The Islanders are up next.
1. Michael Dal Colle - Kingston Frontenacs
A tale of two seasons for Dal Colle. When he came back to Oshawa for his 19 (turning 20 year old season), he didn't seem to have a ton of fire in his stride. And this is something that happens quite often with prospects in his position. Coming off a Memorial Cup victory, he's hoping to make an NHL roster. Instead, he's sent back to a rebuilding junior team with the idea that he's (perhaps) accomplished all he can at this level. It took a trade to Kingston to re-invigorate his game and in Kingston he was fantastic. Almost a goal per game in 30 contests and he was the team's best player in the playoffs (despite an early exit). He's such a smart player in the offensive end. His hockey sense is extremely high. He's never developed into an incredibly pretty skater, but because of his anticipation and his ability to read defenses, his quick decision making skills allow him to adapt. His shot continues to be NHL ready, as his velocity and release are outstanding. Just an overall impressive offensive player. Defensively, I felt like he improved under coach Paul McFarland. He'll never win a Selke, but his effort and reads on the backcheck have most definitely improved and he even saw regular time on the PK. The real question is, did Dal Colle improve a lot? Honestly, other than improvements made on defense, probably not. The real test faces him next season when he can finally turn pro. I think the reality is that Dal Colle will probably never turn into a player who can drive a line offensively at the NHL level. But, because of his hockey IQ, his skill with the puck, and his finishing ability, he should be a solid complimentary player on a scoring line...even if his skating never becomes an above average trait. Think of guys like Jordan Eberle, or an Andrew Brunette. If paired with other skilled players at the AHL level (say a Josh Ho-Sang), I think he has a good first year, perhaps a 25/20 season. Of course, he could always surprise and make the NHL roster too.
2. Josh Ho-Sang - Niagara IceDogs
Statistically speaking, Ho-Sang didn't really improve all that much compared to last season. But, I think there's more to it than meets the eye. IMO Ho-Sang had a very good season and did make some improvements. He continues to play smarter with the puck and cut down on his turnovers, picking his spots better to try and "dangle" defenders. I've had a couple players tell me this year that Ho-Sang is the toughest player to stop one on one because of how unpredictable he is. His goal scoring ability, shot, and confidence in shooting has never really become a major asset, but he's skilled enough to survive as a pure playmaker at this point in time. The most impressive part of Ho-Sang's season was by far his performance in the playoffs though. I felt like he had really struggled in the postseason during his first two years, but this year he was Niagara's best skater (not player, that would be Nedeljkovic) and really was a major factor for a team made the OHL finals. He was so determined with the puck and showed an intensity without the puck that was refreshing. Just brought so much energy to the ice. Like Dal Colle, Ho-Sang will begin his pro journey next year and it will be interesting to see the pro careers of these two intertwined. I think they'd make interesting linemates. I'd expect Ho-Sang to find immediate success at the AHL level and I suspect he'll be a 15/30 type of player.
3. Mitchell Vande Sompel - Oshawa Generals
Vande Sompel started the year very slowly as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery (and missed the first month and a half of the OHL season). But by season's end, he had elevated his play to the point where he was the year prior as a Memorial Cup champion. I'm not entirely sure he improved all that much, in terms of development. But getting himself healthy moving forward and playing a leadership role for a rebuilding team certainly can't be considered a poor year. He's still such a smart offensive player who's able to use his skating ability and vision together to be a very dangerous player when exiting his own zone. The size concerns will likely travel with him until he turns pro and shows he can adapt, but he continues to get stronger and will likely look to up his physical game next year as a 19/20 year old. Oshawa should be a better team in 2016/17 and Vande Sompel will be an integral part of that. I'd expect him to be back up near the league leaders in defensive scoring and another 60 point season is certainly possible.