Monday, May 20, 2019

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: Honorable Mentions

The Under 18's have wrapped up (where Canada finished 4th). The OHL playoffs have completed; Congrats to the Guelph Storm. And the Memorial Cup is under way. The race to the draft is on. We're about a month away from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, so that means it's time for me to release my rankings.

The top 50 will be released in four parts: Part 1 - Honorable Mentions, Part 2 - Prospects 50-31, Part 3 - Prospects 30-11, and Part 4 - Prospects 10-1.

Just for clarification, for my top 50 ranking, I haven't included any players eligible for draft re-entry, such as Pavel Gogolev and Nando Eggenberger. This has been consistent all the way through my lists. Instead, I did a list of the top 10 draft re-entries, which can be found here.

Also for clarification, this list is MY list of the top 50 OHL prospects, as if I were drafting for my own team. In other words, this isn't a list of where I THINK or believe players will go, but a ranking of my own opinion on the top players eligible for this draft based on my viewings this season. If you want a draft projection and information about players outside the OHL, be sure to
check out McKeens Hockey (who will be releasing a draft guide soon) or order a product like the Future Considerations Draft Guide.
This first part includes the Honorable Mentions of my list. These are the players who received consideration for my top 50, but who fell just short. There are 20 in total. Last year, zero players were taken from my HM's. This year, I would be shocked if more than 1 goes from this HM list. While all of these guys most definitely have potential, they remain long shots who need to put in a lot of work to be serious NHL prospects.

Here are my HM's (in alphabetical order)...

Anthony Aguanno - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Tough to stand out as a defender on that Kingston squad this year, given how bad they were. Consistently hemmed in their own end, it did not give Aguanno much opportunity to show his offensive potential as a puck mover. But he did see powerplay time and holds the line well there, showing potential with a nice point shot and vision. In the defensive end, he is a very competitive player who plays much bigger than his 5'11 frame. From what I've seen, his mobility does need work, especially for a smaller defender. There were times where he was beaten wide or beaten to loose pucks by attacking forwards. And he wasn't able to consistently evade the forecheck the way his teammate Billy Constantinou did, given his advantage in the skating department.

Luke Bignell - Forward - Barrie Colts
Late 2000 born center had a disappointing season offensively, as he came into the year ranked and looked like a potential NHL draft pick. But he failed to take a step forward in progression in his second year and finds himself an extreme long shot to be taken. Bignell is a hard working player who keeps things simple with a fierce north/south style. Drives the middle of the ice with authority and is active as a forechecker. But he struggles to keep the puck on his stick at times and his hands haven't yet developed to the point where he can be considered a consistent offensive threat. Also needs to work on his faceoff ability, as he posted one of the lowest win percentages of any OHL player who took over 400 draws this year. Could be better to move him to the wing where the game would be simplified for him.

Luke Cavallin - Goaltender - Flint Firebirds
Tough year for Cavallin. Came into the year as someone who could push to be the top ranked goalie from the OHL, but he actually regressed instead of progressed. Cavallin has the physical tools to be an NHL goaltending prospect and a quality goaltender in the OHL. He has size. He is athletic. And he shows flashes of being the player that Flint thought they were getting when they drafted him so early in 2017. But this year, his confidence just seemed to be shot from the team's poor start to the year. He gets himself out of position too often, with his movements being erratic. Over commiting to the play was a big problem for him, as was going down too early, where he tried to rely on his athleticism to scramble. Tons of potential here still, so long as he can improve his composure in the crease and really refine his angles and movement.

Erik Cermak - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Tough player to get a read on this year. Saw action on the wing and at center for Peterborough, but never really drove the play. In my viewings of the Petes, he always seemed to be a passenger on whatever line he was on. Could work the dump and chase relatively well, and moves well in the offensive end. But was too easily muscled off of the puck and struggled to make a consistent impact. Came into the year as an Import with a fair amount of hype too, so his performance was a tad disappointing. 

Nico Daws - Goaltender - Guelph Storm 
Massive goaltender with a late 2000 birthday, who measures in at 6'5, 225lbs. Daws certainly takes up a ton of the net. Is able to play a little deeper in his net with that size and follows the play pretty well. Looked more athletic to me than he did last year as an OHL rookie and I think definitely possesses the potential to be a starter in the OHL. Just needs to work on his consistency and his ability to handle rebounds. 

Ryan Dugas - Goaltender - Kingston Frontenacs
Only played 15 games this year, in his rookie OHL season, because of an ankle injury suffered over the December/January holiday break. Good sized goalie with good athleticism. When I saw him play early in the year, I was impressed with his quickness for a big kid. Definitely has a lot of potential in this league if he can come back healthy. Would have likely established himself as Kingston's starter in the second half had he not gotten injured and perhaps enters next year as likely starter for the rebuilding Fronts.

Dalton Duhart - Forward - Barrie Colts
The centerpiece of the Joey Keane deal with London, Duhart is a competitive, possession driven center who figures to be a relatively big piece of the Colts moving forward. Has a big impact on the game below the hash marks, where his drive and awareness are best utilized. Is able to prolong possession in the offensive end by working the wall and as he gets stronger, he should be a tough player to stop near the crease. His skating would be classified as only average though and limits his effectiveness in transition at this point in time. 

Tim Fleischer - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs 
Was firmly entrenched on my list most of this season, but he really seemed to fizzle out in the second half of the season. Combine that with the fact that he's a late 2000 born, and I don't think you have a guy who is an NHL draft pick at this time. Granted, Fleischer is definitely better than the 21 points he put up. He flashes some real brilliance with the puck and is someone you could classify as dynamic in transition. In some of my early viewings of him in Hamilton this year, he was one of the best and most noticeable players on the ice. But when I saw him late in the year, he just didn't have that same jump in his step. Was kept mostly to the perimeter and lacks the strength to consistently work through traffic. If he isn't able to beat you with speed and tempo, he is not much of a factor. But as has been proven with Rickard Hugg, sometimes it takes Imports a year to really adjust. Hope the Bulldogs bring him back again to give him a chance to improve.

Jordan Frasca - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Showed some nice things early on in the year with Windsor. In particular, a goal scoring touch in tight. Has a nice release. But as the year went on, his role became less prominent. Shifted back and forth between center and the wing, and found himself buried on the 3rd or 4th line through most of the second half. Again, there are some nice building blocks here. Nice skating stride. Good hands. But lacks the strength and confidence to play with the puck. Will need to take some strides forward next year to avoid being lost in the shuffle as part of a quality young forward group in Windsor.

Kyle Harris - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Had much higher expectations for Harris coming into the season. He had a very nice 16/17 year old season last year and was a former highly touted player who tried out for the U.S. National Development Program. But, like many of Flint's players, Harris didn't really take a step forward this year offensively. He did, however, close out the year well and in my final viewing of Flint this season, he had a great game. A talented two-way center who can skate, Harris' puck skill hasn't really developed to allow him to be a driving force from the middle. Flint switched him to the wing later in the year and I think that did a lot for him. Wouldn't be shocked to see him take a big step forward next year.

Louka Henault - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Jack of all trades kind of defender. Moves well. Starts the breakout well. Generally makes pretty good decisions with the puck. Shows good gap control and competitiveness in the defensive end. But the upside is difficult to project. Don't know if he'll ever be a true offensive force from the back-end, and I don't see him developing into someone NHL teams would give a look to based on his defensive play alone. He'll be an excellent OHL defender by his overage season, if not earlier. Just not sure I see NHL projection because of a lack of a dominant trait.

Mathew Hill - Defense - Barrie Colts 
At 6'3 and nearly 200lbs, Hill offers upside as a potentially elite stay at home defender at the OHL level. His defensive IQ is quite high and as he becomes more confident, I bet we will see him turn into a physically dominant player in his own end. His skating is pretty good for a defender of his size and ability too. But his puck skill is very limited right now. He will need to improve his exit pass and ability to handle the puck under pressure. He will never be an elite offensive defender, but rarely do NHL teams use picks on one dimensional defensive defenders these days, because of the speed of the pro game now.

Mason Howard - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
If Howard can find a way to improve his skating and overall mobility, he could end up being a very good defender in the OHL. He has a lot going for him. There's the size at 6'3, 220lbs. And he loves to use it. Is particularly physical in the neutral zone and near the blueline as he is aggressive in denying zone entry. Howard also has better puck skill than his 3 points on the year would suggest. Has some quick hands and could even one day play on the point of a powerplay IMO. But all of this will be tied to whether he can become quicker and more fleet of foot (or skate).

Andrew MacLean - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
Through December, it looked like MacLean could steal the starting job away from Mack Guzda, as he was playing exceptionally well. But the second half of the year was an utter disaster for him and his confidence completely left him. Really fought the puck from January on. Seemed like he was guessing too much out there and was leaving just way too many gaps for OHL shooters, and giving up too many second and third chances. But he's got size and proved, for a month anyway, that he can steal games when he's on. If he could find a way to play consistently like that, he could be a solid OHL netminder.

Cullen McLean - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
McLean looked very good early on in the year when he was occupying the second or third line center role for the Greyhounds. But as the Hounds filled out their roster with returnees and the arrival of Jaromir Pytlik, McLean found himself buried on the 4th line. And as the year went on, he even lost his spot in the playoffs due to the emergence of Alex Johnston in the energy role that he was being asked to play. McLean is a rangy pivot who has shown some nice puck protection ability, especially cutting through the middle of the ice. And I thought he showed well without the puck at times too, especially in terms of forcing turnovers. But his skating needs to be upgraded, especially those first few steps. Playing on the wing later in the year, he struggled to be noticeable without the puck on his stick.

Emmet Pierce - Forward - Flint Firebirds 
Massive forward who closed out the season really well after a trade from London. 8 goals in 24 games for Flint. That's a 20 goal season pro-rated. And at 6'5, Pierce actually has some nice straight line speed. He's quick to loose pucks and was having success beating defenders to the net later in the year. His overall agility and balance could probably use some work, but this guy's package of size, speed, and hands in tight are definitely going to be alluring to NHL scouts. Would have loved for the sample size to be bigger here, to get a better read of his skill with the puck and his effectiveness without it, especially as someone who can set the tone physically. 

Simon Rose - Defense - North Bay Battalion 
Similar player to Henault of Windsor, whom I listed above. Rose shows good mobility from the back-end, has some nice skill with the puck, and makes quick decisions in the defensive end. But does he project as a defender for the next level? The type of jack of all trades kind of defender who likely ends up as a quality five year OHL player, but not a significant NHL prospect. 

Zachary Roy - Goaltender - Hamilton Bulldogs 
The goaltender on the 2nd all rookie team for the OHL this year, Roy had a solid first season as one half of the starting platoon in Hamilton. Roy is extremely athletic and he has to be at only 5'11, undersized by today's standard for goaltenders. He shows excellent mobility in the crease and is learning to be aggressive in attacking shooters to give them less to shoot at. But consistency was an issue this year. Needs to improve his rebound control and refine his movements so that he can stay flush to shooters and not over commit. Tough for undersized goalies to get drafted these days.

Mitchell Russell - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Once thought to be one of the top goal scorers in the age group, Russell's ability to put the puck in the net has not yet transferred to the OHL level. A midseason trade to North Bay did seem to re-invigorate him for a bit, but major upgrades are needed to his skating if he wants to live up to his potential. Is a tad slow to loose pucks and doesn't possess the mobility to create separation from defenders to allow him to use that good release and shot. Needs to play with more intensity too, to attack the net and get more "greasy" goals. If there's someone who can get that out of people, it's Stan Butler though.

Jacob Winterton - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Winterton started the year really well, his first in the OHL. But the speedy winger really disappeared down the stretch. Dropped down the lineup in the second half, which obviously contributed to his lack of production. But he also looked to lose steam physically and wasn't as assertive with and without the puck as he was early on. Winterton definitely possesses some nice offensive potential because he skates well and is slippery with the puck. He can also use that speed to be a penalty killer and maybe even a solid two-way player. Perhaps an offseason focused on conditioning could help him to be more of a consistent factor.

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