Now here's a team with a lot of OHL content! Vancouver went very heavy on OHL players at the 2017 draft.
1. Olli Juolevi - London Knights
Was it a bad year for Juolevi? 100%, most definitely not. Did his game truly progress though? That, I'm not so sure about. Quite frankly, I'd say he's probably close to the same player that the Canucks drafted in 2016. Last year I wrote, "If Juolevi is returned to London he'll have another year to get
stronger, to improve his play in his own end (like his ability to win
battles in the corners and become a dominant one on one stopper), and to
gain confidence in his offensive abilities (particularly his point
shot)." Well, that's probably still where he needs to improve, especially if he wants to make the NHL next year. That said, what I wrote last year also still rings true, "His game is built for the way the NHL plays today. Speed, quick decision making, strong positioning and the ability to start the breakout." From what I've read, he's really worked hard to put on some more weight since the OHL season finished and that's going to give him a very good chance to make the Canucks next year, as his decision making is NHL ready. I'd be shocked if he didn't at least start the season in the NHL. If he can prove that he can handle his responsibilities defensively (especially winning one on one battles in front of the net and in the corners), he'll stick. And if not, Vancouver can send him back to the OHL where he'll try to get London back to the OHL Championship. In the NHL, I think he's probably a 20-25 point player.
2. Michael Dipietro - Windsor Spitfires
Fresh off a Memorial Cup victory, Dipietro was the Canucks 3rd rounder in 2017 (but should have gone earlier if you ask me). In fact, Dipietro had a great year overall, performing consistently for the Spitfires (he kept them afloat while injuries ravaged them through the mid point of the season). He also was terrific at the Ivan Hlinka in the summer (even if Canada failed to medal for the first time since 2007). Bottom line, this kid is a winner. Moving forward, I suppose the biggest thing Dipietro needs to do is continue to refine his positioning and reads, so that he has to rely less on his athleticism and quickness...thus scrambling less. This is really important for him being a smaller goalie, so that he doesn't get beat high in close quite as much. Next year Windsor should have a good team yet again and will challenge for home ice in the West's first round. I'd expect him to be one of the top goalies in the league yet again and should be a front runner for goaltender of the year. I'd also expect him to end up on Canada's WJC team, perhaps as the starter. Then all of Canada can see what all of Ontario already knows.
3. Jonah Gadjovich - Owen Sound Attack
One of the league's most improved players this past year. Jumped from 14 goals to 46 as part of Owen Sound's dynamite first line of Gadjovich, Nick Suzuki, and Kevin Hancock. That line will remain intact next year (so long as Suzuki doesn't make Vegas) and should carve apart the OHL. Gadjovich is a physical beast, but it's not just his physicality and size that makes him a 40 goal scorer. His smarts and hands in close are fantastic. If he can continue to upgrade his skating, especially his first few steps, he's going to become an even more dynamic offensive player to go with all the other things he brings to the table. Next year should be Gadjovich's last in the OHL (he's a late birthday '98) and I could see him hitting the 50 goal plateau, especially if Owen Sound is as good as I expect them to be.
4. Petrus Palmu - Owen Sound Attack
Was so happy to see Palmu get drafted this year. Kid emerged as one of the most exciting players to watch in the OHL this year. Plays at such a high tempo and oozes skill with the puck. He's most definitely undersized in terms of height, but he's built like a tank and does well to fight through traffic and be elusive at the OHL level. But he's going to need to continue to get stronger and quicker for the next level. Will also need to simplify his game offensively so that he limits his turnovers. But if there's going to be a small player who makes it, it's Palmu. Next year it seems like returning to the OHL is a long shot. He's got a contract with TPS back in Finland, but could also play in the AHL if the Canucks think he's ready.
5. Brett McKenzie - North Bay Battalion
Was a tough year in North Bay for the Battalion as they missed the playoffs. No question McKenzie was their best player and he did get himself to the point per game mark. Not really sure how much his game progressed though. He certainly was more assertive in shooting the puck and trying to take charge offensively. But he didn't dominate the game physically as I expected he could and in fact, I think his "overall" game might have taken a bit of a step backward this year in an effort to try to create more offensively. Without an NHL contract yet, where McKenzie plays next year remains to be seen. Vancouver will likely see how he looks at camp before deciding whether to play him in the AHL or send him back to the OHL for his overage season. I think sending him back would be the right thing to do, to see if his game can take another step forward. We saw what an overage year can do for a guy like Warren Foegele this year. Could see North Bay using him as a trade chip to go into a rebuild mode. If he's back in the OHL, a 35+ goal and 75+ point season would be a realistic expectation.
6. Jalen Chatfield - Windsor Spitfires
Solid signing by the Canucks. His game really evolved over the course of his three year OHL career, after he signed with Windsor as a free agent. Started out as a very raw defender, blessed with athleticism and skating ability. But he's actually developed into a terrific two-way blueliner, who actually probably sways more towards a stay at home type. His offensive game regressed slightly this year, with him taking less chances in jumping up in the rush or leading it. But that appeared to be by design, so that he could become a better defensive player. And that he did. His mobility makes him a very tough guy to shake in coverage; his gap control is excellent. This was very evident at the Memorial Cup IMO. In terms of NHL potential, I don't think we're looking at a guy who can be a top four defender. But he could definitely develop into a quality third pairing guy who can eat up minutes on the PK (think Matt Hunwick) and make smart, simple plays with the puck. Apparently looked great at Canucks development camp so hopefully he can get into the lineup at the AHL level consistently this year.
7. Cole Candella - Hamilton Bulldogs
Really disappointing season for Candella IMO. I was a huge fan of his in his draft year and I expected him to come out this year and establish himself as Hamilton's go to defender, a role he played last year when the Bulldogs were depleted by injuries. And while he did consistently play a second pairing role, his production was not terrific and I don't feel as if he really developed at either end. Offensively, he needs to gain more confidence in his skill with the puck and look to make things happen. Would love to see him work on his point shot and look to shoot the puck more too. Defensively, he needs to get more aggressive. Needs to be a much more difficult guy to match up against. He has the intelligence in his own end and his positioning is solid, but the intensity needs to increase. In order for him to get a contract from Vancouver next year, he's going to need to grab the bull by the horns and take charge at both ends of the ice. Would love to see him hit that 40 point mark that I suggested he would hit this year (in last year's article). Like I said, I'm still a fan and I feel like his IQ at both ends of the ice is high. Just needs to apply it.
8. Matt Brassard - Oshawa Generals
Shrewd draft pick by the Canucks. Brassard was one of the OHL's most improved players this year. Among defenders, he had the 5th highest shot generation total in the league. This guy just loves to fire the puck and he's got a cannon. He's also a pretty mobile defender. But the rest of his game is pretty raw. Still learning how to best use his size and mobility in the defensive end. Still learning about how to pick his spots offensively and how to make better decisions with the puck. But this guy has potential for sure. He'll go back to Oshawa this year where he'll be a top 3 defender on a good team and can build off the breakout season he's coming off of. Could easily see him hitting the 15 goal/30 assist mark on a team that is most definitely going to score their share of goals.