Getting down to the end here. Buffalo up next.
1. Cliff Pu - London Knights
Fantastic year for Pu's development. Nearly tripled his point production from a year ago, taking his game to another level and becoming a go to player for the Knights. Last year, I wrote "At this point, his overall offensive game is a work in progress. As a
center, his vision and playmaking off the rush will need to continue to
develop. Same goes for his shot and confidence in using it." Well those were the parts of his game we saw the biggest improvements in. This is a player who can put defenders on his back, driving the net. Has always had the speed, but now has the strength to match it. When he gets going on the way to the net, he's one of the more difficult forwards to stop in the OHL. Overall playmaking ability and vision was much better too. Using his size and speed to open up lanes and then deftly finding teammates, rather than just driving the net with his head down. Lastly, the shot was much better. Looks confident driving wide, using defenders as a screen for a heavy wrist shot. A lot more velocity behind those wristers now. And of course, Pu's two-way game and faceoff prowess remain strengths. Only negative I can think of was Pu's disappointing play in the playoffs this year. He struggled to be an impact player, almost as if he hit a bit of a wall. As a budding power center with another year in the league, I'm excited to see how he can take his game to yet another level next year when he returns to London. I'd expect him to be a 40 goal scorer and a 90+ point producer, although I'm not sure London will be quite as strong next year.
2. Austin Osmanski - Mississauga Steelheads
Stagnant year for Osmanski's development. Spent the majority of the year on the third pairing again, with similar ice time to his draft year. He's a big defender who flashes an ability to dominate physically. Has decent mobility but his defensive reads and confidence with the puck remain works in progress. As does his decision making with the puck in his own end. Can be forced into turnovers in the defensive end by a heavy forecheck. Next year, he has a chance to earn top four ice time and will likely battle overager Stephen Gibson for that spot (as a potential partner for newcomer Merrick Rippon or 2nd rounder Nic Hague). To earn a contract from Buffalo, he's going to need to emerge as a top flight defensive defender in this league and improve his play with the puck.