Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 30-11

This is the 3rd part of my final top 50 OHL players eligible for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Here you will find players ranked 30 through 11.

30. Tye Felhaber - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
I realize that this ranking of him is higher than most seem to have him. And quite frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he went undrafted. But I definitely still believe in his long term potential and as such I have him ranked accordingly. Felhaber is one of the most offensively gifted players in his age group in the OHL. He was a high draft pick and he had a very good rookie season last year. But this year wasn't terrific for him. He was cut from the Hlinka team and when he returned to the OHL, he was not effective. It seemed like he was trying to do way too much. Way too many offensive zone turnovers from over handling the puck or trying to force lanes that weren't there. But I felt like he started to turn it around towards the end of 2015 and the statistics show that. In his final 36 games, he had 14 goals and 18 assists, good for almost a point per game. A lot of that success coincided with a shift to the wing where he was able to simplify his game a little bit. Felhaber is extremely quick and his explosive stride allows him to dart in and out of traffic and catch defenders flat footed. He has a terrific shot and release and is still adding the strength necessary to create space for himself to use it more. Right now he relies on his speed and hands to make plays, but as he gets stronger, he should be able to be better in puck protection scenarios. He's not big (5'11). And he had his issues this year. But IMO his late season surge should be enough to convince an NHL team that his potential is alluring enough to warrant a selection.

29. Cole Candella - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
A big fan of Candella's game. He's just a very solid two-way defender. Early on in the season he was thrust into the role of Hamilton's #1 defender thanks to injuries and he did well to be the leader of a young blueline (in only his second year). But unfortunately, he too succumbed to the injury bug after fracturing his wrist. This caused him to miss the rest of the season. So we've got to base our assessment on what we saw in the first half. Candella has good size, moves well, defends well, and makes a good first pass. A defender without a lot of flaws. The issue is, just how good can he be? What's his overall potential at the next level? Is his offensive hockey sense and skill level with the puck good enough for him to develop into a solid offensive defender and powerplay QB? Can he develop more of a mean streak and be a more difficult player to play against in his own end, on top of being a solid positional defender? If I had a more definitive answer for those questions, Candella would likely be higher than 29th for me. But that's the problem with playing only half the year. Could definitely be a diamond in the rough for whatever team selects him (I could see him going as early as the 3rd).

28. Ben Gleason - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
Candella's injury (among others like Justin Lemcke), opened up a massive opportunity for Gleason and he ran with it. While he most definitely had nights where he struggled with the increased responsibility, I did see a lot of progression in his game from the beginning of the season to the end. If you look at the stat lines, you'd probably assume the opposite (only 5 points in his final 24 games). But I saw a player who was more dedicated to playing strong in his own end and took less chances offensively (compared to what he was doing earlier in the season). Gleason's best quality is his mobility. He's a very smooth skater who does a good job of starting the breakout and began to limit his turnovers as the season went on. I also felt like his positioning defensively really improved over the year, using his mobility to stay ahead of the play. He exhibited more patience rather than chasing the play. Also saw him trying to play more physical and I think that's a component to his game that will be key to his development. Offensively, the hockey sense is a work in progress (picking his spots to pinch/activate, working the point of the powerplay), but the underlying skills are there (puck skill, shot, etc). Overall, Gleason most definitely possesses potential to be a solid two-way defender.

27. Markus Niemelainen - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
I'm definitely not as high on this defender as others are. I certainly respect the general consensus (I still see him going early 2nd on mock drafts), but there are some red flags for me. At 6'6, 205lbs, the size is certainly alluring. As is the potential at both ends because he skates reasonably well and has pretty good overall defensive awareness. He also exhibits some offensive potential as a puck rusher, and at 6'6, he could be very difficult to separate from the puck. But the major red flag for me is the turnovers in his own end. I don't think there was a Saginaw game that I saw this year where Niemelainen didn't have multiple turnovers. At the beginning of the year, I chalked it up to adjusting to the speed of the North American game. But as the season wore on, it made me wonder about his hockey sense and vision. Defensively, he's a solid positional defender and his reach makes him hard to beat one on one, but I want to see more intensity away from the puck, especially in the corners and in front of the net. Because of the size and mobility, the potential is worth taking a gamble on. But I'm just not as much on board as others seem to be.

26. Sean Day - Defence - Mississauga Steelheads
No question he didn't have a great year. And I actually had him lower on my list up until about the last month and a half of the season. I thought he closed out the season exceptionally well. The two biggest reasons for that were an increased intensity level in the defensive end, and an increased propensity for starting the rush and looking to use his speed to push across the neutral zone. For me, I don't actually believe Day has a ton of offensive potential. While the skating ability obviously makes you hope that's the case, I just don't see a player who possesses a natural ability for creating offence. IMO, his future at the next level rests on his ability to defend his own end; using his size and mobility to be a shutdown type of defender. Thus why I think his increased desire to play the body and play mean in his own end towards the end of the year is a major step forward. Certainly you have to look at the overall motivation levels (with everything that came out this year in the media), and NHL teams will do their homework at the combine (I'm guessing he'll be one of the most interviewed players). But on the ice, I think he's finally realizing what his role is and the way he needs to play to be successful. You're not looking at the next Drew Doughty. He's not going to be that type of guy. But can he be a successful NHL player? Absolutely. Check out Sean's interview from The Pipeline Show.

25. Jack Kopacka - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Kopacka is a smart offensive winger who had a very good finish to his OHL season. While he was somewhat quiet in the postseason, he did close out the regular season on quite a roll. In his final 27 games, he had 12 goals and 11 assists, operating at near to a point per game. This was all the while seeing 3rd line ice time (forming pretty good chemistry with '99 Morgan Frost). Kopacka is an excellent complimentary offensive player. He makes smart decisions with the puck, especially off the rush where he can be especially dangerous. His speed is an asset and he also has good hands in close. Over the course of the season his play without the puck definitely improved, although his wavering intensity levels can help explain some of the inconsistency he had early on. I know that he's a big time favourite of many in the scouting community (look no further than his extremely high ranking by NHL Central Scouting). For me, I'm just not sure how high his overall offensive potential is, but there's certainly a lot to like about a winger with size, skating ability, and smarts. Check out Jack's interview from the Pipeline Show.

24. Riley Stillman - Defence - Oshawa Generals
Massive fan of this young kid, especially after talking to him for an article I wrote on him. Was named as one of the OHL's most improved players this year in the Coaches Poll and it was completely deserving. At the beginning of the year, he was struggling to find ice time. By season's end, he was arguably Oshawa's top defender and was wearing an "A" on his chest (mighty impressive for basically a first year player). Stillman has average size (6'0), but he plays much bigger than that in the defensive end. Stillman is an extremely efficient open ice hitter and he's great at timing up hits as forwards cut across the blueline. Stillman is also very mobile, exhibiting strong lateral and backwards agility, which makes him a tough guy to get around one on one, despite being only 6'0. Offensively, he keeps things simple. Can be effective at leading the rush and has already improved as a powerplay QB, exhibiting an excellent point shot. His hockey sense is also excellent at both ends of the ice. As he becomes more comfortable and continues to add strength and power to his forward stride, I think we'll see the offensive numbers jump. With a great attitude and an improving skill set (to go with good NHL bloodlines), I wouldn't hesitate to use a top 75 selection on Stillman. Check out my Q & A with Riley from earlier this year.

23. Victor Mete - Defence - London Knights
If he were over 6'0, we'd be talking about Mete as a surefire NHL first rounder. But as it stands, the undersized (5'10) defender is still a pretty special player. It all starts with his fantastic skating ability. Offensively he's almost impossible to pin in his own end because of how explosive he is. Starts the breakout with the blink of an eye. Defensively, he's learned to use his speed and overall mobility as an asset and has become a very difficult player to beat one on one. And he's never out of a play and has worked hard to really increase his intensity level in his own end. In terms of being a PMD, Mete is as good as it gets. He rarely turns the puck over in the neutral zone and does a great job with his entries. And when he does get trapped, his skating ability allows him to quickly recover. He doesn't yet possess an elite shot and as such isn't incredibly aggressive in looking to shoot (especially on the powerplay). Teams play him to pass and that limits his offensive effectiveness at times, but he's still got lots of room to grow in that area. I suppose how you view Mete depends on how well you think he'll defend at the NHL level. Personally, I think there is enough evidence to suggest that he could easily develop into a Kris Russell kind of player. His performance in the OHL playoffs was exemplary and I think should have gone a long way to prove to NHL scouts that he can be an NHL player.

22. Tyler Parsons - Goaltender - London Knights
Hands down the top goaltender available from the OHL this year. Parsons had an excellent season in London that saw him finish first in SV% and GAA, and 2nd in wins. He was particularly excellent in the 2nd half and in the playoffs. Parsons doesn't exactly possess the size that NHL teams covet in the position these days (6'1), but he's a true competitor who never gives up on a play. He tracks the puck exceptionally well and as such, his reaction time and ability to make that "highlight reel" save is fantastic. Over the course of the year, Parsons has also worked hard to improve his rebound control and ability to fight through traffic to make a save. When he gets in trouble it's because he scrambles too much and gets himself out of position, but again, he's worked hard to refine his approach and stay in the butterfly. Not all that different from Alex Nedeljkovic, who was a high 2nd round pick.

21. Dmitri Sokolov - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
I seem to be the only one moving him up my list in the 2nd half, rather than dropping him. And I don't really understand why. Was he the top 10 talent that many thought he'd be prior to the season? No. But does his potential, size, and skill set make him a valuable top 75 pick? I certainly think so. Let's examine the facts. He was the only rookie in the league this year to hit the 30 goal mark (even over Nylander and Jones), and he did it with little help in Sudbury. He finished the year with 12 goals in his final 15 games. He lost over 20lbs over the course of the year and dedicated himself to being in better shape. And he battled a shoulder injury all season long that limited his effectiveness and required offseason surgery. At the beginning of the year, I was not impressed. He looked slow. He looked disengaged without the puck. But I thought he was much better in the second half, especially late in the year. He has the potential to be a real load for opposing defenders to handle based on the way he can protect the puck. And boy can he fire the puck, with a quick release. Does he still need to get quicker? Yes. Does he still need to improve his overall play? Yes. But I'm pretty curious to see how he does next year with a good shoulder, a better supporting cast, and (likely) even better conditioning. You have to give it up for the way he battled this year and the improvements he was able to make in a tough environment.

20. Tim Gettinger - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Consistency is the name of the game for Gettinger. Right now, he can be either one of the more noticeable players on the ice, or completely invisible. But the potential is sky high. Gettinger is one of the bigger forwards available this year (at 6'6), but he is also a fantastic skater and therein lies the potential. When he gets going, he can be a very difficult player to stop. Problem is, he can overextend himself and is prone to hanging on to the puck too long. Needs to get away from that mentality of putting his head down and driving the net, and learn to use his skating and puck possession ability to create for teammates off the rush. Gettinger also has to use his size away from the puck. He doesn't spend enough time near the crease, where he could be a big time factor for screens, tips, and garbage goals. Instead, the majority of his scoring chances are created off the rush and not through the cycle game. But there are shifts where he'll dominate the wall that make you wonder why he doesn't do it more often. As such, Gettinger is the ultimate boom/bust selection. You've got a huge winger with a great skill set, but a guy who's still got a lot to learn about being a truly effective hockey player. Potential is sky high though.

19. Givani Smith - Forward - Guelph Storm
Definitely a player scouts seem to be pretty split on this year. And that's because he battled major consistency issues. Now, admittedly, every time I saw Guelph this year he was a big time factor. Thus explaining my high ranking of him. When he's on, Smith is a powerball. Easily one of the most physical players in the league, Smith excels on the forecheck where he enters the zone like a missile. He forces a lot of turnovers and is able to maintain possession of the puck through good footwork along the boards. He definitely does the majority of his work offensively below the hash marks, where he also attacks the net looking for rebounds. I think his hands and vision with the puck are underrated and I do see upside as a 2nd line winger at the next level. But he does have some warts. His explosiveness needs to improve so that he can be a bigger factor entering the zone and on net drives. His defensive game needs work, as he needs to find a way to translate his energy and physicality in the offensive zone to the backcheck. And he needs to be more disciplined and refrain from taking bad penalties. But true power forward prospects don't come around all that often anymore and Smith is a true throwback player.

18. Taylor Raddysh - Forward - Erie Otters
Raddysh is just a really hard working complimentary offensive player who has excelled doing the "dirty work" for a guy like Dylan Strome. He has great size at 6'2/200lbs and uses that to drive the net, win battles in the corners, and open up space for his linemates. Raddysh just has that knack for finding open space in the offensive zone, which points to him having terrific hockey sense. I particularly love his vision coming off the wall. Creates a lot of scoring chances by making great passes after gaining/maintaining possession along the boards (similar to a guy like Matthew Tkachuk). His overall puck skill and skill set is not flashy, but he does whatever is needed on a scoring line and that's why he's a valuable player and could make a valuable pro. If he can really improve his skating (particularly power), he could be more of a driving force on a line.

17. Cliff Pu - Forward - London Knights
Every year there's a player who makes a late push up the draft board with a strong late season and playoff performance. This year that player is Cliff Pu. Started the year as part of a carousel of players on London's checking lines, but finished the year as one of the biggest reasons for London's playoff success. Counting the playoffs, Pu had 21 points in his final 26 games. Pu is at his best off the rush where he's a deceptively quick skater. He does a great job with puck control and possession in close to defenders, and uses quick turns and pivots to create space. He demonstrates a really good head for the game, and plays in all situations for the Knights, especially excelling as a penalty killer. As a center, he could definitely develop into an excellent two-way player who could anchor your 2nd/3rd line. I would definitely not be surprised if he's one of the first few picks off the board in the 2nd round. This year's Christian Dvorak/Remi Elie?

16. Adam Mascherin - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
The stats would definitely suggest that he's a high end draft pick. Among first year eligible players, Mascherin finished 3rd in the OHL this year (with 81 points). And only Alex Debrincat had more goals. That's the type of production that you would typically associate with a 1st round pick. So why isn't Mascherin generally considered a first rounder? I think there are a variety of reasons. But the most obvious reason is his lack of size coupled with his only average skating ability. Mascherin darts in and out of traffic well, but he lacks true explosiveness. He's only 5'9, but he is 200lbs, so it's not the size alone (he's built similar to Max Domi). It's the combination of the two (as he's more than strong enough to handle the rigours of the pro level). I think the other strike is his wavering intensity level on the backcheck and in the defensive end. But offensively, you've got a very competent player. Mascherin possesses one of the hardest shots and quickest releases of any player in the draft class. He pounces on loose pucks and doesn't hesitate a wink when it comes to firing the puck. He's also an effective player below the hash marks who can really work the possession game using great lower body strength. Reminds me a little bit of Tyler Toffoli from his draft year, as they had similar concerns and strengths. Of course Toffoli managed to figure things out (but did fall a bit in the draft before that). Check out Adam's interview from The Pipeline Show.

15. Logan Stanley - Defence - Windsor Spitfires
Probably a little bit shocking to see him this low for most people. But if you follow my lists, you'd know that I've had Stanley lower than the consensus all season long. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot to like and the progression he's shown this year is incredibly impressive. I just don't like the track record of using high picks on players like Stanley. That being, huge defenders who project as stay at home defenders at the next level. The game is evolving and while size will likely always be King, it's built on speed more than anything now and I think that negates some of the impact that a guy like Stanley can have. That said, as I mentioned, there are things to like. He's 6'7, and 220lbs and he actually moves reasonably well. He's worked very hard to improve his skating and his stride is a lot more fluid and powerful. His lateral and backwards agility still needs work, and he needs to keep his feet moving off the rush, but a lot of the times his reach and aggressiveness help to negate some of the issues he has. He's also very aggressive in using his size in the corners and in front of the net. He's one mean customer. Offensively, there are underrated components to his game. He shows upside as a puck rusher. And I really like the patience and poise he exhibits on the blueline when trying to get shots through to the net. I suppose when making a final call about Stanley it comes down to where you feel his upside lies. Will his skating and offensive game continue to improve to the point where he's an Erik Gudbranson type of player? Or will he be more of a Matt Greene type of 3rd pairing/PK guy? Check out Logan Stanley's interview from The Pipeline Show.

14. Jordan Kyrou - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Kyrou is a better player than his numbers would indicate. His 51 points had him 14th among draft eligible forwards from the OHL this year and only a few points ahead of the likes of Jonathan Ang and Alan Lyszczarczyk. But you have to watch him play to truly realize what he brings to the table. Kyrou is one of the best skaters in the OHL, demonstrating not only elite speed, but agility too. He cuts/changes directions as quick as any player in the league. It's that, that allows him to be a true puck hound defensively, and an offensive dynamo off the rush. Kyrou's skill with the puck is also among the best in this draft class, as he possesses the ability to make defenders miss and create a ton of time and space for himself to operate. At times he can be prone to overhandling the puck and needs to make safer plays, but his creativity is refreshing. So what's holding him back? Well Sarnia was a pretty low scoring team this year so you have to take that into account. But Kyrou does have his flaws. He needs to shoot the puck more and will need to work on his shot if he wants to be a more complete offensive player. Defenders tend to play him for the pass and he needs to be less predictable. Kyrou also needs to continue to add strength so that he doesn't have to rely on his speed alone to win loose puck battles. The best way to evaluate Kyrou is against his peers. And at the Hlinka in the Summer, and at the U18's, I thought Kyrou was one of Canada's top performers. That has to count for more than his average production this year. Check out Jordan's interview from The Pipeline Show.

13. Will Bitten - Forward - Flint Firebirds
All things considered, Bitten had a pretty fantastic year. Remember the disaster that Flint was this year? Well Bitten played through all of it, and found a way to get the job done. He lead the Firebirds in scoring by a pretty wide margin and managed to be one of the top scoring 98's in the league this year (second only to Mascherin and tied with Sokolov with 30 goals). Bitten is most definitely undersized at 5'10 and pushing 170lbs, but you wouldn't know it watching him play. He excels in traffic, consistently winning battles behind the net, along the boards, and near the crease. One of the reasons for that is that he always keeps his feet moving in the offensive end, and is a terrific skater. Another reason is that he processes the game very well and anticipates exceptionally well. One of those guys that always finds himself in the right place at the right time. Bitten's speed is a major asset when it comes to stretching out opposing defences. He may have led the league in breakaways this year. But he's more than just a speedster. His skill with the puck is terrific (an accolade he was recognized for in the Coaches Poll) and he's able to create time and space for himself in other ways than with speed. Other than size, perhaps the biggest concern for Bitten is the wavering intensity in the defensive end. He's a sparkplug in the offensive end, but he needs to find a way to transfer that to the backcheck and to play in his own end. He definitely has the potential to be a major asset on the PK and as a two-way player. Added strength may help, but the desire needs to be there too. Overall, Bitten is a great prospect. His performance (like Kyrou's) at the U18's was also excellent and should help to win over fans in scouting community who didn't get the chance to see Flint all that often.

12. Boris Katchouk - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Quietly one of the most effective draft eligible players in the OHL this year. Efficient is great word to describe him. Complete is another. Katchouk is just a really solid all around winger who can help you win hockey games in a variety of different ways. He's a tenacious forechecker and an absolute puck hound who's energy level at both ends of the ice is contagious. His quickness allows him to be first to loose pucks. It also makes him a very effective offensive player off the rush, where he has an underrated ability to accept passes and carry the play at full speed. He also demonstrates good vision. Going back to that word "efficiency," Katchouk is a darling when it comes to the analytic types. He finished in the top 60 of scoring in the league, but was down near 150th for shot attempts. He capitalizes on his scoring chances by anticipating the play well and just seems to really understand how to play without the puck. The question is, how good of a goal scorer can he be and how good are his hands? As a world class lacrosse player, I'm not sure we've seen the best of what he's capable of in that department. I think the key is adding velocity to his shot and becoming more confident in using it. Don't be surprised if this guy sneaks into the late first round. Was terrific in the OHL playoffs and was good at the U18's too.

11. Alex Debrincat - Forward - Erie Otters
Truly an offensive sparkplug. Debrincat is so hard to contain in the offensive end. Blink and he's behind you, or has positioning over you. He's so elusive. It's not often that you see 5'7 guys do the majority of their work 10 feet from the crease and in, but that's Debrincat. As alluded to, his skating ability, in particular his ability to stop and start and get a quick burst of acceleration is fantastic and allows him to be so quick to open lanes or loose pucks. But he's a battler too. If he doesn't beat you to the spot, he'll fight you for it. And he's deceptively strong. That low center of gravity really helps him to acquire positioning near the crease. His shot is probably his biggest weapon in the offensive end. Velocity is good, but it's the release that's exceptional. On his stick and off it within a flash. With the way the game is played today, there's most definitely room for a player like Debrincat (just like Johnny Gaudreau). That said, there is a slight hesitation that would prevent me from using a Top 20/25 selection on him. Call it a mild seed of doubt. This is something I mentioned as a strength; the fact that he does the majority of his work near the crease. At the OHL level, he's able to out smart and out hustle defenders. At the NHL level, there are 6'4 defenders who can skate as well as he does. Will he be able to have that same sort of success? He might be forced to adapt his game a little bit (say the way a guy like Jeff Skinner has). But, I do most definitely like him as a player and I do believe strongly in his offensive potential at the next level. If you're a competitive team picking at the very back of the first round, would you be willing to roll the dice on Debrincat knowing that his offensive ceiling might be as high as the guy someone else took in the Top 5? Check out Alex's interview from The Pipeline Show.


Anonymous said...

Niemelainen I thought would be ranked top 20. Could you amagine if he was deveioped by a legitimate defensive coach . No defenseman on Saginaw could get the puck out of the D-zone it was hard to watch. Middleton suffered the same problems but it was a coaching flaw.

Brock Otten said...

Oh most definitely. Saginaw had a heck of a time getting the puck out of their own end this year. Constantly hemmed in, and turnovers were a serious problem. I think some of that's on the coaching staff. Some of it is on the forwards for not being dedicated to the backcheck. And some of it is on the defenders themselves for making poor decisions.