Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 30-11

I bring you part 3 of my rankings as we delve inside the top 30.

30. Kyle Jenkins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Playing in his first OHL year, Jenkins seems like quite a find for the Hounds. He stepped right into that line up and had an impact, especially on the powerplay. His skill level certainly doesn't blow you away, but he's a very intelligent player (at both ends of the ice). He really does a good job of moving the puck from the point and keeping pucks in at the blueline. His shot needs some work if he wants to become an elite QB, but as he adds strength that should improve. Jenkins is a good skater and does a good job of limiting turnovers in his own end by making good passes or electing to skate across the blueline. Defensively, he's got good positioning, but isn't strong enough yet to consistently win battles in the corners or in front of the net. He saw a good chunk of time with Tyler Ganly towards the end of the year and that's a great defensive partner for him. As he gets stronger, I'm very curious to see how Jenkins' skill set grows/improves because there is a lot to like about the way he plays the game (think Paul Martin).
Kyle Jenkins' NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

29. Mike Amadio - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Scouts are likely to be drawn to Amadio because he fits the prototype of the ideal center in today's NHL. Good size, skating ability, skill, and an ability to excel in puck possession. He's certainly not yet a consistent contributor, but he has his moments of brilliance. His defensive game and play away from the puck have been a work in progress all season, but they've improved under Stan Butler. If there's one coach in the league who can get a big center to develop into a two-way asset, it's Butler. As previously mentioned, Amadio has loads of potential because of how skilled he is with the puck. He could be a very valuable playmaker as someone who can bide time for his linemates. Under Butler, hopefully Amadio can develop a bit more intensity away from the puck, which I think would help the consistency aspect.
Mike Amadio on "The Pipeline Show." 
Mike Amadio's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

28. Darby Llewellyn - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
It was sort of the tale of two seasons for Llewellyn. Between November and December he scored 15 goals. During the other 4 months of the season he scored 10. It wasn't an easy year to play in Kitchener though. You have to look at the bright side. Llewellyn's 25 goals were tied for the team lead with Justin Bailey and were more than Ryan MacInnis and Nick Magyar, two prospects I've got ranked ahead of him. He can be a real puck hound and it's that quality that allows him to score his share of goals. On top of a solid intensity level, Llewellyn is also a good skater, which helps him to beat defenders to pucks in the corners and in front of the net. Moving forward, a couple things will help to define his role as either a scoring or checking line prospect. Those are the development of his shot and the consistency of his physical game and ability to drive the net.

27. Ryan Foss - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Foss is a prospect that has to be trending upwards. After being signed as a free agent by Windsor, Foss worked hard to get ice time at the beginning of the year and subsequently wasn't really putting up offensive numbers (took him until mid November to score his first OHL goal). But by the end of the year, he had worked himself up to a scoring line with Brady Vail and Ben Johnson. He had 23 points in his final 28 games (including the playoffs). Foss could be one of those diamond in the rough guys. He's got good size, and while he's not physical, he uses his size well offensively to shield the puck and win battles against the wall. He also had good vision and projects to be a quality two-way center who can be very effective in the cycle game. Foss is also a good skater and was often the first man to retrieve the puck on that aforementioned Vail/Johnson line. As he continues to add strength and gain confidence, Foss could be a real find for someone.

26. Dylan Sadowy - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
If he were a better skater, we'd be talking about Sadowy at the top half of the 2nd round with the likes of Magyar, Cornel, Bunting, etc. He does absolutely everything you can ask of him in Saginaw. He's very active on the forecheck. He's a terrific penalty killer. He drives the net with and without the puck. He plays physical and gets under the skin of the opposition. Best of all, he lead Saginaw in goals this year with 27. And how many of those 27 were on the powerplay? ZERO. Food for thought, but Sadowy's 24 even strength goals (he had 3 SH) were more than Brendan Perlini (16). Saginaw went through some rough ups and downs this year, but Sadowy was a pillar of consistency. He also had 4 goals in 5 postseason games. As mentioned though, his skating is below average and needs work. He'll also need to improve his ability to receive and carry the puck at top speed in order to be more effective at driving the net. There's too much not to like about him as a player though, especially when you consider that his deficiencies can be improved.

25. Brent Moran - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
Moran started the year in a platoon with veteran Chris Festarini, but eventually took over the starter's job when Festarini left the team. It wasn't until then that Moran's play really improved noticeably. With more consistent playing time, his confidence grew and he began stringing consistently strong appearances together. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Moran was playing some terrific hockey, and continued that into the first round against North Bay, where he was excellent. He's got great size and that's going to lure in the scouts. His ability to track the play and cut down angles really improved as the year went on. As did his ability to control his rebounds. He can still give up some bad goals low when teams get him moving. And he still has a tendency to be beat high from overplaying angles. BUT, he has terrific potential and is a real moldable kid. He probably ends up going off the boards earlier than where I have him in my rankings.

24. Connor Chatham - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Chatham is a real big kid who came into the year with some reasonably high expectations because he was a late '95, had already had a successful year in the USHL and was highly rated by NHL Central Scouting. But that certainly wasn't the case early on where he had only 5 goals in his first 33 games. The physical component to his game was there during that time, but he looked timid offensively and was not very effective with the puck. He slowly improved over the season though and as his confidence blossomed, so did his offensive contribution. In the final 26 games of the year (including playoffs), Chatham had 11 goals, and 10 assists. He used his size (6'3, 225lbs) to drive the net hard and became a very effective offensive player off the rush because he's also a solid skater for a big man. The only negative thing for me is that as he got better offensively, I found him to be less engaged physically. Like any power forward prospect, he'll need to find a way to use his size and tenacity away from the puck to fuel his offensive game with more consistency.
Connor Chatham on "The Pipeline Show."

23. Jacob Middleton - Defense - Ottawa 67's
I feel a little bit bad for Middleton. He seems to have really slid down a lot of draft boards (starting the year as a potential first rounder) and is more likely to be a mid round pick than an early one. I feel bad because he wasn't really put in a situation he could succeed in. The 67's were bad this year, especially defensively. Middleton was asked to be the team's number one defenseman and play in all situations, something he probably wasn't ready for. You could certainly turn that around and say, "well if he's a tremendous prospect, he would have put the team on his back." But I would reply, what 18 year old is ready for that? Bottom line is, I still like him as a prospect and it's why I have him ranked where I do (in with guys I think could be top 100 picks). He possesses a lot of qualities that could make him a very effective NHL defenseman. Defensively, he could be a very good player with his size, mobility, and physical toughness. He's already a very strong player along the wall and does a great job of pinning and winning battles. He can have a tendency to chase a bit and his positioning one on one could use a bit of work, but the potential is quite high. Offensively, he moves the puck well and can skate out of his zone. I feel like his ability to control and push in transition will only improve as he gets older and gains confidence. As a powerplay QB, he'll need to work on his shot and looking to find ways to use it, but he has potential there too. As the 67's mature as a team, I think Middleton will too and the NHL team that takes a chance on him will be happy down the road.
Jacob Middleton's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

22. Aaron Haydon - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Haydon's offensive game really didn't develop as I anticipated it would this year. That part of his game really improved as a 16/17 year old during the 2012/2013 season, so an expectation of continued growth wasn't far fetched. In reality, I think his offensive game actually regressed. Haydon is a terrific skater, especially for a bigger defender, and he needs to take advantage of that more in order to jump up or lead the rush. He can be prone to turnovers in his own end because of some poor decision making. His first pass will definitely need to improve. But there's definitely potential there and I think a lack of confidence in that area really hurt his game this year. Defensively, the -39 isn't indicative. Haydon is a solid defensive prospect. With his skating ability, size, and aggression, he has the potential to develop into a top quality shut down guy. He can get lost in coverage at times, but he's already terrific off the rush and is adept at winning battles in the corners and near the crease. Basically, Haydon's game is all about projection. He's a big kid with a lot of redeeming qualities. He's not polished, but as he matures, he could be a terrific two-way guy, or at the very least a solid stay at home. I do continue to have faith in his offensive capabilities moving forward though.
Aaron Haydon's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

21. Matt Mistele - Forward - Plymouth Whalers
Mistele saved his draft season by finishing the year on a high note. After scoring 34 last year, the late '95 finished this year with only 18. His production in the first few months was not good and he really struggled with being a go to guy who had to create his own offensive chances. But he was much better in the 2014 calendar year, going 11-14 in his final 28 games. Mistele is your protoypical Mike Vellucci type player (even though he's now gone from the Whalers' organization). He's got size, he excels when the game gets physical, he's active on the wall, and he's effective near the crease. As the year went on, Mistele's ability to create off the rush and his ability to carry the puck got much better and he was able to be more than just a complimentary scorer. As a late '95, he's going to have to really increase his production next year and prove that he's a legitimate NHL prospect. To do that, he needs to find a way to play a power forward game with more consistency, and really improve the quality of his shot so that can he finish off the chances his size can create. He won't be a first rounder like he may have been projected to be late last year, but I'd be surprised if he's not still a top 100 pick despite a step backward this year.
Matt Mistele on "The Pipeline Show."

20. Spencer Watson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Spencer Watson had an explosive start to the year after dominating the Ivan Hlinka tournament (with 10 points). He also started the OHL season well and signs were pointing to him being a potential late first/early 2nd round pick despite his lack of stature (5'9). But, he suffered from bouts of inconsistency this year and really disappeared down the stretch and in the playoffs (although he was fighting an undisclosed injury late too). In his final 23 games (including playoffs), he had only 3 goals. This undisclosed injury also kept him out of the Under 18's, which he could have used to really elevate his stock again. So you ask, what separates a guy like Watson (and makes him a likely 3rd/4th rounder) from a guy like Fabbri (who's a potential lottery pick), when they are both undersized offensive players? Watson is equally as skilled as Fabbri, and just as intelligent without the puck. Offensively, he has all the tools (skating, puck skill, smarts, a great shot) and by the time his OHL career is done, he'll probably lead the league in scoring (or come close to it). That's where the comparison ends though. Where as Fabbri excels without the puck, Watson tends to disappear. At this point, he's much more effective when someone else can get him the puck and do the dirty work for him. He's not strong enough to consistently win battles along the wall or in front of the net. And that's where the consistency issues come into play. So while you can look at a guy like Fabbri and say "this guy will play in the NHL even without elite size," I don't think you can make that same assumption right now with Watson, as skilled as he is.
Spencer Watson's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

19. Nick Magyar - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
I like Nick Magyar a lot, and realistically, any of the guys I have ranked from 19-16 are pretty interchangeable for me. What I love most about Magyar is his ability to work the wall (cycle) to create offensive scoring chances. He uses his size very effectively to protect the puck and he has good vision to find open teammates. He's also effective on drives to the net, using a surprising burst of speed to beat defenders wide, which again displays his terrific ability to protect the puck. At this point, Magyar does need to work on some other aspects of the game though. I'd like to see him be more physically aggressive without the puck and really become more of a factor on the forecheck, especially with his ability to control the cycle game. I think he also needs to be more aggressive in going to the net without the puck to open up space and to score more. His defensive effort can waver at times, although he should eventually develop into a quality two-way player because of his skill set. I'm not sure the upside is incredibly high, but I think he could develop into a very solid 3rd line winger at the next level who can succeed in a variety of situations and really learn to control boards and be a workhorse to tire out defenses.

18. Blake Siebenaler - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
I think, by now, everyone knows the scoop about Siebenaler. He's only recently made the switch to playing defense and because of how quickly he's taken to the position, he's a very impressive under the radar prospect. His biggest asset is his skating ability. He's an effortless skater who uses this talent to make plays at both ends of the ice. At the start of the year, he looked quite shaky at times, perhaps even overwhelmed. But, by season's end he had become Niagara's best defenseman and was absolutely terrific in the team's tough 7 game opening playoff round loss to North Bay. By year's end, he had become quite comfortable leading the rush and jumping up in the play to create offense, realizing that he has the ability to quickly regroup defensively because of his quickness. Defensively, he became quite sturdy and was making way better reads, chasing the play less by season's end. He does a great job of getting his stick in passing lanes, especially to prevent scoring chances in the slot. Obviously, he's going to need to get stronger to do a better job defending his net and the corners, but that will come. I think the other area of his game that really needs improvement is his ability to run the powerplay. He needs to make quicker decisions with the puck and do a better job of getting his shot through to the net. All things considered though, Siebenaler has to be a very attractive option to NHL teams because of how raw he is and because of the progression he showed this year.
Blake Siebenaler's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.
17. Michael Bunting - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
I have to admit, Bunting is one of my favourite prospects available for this draft. Whenever I saw the Hounds live this year, he was one of the best players on the ice. What a find by Kyle Dubas and Victor Carneiro (and the rest of the Hounds scouting staff). The late '95 born was an OHL rookie this year after going through two OHL drafts and playing midget hockey last year. Bunting is a high energy offensive player. He's a very good skater and he pushes the tempo, with and without the puck. And despite only having average size (~6'0), he's incredibly aggressive in driving to the crease and excels in traffic. Also, don't let those low penalty minute numbers fool you, he's an intense player who seems to really get under the skin of the opposition. I think he's only scratching the surface of what he's capable of as an offensive player and as he gains confidence in his ability to lead entry into the zone, and shoot the puck, we'll see even higher production. Another big positive for me was how he returned from injury this year. Bunting tore his MCL in January, just as he was really hitting a stride. He returned in mid March and didn't miss a beat, and was solid in the playoffs too.
Michael Bunting on "The Pipeline Show."

16. Alex Peters - Defense - Plymouth Whalers
Peters has to be considered one of the top shutdown defensive prospects available for this draft. At 6'4, 200lbs, and with good mobility, he's very difficult to get around off the rush. He keeps attacking forwards in front of him and picks his spots well when using a stick or body check. Peters is also already very strong in the corners and comes away with the puck in the vast majority of his loose puck battles. As he matures, I look for him to become even more of a menacing presence in front of the net, utilizing his size just a bit more than he currently does. The best thing about Peters is that he's very capable at handling the puck and does a great job with getting the puck out of his zone by pass or rush. As he gains confidence, I look for him to try to jump up in the rush a bit more and to try pushing those rushes deeper into the offensive zone. While he does a great job of skating the puck out of trouble, he's quick to dish it off once outside of his blueline. The offensive numbers aren't necessarily there, but I can tell you that he has more offensive potential than those numbers would indicate. Bottom line is that Peters looks like a guy who could play 10+ years in the NHL in some capacity, but who also has the potential to impact the game on more than just a defensive level.
Alex Peters' NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

15. Anthony DeAngelo - Defense - Sarnia Sting
I don't think I need to harp on why DeAngelo is ranked a little lower by me than others may have him. The suspension and general attitude issues have obviously played into this ranking. But, he's still a teenager and he has the chance to mature as a person. Let's talk about DeAngelo as a hockey player. He led the OHL in defenseman scoring by a large margin despite playing in nearly 20 less games. His stats would have pro-rated him to a 90+ point season had he not missed games for various reasons. He could have led the league in defensive scoring by over 30 points. That's no fluke. He's like having a 4th forward out there. His skating ability is absolutely phenomenal, as is his ability to carry the puck and avoid checks. Because of this, he's generally able to enter the offensive zone with ease at this level. DeAngelo also runs the powerplay very effectively. He makes smart decisions there and does a great job of getting himself open to use his shot. It's not incredibly hard, but he's very slippery in the zone and gets himself in terrific position to use it as a defenseman. For all of his amazing talent as an offensive defenseman, he has major short comings as a defensive player. The effort level just isn't there defensively a lot of the time. He'll jump up in the rush to make a play offensively, but coast back defensively. He tends to chase in the defensive zone and gets himself caught out of position. And while he's a factor physically in the neutral zone and in the open ice, he's not nearly engaged enough in the corners or in front of the net. When you throw in the fact that he's undersized, that's when things become even scarier. DeAngelo is the ultimate boom or bust prospect for this draft.
Anthony DeAngelo on "The Pipeline Show." 
Anthony DeAngelo's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

14. Eric Cornel - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Cornel was having a very fine year, even before the Hunter Garlent trade. But it was the acquisition of Garlent that really brought his game to another level. With Nick Ritchie, the three of them were absolutely fantastic down the stretch for Peterborough, helping them make the playoffs and defeat Kingston in the first round. As the 3rd overall pick in 2012 (OHL Draft), Cornel struggled mightily last year with the physicality of the OHL game. It was obvious that he had bulked up this year and was much more effective, improving his point total by almost 50. Cornel can play both center or wing, but is better suited as a winger, which is what he plays on the Ritchie/Garlent line. He has good size and is a terrific playmaker. He sees the ice well and is a very smart player in the offensive zone. He moves very well without the puck and is able to consistently find holes in the defense. His play without the puck greatly improved over the course of the year and we even saw a bit of sandpaper to his game by season's end. Adding size, strength and a consistent intensity level without the puck will be the key to his development going forward.
Eric Cornel on "The Pipeline Show." 
Eric Cornel's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.
13. Brendan Lemieux - Forward - Barrie Colts
Brendan Lemieux is definitely Claude's son. He's a chip off the ol' block and plays the game the same way his father does. His compete and intensity levels are off the charts. If he loses the puck, he's going to go through a wall to get it back. He's certainly not the fastest player on the ice, but he's a very effective forechecker because of his anticipation and because of his strength along the boards. Again, despite a lack of elite speed, he beats defenders to loose pucks on the dump and he beats them to the front of the net for rebounds because he wants it more than they do. Obviously, at the next level, sheer will won't win him races to the puck, so that's something he's going to need to work on. Improving his first few steps and top gear would also help him offensively too and allow him to generate more chances on net drives. His biggest asset offensively is his ability to play the crease. He's got terrific hands and is a master of the redirect. He feeds off the battle in front of the net and when combined with his 6'1, 200lbs frame, that makes him a very tough tie up for defenseman trying to clear the crease. His shot and the quickness of his release definitely improved this year, but will need further improvements in order to carry over his goal scoring prowess. Even though he was consistent all year, he also got better as the season went on and finished on a high note, scoring 12 in his final 16 (including the playoffs). I think he probably sneaks into the late first and just can't see him falling despite some skating concerns.
Brendan Lemieux's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

12. Ryan MacInnis - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
MacInnis is a very interesting prospect for this draft. Being Al's son is obviously an interesting piece of the puzzle, but there's so much more too. The offensive production wasn't great this year and he is far from a consistent and polished player. Yet, he remains someone ranked inside the first round on a lot of publications. Some probably point to the bloodlines, and sure that might be a part of it. But as I said, there's more than that. I saw MacInnis play a handful of times this year. The majority of those times he wasn't much of a factor. But the other couple of times, he was the best player on the ice and that's what has scouts talking. The potential for him to develop into an elite player is legitimate. He has some great tools. He has the size NHL teams look for in centers these days. He can skate with the puck and he controls the tempo; he's able to find the open man at top speed or coming off the wall; he's got a very heavy shot (go figure); and every once in a while he plays with a high intensity level without the puck. As he gets stronger and gains confidence, he could one day be a very good player. For me, the biggest negative is the play without the puck. Even though he's 6'4, he stands around watching the play develop a little too much. He needs to get his hands dirty more and engage physically, playing less of a perimeter game. He also needs to improve his skating, in particular his first few steps to make him a more explosive player. A team that's willing to be patient with him is going to draft him, and probably higher than people will expect (think Calgary and Mark Jankowski).
Ryan MacInnis on "The Pipeline Show." 
Ryan MacInnis's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

11. Roland McKeown - Defense - Kingston Frontencs
I want to like McKeown as much as some others do, but there's just something missing from his game that I can't put my finger on. He's a very solid all around player and he's an effortless skater. He makes smart decisions with the puck in his own end and is adept at making a first pass or skating the puck out of trouble. Defensively, he's better than people give him credit for. His positioning and smarts are excellent. He's certainly not ever going to be the type that engages a ton physically, but he's a very smart positional/stick defender who'll become a better one on one player as he gets stronger. McKeown is also a strong leader and a very mature kid who will likely be a big part of Canada's success at upcoming WJC events (wore the C at the most recent U18's). All that said, I'm just not sure I personally see a lot of upside. He's a solid defender, but he doesn't have the size or the aggressive nature to develop into a premier defensive player. And he's terrific with the puck, but he's also not an aggressive offensive player and the type of guy I see putting up large numbers in the NHL. That leaves us with the question of, "what type of role will he play at the next level?" If draft/scouting history has taught us anything, it's that junior defenseman who don't have a clearly defined role or...a dominant skill set (in one area) tend to struggle to find a permanent place in the NHL. For McKeown it's going to be about the development of his game at both ends of the ice. Specifically, I think he's going to need to become a more dominant offensive defenseman and the type of guy a team can rely on to run a powerplay. I still like him, I just don't think I take him in the first round...even with the shortage of defenseman available for this draft.
Roland McKeown on "The Pipeline Show." 
Roland McKeown's NHL Draft Tracker segment on Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.

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