Off to Broadway for the New York Rangers' review.
1. Sean Day - Windsor Spitfires
Really liked the way Day's game progressed this year. The trade to Windsor was great for him, just to get a fresh start. Even though his skating has always been the alluring part of Day's game, I've consistently said that the key to him playing in the NHL will be his ability to defend. I still don't think he's a natural offensive player and as such, I've said all along that I feel he could develop into a very good, physical, stay at home defender at the NHL level. His ability in the defensive end progressed massively this year IMO. With his size and mobility, his reads and defensive IQ don't even have to be elite. But he showed great growth in understanding how to defend off the rush, and how to be a human cloak in defensive coverage. I don't think we saw him be as aggressive physically as he was the year prior, but that didn't detract from his effectiveness in his own end. I think his play with the puck really took a step forward this year too, cutting down on his turnovers and playing it a little more safely after exiting the defensive zone. He can use his skating to escape pretty much any forecheck, so long as he identifies the correct route. And that vision has come a long way over his OHL career. Of course, he also dazzles with the occasional end to end rush which leaves you wondering what he could be capable of offensively...but again, I just don't think that's in the cards. Maybe we'll see next year. It will be (likely) his last in the OHL and I think we'll continue to see gains. I think we'll see him around the 45 point mark on a pretty good Windsor team, but most importantly, I want to see that physicality creep back into his game, now that his reads have improved.
2. Tim Gettinger - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Like Day, I think Gettinger also had a great year. Last year I wrote, "I'm going to predict a breakout year. I'm going to say that he scores 30 and is close to a point per game player." And he did just that, scoring 31 as part of a very well balanced attack in SSM. More importantly, the areas of his game that needed to improve...did. He's a good skater for a big guy, and he's finally starting to be aggressive in driving the net, looking to play in close, using his size to put defenders on his back. And he was noticeably stronger on the puck this year; much better working the wall and fighting through traffic. His finishing ability and the velocity behind his shot also looked much improved. Lastly, Gettinger took steps forward as a two-way player, seeing time on the PK, where he can use his length to disrupt passing lanes. Heading into next year, the Hounds should be one of the better teams in the OHL and Gettinger should continue to feature highly. I would suspect he'll see more powerplay time next year too, in place of a guy like Zach Senyshyn. A 40 goal season is not far fetched at all IMO. Want to see him continue to grow as a power forward too, using his size to play a little more physical (even though I'm not sure that's a natural part of his game).
3. Brandon Crawley - London Knights
Really liked the Rangers taking Crawley this year. Felt like he deserved to be drafted after the solid year that he had. Had him on my top re-entries available list. Crawley has always been a fun player to watch in the OHL because of how physical he is. A real throwback defender who loves to throw the big hit and is far and away, one of the toughest defenders to match up against in the OHL. But his defensive reads and overall skill with the puck was lacking and I think that's why NHL teams had previously shied away. But this year, his overall defensive game really improved, (heck he was a +55), as did his first pass and overall ability to handle the forecheck. His confidence in his skating ability to give himself time and space with the puck really increased and as such, so did his ability to start the breakout, limiting turnovers. I definitely see the makings of a solid pro defender now. In fact, I think you can draw a lot of parallels between Crawley and the way Marc Methot looked as an OHL defender for London some time ago. So what's to become of Crawley next year? Well the Rangers have some options. Could sign him and play in the AHL/ECHL. Could have their AHL affiliate sign him and play him in the AHL/ECHL. Or they could send him back to the OHL for his overage season. New York signed a lot of young defenders this offseason, shoring up an organizational weakness. I think that means Crawley will ultimately end up back in London and that's what is best for him IMO. He took such a nice step forward this year, let him continue to improve at both ends before he moves to the pro level. As an overage defender, I think we could see him around the 35+ point mark, to go with (likely) another insanely high +/-.