Friday, January 20, 2012

Game Report: Storm and Spitfires from January 19

I had such high hopes for this one. A battle between two of the league's youngest and most talented rosters. While things this year have been up and down (due to the inexperience of the team's core players), you'd be hard pressed to a find game featuring more talent available for the 2012 Draft. Between the two teams, they had 14 players listed on Central Scouting's midterm rankings.

But it truly was a stinker. I'm glad I caught this one on t.v. as opposed to being there live as the Spits laid quite an egg. I read that after the game, Bob Boughner said it was among the worst losses he's ever been a part of. Pretty strong words.

The Storm got off to a quick start by scoring two goals in the first three minutes, and four in the first period. They never looked back from there, nearly doubling the shot total of the Spits in the process. Considering how important the game was (the Spits and Storm are among four teams battling for the final three playoff spots in the West), you'd have to worry about the effort level of Windsor. The final score was 6-0 for Guelph.

Guelph Storm

#3 - Andrey Pedan (Drafted by the New York Islanders)
I continue to be impressed with Pedan this season. I think he's definitely a solid pro prospect. His biggest asset is definitely his mobility in combination with his size and physicality. He's a very in your face player and was all over the Spits tonight, taking away time and space. But his offensive game has really improved this year, especially his confidence in rushing the puck. He's a very dangerous puck carrier because he's very strong on the puck and hard to strip once he gets going at full speed. One of his rushes lead to Scott Kosmachuk's 2nd period goal, where he took the puck from his own zone, blew past Alex Khokhlachev and fed a streaking Kosmachuk at the blueline (where Kosmachuk fired home a wrist shot once entering the zone). The last couple of times I've seen him, he's cut down on some of the undisciplined penalties too. But I'm told that this is still a bit of an issue at times. When he finds that happy medium between smart aggression and over aggression, he's at his best.

#4 - Matt Finn (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Had a really terrific game, showcasing his talents at both ends of the ice. Offensively, he was solid. He did a good job of moving the puck and is very poised with the puck in his own zone. When the Spits still had some fight in them in the first half of the game, he shook off the forecheck with ease, and never had any issues skating the puck out of trouble. On the powerplay, he has great vision and is a terrific playmaker. This was showcased on the last first period powerplay for the Storm. Finn took the puck at the point and fired a hard pass to an open Francis Menard near the faceoff dot, who then found Mitchell in the slot for the goal. Defensively, his most impressive play was definitely his breakup of an Alex Khokhlachev breakaway in the first. The Khok snuck behind the defense, but Finn hustled back (showcasing great closing speed) and lifted Khokhlachev's stick at the last second, stealing the puck away from him before he even got a shot away. The fact that he didn't have to take a penalty on the play was fantastic. Finn is inching ever so close to Cody Ceci for me in the race for the league's top draft eligible d-man.

#8 - Zach Leslie (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Had an absolutely fantastic game. I'm not sure he's as good as Craig Button thinks he is (been ranked in Button's top 50 for the better part of two months), but he's definitely better than CSS thinks he is (NHL Central Scouting didn't rank him). He's very cool with the puck and I think he's got a strong head on his shoulders when it comes to the offensive side of the game. I really liked how he got his point shot towards the net in the game. He got one assist from this (and should have had a second). In the first, he walked the line and fired a low hard shot on net, which Tyler Bertuzzi redirected past Jaroslav Pavelka. Later in the period, it was nearly an identical play, except this time his shot bounced around near the crease until Justin Auger cleaned up the garbage. He was also a little more physical than I had seen him previously. Leslie actually got into a fight with Kerby Rychel in the third after he was all over Rychel as he tried to carry the puck over the blueline and towards the net. After finishing him off along the boards, a visibly frustrated Rychel dropped the mitts. It wasn't a long fight, and Leslie was mostly hanging on for life, but it showed gumption. Leslie's defensive game is still a little bit raw, but he's turning into a real diamond in the rough for this draft.

#19 - Hunter Garlent (Draft Eligible in 2013)
Honestly, outside of Aaron Ekblad, I'm not sure there has been a more impressive 2011 draft pick in the league this year. I'm really not sure about his NHL draft ranking at this point, because he's a little guy, but he's certainly impressive. Garlent actually reminds me a lot of how Gemel Smith looked last year. He's so noticeable because of how hard he works on and off the puck. He may be small and young, but he's fearless of high traffic areas and loves to get his nose dirty. Look no farther than him taking Nick Ebert to school along the boards in the first period, coming away with the puck and driving to the net for a flying, crease crashing goal. He seems to be a really smart player too and I think profiles well as a skilled playmaker.

#20 - Justin Auger (Draft Eligible in 2012)
I really like this kid and he's sneaking very close to my top 30 for the draft. He's got 6 goals and 3 assists in his last 9 games and is really coming into his own in the league. Best of all, he's a legit 6'7 and could stand to add more size to his frame. Auger is a really interesting player because he's not really your typical 6'7 forward. He uses his size to his advantage, but he's definitely not what I would call an in your face behemoth. So while he's not out there laying bone crushing hits, he uses his size to his advantage in the offensive zone. Especially in the cycle game, and in driving hard to the net. Every time I've seen him, he's been noticeable because of how well he works the boards down low and uses that big stick to dig out pucks and keep the play alive. His line with Tyler Bertuzzi and Ryan Horvat really tired out the Spits defense in the first couple of periods with their puck possession game. He also scored in the first, taking a pass from Tyler Bertuzzi in a goal mouth scramble and taping it into the back of the net. On the play, he beat Nick Ebert to the front of the net, showing how hard he is to move from his desired path. His skating isn't really all that bad either. Kind of wide and awkward looking, but he seems to find space relatively easy. If he keeps up a point per game pace for the rest of the year, there's no way he'll be taken where CSS currently has him ranked.

#23 - Zack Mitchell (Draft Eligible in 2012, second year eligibility)
Every other time I've seen Mitchell this season, I haven't really noticed him (to be honest), despite the fact that he leads Guelph in scoring. But he was definitely noticeable in this game. I was impressed by how he kept plays alive in the offensive zone with his stick handling ability. The Spits had a really tough time taking the puck off him as he had a real elusive/slippery quality about him. His two points showcased his high skill level too. On his first period goal, he took a quick pass in the slot from Francis Menard and quickly buried a wrist shot top shelf on John Cullen (who had replaced Pavelka). The puck wasn't on his stick long and he got a lot of mustard on the shot. In 2nd, he drew an assist after getting partial breakway and driving hard to the net. He was stopped, but Menard was there to clean up his garbage. Playing for a guy like Scott Walker is only going to help him round out his game (away from the puck and defensively), so you have to like his chances of getting drafted this year.

#24 - Scott Kosmachuk (Draft Eligible in 2012)
There's no denying that I love the way this kid plays the game. I went so far as to put him ahead of Jarrod Maidens in my midterm rankings. He's a really solid north/south kind of guy who plays both ends of the ice and has the skill the create and finish scoring chances. Most impressive on the night was his defensive play actually. He had a couple really nice plays coming back to tie up Windsor forwards to prevent scoring chances and won nearly all of his battles along the boards in his own end. He scored in the 2nd period on a wrist shot, although it wasn't the prettiest of plays. He took a pass from Andrey Pedan, cruised into offensive zone, cut to the middle to unleash a shot, but fanned on it. This actually helped him out because defender Adam Bateman overcommited on the play, so when he fanned on the shot, he actually found himself open in the slot with the puck still on his stick. Then he fired a low wrister through Cullen. He also earned an assist on Hunter Garlent's first period goal.

#40 - Garret Sparks (Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs)
Sparks was solid on the night. To be honest, he wasn't really tested a ton. But he did a good job of making sure Windsor didn't get themselves back in the game. Particularly impressive was his handling of the rebounds...or lack there of. He swallowed up the puck and looked good squaring up shooters from the point. Sparks has progressed well this year with increased ice time and looks like a solid selection by the Leafs. Next year will be a big test for him, when the Storm have a chance to be one of the better teams in the West.

Windsor Spitfires

A disclaimer before the Windsor reports. Definitely a hard game to give a ton of positive feedback about, so most of the Windsor reports are going to be pretty bleak or short.

#12 - Ben Johnson (Draft Eligible in 2012)
I felt like he and Brady Vail were probably the two best Spitfires on the night. He had a couple of noticeable shifts in the first couple of periods, where he kept the Storm pinned in their own zone by working hard along the boards. He's a noticeably quick skater and a hard worker away from the puck. Not really much else to say on the night.

#16 - Kerby Rychel (Draft Eligible in 2013)
Wasn't really noticeable in a good or bad way. Had a tough time finding space to operate offensively on the night and took his frustration out on Zach Leslie in a third period scuffle.

#17 - Michael Clarke (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Really didn't have a good game. In fact, Clarke has been going through a really tough stretch the past couple of months. He's got only a goal and an assist in his last 17 games and is a -11 through that. After such a strong start, it's possible he's hitting a wall in his first full OHL season. He was a -3 in this game...and was actually on for four goals against (one was a powerplay goal). The powerplay goal by Mitchell was actually a direct result of a poor play by Clarke. When Mitchell received a pass in the slot, Clarke was slow to tie him up and really didn't do much to prevent him from getting his shot off. Offensively, he really didn't do much at all. If he doesn't start picking up his game, he'll really begin to tumble down the draft charts in the 2nd half.

#22 - Nick Ebert (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Ebert was visible for all the wrong reasons on the night. The last time I saw Windsor play, it looked like he was starting to turn the corner a bit. But he was...really quite bad in the Guelph game. Three of Guelph's 6 goals could be directly tied to him. In the first, he was muscled off the puck in the corner by the 5'9 Hunter Garlent, who then escaped his clutches to take the puck hard to the net uninterrupted for a goal. Also in the first period, he failed to tie up Justin Auger as he drove to the net for a goal on a goal mouth scramble. Lastly, in the 2nd period he got caught out of position and Zack Mitchell broke in for a partial breakway. Ebert did well to get back, but didn't tie up Mitchell enough to prevent him from getting off a shot. Offensively, it was much of what I saw in the first couple of months of the season. A lot of forced long passes that failed to connect, and rushes up the ice that saw him create little. The biggest thing that has disappointed me about Ebert this year has been the disappearance of his physical game. Last year, he came into the league as a 16 year old not afraid of pushing bodies around in front of the net and capable of laying out bodies in the defensive zone. This year, I just haven't seen that element to his game.

#61 - Chris Marchese (Draft Eligible in 2012)
Invisible. Pretty clear the consistency issues that plagued him in Erie have followed him to Windsor. I know Windsor fans have been quick to point out that he may have conditioning/endurance issues. I saw nothing tonight to dispute that.

#89 - Alex Khokhlachev (Drafted by the Boston Bruins)
I kind of felt bad for the Khok in this game. He came out with a fair amount of energy and I felt like he was one of the only Spits to actually create things offensively in the first. But after he had that breakaway attempt thwarted by Finn in the first period, things kind of went downhill. He was less and less noticeable until he let Andrey Pedan go by him in the neutral zone late in the 2nd period. This obviously resulted in the aforementioned goal by Kosmachuk. From then on out, I don't think he saw much ice time then was apparently sent to the dressing room to sit out the third.

#97 - Brady Vail (Draft Eligible in 2012)
As I alluded to earlier, I felt like he and Ben Johnson were probably the best Spit forwards on the night. Vail looked good along the boards and on the cycle and had a few shifts where it looked like he might be close to getting Windsor on the board.

Unfortunately Tanner Richard and Brandon Devlin weren't playing in the game, as I would have loved to get another look at both of them. Richard is nursing some minor injuries, while Devlin has been suspended (controversially) for his apparently degrading marks towards Guelph's Tyler Bertuzzi.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chat With McKeen's Draft Guide Guru David Burstyn

Recently, I had a chance to chat with the scouting director of McKeen's hockey, David Burstyn. David is a current OHL scout and a former NHL scout (for the Atlanta Thrashers) who is always great to talk to about the draft and provides some insightful information. If you frequent the blog, we've talked to David in the past and it's terrific to bring him back into the fold.

Of course, David's McKeen's produces one of the best Draft Guide's on the market and you'll find some information below on how to order it. One thing is for certain, now is a great time to be a fan of amateur hockey and the NHL Draft, with the bevy of terrific publications out there for purchase. Everyone always talks about how The Hockey News' Draft Issue has gone down hill in recent years. But what people a lot of people don't realize is how many terrific products there are out there now. Between blog friends McKeen's and Future Considerations (Dan Stewart, Aaron Vickers, and Sean LaFortune), along with places like Redline and Hockey Prospect, there are a vast amount of draft guides available for your purchase and worth every penny (if you're draft junkie like myself).

Here's a transcript of what Dave and I had to talk about:

Brock Otten: "It’s probably best to start off by asking you a question about the top candidate for first overall this year, Nail Yakupov. Why is he such a special talent?"

David Burstyn: "Yakupov can break open a game as his offensive hockey sense is the strongest in the draft. He has been playing ahead of his age group internationally for quite some time but really helped to solidify his stock following a terrific OHL rookie season in which he beat Steven Stamkos record for most goals by a Sting rookie. Yakupov has all the tools NHL teams covet in terms of skating and his ability to manufacture offence. He showed last year and this year that he would not be intimidated by the OHL as there is also push-back in his game. He used the WJC tournament as a forum to showcase layers to his game with a tournament high 9 assists in the WJC (surprisingly no-goals) and was arguably the best player against Canada as he set-up each one of Kuznetsov’s goals. His durability has been a slight concern for NHL teams but he has a good foundation to add weight and should be able to bulk up next year. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Kane both weighed less than him in their draft years. Yakupov has the complexion of young Ilya Kovalchuk, a player who loves to score and can at will."

BO: "Hypothetically speaking, if Alex Galchenyuk doesn’t tear up his knee, does he compete with Nail (and Grigerenko for that matter) for first overall?"

DB: "I have an advantage as I was part of the scouting staff in Sarnia that drafted Alex first overall and saw him play quite often as a member of the Chicago Young Americans and last year in his OHL rookie season. Galchenyuk has elite skills and marries it with a competitive streak that is unrivalled by his peers. In addition to his scoring exploits, as he was the highest scoring 94 in the OHL last season with 83 points in all 68 games, he is an incredibly smart-two player. He simply hates to loose and his training regime is second to none as he is very committed off ice. There is speculation that he may return at the end of February as he is rehabbing his knee twice a day and making special trips to London for treatment. Should he return it would be great for the Sting and the league as he is worth the price of admission."

BO: "So with that in mind, just where do you stand on Galchenyuk? If you’re an NHL team with a top 10 pick, do you draft him?"

DB: "Brett Connolly only played 15 games in his NHL draft year and was selected 6th overall by Tampa. Should Galchenyuk fall outside the top 10, I think one team gets an absolute steal. Galchenyuk had only an average Ivan Hlinka tournament but his accomplishments from last year and his high character level should be enough for him to fall inside the top 10. I know that we will not take him outside of our top 10 ranking and NHL teams that are picking in that range will be keeping close tabs on his recovery."

BO: "The injury bug, as a whole, has been just nasty to the 2012 Draft. I honestly can’t remember a draft year so riddled with serious injury. Whose injury issue concerns you the most. Galchenyuk? Marcantuoni? Koekkoek? Maidens? I mean…lots to choose from!"

DB: "Sadly this problem also exists in the other CHL leagues as Morgan Reilly and Ryan Murray have missed considerable time and Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads is only returning now from concussions. All of these injuries hurt their draft stock and it is hard to pin point one however I think Koekkoek’s injury hurts his team the most and that may be the best pure indicator as to who is most valuable. I was fortunate to see Peterborough often in the first few months to get reads on Koekkoek. He came into the season with considerable fanfare after a strong showing (as an under-ager) at the U18 in April. He has a lot of ingredients that can make up a player. Maidens injury is not season-ending although he has been battling a concussion since the end of November. Sadly he will have to miss the Top Prospects game as a result but Owen Sound look like they are in good position to make the playoffs so there is time for him to still make an impression."

BO: "Just how much will these injuries affect the rankings of certain guys? I mean, Marcantuoni was having a disappointing season and is now gone for the year."

DB: "Kitchener is such a central location that it is often scouted often and heavily. Marcantuoni came into the season as a top prospect largely in part to his accomplishments as an under-ager when scouts were flocking to see Ryan Murphy and Gabriel Landeskog last season. He did not do himself any favours with his sub-par play this season as a majority of his points were collected on the PP. He is a dimensional skater and shows little to no fear however too many question marks about his offensive hockey sense and durability have come into question. This is the second consecutive time that his season has been cut short to injury. He was also forced to miss the gold medal game at the Hlinka due to concussions. This history of injuries will certainly scare off many teams as he has been unable (at this point) to survive the OHL."

BO: "Just like every other league this year…it seems that the OHL has a plethora of talented defenseman available. At this point, I think Matt Finn and Cody Ceci are starting to separate themselves from the pack…what are your thoughts?"

DB: "I would agree and both are talented players in their own respect but Ceci in my opinion is a better pro prospect. Ceci is currently ranked 17th on our overall list and has continued to get better as the season has worn on. He logs close to 30 minutes a game on the 67’s that are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference. He has all the tools to be an NHL player, size, skill and a booming point shot. The late birth has helped in his development but even last year he was on Hockey Canada’s radar as he played on the U18 squad. Ceci needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and hockey sense however he shows confidence with the puck and generally makes good decisions. Matt Finn has certainly benefitted with the coaching change of Scott Walker and you could see that late last season. He was one of the better defenseman in their opening round playoff loss to Saginaw. This year he has put together a fine offensive season. He plays a good two-way game and is a skilled defenseman as he can do many things well in all three zones, including landing several open ice hits. His size and lack of skating hold him (at this point) just outside of our top 30."

BO: "What’s your position on Tanner Pearson? He certainly seems to have cemented himself as a top 60 selection on most lists."

DB: "I would agree with you Brock! Pearson put up good point totals last season on the second line with Smoskowitz and Beranek. Smoskowitz actually scored 20 goals last season but is no where near those totals this year since Pearson has been shifted to the top unit. Pearson has uncanny offensive hockey sense. He has soft hands and can find the open man with ease. He was piling up the points even when Scheifele was auditioning for the Jets and since Scheifele’s return to Barrie, I would say that the line of Pearson, Scheifele and Telegin is the most dangerous line in the OHL, possibly the entire CHL. Pearson also had the distinction of being the first un-drafted player to play for Team Canada at the WJC since Danny Syvret and fared well in the bronze medal game against the Finns."

BO: "Let’s talk about goaltending. Just how good is Malcolm Subban, and is he candidate to go in the first round?"

DB: "I am a big fan of Subban. It’s hard to believe that he did not start to play the position till he was 12. He is an exceptional athlete whose reflexes, skating, quickness and positioning are one of the best in the draft. With many good goalies emerging it should be interesting to see where Subban ends up however at this point we only have Andrei Vasilevski higher than him on our January lists. Subban covers the net well and is adept at tracking pucks in traffic. Since he is always square to the shooter and remains in the centre of his net at all times. It is uncommon for him to be out of position and as a result he expends little to no energy to make a save which frustrates shooters to no end. Despite the fact that he has missed some time with injuries I do not think that will take away from his natural ability as he has flat out stole games for Belleville and it is not surprising that since he has been injured that Belleville has been playing sub-par hockey."

BO: "Outside of Yakupov (and Galchenyuk), who do you see as the top forward available?"

DB: "Brendan Gaunce would be the next best forward available, but Radek Faska is not that far off. Gaunce offers many intangibles but he is also inconsistent and needs to work harder away from the puck. He has all the attributes that NHL teams covet and will undoubtedly be a better pro than he is a junior as he grows into his body and adds strength. Gaunce is a projection pick that teams will need to be patient with however he does have the size and hockey sense to be a difference maker. Faska approaches the game a little bit differently than Gaunce in that he uses his size down low to make plays. I draw the comparison of a young Tomas Holmstrom when I watch him play as he does so many little things well in traffic and his board play is exceptional."

BO: "But a lot of people seem to be questioning the upside of Brendan Gaunce. I know that I’m high on him and am a believer that he can be more than a “checking line” center. Do you see high end offensive upside?"

DB: "Gaunce would have to play in your top six for you to get the maximum return on investment. In all likelihood he is a top 15 pick at this point and teams drafting a player in that range will look for him to centre one of their top two lines and be a PP player. Gaunce is incredibly gifted with the puck and understands his positioning in the offensive zone. He reads and reacts to plays and anticipates better than his peers. His only issue is his skating at this point however if NHL teams can not make a player bigger, stronger and faster with various off-ice programs designed to improve foot speed and conditioning than they are not doing their job."

BO: "I have to ask you about Nick Ebert. Have you soured on him as much as some of the other scouting agencies have…such as NHL Central Scouting?"

DB: "To be truthful I have not been a fan of Nick Ebert dating back to when I saw him as an under-ager playing for Waterloo of the USHL. I think his high rating with other scouting services was the fact that they simply did not go out to see him play and believed the hype of a player which is the worst thing you can do as a scout. Ebert is dubbed as an offensive defenseman but only has three goals through 44 games and gets ample time on the PP. He can skate into dead-ends with the puck as his puck decisions constantly come into question. Additionally he struggles against bigger, faster players down low due to his lack of size and defensive hockey sense."

BO: "Has there anyone else you’ve been disappointed with this season? Perhaps a few guys who just haven’t taken as large a step forward as you thought they would?"

DB: "Two players come to mind and those would be Chris Marchese of the Windsor Spitfires and Gianluca Curcuruto of the Sault Greyhounds. I liked both of these players in their OHL draft year and they had decent rookie seasons, even though Marchese’s was cut short due to injury after the U17’s. Marchese has the size and skill but lacks the work ethic. He picks his spots and does not always want to make the requisite sacrifices away from the puck. He started the season ok with Erie until the wheels fell off and he was subsequently traded to Windsor. He has fared a little bit better with the Spitfires. He has a great shot but has only managed to score 15 goals thus far in his brief OHL career. His goal total would surely double if he was willing to pay the price to get his shot off but he elects to play the perimeter. Curcuruto has struggled this season and is a woeful -14. He has great feet but his lack of courage at times in defensive situations is unsettling."

BO: "Conversely, who have been the two or three guys who have just blown you away this year…in terms of their growth as players? For me, it’s probably Gemel Smith as I thought it’d take him a little longer to start putting up the kind of offensive numbers he has."

DB: "Gemel was one of the higher point producers in his OHL draft playing on a very poor North York Rangers team. Last year he did not get a chance to be anything more than a shut-down player as the Attack were loaded up front and won the OHL Championship. With several graduations Smith has been given a chance to contribute and has not disappointed this year. I would agree with you that even I was surprised that he is producing at a point a game clip but he gained a considerable amount of confidence playing at the Ivan Hlinka. He is a dimensional skater and can make plays at high rates of speed. He has a tricky release and can converge on loose pucks quickly and has the hand skills and vision to see and make a play. I am a big fan of Joel Wigle of the Ice Dogs. He is a consummate role player who oozes character and will do whatever is asked of him. He is a little raw at this point but he gets buried on a deep Niagara team. Nonetheless Wigle will go hard to the net, fight and more importantly keeps the game simple and gives you honest shifts. Another player who I am impressed with would be Adam Pelech. The youngest of the Pelech group, he may have the most character out of all of them and it shows in his play. He plays upwards to 30 minutes a game on an Erie team that has only won 5 games all year. He competes hard on every shift, finds his outlets and plays in all situations. Pelech is a virtual shoe-in for the U18’s in Brno this year and should be able to show scouts what he can do on a better team."

BO: "Give us a couple of guys to watch in the second half of the year. Guys who people aren’t really talking about right now, but would could really surprise come draft day."

DB: "I have already mentioned Wigle and I think scouts may warm up to him as Niagara should make a deep run into the playoffs especially with the additions they made at the OHL trade deadline. Another player that sticks out for me is Cody Payne. Similar to Wigle in that he gets buried on a deep Plymouth team, who arguably could be the best team in the OHL. Payne competes, fights and has good hand skills. He was unhappy in Oshawa but has found a role in Plymouth and has played admirably in recent weeks. When Rakell and Miller were out for the WJC he stepped in as the number one centre and did not look out of place."

BO: "Last but not least, how can people purchase your draft guide this year?"

DB: "We are really excited to offer our Draft Package this season which includes a January and March Draft Newsletter and our final Draft Guide in May. Our January newsletter is over 20 pages and includes in depth-scouting reports on over 80 players from the WJC and U17. This guide is available now for people who have bought the package and it is immediately sent to them in pdf form. Our March newsletter will feature top performers from all CHL leagues, USHL, Minnesota HS, NCAA and Europe. Finally our May Draft Guide will have a list of 100 prospects with comprehensive scouting reports on them including 25 Honourable Mentions and Sleepers. We will also rank and rate the top 30 for the 2013 draft and the top 10 for the 2014 draft as everyone is always looking forward to the next crop of prospects. The package can be purchased at :


Our scouting reports are incredibly in-depth and scratch the surface of the player to paint an accurate portrayal of them. We offer tremendous insight as we have a team of dedicated scouts who actually go to games and understand what to look for in a prospect. McKeen’s Hockey has been producing an annual yearbook since 1994 and have been the Industry leaders in the world of on-line scouting. Our Draft Package is affordably priced at $30, which when broken down is $10 per guide; a fantastic value for the plethora of information that we include.

Thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I wish I could ask him a million more to be honest. There seems to be so much parity in the draft this year. Something blog friend Dom Tiano talked about recently here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2010 Draft Picks Still Without an NHL Contract

It's the new calendar year and the OHL regular season is well into its second half. It's a perfect time to take a look at what 2010 NHL draft selections have yet to receive their NHL contract. Of course, these players must sign before June 1st, or said NHL team relinquishes their rights (and they go back in the draft or become free agents...depending on their birth date).

Phil Lane - Phoenix Coyotes (52nd overall)
Lane has taken great steps forward offensively this year to go with the in your face, physical, grinding style he brings to the table. With all his intangibles, he could make a solid 3rd/4th line guy. I can't see the Yotes passing on signing him.

Brock Beukeboom - St. Louis Blues (from Tampa) (63rd overall)
The Blues acquired his rights in the Eric Brewer deal, and even with all the injury problems he's had, I think he's taken a step forward this year in Niagara. He's refined his physical approach and is much more disciplined. Defensively, he's looked solid with the Dogs and considering he was a piece of the Brewer deal, I can't see the Blues letting him go.

Scott Wedgewood - New Jersey Devils (84th overall)
A no brainer really. One of the top netminders in the OHL and a member of Team Canada. Considering New Jersey has the oldest netminding duo in the NHL, it would be a good idea to continue to add goaltending prospects.

Austin Levi - Carolina Hurricanes (85th overall)
Another I'd be surprised about if he went unsigned. He's got the size, nastiness and mobility you like to see in NHL defenseman and his defensive game has progressed very well in Plymouth.

Julian Melchiori - Winnipeg Jets (87th overall)
Already playing as an overager after getting sent back by the Jets, you have to wonder if he's in their plans (a carry over draft pick from a previous regime). He's got size and is fairly steady defensively, but his offensive game never really developed as one would have hoped.

Brandon Archibald - Columbus Blue Jackets (94th overall)
Another guy who hasn't really developed into the player many thought he'd become. His numbers have regressed every year. But he does have size and mobility on the back end. Still think he's a longshot to get signed.

Stephen Silas - Colorado Avalanche (95th overall)
I've always been a fan of Silas' game and he's had a solid bounce back year after a disappointing one last year. He has two way potential at the next level. But he isn't the biggest guy and there may be some concern as to what type of player he profiles to become at the NHL level.

Geoffrey Schemitsch - Tampa Bay Lightning (96th overall)
Injuries have really hurt Schemitsch's development in the OHL. He's going to need a big second half with the Oshawa Generals (his new team) in order to get signed I think. Another one of those guys, who I'm not really sure what type of role he'd play in the NHL.

Steven Shipley - Buffalo Sabes (98th overall)
Another guy who just hasn't really progressed in the OHL. He's essentially the same player he was when the Sabres drafted him two years ago. Still inconsistent offensively and doesn't use his size away from the puck as much as he should. Depends on whether the Sabres still see potential in him.

Andrew Yogan - New York Rangers (100th overall)
He's finally healthy and it's showing in Peterborough this year. Mind you, he's playing as an overager, but on many nights he's been Peterborough's best forward. The size and skill package is as alluring as it was on draft day and I'd be surprised if the Rangers didn't sign him.

Gregg Sutch - Buffalo Sabres (143rd overall)
Still a strong, physical checker, but the offensive game never really arrived as many thought it would when he was a highly touted Midget player. He can be an entertaining OHL player to watch (I've always been a fan), but I'd be surprised if he got an NHL contract at this point.

Sam Carrick - Toronto Maple Leafs (144th overall)
Has really taken a step forward this nearly every area. He definitely profiles as an NHL player in the Burke system and I'd be surprised if the Leafs let him go.

Joe Rogalski - Pittsburgh Penguins (152nd overall)
Playing as an overager with the Soo, Rogalski hasn't had a terrific year. He can still have some difficulty defensively, and the offensive game hasn't really progressed from the point it was when he was drafted. I think he's a long shot to get signed.

Corey Durocher - Florida Panthers (153rd overall)
Good size, but the offensive game just never really developed to the point I'm sure Florida was hoping for. And he's not a physical guy or a terrific forechecker, so I don't see his game transitioning well to the NHL level. A project pick that just never really materialized.

Reid McNeill - Pittsburgh Penguins (170th overall)
I think he has a better shot than Rogalski of getting signed by the Pens, but McNeill's game hasn't really developed a whole lot either. He's solid defensively and does have some size, but the offensive game hasn't taken any steps forward really. Is he good enough defensively to be a stay at home guy at the NHL level?

Alex Friesen - Vancouver Canucks (172nd overall)
Even if the Canucks sent him back for an overage year, I think they'd be foolish to let Friesen slip away. He profiles well as a checking line center at the next level because of his speed, tenacity and faceoff capabilities.

*of note Rob Flick has to be signed by Chicago, and Tony DeHart has to be signed by the New York Islanders. Both are former OHL'ers playing on AHL contracts this season.

Any predictions as to which of these guys gets a contract by June 1st?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NHL Central Scouting Releases Midterm Rankings

NHL Central Scouting released it's midterm rankings for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft today.

Below is how players from the OHL stack up.

1. Nail Yakupov (1)
2. Radek Faksa (4)
3. Olli Maatta (6)
4. Brendan Gaunce (11)
5. Matt Finn (15)
6. Cody Ceci (16)
7. Slater Koekkoek (17)
8. Daniel Zharkov (19)
9. Gemel Smith (20)
10. Jarrod Maidens (21)
11. Tanner Pearson (22)
12. Scott Kosmachuk (23)
13. Andreas Athanasiou (24)
14. Brady Vail (32)
15. Thomas Wilson (33)
16. Scott Laughton (40)
17. Matia Marcantuoni (42)
18. Trevor Carrick (45)
19. Dane Fox (48)
20. Ben Johnson (49)
21. Dylan Blujus (52)
22. Adam Pelech (54)
23. Artur Gavrus (56)
24. Tanner Richard (58)
25. Garrett Hooey (61)
26. Chris Tierney (63)
27. Michael Clarke (66)
28. Nick Ebert (70)
29. Max Iafrate (78)
30. Connor Brown (85)
31. Jake Dotchin (88)
32. Chris Marchese (97)
33. Kris Kontos (99)
34. Marcus McIvor (113)
35. Troy Donnay (115)
36. Jesse Graham (119)
37. Matthew Campagna (120)
38. Patrick Watling (121)
39. Chase Hatcher (125)
40. Liam Maaskant (134)
41. Brock McGinn (135)
42. Patrik Machac (147)
43. Gianluca Curcuruto (148)
44. Charlie Dodero (152)
45. Josh Anderson (161)
46. Alex Gudbranson (167)
47. Ty Bilcke (169)
48. Joshua Brown (176)
49. Justin Auger (179)
50. Joel Wigle (182)
51. Brandon Devlin (183)
52. Joseph Blandisi (195)
53. Cody Payne (200)
LV - Alex Galchenyuk
LV - Evan McEneny

1. Malcolm Subban (1)
2. Matt Murray (2)
3. Jake Paterson (5)
4. Daniel Altshuller (7)
5. Frank Palazzese (11)
6. Matej Machovsky (17)
7. Clint Windsor (20)
8. Michael Houser (22)
9. Jaroslav Pavelka (27)
10. Andrew D'Agostini (29)
11. Mike Morrison (32)
12. Keegan Wilson (35)

Links to the full lists can be found here and here

Some general thoughts...

- Galchenyuk's inclusion as a "limited viewing" candidate...right at the end of the first round of North American skates would suggest that Central Scouting still seems him as a first round talent. Kind of odd though, to be honest. I'd say...either actually rank him...or put him at the bottom of the list with Evan McEneny (also out for the year with a knee injury).

- If Scott Laughton continues to play as he has lately, no way he remains at number 16 for the OHL (and number 40 in NA) on the final list. Way too complete of a player with offensive talent to be that low.

- Nick Ebert's ranking should come as no surprise seeing as CSS lift him outside the top 25 of the OHL on the preliminary list. At this point, I think it's safe to assume Ebert has dropped himself out of contention for the first round.

- Gianluca Curcuruto's ranking really jumped out at me. He's had a disappointing season, but that seems a bit low to me.

- Brandon Devlin also got a low ranking. He's got too much potential at both ends of the ice to be that low IMO.

- Interesting that Eric Locke didn't get ranked. He's number 27 on my list. Locke's lack of ranking just goes to show you how divided the scouting community can be on a player. I know that Redline Report previously had Locke in their first round (not sure where he ranks now on their list).

- The lack of the Rupert twins is also shocking. They may be small, but they've got pretty much everything else going for them. I didn't expect them to be high (with the penchant placed on size on CSS's rankings), but not ranked is odd. I certainly don't agree with it.

- If Justin Auger continues to score goals and put up points, there is absolutely no chance he remains that low. Nearly 6'7 and heating up offensively...sign me up for his hype train.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Game Report: Majors & Battalion from January 6

Got a chance to see the new look Mississauga Majors play against the (at the time) Eastern Conference leading Brampton Battalion last night.

I say new look Mississauga Majors because the team has undergone quite the dramatic overhaul in the past few days. Gone are veterans (and important members of last year's Memorial Cup squad) J.P. Anderson, Joseph Cramarossa, and Derek Schoenmakers. In are a whole slew of draft picks and Kris Kontos and Brandon Maxwell. This probably isn't the last of the deals too, as I'd expect that the likes of Riley Brace and Jordan Mayer are still on the market.

Some saw these trades as a rebuild. But, really (and as the team's performance last night indicated), it's more of a retool. By trading the above guys, the Majors aren't going to suddenly be the worst team in the Eastern Conference. If anything, I'd argue that Kontos could even be an upgrade over Schoenmakers, while Maxwell and Anderson aren't separated by much at this point. And Cramarossa, thanks to injuries and suspension, has barely played for Missy this year. General Manager (and Head Coach) James Boyd definitely did a great job with these trades so far.

It was definitely a good game with a high intensity level and some great back and forth action. Perhaps most disappointing for me were some of the injuries in the game. Obviously I knew Stuart Percy would be out as he continues to nurse the injuries he suffered thanks to Andrew Crescenzi's hit from behind (sprained wrist mostly). But Brampton was missing two of the guys I was hoping to see most, defenseman Marcus McIvor and rookie forward Brandon Robinson. McIvor is apparently out with a high ankle sprain he got working out, while Robinson remains sidelined with a concussion he incurred at the Under 17's.

The Majors ended up winning the game 3-2 in a shootout, backstopped by some excellent goaltending from Brandon Maxwell in his Mississauga debut. The win moved the Majors ahead of the surging Oshawa Generals (5 game winning streak) into 8th in the East...for now. With all their injuries and trade requests (Austin Watson), it wouldn't surprise me if the Petes were the ones falling out of favor in the Eastern playoff race come March.

Some player reports...

Brampton Battalion

#6 - Dylan Blujus (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
Blujus picked up two assists in the game, although neither was particularly pretty. The first was a point shot that went well wide (not purposely) and came back to Barclay Goodrow for his first goal. The second was off a dump in from the point that Ian Watters got possession of, only to hand off to Goodrow for his second of the game. Blujus does show good smarts on the point and can make a good first pass. But he's definitely not a dynamic player. Defensively, he wasn't noticeable, good or bad. But he didn't really get a ton of ice time 5 on 5, paired with rookie Brenden Miller (while his regular partner Marcus McIvor is out). He did play on the penalty kill though and looked fairly solid there. But he's definitely an awkward skater and could use to be more assertive along the wall and in front of the net in the defensive end...especially given his size.

#10 - Philip Lane (Drafted by Phoenix)
I didn't notice him as much as the last time I saw Brampton play this year, but he definitely looks better this year. His best work was done on the penalty kill, where he was aggressive on the forecheck and did good to make it very hard for Missy to gain the zone. Brampton has the best PK in the league, and there's no doubt he's been a big part of that. He's playing on the team's 2nd line with Patrik Machac and Mitchell Porowski and didn't get a ton of help from his linemates. Even if the stats aren't saying it, it's been a good year for Lane after last year's disappointing effort.

#11 - Patrik Machac (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
Honestly, outside of a nice shootout goal, he was pretty invisible. I saw him earlier in the season and was very impressed, but it appears he's in a bit of a funk. Hasn't scored in his last 14 games. The speed, tenacity, and energy I saw at the beginning of the year just wasn't there.

#16 - Sam Carrick (Drafted by Toronto)
The best player on the ice for Brampton. He looks great...and more focused this year. In the past I've been critical of him because I felt like he was spending too much time running around the ice being a pest and fighting...and not enough time using his offensive gifts. This year when I've seen him, he's managed to find that great balance. Firstly, he looks a lot faster. In the first, he took the puck near Brampton's net, turned on the burners up to the red line, and worked a give and go with Barclay Goodrow that saw Carrick take the puck hard to the net for a scoring opportunity. He used his speed all night to drive the outside, hard to the net and created a lot of scoring chances from it. He worked the boards and the cycle effectively and was a real menace for Mississauga's defenseman. He also looked great defensively and on the penalty kill and was really all over the ice. It's great to see him taking that step forward as last year really wasn't a strong one for him. He finished the game with a secondary assist on the first Goodrow goal.

#23 - Barclay Goodrow (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012, second year eligibility)
I was surprised that Goodrow didn't get drafted in the later rounds last year. Size and a goal scorer's touch are often a good enough combination to have your named called...even if you have some skating concerns like Goodrow. This year Goodrow looks great. It's clear he worked on his skating in the offseason. He's still not a burner, but his acceleration and ability to find holes appears stronger. He's also upped the physical play (absolutely destroying a Majors player...either Kuptsov or Kopstals in the first period). The subtle improvements in his game this year could have him get his named called this time around. The first goal he scored, he took a carom off the end boards and put it home using two whacks at the side of the net. The second was more of a finesse play, taking the puck from behind the net, swinging around and rifling a wrister to the far top corner over Maxwell.

Mississauga Majors

#2 - Dylan DeMelo (Drafted by San Jose)
I thought DeMelo was better with the puck last night, than he has been in my other viewings this year. He only had one minor turnover in the first, and did a pretty good job of handling Brampton's stiff forecheck the rest of the game. He's not afraid to jump up into the rush and had a couple of nice scoring opportunities by being the trailer on the play. I did feel like he struggled defensively though. He and partner Alex Cord had a really tough time containing the Carrick, Goodrow, Watters line and were getting pushed around a lot in the corners and in front of the net. On Goodrow's 2nd goal, DeMelo was caught stuck behind the net after he made a weak effort to try and stop Goodrow's progress. He did earn a secondary assist on Jamie Wise's powerplay marker in the second.

#4 - Trevor Carrick (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
I thought he was the best defenseman on the ice for either team on the night. Saw him earlier in the year, and came away lukewarm. This time, he was dynamite at both end's of the ice. He saw a LOT of playing time too, dare I say the most of any Majors' defenseman. Defensively, he was rock solid. He had a couple of nice hits and defended the front of the net well. I was also impressed with his mobility. In the third, his brother (Sam) got a burst of speed to the outside, but Trevor stayed with him, angled him towards the boards and finished him hard...separating him from the puck. Offensively, he didn't look like a guy with only 4 points on the year. He was up on the rush quite frequently and looked comfortable controlling the point on the powerplay. I know Majors fans have been impressed with him this year (and obviously Central Scouting since they had him high in their preliminary rankings), so perhaps it's a case of stats not telling the whole story.

#13 - Sergey Kuptsov (NHL Draft Eligible in 2013)
A late birthday, Kuptsov isn't eligible until next year. At the beginning of the year, I was incredibly impressed with his play. But the last few times I've seen him, he's been virtually invisible. He was much better last night though. I just wish he got more ice time. Don't really understand why he's not on the powerplay. Regardless, he was very active on the forecheck and is quite a good skater for a big guy. In the third, he came into the Brampton zone hard, forced a turnover in the corner and went straight to the net where he deflected a Jacob Graves point shot. He's definitely a big fan of going hard to the net and I think he's got the hands to be a good goal scorer in this league. James Boyd, get this guy some more ice time! I'm interested to see where his development takes him next year.

#16 - Kristoff Kontos (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012)
More proof that stats don't tell the whole story. Kontos was the best player on the ice for the Majors. Not sure what happened in Sudbury, but he has to be happy with the fresh start, where he was slotted onto the first line with Riley Brace and Jordan Mayer. The trio had instant chemistry and created a ton of great scoring chances on the night. Kontos looked great working off the rush and used his speed to go wide on Brampton's defenders (showing perhaps a bit of an extra gear I didn't know he had). Had a couple of great chances beating Brampton's defenders to the net. He was also solid along the boards in gaining possession of loose pucks and keeping possession in the offensive zone. One play in particular stands out, where he forced a turnover on the forecheck, kept possession long enough to feed a streaking Brace who created an odd man scoring opportunity. A very impressive debut.

#21 - Scott Teskey (NHL Draft Eligible in 2013)
The Majors first rounder from this year's priority draft, Teskey appears to be coming into his own a little bit. He's shown better and better every time I've seen him. He was playing with Kuptsov (on what appeared to be the team's 3rd line) and the two seem to have good chemistry. Both are very quick and show well on the forecheck. Another guy I wanted to see more, but who received little ice time despite his solid play. He looks like a real bright spot for the Majors moving forward.

#25 - Riley Brace (NHL Draft Eligible in 2012, third year of eligibility)
With the year he's having offensively, I've had people ask me about his chances of being drafted this year as a re-entry (or draft overager, whatever you want to call him). Truthfully, I'm not particularly sure. Brace is a different player this year. The past few years, he's been a hard working, strong two way winger who you could have called a stereotypical grinder. This year, the offensive game has flourished, but has it come at a price? He remains a great penalty killer, but in the times I've seen him this year, I think he's taken a bit of a step backward in his play away from the increase his offensive output. Take last night for example, for every excellent play he made offensively to create a chance (usually off the rush), he had a turnover in the neutral or defensive zone. At times, I feel like he's trying to do too much offensively (probably because he has to on a team with little difference makers). But he's definitely shown he's got some good hands and offensive instincts this year. He worked very well with Kontos on the night and the two were very dangerous off the rush. It'll be interesting to see if he's still a Major, this time next week.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Midseason Top 30 for the 2012 NHL Draft

Happy New Year everyone. It's a great time of the year for hockey fans. The World Juniors are in full swing. The Winter Classic is on today. And, as always, Central Scouting will release its midterm rankings for the 2012 NHL draft sometime in the next few weeks.

It's also past the half way point in the OHL season, which makes this a perfect time (and a predictable time) to release my own updated top 30 for the NHL Draft.

For reference sake, here is my early season Top 30 (released in October). Also, just for a little history, here are my midterm rankings for 2011, 2010 & 2009.

Here we go.

1. Nail Yakupov
At this point, Yakupov is the most clear cut top pick from the OHL since Patrick Kane (even Stamkos had Doughty). At the beginning of the season, there were some faint Galchenyuk supporters, but with his injury that now seems like years ago. Yakupov is as dynamic of an offensive talent as you can find in the draft. He is an offensive machine. Really not much more that can be said.

2. Brendan Gaunce
When I had Gaunce this high in October, a lot of people told me it was too high. But he's definitely deserving of it. Gaunce has been incredibly consistent this year and brings everything to the table that you'd want in a center. Size (check). Uses his size (check). Plays both ends of the ice (check). Great hands (check). Offensive feel for the game (check). I could go on. One of the more underrated aspects of Brendan's game is his big shot. Man can this guy shoot the puck. When the Top Prospect's Game skills competition results get released, don't be surprised to see him near the top of the list of the hardest shot. The one drawback I keep hearing about Gaunce is his skating. It's true, he's not the fastest guy on the ice. But he's efficient. His brother Cameron was a worse skater when he was drafted, and he managed to improve his footwork a lot over his OHL career. No reason to think that Brendan can't.

3. Cody Ceci
Easily one of the most improved players in the OHL this season. The biggest contribution to that is probably confidence. Ceci takes charge out there offensively now and isn't afraid to take chances offensively. A lot of people were actually calling for him to make Team Canada after a solid camp. His defensive game has grown a lot too. Still more growing to do, but he definitely has to the potential to develop into a premier two way defenseman. I'm sure a lot of people would love to see him use his size more defensively to punish people. But that's not his game. Although there is no question that the size will help him make a quicker transition to the NHL. When you've got a 6'3, 220lbs powerplay QB, you know you're doing alright.

4. Alex Galchenyuk
There's talk of his return sometime for the playoffs (or at least potentially for the Under 18's). This would be huge for Alex. I'm hesitant to believe it, but you never know. As expected, he's starting to slip in the rankings now, as he drifts farther from people's memory banks. It hurts even more that his last performance was the Ivan Hlinka where he was (apparently) disappointing. Talented offensive centerman don't grow on trees and you just know someone will take him high, as long as his knee tests out alright.

5. Radek Faksa
In a lot of ways, Faksa is a very similar player to Gaunce. Big, offensively talented center who plays both ends of the ice. So what separates him from Gaunce then? IMO, Gaunce's hockey sense is just a tad above Faksa's. Gaunce is also a more physical player and his two way game probably translates a little better at the NHL level. But, conversely, I think Faksa is a better puck carrier and skater. He's very aggressive in driving to the net with the puck and has a lot of success doing it. He's been a great find for Kitchener this year and has probably been the team's best and most consistent forward.

6. Matt Finn
Before the start of the season, Yahoo's Neate Sager asked me "Who do you think are some breakout candidates for the draft?" (his, as always, great article is here). Finn was one of the ones I suggested. But I also suggested him with a warning. That I was worried he'd try to do too much offensively, just as Scott Harrington did with London last year (and it hurt his draft stock). The Storm needed him to step up, and he has done just that. Considered a terrific defensive player, Finn's offensive game has exploded this year. He's already a legitimate two way defender. The only real drawback is his size, which is only average. But he's finally starting to turn some heads and is starting to creep into the first round of a lot of lists, where he belongs.

7. Olli Maatta
Maatta is an excellent defense prospect for the NHL. I really like his game. I'm not sure he has as much potential as some of the other guys slated for the first round, but he's one of those safe bets to play in the league. He's got size. He's a great skater. He plays both ends. He's also got a bit of a nasty side to him, that I'd love to see used a little more consistently. He recently suffered a concussion at the WJC's (on the receiving end of a Boone Jenner hit), so we'll have to monitor that. Hopefully he returns to the London line up soon and it's not one of those lingering concussions.

8. Malcolm Subban
Perhaps the first real surprise on my list, I think Subban deserves to be up this high. It's tough to include goaltenders in the loop with position players for lists like this. But I think Subban deserves consideration for the mid to late first round, and that's where this ranking puts him. He's as pure an athlete as you can find in the goaltending position. He's raw, and perhaps a tad unorthodox in his delivery, but he gets the job done. The guy has been just tremendous this year and has the Bulls in the hunt for the division and the conference (a place not many people had them). I think he's definitely a legitimate goaltending prospect and probably the best the OHL has produced for the draft in quite some time. In terms of potential and ability, I'd certainly take Subban over Visentin and Thomas McCallum (among first rounders from the O in recent years) at the same age.

9. Slater Koekkoek
Another victim of the injury curse that has fallen upon the 2012 Draft, Koekkoek's return to play this year is up in the air. He dislocated his shoulder at the end of November, and a recent MRI apparently showed some significant deep tissue damage. If he requires surgery, he'll be out for the rest of the season. At the very least, his participation in the Top Prospect's Game looks like a severe long shot. Koekkoek is the classic case of potential. He has some great nights, and some bad nights. And while he might have a ways to go before becoming an NHL defenseman, his package of two way play and dynamic ability make him a serious candidate for the top half of the first round.

10. Daniil Zharkov
Since returning from a broken collarbone suffered in the preseason, this Import has done nothing but climb the charts. And with good reason. Zharkov is an absolutely dynamic goal scorer. His puck handling ability and speed make him a threat to score off the rush. And his shot and strength make him a dangerous threat in the slot and near the crease. Best of all, he's 6'3, 200lbs. He's not afraid to use that size too and will compete away from the puck. At times, I think he can overhandle the puck, and he'll need work defensively. But his goal scoring ability, paired with his size and speed package make him a very intriguing package.

11. Scott Laughton
After such a weak start to the season (what Generals player can't we say that about), Laughton has been absolutely sensational lately. In his last 13 games, he has 5 goals and 11 assists. In a lot of ways, Laughton reminds me of former Kitchener Ranger Mike Richards at the same age. He competes hard at both ends of the ice and wears his heart on his sleeve. The hard work away from the puck has finally started paying off in the recent month or so, as the above stats suggest. I'd be surprised if he doesn't keep up this type of play for the rest of the season, especially now that the rest of his teammates are starting to get hot too.

12. Gemel Smith
Whenever I see Smith play, I always think of Thomas the Tank Engine. Smith, truly is the little engine that could. He's always one of the most noticeable players on the ice because of his compete level. Not the biggest (although not the smallest either, at pushing 5'11), Smith brings pretty much everything you could ask the table. Last year, I wasn't certain he had the puck skill and offensive creativity to put up these types of numbers, but that certainly isn't the case. He's proved this year that not only does he have skill with the puck, but he has the hockey sense and drive to make anyone he plays with better. There's no doubt in my mind that Smith will develop into one of those guys every team just hates to play against at the next level.

13. Nick Ebert
I'm not ready to drop him as much as some of my contemporaries have, but I do admit that I've been disappointed with his play this season. To me, he screams of someone who's been under the microscope for too long and as such is trying to do too much. Not to mention, he had a lot of pressure put on him this season, in replacing the legend that is Ryan Ellis. When you watch him play, it really is a lot of mental errors that look like a guy trying to do too much. Bad pinches. Bad passes up the middle of the ice. Trying to force things that aren't there. He's also gotten away from some of the things that made him a dependable player in his own end, like big hits and tenacity in front of the net. But he's started to look a little better and more comfortable the past month or so. Too much potential to right him off yet.

14. Scott Kosmachuk
As I said earlier, I'm not entirely sure why Kosmachuk hasn't been getting the type of praise he deserves for this draft. He's been an incredibly consistent performer for a Guelph team a lot of people had written off before the season had even begun (myself included). At this point, he's more of a complimentary offensive player, but he's got enough offensive skill to be a game changer. He really is a complete offensive player, and is the type of guy who likes to get his nose dirty for goals. Every time I've seen Guelph play, I've come away impressed with his effort and skill combination.

15. Jarrod Maidens
This is higher than I had Maidens before (20th in October), but still not as high as some have him. I actually do really like Maidens as an NHL prospect. I'm just still not quite sure what separates him from someone like Guelph's Scott Kosmachuk (who I've got ahead of Maidens). He's one of those guys that's always in the right spot at the right time, which speaks volumes to him thinking the game at a higher level than his peers. He's just a solid player. But I'm not sure I see the upside in him to put him any higher than this. He's also been out since the end of November with mysterious "flu like symptoms." Makes you wonder what the real issue is. Could be mono (which always strikes down a few draft eligibles each year). Hopefully not a concussion. Maidens is the type of guy who could really use the Top Prospect's Game to elevate his status, so hopefully he returns before that.

16. Andreas Athanasiou
There is no doubting that Athanasiou has a ton of potential as a goal scorer at the next level. He has tremendous hands, a great skating stride, and a good shot. But the consistency issues are a real concern IMO. Not enough strides have been made in his play away from the puck to warrant placing him higher. At this point, he's that true boom or bust selection. One game he looks like a million bucks. The next he's invisible. At the next level, he's going to have to get his nose dirty to score goals. That's not to say that he's afraid of using his speed to drive hard to the net with the puck. That wouldn't be the case. What I'm saying is that right now his game is manufactured around his speed and ability to carry the puck. If he's going to score at the next level, there has to be more than that.

17. Adam Pelech
I feel bad for Adam Pelech. It truly is tough to play on a REALLY terrible team in your draft year. Less scouts come to see you because they don't really want to see other high end players play (or beat up on) your team. But he's actually been a real bright spot since he returned to the line up from a wrist injury suffered in the opening week. He's got 10 points in 14 games on the season, and almost miraculously, is only a -2. On a team populated with guys at -30, that's pretty crazy good...especially considering how much Pelech plays. He's a solid two way guy with size and good mobility (most definitely better than Matt or Michael at the same age). Can we pencil this guy in on Team Canada's Under 18 team right now?

18. Thomas Wilson
Not too often you see a guy with 5 goals on the year rated this high. But Wilson makes a very intriguing pro prospect. He's that rare "pure" power forward prospect. Offensive potential, size, and pure and utter physical domination. Even if he hasn't been scoring much (only 2 assists in his last 14 games), he does other things that make him a valuable player. And don't let the stats fool you, he does have offensive potential. He still plays on a scoring line in Plymouth (frequently paired with Mitchell Heard and a bevy of wingers). Now if he continues this offensive funk into March, we'll be talking about a ranking drop. But for now, he does enough good things (paired with his size) to warrant a semi high ranking.

19. Brady Vail
Vail is one of those stereotypical "he was born to be a great third liner" types people pigeon hold every draft year. Vail is already a very complete player, seeing ice time in all situations for Windsor. His defensive game is very polished for such a young player and he's often one of Bob Boughner's shutdown forwards. His offensive game has really exploded the past couple of months, as he's averaged nearly a point per game in his last twenty (9 goals, 9 assists). This definitely suggests that his offensive potential shouldn't be underrated. He can put the puck in the net and actually had a good shot and goal scoring instincts. He's the type of guy who always goes higher in the NHL draft than what his ranking from people like me would suggest.

20. Gianluca Curcuruto
I really thought Curcuruto's offensive game would blossom this year. He's actually been as big of a disappointment as Nick Ebert for me. Defensively, he remains solid. He's even stepped up things in the physicality department. But the offense just hasn't really been there. In fact, he doesn't really even take many chances and at times, looks content to play that stay at home role. With Ryan Sproul out with a broken jaw, the Hounds are going to need Curcuruto to step it up in the puck carrying and powerplay quarterbacking areas, so it'll be interesting to see how he responds.

21. Dane Fox
It seems a lot of people are a little anxious at putting Fox higher considering some of the things that happened off the ice in the past year. He was sent home late last year but returned for the playoffs. Then he was sent home again during training camp this year. But on the ice, Fox has been a tremendously consistent performer for London. He's a hard working, agitator type who actually has a lot of skill with the puck. He's a tough guy to play against because he'll shut you down at one end, but then come right back and score against you at the other. Offensively, he's patient with the puck and really sees the ice well in setting up his teammates. There's definitely a lot to like about his play on the ice, if you can be comfortable with the things that have happened off it.

22. Matia Marcantuoni
All the talk and spotlight has been on Nick Ebert as the faller of the draft from the OHL, but IMO, no player has fallen farther than Rangers forward Marcantuoni. He's continued to have injury problems this year and it has really effected his game. It's caused him to be more tentative away from the puck and made him a more one dimensional player. Problem is, that one dimension also hasn't really been clicking from him this year. Rangers fans seem to attribute that from a lack of drive towards the net, and in my viewings, I'd probably agree with that. He's made the shift to the wing in recent weeks, perhaps to take some pressure off him and make the a game a little more simple. Hopefully he can stay healthy and turn things around in the second half, because he obviously has the potential to be much better than he has been.

23. Dylan Blujus
Blujus has had an excellent start to the season offensively. The 6'3, 200lbs defender is definitely an interesting prospect. He's kind of awkward on the ice, which has a lot to do with his skating inefficiencies. He definitely will need work on his mobility, as it can affect him at both ends of the ice. I'd also love to see him be more physical in the defensive end and use that size. But there are a lot of positives. He's got a big shot from the point which he gets through to the net quite well. He also makes a good first pass and makes solid decisions with the puck and when to pinch. Recently I heard someone refer to Blujus as a "Moneyball hockey player." For those unfamiliar with the baseball term or novel, it was meant to suggest that Blujus isn't the prettiest on the ice, but he is very effective. For that reason, he's kind of a hard guy to peg and probably explains his lack of true support for this draft (such as his exclusion from the Top prospect's Game).

24. Matt Murray
The Jack Campbell trade certainly hasn't helped his cause, taking away crucial playing time from him. But Murray certainly hasn't played as bad as his numbers would suggest. There's no doubt that with his size in net (6'4), he's going to draw interest from NHL teams. On a lot of nights, the Hounds defense just hasn't done enough for him, which would explain some of the absolute stinkers he's endured this season (he's given up 6 goals or more on 5 occasions already). The Top Prospect's Game will be a good opportunity for Murray to show what he's capable of.

25. Michael Clarke
Even if he's gone ice cold as of late (1 goal, 1 assist in his last 11 games), I think he's still a solid prospect. He plays both ends of the ice well (like fellow Spitfire Brady Vail) and is a very smart player. But there's no doubt that he'll have to start putting up some points again to keep this high on scouting lists (heck he was in the first round of some lists a month or so ago). This is because he's not the world's best skater, and because he's not a huge guy (5'11). That lack of size combined with a lack of elite skating talent, can sometimes be a kiss of death for draft prospects. Hopefully he can pick it up a bit.

26. Brandon Devlin
Back to back Spits, Devlin is an interesting case. He was jettisoned by the Colts because he couldn't crack their line up on a consistent basis (even though he often looked solid IMO), he's become a workman for Windsor. Devlin is a very well rounded defender who does pretty much everything well. Since joining Windsor, he's been a more physical defender, which is great to see. He's also been taking more chances offensively and isn't afraid to jump up into the play. I think he's got a lot of potential in this league and should make a quality draft pick somewhere in the middle rounds.

27. Eric Locke
The newest member of the Saginaw Spirit (in a deal for Ryan O'Connor and Anthony Camara) has had a bit of a tough year so far. He's battled injuries (a concussion and a knee injury, separately), and just never found a rhythm in Barrie's crowded line up. He was finally starting to get going in December (4 goals, 4 assists in his last 10 games) and now gets traded to Saginaw. There is no doubt that Saginaw will present him with a greater opportunity to get ice time, especially on the powerplay. Locke is a quality offensive player who is very good skater and can really put the puck in the net, but injuries, in combination with his lack of size, have him barely in my top 30.

28. Daniel Altshuller
Altshuller's season hasn't really gone according to plan so far. Brought in by Oshawa to be the team's starter in their quest for an Eastern Conference title, the rookie seemed a little overwhelmed to start the year. This is especially true considering how cold the rest of the team was in front of him. But he's slowly earning the starter's job back and has been very good over his last six games (3-3, .926Sv%). He's obviously got a lot of potential, so hopefully he can get himself in a consistent groove for the rest of the year (as long as the Generals don't trade him...or trade for an experienced starter).

29. Max Iafrate
Iafrate is another guy who has improved a lot as the year has gone on. He's worked hard to simplify his game, and has gained a lot of confidence in his offensive game. He's definitely got a lot of good things going for him. He's big. He's mobile. He's mean. And his offensive game shows promise. And don't forget the bloodlines (although let's hope he stays away from Al's mullet look). Considering how much he's improved already this year, I'm interested to see where his game takes him.

30. Ryan Rupert
I really did think about having the Rupert's share a spot on this list again (as I did in October), but I figured I'd ignore the cop out. So, if someone had a gun to my head and made me pick one, it'd probably be Ryan. But maybe that's only because brother Matt has been out for the past few weeks with a shoulder injury (so he's not fresh in my head). I think I prefer Ryan because he's a tad meaner, and I think he might have a better all around offensive game. But both twins provide a lot of spark and offense, despite their lack of size.

Honorable Mention

Matt Rupert
Jesse Graham
Artur Gavrus (he'd be on the list if he can come back from his concussion)
Matthew Campagna
Chris Tierney
Marcus McIvor
Ben Johnson
Kris Kontos
Zach Leslie
Justin Auger
Joseph Blandisi