Monday, May 11, 2009

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: 50-31

With the OHL playoffs completed and only the Memorial Cup to be played, it is time to unveil my final ranking of the OHL players available for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Previously, in my early season and midseason rankings, I had only ranked 30 players. However, for my final list, I will be presenting you with a Top 50. The top 50 will be released in three parts: Part 1 - Prospects 50-31, Part 2 - Prospects 30-11, and Part 3 - Prospects 10-1.

Just for clarification, for my top 50 ranking, I haven't included any players eligible for draft re-entry, such as Plymouth goaltender Matt Hackett. 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, buy the THN draft preview which hits shelves soon.

Without further ado, here are prospects 50 through 31...

50. Kyle Pereira - Defense - Brampton Battalion
Pereira had a very up and down season. Near the middle of the season, this OHL rookie was starting to look like a solid puck moving defenseman and was starting to earn serious minutes with Brampton, especially on the powerplay. However, for whatever reason, he really started to slow down as the season went along. The addition of Josh Day to the Brampton blueline did even more damage to his ice time, and in fact throughout most of the playoffs, he was a healthy scratch. Pereira is an average sized defender who has shown the ability to carry the puck and make things happen offensively. However, he desperately needs to add strength in order to properly contribute at the defensive end. For an offensive defenseman, he's also only an average skater. He was starting to get bullied around, and thus probably the explanation for his playoff scratch. Another reason could revolve around conditioning. A first year player, perhaps Pereira hit a wall. But if he gets stronger and improves his skating, he could end up developing into a decent prospect.

49. Brandon Foote - Goaltender - Guelph Storm
Not many players started as hot as this guy did at the beginning of the season for Brampton. A winner of 11 of his first 12 decisions, Foote looked like a prospect on the upswing, nailing down an OHL player of the week award in the 5th week of the season. However, it then started to unravel for the undersized netminder. He started getting exposed to the top of the net as players started to zero in on his habit of going down to early. Finally Brampton felt it needed an upgrade and sent Foote to Guelph as part of the Thomas McCollum trade. In Guelph, Foote's inconsistencies continued. Let's be clear, Foote has the ability to be a solid netminder. He is athletic, he can make the first save and he's shown that he can steal games. However, he's also shown numerous flaws in his mechanics, such as the flopping tendencies and lack of rebound control. As an undersized goaltender, it's even more important to be technically sound. Just take a look at a guy like Trevor Cann in London, whom I believe does a great job in that area. I don't think Foote will get himself drafted this year, however if he trains hard in the offseason and comes back strong for a likely solid Guelph team, he might have a chance to have a turn around similar to Matt Hackett.

48. Peter Hermenegildo - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
An undersized defenseman at 5'10, I've always come away impressed with Hermenegildo. He's a smooth skater who likes to bring the puck up the ice and is generally pretty successful at it. He's also good on the point on the powerplay where he brings a level of coolness to the point and does a great job of getting his shot through. Defensively, I find him to do an adequate job too. He makes an effort to be defensively responsible and is actually a pretty good positional defender. On the negative side, I find him to be careless with the puck at times, especially in his own end. I also think he picks bad times for pinches and gets caught. In the corners, his size and strength can come into question, especially against some of the bigger forwards in the OHL. However, I think he has potential to develop into a quality offensive blueliner, who can even be a more than adequate defender.

47. Cody Sol - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
At 6'5, 220lbs, Sol has the size NHL scouts drool over. For a man that size, his skating is actually good too. In fact, I would say he tends to use his mobility more to his advantage than his physical strength. He's a solid positional defender whom I think could stand to bully more guys around. That's not saying he isn't physical though, I'm just saying I think he could be even more of a bully on the ice. The problem with Sol lies in his complete lack of offensive game. He can be tentative with the puck and needs to improve his first pass out of the zone. Even in the NHL, stay at home guys need to be able to handle the puck for purposes in their own zone. Sol has potential as a stay at home defenseman, but he needs to improve his skills on the puck.

46. Alex Friesen - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Friesen gets on this list with a very solid playoff performance for the Niagara IceDogs. The undersized forward is beginning to turn into a bit of a pest, getting in the face of opposing players and starting to throw his weight around. If he wants a career at the next level, he needs to continue to be a high energy player. Friesen is also a very good skater and a competent defensive forward. The problem with Friesen is that his offensive game was incredibly streaky this season and I question his ability to put up points long term, due to the fact that his hands haven't quite caught up with his skating ability. But in the playoffs, he took his offensive game to the next level and was consistently one of Niagara's most dangerous forwards, because he played with a constant high energy level. If he can work on bringing an up tempo game to the ice every night, he could develop into a very useful OHL player and perhaps even an NHL prospect.

45. Simon Gronvaldt - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Gronvaldt was a defenseman that caught my attention near the early part of the season. The import from Denmark appeared to be a solid two way defenseman who showed a willingness to join the rush and make a first pass, as well as being able to handle his position defensively. A solid positional defender, Gronvaldt will never be mistaken for a physical defenseman, but he uses his size at 6'2, and skating ability, to keep opposing forwards in check. However, as the season wore on, he didn't really take the step forward you usually see imports take, at least in my opinion. I think he has more offensive potential than he has shown thus far, perhaps he just needs more confidence.

44. Daniel Erlich - Forward - London Knights
At 5'6, 150lbs, Erlich is one of the smallest players in the OHL. However he's also one of the only players at that size taking a regular shift and contributing. And the argument could be made that if he wasn't on a deep London squad, he'd be contributing even more. Erlich was a consistent offensive player for London this year and has outstanding hands and offensive instincts. He's a good skater who's elusive and tends to manage to not let his size hurt him a lot. He's willing to go into the danger areas and isn't afraid of anyone. Next season, with some graduations in London, I expect Erlich to become one of the top scorers for London and perhaps even the OHL. At 5'6, he has the odds against him for an NHL career, but you have to think he's going to keep pushing.

43. Chris Perugini - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Near the beginning of the season, I was much more confident in Perugini's chances of getting drafted. Now, I can't say the same. As the season went along, I think he began to get exposed. At 5'10, Perugini already has the cards stacked against him for being an undersized netminder. However, he has other problems too. In particular, his rebound control is just atrocious. He gives out rebounds like a broken gumball machine. This has lead to a tendency to scramble in his crease, where he then begins to make himself look a lot smaller in the net. On the plus size, he's incredibly athletic and very mobile. He does anticipate the play well and does a good job of challenging shooters to try and make himself look bigger. If he can cut down on the rebounds and the flopping, he could be fine. But he needs some work, and because of that, I'm not sure I see him getting drafted this year.

42. Scott Valentine - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Valentine is a player who's really jumped up a lot of draft lists lately. He went from being a seldom used defenseman in London to a top 4 defenseman in Oshawa after the Tavares trade. In Oshawa, Valentine began to show the things that got him drafted in the second round by London in 2007. He has the ability to bring the puck up the ice, contribute offensively and actually throws his body around and isn't afraid to drop the mitts. I think there is a lot of mystery surrounding him since he didn't get much ice time this year. I myself only saw him play once this year, and didn't really notice him other than the few things I've mentioned. Thus I can't rank him any higher than around this level. However, I'd expect a few NHL teams may have zeroed in on him (NHL Central Scouting has him 24th for OHL players) and he could go higher than many of the players I've ranked ahead of him.

41. Marc Zanetti - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Zanetti is a player I was very high on for most of the season. A 6'0, 200lbs defenseman who hits hard, wins battles in the corners, can skate adequately, run the powerplay and make a good first pass. I'm thinking, this guy is a solid prospect. However, similar to a guy like Kyle Pereira, this OHL rookie seemed to hit a wall around the later part of the season. I saw him a few times at the end of the season and then as well in the playoffs, and he was just atrocious every time. His puck skills appeared to vanish, he had been taken off the powerplay, he was taking stupid, undisciplined penalties due to lazyness and poor positioning. He just wasn't the same defenseman I was so impressed with at the beginning of the year. That being said, knowing that he was good at one time, and that he was an OHL rookie, you have to think he's got the potential to reach that level consistently and improve. So don't give up on him yet.

40. Bjorn Krupp - Defense - Belleville Bulls
I haven't been much of a fan the entire season, and this can be attested to by my previous ranking and game reports. However, I see the allure to him. He has the bloodlines and he's a more than competent defensive player who will take the body. As a stay at home defenseman, I don't expect him to be lighting up the scoreboard, however I do expect him to be able to handle the puck. He looks timid in making passes and will often opt to chop it out of the zone instead of regrouping or making a pass. In todays NHL, even stay at home defenseman have to be able to make solid passes out of the zone to stay with the pace, and I just don't see Krupp being able to do that. I will say one thing though, in the playoffs he was playing a quietly effective game and his puck skills did look somewhat improved. However, I'm just not blown away here.

39. Andrew Shaw - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
I'm not going to lie, this kid is one of my favourite players in the OHL. He's a treat to watch. He'll drop the gloves with anyone and is completely fearless. He hits hard, he gets under the skin of opposing players, he skates well and hard, and he's not that undersized at pushing 6'0. He played on the 4th line for most of the year, but anytime he was asked to take an increased role, he took full advantage of it, especially in the playoffs. But I absolutely feel that this kid's offensive skills and potential are a lot higher than the point totals he put up this year. He drives to the net with the puck on his stick and uses his body to protect it. He also works the cycle well and is actually a very good playmaker. If he didn't spend most of the season with guys on the 4th with no hands, he might have been able to double his assist total. I see a lot of potential in this kid as a pest with offensive flare. Another point in his favor is that he's one of the youngest players eligible for this draft and only played his first season in the OHL from Tier 2. He's going to get stronger and better at the game he likes to play.

38. Paul Bezzo - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Bezzo is a smart, stay at home defenseman who uses his size well to bully around opponents. At 6'2, 190lbs, he isn't exactly your prototypical size for an NHL stay at home defenseman, but he has the skill to be. His skating is good for his size and he does an excellent job of shutting down the oppositions forwards. He's impoved his first pass too and does a good job of handling the puck in his own zone. My concern is that he's not the biggest guy in the world for the type of game he plays. So while he plays it well in the OHL, at 6'2, is he going to be able to transfer his physical shut down defender role to the NHL where the average forward now a days, is his size. And if he can't, does he have the necessary other skills to be able to play a different role? This concern makes me drop him in my ranking.

37. Jordan Mayer - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
I like Jordan Mayer as a player. Nearly everytime I've seen him play, I've come away impressed. He is a great skater who is not afraid to be the first guy in the zone battling for the puck, despite his size at 5'10. He has good all around offensive skills and appears to be a solid teammate. So why is he so low on my list? I'm just not sure where to place him in terms of NHL potential. I'm not sure he's skilled enough to play in the top 6 of an NHL team, but he also doesn't bring other intangibles to the table which make him an attracive bottom 6 forward. He needs to become more of a complete player and develop a niche, while continuing to improve his offensive production. While he is aggressive on the forecheck, he isn't a very effective player in the cycle, nor does he throw his body around. He also could stand to improve defensively. If he works on developing intangible skills and he takes a step forward offensively, I could see him becoming a potential NHL prospect, but as of right now, I can't help but see him as more of a tweener.

36. Tyler Hostetter - Defense - Erie Otters
A slighly undersized defenseman at 5'11, Hostetter is a tremendous skater who has the ability to rush the puck up the ice with ease. He isn't afraid to join the rush either, relying on his speed to get him back to the defensive zone. Defensively, he shows promise and is improving his positioning and anticipation. He is rough around the edges though. He can tend to pinch at the wrong times, and he has a tendency to get lazy at the defensive end and play the puck instead of the man. However, he has the offensive skill package you like to see in the NHL today. Considering he showed improvement over the course of the season, you have to believe he's going to continue to get better.

35. Michael Fine - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound
Fine was definitely one of the biggest OHL fallers for the draft this year. He started the year off pretty well and was considered to be among one of the top 15 players available from the OHL by many scouts. However the combination of playing for such a crappy Greyhounds team and his own offensive inconsistencies saw him drop considerably. He went from being the 10th ranked skater by CSB at the beginning of the year, to the 26th on the final. When he's on his game, Fine can be an effective offensive forward who forechecks hard and drives to the net. He also has some pest qualities about him and can get under the skin of opposing players. However, he just isn't able to contribute consistently. Unfortunately, he left the Under 18 Canadian team before the start of the tournament due to apparently family issues. This was of course unfortunate because he could have been able to increase his draft stock with a solid performance.

34. Michael Zador - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Another piece to the Tavares trade, Zador needed a fresh start after the former highly thought of prospect fell out of favor in London. Zador is wildly inconsistent and is very raw, but likely saved his draft stock with an excellent performance for team Canada at the Under 18's where he was a surprising starter. He is athletic and makes a good first save, but I have questions about his ability to anticipate the play and become the type of goaltender you depend on to help you win games. He also needs to work on his rebound control. So while I think he did raise his draft stock at the Under 18's, after a pretty bad year in the OHL, I wouldn't go claiming he's the next Jake Allen or anything. He still has a lot of question marks and remains a longshot at best.

33. Andrew Agozzino - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
I'll throw my hands up on this one. I absolutely do not understand the lack of draft support Agozzino is generating. Sure he's undersized a 5'9, but he's stocky and doesn't get pushed arounda lot. He's an above average skater who loves to get close to the net and isn't afraid to throw his body around. He's also got a very good shot, which he used to score 27 goals this year and lead Niagara in scoring both in the regular season and playoffs. On top of that, he penalty kills and isn't afraid to due the little things on the ice. Now granted, I do have concerns over his offensive potential at the next level due to some hockey sense questions, but he gives his all out on the ice and he produces. I think he has a shot at a pro career as an energy player.

32. Luke Judson - Forward - Belleville Bulls
Judson impressed me everytime I saw him this season. He doesn't get a lot of ice time, but makes the most of what he does get. He works hard and is very aggressive on the forecheck. He plays a lot bigger than he looks and drives hard to the net, showing good strength with the puck. I think that he has the potential to be a good player in this league. Over the course of the season he really improved and started to get more and more ice time from George Burnett. I think an NHL team would be smart to draft him with a late pick, as he'll look to make a bigger impact for Belleville next season with the departure of Tangradi, Cameron, Tanaka, Palmieri, and Mashinter.

31. William Wallen - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
The fact that we are still talking about Wallen as a draft prospect is a miracle in itself, since we almost lost him due to a brain aneurysm earlier this season. However, the undersized forward battled hard and returned to the ice after Christmas, continuing what he started before the incident, which was being an important producer of secondary offense for St. Mike's. This little guy is a wizard with the puck and he bounces all over the ice and involves himself in every play. However, I have some concerns. For one, his skating just isn't as great as I like to see from a severely undersized forward like himself. In particular, his acceleration is not great, which means he's going to have trouble seperating himself from defenders at the next level. Perhaps, he needs that offseason of training to get his legs back under him after missing so much time, but regardless I believe it to be the reason he's currently unranked by CSB. That being said, he had a very good Under 18's and showed his ability to compete with the best of his peers. Hopefully he returns to Mississauga next season and is able to be among their scoring leaders, drafted or not drafted.

Stay tuned for players 30-11 tomorrow!

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