The 2nd part of my Top 50 OHL players available for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. This is where we actually dive into the Top 50, with players ranked 50 through to 31.
I should add that I think that this is a very solid year for the Ontario Hockey League. Last year only 31 OHL players were drafted, which was significantly lower than previous years. But it was no surprise to those who follow the league closely. This year, the depth available is much better and I would expect that number to be well over 40, perhaps close to 45. There are several players in this 50 through 31 range that could develop into quality NHL prospects.
50. Eric Henderson - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Proved to be a great pickup by the Generals in the Jacob Graves deal. Henderson is a good sized winger (6'1) who seemed to get better and better every game with Oshawa. He's got good speed and showed an ability to create off the rush, where he can use his size to protect the puck. I felt like his intensity away from the puck also increased with Oshawa and he was finding a lot of success near the crease, working as a net presence. Would love to see him add even more intensity to his game and for him to use his speed to create more away from the puck, but I think he's a guy that NHL teams could look at late. He should be a top 6 player for the Generals next year and could easily be a 25 goal guy for them in 2016/2017. Upgrades to his shot and strength would do wonders for his NHL potential.
49. Justin Brazeau - Forward - North Bay Battalion
This is a player that really caught me eye later in the season. Makes the most of his limited ice time to be a noticeable player. Finished the year with 3 goals and 3 assists in his final 11 regular season games. At 6'4, he's got great size and he shows a ton of potential as a beast in the cycle and the type of guy who could be very difficult to contain below the hash marks. His shot shows some velocity too and I definitely think there is goal scoring potential. As he makes upgrades to his skating, and strength, he could be quite the player. This is something Stan Butler mentioned to me in our conversation earlier this year too, when he said "Brazeau could be the kind of guy who surprises people in a few years." Reminds me a lot of Justin Auger, who has turned himself into a very solid prospect in the Kings organization.
48. Brandon Saigeon - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Probably the single most disappointing draft eligible player from the OHL this year. The former 4th overall pick saw his numbers decline from his rookie season and he looked like a different player. As a rookie, I saw a potential Scott Laughton/Mike Richards clone. A guy who could control both ends of the ice from down the middle, and who could really disrupt play with his physical intensity. But this year, that wasn't the player I saw. He looked to be really pressing offensively all season long and as such he got away from the things he did well, like being active on the forecheck or playing the body. He registered 21 games this year (out of 43) where he had only one or no shots on net. And unfortunately, when it looked like he might finally be turning things around (post Stephen Harper trade, 6 points in 9 games with increased ice time), he suffered a season ending arm injury (broken forearm). It's certainly not too late for him to turn things around. He's a notoriously hard worker and NHL scouts will find value in that. Going into next year, he's got to upgrade his first step quickness and he's got to get back to the basics of playing the game hard and in your face.
47. Hayden Verbeek - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Verbeek is, hands down, one of the hardest working forwards in the OHL. Undersized at 5'10, Verbeek plays the game like he's 6'3. Constantly keeps his motor running in the offensive end where he controls play along the boards and is an extremely effective forechecker. Verbeek also has great vision and a playmakers touch, as he's able to create scoring chances for linemates coming off the wall and flying down the wing. He's also a very good two-way player, faceoff man and penalty killer. His shot needs to add velocity and he's certainly not the most flashy player on the ice. I'm not sure there is a ton of offensive potential for the next level. But you'd be hard pressed to find a better checking line prospect this year, size concerns aside.
46. Joseph Raaymakers - Goaltender - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Inconsistent is the title of Raaymakers' scouting report. But many young netminders in this league share that title. Consistency is usually the last component that a netminder finds (although some never find it). When Raaymakers is on, he does a great job of tracking the play, using good agility and footwork to get himself in position to make saves. He also fights through traffic well and does a good job of controlling his rebounds. But when he's off, his positioning is often at fault and he gets exposed over or under committing to shooters. He also needs to remember to be aggressive in challenging shooters to make himself bigger than his 6'1 frame. But he's shown enough the last two years to warrant a draft selection. Next year he'll get a chance to be the starter in Sault Ste. Marie, on a team which should compete for the Western Conference title. Check out Joseph's interview from The Pipeline Show.
45. Ondrej Kachyna - Defence - Hamilton Bulldogs
I really, really liked the development of Kachyna's game over the course of the season. He really struggled in the first few months of the season. He was forced into more ice time than he could handle (because of injuries) and really seemed to lack confidence in his abilities with the puck, in addition to struggling with the processing speed required of him at the OHL level. But around midseason he really seemed to turn the corner and by season's end, he had become an extremely effective two-way defender for the Bulldogs. He shows good speed and overall mobility and that helps him at both ends. I particularly love the way he stays ahead of forwards on the rush and he's very composed and patient, allowing the play to come to him so that he can use his size and reach to defend. He also really improved his confidence with the puck and began to lead or jump up in the play to create scoring chances. I think his future is probably as a strong stay at home kind of guy, but there might be some hidden offensive potential in there. While NHL teams love any player who shows the type of progression that Kachyna did this year, I think they like it even more when it happens with CHL Imports. Shows a commitment to learning in a new environment.
44. Zach Poirier - Forward - North Bay Battalion
An underrated player for this year IMO. Poirier, a former OHL first rounder, got off to an extremely slow start this year (especially after competing at the Ivan Hlinka), but he was significantly better in the second half of the year. He can play all three forward positions, but I like him best at the wing where he can use his speed, aggressiveness, and quick release to be a solid goal scoring option. He closed out the regular season on a nice little roll at wing, with 7 goals in his final 13 games. But when he shifted back to center in the playoffs, he struggled again. When the game is kept simple, Poirier can be a solid North/South type of player and I think there's value in that as an NHL draft pick. The size isn't ideal (5'11), but he plays much bigger than that. Long story short, I like his potential as a hard nosed goal scoring winger, but not as a two-way center.
43. Noah Carroll - Defence - Guelph Storm
Thought to be a potential top 3 round pick at the beginning of the year, Carroll really struggled on a rebuilding Storm this year. A late '97, Carroll was asked to play top line minutes and he struggled with that. He's a solid young player, but his confidence seemed quite down, especially when it came to moving the puck and creating offence. He has a lot of things going for him. He skates well. He has good size. He is a smart positional defender. He shows good vision on the point of the powerplay. But as mentioned, his confidence seemed pretty low from the get go this season. Most of the time I saw Guelph this year, he looked visibly frustrated and overwhelmed with his team's inability to get out of their own zone. He seemed content to make the safe play and wasn't nearly as active in trying to start a rush or push past the neutral zone. I still think he can be a solid pro and I expect him to bounce back next year, but I do wonder if his team's lack of success this year (and his mediocre play) cost him a draft spot.
42. Evan Cormier - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
I definitely had higher expectations for Cormier going into this season. But he continues to battle consistency issues. It was his first full year as a starter though, and there are definitely a lot of things to like about his game. He's a big guy and fairly athletic despite his size (6'3, 200lbs). He's definitely capable of making those highlight reel saves and a lot of the time he's better than his stat line would indicate. That said, he tends to have some trouble finding pucks through traffic and he needs to do a better job of shaking off weak goals. He finished the year pretty poorly and he'll need to be better next year if he wants to keep Brendan Bonello from stealing his job. I'd still use a mid round pick on him in hopes that he figures it out, but he's definitely got some work to do.
41. Anthony Salinitri - Forward - Sarnia Sting
A former first rounder by the Soo Greyhounds (part of the Anthony DeAngelo deal), Salinitri is an extremely quick forward who can play down the middle or on the wing. He excels off the rush, where he has the speed to blow by defenders and is definitely aggressive in attacking the net. Salinitri also has a good shot and does a great job of using his speed to create space for himself to get it off. I think the true key for his progression is adding strength. He's not the biggest kid, so he can get pushed around a bit. Getting stronger would allow him to become more of a factor away from the puck and would make him a more consistent offensive player.
40. Kyle Maksimovich - Forward - Erie Otters
Undersized offensive spark plug. Was a consistent offensive contributor this year whether he saw first line minutes with Dylan Strome, or second line minutes with Jake Marchment. Maksimovich has already grown a lot since his OHL draft year (where he was listed at 5'6). Now stands 5'9, could easily grow more still. Maksimovich reminds me a lot of Andrew Mangiapane in his original NHL draft year (when everyone was shocked he didn't get selected). His best asset, IMO, is his hockey sense in the offensive end. Just seems to always make the smart play, with or without the puck and he's got great positioning and anticipation. Skating is solid (a necessity for a smaller player) and I think that he eventually develops into a top 10 scorer at this level. I will say, though, that I had him a little higher on my list until the playoffs. I was disappointed with his play in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and I think that given his size, he needed to show that he could handle the toughness of the Greyhounds and Knights.
39. Connor Hall - Defence - Kitchener Rangers
Definitely one of the biggest risers over the course of the season. Struggled out of the gate then missed over a month with a broken jaw. But when he returned to the lineup in the new year, things started to slowly turn around for him. And his strong performance in the playoffs really earned him that spot on Team Canada at the U18's as the 7th defender. Hall is a solid stay at home defender prospect for a lot of reasons. He's got good size and he is quite aggressive in using it. He's especially effective at pinning on the wall and comes away with the majority of loose pucks in one on one battles. Hall is also a pretty good skater, although he needs to keep his feet moving when defending off the rush as he can be caught flat footed at times. Offensively, he plays a relatively simple game. Can make a solid first pass, but does struggle when he tries to do too much with the puck (which was evident at the U18's IMO). But he's definitely a solid stay at home guy with the potential to be an effective third pairing defender at the NHL level.
38. Travis Barron - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Hard nosed winger who operates as a complimentary player on a scoring line for the 67's. The 3rd overall pick from 2014, Barron's offensive skill set definitely hasn't translated as well to the OHL as many anticipated it would. In particular, his shot, which was considered a weapon in minor midget, hasn't progressed to the point where it could be considered a weapon at the OHL level. While he operates exceptionally well away from the puck to create space for his linemates and win battles along the boards, with the puck, he's just not nearly as effective. For as hard as he works away from the puck, he seems to struggle with getting himself in solid scoring position and reading offensive situations. It certainly makes me wonder about his overall offensive potential at the next level. Will he ever be more than a solid two-way winger who engages physically and provides leadership? Even a guy like Daniel Paille showed more in his NHL draft year. Still lots of time for him to figure things out though.
37. Dylan Wells - Goaltender - Peterborough Petes
No doubt about it. Wells did not have a good year. Originally pegged to be the next star OHL goaltender, Wells struggled mightily this year. Of his 27 appearances this year, 16 of those saw him post a save percentage below .875. And he didn't play for a weak team either. I managed to catch a few of those games this year and he really seemed to be fighting the puck, struggling with his positioning and rebound control in particular. Is there light at the end of the tunnel though? Absolutely. Wells remains a talented goalie. He was great at the Ivan Hlinka this past summer. He was excellent at the Top Prospect's Game. I would have liked to have seen him at the U18's instead of Stuart Skinner too. He's got size and athleticism and he shows flashes of brilliance. Let me remind you that Matt Murray had a save percentage of .876 in his NHL draft year. Look at him now. I could see Wells turning the corner in similar fashion and that's why I think he'll still be a fairly high NHL draft pick. Check out Dylan's interview from The Pipeline Show.
36. Domenic Commisso - Forward - Oshawa Generals
If you eliminate his first 13 OHL games where he saw limited ice time, Commisso finished the year with 44 points in 53 games (including the playoffs). That's pretty good production. But it's more than that. If you watched the Generals in the second half, Commisso was consistently noticeable and was quite often their best player on any given night. There's definitely a lot to like. Commisso is a very smart player in the offensive end. He is a great playmaker because of this and it's why he was the perfect compliment to Michael Dal Colle before he left for Kingston. Commisso is also a very hard worker without the puck, active on the forecheck and always digging in the corners. And despite being under 6'0, he battles hard in front of the net and plays a fearless game. I know NHL teams want their centers to be big now, but Commisso is a legit NHL prospect with the chance to be a solid pro.
35. Keaton Middleton - Defence - Saginaw Spirit
Hulking defender (6'6, 235lbs) who is still scratching the surface of his potential. Even if he didn't have the greatest of seasons, I'm still a fan. Look at it this way. If both players reach their high end potential, is there really much separating Middleton and Logan Stanley? Stanley is without a doubt progressing quicker and demonstrating more now, but is that a guarantee 5 years from now? You'll have to use a 1st or 2nd on Stanley, but you could have Middleton in the mid rounds. Keaton, the brother of 67's defender Jacob (and one of the best defensive defenders in the OHL), has so much potential as a stay at home blueliner. He's got a great stick and he does a great job of using his long reach to disrupt passing lanes. Middleton is also an incredibly physical player who loves to engage forwards cutting across the blueline or in front of the net. The key to his development moving forward is his lateral and backwards mobility, and his puck distribution ability. These two areas of his game remain works in progress and they are why he struggled at times this year. But, it's not impossible to improve (look at Stanley this year versus his rookie year).
34. Jordan Sambrook - Defence - Erie Otters
A great find for the Otters this year, as Sambrook quickly established himself as a core piece of their lineup. When needed, he saw a ton of ice time on the back end. And when he wasn't, he happily slid down the depth chart and played his role. Sambrook is a solid two-way defender. Defensively, he engages physically and is already a very good boards player. He's still learning as a coverage defender, but he shows a lot of gusto in his own end, which I like. Offensively, he showcases good puck skill and makes a very solid first pass. He can lead the rush and has good vision in the open ice. Possesses a good point shot too, and should develop into a PP QB. Sambrook is probably a higher ranked prospect if he's on a team with less depth than Erie, but there's no doubt that an NHL team out there sees him as a diamond in the rough.
33. Nicholas Caamano - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Good sized winger who possesses a lot of redeeming qualities. Has good speed and is able to create space for his linemates by pushing the tempo. But he's also a very effective player in close to the net, where he's not afraid to battle for position and shows good hands in close. Caamano also is a solid two-way player who is dedicated to the backcheck. I think I do have questions about just how much offensive potential he has, particularly as a goal scorer. But there's definitely enough to like about his play this season to warrant, at least, a mid round selection. Just where will he be when he adds strength? Will that make him a dominant force off the rush? Will that improve his shot? Will that allow his physical game to evolve even more?
32. Jonathan Ang - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Closed out the season exceptionally well and I was really disappointed that he didn't get an invite to the U18's. In his final 22 games (including the playoffs), Ang had 10 goals and 13 assists, averaging over a point per game. While he saw a lot of time at center early in the year, it wasn't until he shifted to the wing where he found a lot of success. Playing the wing allows him to use his speed (among the best in this draft class) to his advantage and play a simpler game. I give him a lot of credit for improving his play away from the puck as this season progressed too. By season's end he was using his speed to be disruptive on the forecheck and the backcheck. To go with blinding speed, Ang also possesses terrific hands and stick handling ability, which makes him very difficult to stop one on one. Really the only thing he's missing is strength and size. I'm definitely way more convinced of him being a serious NHL prospect than I was 4 months ago. His performance in the playoffs is indicative of that. But I'm hoping he stays on the wing.
31. Connor Bunnaman - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Bunnaman is a really good checking line prospect who had a very strong year for Kitchener in his sophomore season. While he can play center, I think he's better suited to the wing where he saw the majority of action this year. He's got great size at 6'3, 211lbs and he plays a very pro style game. He works the possession game very well in the offensive end, controlling the boards and maintaining positioning near the crease. He knows his role and he plays it to a tee. But he's not just a grunt. Bunnaman has good hands in close and I like his vision as a playmaker as he'll surprise you with the things he can do coming off the wall. His skating is only OK, but it's already better than it was in his OHL rookie year. The one thing I'd really like to see from him is more physicality; using that size to be disruptive on the forecheck/backcheck. While he engages, he's not necessarily a big hitter. Would love to see him become more physically active in that regard.