Thursday, December 26, 2013

2014 OHL Trade Deadline Preview

The OHL trade deadline is fast approaching, as we inch closer to January 9 and 10. January 9 is the deadline for overage players (1993 birth dates this year) to move, while the 10th serves as the deadline for all other players.
We’ve already had a ton of movement in the league this year, with many of the rumoured big stars (Brendan Gaunce, Kerby Rychel, Jesse Graham) already trading places. It certainly makes you wonder how much movement is left in the league. There are always deals though and I’d expect several more “bigger” ones this year because of how wide open the league looks right now.
Over at the Ultimate Hockey Network, I've previewed the deadline, listing all the "bigger" name players who I think could move by January 10th. See below for the article


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Preliminary Media/Scout Top 10 for 2014

The OHL season is now at about the half way point which means that it's time for the first media/scout poll for the 2014 NHL Draft.

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know their stuff. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2014 were:

Ross MacLean - Head scout for ISS Hockey (@rossmaclean)
Corey Pronman - Hockey Prospectus and ESPN author (@coreypronman)
Dominic Tiano - Writer for The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)
Matt Burnside - Independent OHL scout (@MattBTHG)
David Burstyn - Director of Scouting for McKeen's Hockey (@DavidBurstyn)
Sean LaFortune - Scout for McKeen's Hockey/Director of (@SeanLafortune)
Nathan Fournier - Author of The World of Junior Hockey/Contributor to The Hockey News (@jrhockeywriter)
Ryan Kennedy - Associate senior writer for The Hockey News (@THNRyanKennedy)
Dan Stewart - Director of Scouting for Future Considerations (@StewartFC)
Brandon Sudeyko - Host/Producer of the In the O Radio Show (@intheoradio)
Mark Seidel - Scouting Director for NACS Hockey (@MarkSeidel)
Peter Kneulman - Writer for the OHL Writers and In the O Radio (@PeterKneulman)
Manny Paiva - Play by Play voice of the Owen Sound Attack (@paivatheway)
Brendan Ross - Co-Manager of DobberProspects, scout for (@RossyYoungblood)
Craig Button - TSN Scout (@CraigJButton)
Scott Campbell - Director of The Scouting Report (@TSRhockey)

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten)

As per the feedback I've received previously, I'm sticking with the new format used on last year's final list. No paragraphs, just the scouting reports. Simply easier to read.

Here's the Top 10 with (several) Honorable Mentions:

10. Josh Ho-Sang - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Total Votes: 7
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 8th (3x)/Outside the Top 10 (9x)
The Scoop: With the departure of Kerby Rychel, Ho-Sang is now unquestionably the offensive leader for the Spits. He leads them in scoring with 37 points and is a huge reason why they've been one of the surprise teams in the league thus far. His offensive abilities have never been questioned, but it's his play without the puck and intensity level that has scouts talking thanks to the improvements he's made in those areas this season.
"Explosive offensive player with elite quickness and creative technical ability that allows him to really keep opponents guessing.  Has been operating at over a point per game pace this season and has managed to show subtle improvements in his two-way game.  He can really wow with his move set and is always at least fun to watch play.  He’s a very interesting prospect and still needs to mature but his potential cannot be ignored." - Anonymous

"Maybe the most skilled player eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. Can wow you on any given shift with his speed and hands but his hockey sense leaves me wondering about him. Has a lot of work to do to round out his game." - Corey Pronman

"Ho-Sang matured considerably in the off-season and the proof is in his play this season. He has since bought in to the team systems and no longer does he play an individualistic game as he distributes the puck more efficiently while flashing his stick handling and creativity on a nightly basis. His puck skills may be one of the best in the draft as he can side step and slither past defenders while standing still. Defensively Ho-Sang is completely committed and will retreat as far back as behind the net to make a play, often assuming the defensive responsibilities of the centre on his line." - McKeen's Hockey (Burstyn and Lafortune)

"Pound for pound he is arguably the most talented player in the OHL as a first year eligible. There was thought of off ice issues and dedication to getting better, but this year that seems to be taken care of. He has the ability to create offense in the smallest places and make the impossible passes. There is no questioning his offensive talent, what has made a difference is watching him defensively. no longer coasting or just waiting for the puck to pop loose. he is attacking, pressuring and supporting his teammates in his own zone. Much more effective all around and making it back in most top 10's." - Anonymous

9. Spencer Watson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 7
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 7th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (9x)
The Scoop: The little engine that could. Watson may not be the biggest guy on the ice, but he consistently finds ways to score for the Kingston Frontenacs. His 16 goals are currently second on the team and he's done well to build off the momentum that his terrific performance at the Ivan Hlinka gave him.
"He always had the ability to score and he was able to showcase it. What you may not have noticed is he can work in tight spaces while not needing to move at 100mph. Not the fastest on the ice but he can still find a way to make offence happen. His time with the U18 Summer Team has given him a great understanding of the competition around him. That has only made him hungrier to improve his game in all threee zones." - Anonymous

"A strong position player who is sometimes overlooked on a team with Bennett and McKeown. Doesn’t have the size of some of the others but makes up for it with smarts, determination and of course talent. When he is on the ice you are confident that he will outscore those he is on the ice against and really isn’t that the point of the game?" - Anonymous

"It's not that I don't like Watson and what he brings to the game. It's that there are other players that I prefer more because they bring similar things to the ice but are bigger and quicker. I will say one thing about Watson though, that separates him from others. He has that innate ability to find holes in the defense that you love to see in smaller players when projecting them to continue their production at the NHL level. His hockey sense in the offensive end truly is terrific." - Anonymous

8. Anthony DeAngelo - Defense - Sarnia Sting
Total Votes: 8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 6th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (8x)
The Scoop: DeAngelo is leading the OHL in defenseman scoring by a remarkable 14 points and has to be the odds on favourite to win defenseman of the year at this point. The 3rd year OHL player (late birth date) has really exploded and lived up to his potential. So what's keeping such a dynamic player from climbing up the rankings?
"DeAngelo is one heck of an offensive defenseman. His skating ability, coupled with his puck carrying ability make him a near unstoppable force at this level when it comes to gaining the offensive zone. In a lot of ways, he's like having an extra forward out there with his high skill level. But he looks disinterested in the defensive end at times. There's no question that his play in his own end leaves a lot to be desired and a lot of that, unfortunately, seems to stem from an attitude and not an ability." - Anonymous

"DeAngelo is the premier puck moving defenseman in the draft but was never one of my favorites as he always came off as spoiled; constantly making selfish decisions with the puck, showing bad body language towards his teammates when they couldn’t capitalize on his set-ups and poor attitude towards everyone when the Sting were losing. But this season he has cleaned up that immaturity and taken hold of a leadership role. He picks his spots better and is one of the guys to positively talk to his teammates when they need a boost. Size is still a concern but with his wheels, slick hands and offensive instincts he it finally tracking in the right direction and will be on many teams lists around the tail end of the first round." - Dan Stewart

"In a draft that features very few puck rushing defenseman, DeAngelo may be the crown jewel of the draft. His sheer ability to create off the rush and produce offensively makes him an instant stand out in the NHL draft landscape. DeAngelo has great game reading ability and is not afraid to take off if he sees an opportunity. He currently leads the OHL in defenseman scoring all the more impressive as he plays on a weak team with only three forwards having double digit goal totals. Defensively he struggles, his reads are not great, he can get caught out of position and is not always able to contain his man. Despite his defensive short comings, DeAngelo has the requisite skills to play a puck possession game at the professional level." - McKeens Hockey

"The New Jersey native has made significant improvements on the defensive side of the puck showing better positioning and a commitment to his defensive assignments. The often hot-tempered rearguard has dialed down his outbursts which will surely impress scouts but he remains a high-risk, high-reward player heading into the draft. His ranking here reflects his potential but he will need to convince teams that he isn’t too much of a defensive liability to warrant such a selection." - Anonymous

7. Brendan Perlini - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Total Votes: 15
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 4th (2x)/Outside the Top 10 (1x)
The Scoop: Even if he's cooled lately (more so that his team has cooled significantly), Perlini has to be considered one of the biggest risers for the draft this year. The big winger has been firmly inside the top 20 of league scoring all season long, which is no easy feat for a second year player.
"The OHL’s biggest surprise heading into the Holidays, Brendan Perlini has been outstanding playing on a young and inexperienced IceDogs team. His puck possession game is among the league’s best and his shot owns both velocity and accuracy jumping off of his stick. Perlini’s game projects well to the NHL given his size, ability to dominate in the gritty areas and play both a playmaker and goal scorers’ game." - Anonymous

"Love Perlini's game and potential. Think Jeff Carter. Big winger who excels in the transition game, using his size and speed to drive the net. He's got a very heavy shot too, which is only going to get better as he gets stronger. He's no slouch without the puck and shows a willingness to engage physically (not consistently, but it's there). He has to be getting consideration for the Top 15 at this point." - Anonymous

"My sleeper pick for the draft. Really strong start to the season. A nice blend of power, skill, and speed. Prototypical power forward who has really excelled lead the charge for the Niagara IceDogs. The team has tapered off but Perlini has remained consistent for the most part. Has the potential to be a game breaker and continues to get better. " - Anonymous

"Perlini shot out of a cannon to start the year with 30 points in his first 15 games but has since fizzled in the month of November/December with only 11 points in his last 16 games. Acquired at the trade deadline last season from the Barrie Colts, Perlini’s 12 points last year were matched in his first 7 games this season. Perlini’s biggest strengths is his effortless skating stride, he is crisp, fluid and can accelerate in a moment’s notice. He has a great stick and is an excellent special team’s player. Perlini’s short comings can be traced to a lack of pulse and intensity as he does not go out of his way to engage despite possessing a sturdy 6’2, 205 pound frame. He offers a brilliant scoring touch that simply can not be taught; his game mirrors that of Jeff Carter." - McKeens Hockey

"More of a North/South type of player who has really thrived on the smaller ice in Niagara. Making the most of his opportunities and seems to be more physically prepared for the OHL this year. Has shown great growth in his game while playing on a team that lacks depth. Teams have started to make adjustments since his hot start to the season and it seems to be slowing down his production. The big thing to look for in the 2nd half of the season is to see what kind of adjustments Brendan makes to this added attention is receiving on the ice." - Anonymous

6. Nick Ritchie - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Total Votes: 15
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (1x)
The Scoop: Following in the foot steps of brother Brett, Nick has developed into a force in the OHL; a true power forward. The biggest thing for Ritchie this year has been to stay healthy, which he has so far. Missing so many games the past 2 seasons certainly set his development back a bit, but he's well on his way to great things and currently leads Peterborough in scoring.
 "Ritchie has better power forward skills than his older brother, Dallas Stars forward Brett Richie, but problems with his consistency level (same knock as Brett) and reoccurring injuries have hurt his draft stock as I had projected him a top five guy last spring. When he’s on he plays a fierce power game and is at his most effective when he plays angry but those games are too few and far between. A definite high risk, high reward type prospect." - Dan Stewart

"Nick Ritchie has the potential to be a dominant force. He contains a plethora of assets that make him so difficult to contain for opposing defensemen. Nick has size, speed and skill, three areas that any NHL team will benefit from. Nick is a prototypical power forward, and scoring a point per game pace this season. I still feel he can be doing more. I would really like to see Nick pick up the pace offensively and truly lead this Petes team consistently through the rest of this season." - Anonymous

"Call me crazy but a forward always has the edge over a D [in reference to ranking Ritchie over Ekblad]. If you get a healthy season out of Ritchie you will get a 30G 70Pt player. Now if you gave him someone to play with those stats would be better. Since catching a glimpse of what he can do as a Toronto Marlboro, Nick has grown in all the areas needed. Size, Skating, Shooting, and his play with and without the puck. I don't find anything too flashy about Ritchie compared to some other players on this list but as an all around player, he has it and a healthy season may not only mean first OHL player taken, he can take a real jab at being 1st overall." - Anonymous

"When Ritchie is on his game he is an unstoppable force.  He has great size, shows some tremendous power for his age and can really intimidate and punish opponents with his aggressive physical pursuits of the puck.  He has deceptively smooth hands, especially considering his brash demeanor on the ice and is very good around the net.  It seems to be a Ritchie family trait to have an insanely quick release on shots.  Health and durability considering the style that makes him most successful is the one concern I would have moving forward." - Anonymous

5. Roland McKeown - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/9th (2x)
The Scoop: Even if the Frontenacs have been incredibly inconsistent this season, they still sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference and the development of Roland McKeown has had a lot to do with that. He's been among the league leaders in +/- all year long and plays a ton of minutes, in all situations for Kingston. While the former Marlboro doesn't appear to be a threat to Aaron Ekblad for first overall, he's positioned himself nicely as a lottery selection candidate.
"McKeown came into the season with considerable fanfare and despite the success of the Frontenacs; McKeown has failed to live up to his potential. He has not grown since his OHL draft year and his biggest problem lies in his defensive hockey sense. He habitually misses his mark and finds himself on the wrong side of the puck. Additionally he does not apply a physical dimension to his game which exposes him in down low situations. McKeown is an athletic player whose skating and puck skills are above average and is what has kept him in high regard in the draft landscape. McKeown needs to clamp down more, play to his size while also pushing the pace offensively." - McKeen's Hockey

"My viewings of Roland McKeown have been up and down all season long. High-end skating and elite puck moving ability certainly grab your attention first and foremost but he tends to be too passive defensively and is prone to making some bad decisions. High potential player with exceptional skating ability but leaves me wanting more." - Anonymous

"Good skating defenseman with strong offensive skills. Good size, with room to grow. Would like to see him limit his rushes offensively so he doesn't get caught out of position. Has to improve his physical play in his own end along the boards, where I have seen him get beat a few times." - Anonymous

"I'm not as high on him as other NHL scouts I've talked to, and this is more a deferment to the glowing reports I've heard from sources. Very good two-way hockey sense and skater." - Corey Pronman

"He had a brutal October, but rebounded in November. The skating is a clear asset and he has nice size to go along with it. Ironing out that consistency is obviously a challenge for the rest of the campaign." - Anonymous

4. Jared McCann - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/8th (2x)
The Scoop: McCann is finally starting to move up the rankings after a terrific start to the season, where he's the 2nd leading scorer on the one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The smooth skating, two way center brings a lot of different things to the ice and should continue to climb if he can keep having success.
"Originally stood out to me at the Under 17's last year where I thought he was terrific as a penalty killer/energy guy for the team. His skating is top notch, as are his instincts at both ends of the ice. Defensively, he's got a great stick and anticipates and intercepts passes exceptionally well. And offensively he just finds a way to score and has a terrific shot. Easily one of the most underrated players available. Should be getting top 10 consideration IMO." - Anonymous

"Graduated to the top line of the upstart Greyhounds, McCann is a natural goal scorer who has uncanny touch with the puck on the half boards. His one timer and stick preparation are one of the best not just in the OHL but the entire draft class. Under the watchful eye of Coach Keefe he has rounded out his game and become more responsible in all three zones; not just counted on in PP situations. McCann has a quick, fluid stride which enables him to separate himself from the pack and much like Mike Bossy he has an innate ability to get open in optimum scoring positions. McCann has also done a better job of self preservation and not launching himself into compromising positions where he could sustain an injury." - McKeens Hockey

"The player on the list that I have by far seen the most. NHL caliber shot that has improved significantly from last year. Equally adept at creating offense whether it is even strength or on the power play. Gets top PK minutes for the Greyhounds on what is one of the best penalty kill units in the OHL. He is a player that you can put out against a teams top line and shut them down but with Tyler Gaudet also on the Hounds he hasn’t always been needed in that role. He is a team player who makes those around him better yet can still flash individual game changing talent like he did in London this past week when he split Zadorov and Austin before making Stolarz look fooling on a deke." - Anonymous

"McCann has been one of my personal favorite guys for this draft crop since last season as I loved his hockey sense, intelligence and ability to adapt and succeed in any role he is asked to play. This year he has filled the offensive catalyst role and more recently the two-way role as he still adds to the offensive side but is also playing against the oppositions top line in a defensive minded role." - Dan Stewart

3. Michael Dal Colle - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (6x)/4th (2x)
The Scoop: Written off after it was expected that Scott Laughton would not return, the Oshawa Generals currently sit 1st in the Eastern Conference and have surprised a ton of people. Michael Dal Colle has to get a ton of respect for the way that he's taken this team under his wing in his 2nd year in the league. His consistent production has him sitting 3rd in OHL scoring currently and he seems to have firmly entrenched himself as a top 10 pick.
"Michael is a guy who I was not sure about to start the year as he had some impressive showings last year where he was buzzing around the net making things happen and then some outings where he looked like a dog; always behind the play and making little to no impact on the game. This season he has improved his consistency and is making a believer out of me that his overall game will translate into a top six role at the NHL level. Love his blend of size, strength and hands down low." - Dan Stewart

"Has been on fire lately. Leads all draft eligible players in almost all offensive categories and near the top of the league among all players. He has good size, excellent vision, can finish or make a very good pass, excellent anticipation and an uncanny ability to slow the game down and make the right play." - Anonymous

"A big bodied forward with great puck protection skills, Dal Colle has exploded into the top of the draft conversation with his consistently impressive offensive production so far this season.  He is a patient, poised and intelligent player who is very good at drawing opponents to him before making a play to an open teammate.  He shows good strength and work ethic around the puck and is also a quietly effective defensive player as well.  His skating will need to continue to improve but his abilities and IQ around the puck have really made him a player to watch this year." - Anonymous

"Reminiscent of former General John Tavares with his ability to create offense in tight situations and may be the best player in the draft from the hash-marks in. Skating has improved but is still an area of focus. Will be interesting to see if he ultimately is utilized as a winger or down the middle, something that will likely hinge on how his skating develops. Lacks the complete game Bennett brings to the table but his offensive ceiling is what gives him the edge for me." - Anonymous

"Dal Colle has been terrorizing goalies all season as he has the best offensive instincts amongst all the OHL draft eligible’s in this year’s draft. Coming into the season the big question mark was whether or not he could produce by himself with graduations to Jenner et al and Dal Colle has more than satisfied all the critics as he currently sits in the top three in league scoring. Dal Colle displays a hunger for the puck inside the offensive zone that is unrivalled by his peers. Not overly physical but competitive and uses his 6’2 frame to make plays, drive the net and attack the slot to utilize his hair trigger release. His skating is a work in progress, it lacks an explosive element to it however his anticipation in all three zones helps to offset that weakness. Dal Colle is a versatile player who can play wing or centre and his game translates incredibly well at the pro level when his offensive imagination can be taken advantage of to the fullest." - McKeen's Hockey

2. Sam Bennett - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (1x)/5th (1x)
The Scoop: Bennett made a name for himself at last year's Under 18's, where he was one of Team Canada's top performers as an "underager." He's taken the confidence from that event and carried it over to this season where he leads Kingston in scoring and has been inside the top 20 of OHL scoring all season long. And while he's a terrific offensive player, it's his two way game and play without the puck that has scouts salivating, to the point where he's getting serious consideration for the top 3.
"Bennett does it all. The type of guy you will eventually win in the playoffs with because he does whatever is necessary to win. You need a big goal? Bennett. You need to force a turnover on the forecheck? Bennett. You need a big hit to turn momentum? Bennett. You need someone to block a shot or kill a big penalty? Bennett. You get the point. As complete a draft eligible forward as I've ever seen." - Anonymous

"A true gamer, Bennett’s  competitive and tireless work ethic creates problems for opposing defenses. His explosive skating and offensive instincts pressures defenses into mistakes. He’s a complete player and a player known for raising his game in critical situations. While I currently have Dal Colle ranked ahead of Bennett, I feel the Frontenac is right on par with his OHL Eastern Conference rival." - Anonymous

"There is a reason the Frontenacs exploded out of the gate; the terrific and consistent play of Sam Bennett. He has only been held off the score sheet five times this season and has 12 multi point games. A sensational two-way force, Bennett makes as much of an impression defending as he does manufacturing offence. He is highly competitive and hurls his body at all players regardless of size. His game has marked improvement in terms of patience with the puck and understanding when to push for offensive chances; he has shown vast maturity in his game in a very short period of time. Bennett has the disposition of a young Rod Brind’Amour and his draft stock should see a considerable spike if he is able to lead the Frontenacs deep into the playoffs." - McKeens Hockey

"A very intelligent player who can really amplify the skill sets of those around him, Bennett is a multi-tooled forward who is willing to try anything to make a play.  He is a quick thinker with great instincts and seemingly a sixth-sense at times.  He has been very impressive so far this year and has really stood out in almost every viewing.  He has tremendous edge control and agility and that really allows him to get defenders turned inside out" - Anonymous

"This was a lot closer for me than maybe some others [in reference to Bennett and Ekblad for the top spot]. I think Bennett has exceptional skills as a forward. He can play both ends of the rink. I saw him drive the net hard as he skated around a three year OHL defenceman to set up a goal. Just in that play alone, he showed good skating ability, some speed, a nose for the net, a chance to score while also setting up a teammate with his playmaking ability." - Anonymous

1. Aaron Ekblad - Defense - Barrie Colts
Total Votes: 16
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (14x)/3rd (1x)
The Scoop: While he wasn't the unanimous top choice, he was pretty close. As the only player on this list invited to the Canadian WJC camp, one has to be impressed with Ekblad's maturity level as a player. While Barrie hasn't exactly lived up to expectations this year, Ekblad continues to be a beast and improve in his 3rd year in the league (thanks to his exceptional draft status). He remains a serious candidate for 1st overall.
"I loved Aaron Ekblad last year and still like him. I think some people try to pick apart his game because they have seen him so much as he started his OHL career as an 'exceptional player.' But he is imposing on the blueline, plays well in all types of minutes. Can be offensive and physical. I want to see him be more physical. I also think he is improving as a skater. " - Anonymous

"Exceptional... you better believe it. What made Ekblad so unique is that he was never thought to be a huge point getter and in reality he isn't. Watching him struggle against better competitors have only made him better. Thinking back to how he use to get burned on the outside and now he will catch you and check you. He was never given anything because of his exceptional status and that arguably made him a better player. He has played a lot of hockey recently and the errors have minimized while his consistency has shot up." - Anonymous

"Who wants a six-foot-four defenseman who can play at both ends of the rink and shows solid leadership qualities? How about all 30 NHL teams. While the big, reliable two-way blueliner has not really jumped up and grabbed the reins as top guy in this draft class so far the good news for him is that neither has anyone else. His skating, transitions, overall mobility have improved since last season but are still nowhere near considered a strength or asset to his game. His ability to think the game and use strong positioning impress but he could stand to show more aggressive play at both ends of the ice. As it stands, his game looks like it should translate to the pros as an effective top four blueliner who will eat up big minutes, be a primary role player on your PK and add thirty to forty points a season." - Dan Stewart

"The improvements in his game have been obvious and while most of the time we start to pick apart players that have been in the spotlight as long as he has, Ekblad continues to impress.  He’s got all the tools to be a franchise defender at the pro-level and still has some raw technical points that make it almost scary how much better he could potentially get. " - Anonymous

"Few defenseman play as much as Ekblad does in not just the OHL but the entire CHL. He is an invaluable member to the Colts as he plays in every situation. Ekblad was arguably the best player for Canada at the Hlinka tournament capturing a gold medal and playing on the top defensive pairing. One of the bigger defenders available for this year’s draft, he is already a mountain of a man and imposes his will. Not a natural point producing defenseman, he has improved upon his point totals however he needs to work on his puck rushing skills. He is very useful on the PP due to an absolute cannon of a point shot. Certain facets of his skating including lateral quickness and pivots need to be addressed however he is a suffocating defenseman who is extremely difficult to beat one-on-one. Ekblad is a safe pick due to his size and ability. He has the potential to be a 10+ year pro who can excel in both a shutdown role while also chipping in some points." - McKeen's Hockey

Others Receiving Consideration (HM's):

Alex Nedeljkovic - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers (7 votes)
Highest Placement: 8th
"He may not be putting up the Goddy numbers as he did last year than again Plymouth lost some players to the pro game. He's still only 17 and will probably be the face of USA Hockey at the WJCs in 2015 and 2016." - Anonymous

"Last season as this kid forced the Whalers to make a switch from veteran to rookie in their starting goaltenders because of his impressive play. He showed maturity and poise in the crease rarely seen in a youngster that helped push the Whalers into the OHL playoffs but fast forward to this season and while the play from Nedeljkovic is still impressive the same cannot be said for his team. He has seen a ton more pucks this season as he faces an average of 36 per game so far up over ten shots per game from last season. He remains a good first shot stopper because of his strong technical play, sound rebound control and impressive focus but is getting hung out too many times this season in Plymouth." - Dan Stewart

"Alex is playing on a weak Plymouth Whalers squad this season, but I have seen him on several nights where he has kept his team in the game, has allowed the Whalers to get a single point or has won the game single-handedly. Challenges the shooters well, while rarely offering rebounds. Sometimes too deep in his net." - Anonymous

Robby Fabbri - Forward - Guelph Storm (5 votes)
Highest Placement: 6th (2x)
"Love this kid, in my opinion a low first round prospect. Plays with fire and pace, pretty good skater and while not a highlight reel offensive player I think he can make a lot of plays with the puck." - Corey Pronman

"I know everyone is going to talk about his size, but every time I see Robby Fabbri, he is a factor in a hockey game. Despite his size under 6 feet, he goes to the 'dirty areas' around the net. He can score and also set up his teammates. I think his second half of the OHL season will be tremendous while playing with Kerby Rychel." - Anonymous

"Fabbri isn’t a prototypical first round prospect but it’s hard not to love what the kid brings to the table. I think his offense will project to the NHL level but the intangibles he brings cannot be overlooked despite his size. Plays a fearless game and his tenacity and compete level are matched by few in the league. I could see him having the ability to be a very solid #2C." - Anonymous

Jacob Middleton - Defenseman - Ottawa 67's (4 votes)
Highest Placement: 7th
"I’m a big fan of this kid and I love the fact that this season has offered him some good adversity to handle.  He’s a big, mobile defender who understands the physics of the game well.  He is reliable and intelligent in his own end, plays with good physicality and I believe there is some untapped offensive upside that should develop as his team improves and he matures.  He has the makeup of a reliable pro-level defender." - Anonymous

"There won't be many that will  have Middleton on this list, but all one needs to do is watch him play. He's a leader on a young and inexperienced Ottawa defence. He plays in any and all situations and eats up huge minutes. If a team has the time to wait for Middleton to develop, then he should be high on those teams list." - Anonymous

"Unfortunately I didn't have a base from his Minor Midget days... the good news is that he stands out regardless. Much like Ekblad, Middleton knows how to use his body in the defensive zone. Whether it is the reach from his stick, his ability to box out wingers, or the ability to clear a man or contain him in front of the net. His speed sets him apart from other big defencemen in this draft class, that and his mean streak. He plays a lot of minutes and it will do him good considering the team as he will have to stay sharp for the whole game which will let him grow even more." - Anonymous

Ryan MacInnis - Forward - Kitchener Rangers (4 votes)
Highest Placement: 8th
"The son of NHL HOF Al; Ryan has adjusted slowly to the OHL ranks after a stand-out debut season with the U17 US National Program last year. He has a high potential ceiling at the NHL level as he stands 6’4 yet only weighs 185 pounds giving him plenty of room to fill out. MacInnis is very gifted with the puck; he can make plays and never settles on his first option. He is highly cerebral and has become a fixture on the PP as he can manufacture offence out of innocent looking plays. Skating is a concern, as he tends to operate on only one level of quickness. Additionally he would benefit from being more physical which would also help him in the defensive zone as he can be rather easy to play against. MacInnis mixture of hockey smarts, size, skill makes him an intriguing prospect and his bloodlines only add to his draft stock." - McKeen's Hockey

"I have seen Ryan a lot already this season and I am going to throw him in my top 10 because he continues to impress at different stages of the game. Has a strong shot, and his skating is improving. As an OHL rookie, he sometimes disappears in games and want to see more consistency from him." - Anonymous

"Getting better and better each game. Saw him early and he was awful. Last couple of times I've seen him he's been very good. With the puck on his stick, he can make things happen and with his size there's a lot of potential in the puck possession/play creation area. Play away from the puck and ability to fight through traffic are definitely areas of concern right now though." - Anonymous

Blake Clarke - Forward - North Bay Battalion (4 votes)
Highest Placement: 8th
"This ranking is based mostly off of what he did last season as he has been playing less than 100% this season. What stood out to me most about him was his ability to show offensive skill in Stan Butlers system with the Battalion at such a young age and earning his trust." - Anonymous

"Looks lost right now. I've got him just inside my top 10 still, but it's based completely off of last year's performance. That won't hold much longer. He has so much potential as a skilled scoring power winger. The goal scoring instincts he showed last year seem absent this year. Timing is clearly off. Hopefully the 2nd half can provide him with some confidence so he can reclaim his spot on most top 10's. The Top Prospect's Game is also a big opportunity for him and I hope he's up to the task." - Anonymous

Nikolai Goldobin - Forward - Sarnia Sting (2 votes)
Highest Placement: 6th
"Perhaps he doesn't get the love in some circles because of his size, or maybe the Russian factor comes into play. But Goldobin is an offensive threat. He has excellent vision, is creative with the puck, makes a very good pass and can score goals. His defensive game needs work, and he has shown a willingness at times to improve on it, but he has a ways to go." - Anonymous

"Ranking Goldobin was extremely difficult. The skilled Russian added both height and mass over the summer and is playing as a much stronger player this season. Goldobin has elite puck skills (likely unmatched in the OHL) and buys time with his ability to read the attack showcasing high-end vision. Defensively, Goldobin has improved to become adequate but he does experiences lulls in his intensity and can get caught sleeping on his defensive assignments. Amping up the intensity will be important for Goldobin if he hopes to improve his draft stock as he can sometimes play it safe and stick to the perimeter rather than attacking through the tough areas. The skill set and potential to rise up these rankings is there with Goldobin but it may be tough on a young and inexperienced Sarnia Sting team. The Russian factor won’t help his ranking either but I’ve put that aside." - Anonymous

Matt Mistele - Forward - Plymouth Whalers (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 6th
"Has struggled this year and is falling down the draft charts, but I still believe in his talent as a goal scoring power winger. Has been better since returning from suspension. But still needs to get his act together." - Anonymous

Eric Cornel - Forward - Peterborough Petes (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 10th
"Has never had the opportunity to play on a good team dating back to Minor Midget which in my opinion, has held him back a bit in terms of how he’s perceived. His game is still very raw but as he’s added strength, I like what I see as a big bodied right-hand shot centre who has above average puck skills and vision. I think late in the first round this is a guy who a team could potentially wind up getting some real nice value out of 3-4 years down the road." - Anonymous

Jaden Lindo - Forward - Owen Sound Attack (1 vote)
Highest Placement: 10th
"Lots of guys I wanted to add to this list but Lindo has done nothing but appeal to me from the first game I watched him play.  He isn’t necessarily a jump out you type of skill player.  He has good skills but what sets him apart for me is the character, versatility and pure passion he plays with.  He has intangibles that, to me, make him a sure bet to play at the next level.  This is a kid you can rely on to bring it every game, every shift and he seems to rub off on his teammates too.  That contagious energy, discipline and character in one player is a very valuable asset to have on a hockey team, at any level." - Anonymous

Friday, December 13, 2013

2014 CHL Top Prospects Game Rosters

The rosters for the annual CHL Top Prospects Game were announced today. The OHL has 20 players participating at the event, which makes up half of the event's roster. This is obviously a testament to the amount of talent the OHL has to offer for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Here are the OHL players participating:

Alex Nedeljkovic

Anthony DeAngelo
Aaron Haydon
Roland McKeown
Aaron Ekblad
Alex Peters

Michael Dal Colle
Robby Fabbri
Nikolai Goldobin
Ryan MacInnis
Matt Mistele
Nick Ritchie
Sam Bennett
Blake Clarke
Spencer Watson
Eric Cornel
Josh Ho-Sang
Brendan Lemieux
Brendan Perlini
Jared McCann

There weren't any massive surprises from the OHL's end. The two names that do come to mind are Jacob Middleton and Jaden Lindo. Both have received consideration for the top 10 (among OHL players) for my first poll of OHL scouts and media members. You'd have to think that both are near the top of the list as injury replacements.

The game takes place on January 15th in Calgary and if you want to see the full rosters for the event you can do so HERE.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Team Ontario - Under 17's 2014

Hockey Ontario released the roster for Team Ontario at the 2014 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge today.

You can view the roster here

Only two non OHL players made the cut. '98 defenseman Jakub Chychrun, who is considered a strong favourite for the top pick in the 2014 OHL priority selection. And goaltender Ben Blacker, who is committed to Western Michigan, but was an Ottawa 67's draft pick.

If you're curious, the highest selected player from the 2013 draft not on the roster is Nikita Korostelev, who is likely a candidate for the Russian squad. The highest selected Ontario born player not on the roster is Kitchener's Mike Davies (at 13th overall).

Team Ontario will be gunning for it's first gold since 2011, and will be looking for retribution after an awful 6th place finish last year.

The tournament begins December 29th in Cape Breton.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Early Season Top 30 for the 2014 NHL Draft

The 2013/2014 OHL season is in full swing, and as per the norm (~ the end of October), it's time to look at my first draft ranking of the year (excluding my preseason list, found here).

While the 2014 NHL Draft is being touted as only average from a broader perspective, I actually feel like the crop available from the OHL might be the best since 2003. There are legitimately close to 15 players who look like they could be first round picks, and of those 15, at least half could be lottery selections. The high end talent available is just scary good. Seven of the league's current top 25 scorers (as I write this) are on this list. And several others are currently leading, or are close to leading their team in offensive categories. It's definitely a good year for the OHL.

Let's look at my top 30.

1. Aaron Ekblad - Defense - Barrie Colts
Most people know about Ekblad by now. The former priority draft exception is already in his 3rd season and has become a household name in the OHL. Even though Barrie's gotten off to a disappointing start, I don't think you can pin a lot of that on Ekblad. While he is the captain of the team (a feat that deserves praise at such a young age), it's been the team's forwards that shoulder the majority of the blame for the team's losses thus far. Ekblad is a tower of power on the blueline. He's a physical specimen that is incredibly difficult to play against in the corners and in front of the net. Offensively, he's still growing and gaining confidence in his ability to run the transition game, but he's made great strides on the powerplay where he looks more confident distributing the puck and using his shot. All that being said, I do think the gap is closing between him and some of the other fantastic talents available from the OHL this year. The likes of Bennett, McKeown, Dal Colle, etc are breathing down his neck for this spot.

2. Sam Bennett - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Bennett is simply a fantastic all around talent. He's been consistently one of the most dangerous players in the OHL this season (10 goals, 10 assists in 10 games). If there's a job that needs to get done, Bennett is the man to do it. His offensive instincts are terrific and he's great at finding holes in the defense, which will allow him to score his share of goals at the next level. But he's also a terrific playmaker who can assume that bull in a china shop mentality to make plays. His work along the boards and on the forecheck is also excellent. As a penalty killer and defensive player, his game is growing leaps and bounds, which suggests that he profiles as an above average two-way player moving forward. TSN scout Craig Button recently suggested that he could challenge for first overall, a concept that isn't incredibly far fetched.

3. Roland McKeown - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
McKeown's development as a player has really impressed me this season. His play in his own end has always been a strength, but he's playing with a lot more confidence and has been nearly impossible to score against this season (a remarkable +21 so far). His reads and positioning in the defensive end are fantastic and he's playing with more piss and vinegar this year which is allowing him to win more battles in the corners and in front of the net. The area that has grown the most though is his ability to confidently carry and distribute the puck. He's showing no fear in leading the rush and jumping up to make plays offensively, possessing the confidence to know that he can get back defensively. His ability to run the powerplay and make reads on the point has also improved, even if I'd like him to try and use his shot a bit more. McKeown is going to play in the NHL for a long time; think Ryan Suter.
4. Michael Dal Colle - Forward - Oshawa Generals
He just had an 8 game point scoring streak snapped; Dal Colle has come out guns a blazing this year. I think perhaps most impressive is how he led this team at the beginning of the year when it was uncertain whether Scott Laughton would be returning. A natural center, Dal Colle has continued to play wing (for the majority) this year, seeing time with both Laughton and Sterk. Dal Colle's best asset is his ability to use his size to control and protect the puck. Once he's got possession, he's very hard to knock off the puck and is constantly looking to go hard to the net. His hands in close are also terrific and it allows him to pick up his share of goals near the crease. His skating has also improved and it's allowing him to be more explosive to open lanes, making him a more dangerous player without the puck too. Forwards with his size and skill package don't grow on trees.

5. Nick Ritchie - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Ritchie is more of a traditional power forward than Dal Colle is, but is still a similar player in the sense that he's a big bodied winger with a ton of skill. Ritchie's ability to generate off the rush is his best asset as he's a very good skater for a big man. Similar to Dal Colle, he's a great puckhandler who surprises defenseman with how smooth his hands are. As a distributor, I think he's still growing and learning to slow the game down a bit, but his size and skill package is tantalizing. Where he beats Dal Colle is his ability to punish players physically. Ritchie excels when he's throwing his body around and projects as a throw back type of power forward, the way that his brother Brett plays the game. The biggest thing for Ritchie is to stay healthy this year. If he does, he's easily going to get lottery consideration.
6. Jared McCann - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One of the more underrated players of this draft crop so far. I think he's right up there with the likes of Ritchie, Dal Colle and Bennett, yet we don't hear a lot about him. The Greyhounds are playing terrific hockey and he's one of the main reasons as the team's 2nd leading scorer. McCann is a heady two-way center who brings speed and smarts to the ice. He makes his linemates better because of his ability to see the ice and create for them. His strong vision also carries over to the defensive end where he's probably the best two-way forward of any of the OHL guys available (even over Bennett). McCann is a dedicated backchecker and has terrific anticipation, getting his stick in passing lanes. He's also a very strong penalty killer and has helped the Hounds have one of the top PK units thus far. He's not as physically developed as Bennett, Ritchie, and Dal Colle, and as such isn't as consistent offensively or as dominant along the boards, but the potential to be great is just as strong.

7. Brendan Perlini - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Are the Barrie Colts going to stop trading their first rounders to Niagara soon? First Ryan Strome, then Brendan Perlini. Both exploded in their 2nd OHL seasons, much to the chagrin of Barrie fans. Perlini has been absolutely fantastic this season. Not only is he the leading scorer among draft eligibles in the OHL right now (28 points), but he's also leading the entire CHL. OHL defenses just don't have answer for him right now. He's got size, but is also a fantastic north/south skater and he's catching a lot of defenses flat footed as he attacks the zone; defenders are having a tough time keeping him in front of them. Perlini also possesses a fantastic shot coming down the wing and has a lot of confidence using it right now. He and Leafs draft pick Carter Verhaeghe have developed insane chemistry. As he fills out his frame, Perlini is only going to become tougher to play against. I'm not a huge fan of comparisons, but I see a lot of Jeff Carter in Perlini's game and I think he profiles as a similar type of player. At this point, he's got to be considered a strong candidate for the top 10-15 of the draft.

8. Blake Clarke - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Some might be surprised that I've still got Clarke as high as I do, considering his slow start. But I was too impressed with his size and skill package last year to give up on him this early into the season. He's got a lot of games remaining to try and turn it around, even if he's currently out with a shoulder injury. When he's on, Clarke has terrific skill and drive in the offensive end. He creates a lot of offensive chances by using his size to take the puck to the net and is a great finisher in close. His physical game also shows flashes of existing, to the point becoming a more traditional power forward. So far this year, he's looked a bit sluggish and isn't playing to the level that he needs to play. When he returns from injury, he's going to have to dial up the intensity to remain this high on my list. Impressions from your rookie season can only take you so far (ask Stephen Harper last year).

9. Anthony DeAngelo - Defense - Sarnia Sting
For as bad as the Sting have been this year, DeAngelo has certainly been a bright spot. His 19 points in 13 games is easily tops in the OHL. It shouldn't take a genius to figure out how terrific of an offensive player DeAngelo is. He runs the point on the powerplay better than anyone else in the OHL and has terrific offensive instincts. He makes smart decisions with the puck at the point and has fantastic vision with the man advantage. 5 on 5, DeAngelo transitions up ice very quickly and is extremely aggressive in jumping up in the rush. Defensively, he has his shortcomings. He's a bit undersized and could have some difficulties with bigger forwards at the next level. He's also a high risk, high reward type of player who can can caught up ice and occasionally force plays in his own end. But the positives outweigh the negatives at this point as I don't think you can ignore the offensive potential he possesses.

10. Spencer Watson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
As he proved at this summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament, Watson is simply an offensive dynamo. He has skill and hockey sense, a dangerous combination in the offensive end. He's certainly undersized (pushing 5'10), but it hasn't held him back yet and with how elusive he is, I don't see it being a huge issue at the next level. His ability to create space for himself to use his shot is excellent and one of his best attributes. And while he's certainly not a physical player, he's not shy to attack the net or go into high traffic areas. He'll give up his body to make a play offensively. Without ideal size, and lacking in some other areas, he's not going to get himself into consideration with the other top forwards in the OHL, but I think he can still be a first round pick. His point production potential is massive.

11. Nikolai Goldobin - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Statistically it's been an OK year for Goldobin so far, averaging a point per game. But the Sting have struggled and Goldobin hasn't been able to contribute consistently. That doesn't change the fact that he's one of the most skilled players with the puck in the entire OHL. He's incredibly elusive and keeps plays alive by avoiding stick checks and making defenders miss. Like Watson, he's not afraid of contact and will go to the net to make plays. His ability to retrieve pucks and play in the corners will need to improve, but when he's got the puck on his stick he's electric.

12. Josh Ho-Sang - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
I've been pretty critical of Ho-Sang's game so far in his OHL career. But I'd be blind if I said he hadn't made some significant strides so far this season. He's using his teammates more this year and isn't committing nearly as many offensive zone turnovers by trying to force plays. There's no doubt about the high level of skill he possesses, as he can maintain puck possession in open ice with the best of them. The rest of his game remains a work in progress (physically, defensively), but I have been impressed with him this year.

13. Alex Nedeljkovic - Goaltender - Plymouth Whalers
The Whalers have been very inconsistent as a team this year, but their problems have definitely not had anything to do with goaltending. Nedeljkovic has been a rock. He's played the most games of any goalie in the league so far and he's seeing a ton of rubber (over 35 shots a game), yet has a solid .914 save percentage. NHL teams might have a bit of issue with the fact that he doesn't have the terrific size they're looking for in goalies these days (he's ~6'0), but the rest of his make up is excellent. He's consistent because of how well he reads the game and gets himself in position and he's athletic enough to make the big saves when they're needed. I think he should be considered a definite first, early 2nd round talent.

14. Robby Fabbri - Forward - Guelph Storm
Fabbri certainly isn't the biggest guy on the ice, but he works his tail off to make up for it. It just so happens that on top of having terrific work ethic, he's also incredibly skilled with the puck. No question that if he were 6'1 instead of 5'10 and about 170lbs, he'd be getting significant consideration for the top 15/20 of the draft. As it is, all the rest of the tools are there. He has terrific hockey sense and can make plays with the puck, or force turnovers and find scoring lanes without it. He's a very well balanced player who fits in well with a hard nosed Guelph line-up.

15. Ryan MacInnis - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
I'm not buying the hype yet. I haven't seen Kitchener as much as I would have liked so far, but in the times I have, MacInnis has been underwhelming. And the statline he's produced certainly backs that up. In reality, I thought about ranking him lower, but I think he deserves a grace period considering the adjustments he's going to need to make as a rookie. The size and skill package is obviously a big plus. 6'4 guys who can skate pretty well and handle themselves in the offensive end are not common. But his physical intensity needs to increase and he needs to do more without the puck in the offensive end. He just hasn't been very visible in his short time in the league. But again, the potential is too high to put him lower just yet.

16. Matthew Mistele - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
After scoring 34 goals last year, Mistele was expected to be a big part of Plymouth's rebuilding offense this year. But he's struggled out of the gate and has even missed time due to a five game suspension. As a late '95, he's entering his third year in the league so the expectations should be high for him. Like Clarke or MacInnis, it's too early in the season to write him off. Mistele has a lot of characteristics that NHL teams are going to find appealing. He's a hard nosed winger with some size who also has a good scoring touch and good offensive instincts. He's got to prove that he can create his own offensive chances with more consistency though.
17. Jacob Middleton - Defense - Ottawa 67's
I don't think the numbers tell the whole story for Middleton. While I don't think he's played terrific to start this season (which is why I've dropped him a bit in my rankings), I also don't think he's been as bad as the numbers suggest. He's had a couple REALLY bad games as part of an awful team effort that has contributed to his poor plus/minus. But generally he's been pretty decent and he's eating a lot of minutes. His offensive game hasn't rounded into form this year like I thought it might, but he's playing physical and is becoming a very difficult player to match up against in front of the net and in the corners. He's also a threat to lower the boom in the open ice. At this point, I think his average skating might be holding him back a bit, and his reads in the defensive end could still use some sharpening, but I still like the two-way potential he has.

18. Eric Cornel - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Cornel started off the year red hot, both in the preseason and through the opening month. He's cooled lately but I still love the improvement he's showing over last year. He's your ideal mold of a playmaking center in today's NHL. Has great size, can move and can handle the puck. I've been really impressed with his ability to make smart plays with the puck in the offensive end and he's been an asset for his linemates thus far. He's also showing some desire to mix it up in the corners and is developing a bit of sandpaper to his game. He's still a very raw player, but I think he's only scratching the surface of what he's capable of.

19. Brendan Lemieux - Forward - Barrie Colts 
I'm sure most OHL fans are familiar with Brendan Lemieux by now. He's a chip off the old block (Claude's son). He only knows how to play the game one way and that's hard. He hits hard. He forechecks hard. He'll drop the gloves. He goes hard to the net. He's sort of that "pest" that we don't see nearly as much in the league as we used to. All that being said, he's a pretty skilled offensive player with some offensive upside for the next level. He has pretty good hands in close and he's able to create offensive chances for his linemates following the puck battles he wins in the corners. I don't think we're talking a top 6 player, but he could be a very useful guy. The one thing I will say is that I do wish he was a more electric skater for the type of game he plays. The high intensity, high tempo game is often played the best by quicker players at the next level.

20. Aaron Haydon - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Disappointed with his offensive production thus far, but I do still think there's offensive potential there. Last year he started to take that next step as a puck mover, but he's yet to find that confidence this season. But even if the offensive game remains very raw, he's got a lot of other redeeming qualities that make him an interesting NHL prospect. He's got great size and he's very mobile for a bigger defender. This year he's playing a lot meaner and is really throwing his weight around and establishing himself as a tough shutdown defender. Similar to Jacob Middleton, if he wants to keep this high of a ranking, he's going to have to start showing more offensively and establish himself as a two-way threat.

21. Jaden Lindo - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Lindo is cut from the same cloth as a guy like Zach Nastasiuk in the sense that he's not the most naturally gifted offensive player, but he's an effective role player who works hard at both ends of the ice. He does all the little things for Owen Sound and NHL scouts are going to like him for the how well rounded his game is. He's most effective as a forechecker and someone who can work the cycle and win puck battles along the boards. He's still growing as a puck carrier and once he's able to add that element to his game, he'll become a more dangerous offensive player. For now, he's a crash and bang winger who can do the dirty work on a line.

22. Blake Siebenaler - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Siebenaler is a very raw prospect, but I really like what I've seen of him so far. He's only been playing defense for a couple of years, but already looks quite comfortable there. The first thing you notice about him is how well he skates. He moves effortlessly out there and is gaining confidence in his ability to lead the breakout. Defensively, he uses this strong mobility to stay in front of forwards off the rush. I've also been impressed with how well he's running the point on the powerplay thus far as he looks comfortable there. He can make some mistakes in coverage, but he's got a ton of potential. He has to be on the radar of scouts by now, especially those flocking to see Perlini.

23. Brandon Robinson - Forward - North Bay Battalion
No question, he's another player in this draft class who is being ranked off his potential and previous performances and not his production this year. With only 4 goals to start 2013, Robinson is struggling offensively. But I seem to have a knock for watching him when he's at his best (including a 2 goal performance in Mississauga this year), so I find it hard to knock him down yet. He's got great size, a great shot and has looked to have improved his skating and first few steps. But the toolbox has to result in consistent production. He needs to play with more intensity, especially physically, as there's no question that he's at his best when he's going hard along the walls and involving himself in the crash and bang game. As a third year player (late '95), he's got to figure it out soon or he's going to start really dropping off draft lists.
24. Mike Amadio - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Amadio has had a good season so far, centering one of North Bay's scoring lines. He's a very skilled player who is at his best when the puck is on his stick. He can create for teammates and has good speed that he uses to gain the blueline. Under Stan Butler, he's working on rounding out his game and becoming a more complete player. I have no doubt that Stan will turn him into a better player along the boards who can use his offensive creativity in the cycle and not just off the rush. But he's an intriguing player based on the offensive skill set that he possesses.

25. Phil Baltisberger - Defense - Guelph Storm
A late '95, Baltisberger has been an absolute rock on the back end for Guelph so far. The Swiss Import is playing in his first season in the OHL, but you'd never be able to tell as he looks like a veteran out there. He's been eating up a ton of minutes for Scott Walker. Baltisberger isn't exactly a flashy player. He's an average skater, has average puck skill, but he makes terrific reads in the defensive end and really enjoys using his size to intimidate opposing forwards. I've also noticed in a couple viewings that he's a great shot blocker and has some definite potential as a stay at home guy at the next level.

26. Brandon Prophet - Defense - Saginaw Spirit 
Prophet is sort of a jack of all trades defenseman. He's got pretty good size and is fairly mobile. He can make a good breakout pass and is generally good with the puck, but he's not a natural puck mover or powerplay quarterback. He's strong in his own end and makes good reads, but he's not a particularly physical player. Prophet is kind of that "steady eddy" who can be relied upon to eat up minutes without making too many mistakes. As he gains more confidence in his offensive game, we could see him take more chances, but he'll probably always be a relatively safe defender who can contribute in all areas.

27. Damian Bourne - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
The offensive production certainly hasn't been there for Bourne, but I don't think he's played particularly poorly or anything. In fact, I've been relatively impressed with his progression this year as he's more engaged in the play offensively and looks to have improved his skating to the point where he's getting scoring opportunities off the rush. Of course the thing you notice most about his game is his physical presence as he's probably the most physical player that I've listed here. One part of his game that I've actually really noticed is his playmaking ability for a big man. He's got good vision and makes some really nice passes. If anything, he should be looking to shoot the puck more, but he's turned himself into a player that can open up some space for his linemates and help to set up scoring chances for them.

28. Stefan Leblanc - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
A lot of his physical skills don't really jump out at you, but he's been very effective in his first year in the league. He's playing a ton for Sudbury and has been noticeable for all the right reasons thus far. I really like how he moves the puck out of his own end. He's not really an aggressive puck rusher, but he's confident to skate the puck out of trouble and makes a terrific first pass. He's also looked very smart on the powerplay and controls the line like a veteran. Defensively, he's not the biggest guy but he's holding his own and is an effective stick checker. In fact, he's actually surprised with a few nice hits this year and could look to develop this "sandpaper" in his game to attract scouting attention to himself.

29. Nick Magyar - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Kitchener has really struggled this year, but in the times I've seen them, he's been one of their more noticeable players. He's got good size and he's not afraid to get his nose dirty in the corners or in front of the net. He seems to be a pretty good player in puck possession and is having some success playing the cycle game. Magyar also seems to have enough skill with the puck to contribute offensively, but at this point he hasn't shown a lot of creativity and seems to be keeping things simple.

30. Kyle Jenkins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Leblanc's teammate in Oakville last year, Jenkins is a similar type of player who's excelling in his first OHL season. He's a little quicker than Leblanc and has greater offensive potential as a puck carrier, but he's also less physically mature and a little rawer defensively. Jenkins has done very well running the point on the powerplay with Darnell Nurse and is quickly gaining the trust of Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff. As he gains more confidence in his puck abilities, we could see him really start to take off offensively.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically)

Zach Bratina - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Michael Bunting - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Connor Chatham - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Cristiano DiGiacinto - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Dylan DiPerna - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Christian Dvorak - Forward - London Knights
Brook Hiddink - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Brandon Hughes - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Kevin Labanc - Forward - Barrie Colts
Matthew Mancina - Goaltender - Guelph Storm
Alex Peters - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
Alex Protapovich - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Francesco Vilardi - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Nikita Yazkov - Forward - Windsor Spitfires