Friday, November 29, 2019

Preliminary Media/Scout Top 10 for the 2020 NHL Draft

It's time for the first media/scout poll for the 2020 NHL Draft.

After last year's poor crop, the OHL bounces back strong in 2020; much more in line with what is expected from such a top notch development league. We have a candidate for first overall in Quinton Byfield, who swept all first places votes in the poll. We have three other players who are candidates to be taken inside the Top 10 (Drysdale, Perfetti, and Rossi). And we have a handful of other players who look like potential first round picks. This group has star talent but also great depth.

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2020 were:

Corey Pronman - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@coreypronman)
Dominic Tiano - Writer for The 
OHL Writers (@dominictiano)
Dylan Galloway - OHL Scout for 
Future Considerations (@dylangalloway_)
Mike Morreale - Staff writer for (@mikemorrealeNHL)
Ryan Kennedy - Associate Senior Writer for 
The Hockey News(@THNRyanKennedy)
Scott Wheeler - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@scottcwheeler)
Mark Scheig - OHL writer for 
The Hockey Writers (@THWMark)
Cam Robinson - Managing Editor for Dobber Prospects (@Hockey_Robinson)
Steve Kournianos - Founder of The Draft Analyst(@TheDraftAnalyst)  
Steve Clark - Play by play voice of the Niagara IceDogs (@ClarkPlaybyPlay)  
Dan Stewart - Director of DraftsProspects Hockey (@DStewartDP
Will Scouch – Founder of Scouching Draft Analytics (@Scouching)
Victor Findlay – Writer for Around the OHL and Mississauga Steelheads broadcaster (@Finder_24)
Tony Ferrari – OHL Scout for Future Considerations and NHL Draft Writer for Dobber Prospects (@theTonyFerrari)
Steven Ellis – Digital Content Producer for The Hockey News (@StevenEllisTHN)
Mark Seidel - Scouting Director for NACS Hockey (@MarkSeidel

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten)

Here's the List:

1. Quinton Byfield – Forward – Sudbury Wolves
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 1st (17x)
Lowest Ranking: -
He's a powerful skater, has breakaway speed and is an excellent puck- possession player. He's got great vision and playmaking ability, and a real heavy shot. He has scored goals where his shot has overpowered goalies. He plays the right way and works hard. At this point in the season, and in my opinion, the best player in the OHL.” - Mike Morreale

Byfield has a great frame, but what excites me the most is the fact he still has room to get bigger and stronger. Considering how dominant he can be already, that's impressive. On top of the build, we're talking about a player with excellent offensive skills and mobility. As the top center in the entire draft class, Byfield has the chance to help turn around an NHL franchise.” - Ryan Kennedy

This one is a no-brainer. The combination of size, skill, creativity, scoring ability, and puck protection are extremely rare to find. I came into the season wondering if he’d be a more physically dominant junior player, or dominate with a more powerful skill game. The latter seems to be the case from my viewings, and the data on him is promising. Considering his age, Over 40+INV% and an NHLeS of over 40 is remarkable. The only knock I’d note is a bit of a lack of consistency as games wear on, and being a net negative defensive player on paper, but his offence more than outweighs whatever cons there may be. To me, it isn’t an outlandish discussion as of today that Byfield may be the first name called in June.” - Will Scouch

A combination of size, speed, and skill that is so rare it makes his ceiling almost scary. Taken steps forward throughout his game early this year. I love the way he sees the ice and can manipulate his body and puck to create and find lanes for himself and his mates. A kingmaker for whichever team lands him.” - Cam Robinson

The more I watch him play, the more I see shades of Eric Lindros with Oshawa in the early 1990s. Of course, Byfield isn’t as physical from a seek-and-destroy standpoint, but the way he uses his size, reach and lower body to protect the puck and drive into the heart of prime scoring areas is very reminiscent of No. 88. I still think he isn’t done growing, so you’re looking at a 6’5, 220-pound playmaking center with soft hands who can win draws and kill penalties. His skating has improved a lot since last year as well.” - Steve Kournianos

A couple things really stand out for me when it comes to Byfield. The first is how he drives time of possession for his team. He controls the zone entry, but does not relinquish the puck. His poise, strength, and skill on the puck, in combination with his agility, allows him to maintain control below the goal line for near entire shifts. And with his vision, he's consistently able to find those passing lanes when they eventually open up because teams send a second defender to him to try to separate him from the puck. The second thing is how much his defensive game has improved under Cory Stillman in Sudbury. He has truly become a force in all three zones. The scary thing? That there's still room for improvement as he gets even stronger. Byfield is a player who will be worth the price of admission in the NHL.” - Brock Otten

2. Jamie Drysdale – Defense – Erie Otters
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 2nd (12x)
Lowest Ranking: 4th (1x)
I've seen him a few times and you don't have to find him. He finds you. He QB'd their PP last year in his first year and will easily be a point per game guy this year. Smooth skating, great passing and rarely gets a shot blocked.” - Steve Clark

Drysdale is the top defenseman in this draft class and the gap is widening as the season wears on. His elite skating ability allows him to toy with opponents at times. His ability to transition the puck and exit his zone is impressive, whether it’s by skating the puck out or making a crisp first pass. His defensive game has shown growth this season and he should continue to excel as he learns to understand how to use his skating in the defensive zone.” - Tony Ferrari

Hands down the best defenseman in the OHL, and one of the finest of the 2020 NHL Draft class. He's calm, poised and confident. Once he gets 2-3 quick steps, he's gone from pressure. He's a two-way defenseman with great instincts.” - Mike Morreale

Most know how good of an offensive player Drysdale is. But many don't yet realize how good he is defensively despite being under 6-foot. He uses his speed and stick-handling to defend bigger players and usually has the upper hand. There hasn't been a true two-way defenseman in the OHL since Aaron Ekblad. If not for Byfield and Lafreniere, Drysdale's in the conversation to go first overall. “ - Mark Scheig

Any other year that didn’t have a physical beast blessed with high level skills at the top of this OHL list and Drysdale would be at the absolute top guy as he is the prototypical top pairing NHL defender. His elite mobility - agility, balance, quickness and recovery speed – plus his smarts, vision, hands, awareness both when he is carrying the puck as well as when defending make him a huge factor whenever his skates touch the ice. His game screams top pairing NHL defenseman to me.” - Dan Stewart

Highly skilled offensive defenceman who has an elite combination of smarts and agile skating ability. He reads the play incredibly well and he gets the puck to the right place at the right time through sharp passing. I’ve also found him to be quite good at reading the play on the defensive side of the puck and use instinctive positioning to shut down his opponents play through the neutral zone and break in at a high rate.” - Dylan Galloway

3. Cole Perfetti – Forward – Saginaw Spirit
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 2nd (4x)
Lowest Ranking: 4th (7x)
The hype surrounding Perfetti after the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup was well warranted but the Saginaw Spirit forward has taken his impressive play back with him to the OHL. Billed as a goalscorer, Perfetti has played the role of playmaker thus far this season racking up the assists while he’s dealt with an unusually low shooting percentage. His shot is too good for his shooting percentage to stay that low and the regression to the norm will likely lead to an uptick in his overall production.” - Tony Ferrari

I think his puck skills, vision and his execution are on another level for most prospects his age. There's a little bit of an unpredictability to his game and that's a good thing. He finds seams and has a shooter's mentality.” - Mike Morreale

I’m going to have to be a bit cautious here. I think Cole Perfetti’s creativity, his hands, and his intelligence in the offensive zone are very excellent. He’s had great production and I’d still argue there could be more considering the chances I’ve seen him get. He’s one of those players that isn’t dangerous until he is. That being said, my concern is about his projectability considering what I view as a lack of intensity and a lack of footspeed. I certainly think he’s a Top-10 player this year, but if I had to pick one of this top group to maybe fall short of what their metrics may indicate, Perfetti might be the one. From my viewings, Saginaw has used him at the wing, and that may be a more comfortable position for him moving forward, but if his skating can take a step, he could be a dangerous NHL player.” - Will Scouch

There aren’t too many players with the poise and decision-making of Perfetti. He sees the play develop ahead of most and takes advantage of it regularly. His shot is well known after the Hlinka, but his playmaking is high-end as well. The skating lacks explosion, but he’s a great bet to overcome it.” - Cam Robinson

I’m not concerned with the dip in goal-scoring production because his shot-release is too good to finish the year without reaching 35-40 goals. Perfetti’s starting to be more economical with his shot selection, but the fact that he is capable of making world-class set-ups is what separates him from every draft prospect not named Byfield or Lafreniere.” - Steve Kournianos

I think Perfetti was the type of player who was bound to have his game dissected over the course of this season. He had such a strong start at the Hlinka and was being hyped to the extreme by the major media. That's not to say that he didn't deserve it, far from it. But his lack of explosiveness, in combination with some inconsistencies away from the puck, was bound to be picked apart by scouts as the year went on. This is especially true considering he started slowly statistically (although anyone who saw him play during that stretch knows he was just unlucky). Truthfully, I'm not worried about his skating. He is elusive because his edgework and agility are good. His brain works quicker than anyone else and that makes up for a lack of explosiveness. What I do want to see is more urgency at times. He needs to have the puck on his stick more in order to truly be a game changer. As we saw at the Hlinka, when the offense is able to run through him, he is dynamic. But that means being better in the neutral zone, on the forecheck, and on retrievals. And eventually, I think he will be, which is why I still value him as a top prospect for this draft.” - Brock Otten

4. Marco Rossi – Forward – Ottawa 67's
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 2nd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: 5th (1x)
I've seen enough of Rossi this season to sell me on him being the best play-maker among draft eligible players in the OHL. Not far behind is Cole Perfetti, but I find Rossi creates more frequent chances and is able to make plays with his skating ability and hands just as much as his is with his passing and vision. Plus, I think he's stronger on pucks than people give him credit for. Rossi has as many career assists as Perfetti (64), but has done it in 15 less games. Rossi leads the league with 1.5 assists per game, and with Rossi now staying with Ottawa throughout the world junior period, I don't think a 70 assist season is off the table for him at all. There have been times when Ottawa's first line of Garreffa, Rossi, and Keating have looked unstoppable lately.” - Victor Findlay

“I’d like to put Rossi higher then at number 4 but I can’t just yet. A year ago, it was tough to pick the top-10 in what was the worst OHL draft class ever. This year is the exact opposite as there are a legitimate 10 that could go in the first round. What Rossi lacks in top-end speed, he makes up for with superb edgework and agility on his blades and that helps him with a strong puck possession game. Like Perfetti, Rossi can beat you with elite playmaking abilities or with his shot, although I wouldn’t put his shot at Perfetti’s level. His ability to dissect defences with pinpoint passing abilities is a treat to watch. Yet, he can beat you off the rush with the same ease.” - Dominic Tiano

Love this kid! Love him! People who are worried about his size, or whether he can stick at centre, either haven’t watched him play enough or don’t recognize how strong he is on the puck, or how responsible he is away from it.” - Anonymous

I’m a big, big Rossi fan. His two way game, speed, sneaky ability to apply pressure, and his well rounded offensive game is extremely desirable. He can weave and cut through defenders, he can play with an edge (to a fault at times), and I’ve found him impressive in almost every shift I’ve watched and tracked. He boosts goal differentials by 87% relative to a talented 67s team, and while he isn’t the best case of primary involvement at even strength (a goal or A1 on just 40% of goals scored on the ice), he’s still producing very well in all situations. I’ll go to bat for him for a long time.” - Will Scouch

I would say Rossi is the second most exciting player to watch after Lafreniere, and for different reasons. Rossi makes those difficult plays look so effortless and natural, but he is probably the only player in the entire league, let alone among his draft peers, who cleanly execute precision plays — shots or passes — while motoring at top speed or in traffic. I think he has big time point-producing potential in the NHL.” - Steve Kournianos

5. Jacob Perreault – Forward – Sarnia Sting
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 5th (6x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
He can score there is no doubt about that and now that Sarnia is playing much better after a miserable start the points will come in bunches for Perreault. I always give an intangible point to a player with NHL bloodlines and his dad was a very intelligent player. Sarnia gives up a ton of goals so his 200 foot game is one to keep an eye on.” - Steve Clark

Last season I was a big fan of Perreault after watching him some twenty times as an OHL rookie but after watching him this season I get it. He is a tweener, something between a play driver and a complimentary winger. He has the heavy shot for sure, skates very well and displays good sense of where to be for a prime scoring chance. What he lacks is consistency or the willingness to assert himself offensively, only taking what is given, not forcing the play himself. For me he projects as a future top six NHL goal scorer, especially if playing with a playmaker.” - Dan Stewart

Speedy and agile skater, Perreault can be hell for defenders to try and contain in the offensive and neutral zones. Perreault uses his quick feet expertly to create space for himself and then uses his high end vision to move the puck around the offensive zone through highly intelligent passing and vision. Perreault can be really dangerous in transition, utilizing his speed and nice puck skills to quickly navigate from d zone to o zone, however he can sometimes get too focused on beating his opponents one on one try more complicated plays when a simple one would have been more effective. Perreault looks like he could be a really solid middle 6 playmaker at the next level. He possesses the smarts and skill to potentially reach even higher than even that, but will need to mature his game a bit before that potential will be realized.” - Dylan Galloway

He skates well, has a good top speed level and is creative with the puck. He can make plays at top speed and is a prospect with a ton of upside.” - Mike Morreale

He is averaging over a point a game but I feel like Jacob hasn't had a great start to the year. His torrid offensive pace last year had us thinking he might score 50 this year but Sarnia's slow start had him sputtering. Like the Sting, he has been much better over the last month so we will see if he can become an offensive catalyst again.” - Mark Seidel

6. Antonio Stranges – Forward – London Knights
Total Votes: 15
Highest Ranking: 5th (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
A shifty and dynamic skater, Stranges has seemed to split the prospect world. Some evaluators believe that his unique skating and tendency to resort to “fancy footwork” such as the ‘10-2’ skating style won’t translate at the next level, citing examples from the past (ie: Jeremy Bracco). I am not in that camp. His puck skills are undeniable, his skating is elite and when he does use some more advanced skating techniques such as the ‘10-2’, he uses it to generate speed in the neutral zone and open himself up to the play rather than for purely elusive purposes as past players have. He also attacks the net and center of the ice with it which is where he can be a major difference-maker.” - Tony Ferrari

Ah, Antonio… Another one where I may need to select my words carefully. The 10-2 skating is what everyone has noted, but there is a lot more to the game that results in positive results, especially at even strength - just ask anyone who follows the Toronto Marlies. Stranges certainly has the ability to be dangerous off the wings and getting to dangerous areas. His skill in tight is solid and he drove possession well in the game I watched. So much so that the game was likely an outlier (London had 96% of the shot attempts with him on the ice). The issues start with a not-so-good game in transition moving the puck on his stick or passing it to others. In the offensive zone, he’s dangerous. He has primary points on 78% of London’s goals at even strength with him on the ice, but he relinquishes transitions against him a bit too much to my eye. He has been scored on 24% more with him on the ice relative to his team, and his goal rate for is also below that of the team. His goals for rate is 7th of the 10 listed, and his goals against rate is 2nd worst behind Perreault. I have him here because of his ability to be dangerous offensively, and his skating is notable, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slip in June unless things improve on paper.” - Will Scouch

One of the truly elite skaters in the OHL, he blends strong vision, ultra skilled hands, creativity with the puck and a solid shot with his impressive mobility to become a dangerous offensive package. He has so much upside, however, I think he floats around looking for an offensive chance and ignoring the 200-foot game far too often to be rated high on my list. NHL teams want guys who are focused on contributing to team success and Stranges’ game does not demonstrate that.” - Dan Stewart

The obvious 10-2 skating style aside, Stranges has shown he can be an effective quick strike forward and really excels at creating scoring chances off the rush. His vision on the offensive side of the puck allows him to find skating and passing lanes and get to the coveted middle of the ice with the puck. I’m a bit concerned his skating style won’t translate as well to the next level.” - Dylan Galloway

He’s one of the flashiest players you’ll find, and I give London coach Dale Hunter credit for reeling these types of players in from being loose cannons and adding structure to their games. On skill alone, Stranges could be a top-10 pick. But there are times when he is somewhat invisible and stays to the outside while a kid like Luke Evangelista shows more of a willingness to get dirty and battle. Much like Noel Gunler, I see Stranges in that top tier of boom or bust types who could crack the late first round but are too risky to go higher.” - Steve Kournianos

It’s tough to find a player that can skate as well as Stranges, but recent benchings have raised some eyebrows. Like Foudy, Stranges sees the game at such a high pace, but he doesn’t do it enough to push him higher in the rankings.” - Steven Ellis

7. Jean Luc Foudy – Forward – Windsor Spitfires
Total Votes: 15
Highest Ranking: 5th (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
I thought I would be more impressed with him than I was, but make no mistake he's a wonderful prospect with good offensive instincts. Paired with Will Cuylle they will form a dangerous combination for Windsor. Skates really, really well, but I found that at times he over handled the puck.” - Steve Clark

He’ll be better than his brother. Has the speed and the athleticism but he’s also a better playmaker. Has decent middle-six forward written all over him.” - Anonymous

A player I had high hopes for who seems to have had a rough patch to start the year. I love Foudy’s speed and puck protection getting up the ice, and he’s getting primary points on 71% of the goals scored with him on the ice, but he may suffer from the same usage issues that Jacob Perreault suffers from. When on the ice, he’s a net negative offensive and defesive impact player, but considering his individual involvement, that may get better as time goes on. At time of writing, he’s on a 13 point over 9 game stretch. Still, being on the ice for 50% more goals against at even strength relative to your team isn’t ideal, especially for a player listed as a centre. He’ll be a guy I take a closer look at, but right now I have a hard time keeping him into the 1st round in such a deep year. Maybe later in the year if things keep improving, but right now he’s still in a bit of a state of limbo.” - Will Scouch

I love cocky players when they can back it up, and Foudy seems to be one of the more confident players I’ve seen among draft eligibles. His speed is the first thing you notice, but you need soft hands to execute as many accurate shots off the pass as he can. I think he’s more controlled under pressure than his brother and should be considered a strong candidate to rise into the top 10 once we get closer to the scouting combine.” - Steve Kournianos

Electric feet that he can use to back down defenders and an ability to distribute the puck but he stays on the perimeter too much. As he matures he will figure it out but he has NHL tools.” - Mark Seidel

Slick, smooth and speedy, Foudy is one of the best kids his age at creating his own chances. He plays at such a high pace that makes him tough to contain.” - Steven Ellis

8. Jaromir Pytlik – Forward – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 12
Highest Ranking: 5th (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (5x)
I’m not sure that Pytlik is garnering the attention he deserves in some circles. In fact, I question myself here thinking I may have him too low. He may just be the most complete player in my top-10, already playing an accomplished 200-foot game. He’s been moves around from wing to center and back and has shown he can handle both positions. He’s accepted and met the challenge of being one of the offensive go-to guys on the Greyhounds offence. At the same time, the coaches trust him in key defensive matchups and to take key faceoffs –although faceoffs need some working on.” - Dominic Tiano

In his first full season in the OHL and taking on a top line role for the Greyhounds this season after some roster shuffling, the big forward who can play both center and wing has found success. He is strong, skates well for a big man and is more than capable at protecting the puck, drives the net, works the wall and can make a skilled play with the puck to beat a defender or fire off a quick shot using them as a screen. He also is an underrated playmaker and aggressive forechecker. NHL teams love the well-rounded aspects of his game although his NHL offensive upside is still a question.” - Dan Stewart

I’ve been high on this kid for well over a year, and he’s given me no reason to ding him in the rankings. He isn’t flashy and could stand to improve his foot speed, but I have a hard time finding a smarter player around the goal than Pytlik. The OHL may be run and gun this season, but NHL teams needs guys like Pytlik to win the wars in the trenches and let opposing defensemen know that if they want to control the low slot, they’ll have to fight for it.” - Steve Kournianos

Pytlik is one of the most complete players available in this draft. He has size, speed, skill and can play in all situations. He is excelling even on a young Greyhounds team. He has the tools to be an excellent pro assuming he continues to develop at center.” - Mark Scheig

I see Pytlik as the type of kid who is going to draw more interest from NHL scouts than armchair ones. He plays a very heavy, pro style game. Most of his work is done below the hash marks and he has great control of his body and an understanding of how to use his size. Pytlik is also a strong three zone player who is versatile because he has shown an ability to play both center and wing. As he continues to improve his skating (I think he looks more explosive this year), I think we'll see him become more of a consistent factor in transition and show an ability to be a little more creative. There are probably several players, even on this list, who have a higher ceiling as an NHL player. In order to stay in conversation for the first round, he's going to need to improve his production though, even on an inconsistent Soo team.” - Brock Otten

9. Ryan O'Rourke – Defense – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 11
Highest Ranking: 4th (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (6x)
I remember Ryan O'Rourke's first OHL game against Cole Perfetti's Saginaw Spirit. I couldn't believe how good he looked for a guy that was one pick away from falling into the 2nd round of the OHL Priority selection. What another great pick by the Soo! I don't see him falling out of the 1st round of the NHL draft either. His aggression and old-school style of hockey stands out easily on the ice, and I think he'll be able to find at least some element of his game that pushes the needle forward at the NHL level. His offensive game appears to be improving, which is great and will only continue to improve his draft stock throughout the year. Also worth noting, he's just 17 years old and is already the captain of his OHL team, you don't see that everyday.” - Victor Findlay

O’Rourke doesn’t have the flair of a Drysdale but he plays a complete game and he doesn’t turn 18 until the middle of May, plus he has NHL size and room to grow. He’s going to be good.” - Anonymous

I might be higher on O'Rourke than most, but I just see so much potential in a kid with great mobility who also plays with an edge and has decent size. The fact O'Rourke was named captain of the Hounds as a 17-year-old when there are NHL picks already on the team speaks volumes.” - Ryan Kennedy

O'Rourke is one of my favorite prospects in this entire draft and I am notably higher on him than most. He's a first rounder for me. While he doesn't have some of the elite skills Jamie Drysdale has, it's pretty good. But he's not afraid to play in your face. He's an excellent defender and very strong for his size. He can block shots on one end and bring creativity on the other end. But what stands out is his maturity. He plays like a 19-year old but is still 17.” - Mark Scheig

The recently named captain of the Greyhounds is a workhorse. He is their top rearguard, depended upon by both his coaches and teammates, and is playing like it. While he possesses teenage strength and will need to bulk up, he is ultra aggressive and physically in the face of whomever he needs to defend his zone. His skating looks more fluid than last season and he has no trouble keeping up unlike some nights last year. His shot is dangerous, but he looks way more comfortable with the puck on his stick this season. Moving up my list and aspects of his game remind me of a young Kevin Bieksa.” - Dan Stewart

10. Will Cuylle – Forward – Windsor Spitfires
Highest Ranking: 5th (3x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (9x)
A power forward that has struggled to start the season. His nasty side has shown up a bit more this season but the production hasn’t quite yet. He isn’t the best skater with acceleration being the primary issue. He has good top speed, using it to drive to the front of the net. His shot is really high-end, but he hasn’t used it nearly as much this year as in the past.” - Tony Ferrari

The first of two Windsor Spitfires to make my top-10 (Jean-Luc Foudy is the other) Cuylle is to Foudy what jam is to peanut butter. Cuylle has an uncanny ability to elude defences and find open areas of the ice, and once the puck is on his stick, he converts more often than not with a superb shot. Although he is not known as a playmaker, he has shown to possess some playmaking abilities. He’s strong on the forecheck and creates turnovers but is also strong defensively and once he disrupts the opposition, transitions to offence quickly.” - Dominic Tiano

He's a big winger with skill and a fantastic shot. He can play in the tough areas and can score from a distance making him tough to check. Foot speed is average though.” - Anonymous

Hasn't had the best start to his year but has all the tools to become a good NHL player. A pro shot that will be an asset in the NHL but he has to start to produce.” - Mark Seidel

Cuylle hasn't exploded offensively like expected, but his strong wrist shot and big frame makes him a solid secondary scoring option at the next level.” - Steven Ellis

Honorable Mentions

Jack Quinn – Forward – Ottawa 67's (8 Votes)
Total Votes: 8
Highest Ranking: 7th (3x)
In Quinn’s case, it’s easy to say “what a difference a year makes.” He’s really worked on his skating and attention to detail in the defensive zone and coming back hard on the backcheck. That’s just a plus as it’s his offensive game that is his biggest asset. His skills with the puck match up with anyone on this list. His improved skating has allowed him to find separation where it previously lacked. He can stop on a dime, twist and turn to avoid the defence, all while maintaining control of the puck.” - Dominic Tiano

Quinn’s a stud and the more I watch him or the more I talk to 67’s staff, the more he rises up my list. Not only can he play in all situations, he has also excelled at all three forward positions this year. Jack’s one of the more underrated players in the draft.” - Anonymous

Goes about his business quietly but is very effective and is a sneaky finisher. He has taken a while to develop into the player that I thought he would be but is always getting better.” - Mark Seidel

It seems like every time I see the 67's, Quinn's game has reached another level. He's getting better and better as he gains more confidence with the puck. I know that the skill level has always been high, but he's a lot more explosive this year, in addition to being stronger, and that's helping him be a facilitator and leader of Ottawa's second line with Mitchell Hoelscher. I've also really come to appreciate how intelligent he is away from the puck and how strong of a defensive player he is. The 67's are using Quinn when they need a goal or need to protect a lead late in games. I know that late birthdays can be tough for some to evaluate, but Quinn is deserving of a first round ranking right now.” - Brock Otten

Tyson Foerster – Forward – Barrie Colts (6 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 6th (1x)
Impossible for me to ignore the breakout season that Tyson Foerster has had for the Barrie Colts so far. But I don't really have a great sense as to where his range is for the NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting has him listed as a 'C-list' prospect, and I tend to think that's probably the floor for him. Is he a guy that puts up big numbers but doesn't go until the 5th round or later? Or does he develop a part of his game that shows an ability to not just put up big numbers in the OHL, but an ability to score at the next level too. 21 games is too small a sample size for me to make a concrete evaluation of what kind of player he projects to be post-OHL, but it's certainly enough to grab my full attention.” - Victor Findlay

I'm still not quite sure what to make of Foerster yet. The production is there. He's among the league leaders in points per game. He already has more goals, assists and points this season in just one-third of the games. I need to see if he can sustain this pace especially when the games get tougher. But he's definitely on the radar as a fast riser.” - Mark Scheig

Can rip it with the best of them. Has taken noticeable steps forward in the past 16 months and is a clear riser for this crop. Sound decision-making. I would still like to see him explode into holes more.” - Cam Robinson

Foerster is quietly rising in rankings. Foerster shows really good vision and smart positioning, constantly around the play, giving his teammates good outlet options during battles along the boards. Foerster uses his solid hockey IQ to lose his coverage and get open to be able to unleash a dangerous shot. He has a sharp shot on the rush and can get some good velocity on it. Foerster’s straight away skating is solid and he was able to build some good speed through transition, though I felt he keeps his feet planted more often than he should.” - Dylan Galloway

Tyler Tullio – Forward – Oshawa Generals (4 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 9th (2x)
Small, skilled player who has a heck of a motor. What impressed me was his toughness. He took a heck of a beating at times in the playoffs but missed minimal time. He's got a heck of a motor on him and plays with a chip on his shoulder at times.” - Steve Clark

Tenacious, hard-working, aggressive and skilled. Those are the traits that Tullio has brought to the Generals this season. His relentless forecheck and puck hound tendencies often lead to the puck being on his stick more than the opponents and Tullio has the skill to make a difference offensively. A very good scorer on the powerplay and five-on-five, Tullio’s shot plays up because of his excellent release.” - Tony Ferrari

I've seen a lot of growth in Tullio since his days with the minor midget Vaughan Kings and it's all positive. Here's a kid with a great motor and a lot of offensive talent who is willing to put in the work.” - Ryan Kennedy

Jack Thompson – Defense – Sudbury Wolves (4 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
On a Sudbury blueline that doesn't have a single overage player, they're already relying on Thompson for leadership, big minutes, and offensive contribution. In the games I've watched him, I've been impressed with how much ice he covers in all three zones. He's a decent skater with good hustle, and gets back defensively just as quickly as he jumps into the rush. He looks like a stronger player this year, which is helping him with board battles and his net-front presence. Those are both still areas with room to improve, but if they keep coming along I think he's one of the most versatile defence in this draft class.” - Victor Findlay

Loves to engage in the rush and push the pace of play. Has looked more than competent working on the top unit in Sudbury. His shot is a real weapon.” - Cam Robinson

Very cerebral defender that always makes the right decision. Finds a way to always get shots through & makes excellent decisions on the PP. Overall game is very good & although he won't be an NHL star, he will be a very good piece.” - Mark Seidel

Oliver Suni – Forward – Oshawa Generals (2 Votes)
Highest Ranking: 6th (1x)
I've been so impressed by Oliver Suni and his adjustment to the North American ice. Right away, even in preseason, he seemed right at home playing with Ty Tulio and Alan McShane at the time. He brings a powerful element to his game, which is what sticks out the most to me. He's a power skater, unafraid to drive the net and get involved physically, but he's also got top-end vision and passing ability. He still leads OHL rookies in points, has been lethal on the power play, and if he keeps up this pace throughout the entire OHL season I say he makes a case to be a first round draft pick.” - Victor Findlay

Really underrated in the grand scheme of things. Good mix of speed and skill, but he needs to add a bit of physicality to his game to prevent from being locked to the perimeter.” - Steven Ellis

Nico Daws – Goaltender – Guelph Storm (1 Vote)
Highest Ranking: 10th (1x)
I loved Daws at the CHL-Russia series and with his size and quick feet, I believe he'll be one of the top Canadian goalies available. Not his fault the Storm played the veteran Popovich so much in his original draft year.” - Ryan Kennedy

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Preliminary Top 50 for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

It's time for my first official ranking for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. I say official because I release a preseason ranking in the summer (which can be found here). Now that the 2019/20 season has started (well under way in fact), updating that list to reflect changes of opinion is a priority. That said, it's important to not over react to hot or cold starts. Some of those currently disappointing, will most definitely pick up their play. And some of those off to blazing starts won't be able to hold that production. At the end of the day, it is a cool exercise to go back and look at my first list of the season. For instance, here's last year's early season draft list.

The list includes detailed reports on the Top 30 and small snippets on the other 20 that make up the Top 50. 

This draft crop from the OHL is obviously significantly stronger than last year's. It has a serious top 3 candidate, multiple top 10 candidates, and a whole whack of players who could earn first round consideration. It also has significant depth, with several players left off this top 50 still having the potential to be NHL prospects. While the crop is still shaping up, I think it is pretty safe to label this group one of the best that the OHL has produced in recent years. 

It's also important to note (for those that aren't familiar with my lists), that I don't include 2nd and 3rd year eligible players on the list (like Saginaw's Ilya Solovyov or Guelph's Pavel Gogolev). I do a year end list for those players.

Without further ado, here's my early season top 50.

1. Quinton Byfield - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
With how dominant he has been to start the year, I don't think it's unreasonable at all to consider him a challenger for Lafreniere's first overall spot. While I'd still give the nod to the QMJHL star (who has been on a torrid pace himself), there's no denying Byfield's immense potential as an NHL star. The league has few players who can dominate with power and skill the way that he does. While he may not have the physical bravado of a guy like Eric Lindros, he dominates shifts in a similar fashion by controlling entries and possession down low. He can beat you in so many different ways. If you try to take away his space, he beats you with his speed and power. If you give him gaps, he uses his skill, quick feet, and strength to maintain possession until he's able to create a scoring chance for himself or a linemate. His vision is a highly underrated component of his game. Usually a player with his skill set will force plays, especially when driving the net, but he's incredibly poised and intelligent with the puck. He makes passes that are so good sometimes that his linemates aren't ready or expecting the pass to be so precise. Additionally, Byfield's defensive game has come a long way under Cory Stillman. He's incredibly committed on the backcheck, and looks comfortable rotating back to the point allowing Sudbury's defenders to be more aggressive with their pinches. This is a prospect with no weakness and a possible NHL superstar. 

2. Jamie Drysdale - Defense - Erie Otters
There was a reason that I predicted Drysdale to win the Max Kaminsky this year as the league's top defender. And he's lived up to that expectation so far. IMO, he is already the best defender in the OHL with no disrespect meant to the likes of Thomas Harley, Declan Chisholm, etc (although Harley has been sensational this year too). Drysdale is the perfect defender for today's NHL game because of his mobility and decision making. While his ability to defend the crease and handle larger forwards will no doubt require some improvement before the next level, he's already such an asset defensively because of the routes he takes to loose pucks and how difficult it is to pin the Otters down in their own end when he is on the ice. He is able to turn play back the other way and start the breakout, keeping the opposition on their toes. Drydale has also greatly improved his point shot and is being way more aggressive in using it or trying to jump up into the play to get himself scoring chances. One area that I think he still has more room to grow in, is his ability to quarterback the powerplay. I think he has another level there that he has not hit yet, especially in terms of using his skating ability to open up gaps, being more assertive and aggressive with the puck in attacking those lanes. I definitely expect that to develop further, even as this season progresses. I know many have Perfetti second here, but I think Drysdale is the top defender available in the draft this year and should be ranked accordingly.

3. Cole Perfetti - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Don't look now, but after a bit of a "slower" start, Perfetti is right in the thick of things in the OHL scoring race. There were some criticisms early on that he wasn't being assertive enough with the puck, but I think that those concerns were overblown. I watched two Saginaw games early on in the year and Perfetti hit multiple posts in both games. And from talking to others, the pattern was similar in other games. He was creating chances, he was just snake bitten. There are also some concerns about whether Perfetti can stick down the middle at the next level, and whether his lack of an elite skating gear given his average size, will hold him back. I do think that Perfetti profiles as a winger moving forward; that much I agree with. But I am not concerned about his skating. His agility and edgework are excellent and as he matures physically, I am guessing we will see improvements in his power. What can't be taught is Perfetti's vision and understanding of the game. He is just such an intelligent player. It is rare to see him make a poor decision with the puck on his stick. Additionally, he reads the play so well without the puck and is so good at exploiting the gaps provided to him. He has that elusive quality to him. Of course, there's the shot, puck skill, creativity. He's a multi faceted offensive force. One criticism I do have is that I would like to see his tenacity and aggressiveness without the puck become more consistent. These were some of the same concerns that I had with a guy like Nick Robertson last year. One shift, he's all over the ice on the forecheck, engaged physically and forcing turnovers. Another, there's a degree of complacency. Once he learns to harness that energy, Perfetti could be just as unstoppable as Byfield.

4. Marco Rossi - Forward - Ottawa 67's
The thing I really love about Rossi's game is how aggressive he has become (although that did hurt him recently with a suspension). He is a real pain in the ass to play against. He may not be the biggest guy on the ice, but his compete level is insanely high. He is so difficult to contain below the hash marks because of how slippery he is. His feet never stop moving and his skill with the puck is very high. Rossi also has excellent vision that makes him an elite playmaker. Most shifts it's rinse, repeat for his line. Puck in deep, Rossi gains possession along the half wall or down deep, he spins off a few checks, draws in a second or third defender, which then opens up a passing lane for him to exploit. I know some do have concerns about his top gear not being good enough for a smaller forward. Like Perfetti, gaining more power in his stride would be ideal. But also like Perfetti, Rossi's agility is quite good and that makes him elusive. That said, I do wonder if he's a future first line player in the NHL. He might be more of a David Krejci type, and in such a strong draft year overall, I also wonder if he'll be able to hold a spot inside the lottery. But he's started very strong and the overall team success that Ottawa accomplishes this year will likely be closely linked to how high a team is willing to select him.

5. Jacob Perreault - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Has started the season on a 10 game point streak and is playing some very good hockey. Sarnia's starting to turn things around as a team lately and that will only help his push for a high NHL draft position. There's a real quiet effectiveness to Perreault's game. With NHL bloodlines from father Yanic, Jacob's hockey sense and ability to find scoring lanes are his best qualities. Perreault is a magnet for the puck and with his quick release, he's a very dangerous player inside the scoring area. His skating is an asset too. I wouldn't go as far as to call it elite, but Perreault is very quick and his solid first few steps allow him to really push back opposing defenses. I'd like to see him be a little more assertive with the puck on his stick. And adding strength to help him prolong possession and be more effective along the wall would make him a more consistent player. But I think Perreault can be a very good pro who could be a nice complimentary piece inside the top 6.

6. Antonio Stranges - Forward - London Knights
For a variety of reasons, Stranges has become quite the sensation inside the scouting community. Clips of his remarkable hands/creativity, in combination with his unique skating stride, have circulated the net and it has created quite the buzz around him. No question, Stranges is a talented player. He consistently makes defenders miss by keeping the puck on a string as he dances through the neutral zone and deep in the offensive zone. He also possesses a lethal backhand, a lost art in hockey at times. His 10 to 2 skating style is similar to former OHL'er and current Maple Leaf prospect Jeremy Bracco, but Stranges generates a lot more power and speed than Bracco did/does. However, there are some that believe this type of skating style won't translate well to the NHL level (similar to the way Bracco was criticized as an OHL prospect). Me, I'm a little more concerned with the inconsistencies in his play away from the puck. He can be an electric player when the puck is on his stick. But he needs to play with more grit and determination when it isn't. The upside here is quite high, but if his game fails to add other layers to it by season's end, I'm not sure I'll have Stranges ranked this high. Let's see how his game progresses.

7. Jaromir Pytlik - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Pytlik has progressed very nicely in his second OHL season; all be it his first full one. With some graduations on the Hounds and Barrett Hayton currently in the NHL, Pytlik has had to be the focal point of their attack and he's met that challenge head on. He's also taken well to playing center, although has shifted between there and the wing. This type of versatility is going to make him a very attractive option to scouts. Pytlik also plays a very pro ready kind of game. He's at his best fighting off checks below the hash marks and he is very good at using his 6'2 frame to protect the puck. Pytlik is also aggressive in driving the net and does the majority of his damage down low. I think his skating has improved, in particular his first few strides. But he'll likely never be a burner. That's not to say that he's a poor skater. But it won't be an asset at the next level. That said, I do like him. Pytlik is just a very well rounded player and I really like the fact that he's been able to be a consistent, driving, offensive force this year for those around him. 

8. Ryan O'Rourke - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Just a real throwback. O'Rourke is a tough as nails defender who has improved by leaps and bounds as a puck carrier, mover, and overall offensive player this year. He showed well as a rookie last year because of his physical aggressiveness in the defensive end. But I think his movement is more fluid this year and it's allowing him to be even more effective in his own end. He's not as big as most guys who play like he does (6'1, 170lbs). So continuing to upgrade his mobility will be key, matching that high intensity level with smarts and positioning. Offensively, he has taken off while running the point of the Greyhounds' powerplay. He has a cannon of a point shot and he's been very aggressive in jumping up into the play to try to get himself looks. He's also become way more confident handling and moving the puck. A true two-way defender, O'Rourke is forcing himself into contention for the first round. Guys like him just don't grow on trees anymore. 

9. Oliver Suni - Forward - Oshawa Generals
The thing I have loved about Suni's game so far is his fearlessness. He is an easy player to like because of how hard he plays; always willing to take a hit to make a play. He's very adept at using his size to get inside leverage on defenders, almost like a defensive lineman coming off the line through the o-line in football. Suni is also a good skater, which in combination with his physical gifts, makes him a difficult player to slow down. I've also liked Suni's effort in all three zones. He's hungry for the puck and has had a seamless transition to the OHL so far. At this point, I'd actually like to have him a little higher. I have been that impressed. But, I'm also not quite sure about his high end offensive potential. I need to see him more to truly evaluate his skill level with the puck and upside as a goal scorer. 

10. Jack Thompson - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
In my preseason rankings, I told you to watch for Thompson to breakout in a big way, running the point on a talented Wolves team. Well, he's done just that, quarterbacking the top powerplay unit (although Kalle Loponen has cut into that a bit). But he's actually done most of his damage at even strength, among the league leaders in ES goals. Not only does he have great scoring instincts, but he has a big time point shot and is aggressive in jumping up into the play to get himself scoring opportunities. He's also a very strong skater who generates a lot of power in his stride, allowing him to have quick bursts up ice to lead the rush. His defensive game is quite raw though. He is going to need some work here and patience will be required. But let's see how he improves over the course of the year.

11. Jean Luc Foudy - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Foudy might be a little lower than you might expect on my early season rankings. He hasn't really had a poor start to the year, operating at near the point per game mark. I guess the question for me is, has his game progressed from his rookie year? His speed is a big time asset, and he is a patient puck carrier who will circle the zone until he finds a pass that he likes. And I think he has more weapons in his offensive arsenal than his brother; ultimately possessing higher offensive upside. That said, I think his game has some limitations. I still would like to see him attack the middle of the ice with more consistency. At times, his game becomes too predictable and too easily stifled by the opposition, as they allow him to circle the perimeter, daring him to bring the puck into the scoring area. I'm also not convinced that he is a center at the NHL level. And if he is a winger, is he strong enough away from the puck to be successful? If Foudy was a little more physical, better along the wall, or a better three zone player, I'd be more convinced. But you can't deny the speed and skill package either.

12. Will Cuylle - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
While Foudy has had a nice start to the year, Cuylle has not. 1 goal through the first 13 games of the year, and a -5 rating. At this point, Cuylle is still being ranked highly, by myself, and most scouting agencies. But if he does not turn things around soon, he will start to fall. I think the biggest thing for me is that Cuylle just does not seem to be as engaged physically so far this year. He's a power winger and a kid who possesses a lot of potential as a goal scorer because his hands are good and he is strong in tight. But we're seeing him less effective as a puck carrier this year; or at least a lot less assertive. As a rookie, he would look to drive the outside and then cut hard to the net once he gained some leverage. But he's being kept to the perimeter by opposing defenses, and is becoming a little too complacent in the slot. He needs to get back to the basics and improve his engagement level without the puck, and then hopefully the puck will find him in those scoring areas a little more consistently. Cuylle is a great prospect who still has lots of time this year to really get his game going.

13. Tyson Foerster - Forward - Barrie Colts
At this point, how do you not have Foerster ranked this high? The kid produced well as a rookie last year and is now the third leading scorer in the age group at over 1.6 points per game (behind only Byfield and Perfetti). I think there are a lot of similarities between Perreault and Foerster's game in the sense that he has a quiet effectiveness to him due to his hockey sense. Of course, it helps that his line with Ryan Suzuki and Metaj Pekar are really clicking, but he's been a big part of that too. He's got a pretty good frame that could see him up around 6'2, 200lbs by the time he is done growing. And his skating has improved a lot from his minor midget year, from what I understand. This is just a well rounded kid who is versatile and does a lot of things well, from a quick release which he utilizes to finish off plays in the slot, to quick feet and hands in the corners that allow him to work the cycle, especially with Pekar. Just how high he can climb remains to be seen. I think many, myself included, are still trying to figure out how high his ceiling is. 

14. Tyler Tullio - Forward - Oshawa Generals 
Tullio is another well rounded offensive player who has started strong this year. Like Foerster, he's extremely versatile. You can throw him in the slot because he has a fantastic release and shot, among the best in the age group. But you can also have him working the half wall because of his strong skating ability and motor. Tullio is an excellent forechecker and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses because he closes well, has a good stick, and is strong along the wall. He plays center for the Generals, but he is another guy that I see destined for the wing at the next level. One thing that I'd like to see from Tullio is better decision making with the puck in the neutral zone. Can be a tad turnover prone from not making quick enough decisions and is currently at his best when his linemates can gain the zone for him. That's not to say that this part of his game, his ability to create in transition, can't improve. But I like Tullio because I think there is upside, but also safeness in him as a prospect because of the things he can do well away from the puck. It's easy to see him becoming an NHL player.

15. Jack Quinn - Forward - Ottawa 67's
A late 2001, but Quinn is only in his second OHL season so he needs to evaluated accordingly. His hands and skill with the puck are among the best of players on this list. Quinn creates a lot of time and space for himself with his creativity and hands, stopping, starting, spinning, and darting in and out of traffic from the wing. His skating has taken a nice step forward this year, which has allowed him take better advantage of his offensive gifts. He had difficulty creating that separation as a rookie and just wasn't able to be a consistent offensive factor because he could not escape coverage. This year, that hasn't been the case. And his play away from the puck has improved too, with a greater dedication to the back check and a desire to fight for pucks and space below the hash marks. To find even greater consistency, this will need to continue to evolve, in addition to his skating and strength also improving further.

16. Ruben Rafkin - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Rafkin has been quite the nice find for the Spitfires as he has emerged as one of the team's top defenders early in the season. An all situations player because of his competitiveness, mobility, and vision. In the defensive end, Rafkin makes his presence felt physically, both as a strong open ice hitter and as someone who can take time and space away in the corners and in net protection. But I've been impressed with his restraint and positioning, given the style of play that he favors. Often you'll see defenders like Rafkin lose their positioning at times as opposing players use their aggressiveness against them. But I have liked his composure. As an offensive defender, Rafkin isn't incredibly flashy. You won't necessarily see him carving up the neutral zone. But he makes a very strong first pass, picks his spots well to extend his rushes and has looked comfortable running the point of the powerplay. The upside may not be incredibly high, but Rafkin could be a quality second pairing minute eater at the NHL level and looks destined to be a solid Top 75 selection this coming June.

17. Hayden Fowler - Forward - Erie Otters
For Fowler, it's all about consistency. He's an immensely talented kid. Very aggressive in attacking the offensive zone, looking to use his speed to push the pace. But he also has great hands that allow him to make quick moves and decisions while in full stride. You'll see him cut to the middle, using defenders as a screen before unleashing a quick wrister, or spinning off checks to maintain and extend possession for his line. But what he does without the puck is still a work in progress. He's not the world's biggest kid (5'10), so he's going to need to prove further that he can make plays in traffic and excel when the game slows down. He has a tendency to disappear a bit in these situations and consistency from shift to shift is an issue. He's a late 2001, but he missed a lot of time last year with a clavicle injury so he's still trying to find himself more than your average third year player. 

18. Andrei Bakanov - Forward - Guelph Storm
Have really liked watching Bakanov so far this year. No question, consistency is an issue at this point. He disappears for long stretches. But he's also an OHL rookie (even if he played last year in the USHL) on a team that is going to have its ups and downs through a rebuild. What I love is his power game. At 6'2 and nearly 220lbs already, Bakanov is very difficult to stop on his pushes to the net. He plays that North/South attacking style quite effectively and is a solid skater and puck handler for a big man. He's also flashed some physicality and I think that we could see him develop into a real puck hound eventually if he can harness that and improve his conditioning. I need to see him more to get a better grasp of his goal scoring potential and overall ceiling, but I've really liked what he has shown thus far.

19. Logan Morrison - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Morrison has had a terrific start to the year, operating as the focal point of the Bulldogs second line behind the Kaliyev/Jenik unit. He's also been a fixture on the first powerplay unit with Kaliyev and Jenik. Morrison is a talented two-way center who controls the pace of play well, even if he doesn't possesses the quickest of feet. His top gear has improved though, so once he builds up that head of steam, he can be a factor leading the push across the blueline where he can use his excellent vision to survey the ice and make the correct decision. He has a lot of weapons in his arsenal too, including a quick and powerful wrist shot that he can use while in full stride. As alluded to, Morrison is also a strong presence on the back check and is a committed player without the puck in all three zones. If he were a more dynamic skater or a little bigger, he'd probably be ranked a fair amount higher. But he's still a solid prospect.

20. Cameron Butler - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Had a terrific preseason which really made me think that we would see Butler as a massive breakout candidate. But he hasn't been quite as effective to start the regular season. Now, of course, the ice time and responsibility hasn't been as abundant for him with Peterborough's solid depth. But the limitations in his playmaking ability and vision at this current time have held him back from being more of a factor. But the potential is absolutely tantalizing here. This is a 6'4, 200lbs kid who skates well, plays physical, and has a big, powerful shot. He can be very effective North/South. But finding those scoring lanes without the puck and adding additional layers to his game so that he's not quite as predictable in his approach with the puck are necessities. Really eager to see how he improves as the year goes on though.

21. Evan Vierling - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Here's the thing with Vierling. I really don't yet have a feeling for the type of player he can become at the NHL level. There are some very nice aspects to his game. He's not the biggest guy at 6'0, 170lbs, but he does such a good job working the wall and extending possession for the Firebirds deep in the offensive zone. He has very quick feet and excellent balance as he fends off checkers to make plays. I think his decision making with the puck and vision are also assets. He identifies gaps well and will usually find the open man as a result of him drawing in that second defender to try and separate him from the puck. He's also a solid defensive player. Like Logan Morrison, I'm not sure he's the most dynamic skater, but his agility and edgework are strong and that makes him elusive. What I don't yet know is how good he can become as a goal scorer and puck carrier in transition. And even if center is his natural position, he's played a lot of wing this year and I'm not sure if his puck skill and creativity are good enough for him to excel as a center and the primary puck carrier. To me, he's still kind of a mystery and I wonder if other scouts are having the same kind of issue. 

22. Donovan Sebrango - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Out right now with an upper body injury (and could miss over a month of action), but Sebrango is a solid two-way defender who excelled in a shut down role for Canada at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup this past summer. He doesn't have terrific size, but he plays much larger than his 6'0 frame, engaging physically, especially down low. He's also very adept at using his strong skating ability to be quick to loose pucks/dump ins, and quick to turn play around the other way with a strong outlet or rush. Sebrango also quarterbacks the powerplay in Kitchener and is good at using his feet to open up passing lanes. His shot isn't much of a weapon at this point, but Sebrango plays a very well rounded game and is someone that can be relied upon to play any situation. 

23. Lleyton Moore - Defense - Oshawa Generals
The NHL has come a long way from being "size-ist." But it's still an uphill battle for undersized defenders like Moore who comes in at 5'8 currently. I think Moore is an immensely talented kid with a very bright future in the OHL. He is an elite skater who escapes the forecheck really well and is a big time asset in starting the breakout. Moore also has excellent vision, especially when running the point on the powerplay. He does a great job using his mobility to open up passing lanes and to keep pucks in. But his effectiveness 5 on 5, as a puck mover, is limited currently by a lack of strength on the puck. He can be easily pushed off balance or separated from the puck and turnovers in the neutral zone and offensive zone can be an issue. Additionally, as a powerplay QB, his shot is not quite good enough to make him a duel threat. Teams are starting to collapse when playing him, daring him to be more assertive and shoot. The offensive potential is still immense, but he's going to need to start hitting the score sheet a little more consistently if he wants to stay on the draft radar.

24. Luke Evangelista - Forward - London Knights
In typical London Knights fashion, Evangelista has exploded in his sophomore season after playing sparingly last year. The Knights' first rounder in 2018 didn't even score an OHL goal last year. This year, he's operating well over a point per game and has been part of a dangerous scoring line with Jonathan Gruden and Connor McMichael. If Evangelista continues to play at this high of a level, there is no doubt that he will be higher than 24 the next time I release a list. His hands are electric. As is his hockey IQ. That combination allows him to control the half wall and operate as a top notch playmaking winger. His edgework and overall agility are also excellent. As he gains strength, he will be a true force to be reckoned with. After such an uneventful rookie year, I just want to see this level of play sustained deeper into the season. I also want to get a better read on Evangelista's play away from the puck to see if he can impact the game as more than just an offensive player. Look for him to start moving quickly up draft lists though.

25. Rory Kerins - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Competitive goal scoring center whose 10 goals place him 3rd in the OHL among first time draft eligible players (behind Byfield and Foerster). Kerins has a very high motor that is generating him a lot of scoring opportunities, especially within five feet of the net. But his hands are very good, as is his release. He's really developed some nice chemistry with Jaden Peca this year and the two of them are feeding very well off of each other, hounding puck carriers, driving the net, and generating consistent scoring chances. Like Evangelista, I want to see Kerins continue his strong start. I also need to get a better read on his skating. Guys with such a high motor like Kerins can be difficult to assess in this regard. And when you factor in his slightly below average frame (5'10, 173lbs), a lack of dynamic skating will likely hurt his draft ranking and projection.

26. Tanner Dickinson - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One guy whose skating ability is obvious, however, is Kerins' teammate Dickinson. This kid can flat out fly on the ice. And he uses his speed well, with and without the puck. Loves to drive the middle of the ice to open up space for his linemates, and identifies lanes quite well, executing drop passes or drawing in defenders before dishing off. His 12 assists this year (among the highest of draft eligibles) are no fluke. He gets to loose pucks and closes in on defenders quickly. He'll need to get stronger to force a few more turnovers, however, as his work along the wall is still developing. Curious to see how his game continues to develop this year as an OHL rookie, playing his first full year above the midget level (saw only 8 games in the USHL last year). 

27. Ville Ottavainen - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Evaluating European players in their first OHL season can be a difficult thing. While adjusting to a new league and a new culture, their games can often be inconsistent and ever changing. That said, how can you not be intrigued by a 6'4 right shot defender who has 8 points through his first 13 games? His defensive game seems to be already improving. When I saw him early in the year, his defensive game was a bit disorganized. But the more recent viewing, he looked way more comfortable and in control. With that long reach and some pretty good mobility, there's potential for his game to grow. Offensively, he covers a lot of ground with those strides, even if they may lack a bit of power currently. But he is confident in his shot and is already aggressive in looking to jump up into the play to get into a shooting lane. If he continues to progress well, he'll move quickly up this list. I still need to see more.

28. Ethan Cardwell - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Really like Cardwell's game and I think he's been way better this year than the stat line indicates (0.50 ppg). He operates extremely well off the rush, showing an understanding of how to use his body to open up space, but also exhibits good scoring instincts to fill gaps and generate scoring chances. I've generally been quite impressed with his decision making with the puck too. There have been times when I've thought Cardwell was Perfetti (they are similar in stature and skating ability) before seeing the number. I think Cardwell has a lot of potential as a goal scorer at this level as he gains strength and his shot becomes a little heavier. I think we'll see his production start to increase as the year goes on.

29. Reid Valade - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Ultra competitive two-way winger who plays with a serious chip on his shoulder. Not the biggest at 5'10, but it does not hold him back from winning battles consistently in the corners, along the wall, and near the crease. Valade has also shown a nice goal scoring touch this year, improving his release and ability to receive passes. He's had some very nice finishes on his goals this year. I think his versatility as someone who can play up and down the lineup and stay consistent will endear him to scouts. He just needs to stay healthy, given his lack of size and abrasive style of play. He's already missed time from injury this year and will need to prove that he can be durable.

30. James Hardie - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Hardie is very much a shoot first winger with a high ceiling as a goal scorer. Only Cole Perfetti and Jaromir Pytlik have more shots on goal among draft eligible players this year, with Hardie currently sitting 8th in the OHL with over 4 shots per game. He hasn't met a shot that he doesn't like. I think his skating has improved a lot from his rookie year too. Looks more explosive and it's helping him find those scoring lanes a little more efficiently and consistently. That said, I want him to see a higher engagement level from him in the offensive zone. Defensively, I think the effort is solid. But in the offensive end, there's a tendency to hang around the half wall in hopes of getting a pass. I'd like to see him play with the puck on his stick a little more and look to create his own scoring chances. But in terms of goal scorers in this crop, Hardie has among the highest potential.

31. Isaak Phillips - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Way more to his game than the three points on the year might indicate. I know you'd like to see a little more production from a late 2001, but that's just not his game at this point in time. At 6'3, 195lbs, he moves very well and has a real fluidity to his stride that helps him cover a lot of ground defensively. He takes on a lot of tough assignments in the defensive end for the Wolves because he swallows up space with his reach and mobility. The offensive component is still very raw, but he flashes potential there. This is a project pick that could pay off big in a few years.

32. Brandon Coe - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Still waiting for a bit more from Coe. There are these flashes of him being able to use his size (6'4), speed, and skill to dominant in the offensive end. But consistency is still an issue, although playing for a bottom dwelling team can certainly be tough. This is his 3rd year in the league and I'm not sure he's much different as a player than when he entered the OHL. Potential is still massive, but he needs to takes some steps forward.

33. Jake Murray - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
The Frontenacs are rebuilding and that can be a tough environment for defenders to really shine through. 5 on 5, Murray can still look overwhelmed at times, especially as his playing time and responsibilities increase. But his offensive abilities are way better than the 3 assists he has posted this year. He's still anchoring the Frontenacs top powerplay unit and he looks very comfortable on the point with a big point shot and excellent mobility. Hoping he gets better as the year progresses, as I expect Kingston will.

34. Aidan Campbell - Goaltender - Erie Otters
Massive goaltender at 6'5 who tracks the play well and squares himself up to shooters. Plays a little deeper in his crease and really takes away the bottom of the net. His movement is a little raw and some holes can open up as you get him moving. But he's flashed the potential to be a number one netminder in the OHL and has NHL potential because of his size in a position that often demands it now.

35. Tucker Tynan - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
Tynan has been remarkable so far this year for a rebuilding IceDogs team. He's seen the most shots of any goalie in the league and it isn't really close, yet his save percentage is .920. He has decent size at 6'1, and is sort of the antithesis of Campbell. Quick movements laterally that allow him to challenge shooters and play aggressively. Makes a lot of acrobatic saves. Was tempted to put him higher, but want to see this level of play sustained. 

36. Dylan Robinson - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Raw defender who has a similar physical skill set to Ottavainen (6'5, good mobility, although lacking in power). He's playing a fair amount for the Spitfires and has shown potential at both ends and as a puck mover especially. As he fills out his frame, he could really blossom down the road.

37. Declan McDonnell - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
McDonnell is extremely noticeable because of his energy and hustle in all three zones. Good skater and despite being only 5'10, manages to force turnovers and work the cycle because of his quick feet and strength/balance. Much like Cardwell from Saginaw, I feel like his production deserves to be better than it has been thus far. Still trying to determine his offensive potential for the next level.

38. Kyle McDonald - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
6'5, 200lbs power winger who has been a common linemate of Jean Luc Foudy's so far this season. Had a strong showing as a rookie last year and has continued to play well. Good finisher in tight and does well to clear space for more skilled players in the middle. Would like to see him use his size a little more away from the puck; along the wall and to create more of his own scoring chances. Jury still out on his skating too.

39. Olle Bjorgvik Holm - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Norwegian Import defender with good size (6'3) who has seen a lot of time beside Thomas Harley for the Steelheads this year. He's an intriguing player who I could see really improving as he adjusts to the speed of the OHL. He makes a very good first pass and does well to separate his man from the puck and win those battles in the corners. His skating is good for his size too. Can struggle with maintaining puck possession when forced to make a move though. 

40. Cameron Tolnai - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Didn't think that I'd have Tolnai rated this low at this point of the year. Power center who has the potential to impact the game in all facets. But consistency from shift to shift still not there and he's struggling to assert himself physically the way that he was able to do as a minor midget player. Way too early to give up on him as the potential is still quite high.

41. Alex Johnston - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Might not be the most physically gifted player in terms of power, but he's been effective with more ice time for the Soo this year. Still really like how drives the offense from the middle of the ice, pushing the pace and surveying the situation before making a decision. A very calculated player. Not sure if the lack of physical gifts will prevent him from being on the NHL radar, but I'm still a fan (as I was last year).

42. Zayde Wisdom - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Not the biggest kid on the ice (5'9), but he plays with a ton of heart and tenacity. Seems to insert himself in every battle out there and has been the perfect winger for Shane Wright so far. Excelling down low and near the crease and as he continues to improve his skating, he could be even more effective as an offensive player.

43. Nick Wong - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
I think Wong is a solid offensive player. Has a complete game in the offensive end, equal parts finisher and distributor. Has good scoring instincts and has a greasy/elusiveness to his game. But he's also undersized at 5'8, a late 2001, and only an average skater. If he could really add more of a speed element to his game, he'd be that much more dangerous.

44. Mark Woolley - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Late 2001 born defender with great size (6'3, 210lbs) and a defensive acumen. Plays with an edge, blocks shots, and has pretty good mobility. Not sure the offensive upside is extremely high, but you have to love how effective he has been in his own end for a surprising Attack team. Like Max Domi, Woolley has Type 1 diabetes.

45. Kirill Steklov - Defense - London Knights
Far from a finished product. Another defender with good size (6'4) and mobility. At times, it's like he doesn't quite know how to utilize his gifts and seems unsure of himself. His decision making with and without the puck will need to improve. But, I think he flashes a lot of potential as a stay at home defender at the very least. Like how he closes gaps and takes away space with his reach and skating.

46. Anthony Tabak - Forward - Sarnia Sting
6'5, 200lbs winger/center who really caught my eye when I saw Sarnia recently. Massive improvements to his game from last year, especially in terms of his confidence with the puck and his ability to drive the net. Is he a winger or a center? What kind of offensive upside does he possess? Need to see him find consistency as a late 2001 born, and I need to personally see him more too.

47. Igor Chibrikov - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Another late 2001 born player later on this list. Chibrikov is a massive human being, standing at 6'7 without skates. He's a real intimidating presence out there. His skating has improved from last year and he's playing a more poised/patient game in his own end. Like Woolley, he's been a big part of Owen Sound's strong start defensively. Will need to get stronger and continue to work on his mobility, but he's going to catch the eye of NHL scouts with his size and reach.

48. Alec Belanger - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Belanger hasn't been quite as good this year as I hoped and expected. I think there are still some limitations with his skating that is preventing him from being more involved offensively. But I think he's a really smart defender who will be a solid OHL defender. The question he an NHL prospect at this time?

49. Gerard Keane - Defense - London Knights
Kind of the opposite of Belanger at this point. Keane's mobility is a big plus like his brother Joey. But the rest of his game is still a work in progress. Quite frankly, he hasn't been great so far this year and has not met my expectations. It's important to remember that brother Joey was a late bloomer, so I wonder if Gerard may follow in the same footsteps.

50. Aidan Prueter - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
The late 2001 born center has been better than the lack of production would indicate (1 goal, 2 assists in 13 games). He's generating chances and playing with a lot of energy. And he looks quicker than last year. But he's just not finishing off plays or exhibiting a ton of confidence with the puck right now. I think he can turn things around and he steals the last spot on this list because of it.

Honorable Mentions

Vitali Pinchuk - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Avery Winslow - Defense - London Knights
Will Cranley - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Mitchell Smith - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Marco Costantini - Goaltender - Hamilton Bulldogs
Jonah De Simone - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Jake Uberti - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Colton Kammerer - Defense - Sarnia Sting
Brett Brochu - Goaltender - London Knights
Xavier Medina - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires