Second year that I'm doing this list following the conclusion of my NHL team write ups ('31 Teams in 31 Days'). This is a list of the top prospects who played in the OHL during the 2016/2017 season. Just as I did last year, I'm going to cap the list at Top 25, with some honorable mentions. I'm also going to keep the write ups slightly short. If you want to read more about these guys, simply click on their NHL team in brackets and you'll be taken to the team's '31 in 31" from this summer and you'll get a detailed write up on their skill set and progression.
1. Dylan Strome - Erie Otters (Arizona Coyotes)
Bit of a bitter sweet year for Strome. Failed to stick with the Coyotes and sent back to the OHL for another year. But he took it in stride and was able to finally bring an OHL Championship back to Erie (something not even Connor McDavid could do). His size, hockey sense, and puck protection ability makes him a potential front line center for today's NHL, even if his speed is still mediocre. Without a doubt the top NHL prospect in the OHL this year IMO.
2. Mikhail Sergachev - Windsor Spitfires (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Not the best year for Sergachev, even if he did win a Memorial Cup. Felt like he took too many nights off after returning from the Canadiens into the season. But, he's still number 2 for me, and is still ahead of Juolevi because I feel like his potential at the NHL level is still higher (and Juolevi didn't have a great season either).
3. Olli Juolevi - London Knights (Vancouver Canucks)
With a strong OHL season, I think he could have definitely passed Sergachev on a list like this. And yes, I do know that he was drafted before Sergachev (I had Serg higher on last year's list too). But I still feel like Juolevi's NHL potential probably makes him more of a quality #3, where as I still believe that Sergachev can be a top pairing two-way defender. They're certainly close, but given that both had mediocre years, I'm giving the nod to potential.
4. Gabe Vilardi - Windsor Spitfires (Los Angeles Kings)
Great pick by the Kings this year. This is a kid who is only going to get better and better at the OHL level. Had a bad luck year with injuries and illness, but his all around game and extremely high hockey IQ makes him a potential franchise center. I could see him needing only another OHL season before he's NHL ready (so long as he continues to improve his skating).
5. Michael McLeod - Mississauga Steelheads (New Jersey Devils)
A fantastic second half to the OHL season vaults McLeod near the top of this list. Finally seems to have harnessed his size and skating ability in a way that allows him to create scoring chances every time he touches the ice. And of course, there's the strong overall game too. Could be in the NHL (especially with the Zajac injury) this year if the Devils feel that he can play a depth role without hurting his offensive upside.
6. Owen Tippett - Mississauga Steelheads (Florida Panthers)
No question there are some things that Tippett needs to work on. But if we're talking about NHL potential, few guys on this list have as high as Tippett. Size, speed, and scoring ability on the wing. If he can up his intensity level without the puck, he has the release to be a 40 goal scorer at the NHL level.
7. Alex Debrincat - Erie Otters (Chicago Blackhawks)
Fantastic season for Debrincat, even with the disappointment of being cut by the American WJC team. The reigning Red Tilson winner was not just part of a special Otters' squad, he was often the straw that stirred the drink. Obviously the lack of size leaves some question as to whether his skill set translates to the NHL level, but this guy's compete level and skill level gives him pretty good odds IMO.
8. Nick Suzuki - Owen Sound Attack (Vegas Golden Knights)
A 2017 draft selection, Suzuki had a fantastic season for one of the best team's in the OHL. He's one of the smartest players in the league and has the potential to develop into a quality two-way center at the NHL level. Continuing to add quickness to his skating stride would help alleviate the lack of size concerns. Like Debrincat, this guy's compete level is through the roof though.
9. Logan Brown - Windsor Spitfires (Ottawa Senators)
Not a good year for Brown. Battled injuries and the steps forward we saw in the second half of his draft year were not necessarily carried over to this year. Does that mean we should give up on him as a prospect? Hell no. Like Tippett, Brown possesses among the highest potential of any player on this list. With his size and skill level, he could absolutely dominate in the offensive end if he can find that consistent second gear and intensity level.
10. Max Jones - London Knights (Anaheim Ducks)
There aren't a ton of players who play the game the way that Max Jones does. The power forward mold has changed over the years, with Jones representing an era of yester-year. His game is all power, all the time. But he has a high skill level too and can certainly be more than just a 3rd/4th liner at the next level. Needs to use his teammates better and figure out a way to tow the line a bit more, but this kid is a special prospect for today's era.
11. Tyler Parsons - London Knights (Calgary Flames)
Flat out; a winner. His resume the last two years looks like this: OHL Championship, Memorial Cup, World Junior Gold Medal. About as athletic a goaltender as you'll find. But he has a little more size than some of the other athletic types the last few years (Nedeljkovic, Dipietro, etc). This guy has to be in consideration for the top goaltending prospect on the planet IMO.
12. Jordan Kyrou - Sarnia Sting (St. Louis Blues)
Really liked how Kyrou's game developed this year. Has always had the speed and skill level, but is now using it to drive the middle of the ice and play with more fire. With his hands and vision, he's one of the OHL's elite playmakers. Those who watched the World Junior Summer Showcase got to see the evolution of Kyrou's game.
13. Blake Speers - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (New Jersey Devils)
Surprisingly cracked the opening night roster of the Devils, but upon returning to the OHL he got injured. Developmentally, tough to see him play only half a year really. But he's emerged as a legitimate NHL prospect. Speers is one of the OHL's smartest players who pairs that great mind with great skating ability. Can make plays at top speed and shouldn't need much time at the AHL level either.
14. Zach Senyshyn - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Boston Bruins)
Even though I'm not entirely sure Senyshyn's game grew a lot from last year to this year, he remains a quality NHL prospect. He's both one of the OHL's best skaters and goal scorers. Drives the net down the wing with authority and has an excellent release. Rest of his game will continue to need to improve, but size, speed, and skill on the wing is a relatively rare combination. It's what made him a surprise NHL first rounder in the first place.
15. Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers (Florida Panthers)
Great year for Mascherin. The goal scoring numbers might not have been as high as people expected, but the rest of his game really rounded into form. Has become a much better player without the puck and has really emerged as a quality playmaker to go with the big time scoring potential he has. As he continues to upgrade his skating, he could have a hell of a year in the OHL next season.
16. Robert Thomas - London Knights (St. Louis Blues)
First rounder in 2017, Thomas is a quality two-way player with the upside to develop into a quality second line center because of his vision and playmaking ability. Needs to get stronger and he needs to improve his ability to put the puck in the net, but this is a hard working kid who worked his way up a stacked Knights' lineup this year. Excited to see how he improves next year.
17. Filip Hronek - Saginaw Spirit (Detroit Red Wings)
one and done player in the OHL. Effective at both ends, but offense
will be his bread and butter at the next level. A really smart offensive
player who's vision and ability to start the breakout are perfectly
designed for today's fast paced game. Won't need much AHL seasoning IMO
(even if the Wings like to make their defensive prospects play at the
18. Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack (Montreal Canadiens)
From undrafted FA signing to one of the better goaltending prospects in the NHL. It's been quite the ride for McNiven the last few years. This year's OHL Goaltender of the Year has developed the consistency you want to see from a potential starting netminder in the NHL. Has size, athleticism and really refined his positioning this year to help him breakout.
19. Victor Mete - London Knights (Montreal Canadiens)
No player has improved as much as Mete the last few years IMO. This is a kid who entered the OHL as an undersized puck mover, but has become one of the league's elite two-way players. Has harnessed the ability to use his mobility to become a stalwart in the defensive end. But remains a great offensive player. Not worried about a lack of size because I feel that he'll only continue to up the intensity level with which he plays. Defenders his size are now making a consistent impact in the NHL.
20. Cliff Pu - London Knights (Buffalo Sabres)
Another breakout player in the OHL this year. Pu emerged as a quality power center prospect who can use his size and speed to drive the net. But it was the improvements made to his decision making with the puck and vision that really impressed me. Leads me to believe that he could be more than just a 3rd line center.
21. Logan Stanley - Windsor Spitfires (Winnipeg Jets)
Suffered a knee injury that required surgery, which severely limited his progression this year. But he worked hard to return for the Memorial Cup, where he might have played the best hockey I've seen from him. Still want to see what he can do offensively as I'm always a little skeptical of big, stay at home prospects (considering their high bust rate when taken high in the draft). But he's slowly making a believer out of me.
22. Mitchell Stephens - London Knights (Tampa Bay Lightning)
I'm a big fan of Stephens and I think his speed, tenacity, two-way game and playmaking ability will transfer better to the pro level than people give him credit for. Was London's best player this post season IMO and was great for Canada at the last two WJC's.
23. Anthony Cirelli - Erie Otters (Tampa Bay Lightning)
One of the more clutch players to ever play in the OHL. A Memorial Cup winning goal and an OHL Championship winning goal. And just overall fantastic play in the playoffs. Just an extremely hard worker who knows how to play without the puck at both ends. Can play any role you ask him to. Could easily see him developing into a quality NHL player who can slide between your 2nd and 3rd line and play a leadership role.
24. Taylor Raddysh - Erie Otters (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Quite the breakout season for Raddysh as he emerged as an offensive star at the OHL level in his draft plus one year. Raddysh is another guy who understands how to play without the puck, and even without being a naturally gifted skater, is able to win races to the net by being one step ahead of the competition. Still wonder how his game translates to the NHL level though. But you have to give it up for the year he had.
25. Boris Katchouk - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Has emerged as one of the most underrated prospects in the OHL. Has grown and is now a hulking torpedo of a player who's crash and bang style has somewhat hidden his high skill level. This kid has top notch finishing ability near the crease. Is also one of the OHL's top penalty killers where his forechecking ability is on full display.
Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order):
Jeremy Bracco - Windsor Spitfires (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Michael Dipietro - Windsor Spitfires (Vancouver Canucks)
Warren Foegele - Erie Otters (Carolina Hurricanes)
Morgan Frost - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Philadelphia Flyers)
Nic Hague - Mississauga Steelheads (Vegas Golden Knights)
Janne Kuokkanen - London Knights (Carolina Hurricanes)
Isaac Ratcliffe - Guelph Storm (Philadelphia Flyers)
Jason Robertson - Kingston Frontenacs (Dallas Stars)
Vili Saarijarvi - Mississauga Steelheads (Detroit Red Wings)
Givani Smith - Guelph Storm (Detroit Red Wings)
Dmitri Sokolov - Sudbury Wolves (Minnesota Wild)
Conor Timmins - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Colorado Avalanche)
Dylan Wells - Peterborough Petes (Edmonton Oilers)