The Dallas Stars have dipped into the OHL pool quite significantly over the last few years.
1. Ty Dellandrea - Flint Firebirds
Those who read my stuff know how much of a Dellandrea fan I am. As such, it goes without saying that I loved this pick by Dallas in this year's draft. I have a lot of faith that Dellandrea can grow into a quality top 6 center who can play in all situations and wear a letter for the Stars in the future. Dellandrea's offensive skill set is greatly underrated. His skating ability is underrated and is already good. As he gets stronger, it could be an even bigger asset. And he's both a North/South and East/West player; in the sense that he can create off the rush and push the pace, or slow the game down and exhibit patience and poise in the offensive end working the cycle. Also love Dellandrea's play in all three zones. His intensity level is very high and he is an extremely effective forechecker who creates a lot of turnovers with an active stick. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how much more confidence he can gain in his ability to carry the puck and make creative plays. And it will be interesting to see just how much better his shot can get, as he possesses good goal scoring instincts. As the young talent around him develops in Flint, look for his numbers to truly skyrocket. I expect him to be up near the 80 point mark next year, with a 35/45 type of season. Also expect him to play a 3rd/4th line center role for Team Canada at the WJC's.
2. Jason Robertson - Kingston Frontenacs
Robertson remains one of the OHL's most aggressive offensive players, and also one of the more difficult players to separate from the puck. He controls play in the offensive zone like few in the OHL can, putting defenders on his back and using his size and skill to keep plays alive along the wall. He is also ultra aggressive in taking the puck to the net and looking to create his own scoring chances; always looking for an opportunity to shoot the puck. But I wouldn't classify him as having tunnel vision, as he utilizes his linemates quite well and is a good passer, especially coming off the wall as he draws defenders to him, opening up passing lanes which he is able to identify. The question is...did Robertson improve a ton this year? I'm not sure the answer is yes. His skating is still an area of weakness that will need improvement. And while his play away from the puck and play defensively did improve slightly, it also will need to continue to be improved. This is a big season for him, but also could be a frustrating one. I would expect Kingston to rebuild with them losing the majority of their top end talent. That means Robertson could be a major trade target at some point this season. Either way, I would expect him to be a 90+ point player, and for him to really up his game in the postseason should he move to a contender at some point during the year.
3. Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers
After failing to come to terms with Florida, Mascherin re-entered the 2018 draft and was selected by Dallas in the 4th round. Mascherin is coming off of his first 40 goal season in the OHL and his first lengthy playoff run with Kitchener. He possesses one of the best shots in the OHL, both in terms of velocity and his lightning quick release. Previously hampered by a bad shoulder, Mascherin was fully healthy this year and as such was able to finally hit the 40 goal mark. Mascherin is also excellent below the hash marks. A strong lower body helps him to extend possession along the wall and he is a solid distributor who makes his linemates better. The shortcomings remain the same as they were when he was drafted though. His skating is not dynamic, as he lacks that explosive first step to create separation. And when you combine that with his lack of size, it could cause some issues at the pro level. And while his play away from the puck has improved, it's still not at the level where we could see him develop into a role player. Mascherin will be a top 6 player, or nothing. But you have to take a chance on players who can score like Mascherin can, and thus Dallas' gamble in the 4th round was a good one. I do think that there will be a serious learning curve at the pro level next year, as he figures out how to find scoring lanes and outwork larger opponents in tight to get scoring chances.
4. Nicholas Caamano - Hamilton Bulldogs
After taking a huge step forward last season in Flint, Caamano was not able to take his development a step further this year. He did not regress though, and his role in Hamilton's run to the Memorial Cup should be applauded. Following a move from Flint to Hamilton, Caamano took on a different role with the Bulldogs. He was asked to bring energy as a complimentary piece on the Bulldog's 2nd/3rd line and to help kill penalties. His size remains a major asset away from the puck as he attacks on the forecheck and looks to force turnovers in the neutral zone. He also clears room for his linemates by driving the middle and is a very strong presence near the net and in the slot. While he's not an elite skater, he does have quick feet and good agility, which helps him be an effective boards player and elusive in tight coverage. But his offensive game did appear to plateau this year, especially in terms of being someone who can consistently generate his own scoring chances. And while his shot is good, I don't see him being a prime time goal scorer at the next level. With a contract in hand, it seems extremely likely that Caamano starts his pro career next year. He'll likely slot into a 3rd/4th line role in hopes of developing into a quality checking line player who can eventually ascend to the NHL level in a similar capacity.
5. Riley Damiani - Kitchener Rangers
Love watching Damiani play. This is a kid who would go through a wall for his team. Does whatever the Kitchener Rangers ask of him. Pushes the pace and plays at a high tempo. Kills penalties and gets after it on the forecheck. Out there blocking shots to preserve a lead. He does it all. The lack of size is certainly a bit of an issue. And his lack of strength on the puck currently does prevent him from being more of a consistent force offensively. I think we would also like to see him add to his lower body strength to add more power to his stride. Being a more explosive skater is important for players of his stature. But, the hockey sense, playmaking ability, and skill are all there. Next year, Damiani could be Kitchener's first line center as the Rangers go through a bit of a mini rebuild. I would expect a major jump in production, with him being over the point per game mark.
6. Curtis Douglas - Windsor Spitfires
Douglas, a 4th rounder in 2018, is a massive, massive kid. Really like how he plays in tight to the crease. Knows his role is to create havoc near the blue paint, and with his size, he can be a real tough kid to tie up. But he actually has good hands and finishing ability. Douglas is also a physical asset in the offensive end. Tough to win battles against along the wall and he can really lower the boom on the forecheck if he gets you in his cross hairs. The rest of his game is a work in progress. Is he a center or is he a winger? How much better can his skating get, given his frame? Can he become a more effective puck carrier and a guy who can play at a higher tempo in transition? The answer to these questions should begin to be answered next year. He will return to Windsor and will be a big part of their top 6 as they aim to take their division. I would expect some modest production improvements, maybe to the 30/30 mark, just under a point per game.
7. Liam Hawel - Guelph Storm
Decent year development wise for Hawel, who continues to grow and is now listed at 6'5. The lanky center really developed as a three zone player this year, emerging as one of Guelph's most dependable two-way forwards and penalty killers. And because of his faceoff ability, he was a guy they could rely on late in games to protect leads. Physically, he's still not the type to impose his size on others, opting instead to use his long reach and wingspan to help separate men from the puck. Offensively, he keeps things simple. Gets pucks in deep and can retrieve and win loose puck battles. Controls the wall pretty well and is willing to attack openings and head to the net. Certainly not the most creative player with the puck, and he needs to develop more confidence in his shot and look to take the bull by the horns a little more. He'll be on the bubble for a contract next year IMO. To earn one, he'll need to take hold of Guelph's 2nd line center spot behind Cam Hillis and get to the point per game mark for the first time in his career.