Sunday, August 21, 2016
Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2016-17
I mention this every time that I write this piece, but it truly is one of my favourites to write and look back on. This annual article looks at some of the rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next year. And by that I mean players not selected in the Import Draft or the recent priority draft. I'm talking about 1999 (possibly even '98) born players who should finally crack their respective teams this year. The list of successful players of this ilk is long (see Mark Scheifele, Remi Elie, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Senyshyn, Nic Hague, Boris Katchouk, etc).
This year, I'm going with more than 10 because there are a lot of talented players who look set to make a larger impact. The list is divided by position.
In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports from the guys over at TheScout.ca, in addition to a couple other great minds who see the Tier 2 ranks often (Steven Ellis, Mike Mackley and Conor Mulligan). Also have one contributor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Thanks to the following (and give them a follow on twitter)
Andrew Sykes (@ASykes_hockey)
Matt Grainda (@graindaiv)
Mike Mackley (@Macker61)
Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL)
Conor Mulligan (@ConorMulliganFC)
Here's the list (sorted by position and alphabetical order):
Brendan Bonello - Saginaw Spirit
Another '99 who struggled in limited OHL action, but the 45th overall pick in 2015 was excellent for the OJHL's Toronto Jr. Canadiens. The 6'2 netminder will enter the 2016/17 season as the back-up to Evan Cormier, but if Cormier continues to battle consistency issues, he could see his playing time increase (if he performs well).
Scouting Report: "Arguably the top goaltender available in the 2015 OHL Draft, Brandon Bonello displays all the attributes one would desire in a high end, OHL starting caliber goaltender. A butterfly style goaltender with intimidating size and strong technical skills, Brandon Bonnello combines a high level of athleticism with his strong physical attributes to become very tough to beat. A goaltender who takes away a large amount of the net, Bonnello displays quick reflexes along with strong lateral movements and an ability to make quality desperation saves. While Bonnello argubably could show better control when moving post to post as he does lose his net at times, he has begun to play his angles much better and has improved in his areas of weakness. An extremely poised young goaltender with exceptional puck handling abilities, Bonnello can act as a third defensemen at times and is noticeably vocal with his teammates, showing a level of maturity some young goaltenders don’t yet possesses." (Mike Mackley)
Aidan Hughes - Sarnia Sting
The 34th overall pick in 2015, Hughes did see some limited time with Sarnia last year (but struggled). He spent the majority of the year with Sarnia of the GOJHL where he posted pretty decent stats for a 17 year old (a barely sub .900 save percentage). Hughes is a hulking goaltender (listed at 6'3, 240lbs by the OHL), and he'll have a chance to earn serious playing time with Sarnia's goaltending situation up in the air.
Scouting Report: "May have been the most impressive young goalie for me in the GOJHL's Western Conference this past season, among a list that included 2016 NHL draftee Tyler Wall. Already possesses huge size but is far more than just a big body in the crease. He moves well enough and has fair athleticism for his size, but its his anticipation, positioning and coolness that makes him the quality prospect he is. Plays deeper in his crease but still seems to always be square to the shooter and always in a position to make saves look easy. Swallows shots to the chest and has an excellent glove hand. Like Wall, I think he'll be an NHL draft pick in 2017 regardless of where he plays and regardless of playing time." (Andrew Sykes)
Olivier Lafreniere - Ottawa 67's
A 2014 3rd rounder, Lafreniere has taken some time to develop, but the 6'2 goaltender is coming off a fantastic season in the OJHL with Wellington (his second year in a row spent there) where he was named to the all 1st prospect team. After moving Liam Herbst to Guelph, the 67's have cleared room for Lafreniere to be the back-up to Leo Lazerev (that is, if Lazerev doesn't make the KHL following his tryout).
Scouting Report: "Olivier Lafreniere is a big bodied, butterfly style goaltender who thrives as a puck blocker, relying on his size and reflexes to be effective. A goaltender who is extremely poised between the pipes, Lafreniere displays excellent rebound control along with strong lateral movements and impressive reflexes. While Lafreniere can get caught sitting back in his net, he has shown a much better job at getting to the top of his crease and challenging shooters. Lafreniere challenges shooters and plays his angles well, which allows him to take up large portions of the net and limit the amount of net opposing forwards see. A goaltender who tracks pucks well, Lafreniere fights through screens, showing impressive compete along with a deceptively strong glove hand and intriguing lower body strength. Lafreniere excelled as the starting netminder with the OJHL’s Wellington Dukes throughout the 2015-2016 season and looks primed to take over the net in Ottawa next season." (Mike Mackley)
Jacob McGrath - Sudbury Wolves
A recent cut from the Canadian Hlinka team, McGrath has to be considered one of the best '99 goaltenders in Canada. He performed well at camp and is coming off a fantastic season in the OJHL with St. Mike's (where he was named to the prestigious all 2nd prospect team). He could be starting in Sudbury before long.
Scouting Report: "It seems like just yesterday that McGrath was putting on a stellar performance at the 2015 OHL Cup final against Don Mills. Now, he’s ready to make his mark in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves. His OJHL rookie season with a young St. Michael’s Buzzers team had its ups and downs, but he played better than expected for a 16-year-old goalie. McGrath shared the starting duty with overager Mark Manolescu, finishing with a 15-10-0 record. McGrath tends to keep great focus during a game, even after allowing a tough goal. He’s quick and has a very strong glove hand, so there’s no use in shooting towards that hand. It would be great to see him grow a little and learn to use his size a bit more but he’s got the athleticism to make some truly remarkable saves. He’ll act as a solid backup option for the Wolves this year while looking to make a further impact in the years to come." (Steven Ellis)
Anthony Popovich - Guelph Storm
Certainly not a guarantee to be in Guelph this year, but Popovich is coming off a solid season in the OJHL and looks like the favourite to grab a spot in a wide open goaltending battle for the Strom (with the trade of Van Schubert to Owen Sound). Lafreniere's running mate in Wellington last year, Popovich will likely end up as the back-up behind Liam Herbst next year.
Scouting Report: "During the 2014-2015 season Popovich back stopped the Quinte Red Devils to an OMHA championship, sporting a league leading 1.32 goals against average in 34 appearances. He continued his stellar play this season with the Wellington Dukes of the OJHL, where he has toiled in primarily a back up role for the Dukes. Despite the limited appearances, the big, athletic goaltender showed flashes of intriguing netminding talent. A goaltender who moves fairly well in the net and challenges shooters, Popovich plays his angles well boasts a competitive nature. There is much to like about Popovich’s game as the sixteen year old should challenge for a roster spot with the Storm next season." (Mike Mackley)
Luke Richardson - Kitchener Rangers
Richardson, too, saw limited time in the OHL last year but struggled. However, in the GOJHL with Kitchener, Richardson was a stand-out and was ultimately named to the first all star team. On paper, the 6'2 netminder is set as the 3rd string currently, but I'd imagine that the Rangers will deal Dawson Carty (thanks to a massive overager logjam) and he'll end up as Luke Opilka's backup.
Scouting Report: "Luke Richardson transitioned from the minor hockey ranks to junior hockey seamlessly. A goaltender that boasts intriguing physical attributes, Richardson also shows a high end skill set between the pipes. An extremely poised and confident young netminder, Richardson uses strong positioning and technical tools to thrive between the pipes. A goaltender who tracks pucks well and fights through screens, Richardson controls rebounds with effectiveness, limiting second chance opportunities. Richardson moves well in the net, remaining under control when moving laterally, squaring up shooters, while playing his angles well. Last season with North Central, Richardson would often back into his goal, rather than challenging shooters, giving the opposition more room to shoot at. As he’s begun to challenge shooters more, he’s achieved much more success. Covering a large portion of the net, while also displaying athleticism and strong technical tools, Richardson continues to become increasingly harder to beat clean." (Mike Mackley)
Eric Allair - North Bay Battalion
A hometown boy and a late round selection of the Battalion in 2015, Allair had a quietly solid season in the NOJHL last year with Powassan, where he was the only '99 defender to see significant ice time (in the entire league). North Bay will have some openings on the back-end and Allair will be in the hunt for a 3rd pairing spot.
Scouting Report: "A big, physical defensemen with intriguing two-way capabilities, Eric Allair has quickly emerged as one of the Battalion’s better defensive prospects. A strong skater with impressive mobility, Allair possesses both strong edges and an impressive stride that allows him to cover lot of ice i limited amounts of time. A defender who sees the ice well, Allair makes a strong outlet pass along with displaying overall strong decision making abilities in possession. A smart defender, that shows a level of calmness and poise in possession, Allair doesn’t force plays, taking what’s given to him while displaying deceptively good puck skills. An imposing presence in his own zone, Allair shows a willingness to clog shooting lanes along with an active and effective stick and a willingness to engage physically. Allair closes gaps well and shows impressive contain in his own zone." (Mike Mackley)
Ian Blacker - London Knights
Once thought to be headed the NCAA route (like his brother Ben), Ian has since signed with London and will likely be part of the team's 3rd pairing next season. Like Brahaney, Blacker was recently cut from the Ivan Hlinka team, but he does enter the OHL season with a fair amount of hype (even if his stats with Oakville last year at the OJHL level were not fantastic).
Scouting Report: "While the defenseman is very talented, he did have some tough moments during his OJHL rookie season. Whether it be ill-timed penalties or defensive miscues around the net, Blacker had his fair share of moments that made you question him at times. But, with that, Blacker has the raw skills to really make an impact when he jumps to the OHL in 2016-2017, joining the likes of former Oakville Blades AP Evan Bouchard on the blue line. He plays a physical game that can leave opponents wishing they were somewhere else, while using his quick skating to put himself in a position to stop a play from happening. A third-pairing role may be the best option for Blacker as he continues to adapt to the play, but it would be interesting to see how he’d work with a defenseman that is a bit more two-way minded, such as Bouchard or Victor Mete, to allow Blacker to focus more on his own zone. In a year or two, get ready to see him be a big-minute cruncher in the OHL for London." (Steven Ellis)
Jakob Brahaney - Kingston Frontenacs
Brahaney is a lock to be with the Frontenacs full time next year, after splitting time between them and Kingston of the OJHL last year. Brahaney looked good at the Ivan Hlinka camp, but was cut. Regardless, he has a chance to be a top 4 defender on a, somewhat, rebuilding Kingston team.
Scouting Report: "Brahaney is an offensive minded defensemen that skates well and shows intriguing hockey sense, while continuing to develop his skill set at the defensive end of the rink. Possessing strong mobility and impressive foot speed, Brahaney’s skating and vision are arguably his best assets. A defensemen that shows a capability to be an effective puck carrying defensemen, Brahaney also shows an ability to make a strong and crisp outlet pass along with an ability to create offensive from the blue line. A player who can run a power play with effectiveness, Brahaney boasts an impressive point shot along with strong offensive instincts that allow him to make smart an calculated pinches along with strong judgement calls as to when to sneak in from the blue line for an offensive opportunity. A player who transitions up ice well, Brahaney does need to work on his gap control defending the rush along with his awareness in the defensive zone as he can get caught flat footed and puck watching. A trait that was more evident in his time with the Frontenacs, but something that began to improve after joining the OJHL’s Kingston Voyageurs." (Mike Mackley)
Fedor Gordeev - Hamilton Bulldogs
A 3rd round pick of the Bulldogs in 2015, the 6'5 defender could be a factor in Hamilton's lineup next year. Gordeev had an excellent year for Ancaster of the GOJHL, where he displayed some high end potential. Hamilton has a pretty deep blueline though, so there is talk that they intend to utilize him as a forward next year. We'll see how that works out (and if it sticks).
Scouting Report: "A player who boasts intriguing physical attributes, Gordeev shows intriguing two-way capabilities. In his own zone Gordeev can be tough to play against, showing a willingness to engage physically, along strong contain and effective stick on puck defense. A defender who separates player from puck and transitions well, Gordeev shows an ability to be an effective puck carrying defensemen. With strong mobility and impressive foot speed, Gordeev can make himself a threat to create offense from the blue line, making smart and calculated pinches along with and ability to sneak down the the middle, catching his defender off guard at the appropriate times. Boasting a powerful point shot, Gordeev looks to be a trigger man on the Bulldogs power play in the near future." (Mike Mackley)
Liam Ham - Niagara IceDogs
The former captain of the York Simcoe Express, it was once believed that Ham was headed to the NCAA (with a commitment to Clarkson). But he's changed his tune and has signed with Niagara for next year. The slightly undersized blueliner had a terrific season with Aurora of the OJHL last year and figures to be in the mix for a 3rd pairing spot with the IceDogs next year.
Scouting Report: "Ham is a confident, mobile, two-way defender with impressive hockey sense and strong puck skills. A player who is arguably at his best in possession as he shows an ability to dictate the pace of play along with an ability to create offense from the back end. Ham is a defender who shows excellent poise and patience in possession while also showing a calming presence on the blue line and strong decision making abilities. The 5’10 defender shows an ability to be an effective puck carrying defensemen as he possesses excellent foot speed and fluid mobility along with intriguing puck skills that make him shifty and elusive in possession, allowing him to gain entry to the offensive zone with relative ease. With that being said, Ham also moves the puck extremely well, showing impressive vision along with a smooth and accurate outlet pass. Ham transitions up ice well and injects himself into the offensive attack at the appropriate times, making smart and calculated pinches when the opportunity presents itself. Defensively speaking Ham controls the attack well, holding the blue line effectively while also taking away the middle of the ice, forcing the opposition to low percentage areas. A strong positional defender, Ham will engage physically but shows a strength as a stick on puck defender." (Mike Mackley)
Ryan Martin - Erie Otters
Martin, a 5th rounder in 2015, is an average sized defender who looks to be in the mix for a 3rd pairing spot on the 2016/17 Otters (battling some other 98's and 99's for the job). He's coming off a great year in the GOJHL with St. Mary's where he was named to the all rookie team.
Scouting Report: "An intriguing player since his minor hockey days because of his size and effortless, rangy mobility. Made excellent strides from his minor midget season to his first junior season with the St. Mary's Lincolns. Played a safer and more controlled game, playing within himself and letting his natural ability take over. Led his team in scoring among defencemen and finished fourth overall on the club with 28 points in 48 games. Not sure if he'll be a power-play guy at the next level but he did good work quarterbacking the Lincolns power-play by utilizing his length, sharp agility and heady sense of when to get shots to the net. I imagine he'll get a long look and has a good chance to crack the Otters opening night lineup." (Andrew Sykes)
Robert Proner - Saginaw Spirit
A big, physical blueliner, Proner (the 30th overall pick in 2015) seems like a lock to come out of the blueline logjam in Saginaw with a permanent line-up spot. Proner is coming off an excellent season for Cambridge of the GOJHL where he nearly led the team in scoring (as a defender) and also led the team in penalty minutes.
Scouting Report: "A big bodied, physically imposing defensemen that boasts two-way capabilities along with a noticeable mean streak to his game, Robert Proner is a very appealing prospect. Selected to participate in the 2015-2016 GOJHL Top Prospect game, Proner excelled with the Cambridge Winter Hawks last season. While Proner certainly displays hard to miss two-way traits, he is at his best in his own zone where he displays shut down capabilities. Extremely tough to play against, Proner is aggressive and will punish the opposition along the boards in the corners, often coming away with the puck when engaging in battles in the gritty areas. Proner displays an active and effective stick along with impressive contain in his own zone. While he has no problem engaging physically, he can get drawn out of position looking to make a big hit, which can lead to quality scoring chances for the opposition. Proner displays impressive mobility for a player of his size, along with a powerful stride that allows him to generate deceptively good speed. While Proner does boast intriguing puck skills and shows the capability to gain the offensive zone with his skating abilities he is at his best when he keeps his game simple. A player who sees the ice well, Proner can make a strong first pass and displays an uncanny ability to get his powerful shot through from the point. While Proner is tough to beat 1 on 1 in his own zone, he can struggle in transition as he gets caught flat footed at times, which leads to speedy forwards beating him wide before driving the net for a scoring opportunity. Still Proner boasts high end upside and should be a mainstay on the Spirit back end next season. (Mike Mackley)
Matt Stoia - Oshawa Generals
Signed last year out of the USHL, Stoia didn't have much of an opportunity to prove himself late in the season. But the '99, 6'0 defender did play a lot of the season with the heralded Compuware program and will come into this coming season as a potential 3rd pairing guy for the Generals.
Scouting Report: "Matt Stoia is a pretty big right-handed defenseman who plays a smart two-way game and really enjoys using his offensive tools while looking to make an impact. He’s great at rushing the puck and making a smart first pass, and his situational reads are pretty solid with the biscuit on his blade. He manages the point very well and also made some great plays on the power play throughout the season with the U16 Compuware. His defensive game is solid and he has no fear making the physical play when needed. He played some crossover games with the U18 Compuware team along with the USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints, so he does have some higher level experience already.” (Matt Grainda)
Josh Wainman - Erie Otters
Wainman saw over 20 games with Erie last year, but did spend a ton of time with Lindsay of the OJHL where he put up some nice stats (led the team in defensive scoring). As mentioned earlier with Ryan Martin, Wainman will battle it out for a spot on the Otters' 3rd pairing next season.
Scouting Report: "Wainman is a highly intelligent two-way defender with an effectiveness in all three zones. Showing poise beyond his years, Wainman is patient in possession, makes strong reads and rarely commits turnovers. In his own zone Wainman tends to be a strong stick on puck defender, using strong positional play and an active to defender with effectiveness. A defender with strong gap control and a willingness to clog the shooting lanes, Wainman also boasts deceptively good offensive traits. He creates shooting lanes with effectiveness, possesses a strong point shot and see’s the ice well enough to create offense from the back end." (Mike Mackley)
Logan Buchanan - Peterborough Petes
A 10th rounder by the Petes in 2015, Buchanan spent the majority of the year playing midget with Carleton Place. Because of his strong play, he was rewarded with a call-up to the CCHL team for the playoffs and performed very well, helping the Canadiens win the Fred Page Cup, and even playing in the RBC Cup. He definitely has a chance to earn a roster spot as a checking line player for the Petes next year.
Scouting Report: "A bit of a wildcard to find a spot on a deep Petes’ roster, Buchanan had a great season in the U18 league for the Carleton Place Canadians. Due to injuries, he was called up to the Junior A team to join the eventual league champions for a long playoff run. In the post season, Buchanan did not look out of place even scoring a key goal off a faceoff in the Fred Page Cup. Buchanan is a heart and soul breed of forward who is extremely effective away from the puck and is a leader on and off the ice. He’s the type of player that every team wishes they had and could provide some energy in the Petes bottom-6. I was personally surprised last season when he didn’t make the Junior A team last year but he will be expected to be a top player for Carleton Place next season if he doesn’t make the jump to the OHL. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him scooped up by a NCAA team early in the season if he fails to make the Petes roster." (Conor Mulligan)
Shane Bulitka - Sudbury Wolves
The 28th overall pick in 2015, Bulitka spent this past season with Strathroy of the GOJHL where he averaged a point per game and was named to the all rookie team. He'll be a full time member of the Wolves this year, likely in a 3rd/4th line role.
Scouting Report: "A very well-rounded player who I've liked a lot since his Minor Midget season with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs. Led the Strathroy Rockets in scoring as a rookie and was easily their best and most consistent forward in all facets of the game. Not a flashy player or the quickest skater but combines a very high hockey intellect with efficient skill. Has a nice sense of positioning and anticipation to always be around the puck. Can play down the middle or on the wing with equal success but I think he is a natural center because of how well he reads the ice. His puck-protection ability, play-making vision, versatility, and mental make-up are the reasons why I think he will make a successful jump to the OHL this season with the Wolves." (Andrew Sykes)
Tyler Burnie - Kingston Frontenacs
A 5th rounder by Kingston in 2015, Burnie should be able to step into a top 9 role for the rebuilding Fronts next year. They will need some help scoring and Burnie can do that, coming off a season with Wellington (OJHL) where he finished 4th in goal scoring.
Scouting Report: "Tyler Burnie is an intelligent, two-way forward with budding power forward capabilities and an impressive skill set. Possessing strong physical attributes, Burnie combines those with a strong skating ability, strong work ethic and deceptively strong puck skills to become a high versatile offensive threat. A player who generates above average speed due to a long, smooth and powerful stride, Burnie can cover a lot of ice in just a few strides. Strong in possession, Burnie’s puck handling abilities along with impressive puck protection skills and size allow him to excel in and through traffic. Tough to contain due to his versatile skill set of size, smarts and skill, Burnie can take over a game in the offensive zone, working the cycle with effectiveness, while also showing a deceptive amount of vision an playmaking skills. A player who knows how to create space for himself, Burnie looks to have a bright future ahead of himself." (Mike Mackley)
Nicholas Campoli - Saginaw Spirit
A high scoring forward who nearly averaged a point per game in the OJHL last year (a very respectable feat in the league) with North York. Campoli (if he comes to the OHL) will most certainly have a chance to play a scoring role for Saginaw next year, a team that will look to improve upon a disappointing 2015/16 season.
Scouting Report: "A hard worker, Nicholas Campoli was one of the most impressive rookie forwards in the entire OJHL Southwest Conference. A member of the North York Rangers, Campoli scored 12 goals and 34 points in 37 games, enough to attract the attention of the Saginaw Spirit. While he’s not a big player, he skates well and isn’t afraid to get dirty when needed. He’s a buzzsaw around the net and with a bit more seasoning, could really turn into an offensive threat in the OHL." (Steven Ellis)
Oliver Castleman - Niagara IceDogs
A bit of a late bloomer, Castleman played in the new CCHL2 last year where he was named the league's top prospect and his team (Casselman) won the league's title. As such, the IceDogs drafted him as a re-entry in the 4th round (was passed over in his initial draft year in 2015) of the recent priority selection. With a lot of forward spots available in Niagara's line-up, Castleman could make the jump in 2016/17.
Scouting Report: "Castleman was a player that I saw a lot of this past season as his team (Casselman Vikings) eventually swept mine in a best-of-seven series. Playing on likely one of the best Junior B teams in the country, Castleman scored at over a point-per-game while moving up and down the line-up throughout the season. Niagara can expect a physically mature skilled forward who isn’t afraid to play with an edge. Likely destined for a middle-6 position, Castleman will be relied on to provide secondary scoring. In one of the final games of the season last year, Castleman pounced on a loose puck on the blueline, raced down the ice on a breakaway and snapped a shot top corner which eventually was the game winner. It’s that game breaking ability which will make Castleman a difference maker in the IceDogs line-up." (Conor Mulligan)
Bradley Chenier - North Bay Battalion
No question, the Battalion have high hopes for the reigning NOJHL Rookie of the year. Chenier was not only the highest scoring 17 year old in the league, but he was also the highest scoring player 19 and under, with 72 points. His 72 points as a 17 year old are the most since Matt Caria scored 70 in 11 years ago (and Caria obviously became a pretty damn good OHL player). As far as I can tell, that's actually the most points put up by a 17 year old (and under) in the last 20 years. Chenier could be one to watch in North Bay next year.
Scouting Report: "An impressive year of development in the NOJHL has made him ready for full-time duty in the OHL. His biggest improvement was in foot speed which now gives him the quickness needed to be aggressive and close down the opposition on the next level. Makes quick smart decision with the puck allowing him to play with higher skill players and translated into an offensive catalyst role with the Canadians. Not an overly creative or dynamic player but strong in puck battles allowing him to do the hard work down low and then quickly move the puck to a teammate in a scoring position. Possesses a heavy shot and a willingness to drive the net which will allow him to score sporadically at the next level. Where he excels is in physical contact and aggression as he is a punishing hitter that is always around the puck ready to make contact. Good two-way ability as he is positionally sound, tracks back and aggressive blocking shots from the point. Doesn't have the highest ceiling but is one of the most prepared prospects to step into a role and make an impact. He will thrive and in a hard hitting bottom six role and chip in sporadically offensively." (Anonymous) "Bradley Chenier is a hard nose, two-way player that brings a deceptive amount of upside to the game. Skating in his first season with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, Chenier led the NOJHL in rookie scoring. Playing a North/South game, Chenier skates well, possesses good speed and mobility along with strong edges. Chenier is arguably at his best in possession as he displays strong vision and playmaking abilities along with an ability to create space for himself. Strong off the rush, Chenier uses his intriguing puck protection skills and speed to drive the net with authority, while also showing an ability to make plays at high speeds and in tight. A player who works the cycle effectively, Chenier excels below the goal line, grinding it out in the corners and along the half boards. Aggressive on the forecheck, Chenier shows a tenaciousness in puck pursuit and a willingness to engage psychically. Chenier shows strong on ice awareness along with adequate defensive zone play. A player who displays a strong work ethic, Chenier’s compete level is impressive and consistent. Having already appeared in games with the Battalion last season, expect Chenier to be a mainstay with the Troops this season, with an ability to become a complimentary top six winger as a safe projection." (Mike Mackley)
Kody Clark - Ottawa 67's
The son of the great Wendel Clark, Kody skated with St. Andrew's College last year, a team that was champion of the CISAA. Clark posted solid numbers and has signed on with the Ottawa 67's for next year, where he should get an opportunity to get serious ice time.
Scouting Report: "Kody Clark is an intelligent, two-way forward with impressive speed and a quiet but agitating aspect to his game. A player who skates well, Clark possesses an impressive first step, generates above average straight line speed, displays excellent edges and overall mobility. Effective both in possession and away from the puck, Clark shows a high end hockey IQ as he shows strong on ice awareness along with an ability to anticipate the play well. In possession Clark displays impressive puck protection skills which are most notable off the rush and off the cycle as he uses his near explosive first step and strong edges to drive the net with authority. A a player who shows patience in possession, Clark also boasts impressive vision and deceptively good playmaking abilities as his anticipation skills come into play when looking to generate offense. More of a complimentary winger, Clark has an uncanny ability to find soft spots in defensive zone coverage’s which allows him to get off his near lethal shot that comes off a quick release and shows appealing accuracy. A player who shows a willingness to get to the gritty areas off the ice, Clark shows a tenaciousness in puck pursuit and will engage physically, finishing his checks and becoming an agitating presence. A strong positional player, Clark shows an effectiveness in all three zones. As he continues to add strength to a thin frame he will continues to become increasingly more effective." (Mike Mackley)
Cal Davis - Niagara IceDogs
Davis saw limited action with Niagara last year, spending the majority of the year with Thorold of the GOJHL, where he was an impact player. The 35th overall pick in 2015 will join many other young rookies as they try to earn a permanent spot on the IceDogs this coming season.
Scouting Report: "A highly intelligent, offensive minded winger, Cal Davis possesses high end upside. A deceptively strong skater, Davis shows impressive straight line speed, strong edges and an ability to change pace/direction fluidly. A player who plays with excellent pace, Davis shows a confidence in possession, along with an ability to create offense for both himself and teammates. With excellent on ice awareness and anticipation skills, Davis has a knack for finding soft spots in defensive zone coverage’s. A player that boasts separation speed, Davis has an ability to create space for himself to work offensively. Showing excellent vision and high end playmaking skills, Davis shows strong accuracy on his passes along with a deceptively good shot and a nose for the net. While not overly physical, Davis does shows an excellent compete level and work ethic. A player who very rarely takes a shift off, Davis gets to the gritty areas of the ice and shows a shifty an elusiveness to his game in possession." (Mike Mackley)
Ben Evans - Ottawa 67's
An 8th rounder by Ottawa, Evans has emerged as a fantastic prospect for the 67's. Playing with Fort Erie (GOJHL) last year, Evans was the highest scoring '99 in the entire league. He'll be given every chance to show off his offensive skills in a top 9 role next year in Ottawa.
Scouting Report: "Evans is a highly intelligent, highly competitive, offensive minded forward with intriguing power forward capabilities. A forward blessed with a smooth and powerful stride, Evans generates above average straight line speed and shows an ability play with excellent pace. Offensively speaking Evans is a versatile threat that shows an ability to carry a line, but also an effectiveness as a complimentary winger. In possession Evans shows an impressive amount of offensive creativity and on ice awareness as a pass first centre. For a player who sees the ice extremely well and displays strong playmaking traits, Evans may be a better finisher. The intriguing power forward boasts a high end shot that combines a quick release with strong accuracy and high velocity that often catches goaltenders off guard. A player who is extremely tough to contain in one on one battles and off the rush due to his versatile skill set, Evans shows a willingness to get to the gritty areas of the rink, drives the net with authority and shows a high success rate in the high traffic areas. Overall Evans is a highly appealing offensive threat with the smarts and physical attributes to boot." (Mike Mackley)
Alex Formenton - London Knights
Average sized forward who had a good year with Aurora of the OJHL, establishing himself as one of London's top forward prospect. With a few graduations, Formenton will get a shot to battle (with some other talented youngsters) for a spot on a checking line.
Scouting Report: "A player who boasts strong skating abilities, displaying an explosive first step and high end straight line speed, Formenton works his edges well while showing strong change of pace and direction abilities. In possession Formenton combines his high end skating traits with strong puck skills to become shifty and elusive in possession. Showing quick hands and strong puck control, Formenton shows impressive vision and playmaking skills. Always looking to generate scoring chances in the offensive zone, Formenton works the half boards and cycle well, spinning off checks and driving the net with authority. While his build may be slight and in need of some added muscle, Formenton shows no hesitance to get to the gritty areas of the ice. A player who gets to the high traffic areas and shows an effectiveness in said areas, Formenton plays with with a level of aggressiveness to his game that tends to agitate opponents." (Mike Mackley)
Grayden Gottschalk - Oshawa Generals
A free agent signing by the Generals, Gottschalk is a '98 born, 6'4 forward who played with North York of the OJHL last year. He was 3rd in team scoring and 2nd in goals and will look to establish himself as a checking line player next year in Oshawa.
Scouting Report: "After originally landing on the Moncton Wildcats protected list, Grayden Gottschalk found himself signing with the Oshawa Generals on July 1st. The power forward played with the North York Rangers of the OJHL last season, putting up an impressive 42 points in 54 games as one of the team’s better players. Gottschalk impressed scouts with his impressive size and his ability to work hard around the net, causing havoc among the opposing defensemen while being an offensive force. While his skating leaves a lot to be desired, he’s gritty, knows where to be and will add to the offensive output. Expect Gottschalk to play most likely on the third line, adding grit and skill to a rising Generals team." (Steven Ellis)
Nicholas Isaacson - Peterborough Petes
Isaacson is a good sized winger who had an excellent year on a young Lindsay (OJHL) team, where he finished 2nd in team scoring (to Cedric Ralph, another player on this list). Peterborough has a deep team heading into next season, but Isaacson should at least play a 3rd/4th line role for them.
Scouting Report: "A rangy two-way forward with strong offensive instincts and a high compete level, Nick Isaacson excelled throughout the 2015-2016 season with the Lindsay Muskies of the OJHL. A player who displays impressive hockey sense, Isaacson shows an awareness in all three zones, that allows him to thrive both in possession and away from the puck. While Isaacson does show a combination of competitiveness, smarts and skill his skating is still a bit of a work in progress. Isaacson boasts and long stride and his able to generate good straight line speed, however he lacks fluidity to his stride along with an explosiveness in his first step. With that being said Isaacson can be tough to contain off the rush once he reaches his top speed as he combines impressive puck protection skills with deceptively quick hands to thrive on net drives and in tight. While not overly physical on a consistent bases, Isaacson does show a tenaciousness in puck pursuit and will finishes his checks. A player who transitions up ice well, Isaacson is arguably at his best in tight around the net where he uses his physical attributes along with quick hands and a nose for the net to excel. A player who shows an impressive confidence in possession, Isaacson consistently produced for a weak Lindsay Muskies team last season." (Mike Mackley)
Owen Lane - Sudbury Wolves
Undersized forward (5'8), Lane was an impact player for Kitchener of the GOJHL last year. Like Bulitka, the early 2015 selection should be a shoe in for a 3rd/4th line role on the Wolves this coming season.
Scouting Report: "Lane is an opportunistic scorer who doesn’t need many chances to impact a game. A heady player in the offensive zone who reads the play well and moves smartly away from the puck. Anticipates the flow of the play and gets into pockets of the ice that will enable him to attempt to unleash his elite shot. Can fire the puck from a standstill or off the rush with a lethal release and impressive accuracy. Skating is adequate as he possesses some good jump in his stride, sound first few steps, and strong balance. Is a patient and efficient skater but will need to continue to improve overall quickness and lateral agility. Does a good job of attacking open ice and attempts to do so with bursts of speed and skilled puck-control. Possesses a smooth pair of hands and won’t overhandle the puck often as he is more of an efficient stick-handler as opposed to a tricky dangler. Can be effective in battles along the wall, engaging with determination and having a knack for winning or freeing the puck. Puts pressure on opposing defencemen with good closing speed, using unexpected bursts of energy to surprise defenders on the forecheck. Does however tend to get a little stagnant away from the puck, not moving his feet and not working hard enough to stay close to the play. Can fall into lulls of being a one-and-done rush opportunity player and not making the overall impact that his skill-set is capable of. Size is not a problem right now but how much growth he has left is a question as he seemed to develop early." (TheScout OHL Draft Guide 2015)
Greg Meireles - Kitchener Rangers
Probably the most hyped player on this list, and with good reason. A 1st rounder of the Rangers in 2015, Meireles opted to play closer to home for a year instead of making the jump to the OHL as a 16/17 year old. He was terrific in the CCHL last year with Ottawa where he was named to the all rookie team, but was also great in a short stint with Kitchener. Even though he didn't play a ton, Meireles also suited up for Canada at the Hlinka. He should be an impact player for the Rangers in 2016/17.
Scouting Report: "Always regarded as a top prospect from the Ottawa area, Meireles surprised many when he decided to suit up for the Ottawa Jr Senators of the CCHL this past season. A top team in the CCHL, Meireles had a productive rookie campaign and was a major contributor on the top line posting 35 points in 48 games. Playing in all situations, he quickly adapted to the speed of junior hockey and excelled on a very systems oriented team. The smooth skating center handles the puck extremely well in traffic and is always dangerous when given time and space around the net. He scores a majority of his goals by using his elite speed to find open areas on the ice and winning races to the puck. In his first stint in the Ontario Hockey League, Meireles didn’t look out of place by scoring at almost a point per game pace. The Rangers are expected to be a top team in the Western Conference and Meireles will be a key part of the forward core." (Conor Mulligan) "A high end prospect, Greg Meireles has the capabilities to become a lethal offensive threat in the Ontario Hockey League. Combining elite skating abilities, with high end vision and strong work ethic, Meireles boasts intriguing upside. Boasting an explosive first step, Meireles skating abilities are is best asset. Generating elite straight line speed, strong change of pace and direction abilities and excellent edges, when combined with high end hockey sense and elite puck skills, Meireles is near impossible to contain. A player who sees the ice extremely well and looks to create offense every time he touches the puck, Meireles boasts excellent vision and high end playmaking skills. With that being said Meireles also displays a deceptively good shot, that comes off a quick release and boasts intriguing accuracy. A player who plays with excellent pace and does everything he does well at top speeds, Meireles is relentless in puck pursuit and aggressive on the forecheck. Using his speed to not only create space offensively but force turnovers defensively, Meireles continues to improve his two-way capabilities. Reliable in his own zone, Meireles has quietly add a physical element to his game, which makes him even more intriguing as a prospect." (Mike Mackley)
Cedric Ralph - Guelph Storm
As previously mentioned, the undersized Ralph led the Lindsay Muskies (OJHL) in scoring last year and as such was named to the all 2nd prospect team. Guelph needs all the scoring help it can get, so he'll have the opportunity to earn a top 6 role at some point next season.
Scouting Report: "Ralph had a highly impressive 2015-2016 season with the lowly Lindsay Muskies. Routinely deployed on the clubs top line, Power Play and Penalty Kill, the exuberant amount of ice time Ralph received did wonders for his development. An undersized, skilled forward, Cedric Ralph combines elite speed and impressive hockey sense to be highly effective despite a lack of size. Boasting an explosive first step, Ralph’s long powerful stride allows him to generate elite speed through the neutral zone that when combined with his puck skills and strong change of pace/direction abilities make him extremely shifty and elusive in possession. A player who uses his edges well, Ralph has the ability to dart in and out of traffic in the offensive zone, making him tough to contain. Despite being undersized, Ralph gets to the gritty areas of the ice and shows little hesitation when entering high traffic areas. Showing impressive vision and strong playmaking skills, Ralph has shown the ability to dictate the pace of the game in the offensive zone. Looking to create every time he gains possession, Ralph has a lethal ability to generate offense. A player who should thrive even more as he’s surrounded with higher skilled players at the next level." (Mike Mackley)
Nate Schnarr - Guelph Storm
Has to be considered one of the top players who didn't play (consistently) in the OHL last year. A 6'3 forward, Schnarr starred for Waterloo of the GOJHL where he was not only the conference's rookie of the year, but made the first all star team too. In limited action in Guelph, he made a big impact and should be a top 6 forward for the Storm this coming season.
Scouting Report: "Schnarr boasts an intriguing package of size, skill and hockey sense, which has allowed him to thrive thus far in his career. An adequate skater for a player of his stature, there is room for improvement in that area, however Schnarr does possess a long, fluid stride, that allows him to get around the ice without little issue, while generating good to above average speed. A wizard with the puck, Schnarr possesses quick hands, strong puck control and impressive puck protections abilities, that when combined with generated speed make Schnarr near impossible to defend off the rush. A smart player who shows poise in possession, Schnarr is a strong decision maker that sees the ice well. However his most lethal weapon is arguably his shot, as it boasts excellent velocity and accuracy and comes off of a quick release. Schnarr uses his size to his advantage, creating space for himself to maneuver in tight. If there is a knock in his game right now its on the defensive side of the puck as the compete level in his own zone tends to be inconsistent at times." (Mike Mackley)
Dylan Seitz - Kitchener Rangers
A 15th rounder by Kitchener in 2015, Seitz has emerged as a great prospect for the organization. He played for Buffalo (OJHL) last year and had a solid season. He also cracked the U.S. Hlinka team, although saw limited ice time. Seitz will definitely have the opportunity to play a depth role for the Rangers next year, maybe more.
Scouting Report: "A versatile, two-way forward with intriguing offensive upside, Dylan Seitz enjoyed a successful rookie campaign with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the OJHL in 2015-2016. Arguably at his best in possession, Seitz shows an intriguing confidence to his game while also displaying strong vision, deceptively good playmaking skills and a level of offensive creativity that makes him tough to read in possession. Seitz works the cycle and half boards with effectiveness and shows a willingness to get to the gritty and high traffic areas of the ice. While he works those areas with effectiveness, he could be heavier on the puck as he does have somewhat of a tendency to turn pucks over in those areas. Added strength will allow Seitz to thrive in the aforementioned areas as will more of a heaviness on the puck. A player who thinks the game well, Seitz can force plays at times looking to hard to create, although his strong anticipation skills allow him to force more turnovers than he creates. A mobile skater with above average speed, Seitz shows a tenaciousness on the forecheck and will engage physically from time to time." (Mike Mackley)
Danial Singer - Niagara IceDogs
Another re-entry selection by the Dogs in 2016, Singer is a pint sized forward who would appear to have a ton of talent. He was the GOJHL rookie of the year last year, averaging over a point per game. Like Castleman, he'll have a chance of making an impact on a rebuilding IceDogs team.
Scouting Report: "Singer is a clever undersized playmaker with soft hands and a natural feel for the game. Good puck handler, calm in possession, productive in tight quarters. Fast thinker, instantly finds creative solutions, gains an edge from the speed of his decision making. Not a dynamic skater, more quick and crafty than fast, attains decent top speed from a stride that is long, steady, and balanced. Developing muscle mass and filling in a slight frame will be critical to success, can be selectively courageous – at times shy about bravely driving into congested areas. A work in progress away from the puck, scattered, unstructured, swerves out of coverage lanes and can be slow picking up defensive marks. Will need to bulk up a fairly undersized frame." (TheScout OHL Draft Guide 2015)
Jason Willms - Barrie Colts
With Barrie rebuilding next year, they'll have to give an opportunity to young players like Willms to play in critical roles. Willms was a teammate of Owen Lane's in Kitchener (GOJHL) and was equally as effective, suggesting that he could be a candidate for the 2nd or 3rd line center role next year.
Scouting Report: "A smart, well-rounded forward and skilled shooter. A mix of size, competitiveness and aggression. Main weapon is a heavy accurate shot that features a terrific release, generates impressive power with only a minimal windup, aided by a large wingspan. Proficient at shielding checks away and is hard to contain once he gets a bead on goal. Tough to cover 1-on-1 as he spins off checks and is never shy about cutting a path to goal. Tough and honest, plays an honest, hard working game. Effective on the cycle thanks to solid in-close control and a knack for spinning and pivoting off physical pressure. Aggressive forechecker, causes issues when bearing down on opposition defenders. Must continue to bulk up and strive to maximize strength potential, however. Manages the puck well enough, but suffers tunnel vision at times – bulls his way through situations and would benefit from enhancing his vision of the ice. Must also work on making quicker plays. Not an elegant skater, has some inefficiencies in startup and a slushy stride that appears stiff as his feet stay low to the ice. Crossovers could be smoother, more efficient. Top speed is deceptive though, powered by a strong work engine." (TheScout OHL Draft Guide 2015)