Second stop on the tour, the Arizona Coyotes have half of the OHL's prospects in their farm system.
1. Barrett Hayton - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The 5th overall pick in 2018, Hayton is coming off of a breakout sophomore season in the OHL where he was a key part on a fantastic Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team. Hayton is already one of the more well rounded centers in the OHL; a guy who can make an impact in all three zones. He's such an effective player without the puck and his hockey sense is terrific. Hayton also has great goal scoring potential because of his quick release. Next year, Hayton will continue to form a dynamic one/two punch with Morgan Frost down the middle. This summer, I'd like to see him work on his skating, to make himself a little more explosive. He's certainly not a poor skater, but there's room for improvement and it would help him be a more dynamic player in the offensive end. Next year, I also want to see him taking over play more; being that guy who can lead the rush and dominate time of possession in the offensive zone. His hands are good, but this year he had a tendency to defer to his teammates in favor of being a guy who could create room and drive the net. But the Hounds are going to need him to be a focal point and a guy who makes his linemates better. I think he'll be up to the challenge. A realistic expectation would be a 30+ goal, and 75+ point season in his draft +1.
2. Cam Dineen - Sarnia Sting
Fantastic season for Dineen, as he returned from a knee injury. Set career highs in nearly every offensive category and ended up finishing 4th in defenseman scoring with 64 points between North Bay and Sarnia. Most encouraging sign for me was that Dineen's mobility on the back-end didn't appear to be hampered. In fact, I thought the opposite. I thought his first few steps looked quicker and more explosive, something that he needed to work on. Also saw him take more chances offensively, by extending his rushes deeper into the offensive zone and looking to jump up into the play. However, the most encouraging thing for me was his improved play in the defensive end. I remember seeing North Bay play Barrie early on in the season, and Dineen went head to head with Andrei Svechnikov. Svechnikov is one of the hardest players to stop one on one in the OHL, and the two went head to head on a one on one rush. Dineen, kept Svechnikov to the outside, angled him to the corner and actually put him on his ass. That's not something we would have seen in previous years. Now, that's not to say Dineen is a physical defender. It's just that we saw him really engage more and be a tougher player to go up against. Positioning wise, his coverage has always been pretty good, it's just that he lacked strength and the will to win one on one battles consistently. We saw that improve this year. Dineen will be turning pro this year and will head to the AHL. He'll have less time to operate, and because of that he'll have to continue to improve his skating if he wants to create time and space for himself to make plays offensively. And he'll have to continue to get stronger to win battles against larger men. I think Dineen is ahead of where Kyle Capobianco and Kyle Wood were upon graduating from the OHL and both had solid first seasons in the AHL for the Coyotes organization. While I think Dineen is a few years away from being an NHL player, I do see him having a 35+ point season in the AHL next year.
3. Kevin Bahl - Ottawa 67's
Loved the selection of Bahl in the late second round this year. Great value at that spot for the Coyotes. The tower of power is definitely a potential NHL defender. He's a terrific skater for a big man. If you combine that with his great reach and physical intensity level, you have a potential shut down defender. But Bahl is capable of more offensively. He played things relatively safe in the OHL this year, electing to defer to others to make plays with the puck. But Bahl has quick hands, a good shot, good instincts and the potential to be an offensive contributor from the back-end. We saw that this year when Bahl played against his peers in larger scale atmospheres, like the Top Prospect's Game and both U18 events (Hlinka and WC's). He'll return to the OHL next year and be a part of a terrific young Ottawa 67's team that could win the Eastern Conference. Bahl will likely be counted on in all situations and could be the team's number one defender when all is said and done. I see him around the 30 point next year, with the potential to be even higher if he can squeak out more powerplay time.
4. Nate Schnarr - Guelph Storm
It was a tough year for Schnarr, who failed to improve upon his production from his draft year. Guelph, as a whole, was an inconsistent team and Schnarr was not different. Perhaps part of it was the fact that he switched back and forth between center and the wing. That type of lack of continuity can be tough to adjust to. Ultimately though, Schnarr still gets pushed off the puck too easily and seems to lack that killer instinct in the offensive end. He works hard, plays a relatively fearless game and will look to drive the net. But he's not able to prolong possession the way that you'd like to see from a 6'3 forward. I was also disappointed with the fact that Schnarr received very little time on the penalty kill. He was used on the powerplay, but others were used ahead of him for the PK. Now, I still have him ranked 5th because I believe in his talents and ability to progress this year. 5 on 5, he needs to be better and I think he will be. I would like to see him stick on the wing, where he can learn to use his size and speed to drive the net, forecheck, and be a better player without the puck. The talent is there. Realistically, I would imagine that Schnarr will have to get himself close to the point per game mark (or over it) to earn a contract from Arizona. A 25 goal, 35 assist season would be great for him and a solid goal.
5. Jalen Smereck - Flint Firebirds
After starting the year at the professional level, the Coyotes decided to send Smereck back to the OHL for his overage season. He made the best of it playing for last place Flint, sticking it out past the deadline and embracing a leadership role as part of a young defense. Did Smereck improve much? I don't really think so. He's still a solid two-way defense prospect who is very well rounded. His mobility is a major asset. He can quarterback the powerplay. He plays a smart game in the defensive end and engages physically. He makes generally good decisions with the puck. These are all the same things that I said last year. I do think that Smereck has a chance to be a solid third pairing defender at the NHL level, but he's probably a guy who will have to chip away at it for a few years. Arizona's prospect depth is quite strong and Smereck will be competing with several quality defenders for ice time in the AHL next year. Wouldn't surprise me if he spends most of the year in the ECHL to get his feet wet.
6. Noel Hoefenmayer - Ottawa 67's
A tough transitional year for Hoefenmayer. He saw his offensive production drop as he was asked to tutor a young 67's defense. Hoefenmayer went the entire regular season without scoring a powerplay goal and the 67's had one of the worst powerplays in the OHL. Hoefenmayer also took way less chances in terms of jumping up in the rush, or looking to push the pace, than he did the year previous. That appeared to be by design, limiting his risks so that he could focus more on the defensive side of the puck. I guess the question you have to ask is, how much did his defensive game improve? I definitely think some, but I'd still love to see him be more aggressive without the puck. Next year, Hoefenmayer returns to Ottawa and will look to really improve his offensive production again. That will be his meal ticket to earning an NHL contract and he needs to show that he can QB a powerplay effectively and create off the rush consistently. Ottawa will aim to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and they will need Hoefenmayer to step up his game as a veteran. Anything less than a 50 point season would be a disappointment IMO and may cost him an NHL deal.
7. Dennis Busby - Flint Firebirds
Loved this pick by the Coyotes. Sure, he only played a couple games last year because of a collarbone injury, but the potential is massive. He's consistently been one of the better defenders in his age group for Ontario and will look to prove that next year, fully healthy. His skating is his best attribute and he'll look to be a big time offensive contributor for an improved Flint team. Staying healthy and looking to engage physically in the defensive end will also be areas that he'll look to achieve. This 8th ranking is pretty conservative given his injury, but with a good year, he could leap frog everyone and be the Yotes best prospect in the OHL behind Barrett Hayton. I am going to predict a 35+ point season as he gets himself back on track.
*Jan Jenik - Flint Firebirds
A 3rd rounder by Arizona this year, Jenik was taken extremely early by Flint in this year's Import draft. Given Arizona's connection to the Flint organization, I would be surprised if he does not report. I've read some great things about him and would expect that he could be a possible linemate of Ty Dellandrea's on the Firebird's first line. If that's the case, a 30/30 season could be a real possibility.
**Ivan Prosvetov - Saginaw Spirit
A hulking netminder and 4th rounder by Arizona in 2018, Prosvetov suited up in the USHL last year. Saginaw has made some terrific adds this offseason and will look to be extremely competitive in the Western Conference. And Prosvetov will be their starting netminder and back-bone. Excited to see what he can do and I would expect him to be close to the top 5 in most goaltending categories next year.
***Liam Kirk - Peterborough Petes
The pride of Great Britain, Kirk was taken by Peterborough in this year's import draft and will be coming over to play for the Petes. Very excited to see what he can do, given he played against men the last two years and has had a fair amount of hype attached to him (despite only being a 7th rounder). Peterborough might not be terrific next year, but Kirk should receive top 6 ice time. I would expect him to at least be a 25/25 guy in his first OHL season with the chance to build off of that in his draft +2 year.