential to be a very solid second pairing defensive stopper for the Kings (the next Mattias Norstrom?). Moving forward, his lateral and backwards mobility needs to continue to improve, but I think he's ready for the pro game. Of course, as a '97, the Kings could send Cernak back to Erie for his sophomore season, but I don't think that's in the cards.
3. Spencer Watson - Kingston Frontenacs
After a disastrous 2014/2015, Watson was significantly better this past year, taking some massive steps forward (and subsequently putting himself back on the prospect map). Kingston was one of the top teams in the league and a lot of that was due to the fact that Watson put the team on his back on most nights. Skill level has never been an issue. He has it all offensively (save for maybe elite acceleration). But he had such a hard time playing through traffic previously that he just wasn't able to be a consistent factor. This year, the energy level was MUCH higher. He was fully engaged, with and without the puck. Getting his nose dirty in all areas of the ice. As such, he finally exploded offensively. If he had played that way in his draft year, there's absolutely no chance he would have slid to the 7th round. That said, he still has some work ahead of him. He's got to continue to get quicker to excel at the next level, especially as an undersized guy who had difficulty adjusting to the physicality of the OHL game, let alone the AHL/NHL level. And he has to keep his intensity level up and show that the motivated Watson we saw this past year wasn't an anomaly. I expect him to struggle initially in the AHL next year. But I do have faith that by the season's end he'll have adjusted and be a quality offensive contributor for Ontario.
4. Damir Sharipzyanov - Owen Sound Attack
Definitely a little disappointed in Sharipzyanov's development this past year. Granted, he missed a good chunk of time due to a broken wrist (beginning of the year) and the WJC's (with Russia). But his game just never really found a consistent groove. I know the coaching staff worked really hard with him to reign in his offensive game a bit in favor of a more defensive approach, but the results weren't always there. He still falls victim to some bad turnovers, as he tries to force plays up ice, whether it be a bad pass or a bad rush/pinch. And while he does have size, plays physically, and has good mobility, the sum of all those parts has yet to come together to make a quality two-way defender. Quite frankly, I don't think he's ready for the pro game. LA has sent defenders back to junior for their overage seasons before and it's worked out pretty well for them. Another year in Owen Sound would do wonders for him (especially considering how good the team should be). That said, there's also no guarantee Owen Sound would want him back (they would have to utilize an OA spot and a Euro spot on him). But I'm sure an OHL team out there would take him. It's all probably moot anyway, as everything I've read suggests he'll be playing pro (despite what I would suggest). I think he'll probably spend the majority of the year in the ECHL, adjusting to the speed of the pro game.
5. Jacob Friend - Owen Sound Attack
Absolutely loved this pick up by LA at the draft this year. Friend is a real interesting prospect. He was an FA signing by the Attack, playing in his first OHL season as a 19 year old. As the year went on, his game really improved and he was able to establish himself as one of Owen Sound's top 4 defenders and arguably their best defender in their own zone. He's not huge (6'2), but he plays like he's 6'6. In only one season, he's established himself as one of the league's most feared defenders and open ice hitters. He absolutely relishes in the physical side of the game. He makes a good first pass and is generally pretty decent with the puck too. By season's end, we were seeing him take some chances offensively, suggesting a new found comfort level. I'm very, very intrigued to see how his game develops next year and beyond. As mentioned, Owen Sound should be one of the better teams in the West next year and Friend will look to be a huge contributor. I'm hopeful he can improve his offensive numbers, at least into the 30 point range.
6. Matt Schmalz - Sudbury Wolves
Major drop off in production for Schmalz, and quite frankly, he just wasn't very good last year for Sudbury. Yes, Sudbury was bad. But Schmalz and some of his teammates (who also regressed or failed to take steps forward) have to take blame for that. He remains a big time project. The size and skating combination will always be alluring, and he has big time goal scoring potential because of a big shot. But he remains a one trick pony who has yet to develop both the vision/playmaking ability to be a big factor off the rush, and the consistency in his play away from the puck to be a dominant player in the cycle. At this point, I don't think there is any doubt that he'll be back in the OHL next year for his overage season. Sudbury "may" finally be able to take that next step forward as a young team and be a playoff contender again. And if they do, they'll need Schmalz to be a 30 goal scorer and a consistent offensive leader on a young team.
*Jacob Moverare - Mississauga Steelheads
The Steelheads took Moverare in the Import draft and it remains to be seen whether he'll play for them next year. Because Alex Nylander may be playing in Europe or in the AHL, Mississauga needed an insurance plan (as they also have Detroit prospect Saarijarvi) as they intend to be one of the top teams in the OHL next year. If he ends up playing in Mississauga, Moverare has a chance to be a part of the top 4 on a Championship contending team and could play a role similar to what Erik Cernak did in Erie this past year. Him signing with the Kings recently is definitely a step in the right direction towards seeing him in the OHL next year.