Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 OHL Trade Deadline Preview

As the calendar year approaches its conclusion, that can only mean one thing. The OHL Trade Deadline has almost arrived. This year, overage players must be dealt by January 8, while the deadline for all other players is January 9.

I have a feeling that this will be quite the active deadline based on how close some of the playoff races are, and because several teams seem to be in full fledged rebuild mode.

I present to you a look at some of the high profile players who could be (and likely will be) trading places before the 8th/9th. I've also tried my hand at predicting the most logical destination for said player.

Joel Wigle - Erie Otters
Tough start to the year for Wigle. It looked like he was going to be a big part of the Otters this season, perhaps even playing with McDavid. But then he broke his hand and some of the other OA's on the team cemented themselves in the lineup. He then left the team in early December in hopes of being dealt, but that hasn't happened yet. As a big winger with scoring ability, Wigle will find a home somewhere. There are several teams (in playoff contention) currently without a 3rd OA, all of whom could use some additional help up front. Those teams are London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Sault Set. Marie (and Mississauga because I think Venuto is expendable). Of those, I think Oshawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Mississauga make the most sense, because they could use a right handed shot in their top 9.
Prediction: Wigle goes to Oshawa for a early to mid round draft pick (3-4 range)

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit
A few months ago, it looked like a Paterson deal was imminent. But after the departure of Serebryakov,  the rumours dried up. That said, the Spirit are in full rebuild mode. There are competitive teams out there who need help in net. It doesn't make sense to hang on to Paterson, when the return could be relatively strong for the overager. Any trade involving Paterson, could have a relatively experienced goalie coming back the other way to ensure the team is still given a chance to win (and David Ovsjannikov gets a mentor). Of the teams with OA wiggle room, only Ottawa and London have a need for a goalie. Of course, another team could make room, but I don't see it. And I don't think Ottawa goes all in. Therefore, I see London as the only logical choice for Paterson. They were clearly holding an OA spot open in hopes that Ryan Rupert returned, but he's been playing terrific in the AHL since his promotion from the ECHL, so that's not going to happen. And they've also been surprisingly good this year (since Domi returned), so why not go all in and try to challenge Erie for the division?
Prediction: Paterson goes to London for Michael Giugovaz, Josh DeFarias, and a early draft pick (2nd/3rd)

Jake Marchment - Belleville Bulls
Certainly not a shoe in to be dealt, especially since he plays for a playoff team and is finally playing well after returning from suspension. But, I just have a gut feeling that the former Bulls captain has warn out his welcome after the whole social media ordeal earlier this season. The Bulls have some holes on defence and I think they use Marchment to solidify that position. Marchment should garner a fair amount of interest, as he's a big guy with offensive ability. He's also a strong OA candidate despite being recently drafted (by LA). There are quite a few teams who I think match up quite well for this type of trade, such as Niagara and Windsor. Windsor has been focused on adding size up front and he would fit in very well with their current lineup.
Prediction: Marchment goes to Windsor for Trevor Murphy

Trevor Murphy - Windsor Spitfires
The Spits are deadliest in the West right now and I think that they'd be smart to sell off a few more high end assets to help the team in the future. The offensively talented Murphy is one of those players. The '95 defender is a strong OA candidate for next year, but I see Windsor looking at deals for him instead. I think Kingston, Belleville, and Sarnia make a ton of sense for Murphy. Kingston especially, is a great candidate based on how bad their power play has been this year. That said, Belleville is also a great fit based on Murphy's skating ability on the big ice. He could pair with Justin Lemcke on the 2nd pairing and take some pressure off the youngster offensively.
Prediction: Murphy goes to Belleville for Jake Marchment

Nick Ritchie - Peterborough Petes
He can't be dealt until January 5th, because he's playing in the WJC's. However, Ritchie is probably the most high profiled player rumoured to be available. The Petes have been incredibly underwhelming this year. Their inconsistent play stems from the wavering effort level of their leadership group. Ritchie has always had all the skill and potential, but just hasn't taken his game to the next level and put the Petes on his back as many expected he would this year. I think the time is now for Peterborough to change the face of their team and shake things up. The return for Ritchie would be quite strong, and likely feature several quality young players, and/or draft picks. So who are the likely suitors? I think a better question is…who isn't a likely suitor for Ritchie? Who couldn't use an injection of size and skill into their top 6? But…I'll be bold and tell you the 3 teams I expect to be chasing Ritchie the most. Those are Erie (going all in for final year of McDavid), Sault Ste. Marie (would fit in well with the north/south speed game the team likes to play), and a surprise pick, North Bay (no coach would be better for Ritchie's game than Stan Butler). That said, will Erie part with Taylor Raddysh, as the Petes will surely be looking for a former first rounder in return for Ritchie?
Prediction: Ritchie goes to Erie for Kyle Pettit, Jesse Saban, and a boatload of draft picks

Nick Moutrey - Saginaw Spirit
Will the Spirit really deal their newly appointed captain? I think so. As previously mentioned, the team is in full rebuild mode. Moutrey has been absolutely sensational this year, and I think he's actually a better add than Ritchie because of his ability to excel in a variety of roles (and his leadership). With a Moutrey deal, the team could usher in a new era and name one of their top young players as captain (like Stephens). So which team is the best fit? Again, which team isn't? Any contender should be interested in Moutrey. Like Ritchie, I'll give you 3. Again, Erie's in there because I think they go all in. And so is Sault Ste. Marie for the same reason. The wild card I'll throw out is Belleville. I think Moutrey could be a great fit on the big ice and would be a beast with Remi Elie (the same way North Bay won the East last year).
Prediction: Moutrey goes to the Soo in exchange for Anthony Salinitri and draft picks

Nathan Pancel - Sudbury Wolves
At this point, the Wolves would be silly to hang on to Pancel. The team is awful and he deserves to end his OHL career as a potential winner. His goal scoring ability would be a terrific add to any team looking to make noise in the playoffs. Of course, as an overager, there aren't too many potential suitors. You're looking at London, Oshawa, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Sault Ste. Marie, and possibly Mississauga. Of those, I think Ottawa, Owen Sound, and Mississauga are the most likely. Of course, as an Ottawa native (at least Orleans anyway), Pancel to the 67's would make a ton of sense.
Prediction: Pancel goes to Ottawa for a early draft pick (2nd/3rd)

Jeff Corbett - Sudbury Wolves
The other overager available from Sudbury, Corbett could be a low profile add for a team with OA room, looking to improve their defence. He's had some injury problems over the course of his OHL career, but he's a better defender than people think. He's solid at both ends of the ice and I think he'd really elevate his game if given the chance to play for a winner. I think he's a perfect fit in Mississauga, where he could give the team another quality defender, in a lineup with a lot of offensively oriented guys.
Prediction: Corbett goes to Mississauga for Lucas Venuto and a mid round draft pick (4th/5th)

Michael Clarke - Peterborough Petes
As mentioned, things have not gone as planned in Peterborough this year. Clarke, a former NHL draft pick, just hasn't been good enough. He's strayed away from the physical, in your face, style of play that he used employ in Windsor. I've listed the potential OA suitors in other parts of this article. And as much as the Petes would love to trade Clarke, I'm just not sure that there will be any takers. If London doesn't take a run at Jake Paterson, I could see them being interested in Clarke to give them more depth down the middle.
Prediction: Clarke stays in Peterborough

Josh MacDonald - Peterborough Petes
Of Peterborough's OA's, I think MacDonald is actually the most likely to be moved. The return won't be outstanding, but he can be a valuable role player for a good team. He could play 2nd or 3rd line wing and help a team's second power play unit. He's not the most physical player in the world, but the offensive production is there. Of the OA suitors, I see Owen Sound, Ottawa, and Mississauga being the most interested. Sault Ste. Marie has an OA spot, but I think MacDonald is a similar player to some of the guys the Hounds already have in the lineup and would be relatively redundant for them.
Prediction: MacDonald goes to Owen Sound in exchange for a mid round draft pick (4th/5th round)

Greg Betzold - Peterborough Petes
The big winger's offensive game has finally blossomed this year, but it's not really being talked about much. Instead, Betzold's suspension for social media abuse (and the Petes poor play) is overshadowing that. I think Peterborough looks to deal him at the deadline, even if he's a great OA candidate next year (Betzold is the type of player who usually explodes offensively in his OA year). With his size, he's likely to generate interest from a team looking to add punch to it's top 6 (or 9). I look at team's like North Bay, Barrie, Erie, and the Soo as potential suitors. In particular, I think Betzold could really excel under coach Stan Butler. His power game would fit very nicely into the Battalion line up.
Prediction: Betzold goes to North Bay for Riley Bruce and a early/mid round draft pick (3rd/4th)

Matt Mistele - Plymouth Whalers
The Whalers have not just been the most disappointing team in the OHL this season, I think they've been the most underachieving team in recent memory. Tons of talent. A great goaltender. Yet…they sit outside, looking in, in the Western Conference playoff picture. Because of that, there has been some suggestion that the team could look to move someone like Matt Mistele. Mistele has been one of the few Plymouth players who hasn't under performed this year, so he'd likely have a fair amount of value. A team like Sault Ste. Marie or London would probably love to add him to their line up. That said, I think he stays put. In fact, I think Plymouth makes a few minor moves to get better. If Nedeljkovic can step up and the team gets healthy (and stays off the suspension list), the Whalers could breakout at any moment. I tell you, If I'm a 1-3 seed in the West, I wouldn't want to play Plymouth in the first round (just like if I were in the East, I wouldn't want to play Niagara).
Prediction: Mistele stays in Plymouth

Ryan Kujawinski - Kingston Frontenacs
Every year, there's an OHL trade deadline move that leaves a few people shaking their hands. Quite often, a player is moved that people don't anticipate. This year, my pick for that player is Kujawinski. Kingston is a decent team, but they aren't likely to make much noise in the playoffs (don't have the depth). When Sam Bennett went out for the year, it really ruined the chances of Kingston to be a big player in the East. The team still has a decent core of 96's and 97's who could make the team quite strong again next year. Kujawinski has never really developed into the player Kingston thought he would become when they acquired him (for Ryan Spooner). But he's still having a decent year and should have a fair amount of value (because I expect him to be back in the OHL again next year). He could be a great pick up for a contending team looking to add offensively (I look at London, Guelph and Niagara especially).
Prediction: Kujawinski goes to Niagara for Zach Wilkie and draft picks

Of course, there are likely to be other players dealt that are not listed here by me. And, as mentioned, there are usually a few surprising moves (Imgaine if Plymouth moved Sonny Milano to London?). Would love to hear your predictions in the comments section.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2015

We're inching ever closer to the Christmas break and the halfway point to the 2014/2015 season. You've seen draft lists from pretty much every major scouting organization (CSS, ISS, McKeen's, FC, Craig Button at TSN, etc). In about a month's time, NHL Central Scouting will release it's midterm list; their first which amalgamates all leagues in North America. In my opinion, it's a perfect time to highlight some guys who are flying under the radar right now. Guys we're not hearing much about, but who are slowly turning themselves into NHL (some considerable) prospects.

This list is in no particular order of ranking; as I've used alphabetical order. An argument could certainly be made about the criteria used to separate the "under the radar" players. No question it was quite subjective. But I didn't include a guy like Blake Speers based on how much "hype" he's been receiving from the media as of late (deserving of it too).

Jeremiah Addison - Ottawa 67's
The former first rounder of the Spirit is getting a second chance with the 67's and is finally starting to look confident and comfortable. After starting the year very slowly, he's now averaging a point per game over his last 14 games (8 goals, 6 assists). The hard nosed winger is a very versatile player who's skill set allows him to excel in a variety of roles. Lately, he's shown a lot of chemistry playing with Dante Salituro, opening up scoring lanes and finishing off plays near the crease. If he continues to play at this level, he could elevate himself into the top 100.

Anthony Cirelli - Oshawa Generals
Cirelli was a free agent signing by the Generals this offseason and he's proving to be quite the find. He's lined up both down the middle and on the wing this year and is currently doing whatever Oshawa's coaching staff is asking of him. Right now that includes playing with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Sterk on the Generals' top line. Cirelli isn't the biggest, but he's proving to be very capable of working the corners and digging hard in front of the net. There's no doubt that Cirelli's skill and tenacity has caught the attention of NHL scouts.

Johnny Corneil - Niagara IceDogs
With Brendan Perlini out to start the season, Corneil was the recipient of increased ice time. While the points weren't consistently there, the effort always was. At only 5'10, Corneil plays much larger than that. He's very effective in puck pursuit, and had worked very well with Graham Knott to establish a strong Niagara forecheck. I think it still remains to be seen how much skill he has. And with Perlini back, it's unknown how much ice time he'll get. But Corneil's hard working style of play makes him a noticeable presence on the ice.

Adam Craievich - Guelph Storm
I really felt like Craievich was a big time breakout candidate this season, but that has not be the case as of yet. His skating is still in need of improvement and he's still not getting a ton of ice time, but the talent level he possesses is evident. He's starting be much more noticeable, shift in/shift out, and has been creating offence from the 3rd/4th line as of late. If Guelph were to suffer an injury to their top 6, he could be the leading candidate to fill that role. Maybe during the WJC's (when the Storm will likely be missing Fabbri, Suter, and perhaps Dickinson), he'll get his chance.

Travis Dermott - Erie Otters
Just not getting the respect he deserves (in terms of draft rankings). Guys like Mitchell Vande Sompel, Rasmus Andersson, Matt Spencer, and even Thomas Schemitsch have garnered a lot of attention to start the year, and (IMO) Dermott is right there with them in contention for being the top rated OHL defenseman for this year's draft. The stocky rearguard is a real jack of all trades guy who excels in a variety of roles for Erie. He moves the puck well, but is also a staunch defender of his own end. The "not so sexy" selections like Dermott always attract more attention from NHL scouts than they do the armchair ones.

Matt Luff - Belleville Bulls
Luff has been up and down this year, but that can be expected of someone playing in their first OHL season. When looking at the big picture, Luff possesses a lot of qualities that will be deemed attractive to NHL scouts. He's a big kid and he uses his size well to protect the puck. He has a desire to play near the crease and he shows very good hands in close. His skating is something that will need to be worked on, but the size and hands combo is very intriguing. A "project" pick who could elevate his draft status with a more consistent second half.

Hayden McCool - Windsor Spitfires
His development appeared to have stalled in Niagara, but the trade to Windsor (in the Ho-Sang deal) has really done wonders for his game. He's getting consistent power play time now and has gelled well with fellow youngster Logan Brown. At 6'3, McCool is most effective when he's playing physical and going hard to the net, which he's done so far in Windsor. If McCool can continue to produce offensively (7 points in 9 games) and showcase his power game, he's got a chance to really rocket up the draft charts.

Brett McKenzie - North Bay Battalion
McKenzie's value to the Battalion goes further than a contribution offensively. With his size and skating ability, McKenzie has turned into one of Stan Butler's go to defensive players and has found success centring North Bay's energy/checking/shut down line. But, as someone who saw McKenzie play for Oakville in midget, I can tell you that he's got the skill level and potential to be a big time offensive contributor. North Bay (and Brampton) under Butler, has had a lot of draft eligible guys breakout big time in the second half of the year (I think of Brent Burns and Nick Paul). McKenzie could be the next.

Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack
"All I do is win, win, win, no matter what." McNiven's strong play forced the the Attack to deal Brandon Hope to Niagara, and since then he's begun to earn more and more starting assignments. In 8 starts this year, McNiven has yet to post a save percentage under .913, and has yet to let in more than 2 goals in a game. Pretty impressive stuff. With great size and athleticism in the crease, it wouldn't shock me at all if by the end of the year, McNiven passes Mackenzie Blackwood as the top OHL goaltender available.

Colton White - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Everyone knew that the Greyhounds would be one of the league's top teams this year. But one of the biggest surprises on the team has been the play of their "3rd pairing" (I say this because it's not really a 3rd pairing) of Colton White and Gustav Bouramman. White is a super athletic defender who's only scratching the surface of what he's capable of. A terrific skater, White is only now gaining the confidence to push things offensively. He's also one of Sault Ste. Marie's most relied upon penalty killers. With Darnell Nurse gone at the WJC's, he's going to get an even larger role. He's poised for big things in the second half.