Monday, May 17, 2010

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft - Part 1: 50-31

It's that time of the year, and I'm sure a lot of you readers have been waiting for this. I'm unveiling my final list for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. I've had two previous lists this season, a preliminary one (here), and a midterm one (here). This is the finished product.

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 Darren Archibald or Luke Judson. 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 order the McKeen's Draft Guide (here). Our pal and McKeen's scouting director/editor David Burstyn has told me the guide should be ready this week or next.

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

50. Alex Aleardi - Forward - Belleville Bulls
The trade to Belleville was the perfect marriage for Aleardi. Speed meet olympic ice. While he started slowly with his new team, Aleardi actually averaged close to a point per game over the last two and a half months of the season. With the increased ice time in Belleville, came increased confidence in his offensive abilities. The scoring chances he was creating using his speed on the forecheck were finding the back of the net with increasing consistency. He's still undersized at around 5'9, but he has legit wheels and a developing all around game. I see Aleardi as this year's Alex Friesen. Perhaps a long shot at an NHL draft ticket (I had Friesen ranked 46th last year) this season, but with a dedication to getting stronger and working on his shot, he could definitely catch someone's attention down the line.

49. Michael Kantor - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Only saw him once this year, but was mildly impressed with what I saw. Kantor is a mean customer who came over from the NAHL at around mid season. He was billed as a pure enforcer, and lived up to that billing and more. He managed to put up 12 points in 29 games with the Spirit, pro-rated to about a 28 point season. If he plays the entire year in the OHL, he's probably rated even higher. While he's not THAT big at 6'1, he's definitely mean, can throw the body around and seems to have a bit of an underdeveloped offensive ability to match a strong work ethic. He looks like an enforcer/power forward prospect somebody could take a chance on.

48. Reid McNeil - Defense - London Knights
Undoubtedly a very raw player, McNeil was actually playing high school hockey last year in the London area. He definitely possesses some qualities that makes him endearing to NHL scouts. For one, he's a blueliner with good size (6'3) who can actually skate. Defensively he looks composed too and is able to play both off the rush and in zone coverage. You'd like to see him use his size more, but I think that could come with added strength and confidence. Offensively, he's very raw. He'll have some difficulties with the forecheck and can struggle with his breakout pass, but I do think there is some hidden ability to carry the puck. When the game opens up a bit, he doesn't hesitate to use his mobility to bring the puck up ice. He just doesn't do it very often, which can probably be related to a lack of confidence or comfort. Some potential for sure though.

47. Colin MacDonald - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
A pretty similar player to McNeil in London. Big defenseman, very mobile and solid defensively, but incredibly raw offensively. I was quite impressed with MacDonald's ability to defend off the rush this season. He's not a physically aggressive defender, but is efficient in using his size and length to keep forwards to the outside. Offensively, he'll need to improve his ability to transition to the offensive game quickly. NHL teams are looking for those defenders who can make a good first pass out of the zone, in order to start play up the other way. But you can't overlook a big defender with good mobility.

46. Joe Rogalski - Defense - Sarnia Sting
At this time last year, Rogalski was being talked about as a potential top three round pick for 2010. One mediocre year later on a terrible team and things have changed. As a late 1991, Rogalski was playing in his third OHL season and more was expected of him. Many of the things that plagued him in his first two seasons, continued to do so this year. Poor decisions with the puck and with jumping into the rush. Inconsistent play defensively. Lazy penalties in the defensive zone. But he's got good size, good wheels and the ability to carry the puck. Playing on such a bad team as a defenseman can often make it very hard to get yourself noticed in your draft year, but I think Rogalski's frame and potential get him a look in the later rounds.

45. Scott Wedgewood - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers
Many would argue that Wedgewood's heroic 70 save performance against Windsor in game four of this year's second round of the playoffs was enough to get him drafted. Wedgewood played second fiddle to Matt Hackett, but next year he'll be battling Matt Mahalak for the starter's spot. Because of his lack of exposure, many people are comparing Wedgewood to Steve Mason in his draft year with London where he was back up to Adam Dennis. Wedgewood is also one of the youngest players available for the draft (with a mid August birthday), which means his best days are ahead of him. Wedgewood is also already pretty technically sound. He controls his rebounds well, challenges shooters and plays a pretty safe game. He might go higher than we think.

44. Ryan O'Connor - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Is he 5'9? Is he 5'11? Who do you believe. Just watching him, O'Connor definitely seems closer to the 5'9 listing the OHL has him at. But he's definitely skilled offensively. He controls the point on the powerplay very well and has a cannon of a shot. I felt like he actually had a pretty decent Under 18's for Canada recently too, one of the few players you can say that about. He's not a completely soft player either, which is a nice compliment to his lack of size. That being said, anytime you're dealing with a defender at his height, you have to wonder about his ability to play professional hockey. There's a reason Brian Rafalski is the comparison every undersized defenseman receives (because there aren't many at that level). Central Scouting didn't even rank him, which I felt was a tad harsh, but you still have to wonder about the size issue hurting him.

43. Riley Brace - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Brace is a heart and soul winger who does a little bit of everything well. Not to many players as part of this 31-50 list can say they played on their team's number one line for the majority of the season. Brace developed great chemistry with Casey Cizikas and Devante Smith Pelly this season and that bodes well for his production next year as St. Mike's could be likely to keep that line together. Brace also impressed by having a very strong playoffs for the Majors, where he definitely elevated his game to that next level. He's solid both ways; he's aggressive in going to the net looking for loose pucks; he's an above average skater and I think he has the potential to develop a more consistent physical game. I was a little bit shocked he didn't appear anywhere on Central Scouting's final list, as I think he's better than that.

42. Michael Sgarbossa - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
After the trade from Barrie (the Brodie/Crawford deal), Sgarbossa's production definitely went down from the point per game he was averaging in Barrie, but it didn't dip THAT low as he still managed about 0.67 points per game in Saginaw. Sgarbossa is an intelligent offensive player. He knows where to be on the ice and is a quality playmaker. He's a little bit undersized, but he's not soft and will enter high traffic areas for the puck. I think problem I have with him (as opposed to CSS who has him ranked 28th), is that I think his speed and acceleration hold him back. They aren't terrible, but for a player his size they need to be improved. I felt like the Under 18's really showcased this for the worse, as he was given less time and space to create.

41. Michael Houser - Goaltender - London Knights
The tale of Michael Houser has two parts. The first part, at the beginning of the OHL season, where he was sensational as an OHL rookie. Then the second part, as the season progressed, where Houser began to look awkward in net and had some difficulty stopping pucks. I've heard from some London fans that management was toying with his goaltending style, trying to turn him into a purely positional goaltender, as opposed to the rough around the edges hybrid that came from the USHL. Maybe that can explain some of the awkwardness he displayed by season's end. Being a back up could have had something to do with this inconsistency too, as he was never able to get back into a groove after bit of a rough November and December.

40. Corey Durocher - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Durocher is a player I was quite impressed with this year. Statistically, he didn't have an amazing year and he was incredibly hot and cold. But he possesses some real promising qualities. First off, he's got ideal size for the center position at 6'3, and he skates very well for a forward that big. He can create both off the rush, and by winning battles down low. I think he's also developing a physical game and showed signs of becoming a physical player at times this season. He's also a pretty solid two way forward at this point in time, who is responsible on the backcheck. The only real negative is the inconsistency, which I think can be attributed to two things. One being a lack of strength. It was his first season in the OHL and he needs to add beef to that lanky frame. Two being ice time, as this fluctuated as the Fronts went through their motions this season. I think he's got potential to improve.

39. Josh Shalla - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Shalla had a very strong season this year, his third in the OHL. As a late birthday 1991, Shalla has the benefit of one extra year of development and he utilized that to his advantage. He jumped from 14 goals and 20 points last year, to 32 goals and 65 points this year. Shalla is one of those guys who you watch play and don't really notice until he's put two in the net. He's definitely got an NHL caliber shot and his offensive instincts are strong. But he's not a strong skater and this prevents him from being more 'visible' on the ice. He's obviously elusive and smart enough to find open space for offensive opportunities, but can he do that at the next level? Would I draft him? Absolutely. Would I draft him in the first three rounds? No.

38. Matt Petgrave - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
At times I wonder if I'm the only one who sees Petgrave as an NHL prospect. CSS doesn't rank him. In my interview with David Burstyn, he doesn't speak highly of him. But when I watch him play, I see a lot of potential. It was only his first year in the OHL (after playing major midget last year), and he improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the season. Let's talk about the bad first. Petgrave is still prone to making poor decisions with the puck in his own zone and has yet to find that comfort level of when to bring the puck up the ice. He's also inconsistent in his own zone and can get caught out of position trying to go for the big hit. Now the positives. Petgrave is a very good skater and when he chooses to, can bring the puck into the offensive zone with ease. He also made large strides in quarterbacking the powerplay this year. Petgrave is also not afraid to play the body and became one of the league's most feared open ice hitters this year. He's very raw, but he has the natural athletic ability NHL teams look for from the back end. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of how T.J. Brodie looked in his first season with Saginaw and that's definitely a compliment.

37. Andrew Crescenzi - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Even if the offensive stats don't show or support it, I feel like few players on this list improved as much as Crescenzi this season. He's an absolute behemoth out there at 6'4 and he uses his size really well. He's already a monster along the boards and works the cycle really well. His skating isn't great, but I felt like it did improve this season. This bodes well for it improving moving forward. That being said, when he does get going, he's hard to stop at that size and as the season progressed he gained a lot of confidence in his ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone as opposed to just dumping and retrieving. He's a really smart player too and is already an above average defensive player. In fact, I'd go as far as saying he's one of the best defensive forwards available from the OHL this year. Moving forward it depends on how his skating and offensive production improves, but I think he's well worth the gamble.

36. J.P. Anderson - Goaltender - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
After such a strong rookie season and playoff performance, much was expected of Anderson this season. And he just did not have a strong year...until the playoffs again where he saved a little face by playing pretty well. As an undersized goaltender, I think teams really began to pick apart Anderson's faults this year and his confidence level dipped a bit. While he challenges shooters and attempts to make himself big in net, he's still susceptible to high shots because he'll cheat into the butterfly. His rebound control didn't improve a whole lot this year either and he was giving up way too many second chance opportunities. On the plus size, I'm not sure there's a goaltender in the draft who has as quick of pads as Anderson. When he's on his game, he's nearly unbeatable down low and has excellent agility in the crease. This natural athletic ability makes him an intriguing prospect, even if he had a bit of a down year.

35. Brandon Alderson - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Alderson is a very intriguing player to me. Throughout much of the first part of the season, he was one of Sarnia's main offensive weapons. At 6'4, he skates very well and is very fluid. He has the ability to take the puck to the net and the acceleration to beat defenders one on one. He's also got a pretty good wrist shot and looks like he could develop into a goal scorer. For as much as he improved over the first part of the season, he stalled and disappeared in the second part. For whatever reason, Alderson was a ghost for the second half. Maybe it was conditioning (it was his first OHL season), confidence or some combination of the two, but Alderson had only one goal in his final 20 games. That being said, as the old adage goes, 6'4 wingers who can skate don't grow on trees. Especially ones who have shown an ability to puck the puck in the net. Definitely a raw projection selection for an NHL team.

34. Cameron Wind - Defense - Brampton Battalion
It's easy to see why Central Scouting has been so high on Wind over the course of this season. Wind possesses good size, good mobility, a developing aggressive nature and an untapped offensive potential. Having seen Wind more earlier this season and then again towards the end of the year, I can appreciate the improvements in his game. This is especially true offensively, where he looked much more confident in his ability to move the puck up ice, using his smooth skating stride to enter the zone. He's already a pretty sound defensive player, but he became increasingly more physical as the year went along too. Definitely a player to watch going forward.

33. Sam Carrick - Forward - Brampton Battalion
Carrick may not have the ideal size for the type of game he plays (5'11), but that doesn't stop him from excelling at it. His offensive game was wildly inconsistent this season, but his physical game did not suffer. Carrick will finish his checks, drop the gloves and go hard to the net looking for a loose puck. He has developed into a very aggressive player...a sometimes undisciplined one even. But when he spends a little more time focusing on offense, he can be a very effective player. He is not tall, but he is strong and already has the strength to take the puck to the net and win battles in the corners. He's also a committed defensive forward and is developing into a very well rounded player. I think next year we'll see much improved offensive statistics from Carrick, as he becomes the new face of the Battalion offense next year.

32. Gregg Sutch - Forward - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Even with his offensive and injury struggles this season, Sutch is a player I'm very high on. One of the reasons why lies in his character make up. He keeps a blog over at The Hockey News (here) and is a VERY well spoken teenager. He had a very tough year with injuries, including a high ankle sprain, an ankle staph infection, and a shoulder separation. But he fought through all of that and finished the year strong, having what I felt was a strong playoffs for the Majors. A lot was expected from Sutch this season in Missy after coming over from Sarnia in an offseason trade, and as a contributing member of Team Ontario at last year's Under 17's, and Team Canada at last summer's Under 18 Ivan Hlinka tournament, the expectations were justified. Sutch is a big, mean power forward who actually skates very well and has good hands in close. I think that with an offseason of recuperation, he could come back VERY strong next season and begin to make a consistent offensive impact.

31. Petr Mrazek - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Mrazek is your stereotypical Czech netminder. He's definitely someone who grew up idolizing Dominik Hasek. He's a very athletic goaltender who spends a large amount of time on the ice, 'flopping around.' However, it's effective for him. He anticipates the play very well and as such is able to maximize the success he has playing his non traditional style. He had an outstanding OHL playoffs for Ottawa, taking over for Chris Perugini, and showcased an ability to steal hockey games for his team. He'll have to work on refining his approach a little bit, as he can be susceptible high, but you can't teach the instincts and athletic ability he possesses.

Well folks that's 31-50. Stay tuned sometime this week (hopefully) for Part 2: 30-11.

As always, comments are welcome.

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