Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Midseason Top 30 for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft

The start of the 2016 calendar year is nearly upon us and that means it is time for me to re-evaluate my rankings for the 2016 Draft. The OHL season is past the half way mark (for most teams) which gives us a great indication of how certain players have developed in their draft season. Many players have stepped up to assume large roles on their club, while others have disappointed and find themselves on the outside looking in.

I really like the crop for this year's draft from the OHL. The top end talent is very good, with IMO, upwards of 8-9 guys vying for spots as lottery selections. This includes three guys (Chychrun, Tkachuk, and McLeod) who could be top 5 picks. The depth is very solid too, with some real potential diamond in the rough guys who look like they could end up being solid mid-late round selections. I will say that the goaltending crop has disappointed me. I thought that this would be a banner year for OHL goaltenders, but many have struggled with consistency and as such haven't established themselves as top flight prospects (at least not yet). 

Before I get to the list, it's worth mentioning that second and third year eligible players are not included (the likes of Brett McKenzie, Dante Salituro, etc). I produce a separate list for those towards the end of the season.

Also to compare, here's my preliminary top 50 from October.

1. Jakob Chychrun - Defence - Sarnia Sting
The critics have been out in full force lately, especially after his early dismissal from Canada's WJC camp. After looking so dominant as a rookie last year, this was inevitable (especially with so many top 10 candidates playing well). And while I do think that Tkachuk and McLeod are closing the gap, Chychrun is still my number one for a reason. I think he's got number one defender upside at the next level. Offensively, especially in terms of jumping up in the play and looking backdoor, he hasn't been nearly as aggressive this year. The reason for that? I'm not entirely sure. But he's got offensive potential. Don't let the critics convince you otherwise. Defensively, he remains a rock. He's so smart positionally, and is such a good skater. This makes him very difficult to gain position over (he's so good at winning races and angling out forecheckers in loose puck battles). Would I like to see him be more aggressive with the puck? Absolutely. Would I like to see him play a little more physical? Sure. But he's still a top flight defensive prospect with a great head on his shoulders. 

2. Matthew Tkachuk - Forward - London Knights
The thing that really stands out for me with Tkachuk is his hockey sense and vision. He's so good at gaining/keeping possession in the offensive end, and subsequently finding teammates with a pass to create scoring chances. Seems to have eyes in the back of his head in this regard. Of course, he's also very good in front of the net. He's not a behemoth, but he battles hard near the crease and has very good hands in close. Other than the speed component, he's really the complete package offensively. While his first few steps could certainly use an upgrade, I don't think he's terrible in this regard either. Keeping up with Mitch Marner isn't exactly an easy task. And because he's so good at using his body and because he's so intelligent, Tkachuk is able to slow the game down and I think that makes him look a little more sluggish than he actually is. Keith's son has proven himself to be a legitimate contender for the OHL scoring title.

3. Michael McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Honestly, I love this guy just as much as I do Chychrun and Tkachuk. I do think the upside is a shade lower offensively and thus the 3rd place ranking. McLeod is your prototypical NHL center for today's game. Great size/power, great quickness, and a solid two-way game. McLeod might be the most powerful skater in the entire OHL. His first few steps are so explosive and it makes him very hard to contain in the offensive end. I also love his aggressiveness in going hard to the net; a real relentless player. His playmaking has improved a lot, especially when working the boards. In terms of his other tangible assets, McLeod is one of the OHL's top face-off men, is already a terrific two-way player, and will engage physically to force turnovers. Really, the only thing missing from his game is an elite shot. If he can really work on his release and velocity, he could be an incredible force off the rush. As is, he's a lock for a top 10 pick IMO.

4. Alex Nylander - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
The skill level of Nylander is incredible. Every game of his that I've seen has come with at least one electrifying one on one move to embarrass an opposing defender. Having two big power forwards like McLeod and Bastian flanking him certainly helps to give him more time to operate, but a lot of the credit is owed to Nylander for creating his own space with his hands. Outside of that, second most noticeable asset is his shot. He possesses an absolute rocket and that's why he's been seeing a ton of time on the point of the Steelheads' powerplay this year. His slapshot, in particular, has a ton of velocity. While his play and intensity without the puck is inconsistent, he certainly can not be called a perimeter player. He will attack the net and has no trouble having to fight through traffic/checks to make a play. It's his board work/defensive play that will continue to need to be worked on. But the Swedish winger is every bit the NHL prospect his brother William is.

5. Mikhail Sergachev - Defence - Windsor Spitfires
Came to Windsor with a ton of hype and has lived up to all of it. One of the main reasons why the Spitfires are currently leading the West Division. Sergachev has stabilized a defensive unit that had major struggles last year. He's certainly a potential first pairing defender who is the complete package. 6'3, 200+lbs, but moves very well and is not afraid of using his size to play physical in the defensive end. Offensively, he seems to get better and more confident every game. He's now creating a least one good chance a game by going end to end and flashes terrific hands in the open ice. Most impressive IMO, has been how well he's run the point on the powerplay. Makes very good decisions with the puck and is excellent at creating shooting lanes to get his hard slapper to the net. Honestly, at this point, the top 5 as I have it, has really started to separate themselves from the others in this OHL class. All 5 look like top 10 picks come June. 

6. Max Jones - Forward - London Knights
The punishing power forward started off the year very cold, but he's really turned things around the last two months. In particular, I really love how he's elevated his game with the likes of Marner, Tkachuk, and Dvorak away at the WJC's. He's keeping things simple in the offensive end and has proved to be a real load for opposing defences to handle below the hash marks. His strength along the boards and on the puck (in general) helps to open up space for linemates as he draws second defenders in. And unlike the beginning the year, Jones is doing a much better job of getting his shots to the net and not trying to force things. Jones' ability to disrupt physically has also been very evident. He's just a powerful guy. That said, I think there's still more room for him to grow as a forechecker and overall nuisance without the puck. That would really take his game to the next level IMO.

7. Logan Brown - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
No question there are holes in Brown's game. But, they're easier to forgive when you remember that he's a 6'6 center with the potential to control the game in all facets. He loves taking the puck just inside the redline and bullying his way into the offensive zone. He's just so hard to separate from the puck. His speed isn't terrific, but it doesn't make him a less effective player off the rush. I do think that it prevents him from being more explosive in the offensive end though. He works the boards so well, but he doesn't have the separation ability that a guy like Mike McLeod does to go hard to the net. I'd also like to see Brown shoot the puck more and find more time to hang out near the crease for garbage goals/deflections. But that's part of the warts with Brown. The speed and the intensity need to improve, yet, he's still a point per game player who's growing into his frame. Where will his game be when he's filled out? That's why he's still a definite first round pick IMO. 

8. Alex Debrincat - Forward - Erie Otters
The little engine that could. His goal scoring numbers have dropped off from that torrid pace he started the year at, but that was to be expected. At the end of the day, Debrincat is still a offensive dynamo who leads the OHL in goal scoring as a draft eligible player. His shot and release are the best in the OHL. Generates such enormous velocity on his wrist shot and is so quick to loose pucks that goaltenders often don't even see the puck coming. Sure he's small, (5'7 is really small by NHL standards), but players like Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau are proving that small players can succeed in today's NHL. Debrincat possesses the two most important qualities that small players need. Speed and tenacity. Speed to beat defenders one on one, to get to loose pucks, and to evade checks. And tenacity to win battles that they shouldn't win on paper, and to play the game harder, and to want the puck more than the opposition. Despite the size concerns, he's still a first round pick IMO.

9. Olli Juolevi - Defence - London Knights
While some scouts still seem to favor Juolevi to Sergachev, I just don't see it. IMO Sergachev's potential is far greater. That said, Juolevi is still a very solid prospect (otherwise I wouldn't have him inside the top 10). He's a very calm and collected player who operates at both ends very efficiently. I really like how he starts the transition game. Can evade the forecheck with good mobility, or make a great first pass out of the zone and that's critical for the Knights' juggernaut offensive attack. He picks his spots to jump up in the rush, but I don't think he's got a ton of scoring potential. Defensively, he's proved to be a very solid one on one defender who uses his stick and mobility to stay ahead of attacking forwards. He'll use that same smarts to gain position over forwards in the corners, or to deflect passes in the slot. All in all, Juolevi is just a very solid two-way defender who's not flashy, but is very effective. Does that put him at risk of falling before June though?

10. Will Bitten - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Bitten has had an absolutely fantastic first half to his season in Flint. He's emerged as the offensive leader of the Firebirds, pacing them in scoring by a large margin, and keeping them in the hunt for a playoff spot. Bitten reminds me a lot of Spirit forward and Lightning draft pick Mitchell Stephens. Plays the game with a ton of energy, regardless of the situation. He gets his nose dirty on the forecheck and the backcheck and is a very good player without the puck. I love how active his stick is in the neutral zone and while working the penalty kill. But Bitten's best quality is his speed. He might get the most breakaways of any player in the league because of his first step quickness and game breaking speed. Bitten also has very good hands and a great wrist shot to finish off plays that he creates with his speed. I expect him to continue to battle hard for a rebuilding Flint team, but then really explode at the U18's where he could play a critical role (and his speed will look fantastic on the big ice).

11. Nathan Bastian - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
The big power forward has been one of the league's most improved players this year. Since being elevated to the first line with Mike McLeod and Alex Nylander, he's been an absolute force. His skating has improved greatly from last year and it's allowing him to be a big time factor both offensively and defensively. He creates a ton of space for McLeod and Nylander, by barrelling his way into the zone and by winning a ton of battles along the wall. He's become a very physical player on the forecheck and has no issue with throwing defenders to the ice to gain possession. While his physical gifts are no doubt impressive, I actually love the decisions he makes with the puck off the rush. He's got great vision and poise for a big power forward, which makes him the perfect compliment to Nylander and McLeod. As mentioned, Bastian is also a very solid two-way player who also uses his size to disrupt on the backcheck and to win battles in his own end. I wanted to put him higher, but I'm just not sure the goal scoring ability is top notch to the point where he could be a big time producer at the next level. Reminds me a lot of Nick Paul and I think he could be a solid second/third line winger and powerplay guy.

12. Adam Mascherin - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Mascherin, a former 2nd overall pick, has been a consistent force all season for the Rangers. Small, but stocky, he's built like Max Domi, so I don't think there's any concern over him being 5'9. Mascherin is terrific in every area of the offensive zone. I love his ability to use his low center of gravity to keep defenders on his back, in order to utilize his killer wrist shot. I also really like his energy when battling for loose pucks and working the corners. He moves the puck very well in the cycle and exhibits patience and vision to create plays when the hole opens up. His skill level with the puck and his drive to make his linemates better, is a perfect compliment on the wing to a guy like Ryan MacInnis. 

13. Taylor Raddysh - Forward - Erie Otters
Not flashy at all, just efficient. Raddysh is a big bodied winger who is a terrific complimentary offensive weapon because of his hockey sense and ability to play without the puck. He does a really good job of finding open space in the offensive end, filling lanes and going hard to the net without the puck. Similar to Nathan Bastian, he is also a great playmaker who demonstrates poise along the wall and off the rush. His speed and overall skating ability is only average (and that will hold back his draft position), but you can't teach the cerebral components to his game. When you combine that with his size and potential as a puck protection player, you've got a solid second round pick IMO. As he gets even stronger, I think we'll see an increase in his goal scoring numbers. 

14. Markus Niemelainen - Defence - Saginaw Spirit

Behemoth defender at 6'6, who plays a very safe game. The Finnish import is great at using his stick defensively and is already a very solid positional defender. I really like how quickly he starts the breakout, and does a fantastic job with his first pass. As the season has gone on, we're slowly starting to see him take chances offensively where he jumps up in the play or leads the rush out of his end. With good mobility, I wonder if the offensive potential is higher than what we're currently seeing. The point shot will definitely have to improve in order for that to happen, but at 6'6, as he gains strength, I'd be surprised if that didn't become a weapon eventually. He certainly makes good enough decisions with the puck to quarterback a powerplay. Is there really all that much separating Niemelainen from Olli Juolevi? 

15. Dmitri Sokolov - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Admittedly, a tough player for me to peg still. I don't feel like I've got a great idea of his game yet, nor his potential at the next level. And I'm sure I'm not alone in that, after all the blowouts the Wolves have been on the other end of this year. That said, I do expect the young team to be better in the second half and that will give us a better read on guys like Sokolov. Here's what I've determined thus far. His potential as a goal scorer is quite high. He protects the puck very well in traffic and has a great wrist shot. However, he doesn't seem to play with consistent intensity, especially without the puck. I also can't tell if his sluggish appearance on the ice at times is due to conditioning, effort, or skating ability (or all three). But when he's on, he can be a force with the puck and that has me intrigued. 

16. Victor Mete - Defence - London Knights
Like any smaller defender, he seems to create quite polarizing opinions. I continue to be a supporter. I think he's made great gains this year, compared to where he was last year. I see a player with more intensity in his own end, and who is doing a better job of using his skating ability to defend off the rush. I also see him playing more intelligently offensively, limiting his reckless pinches, and poor choices with the puck. At the same time, he's continued to be an offensive catalyst who can transition very quickly from his own end. And he's looked great on the point of the powerplay this year. The scouts who don't like him seem to question his ability to defend the corners and in front of the net, and also question his overall hockey sense and effort defensively. Again, I'm seeing a player who has made great strides in all areas of his game since entering the league. 

17. Givani Smith - Forward - Guelph Storm
I really believe in this player's potential. A pure, throwback power forward who looks to make a big hit every shift. Despite Guelph's struggles this year, I've found him to be a noticeable player no matter the score and I admire that. Without an incredibly talented playmaker to skate with, I don't think we've seen all that Smith is capable of offensively. He's a solid North/South guy, and he's got very good hands, but he's not yet ready to be the go to guy on his line. That's not to say that he won't develop that ability, but his inconsistent output can be credited to that IMO. I think the potential for him to be one of those picks who emerges as a top flight talent is very high. That said, I'd like to think that he's a lock for the U18 team at the end of the year, where he'll get a chance to show his stuff with better offensive players. He could be a monster at that tournament (cough, a perfect linemate for Will Bitten, cough).

18. Sean Day - Defence - Mississauga Steelheads
At this point, it's hard to rank Day this high. I've got three defenders behind him that are having (without question) better seasons than Day. But, I think you've got to look at the big picture still. And the big picture says that Day still possesses immense potential at the next level based on his physical gifts. On a midseason ranking, I think you bump him down (which I have from 13 to 18), but you don't discredit his ability completely. Still have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Come May/June, if things haven't changed, then make a more drastic change. Day is still a 6'3, 230lbs defender who possesses elite mobility. He's shown an increased willingness to use his body to punish opposing forwards this year and does seem to be developing a mean streak. It's offensively that he remains frustrating to watch. Can be very casual with the puck at times and seems hesitant to really take over games the way he's capable of. When, if at all, does that killer instinct kick in?

19. Cam Dineen - Defence - North Bay Battalion
Thanks to playing at over a point per game over the last two months, Dineen is now 2nd in league scoring among defenders as an OHL rookie. The New Jersey native has been a revelation for Stan Butler and the Battalion. His quickness and overall ability to rush the puck is already among the best in the OHL. He is really driving North Bay offensively, by starting the breakout quickly and efficiently. Has proven to be very aggressive in jumping up in the rush and I love how Butler has taken the reigns off of him a little bit. I think the best thing about Dineen is that he's still learning and improving as a powerplay QB, which means he could be even better offensively when he gets more confidence in using his shot. Since his return from injury, Dineen and Avs prospect Kyle Wood have formed a very formidable number one pairing. Defensively, I already think that there have been improvements made, especially in his reads. He's actually seeing some PK time now, when paired with Wood. Being that he's a shade undersized, and he's an OHL rookie, strength needs to be upgraded in order to be more effective in his own end. But based on the projection we're already seeing, and the fact that Stan Butler is his coach, I think Dineen is a prospect who is seriously on the rise. 

20. Logan Stanley - Defence - Windsor Spitfires
Stanley has been making a lot of waves lately as scouts and scouting agencies have begun ranking him inside the first round. I'm not there yet, even if I have been impressed with the improvements he'd made in his sophomore season. My feeling is, teams haven't had much success over the last ten years taking hulking, stay at home types in the first round. In fact, you're just as likely to hit on those players with mid round picks (or even FA signings). That shouldn't take anything away from Stanley. He's a solid prospect. I just don't see him as a first rounder right now. Defensively, he's a very impressive player. I love his aggression in using his size and reach to prevent entry into the offensive zone. He loves stepping up into the neutral zone, or at the blueline, using his long reach to break up plays. His above average mobility makes him a tough guy to get around one on one too. Offensively, I do see potential. He's starting to look more comfortable skating the puck out and he's generally pretty calm under the pressure of the forecheck. But, I'm not sure the offensive hockey sense or puck skill is good enough for him to develop that side of his game to the point where it will be an asset at the next level. Can be prone to turnovers when he tries to do too much. At the end of the day, he's a terrific prospect trending upwards. I'm just not sold on him being a first rounder. 

21. Cole Candella - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
Was playing some fantastic hockey before breaking his wrist (has there been a team in the East with worse injury luck than Hamilton this year?). He should return sometime soon in the New Year, where he'll be looking to pick up where he left off. Candella is a solid two-way defender who plays a ton of minutes for the Bulldogs. Following the gruesome injury to captain Justin Lemcke, Candella really stepped up to become the leader of the defensive corps (an impressive thing for a sophomore defender). He can impact the game in a lot of ways, whether it's with a great outlet pass, or a strong pokecheck of an incoming attacker. Just a very smart player who should only get better as he gets stronger and is insulated by better players. 

22. Jordan Kyrou - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Has really picked up his game of late after struggling mightily to start the year. Since the acquisition of Matt Mistele, the two have found very good chemistry and it's allowed Kyrou to simplify his game a little bit and get back to the things he does well. Early on, I felt like he was trying to do too much offensively and had developed a bit of tunnel vision. And he also wasn't displaying the type of energy we had become accustomed to away from the puck. But, as I said, all of that has changed in the last month or so. He's back to being a major factor on the forecheck and in the neutral zone, forcing turnovers and looking to be aggressive with his entrances to the offensive zone. Having a guy like Mistele on his line has opened up a bit more room for him to operate and he's back to showcasing that terrific vision and playmaking ability that he did as a rookie. His December production has been very impressive (especially since most of that damage was 5 on 5 because he sees little powerplay time), and if he continues that production over the rest of the year, he'll move back up into early 2nd round consideration.

23. Boris Katchouk - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The rugged rookie winger has proved to be an excellent addition to the Greyhounds lineup this year. One could actually argue that he's been their most consistent offensive player. Katchouk plays a solid North/South game, attacking well on the forecheck, working the boards, and going hard to the net (with and without the puck). Because of his hard work in the offensive end, he's quite often the beneficiary of scoring chances and he's done well to capitalize on most of those, showing great hands in close. With size, speed, grit, and an improving skill set, Katchouk looks like a solid 2nd/3rd rounder with the upside to develop into a terrific energy guy at the NHL level.

24. Tim Gettinger - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One of the more disappointing draft eligible players this year for me. I expected the gigantic forward to have a huge year (pun intended), and that just hasn't been the case. At 6'6, and with great speed, Gettinger's potential package is still too big to ignore. But his play on the ice this year has been pretty indifferent (save for a great performance at the Ivan Hlinka). I think he's a player still in search of an identity; a guy who has yet to realize how to use his size most effectively at the OHL level. Too often he tries to play the skill game, trying to beat multiple defenders, instead of dumping it in and using his size to gain and maintain possession. Last year as a rookie, he showed a lot of promise as a net presence, but I haven't seen him parked out near the crease enough in my viewings of the Soo this year. I've seen some people question the hockey sense, but I honestly don't think that's it. I truly believe we're just looking at a very raw player who's yet to find his niche and confidence at this level. 

25. Keaton Middleton - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
It's interesting to compare Middleton to Windsor's Logan Stanley, considering Stanley is currently receiving first round consideration from many. Right now, Stanley is most definitely the superior player. But is their NHL potential really all that different? Both are hulking defenders with raw offensive games with the potential to be big time shutdown defenders at the NHL level. The real difference IMO, is Stanley's aggressiveness and confidence in jumping up to the neutral zone/blueline to use his size to make plays. Too often, IMO, Middleton allows the attacking forwards to bring the battle to him, engaging them too late and playing too passive one on one. He's super aggressive in the corners and in front of the net, which is great. But to really take his game to the next level, I'd love to see him be harder to play against in all facets of the game. Offensively, he's still relatively passive with the puck, so it remains to be seen just how much that part of his game can grow. I do honestly believe that the potential here is very great.

26. Connor Bunnaman - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
A natural center, Bunnaman has been playing a lot on the wing this year and he's looked good doing so. At 6'3, 200lbs, he's a real big body and I love how he controls the boards and the cycle game. His ice time has definitely fluctuated with the depth of Kitchener's lineup, but he's always noticeable on the ice because of how hard he works away from the puck. There's definitely an element of skill to his game though. I think he is a very cerebral player, and I see a lot of potential as a goal scorer with his heavy shot. I suppose the question is, moving forward, is he a winger or a center? If he can continue to upgrade his skating, I think he could be a very dominant two-way center who can control the possession game. In that role, he'd have a ton of value to an NHL team, at least more than he does as a North/South energy winger.

27. Travis Barron - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Like the rest of his teammates, Barron has had a very tough month of December. There's no question his game is more than what he contributes on the score sheet. But, with how little he's been able to find the net this year, I do think that you have to wonder just how high is NHL potential is. A great forechecker, two-way player, and overall energy guy, Barron is also a potential future captain at any level he plays it. But, at times, he seems unsure of what to do with the puck on his stick. His confidence offensively really needs a big boost. When you compare him to a guy like Boris Katchouk, Barron is the more hyped player, but Katchouk brings similar qualities to the table, yet is proving to be the better offensive player right now.

28. Cliff Pu - Forward - London Knights
Doing a lot right now without quality ice time (no powerplay time, fluctuating ice time 5 on 5). London has certainly been no stranger to having their 3rd/4th line players drafted, only to develop them into fantastic NHL prospects (cough, Christian Dvorak, cough). Pu is a potential power forward who really excels at driving the net, coming down the wing. He's already quite strong on the puck and is able to operate very effectively off the rush. Away from the puck, he engages physically and has really gained the trust of the coaching staff as a dependable role player in a very deep lineup. In particular, I think he's got a ton of potential as a goal scorer because the hands are good and his wrist shot has great velocity. 

29. Tye Felhaber - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Small sample size (8 points in his last 4 games), but it really looks like Felhaber has finally awoken from his slumber. Easily one of the most talented 98's in the OHL, Felhaber looked (quite honestly) lost to start the year. Not sure if the cut from the Ivan Hlinka team crushed his confidence, but he certainly did not look like the same player who often dazzled as a 17 year old rookie last year. Way too many offensive zone turnovers from trying to do too much with the puck and not enough effort without the puck to make him noticeable for the right reasons. But, as mentioned, he's really turned things around of late. He's been utilizing his speed to buzz around the offensive zone again and has been working harder without the puck to get himself in great position to use his fantastic wrist shot. He can really dominate shifts with his ability to control the puck. But the effort level working the boards and the backcheck has been increasing too. Let's hope that this a return of the real Felhaber, and that he continues this torrid pace to close out the year. He'll certainly move back up draft boards quickly if that's the case.

30. Tyler Parsons - Goaltender - London Knights
Have to give credit where credit is due. To start the year, Parsons would definitely not have been my top rated goaltender from the OHL. And I must say, I'm still a little bit leery of it. But, you have to commend him on the way he's played this year. He's been without a doubt, the best of those first time draft eligibles. Sure, he plays for the London Knights, but he's been getting better and better as the season has gone on, gaining confidence (and should be applauded for his invite to the U.S. WJC camp). I don't think he's the most athletic netminder available, and he's definitely not the biggest, but he does a good job of making tough saves look easy because he tracks the play well and is solid positionally. And his rebound control has already improved a lot from his rookie season. Early on, I thought that London might upgrade in net, but I think that with his play of late, the Knights seem confident that Parsons can be their guy to lead them to the Memorial Cup. Again, he deserves credit for that.

Honorable Mentions
31. Jonathan Ang - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Just on the cusp of being inside my Top 30. Extremely quick and skilled, and his play away from the puck has improved, but I do still have questions as to how well his game will translate to the next level.

32. Dylan Wells - Goaltender - Peterborough Petes
Canada's starter from the Ivan Hlinka has had a downright awful start to the season. Seems to have really lost his confidence, giving up bad goals, not tracking the play well. Still has the most potential of any goaltender in this OHL class though and that needs to be reflected in the rankings.

33. Evan Cormier - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
Figured he'd be right there with Wells, neck and neck for the top goalie available. And while his year hasn't been as bad as Wells', it hasn't been great either. Has been playing better of late, even if the stats don't necessarily show that. Gets hung out to dry a lot by Saginaw's inconsistent defence.

34. Jack Kopacka - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Started the year very well, but has slowly been pushed down the depth chart thanks to indifferent play. Certainly has potential as a strong two-way player, but seems both hesitant to engage physically at times, and to take chances with the puck. 

35. Nicholas Caamano - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Definitely moving up my list. Big body who has shown great chemistry with Will Bitten on Flint's top line. Excels near the crease and knows and accepts his role on the line with the speedy Bitten. If he keeps it up, he'll crack my top 30 come season's end.

36. Ben Gleason - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
Trade to Hamilton has done wonders for his game. Is really excelling as an offensive defender and has really improved his ability to lead the rush. Defensively a work in progress, but I think he's also being asked to do too much on a weak Bulldog's team.

37. Alan Lyszczarczyk - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
I guess we better learn how to spell his name. Has proved to be an excellent FA signing by the Wolves. Speed and skill off the wing and plays the game with little fear. Inconsistencies can be explained by a lack of strength. 

38. Kyle Maksimovich - Forward - Erie Otters
Another undersized offensive firecracker on the Otters. While not as small as Debrincat (5'9), he's still undersized by NHL standards. Is a terrific energy guy who is the perfect compliment on a scoring line (blocks shots, kills penalties, goes to the net). I do wonder what the offensive potential for the next level is though.

39. Domenic Commisso - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Since being elevated to the top line in Oshawa, Commisso has been a revelation. He's not huge, but he's impacting the game in a lot of ways. He's showing great hands in the open ice and creating off the rush. He's playing physical on the forecheck and winning big faceoffs. If he keeps up this level of play, there's no question that he continues to rise on my list.

40. Stephen Dhillon - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
Gained some confidence at the Ivan Hlinka and has carried that into the OHL season. Good sized goaltender who's shown flashes of brilliance for the inconsistent IceDogs. After the WJC's, isn't likely to see many starts, but has probably done enough to be a late round pick.

41. Austin Osmanski - Defence - Mississauga Steelheads
Tall, lanky defender who has been a real surprise for the Steelheads. Protects the crease and is smart defensively. Has shown flashes offensively too. Definitely some potential there.

42. Christopher Paquette - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Struggling a bit with the role that Marty Williamson is asking him to play this year. A highly skilled center who's in more of an energy/defensive role right now. Has good size down the middle and could explode if the Dogs upgrade their secondary scoring on the wing. 

43. Joseph Raaymakers - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Interesting player to watch in the second half depending on what happens with Halverson. Definitely a potential starter. Inconsistency has kept his draft ranking down this year, but he should eventually be a solid OHL starter. 

44. Jordan Sambrook - Defence - Erie Otters
When he's gotten the chance to see more ice time (injuries, WJC's, etc), the OHL rookie has done a lot with it. Solid at both ends of the ice. Could be a potential late round steal depending on how much we see him in the second half.

45. Zach Poirier - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Hard nosed center has been better lately. Not ideal size for the type of game he plays, but he is the prototypical Butler esque two-way center. Development of his goal scoring ability key moving forward.

46. Troy Timpano - Goaltender - Sudbury Wolves
Has returned from injury and is playing some good hockey. Still gets hung out to dry a lot by a weak Wolves defence, but is making more big time saves and is getting his confidence back. Likely still the goalie of the future for the Wolves.

47. Michael Pezzetta - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Big bodied center who has some speed and potential as a puck protection beast. Has upped his physical game this year, but goes through stretches of disappearing completely offensively. He's been out for a few weeks now with an upper body injury.

48. Luke Kutkevicius - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Has been making the most of his 3rd/4th line ice time. Hard working center who battles for every inch on the ice and actually has good playmaking instincts IMO. Could be a tad undersized for the type of game he plays (in the NHL's eyes), but as he gets stronger, he could be a force at both ends.

49. Nicolas Mattinen - Defence - London Knights
Has been making the most of increased ice time as of late. Could be the team's biggest trade chip at the deadline. Great size at 6'4, 220lbs and I've been impressed with how much he's already improved this year. Could be a guy to watch in the second half.

50. Noah Carroll/Brandon Saigeon - Defence/Forward - Guelph Storm/Hamilton Bulldogs
Decided to lump these two together. Probably the two most disappointing players in this draft crop thus far. Both "B" rated prospects before the season and now looking like long shots to get drafted. Carroll appears to have lost all confidence in his offensive game and struggles to get noticed defensively when his team is constantly battling in their own end. And Saigeon has been largely invisible. Inconsistent in every way imaginable. Needs to get back to playing physical and keeping the game simple in the offensive end. Thought he looked like a Mike Richards clone last year, but this year looks like a borderline OHL player, let alone an impact guy. Still time for both to turn things around.


Anonymous said...

Given that some people said Chychrun was better than Ekblad at 16/17 yr old season.

Why has Chychrun not exploded in points this year like Ekblad did. I know he had a shoulder injury, but is it the injury or did he peak at 16/17.

Maybe his team is defensive I don't know but he is slipping in ranking.

Any thoughts?

Brock Otten said...

Great question.

I think there a bunch of reasons for the lack of offensive explosion.

1. Powerplay efficiency. In Ekblad's breakout offensive season, he had Barrie's powerplay operating at a pretty good level. In 2013/14 Ekblad actually finished 3rd in the OHL in powerplay goals (among all players, not just defenders). Sarnia's powerplay is currently in the bottom third of the league and have had major consistency issues. Part of that is because Sarnia lacked high end offensive firepower (until recent trades). But the other part is that Chychrun isn't yet as polished as a powerplay QB was. Ekblad had a rocket of a shot and generated a ton of scoring chances (and goals) from using it. He walked the line so effectively and demonstrated a ton of poise there. Utilizing his shot and finding shooting lanes from the point is an area Chychrun is still improving on.

2. Sarnia's offense hasn't been terrific this year overall, at least until recently. That's why they brought in the likes of Mistele, Konecny, Studnicka, etc.

3. Chychrun, himself, hasn't been nearly as aggressive in attempting to generating scoring chances as he was in his rookie year. In a lot of ways, he seems to be really focusing on improving his game defensively this year and it's been at the expense of his offensive numbers. With his skating ability and improving offensive instincts, I still think there is a ton of potential there. In the second half, I think we'll really see his offensive numbers explode (greater supporting cast, increased confidence, etc). The other night he had 8 shots on net and really seems to be gaining steam.

Quite frankly, I don't think he should be slipping. Is he a contender for first overall? Heck no. He's not in the class of the big 3 (Matthews, Laine, Puujarvi). But, I still think he's the best draft option from the OHL (over Tkachuk, Nylander, etc).

Anonymous said...

Interesting, great info,