Firstly, kudos to Andrew Perrott, Ryan Beck, Ryan Humphrey, and Brendan Hoffman for organizing this event. I wish I could have been there to cover the PBHH live (which is an acronym using the last names of those four men, for those that didn't know), however I have spoken to some who were and it seems that this tournament was remarkably well organized. You gave your peers an opportunity to play again and it is an achievement that deserves significant recognition.
In terms of evaluating what I saw on the ice (watching video), I would say that the play on the ice certainly had its moments. The goaltending was not consistently strong. I think fatigue definitely played a part (especially in the final game of those three day sets). The physicality seemed to taper off as the tournament went on. However, all that being said, it certainly achieved what it set out to do; give NHL scouts an opportunity to see the progression of some OHL players.
The question is...just how much stock will be put into the tournament? That remains to be seen. For my own personal rankings, it did help to solidify some things for me and definitely influenced some movement. Major movement? No. But it did help to really open my eyes on a few players. Most of all, it was great to just watch some OHL hockey again; that's how I saw it.
For evaluative purposes, I've broken down the players into three categories. First: players in their initial draft year. Second: 2004 born players who would have been OHL rookies this year had a season occurred. Third: players in their second or third year of eligibility for the NHL Draft.
Top First Year Draft Eligible Players:
1. Matt Maggio
From start to finish, I feel like Maggio was the top performing draft eligible player. Other guys may have been a little more inconsistent, from a game to game and shift to shift perspective, Maggio was consistently dialed in. And after a disappointing performance last OHL season with Windsor, this likely really made a positive impression on NHL scouts. Maggio's top speed and explosiveness definitely look better, and when combined his already solid edgework and East/West movement, it added a real dynamic quality to his skating grade. This really allowed him to control tempo and pace, excelling both in transition and when working out of the cycle. He is also a skilled kid and showcased a high level finishing ability at the tournament. I have definitely moved him up my draft board.
2. Tucker Robertson
I liked Robertson in his rookie season with Peterborough, although admittedly, I wasn't exactly sold on his offensive talents being strong enough to be more than a quality OHL player down the line. I saw a high energy, complimentary piece. But at the PBHH, Robertson was certainly able to showcase that he does possess the skill and puck protection ability to drive possession and push the pace. I was very impressed with his poise with the puck and his overall playmaking ability. The tournament was rife with a lot of turnovers, especially in the offensive zone, but Robertson was one of the few who really mitigated that and always seemed to make the right play. When you factor in that he possesses some of the skills you look for in a bottom six NHL player (forechecking ability, speed, two-way awareness), I have moved him on to my draft board.
3. Ty Voit
For a guy like Voit, playing at this tournament was about solidifying the positive impressions that many Ontario scouts already had of him based on his play as a rookie. And he did just that. His vision and passing ability is among the best of any player out of the OHL this draft. Whether he needs to saucer a pass over three sticks, or keep possession to draw a second defender before threading the needle with a hard seam pass, Voit is capable. Voit is a player that I continue to believe possesses among the highest upside of any player available from the OHL this year. The key for him will be to continue to get stronger so that he is not so easily pushed off the puck, especially along the wall. That was something that was evident as a rookie with Sarnia. And I believe it was evident at this event too. However, Voit delivered offensively for sure.
4. Logan Mailloux
The highest ranked OHL player at the event, Mailloux largely played up to expectations. His TPH team did not play great over the tournament and I think a lot of the errors he made personally were influenced by the level that his team was playing at, such as some bad pinches when he was trying to kickstart the offense while down a few goals, or some lacklustre defense when his team was down a few goals. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with his physical intensity level. But, I understand why someone like Mailloux would not be hammering guys like he usually does at an event like this. Ultimately, I would like to see him be a little more aggressive when defending in transition, closing gaps quicker. When he gets in trouble, it is because of this. But his skill set was certainly on display. He did a good job QB'ing the powerplay, with his shot being the highlight. His exits were largely clean. And he showed his strong size/mobility combination at both ends.
5. Ryan Mast
I really liked how Mast started the tournament. The first half of the PBHH, I thought he was the best defender. As the tournament went on, I do feel like his level of play dropped a bit, especially in terms of decision making with the puck. However, I saw enough from him to keep him ranked highly on my own personal list. A big, right shot defender who stood out in a positive way in his own end with his aggressiveness, Mast also showed more offensively than he had previously. He looked comfortable jumping up into the attack and playing with the puck in the offensive zone. He is still at his best when he keeps things simple right now and some of the turnovers that started to happen later in the tournament were because of him forcing plays. Mast's performance definitely solidified my ranking for him and I think he flashed some offensive abilities that could still be developed further to make him a two-way threat at the NHL level down the line.
6. Ben Roger
This tournament was held for guy's like Roger. I had a tough time assessing him based upon his play as a rookie with London. But after watching him here, it is easy to see why NHL Central Scouting has him ranked as high as they do. Big, athletic defender with a lot of upside at both ends of the ice. I was really impressed with his ability to quarterback the powerplay, something we did not get to see in London last season. Really moves well in space, manipulating defenders and coverage to open up lanes, either to pass or shoot. Defensively, there is some jam to his game too. One thing he will need to do is clean up his exit passes. Turnovers in the defensive end were a bit of an issue for him in the tournament. That said, he played quite well and has moved up my own personal rankings quite significantly (the most of anyone based on their performance here).
7. Gavin White
A former selection in the U18 draft (which has not produced a lot of high end OHL talent), White was the surprise of the tournament for me. A late '02, he is eligible for the NHL draft for the first time this year. He remains an extreme long shot. However, he really stood out with his mobility on the backend and his ability to quarterback the powerplay. Among the defenseman scoring leaders at the PBHH, White shows great lateral mobility and edgework that gives him legitimate elusiveness when walking the blueline. This really helps to open up those passing and shooting lanes from the point. White did a good job taking care of the puck in all three zones too. Coming out of this event, I am now extremely intrigued to see how he performs when the OHL starts up again and he gets an opportunity to play an expanded role with the Bulldogs.
8. Francesco Arcuri
Similar to other highly regarded players at this event like Voit and Mailloux, Arcuri met expectations. His play was a little inconsistent, but he also battled injuries, missing a few games. One thing I think Arcuri did well at this event was prove that he can play a little more of a physical role. Found him to be more engaged away from the puck and in puck pursuit than I have previously and it was a bit of a concern. However, after a bit of a growth spurt, it seems that this part of his game has matured. His passing ability and creativity with the puck were well on display and it gives him a pretty high ceiling for someone who probably goes in rounds 3-5. I do know scouts have some concern over whether his skating can become a little more dynamic, but he played well here.
9. Stuart Rolofs
It was really interesting to see Rolofs play center at the tournament as I did not think of him as anything but a winger. The first half of the tournament, I thought he struggled. A lot of neutral zone turnovers from him trying to force plays down the middle with his speed. But his play really improved as the event went on and by the end, I thought he was one of the more effective forwards. I actually really like him down the middle. His defensive zone play was stronger than I saw in his rookie season and he showed great awareness and anticipation defending the slot area. He forced a lot of turnovers with his support. And by playing the middle, he was able to use his speed to drive the net and use his quick release more effectively. As he continues to gain strength, he may be able to protect the puck better and limit some of those turnovers. I really hope London keeps him at center moving forward.
10. Avery Hayes
I thought Hayes had a strong tournament (though, maybe not as strong as his brother Gavin). It basically solidified everything we already knew about his game. Hayes is at his best playing through the middle of the ice, where he can use his hands, speed, and awareness to make plays. His play along the wall still leaves some to be desired as he gets outmuscled too consistently, but the effort is often there. The only real negative here is that he was measured at 5'7. Considering he is a late '02 and that he did not have a chance to improve upon an injury plagued season a year ago, I do wonder what that means for his NHL draft stock. No doubt that measurement was recorded by NHL scouts.
The strongest of the four tournament organizers at the event, Beck, like Rolofs, struggled initially but by tournament's end had established himself as one of the best forwards. His energy in all three zones is really infectious. His linemates really benefit from his ability to play with pace, attack traffic, and force turnovers on the backcheck. He is going to make a heck of a penalty killer at the OHL level the next couple of years. However, Beck is also a clearly skilled player with the puck and he made a few dazzling plays to create scoring chances for LeBec. Not sure he gets drafted this year as a late '02 who didn't get a chance to play outside of this tournament, but no doubt scouts took notice of his performance.
Up and down performance for Motew. His edgework and quickness in tight spaces makes him a real treat to watch in the offensive zone. He had a few really strong games. However, he also had a few really weak ones. At this time, he is a high risk, high reward kind of player. His aggressiveness offensively looks great when it works, but not so much when it doesn't. He will have to learn to pick his spots better. But Motew certainly showed scouts the kind of offensive upside he possesses from the backend.
Measured in at 6'8 at the PBHH combine! That's Justin Auger level. Lawrence certainly showed some good things at the event, dominating at times down low in the cycle. His hands and shot have a lot of potential to become assets for him. His pace of play and skating ability will certainly concern NHL scouts and it is what caused some inconsistencies at this event. But, 6'8 forwards with skill don't grow on trees.
Ranvir Gill Shane
Offensively, Gill Shane was pretty quiet at the event. He did jump up into the play a few times, but largely played it very safe. He still hasn't quite shown the skill with the puck that he did as a U16 player or a CCHL player. That said, I thought he was terrific defensively at the PBHH, perhaps one of the best in the defensive end at the event. He was aggressive in breaking up plays in the neutral zone and forced a lot of dump ins, which he then has the mobility to recover. Simply put, he was a rock.
I have added Montgomery to this HM list because he is a fairly high profiled guy. However, he did not have a terrific tournament IMO. There were flashes. And he did get better as the tournament went on (a reason I added him as an HM), but the decision making was not strong. Turnovers were an issue. Bad defensive reads were an issue. Will this drop him in my rankings? No, probably not. It's a small sample size and if you are drafting Montgomery, you know he is a project. The physical tools are all there. Let the London Knights coaching staff work with him and see what happens.
Top '04 Would Be OHL Rookies
1. Beau Jelsma
There were a lot of strong performances by 16/17 year olds at this event and Jelsma was at the top IMO. His speed is such an asset and he was absolutely all over the ice; just buzzing. Very rarely do you see a young forward with speed like Jelsma so dialed in defensively, but that was what I saw. He just has this hunger for the puck and it makes him a really effective two-way player. From a skill perspective, his hands and feet operate at the same speed, which is crucial and it made him an absolute load to handle for defenders at this event. I can't say enough good things about him. He has rocketed up my rankings heading into next year.
2. Spencer Sova
Speaking of rocketing up rankings, let me introduce you to Spencer Sova, who is bound to be one of the best skaters available for the 2022 NHL Draft. He has that effortless, yet powerful stride like Jamie Drysdale, Cale Makar, etc. Some of the things he did at this event were breathtaking. If he comes to Erie next season and performs well, he is going to rocket up draft charts and be a potential lottery selection. I actually thought Sova played well in his own end here too. He has made some massive gains in his game since I saw him last as a U16 player.
3. Gavin Hayes
While brother Avery was good, younger brother Gavin (a first rounder by Flint) was even better. Measured at 6'1 already, Gavin was incredibly effective in transition at the PBHH, constantly looking to push the pace with the puck on his stick, constantly looking to attack the net. He definitely plays a bit of a power game. But the skill and finishing ability looks high end too. Like Sova, Hayes will feature prominently in my early 2022 rankings.
4. Evan Konyen
I really liked Konyen heading into the 2020 OHL Draft and was happy that the Wolves were able to get him to commit. I knew his speed would play at this level, but I didn't think it would happen so fast. Konyen looked like one of the quickest players at the PBHH, getting his share of breakaways and odd man rushes because of it. Loved the way he and Lucas Ross continued to build on their chemistry from the Jr. Penguins days too.
5. Ryan Abraham
A first rounder by the Windsor Spitfires in 2020, Abraham was terrific at this event. He is such a smart player. Really liked how he took care of the puck despite being clearly overmatched physically at times (5'7, 165lbs at the event). While some other smaller players like Avery Hayes and Colby Saganiuk did have their lack of size work against them at times, I never really noticed it with Abraham. I do hope he grows a bit before next year's NHL draft, but hard not to like what we saw here. A really complete performance from Abraham.
6. Lucas Ross
Another undersized guy (5'6, 162lbs at the event), as mentioned it was great to see he and Konyen play together at the event. Ross was a terrific support piece and showed great finishing ability, especially playing with pace and driving the middle. He was not as successful playing with the puck as some of the other '04's, but he showed a real understanding of how to find open space without the puck and thus was the perfect compliment.
7. Jorian Donovan
Like Sova, Donovan's skating ability was well on display at the event. I don't think he moves quite as well laterally and on his edges as Sova does, but straight forward and as a puck rusher, Donovan is an impact player. The potential is sky high for him as an OHL defender and he could be a guy who moves quickly up draft boards next year if his defensive zone play continues to evolve.
8. Max Namestnikov
The 3rd overall selection at the 2020 OHL Draft (by Sarnia), Namestnikov is indeed the (much) younger brother of former OHL'er and Detroit Red Wings forward Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov definitely showed his skill and playmaking ability at this tournament. It was not consistent and he is definitely going to need to get stronger, but we got a great idea of the potential he possesses.
9. Kocha Delic
I was actually most impressed by Delic's play without the puck at this tournament. He really used his speed well to force turnovers on the forecheck and to support on the backcheck. His energy level was very encouraging to see and certainly points to some potential for him to develop into a strong two-way center prospect. Offensively, he played a bit more of a supportive role, but there were many things to like. Excited to see how he grows as part of that strong group in Sudbury.
10. Cedrick Guindon
The 10th overall pick in the 2020 OHL Draft (by Owen Sound), Guindon definitely showcased his potential as a future goal scorer at the OHL level. This guy can shoot the puck. Like how he finds the soft spots in the defense and probably could have scored more at the event but was a bit snake bitten. Like other guys mentioned, he definitely just needs to get a little stronger on the puck as turnovers were a bit of an issue.
The youngest goalie at the event, Lalonde had his moments. Quite frankly, most 16/17 year old goaltenders struggle in their first OHL season, so it should not have come as a surprise to see his performance as inconsistent at the event. The big shock was seeing him measure in at 6'3, a full three inches more than his last OHL measurement. That's a huge growth spurt. He is going to be someone on the scouting radar next year as he vies for the starting job in Erie. At least he now knows what to expect from OHL caliber shooters.
Top Re-Entry Players:
1. Joseph Serpa
Easily looked like the most improved 2002 born player at the event. This is great news for the Kitchener Rangers because they are going to need him to fill a gap in their top six next season. Serpa dominated in transition with his speed and skill and PBHH defenders had a real tough time slowing him down. He was all over the ice in all three zones too, working hard to recover the puck and to support his linemates.
2. James Hardie
I understand why James Hardie was not drafted last year. I mentioned in my final write ups about him that I knew scouts were concerned with his pace of play and his high volume shooting tendencies from the perimeter. Would have I still drafted him later? Absolutely. I digress. At this event, I felt like Hardie made a more concerted effort to get to the middle of the ice to score and that will go a long way with scouts. He still has that great shot and release. His pace and the dynamic abilities of his stride still are only average though. Again, I draft him though.
3. Avery Winslow
I mentioned Winslow as someone I felt would have been drafted if the pandemic had not shut down the season early, based on how well Winslow was playing with North Bay following the trade. And I think all he did was prove that should have been the case. Winslow may have been the best and most consistent defender at this event, using his mobility, skill, and sense to dominate at both ends. When the OHL returns, don't be surprised if Winslow is suddenly one of the best defenders in the OHL. His confidence as an offensive player looks really high based on how aggressive he was jumping up into the play.
4. Logan Morrison
The leading scorer at the event, Morrison is just such a smart player. He is one of those guys who is always in the right place at the right time in the offensive end and who rarely makes a poor pass or turns the puck over. Offensively, his confidence looks sky high. But his skating still lacks the explosiveness and quickness that NHL scouts look for, and this limits his effectiveness in transition and defensively. One of the first players I would be inviting to an NHL camp this summer to see how his game translates against pro players.
5. Gerard Keane
Definitely another defender who looks much improved from a year ago. If you recall, his brother Joey took huge steps forward in his second year of eligibility and was a high draft pick (and has since become an excellent prospect). Maybe the Keane's are just late bloomers. Gerard skates like his brother does and was very aggressive offensively at this event, constantly looking to push the pace. He also looked very comfortable quarterbacking the powerplay. Some decision making errors were still evident and his defensive engagement was inconsistent, but if you are the London Knights, you are very happy with his progress (and with the progress of all your younger defenders).
As mentioned, the goaltending at the event was not extremely strong. But Paputsakis was definitely the best of the bunch. A late '01, he has the size and athleticism that scouts look for and I actually was a bit surprised that he wasn't drafted late in 2020 after a strong rookie year with Oshawa. Based on what I saw at this event, I would say Paputsakis has a chance to be one of the better goaltenders in the OHL when the league returns to play (his OA year).
How about the performance of all the Erie Otters at this event? While Erie is going to have some tough choices on who to keep as OA's, they had some players really perform well here. Of those, I believe D'Amato was the most consistent. He looks much quicker and like Serpa, was very difficult for defenders to stop in transition. I think he definitely made some NHL scouts take notice and should at least earn a camp invite (if we are returning to normal and players get invited again).
Another Otters player and potential OA next season, Hoffman was not as consistent as D'Amato, but he did finish in a tie for the goal scoring lead at the tournament. A lot of that came in a five goal game where he was absolutely dominant. Because Hoffman is 6'3, over 200lbs, and looks like his skating has added a step, he could definitely be on the pro radar if he can have a strong offensive season next year. He looks like a huge breakout candidate.