Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2017)



This is a yearly tradition (take a look at the Sunday Top 10 sidebar for other years). It's time to take a look at the top overagers in the OHL, available to be signed by NHL teams.

None of the players on this list have signed an NHL contract yet, but even if they had, they would still be included. This list intends to rank players according to the likelihood that they continue their career at the professional level. 

Likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not (be signed) and those players who do not, will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.

It's important to note that this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (numerous examples this year, like Stephen Desrocher, J.J. Piccinich, Steven Lorentz, etc). This list is for those players who are NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on their birth date).

Here's the list:


1. Ryan Mantha - Defenseman - Niagara IceDogs
Spurned by the New York Rangers this summer when they didn't offer him a contract, Mantha returned to the OHL with a chip on his shoulder this year. He's been sensational as the captain for the upstart IceDogs. He's currently just outside the top 5 in defenseman scoring and leads all blueliners in shots by a very large margin (in fact he's second in the entire OHL in shots). He looks like a completely different player this year, quite frankly. Big difference is improved foot speed, which is allowing him to be more of a factor leading the rush and jumping up in the play, where he can use his size to really drive the play. At 6'5, 225lbs, he can be a real tough guy to separate from the puck. Defensively, he's looked good too. He's playing with more intensity in his own end. With his size and the impact he's making at both ends, I'd be surprised if an NHL team doesn't give him a second chance. 

2. Darren Raddysh - Defenseman - Erie Otters
Raddysh has been the model of consistency the last few years for Erie, playing a top 4 role for them and excelling at both ends of the ice. Over the course of the last four seasons, Raddysh is a combined +110. Defensively, he's been a rock since he entered the league, but his offensive game has hit a new level this year, as he's gained more confidence in his ability to lead the breakout and run the point on the powerplay. There's really nothing that he can't do. I think the main reason that team's have shied away from him thus far, despite good production, is the combination of average size (6'1, 200lbs) with average skating ability. He's certainly not a dynamic skater, which could prevent the offense from translating. But I think his defensive game is rock solid and should make him an valuable asset at the next level. He deserves an NHL deal.

3. Jeremy Brodeur - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Brodeur has been one of the OHL's top netminders this year, currently 2nd in the league in save percentage and top 5 in wins and goals against average. What a difference a year makes, with Brodeur really emerging as a star for the surprise first place Generals. The one thing I've noticed about Brodeur this year is how much quicker he looks post to post. Making a lot more athletic saves and making things look much easier than he did a year ago. When you factor in the obvious bloodlines, it goes without saying that I'd be surprised if Brodeur isn't playing pro hockey somewhere next year (either on an NHL or AHL deal).

4. Bobby MacIntyre - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Hate to toot my own horn here, but I called his offensive explosion in my preseason previews. I wrote, "A real wild card that I'll throw out there is Bobby MacIntyre in Sault Ste. Marie. He has fit in extremely well in that lineup and they'll be able to score a ton of goals this year. He could be an 80+ point player quite easily." And sure enough, he currently sits 5th in league scoring and is well on his way to that 80+ point plateau. He's long been a guy that I've felt had the talent level to be a top scorer in this league, but he lacked the strength and confidence to extend rushes and play through traffic consistently. Since the trade to the Soo, it's like something has clicked for him and he's been a real force. Brings so much energy to the ice and never gives up on a play. Has a lot of skill with the puck too and creates time and space for linemates with patience and poise. He's definitely undersized, but with the way the pro game is played now, there is a place for guys like MacIntyre. 

5. Kyle Pettit - Forward - Erie Otters
The 2nd player on this list who was an unsigned NHL draft pick this past summer. Pettit was a Vancouver selection in 2014 who they chose not to sign, and rightfully so as he had not shown any growth offensively over his OHL career. But this year (as is often the case for overage players), he looks like a different player. He's visibly stronger on and off the puck, and also looks quicker. Just a big kid (6'4) who seems to have finally grown into his big frame. He's been dynamite on the powerplay, where he's playing the role of net presence and using his size to be a Tomas Holmstrom type of player for the Otters. And he continues to be one of the OHL's top faceoff men (he's up near 60%). Think of him as this year's Jordan Maletta, who managed to earn an NHL deal last year.

6. Medric Mercier - Defenseman - Oshawa Generals
I've long been a fan of Mercier's and since the move to Oshawa, his offensive game has exploded. He's up near the top 10 of defenseman scoring and if he continues to produce like he has, he could be top 5/6 by year's end. He's been a real asset for the Generals on the powerplay, where he's fit in perfectly as the triggerman to Mitchell Vande Sompel's quarterbacking ability. At 6'3 and 215lbs, I've always been impressed with Mercier's mobility. When you've got a big kid with a big shot, mobility, and defensive acumen, he's bound to draw interest from pro teams (be the NHL or AHL). This is especially true if Oshawa can continue their surprise success and go deep in this year's playoffs.

7. Mathieu Henderson - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
We're just past the halfway point of the year and Henderson has already set a new career high in points. The OHL's 2nd leading scorer among blueliners has most definitely had a breakout campaign in his overage season. Henderson is aggressive leading the attack, using great speed to cut his way up ice and across the blueline. While Henderson isn't huge (6'0), he isn't a pushover in his own end and will battle hard to win puck battles. He also uses his mobility well to defend off the rush, compensating for his lack of reach. I'm not sure he gets a look from an NHL team, but I could see him with an AHL/ECHL deal next year.

8. Hayden Hodgson - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Big, power forward who has rebounded exceptionally well after a disastrous 2015/16 season that saw him battle injuries and change teams (from Sarnia). He's leading the Spirit in goals by a pretty large margin and has looked like a man among boys at times this year. When he gets going off the rush, he can be really tough to separate from the puck and is very effective on net drives. I don't think he has elite level hands, but he does a great job of using his size to shield the puck and has good enough scoring instincts to find himself in the right place near the crease. His skating is also pretty decent for a power winger. Not sure if he's a true pro prospect, but he could certainly get a look.

9. Jalen Chatfield - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires
Chatfield is just a solid two-way defender who doesn't have elite size (6'0), but who plays the game hard. He does pretty much everything well, whether it be quarterbacking the powerplay, leading the rush, or laying the body in the defensive end. I suppose the big issue is that he does none of these things at an elite level, which can be the kiss of death when it comes to earning an NHL contract. But I do believe that he has the capability to play at the pro level next year, be it the AHL or ECHL. 

10. Alex Peters - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
The third former NHL draft pick to crack this list, Peters looks a lot better than he did last year, coming off that knee injury. I thought he looked slow and hesitant at times in 2015/16, which obviously helps to explain why the Dallas Stars chose not to sign Peters this summer. But Peters seems to have regained a lot of mobility and is playing exceptionally well in his own end. He's a tough guy to play against and his leadership qualities can't be overlooked either. At 6'4, and 215lbs, Peters could still get a look from a pro team for next year. 

Honorable Mentions (sorted by position):

Goaltender:
Outside of Brodeur, I don't really see any goaltenders that deserve a place on this list. Mississauga's Matthew Mancina has had a very disappointing season, and Hamilton's (after the trade) Dawson Carty is a solid OHL goalie, but not a pro prospect IMO.

Defense:
The captain in Kitchener, Frank Hora, actually got a taste of pro action to start this year as he signed a tryout contract with Cleveland of the AHL and played 3 games there before heading back to Kitchener. He's a very solid defensive player who also can move the puck. He'd be number 11 on this list. His teammate, Dylan Di Perna has steadily improved every year in the league and is on pace for his best offensive season of his career. He has a new found confidence with the puck to pair with his stout defensive play. Speaking of stout defensive play, Peterborough's Brandon Prophet epitomizes this. The 6'3, 217lbs Brockville native may not bring much in the way of offense, but he's one of the league's premier stay at home defenders. Owen Sound's Santino Centorame and Sarnia's Jeff King are a pair of undersized, but quality two-way defenders. Both play the game hard and Centorame has served as captain of the Attack the last two seasons. Lastly, speaking of captains, Sarnia's Kevin Spinozzi has had an excellent season at both ends and has the size that pro teams will look for (6'2, 200lbs). Fun fact, he hasn't finished a season below +15 since his 16 year old season out of minor midget.

Forward:
Like the goalie position, I don't know if I see any other forwards worthy of mention on this list. Hamilton's Niki Petti is a slick skating, energy player who does everything for the Bulldogs. He could make a quality checking line player at the next level. Ditto for Barrie's Cordell James. He's a lot like Kyle Pettit in that he's got size and plays hard and smart at both ends of the ice. He also happens to be one of the league's top faceoff men.

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