Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 50-31

Here's part 2, with players ranked 50 through 31.

50. Liam Dunda - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
With two goals on the year, the stats certainly don't scream NHL prospect. But I think that there is a lot more to Dunda than the stats would suggest. In watching Plymouth/Owen Sound this year, Dunda always stuck out as being noticeable, using his size and tenacity to work the cycle effectively and play a physical game. He's 6'4, 215lbs and one of the youngest players eligible for this year's draft (born one day later and he's a 2016 pick). I can't help but think that he's got some serious potential to put things together, especially when given increased ice time. A guy like Hunter Smith was actually way less noticeable/effective in his draft year and look at the way his game blossomed (another big kid with a September birthday). 

49. Mike Davies - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Davies is an interesting prospect. Big kid with good wheels who definitely has the potential to develop into a good goal scorer. He was terrific in stretches this year for Kitchener, and then completely invisible at other times. You look at a guy like Zach Senyshyn in SSM, and Davies' skill set isn't really that much different from his. But Davies doesn't have the same moxie at this point in time. He's more of a supporting character when he should be leading the rush down the wing, using his size and speed to drive the net. When he played with a chip on his shoulder and increased his physical intensity, he was at his best. I could see someone using a late pick on him, hoping he develops that consistency.  

48. Tyler MacArthur - Defence - Owen Sound Attack
MacArthur is a big, slick skating defender who possesses potential at both ends of the ice. At 6'4, his mobility is actually his best characteristic. He stays with forwards very well off the rush and is learning how to use his body consistently. He could certainly be a physical force on the backend. But offensively he struggles. He's prone to turnovers in his own end and will try to force passes into coverage. His overall decision making skills leave some to be desired. But when you've got a big defender who skates well, there will always be interest from NHL teams who hope they can carve out a niche. 

47. Brandon Lindberg - Forward - Sarnia Sting
A late '96, Lindberg is a big power forward who excels when he plays a crash and bang type of game. Through the middle part of the year, he was among Sarnia's best forwards. He has good overall skill level for a big guy and has shown in bunches that he can be a top 6 forward at the OHL level. But IMO 3rd year players need to be held to higher standards. At times, he seemed to try and force things offensively and got away from keeping things simple, driving hard to the net. If he can figure out how to make his power game more consistent, he could be a good find. 

46. Noah Bushnell - Forward - Sarnia Sting
A real solid North/South forward who brings it every night. I always come away impressed with his compete level. He's an aggressive and effective forechecker and he excels with the physical components of the game. In close, he actually has good hands and has worked hard to improve his shot and overall finishing ability. With good size, he could make a good NHL checker. But the downside is his skating. His lack of explosiveness hinders his ability to contribute offensively (more than he does) and I'd have a lot more confidence in him as an energy player at the next level if he was a tad quicker. I'd still take a chance on him late though. Skating can be improved.  

45. Garrett McFadden - Defence - Guelph Storm
Tale of two seasons for McFadden. First half, he struggled mightily. Seemed to struggle with his confidence. He's a fantastic skater, but he wasn't having much success in creating offense because he seemed hesitant to really let loose. And defensively, his lack of size was hurting him in the corners and in front of the net. But after the injury to Zac Leslie, McFadden really turned his game around. In the final two months he looked like a different player. He was using his speed to lead the rush and was aggressive in jumping up in the play to create scoring chances. And defensively, his intensity level increased and he was more effective. A former first rounder, I feel like the McFadden we saw at the end of the year (and in the playoffs) was more indicative of the player he really is.

44. Connor Hicks - Goaltender - Belleville Bulls/Hamilton Bulldogs
Like many young netminders, Hicks struggled with consistency this year. One game he'd be unbeatable (like his 62 save performance to close out the season versus Oshawa), and the next he'd be below par. Hicks is cut from the cloth that NHL scouts are looking for right now. Size (6'3) and athleticism. As a first year OHL netminder, he's still got a lot to learn. But there's certainly potential there, as he proved at various times this year. Next year it will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs give him a chance to earn the starting job and subsequently move Charlie Graham (the team's OA starter).

43. Zach Wilkie - Defence - Niagara IceDogs
This is probably an aggressive ranking for him, based on his performance during the regular season. He had trouble staying in the lineup for Niagara this year (because of both depth reasons and a lack of development). But later in the year he really started to show signs of life. This culminated with a terrific performance in the playoffs where I thought he was one of Niagara's top defenders. I thought he had a ton of potential coming into this year (was a highly touted prospect and he performed very well at the Ivan Hlinka for the U.S.), but just wasn't given a chance to play a larger role. In the playoffs, he was an impact player at both ends of the ice. In particular, his offensive game looked as good as it's ever been. He was aggressive in jumping up in the play and leading the rush, without sacrificing play in his own end. Defensively, he's a very physically aggressive player who thrives on taking the body (despite being average sized). Massive amount of potential here.

42. Adam Laishram - Forward - Belleville Bulls/Hamilton Bulldogs
If only Laishram was bigger. The 5'9 center hasn't really grown since his minor midget days, which of course makes him undersized for NHL scouts. But he's a supremely hard worker who has a very well rounded game. He's very quick and uses that to be aggressive on the forecheck. He excels as a playmaker below the hashmarks, where he's slippery and hard to defend. Laishram is also a terrific faceoff man and has the potential to develop into a hard nosed, shutdown defensive forward. If he was 6'2, we'd be talking about him as a potential top 3 round selection. But for the style he plays, there will be questions as to whether it can translate to the next level at his current size.

41. Artem Artemov - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Admittedly, kind of a hard player for me to get a read on this year. He was relatively quiet in the Spirit games I saw. He's a stocky guy who seems to excel when operating close to the net. He can be bullish around the net and certainly has the potential to develop into a goal scorer. But he's not the type of guy who seems to stand out in a flashy way, whether it's with the puck on his stick or physically. With only average size, the concern would be, can he be in tight goal scorer in the NHL? Again though, I feel like, of any player on this list, I feel the least comfortable talking about his potential and ability.

40. Trent Fox - Forward - Belleville Bulls/Hamilton Bulldogs
Certainly not the same player as his brother Dane was in the OHL. More of a calculated playmaker who shows patience and poise in the offensive end, than an agitating winger with a big shot (which Dane was). The skating concerns are similar to that of his brother at the same age though. He lacks explosiveness, which prevents him from utilizing his strong puck skill and offensive talents. He also needs to get stronger to be able to work more effectively in traffic. But he's a smart player who shows good vision and smarts in close, who I think will develop into a real quality OHL player.

39. Jesse Barwell - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Barwell in Saginaw was night and day from the Barwell we saw in Mississauga. That's obviously a good thing for him. In Saginaw, he excelled playing with other skilled players in more of a high tempo system. Barwell has great speed and skill with the puck and is capable of consistently creating scoring chances off the rush. When the game slows down in the offensive end, he's less noticeable because he's not strong enough to win battles for the puck consistently. His intensity level and overall willingness to engage can also waver, although it was more consistent in Saginaw. The development of his "overall" game will be the key as to whether he develops into anything more than a high scoring OHL forward.

38. Sam Harding - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Harding is a player who I think should be getting more credit than he currently is from the scouting community. He's done everything that's been asked of him in Oshawa the last two years. He's jumped up to center scoring lines when needed, but has also proven to be a responsible two-way player who can find success in more of a depth role. Because of Oshawa's depth the last two years, he hasn't really had an opportunity to show what he's capable of offensively. When he's jumped up to play with the likes of Michael Dal Colle, he certainly hasn't looked out of place. While not large, he excels in the open ice because of great speed and he's got soft hands which allows him to make quick decisions with the puck in the offensive end. Strength is an issue as he can get outmuscled off the puck, but that's something that can obviously be added. Next year he's going to take on a top 6 role and should be a capable contributor. Be sure to check out Sam's appearance on "The Pipeline Show."  

37. David Miller - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Still a big fan of his, even if he didn't have a terrific season (by the standards of what I expected). 48 points certainly isn't awful. But you have to take into account the type of player Miller is; an undersized energy/offensive player. He fell 52 spots on NHL Central Scouting's final list and wasn't even listed. But I don't think that's fair. It took him some time to adjust to his new surroundings in Kitchener, but he was fantastic in the final month and the playoffs. Miller may not be big (5'9), but he makes up for it by playing a high tempo, in your face game. He looks to engage contact, not shy away from it. The key to his game is his speed. He's a fantastic skater who explodes through the neutral zone, catching defenders flat footed. And he's aggressive in using his speed to drive the net, excelling in the middle of the ice. He needs to get stronger to be more effective in the cycle and I'd like to see his speed and energy be put to better use without the puck. But I think he's going to be a big time player for Kitchener next year. Be sure to check out his draft tracker segment from Yahoo

36. Marcus Crawford - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
Crawford, a first year blueliner, was so good for Saginaw at the beginning of the year. His poise and vision on the point of the powerplay was much needed for the Spirit. But after returning from injury in December, he was never really the same player. His confidence offensively wasn't at the same level as it was earlier in the season when he seemed eager to jump up in the play offensively and was making smart decisions with the puck. He also struggled defensively down the stretch and needs to bulk up. His defensive intelligence and ability to contain forwards off the rush isn't bad, but he had difficulty containing bigger/physical forwards this year. I've still got him high because I believe in his potential to bounce back. I think he's a smart offensive blueliner with the potential to play at the next level.

35. Ethan Szypula - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Szypula is not a big guy (5'11, 170ish), but he plays a big man's game. Szypula was always noticeable when I saw Owen Sound play this year. Particularly late in the year, that Attack 3rd line did such a good job of wearing down opposing defences. Szypula keeps his feet moving in the corners and he's very shifty in the sense that he's able to elude checks to keep the cycle going. And when he doesn't have the puck on his stick, he's in attack mode to get it back. That's not to say that he's an overly physical player, but he plays with a ton of energy. Szypula also has a high skill level with the puck and great speed coming down the wing, but his ability to generate scoring chances with it is inconsistent. As he gets stronger, I think he's going to be a guy who can make a pretty big impact. Reminds me a bit of Jordan Szwarz back from his draft year and he's gone on to have a pretty good pro career thus far.

34. Hayden McCool - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Came out gangbusters after the trade from Niagara to Windsor. Finally started using his size more effectively to get to the net and to track down loose pucks to set up scoring chances for his linemates. But as the season went on, he really seemed to wear down. In his final 18 games he went goalless. That type of production to close out the season probably cost him a chance to represent Canada at the Under 18's and it certainly dropped him a bit on my list. It goes without saying that McCool is at his best when he's playing an aggressive game. At 6'3, teams will be looking for him to use his size more consistently, but I'm just not sure it's in his nature. While he showcases skill as a boards player (good vision coming off the wall), his natural skill level with the puck has yet to show a high grade at the OHL level and it's limited his overall offensive contribution. He also needs to improve his first few steps to make him quicker to the net, especially if he isn't going to be the type to be intimidating. High potential remains as a strong, big, two-way forward. 

33. Gustaf Franzen - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Was better this year than the numbers would suggest. But he definitely didn't live up to the hype that followed him here from Sweden. Before the start of this year, he was being hyped as a potential late first round pick after captaining Sweden at the U18's. But the late '96 center struggled to find consistency offensively. There are definitely some things to like. 9 of Franzen's 15 goals this year were on the powerplay, where he does a great job of setting himself up for a wicked one timer near the dot. He has goal scoring potential. Franzen also battles hard in the offensive end and has good lower body strength which he uses to keep pucks alive along the boards. But he seemed a step behind the play at times this year. All the scouting reports I gathered in my annual Import Review, suggested he was a great skater, but that wasn't something Rangers fans saw this year. I thought he struggled with the ability to be explosive and it hindered his game offensively and defensively. In a lot of ways, his game mirrors that of Kevin Lebanc's last year. His improved skating this year was the reason for his breakout. Perhaps Franzen can make similar adjustments. 

32. Brandon Crawley - Defence - London Knights
Crawley is a first year player that the Knights plucked out of New Jersey as a free agent signing. He's been a real find for them, with a thin defence heading into the season. His play really improved this year as the season went on and that type of progression is what you like to see. He's only average sized (6'0), but he plays much bigger than that in his own end. Crawley is aggressive in the corners and in front of the net and does a great job of making opposing forwards work hard to gain position over him. Crawley also has good mobility, which he uses to be an effective defender off the rush. Offensively, he makes a good first pass and is gaining the confidence to jump up in the play a little more. That said, I think he's a guy who scouts could be torn on when it comes to projecting his future role. Is he more of a defensive first guy (who is undersized for that role)? Will his offensive game continue to develop to the point where he can be a powerplay QB? At this point, his progression over the course of the season should be enough to make an NHL team use a late pick on him to find out.

31. Roy Radke - Forward - Barrie Colts
Way better player than the numbers would suggest. The late '96 was a first year player who transferred from Shattuck St. Mary's. He went through his ups and downs this year, but I thought he finished the year very strong and was one of Barrie's most dangerous players in the playoffs. He's a big body who has the potential to really dominate down low because he possesses terrific puck control. He uses his size to shield the puck and is quite strong coming off the wall. His finishing ability needs work (which could raise questions to his overall offensive ceiling), but his ability to create chances for himself and his linemates is quite good. If he could add more of a physical element to his game, he could be an even more valuable player. As of right now though, Radke is all about projection. Big guy who skates reasonably well, who can control the puck and make things happen. As he gets more ice time (particularly on the powerplay), I'd expect him to start to put up numbers.

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