Sunday, July 31, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - New York Islanders

The Islanders are up next.

1. Michael Dal Colle - Kingston Frontenacs
A tale of two seasons for Dal Colle. When he came back to Oshawa for his 19 (turning 20 year old season), he didn't seem to have a ton of fire in his stride. And this is something that happens quite often with prospects in his position. Coming off a Memorial Cup victory, he's hoping to make an NHL roster. Instead, he's sent back to a rebuilding junior team with the idea that he's (perhaps) accomplished all he can at this level. It took a trade to Kingston to re-invigorate his game and in Kingston he was fantastic. Almost a goal per game in 30 contests and he was the team's best player in the playoffs (despite an early exit). He's such a smart player in the offensive end. His hockey sense is extremely high. He's never developed into an incredibly pretty skater, but because of his anticipation and his ability to read defenses, his quick decision making skills allow him to adapt. His shot continues to be NHL ready, as his velocity and release are outstanding. Just an overall impressive offensive player. Defensively, I felt like he improved under coach Paul McFarland. He'll never win a Selke, but his effort and reads on the backcheck have most definitely improved and he even saw regular time on the PK. The real question is, did Dal Colle improve a lot? Honestly, other than improvements made on defense, probably not. The real test faces him next season when he can finally turn pro. I think the reality is that Dal Colle will probably never turn into a player who can drive a line offensively at the NHL level. But, because of his hockey IQ, his skill with the puck, and his finishing ability, he should be a solid complimentary player on a scoring line...even if his skating never becomes an above average trait. Think of guys like Jordan Eberle, or an Andrew Brunette. If paired with other skilled players at the AHL level (say a Josh Ho-Sang), I think he has a good first year, perhaps a 25/20 season. Of course, he could always surprise and make the NHL roster too.

2. Josh Ho-Sang - Niagara IceDogs
Statistically speaking, Ho-Sang didn't really improve all that much compared to last season. But, I think there's more to it than meets the eye. IMO Ho-Sang had a very good season and did make some improvements. He continues to play smarter with the puck and cut down on his turnovers, picking his spots better to try and "dangle" defenders. I've had a couple players tell me this year that Ho-Sang is the toughest player to stop one on one because of how unpredictable he is. His goal scoring ability, shot, and confidence in shooting has never really become a major asset, but he's skilled enough to survive as a pure playmaker at this point in time. The most impressive part of Ho-Sang's season was by far his performance in the playoffs though. I felt like he had really struggled in the postseason during his first two years, but this year he was Niagara's best skater (not player, that would be Nedeljkovic) and really was a major factor for a team made the OHL finals. He was so determined with the puck and showed an intensity without the puck that was refreshing. Just brought so much energy to the ice. Like Dal Colle, Ho-Sang will begin his pro journey next year and it will be interesting to see the pro careers of these two intertwined. I think they'd make interesting linemates. I'd expect Ho-Sang to find immediate success at the AHL level and I suspect he'll be a 15/30 type of player.

3. Mitchell Vande Sompel - Oshawa Generals
Vande Sompel started the year very slowly as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery (and missed the first month and a half of the OHL season). But by season's end, he had elevated his play to the point where he was the year prior as a Memorial Cup champion. I'm not entirely sure he improved all that much, in terms of development. But getting himself healthy moving forward and playing a leadership role for a rebuilding team certainly can't be considered a poor year. He's still such a smart offensive player who's able to use his skating ability and vision together to be a very dangerous player when exiting his own zone. The size concerns will likely travel with him until he turns pro and shows he can adapt, but he continues to get stronger and will likely look to up his physical game next year as a 19/20 year old. Oshawa should be a better team in 2016/17 and Vande Sompel will be an integral part of that. I'd expect him to be back up near the league leaders in defensive scoring and another 60 point season is certainly possible.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - New Jersey Devils

Cabs are here! Time for New Jersey. Definitely a gigantic crop of OHL prospects

1. Pavel Zacha - Sarnia Sting
I thought Zacha had a fantastic season. Every time I saw Sarnia this year, he was the best player on the ice. He was much more determined and confident, with and without the puck this year. With it, he was a load to handle for opposing defenses. He's so strong on the puck and has the ability to absolutely dominate the possession game. I don't know how many times I saw him come off the wall and drive the net without anyone able to stop him. And without the puck, he was much more physical on the defensive side of things. While I wouldn't call him a power forward, he's certainly not afraid to use his size to separate the opposition from the puck. Skating wise, he looked more explosive and has clearly worked on his first few steps, making him more dangerous as an offensive player. Quite frankly, I think he's ready for that next step and I'd be surprised to see him back in the OHL next year as a 19/20 year old. Of course, it's the NHL or back in junior for him, but he was close to making the Devils last year and has improved considerably, to say I see him earning an NHL roster spot. In the NHL, I think he can play a key role as long as he can hold up in terms of durability. A 15/20 season as a rookie is a reasonable expectation.

2. Michael McLeod - Mississauga Steelheads
If you read my blog, you know I'm a fan. He had such a marvelous start to the year, but eventually ran into some injury issues (with his knee) and when he returned, he just didn't look as sharp. And his relatively poor showing at the U18's also left a bad taste in people's mouths going into the draft. But, I'm still a big believer of his potential as a dominant two-way force (ala a Ryan Kesler). McLeod's speed and size down the middle is such an asset for today's NHL game. His ability to gain entry into the offensive zone and lead the rush makes him a very exciting player to watch. At this point, he just needs to learn how to slow the game down a bit. And I think that means learning to use his size more consistently to create in the cycle and do a better job of hitting holes in the defense without the puck (especially with his skating ability). His inability to do that at times this year caused some to question his offensive hockey sense and overall potential, but I see it more as a player who's still learning how good he can be. The hands are there. The shot needs to improve, but he has the hands to make plays. Next year, he's already been announced as the captain of the Steelheads as they will attempt to be the top team in the Eastern Conference. Even without Alex Nylander (seems pretty likely), McLeod should be a good bet to crack the 75 point mark.

3. Mackenzie Blackwood - Barrie Colts
If you're named the OHL goaltender of the year, hard to suggest that you had a bad season. Blackwood earned that trophy as the most consistent goalie in the league, as he was a rock on most nights for the Colts. Big and athletic, Blackwood is the prototype of today's NHL goalie. I think he did a great job improving his rebound control this year, limiting 2nd and 3rd chances and doing a better job of swallowing up shots after they hit his 6'4 frame. Blackwood is definitely at his best when he keeps things calm and composed. Where he still gets into trouble is when he scrambles and gets himself out of position He's still learning how to best utilize his size to make his positioning more consistent so that he doesn't have to scramble. Next year, he'll start his pro career. The Devils have three quality goaltending prospects and only two spots in the AHL. Safe to assume Scott Wedgewood has one of those spots after how well he played last year. So it will come down to Ken Appleby and Blackwood for the 1B) spot. My guess would be that Blackwood outplays Appleby and earns that AHL spot where he splits time with Wedgewood and has a solid first professional season.

4. Blake Speers - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
He was so good for the Hounds this year and has really put himself on the map as a solid pro prospect IMO. One of the big reasons for that is how dedicated he's been to improving his overall game and play without the puck. He's begun to use his speed to be a factor on the forecheck and on the backcheck and he even flashes a desire to get dirty physically. Offensively, he's so deceptively quick and hits open lanes with authority. This makes him incredibly effective off the rush where he can utilize his great puck skill and terrific shot. His playmaking ability as a center also took a step forward this year, as he did a better job (especially on the powerplay) of slowing the game down to play the cycle game and exhibit patience. The Hounds captain also greatly improved his faceoff prowess and had one of the highest winning percentages in the league on the draw. I think he's only going to continue to grow as a player as he continues to add strength and becomes a more difficult player to stop one on one. Next year, Sault Ste. Marie should be one of the better teams in the league and Speers has a chance to have a really big season. Think 85+ points.

5. Nathan Bastian - Mississauga Steelheads
Like McLeod, I'm also a big fan of Bastian. He was easily one of the most improved players in the OHL last year and is a budding power forward. His skating continues to get better as he adds strength to a frame that has been stretched out a lot in the last few years (massive growth spurt). He also improved a ton as a physical presence this year, proving to be a force on the forecheck and along the wall. The question moving forward is, is he a winger or a center? He's largely played wing as an OHL player, but with McLeod out late in the year, Bastian switched to the middle and looked quite good. His playmaking ability and vision off the rush are his best qualities offensively IMO and that profiles well for him to make the permanent switch to center. Next year, the Steelheads could definitely use him down the middle to form a lethal 1/2 combo with McLeod (and then pair them together on the 1st powerplay unit). As mentioned, the Steelheads should be a top 3 team in the East and Bastian will be a big part of that. I think he's at least a point per game player next year.

6. Josh Jacobs - Sarnia Sting
Jacobs had a solid first (and likely only) OHL season where he was a key player on a strong Sarnia team. Offensively, he keeps things very simple, but defensively he's a very effective player. He does a good job of staying ahead of attacking forwards, using strong backwards and lateral mobility. He also does a great job getting the puck out of his own end, showing a strong first pass and rarely committing turnovers. He also does a good job of engaging physically and established himself as a tough player to go up against this year. He's not the type to lower the boom with an open ice hit or lay punishing hits in the corners, but he makes you work for every inch of ice and that in itself represents physicality. I don't think there's a ton of potential offensively, even if he did see some powerplay time this year. I just don't see a ton of natural ability there. But I think he's a safe bet to be an NHL defender. Whether that's as a second pairing or third pairing guy remains to be seen. He'll turn pro this year and skate with Albany where I'd expect him to be a regular in the lineup but not put up a ton of points.

7. Colton White - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
It was a good development year for White. He certainly remains a project as a pro prospect, but he took a lot of steps forward. His skating is definitely an asset and he utilized that to be a major factor leading the rush for the Hounds. He picks his spots well and has good hockey sense overall. The next phase for him is becoming more confident in his abilities. He could stand to extend his rushes further into the offensive zone, trusting his skating ability to help him recover if need be. Would also love to see him use that skating ability to jump up into the rush as the 3rd or 4th guyin, as he actually has a good point shot but just doesn't use it a ton. As a powerplay QB, using his shot more would also help him and it would open up the ice more for his teammates. Defensively, his mobility helps him to be a solid positional defender, but he needs to make himself tougher to play against by being more physical in the corners and in front of the net. He still loses too many one on one battles. Adding strength would definitely help that. But as he gets stronger and gains confidence, White is a potential breakout candidate. He's raw, but the skill set is there for a potential NHL defender. I think that breakout happens next year for him and I will say he can hit the 45+ point mark on a solid Greyhounds team.

8. Evan Cormier - Saginaw Spirit
A tough year for Cormier. He came into the year as a potential top 2 round pick, but he struggled with consistency. He's a big kid, but he gets beat low too much and seems to struggle recovering from weaker goals. Part of that is because of the team he plays for. He saw the 2nd most shots against this year of any goalie in the league and at times he definitely looked tired. But he's got size and when he's on, he can be a very difficult goalie to beat because of that. Saginaw should be better next year and Cormier will aim to have a better year. In two years in the league, he's never had a save percentage close to .900, let along over it. But I think that could change next year and I'd expect him to be around the .905 mark with close to 30 wins. That said, if he's not careful, he could lose his job to Brendan Bonello, a solid goalie prospect for the Spirit (some consider him the top '99 born goalie in Ontario), who will come to camp in hopes of earning serious playing time.

Friday, July 29, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Nashville Predators

Nashville is the next stop (admittedly one of the U.S. cities that I want to visit that I haven't yet).

Unfortunately, Nashville doesn't have a single OHL prospect at the moment (the first stop on the 30 day tour to go prospect-less).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Montreal Canadiens

Ensuite, les Canadiens de Montreal.

1. Mikhail Sergachev - Windsor Spitfires
A great pick by the Canadiens this year, Sergachev (as I've been saying all year) has the most offensive potential of any defender in the draft. And while his defensive game does have some holes, he has the size, mobility, and demeanour to get better. The foundation to his game is his terrific skating ability, combined with his size. Once you give him a lane out of the defensive end, he's so tough to stop cutting through the neutral zone. Sergachev also does a great job quarterbacking the powerplay, utilizing a tremendous point shot and terrific vision and ability to walk the line. He was the Max Kaminsky winner this year (defender of the year), but I think sending him back to the OHL for another year would be the right decision. Windsor will host the Memorial Cup so Sergachev will not only get the opportunity to improve his defensive play, but he'll also get a chance to play for a Championship and be a leader. This past year he had 17 goals. I'm going to say that if he's back in the OHL, he scores over 20.

2. Will Bitten - Flint Firebirds
All things considered, Bitten had a pretty fantastic season in Flint. The issues with the team have been beaten to death, but Bitten persevered through it and was the team's most consistent point producer. He also had a very good Under 18's. As such, he was a steal to draft in the 3rd round IMO (yes, I used that word). Speed is the key to Bitten's game, as he's so dangerous in transition. But he's also good in traffic and will be even better along the wall and on the forecheck when he adds strength. A lot of offensive potential here. I really like what Flint has done this offseason, bringing professionalism back to the organization (and also some talented hockey players). They should be an improved team and Bitten will be one of the key cogs (if he rescinds his trade request, and if not he'll be a key cog for another OHL team). I think he's over the 80 point mark next year.

3. Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack
One of the more underrated goaltending prospects around IMO, due to the fact that he was signed by Montreal as an undrafted FA (he should have been drafted in the first place). His stats don't jump out at you (save percentage barely above .900, GAA barely below 3), but he was much better than they indicate. He faced among the most rubber of any goaltender in the league and consistently kept the Attack in games, making key saves when they were needed. He's a big guy, but he manages to cover post to post quite well and he's really worked on his rebound control to go with his fantastic glove hand. The only negative was that he faded a bit down the stretch and struggled in the last month (including the playoffs). But it was his first season as a starter and he was relied on pretty heavily. I have high expectations for the Attack next year and I think McNiven is a real dark horse candidate to be OHL goaltender of the Year.

4. Victor Mete - London Knights
Pretty terrific season for Mete, winning an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup. I felt like he was fantastic in the OHL playoffs and in the Mem Cup, and really elevated his game when it mattered most. His draft position is more a reflection of his lack of size and not his talent level. He's an absolutely fantastic skater whose stride is effortless and powerful. He excels as a puck rusher and has really improved his decision making over the course of his two year OHL career. He's also greatly improved his dedication to playing in his own end and showcases a really strong mind for the game. Obviously the key to his development moving forward is the continued improvement of his defensive game, proving that he has the ability to play bigger than his size and defend some of the league's bigger forwards in front of the net. He'll return to London next year where the Knights will have a strong team yet again. IMO, Mete is a very good bet to crack the 50 point mark next year, especially if Olli Juolevi ends up making the Vancouver Canucks.

5. Jeremiah Addison - Ottawa 67's
Addison had a pretty decent season and was a consistent contributor for the 67's (forming pretty good chemistry with Dante Salituro and Russian Artur Tyanulin at times). His physical play and ability to operate in traffic really took a step forward this year. He's certainly not huge (6'0), but he plays much bigger than that. He's most definitely a power forward. His skating also looked better this year and allowed him to be quicker to loose pucks, more effective on the forecheck, and more dangerous off the rush. At this point, I think the thing holding him back is his ability to handle the puck. He can clean up the garbage and his shot has improved, but when asked to make quick decisions and make skilled moves at a high speed, he often is not able to. Without an NHL contract at this point (Montreal has until next June to sign him), it seems Addison is destined to return to Ottawa for his overage season (he has a late birth date). Of course, they may give him a shot to earn an AHL roster spot, but at this point I'd like to see him back in the OHL. He can continue to improve his offensive skills and continue to gain confidence as a budding power forward. In Ottawa, I would expect that he could get close to the point per game mark and should be a great bet for the 30 goal mark.

6. Michael Pezzetta - Sudbury Wolves
Pezzetta is a player well worth the late round gamble that Montreal took on him. Many had high expectations for his play going into the season. He's that prototypical power center that NHL teams covet for today's NHL. Yet, he struggled, along with the rest of his Sudbury team this past year. He showed flashes of being a very effective player but just couldn't put everything together on a week to week basis. As mentioned, he has everything you look for. Size. Physicality. Skating. The question is, just how much individual skill is there? Next year Sudbury will hope to be better and they're going to need a guy like Pezzetta to really step up his game in order to do that. He needs to take over the team's first or 2nd line center role (along with David Levin) and be a 25/25 player who can be dangerous game to game, not week to week.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is up next. Strangely enough, all three of their OHL prospects are Imports.

1. Dmitri Sokolov - Sudbury Wolves
While I didn't have Sokolov ranked as high as a guy like Corey Pronman, I definitely don't think he should have been a 7th rounder. It's hard to stand out on a team as bad as Sudbury was this year, but at the beginning of the year, Sokolov just wasn't very good. However, he proved to be an extremely committed individual by losing weight and playing through a bum shoulder (that required offseason surgery) and got better and better as the season went on. Scoring 30 goals with not a ton of help around you is no easy feat. His conditioning needs to continue to get better (ditto for his skating). He needs to become more committed to playing without the puck. But his skill with the puck, puck protection ability, and shot are all above average. He's already stated that he'll be back in Sudbury next year and I expect him to have an even better season (finally healthy and hopefully in even better shape). Sudbury will finally look to take that next step forward as a young team and make the playoffs and Sokolov will be possibly their most important player. They need him to be a 35+ goal scorer and point per game player who leads by example on the ice.

2. Gustav Bouramman - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
At face value, it looks like Bouramman had a pretty stagnant season compared to his draft year (and freshmen OHL campaign). But you need to dig deeper. Through the first half of the year, I felt that yes, Bouramman largely looked like the same player he was the year before. But in the second half, he absolutely exploded and put forward one of the more underrated dominant performances in the OHL this year. In the final 29 games of the regular season, he had 28 points, and then he followed that up with 9 points in 12 playoff games. That's the same type of production that Calgary Flames top prospect and OHL leading scorer among defenders, Rasmus Andersson, put up. He looked way more confident in using his strong mobility to lead the rush deeper into the offensive zone, and was willing to take more chances offensively as the 3rd/4th man in. Defensively, there are still some holes, but he took some big steps forward offensively late in the year. The key will be keeping that up going into next year where he'll be counted on to be one of the go to defenders on a team with Championship aspirations in the Soo. I would expect him to be top 10 in defensive scoring next year and he should be able to crack the 50 point mark.

3. Pavel Jenys - Niagara IceDogs
Was better this year than the numbers would indicate. Once he got to Niagara (away from a struggling Sudbury team), his play really picked up even if the stats don't show it. He was relatively snake bitten during the regular season. Was working hard to be an all around complete player in the offensive zone, digging in the corners, crashing the net, and creating scoring chances on drives to the net. In the playoffs, the snake bite curse seemed to lift from him and his chances began to be converted. Outside of Josh Ho-Sang, I would actually say Jenys was Niagara's best forward in their playoff run to the OHL Championship. Moving forward, Jenys will be in the AHL next year. As he showed this year, he can play a multitude of roles and I think that bodes well for him staying in the lineup consistently. Probably will need a couple of years in the AHL before a true assessment of his offensive potential can be made.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Los Angeles Kings

Hollywood here we come!

1. Mike Amadio - North Bay Battalion
Easily one of my favourite prospects in the OHL this past year. The growth he has shown since being drafted in 2014 is enormous. To be a 50 goal scorer in the league, on top of one of it's better two-way players is an incredible feat. First player in Battalion franchise history to score 50 (and they've had some pretty good offensive players over the years). And no teammate even scored 30. If I had a vote, he would have been my vote for the Red Tilson (MVP). His goal scoring instincts had always been there, but this past year his shot and strength really improved allowing him to be so much more dangerous in close. Skates well, but again, the added strength allowed him to be very difficult to separate from the puck off the rush. Had a decent debut with Ontario in the AHL playoffs, and I expect him to continue to build off of that next year. I think he'll be an immediate top 6 player and should be a 40+ point player. I think he'll only need one year in the AHL and then he'll be ready to take on a (at least to start) 3rd or 4th line center role in LA.

2. Erik Cernak - Erie Otters
Certainly not a flashy player, but a very efficient one. Was super impressed with his defensive intelligence and vigor in his first (and likely last) OHL season. Already has pro size and his confidence with the puck in his own end really improved over the course of the season. At the beginning, he had some issues with turnovers (from the forecheck), but he eventually worked out the kinks and was making a great first pass by the end of the season. There isn't much offensive upside, but he has the potential to be a very solid second pairing defensive stopper for the Kings (the next Mattias Norstrom?). Moving forward, his lateral and backwards mobility needs to continue to improve, but I think he's ready for the pro game. Of course, as a '97, the Kings could send Cernak back to Erie for his sophomore season, but I don't think that's in the cards.

3. Spencer Watson - Kingston Frontenacs
After a disastrous 2014/2015, Watson was significantly better this past year, taking some massive steps forward (and subsequently putting himself back on the prospect map). Kingston was one of the top teams in the league and a lot of that was due to the fact that Watson put the team on his back on most nights. Skill level has never been an issue. He has it all offensively (save for maybe elite acceleration). But he had such a hard time playing through traffic previously that he just wasn't able to be a consistent factor. This year, the energy level was MUCH higher. He was fully engaged, with and without the puck. Getting his nose dirty in all areas of the ice. As such, he finally exploded offensively. If he had played that way in his draft year, there's absolutely no chance he would have slid to the 7th round. That said, he still has some work ahead of him. He's got to continue to get quicker to excel at the next level, especially as an undersized guy who had difficulty adjusting to the physicality of the OHL game, let alone the AHL/NHL level. And he has to keep his intensity level up and show that the motivated Watson we saw this past year wasn't an anomaly. I expect him to struggle initially in the AHL next year. But I do have faith that by the season's end he'll have adjusted and be a quality offensive contributor for Ontario.

4. Damir Sharipzyanov - Owen Sound Attack
Definitely a little disappointed in Sharipzyanov's development this past year. Granted, he missed a good chunk of time due to a broken wrist (beginning of the year) and the WJC's (with Russia). But his game just never really found a consistent groove. I know the coaching staff worked really hard with him to reign in his offensive game a bit in favor of a more defensive approach, but the results weren't always there. He still falls victim to some bad turnovers, as he tries to force plays up ice, whether it be a bad pass or a bad rush/pinch. And while he does have size, plays physically, and has good mobility, the sum of all those parts has yet to come together to make a quality two-way defender. Quite frankly, I don't think he's ready for the pro game. LA has sent defenders back to junior for their overage seasons before and it's worked out pretty well for them. Another year in Owen Sound would do wonders for him (especially considering how good the team should be). That said, there's also no guarantee Owen Sound would want him back (they would have to utilize an OA spot and a Euro spot on him). But I'm sure an OHL team out there would take him. It's all probably moot anyway, as everything I've read suggests he'll be playing pro (despite what I would suggest). I think he'll probably spend the majority of the year in the ECHL, adjusting to the speed of the pro game.

5. Jacob Friend - Owen Sound Attack
Absolutely loved this pick up by LA at the draft this year. Friend is a real interesting prospect. He was an FA signing by the Attack, playing in his first OHL season as a 19 year old. As the year went on, his game really improved and he was able to establish himself as one of Owen Sound's top 4 defenders and arguably their best defender in their own zone. He's not huge (6'2), but he plays like he's 6'6. In only one season, he's established himself as one of the league's most feared defenders and open ice hitters. He absolutely relishes in the physical side of the game. He makes a good first pass and is generally pretty decent with the puck too. By season's end, we were seeing him take some chances offensively, suggesting a new found comfort level. I'm very, very intrigued to see how his game develops next year and beyond. As mentioned, Owen Sound should be one of the better teams in the West next year and Friend will look to be a huge contributor. I'm hopeful he can improve his offensive numbers, at least into the 30 point range.

6. Matt Schmalz - Sudbury Wolves
Major drop off in production for Schmalz, and quite frankly, he just wasn't very good last year for Sudbury. Yes, Sudbury was bad. But Schmalz and some of his teammates (who also regressed or failed to take steps forward) have to take blame for that. He remains a big time project. The size and skating combination will always be alluring, and he has big time goal scoring potential because of a big shot. But he remains a one trick pony who has yet to develop both the vision/playmaking ability to be a big factor off the rush, and the consistency in his play away from the puck to be a dominant player in the cycle. At this point, I don't think there is any doubt that he'll be back in the OHL next year for his overage season. Sudbury "may" finally be able to take that next step forward as a young team and be a playoff contender again. And if they do, they'll need Schmalz to be a 30 goal scorer and a consistent offensive leader on a young team.

*Jacob Moverare - Mississauga Steelheads
The Steelheads took Moverare in the Import draft and it remains to be seen whether he'll play for them next year. Because Alex Nylander may be playing in Europe or in the AHL, Mississauga needed an insurance plan (as they also have Detroit prospect Saarijarvi) as they intend to be one of the top teams in the OHL next year. If he ends up playing in Mississauga, Moverare has a chance to be a part of the top 4 on a Championship contending team and could play a role similar to what Erik Cernak did in Erie this past year. Him signing with the Kings recently is definitely a step in the right direction towards seeing him in the OHL next year.

Monday, July 25, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are next and they've got a large OHL prospect group as they continue to draft heavily from the league. Definitely one of the best prospect groups in the league when it comes to OHL players.

1. Lawson Crouse - Kingston Frontenacs
I think you have to look at Crouse's development last year in two ways. Firstly, the Frontenacs emerged as the best team in the Eastern Conference and it was largely in part to players like Crouse. He's such a complete player and the Frontenacs rely on him in a variety of different situations (penalty kill, powerplay, protecting the lead in the last minute, etc). While the value he brings to the team offensively is evident, it was his strong two-way game and defensive prowess that may have been most important to Kingston, who had the best goals against in the Conference. Secondly though, I'm not really sure his offensive game developed a whole lot. He still isn't the type of take over a game offensively, and I'm not sure he'll ever possess that ability. Does that mean that he can't develop into a top 6 player at the NHL level? Absolutely not. He does so many things well and does possess good hands and good vision as a playmaker along the wall. But he's going to be more of a complimentary player at the next level. That is unless he can continue to improve his ability to handle the puck in transition, improve his shot, and improve his ability to find scoring lanes. The question is, what does Florida do with Crouse next year? I think he's definitely ready to play in the NHL on a checking line. So does Florida keep him (they definitely have some room for him in the bottom 6), or do they send him back to Kingston for his final junior season in hopes that his offensive game really takes that next step forward towards dominance? If I bet on it, I'd say he's in Florida.

2. Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers
Definitely one of the more underrated 2016 draft picks from the OHL, Mascherin was one of the best goal scorers available in the draft. His shot and release is already NHL quality. But other parts to his game (skating, intensity away from the puck, defensive awareness) continue to need improvement. As I've said a bunch, he reminds me a lot of current King Tyler Toffoli. Mascherin will head back to Kitchener next year. The Rangers are definitely losing some key pieces, but they should still be a competitive team and Mascherin has a good chance to at least replicate his offensive success of the previous year (35 goals). I'd actually be very surprised if he doesn't crack 40 next year.

3. Juho Lammikko - Kingston Frontenacs
Over the course of his two year OHL career, Lammikko was able to progress to the point of being one of the league's top two-way players. Like Crouse, Lammikko was key to the success of Kingston because of the stringent, hard-nosed game he plays. With size, skating ability, terrific work along the boards, and a true understanding of his two-way responsibilities, Lammikko is the perfect fit to be a 3rd line center in today's NHL game. He could very easily develop into a shut down defensive center and penalty killing expert (think of a guy like Paul Gaustad, or a Troy Brouwer). As he starts his pro career this year in the AHL, I'd expect Lammikko to put up modest numbers (15/15), but his strong overall game shouldn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff.

4. Thomas Schemitsch - Owen Sound Attack
Started the 2015/16 season on the shelf after fracturing his wrist at last year's Panthers' rookie camp. But I don't necessarily think that contributed to him having somewhat of a "so-so" season. Even pro-rated to 68, his offensive numbers were down from where they were in his NHL draft season. I still like Schemitsch as an NHL prospect, but I don't necessarily feel like he improved in any particular area. Offensively, he possesses great instincts and a good shot, but he hasn't taken that next step as a dominant puck rusher and the majority of his offensive contributions come from being the 3rd or 4th man in, or from the powerplay. But even as a powerplay QB, I'd like to see him play with more confidence, taking true control over the point and looking to utilize his shot more. Defensively, he still needs to use his size more efficiently, especially in the corners and in front of the net. Currently without an NHL contract (doesn't have to be signed until next June because of a late birthday), I think Florida would be wise to send Schemitsch back to Owen Sound for his overage season. Let him continue to build up his confidence at both ends of the ice. Owen Sound has a chance to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference and he'd be a huge part of it. If in the OHL, I think he cracks the 55 point mark and is one of the leading scoring defenders in the league.

5. Riley Stillman - Oshawa Generals
Tremendous pick up by Florida at this year's draft. Stillman is a very raw prospect, but he's a really good young kid who's already improved so much and has such a good attitude. He started off this year as a rookie trying to crack the roster and finished the year with an 'A' on his chest and was arguably Oshawa's top defender. He can play in all situations and is just scratching the surface of what he's capable of offensively (because of his hockey IQ, mobility, and excellent point shot). I honestly expect him to have a breakout season. I think he's got a chance to double his point production and crack the 40 point mark, playing for an upstart Oshawa team looking to improve after a rebuild.

6. Jonathan Ang - Peterborough Petes
Another pick I really liked by Florida. Ang is another kid that has improved a ton already over his OHL career. Speed is the most noticeable trait of Ang's, as he does everything at a high tempo. A late season shift to the wing really helped him, as it allowed him to simplify things offensively, using his speed to drive the wing and push the pace of play. His game without the puck has also come a long way and I think he has the skill set to develop into a terrific penalty killer and energy player. Peterborough should be one of the top team's in the Eastern Conference next year and Ang will be a top 6 player on that team (just as he was this year). Look for him to him be above the point per game mark next year and a 70 point player at the very least.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Edmonton Oilers

For my pal Allan Mitchell (aka Lowetide), the Oilers are up next. While many of Edmonton's top young players have graduated from the OHL, right now, they've only got a few recent draft picks playing in the league.

1. Markus Niemelainen - Saginaw Spirit
I didn't like him as a top two round prospect as some scouting services were pushing, but I do like the value that Edmonton got by selecting him in the 3rd round. He's a long term project, but there is potential there as a solid two-way defender. The size and skating combination is very good. But once you get past that, it's a work in progress. He was very turnover prone in Saginaw this year (although pretty much every defender on that team had a tough time starting the breakout) and he needs to be more composed with the puck. At times, it looked like he really struggled with the smaller rink and having less time. He also needs to use his size to be more aggressive defensively. For a big guy, he loses too many battles in the corners and in front of the net. So what's the next step? He was on loan to Saginaw this year from HIFK, so there are some rumours that he'll be returning to Finland this year. I don't think that would be best for his development, and I see Edmonton having a lot of say in where he plays, despite the rumours. Being back in the OHL on an improved Saginaw team (they only took one player in the Import draft, so it's obvious that they still want him back), continuing to improve his decision making and play on the smaller ice, would be best for him moving forward IMO. I wouldn't necessarily be focused on his statistical output. He could very well put up around 30 points again next year, but if he cuts down on the turnovers and improves in his own end, that would be a successful season.

2. Dylan Wells - Peterborough Petes
This past year got off to a strong start for Wells as he backstopped Canada to Ivan Hlinka gold in the summer. But it went downhill from there. In Peterborough, he struggled all year long. He consistently fought the puck and had some problems with weak goals and being able to bounce back from that. His confidence really seemed to be shaken. But, there could still be light at the end of the tunnel. Wells has all the pieces you look for in a netminder. He has size. He is extremely athletic. And he has proven to be a quality netminder in the past (he had some fantastic performances as a 16 year old and looked great at the top prospect's game). Getting his confidence back, and refining his positional approach will be key. First order of business is earning the starter's job. Peterborough currently still has Wells and Matthew Mancina (last year's starter). If Wells can prove that he's ready to be a starter, Peterborough would likely deal Mancina. But if he continues to struggle, they'll likely ride Mancina again and give Wells the reigns the year after (as Peterborough intends to be a contender for the Eastern Conference title this year). Be patient Oilers fans, he could be a good one, but it may take time.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Detroit Red Wings

Motown is reviewed next!

1. Vili Saarijarvi - Flint Firebirds (now with the Mississauga Steelheads)
There were some very impressive components to Saarijarvi's game this year, but there were also some very unimpressive ones. Saarijarvi is an absolute offensive wizard. His skating ability gives him fantastic separation ability off the rush and allows him to gain entry into the offensive zone with ease. He also runs the powerplay very well, showcasing a great point shot and vision when moving the puck. Defensively though, he's a major work in progress. Flint struggled as a team defensively, but Saarijarvi was definitely one of the guys at the root of that. He needs to play with more jam in his own end, as he can tend to get pushed around and his defensive awareness (tends to chase the puck) also needs seasoning. Saarijarvi can also take unnecessary liberties with the puck and can be turnover prone. He needs to pick his spots better. But the potential is very, very high. After an offseason trade, Saarijarvi will be playing for Mississauga next year. The Steelheads should have a fantastic team next year and they've got some quality defenders to insulate him. I expect big things. A 60 point season (which would put him near the top of defensive scoring) is possible.

2. Givani Smith - Guelph Storm
Really, really liked this selection by the Wings in the 2nd round this year. Smith is a throwback power forward and pest. He's one of the OHL's most physical players and I can only imagine how physically dominant he could be in the league as he gets stronger the next couple of years. Guelph was absolutely horrible this past year, but Smith consistently stood out with his ability to be a one man wrecking crew on the forecheck and the cycle. As he gets a bit quicker (could improve his first few steps), as he gains confidence in his offensive abilities (like his shot), and as he is given a better supporting cast, Smith could really breakout. Guelph should be better next year, but likely not by much. I would definitely expect a jump in his production, but I'm not sure if he'll be a point per game player just yet.

3. Dylan Sadowy - Barrie Colts
The Wings gave up a 3rd rounder to acquire the rights to Sadowy, a San Jose draft pick. Sadowy is a back to back 40 goal man in the OHL, scoring 45 this year between Saginaw and Barrie. Sadowy is also a solid two-way player who excels on the penalty kill. Outside of having a good shot and release, Sadowy's best attribute is his hockey sense and ability to anticipate the play. My concern with Sadowy is likely the same as San Jose had before dealing his rights (helping to explain why they chose not to sign him). I'm just not sure where he fits in as a player at the pro level. While he has a good offensive skill set, I'm not sure it's good enough for him to be a top 6 player. And I'm also not sure I see him being an ideal 3rd/4th liner as he's not exactly a physical guy, or the most dominant along the wall, or the quickest. Good at everything, but not great can be a kiss of death and can often label guys as tweeners. Next year Sadowy will begin his pro career with Grand Rapids. I would expect him to start slowly (although probably not as slowly as Zach Nastasiuk has).

4. Jordan Sambrook - Erie Otters
Another great pick up by the Wings at this year's draft, Sambrook is a guy who flew under the radar a bit for Erie due to the depth they had on the backend. When he was called upon to play more (injuries, WJC's), he was an incredibly noticeable player. Just what the Wings have on their hands remains to be seen IMO. Sambrook flashes strong two-way potential, as he can play physical (much bigger than his size), as well as move and shoot the puck. Could he be a powerplay QB? Will his defensive game continue to develop? The questions will likely begin to be answered next year when he receives more ice time. Travis Dermott and Erik Cernak will be gone and Sambrook will have an opportunity to play in Erie's top 4. He should also receive powerplay time (likely on the 2nd unit). He had 27 points this year with inconsistent ice time. As such, I think he could definitely crack the 35, maybe even the 40 point mark next year.

*Filip Hronek - Saginaw Spirit
2016 Red Wings pick Hronek was recently signed by the Wings and selected by the Saginaw Spirit in the Import Draft. Seems like a lock at this point that he'll be playing in the OHL next year. Saginaw has a young, up and coming team. The addition of Hronek is a big one for them as it shores up their weakest area (defense) and potentially gives them an elite puck mover (something else they've been lacking). I expect him to have a very good first season (although I'm sure there will be hiccups). A 40+ point year is a very realistic expectation. Excited to see him play.

Friday, July 22, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Dallas Stars

Dallas is next. The Stars gave up the rights to four OHL players from the 2014 draft, but they've still got a few OHL players in the system.

1. Chris Martenet - London Knights
Behemoth defender who was a key component to the Knights run to the Memorial Cup, even if the stats wouldn't suggest it. First the positives. Martenet really took a step forward this year in using his size to be tougher to play against in his own end. He really seems to enjoy giving it to forwards in front of the net now and is a tough guy to get away from near the crease. Now the negatives. His offensive game regressed this year, which I think may have been planned. In his rookie year, Martenet explored his offensive skills, occasionally leading or jumping up into the play. But this year, he played a very refined and conservative game, choosing to let his d-partner Victor Mete do the majority of the heavy lifting. His puck skills will need to continue to improve though as he moves to the pros, as he can still be prone to turnovers from the forecheck. Martenet's skating is also still a work in progress, as he works to improve his lateral and backwards mobility. His adjustment to the pro level will likely have some growing pains and Dallas will have to be patient with the 6'7 defender.

2. Nicholas Caamano - Flint Firebirds
A very solid pick-up by the Stars in the 5th round this year. The Flint organization had a tough year (on the ice and off the ice), but Caamano was one of their most consistent players. He does a great job of creating offense with quick feet and a lot of energy. I also like how he works in close to the crease and has potential as a pesky two-way winger. At different times this year, he saw time with Will Bitten on the 1st line and I thought the two showed great chemistry. I really like what Flint has done this offseason, not only bringing credibility back to the franchise with smart hires, but also improving the team with smart trades and good drafting. Caamano will have a chance to play on Flint's first line and top powerplay unit next year and I expect a nice jump in his production. A 30 goal season is definitely possible.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next. Strangely enough, only one of Columbus' OHL prospects have been drafted. The rest signed.

1. Blake Siebenaler - Niagara IceDogs
Without question, I think it's fair to say that Siebenaler's offensive game never really developed the way that people thought it might (myself included). Don't get me wrong, he moves the puck well, but with his fantastic skating stride, I thought he would eventually develop the confidence and the ability to be a fantastic puck mover. That's not the case and I don't think it ever will be. But what Siebenaler is, is a terrific two-way defender who makes smart decisions in his own end, is a fantastic positional defender, and can make a great first pass. In that sense, he's built for the way the game is played in the NHL today and I'm sure that's why Columbus signed him despite the perception that his development "might" have stalled. At this point, I think all he needs is to get stronger, but even then, he relies on his mobility to defend mostly. He won't be anything flashy, but I could definitely see Siebenaler as a solid third pairing guy and it will start next year when he turns pro.

2. Dante Salituro - Ottawa 67's
Happy for him that he was able to earn that contract after going undrafted through two NHL drafts, despite posting some pretty terrific offensive numbers. Yes, he's undersized, but given his talent level, he deserved a look at pro hockey. Do I have my doubts as to whether his game will adapt? Yes. And I'm sure that's exactly why he's slipped through two drafts. Salituro, despite being undersized, does the majority of his damage offensively in the middle of the ice and near the net, and I'm not sure he's an explosive enough skater to play that role effectively at the NHL level. BUT, that doesn't mean he can't continue to improve. The Blue Jackets will have a decision to make with Salituro next year. Send him back for his overage year in Ottawa? Or let him start his pro career? Quite frankly, I think that as long as he performs adequately at camp, he'll be in the AHL. He's ready for a new challenge and he needs to start adjusting to the speed and size of the players playing pro. As mentioned, I think it will be a tough adjustment, but it needs to happen some time.

3. Jordan Maletta - Niagara IceDogs
Not many players in the OHL were more deserving of a contract this year than Maletta. Here's a kid who completely revamped his game from when he broke into the league, making the necessary adjustments and working hard to improve every year. He started out as a big, soft, forward who lacked consistency in his effort. But his game slowly transformed into becoming a dominant two-way center who can do everything pretty damn well. He's one of the OHL's better faceoff guys. He's extremely hard to play against because of how well he uses his size on the backcheck and in the corners. And he's got a great wrist shot that makes him a threat to score when he barrels down the ice. He won't be a big time scorer at the next level, but he could definitely become a valuable role player at the NHL level who can be a consistent contributor on the PK and in taking key faceoffs.

4. Justin Scott - Barrie Colts
Scott had a great final two seasons in the OHL, establishing himself as a consistent scoring line player. But there's no doubt that he earned his NHL contract with his 17 goal playoff performance this past year where he was a near unstoppable force. Scott's skill set doesn't really jump out at you. But he has great hockey sense and he possesses a great wrist shot and release and that's allowed him to be a fantastic complimentary offensive weapon for the Colts. Honestly, I don't know what to expect of him at the next level. I do imagine that he'll struggle initially because he'll need to adjust to the speed of things, but he's a hard worker and could eventually develop into a nice piece if the Jackets are patient with him. He's also the type of guy I could see developing into a checking line player at the next level, improving upon his play away from the puck and doing anything he can do help the team win.

5. Kole Sherwood - London Knights
Started out the year very well and I often came away incredibly impressed when I saw London early on. But as the year went on and London accumulated big assets, he slipped down the line up (and even out of it at times) and as such, his game really declined. I think it came down to Sherwood lacking the strength to excel in the role London wanted him to play this year (checking line energy guy). There's still a lot of potential here. The skating is great. Ability to handle the puck and create off the rush shows great flashes. His shot and finishing ability also shows well. And there's some pest like, physical capabilities hidden in there too. He needs to come into London next year and really show them that he's ready for a larger role, because there is one available for him. I actually am insanely intrigued to see how his game develops next year because I think he could really explode. I won't make a prediction here, but I will say that I think he really steps up next year.

6. Jacob Graves - London Knights
A little surprised that Graves earned an NHL deal, but you'd be hard pressed to find a harder worker in the OHL, so ultimately it's not a bad decision by any means. Graves was excellent for London this year after being acquired from Oshawa. He was especially great in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, where his in your face defensive style and his willingness to give up his body to make a play, obviously endeared him to Columbus' scouts. He's not going to put up offensive numbers at the next level. That's not his game. But he will work hard to stay in the AHL lineup next year, and could definitely develop into a quality third pairing defender who can play the PK (potential d-partner for Blake Siebenaler?).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Colorado Avalanche

Time for some thin air. Colorado is up. And their prospect pool when it comes to OHL players is also thin (after trading Kyle Wood and releasing Nick Magyar).

1. Travis Barron - Ottawa 67's
Only one OHL'er in the system right now and that's the recently drafted Barron. Colorado's 7th rounder, Barron was well worth a selection at that spot (and I expected him to go earlier). Currently, he's a great role player. I can almost guarantee that he gets a letter next year. He battles for loose pucks. He plays both ends. He throws his body around. But the major concern is the fact that his offensive skills just haven't translated from midget (where he was a star and the 3rd overall pick in the OHL draft). As a midget player, Barron showed a fantastic shot and many thought he would be at the very least, an excellent goal scorer at this level. Thus far in the OHL, that hasn't been the case as he's struggled to create and finish scoring chances and just hasn't shown the high end hockey sense to find scoring lanes consistently. BUT, it's still early. Sometimes the light bulb goes off. Sometimes it's a conditioning thing or a confidence thing. At the very least, Colorado has a guy who could be another Cody McLeod for them. And at most, Barron's offensive game could greatly improve. Ottawa should be a middle of the pack team in the OHL next year, perhaps higher depending on individual improvement and returning OA's. I would definitely expect his numbers to improve, likely into the 20/30 (50 point) range at the very least.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Chicago Blackhawks

One of my favourite cities to visit in the U.S., it's time for Chicago.

1. Alex Debrincat - Erie Otters
The Hawks did well to pick up Debrincat in the early 2nd round this year. The diminutive winger is a real offensive talent. The old saying goes, "if he were 3 inches taller, he would have been a lottery pick," and it applies here. Debrincat's best quality is his shot release IMO. He locates loose pucks so well and has such great anticipation in the offensive end. When you couple that with his release, he's a real "quick strike" player. Debrincat is also most definitely not afraid of playing in traffic, as a large majority of his 51 goals were scored close to the net or in the middle of the ice. Moving forward, he's going to continue to need to get stronger and quicker. He's by no means a weak skater, but adding even more explosiveness to his first few strides will make him that much more effective at the next level. Next year will be an interesting one for Debrincat. It seems likely that Dylan Strome will be in Arizona, which means that for the first time in his OHL career, Debrincat is not going to have a premier center getting him the puck. This will be a big test for him. Even if his offensive output goes down a bit, I think as long as he's a 90 point player (45/45), the year has to be considered a success.

2. Graham Knott - Niagara IceDogs
It wasn't a terrific year for Knott. He dropped from 25 goals to 12, and his points per game average also dropped. BUT, it's important to note that it was also a transition year for Knott as he was asked to play center this year. There were definitely growing pains there and I'm not entirely sure I like the move. Centering Niagara's 3rd line (often), Knott does show great two-way awareness and physical capabilities. His physical game really took a step forward this year, as he was more consistent in taking the body and using his size to his advantage. And I do think that he shows potential as a playmaking center. But I also think that his game is best suited to the wing where he can play a more simple north/south kind of game, work the corners/cycle, and patrol the crease for garbage (he's got good hands in close). With a new coaching staff in place for next year, it will be interesting to see if he shifts back to wing next year or stays at center. One thing is for sure and that's the fact that Knott will see more ice time next year (regardless of position). Niagara graduates many of it's core forwards and he'll be counted on to play on the first line (likely) and first powerplay unit. At some point (depending on Niagara's plans to rebuild), he could also be a trade chip for them (would be a very valuable acquisition for a team with Mem Cup aspirations). I think anything less than a 25/35 (60 point) season would be a disappointment for him, statistically speaking.

3. Roy Radke - Barrie Colts
Radke started out the year excellent. I thought he was looking much improved from the year prior and noticeably quicker and stronger. But as the season went on, his play really began to slip. As such, so did his place in Barrie's lineup. By the playoffs (where he went pointless), he was stuck on Barrie's 3rd/4th line and was used rather sparingly. At this point, Radke needs to find a niche. He's got great size, but he doesn't play with a ton of truculence. Would love to see him be more engaged as a physical player who can create offensive scoring chances through energy and grit. He definitely has good hands in close and I do think he has potential as a goal scorer. But things just haven't come together quite yet. As a 2015 draft pick, I think it's a no brainer that Radke will return to Barrie for his overage season. There, he'll be part of a rebuild and should definitely get more ice time and special teams time. He has the ability and size to score 30 in his overage year. Will he? I'm just not sure he'll be surrounded by a supporting cast that will encourage that. Will need to develop a lot next year to earn a contract.

Monday, July 18, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina is up next and they've got a heavy OHL influence thanks to employing former Plymouth boss Mike Vellucci.

1. Alex Nedeljkovic - Niagara IceDogs
Fantastic season for Nedeljkovic. His OHL year had a few ups and downs, but he was terrific when it counted most; in the OHL playoffs. Niagara went on a run and was eventually swept by London in the OHL final. But Niagara doesn't win the Eastern Conference without Nedeljkovic. And the U.S. doesn't win the bronze this year at the WJC's without him manning the crease too. Nedeljkovic is an absolutely phenomenal athlete. He's never out of a play because he's so quick and agile in the crease. His ability to move post to post is among the best I've ever seen in the OHL. 'Ned' is also a great puckhandler, something he was able to showcase in international play. The time has finally come for him to move on to the professional level. I think there might be an adjustment period for him, because he's a bit undersized and he's going to have to learn to be even more aggressive in challenging shooters to work down angles (giving him a better ability to defend the top half of the net). With Daniel Altshuller being the only Charlotte (AHL) goaltender returning, Nedeljkovic probably ends up splitting time with him depending on his performance. I think as long as he ends up North of .900 for his save percentage, that would be a successful first year.

2. Roland McKeown - Kingston Frontenacs
McKeown, like Nedeljkovic will begin his pro journey next year in Charlotte. It was a successful year for McKeown as he was able to improve his offensive output from the previous year and also was terrific in the playoffs for Kingston (even though they got swept by Niagara). But his offensive production doesn't really concern me to be honest. I never have, and continue to doubt that his offensive skill set will translate to the next level. I've said all along that the key to his development will be in the defensive end and if he's able to make himself an elite defensive player. And he did just that this year IMO (supported by the fact that he was named the East's best defensive defender and the 2nd best shot blocker in the coaches poll). For my money, he was the best in the entire OHL in his own end. His mobility is an asset, but he also thinks the game very well in his own end, anticipating passing lanes and closing gaps. He also upped the ante physically this year too. His play in his own end will be his bread and butter at the next level. Next year in the AHL, I think he's able to jump right into a top 4 spot (considering Charlotte's lack of depth there) and find success. Just don't expect huge offensive numbers.

3. Warren Foegele - Kingston Frontenacs
I thought Foegele's play really improved as the season went on following his transfer from UNH. There was definitely an adjustment period, as he started out as more of a complimentary player who seemed content to play second/third fiddle. But as the season went on, we saw him really start to become a guy who could lead the play and create his own scoring chances by driving the net hard. His ability to handle the puck and create coming off the half wall really seemed to gain confidence. He's a pretty complete player and I think he's got a shot to be a real good role player down the line. Has all the attributes that you'd want from your 3rd/4th liner. The question is, what does Carolina do with him next year? He's not signed yet, as Carolina doesn't have to sign him by the same deadline as other 2014 draftees. But he could most definitely still play pro next year. My guess is that if Carolina is impressed with him at camp, they'll sign him and assign him to Charlotte, or at the very least send him to Charlotte's camp and let him try to earn a roster spot (and have Charlotte sign him to an AHL/ECHL deal). And if they feel like he's not ready, he'll be back in the OHL as an overager on an average OHL team.

4. Jeremy Helvig - Kingston Frontenacs
Helvig was a very astute selection by Carolina this year. He was easily one of the most improved players in the league this year and stole the starting job away from the reigning OHL goaltender of the year. He's got great size and he's really starting to learn how to use that size to be a consistent stopper. Every aspect of his game has improved and should continue to improve as he gains more experience. Next year Kingston is losing some key players, but they should still be a playoff team if Helvig is up to the challenge. I expect a good year from him and for him to establish himself as a quality goaltending prospect. Like I said, an astute selection (and one I was lobbying hard for on twitter).

5. Steven Lorentz - Peterborough Petes
Despite being a '96, Lorentz did not need to be signed by Carolina because of the fact that he was drafted as a re-entry in 2015. At first, I found the selection to be a bit of a head scratcher. But Lorentz is slowly coming into his own as a player. He's come a long way, and still has a ways to go, but the improvement in his game was noticeable this year. He saw both time on the wing and at center, but I like him at center. He's a good faceoff man, and has improved in using his long reach and height to keep defenders on his back on his way to the net. His play away from the puck (defensively, physically) is getting better, but will need to improve even more as I don't see him having the natural offensive skill set needed to play a top 6 role at the next level. So where does he go from here? I think he's most definitely back in Peterborough as an overager. And there, he's got a really good shot of replacing Hunter Garlent (who graduated) as the team's 1st line center. He should see significantly more powerplay time and I actually think he's a darkhorse to be a point per game player (35/35).

6. Noah Carroll - Guelph Storm
Carroll was a standout as a rookie on the Storm during the 2014/2015 season. He entered this coming year with a fair amount of hype; hype that considered him a candidate for the first three rounds. But Guelph was absolutely terrible this year (rebuilding) and Carroll was asked to play a role that he just wasn't ready for. He was in over his head and it showed, and as such, his confidence really seemed to disappear. A terrific skating potential puck rusher, Carroll often got hemmed in his own end and just wasn't given the opportunity to find a lot of success. I'm happy that Carolina drafted him because I do still think that there is an NHL prospect in there once he gets that confidence back. Guelph won't be good again this year...but they SHOULD be better. As such, I really do think that Carroll will have a good year; a bounce back year. I'd expect him to hit the 30-35 point mark and re-establish himself as a solid two-way defense prospect.

7. Josh Wesley - Niagara IceDogs
I'll be quite honest in saying that I was rather surprised that Carolina signed Wesley. I know there's a deep rooted connection there with the family, but ELC's are valuable (because of the limit), and I'm just not sure I see an NHL player. Wesley does a lot of things pretty well, but nothing spectacular and that can be the kiss of death for a prospect (especially on the blueline). Wesley's offensive game never developed at the OHL level, but his defensive game did. He got better with the puck in his own end and his positional defensive hockey sense is quite strong. He knows his way around his own end. That said, he's going to have to get a little meaner for the pro game. He needs to be a tougher guy to play against. Certainly not impossible for him to achieve, given his solid size (and the gains he's already made in that area over his OHL career). Given the fact that he's signed, I think it's fair to say that the Hurricanes see Wesley starting in the AHL this year (especially since the depth there isn't terrific, as I already mentioned). He could also need some time in the ECHL, depending on how he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

*Janne Kuokkanen - London Knights
Carolina's 2nd rounder in 2016 was drafted by the London Knights in this year's import draft. As such, he could be in for a big offensive season should he cross the pond. He'd likely jump right into the team's top 6 (with all their potential graduations) and a 30-30 freshman OHL season seems like a very distinct possibility. Excited to see him play.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames are the first Canadian team to be reviewed.

1. Matthew Tkachuk - London Knights
Loved this pick up by the Flames. Tkachuk was the perfect selection when it comes to fitting in with what they have already built on their pro roster. Tkachuk is such a terrific player below the hash marks and he's going to create a ton of time and space for Calgary's quicker skilled forwards. His playmaking ability is just terrific and that will also help to open up ice as he draws defenders in and to give a guy like Johnny Gaudreau room to operate. The big question is, do I think he's ready to contribute next year? I think a lot will depend on the work he puts in this summer. If I was a betting man, I would place it on him needing another year in the OHL. This would allow him to get a bit quicker, continue to explore the dominance of his physical game, and become a consistently more effective player off the rush. Calgary has some great young players already and I don't see the need to rush him. If he's back in the OHL next year, London should still be a very dangerous team and Tkachuk will once again be among the league's leading scorers. If he's in the NHL, it will be for a reason and I think he'll be a 20/20 guy.

2. Andrew Mangiapane - Barrie Colts
Big fan of this young man. Yes, he's only 5'10, but he's worked hard to make himself one of the OHL's premier skaters. Couple that with how well he processes the game and you've got an incredibly dangerous offensive player who's able to beat you in a variety of ways. His OHL career has come to an end and he'll be playing in the AHL next year where I expect him to make an immediate impact. Even with the amount of talent in Calgary's pipeline, I expect him to jump into a top 6 role with Stockton and I think a 50 point year in the AHL is very possible (would have put him in the top 10 of rookie scorers from this past year).

3. Rasmus Andersson - Barrie Colts
Andersson won the scoring race among OHL defenders this year, despite failing to match his draft season output of 64 points. Despite his solid statistical season, Andersson failed to place in the top 3 of the voting for the Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL Defender of the Year). Harsh, but valid IMO. I think the biggest step forward I saw Andersson make this year was in conditioning and I know from talking to people, he worked really hard to get his weight down and get in better shape. This was noticeable on the ice as he was more consistently involved in the play and was able to eat up greater minutes more effectively. His skating also looked better, adding a bit more explosiveness to his first few strides. This allowed him to do a better job of leading the rush and evading he forecheck. That said, I do have some concerns about how well his game translates to the NHL. I see him as an average defender at the OHL level, but I think some of his skating and defensive awareness flaws will become magnified when having to defend pro players. I also wonder how well his offensive game translates, as I'm just not sure I see him as a dominant puck rusher at the next level. We'll begin to find out next year in the AHL when he starts with Stockton. He should play right away and he could easily be a candidate for a 30 point season.

4. Tyler Parsons - London Knights
Parsons had such a great year, which was capped off with a Memorial Cup victory. He doesn't possess ideal size in the crease, but he's an incredible athlete who never gives up on plays. His mental focus is terrific for a young goaltender. Calgary already has some good young netminders in their system, but adding another is never a bad idea (given the bust rate of goalies). Heading back to London next year, Parsons should be a front runner for the OHL goaltender of the year and I'm hoping he's given an opportunity to be the starter for team USA at the WJC's. Another year with a +.920 save percentage is in the cards.

5. Stepan Falkovsky - Ottawa 67's
Calgary took a chance on this behemoth Belarussian defender who skated with the Ottawa 67's this year. Falkovsky had a very up and down year. He started off very strong, but towards the middle of the year he really struggled (and even became a healthy scratch). But his game picked up again towards the end of the year. He possesses a booming point shot and actually can be a factor in leading the rush, showcasing decent straight away speed. Defensively, he can struggle at times, both with the puck in his own end and in defending off the rush. He needs to use his size more consistently to become harder to play against. Calgary has some options on what to do with him next year. They don't have to sign him right away. He could go back to the OHL as an overager. The Flames could convince Stockton to sign him to an AHL/ECHL deal to see what he's got at the pro level. That decision will probably be made depending on how he looks at training camp. If he's back in the OHL, he'll be part of an Ottawa club that will be trying to move up in the Eastern Conference. He'll be counted on to be a top 4 defender and be an anchor on the powerplay where he should easily eclipse the 10 goal mark.

6. Riley Bruce - North Bay Battalion
Tall, lanky defender who continues to develop in North Bay under the terrific Stan Butler. Bruce remains a major work in progress, but there was some development this year. I thought his skating stride and play with the puck looked less awkward this year and as such he was more effective in his own end. He also has begun to use his size more to be a physical player, especially in front of the net. Again though, he's a work in progress. None of these attributes are NHL ready and he'll look to continue to improve this coming year. Problem is that he's not guaranteed to get more ice time next year, especially if Adam Thilander comes over. If he can get those offensive numbers up (maybe the 20 point mark), and really become a terrific defensive player, he could still earn himself a contract.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres are on deck!

1. Alex Nylander - Mississauga Steelheads
Buffalo used their first rounder this year on one of the best offensive players available in 2016. Nylander, the reigning CHL Rookie of the Year, was sensational for the Steelheads this year in his freshman OHL season. Unfortunately, it's starting to look like it could be his last. Nylander is such a dynamic player with the puck on his stick. Carves his way through traffic with great poise and skill, and has a very underrated playmaker's touch. Nylander also possesses a cannon of a shot, which Mississauga utilized on the point of the powerplay. His play without the puck is a work in progress, but I thought that he improved over the course of the year in that area. Next year, he's got tons of options. He could make the Sabres, which I don't think happens. From there, it sounds like the AHL, Sweden, and then the OHL are the possibilities (in order). Because he was loaned to the OHL last year, he doesn't have to return to the league despite being drafted out of it. BUT, if he does return, Mississauga will have one of the best teams in the East (even without Nylander that's possible) and he would be a virtual lock for a 90 point season IMO.

2. Eric Cornel - Peterborough Petes
Progressed well over the course of his OHL career. I think one of the biggest improvements that Cornel has made is in his physical abilities. He's added strength and that's allowed him to be better at putting defenders on his back and working through traffic. He's certainly not a physical player, but he's worked hard to be better without the puck and become a better player in the possession game. Cornel's best attribute remains his playmaking ability and vision, but his shot definitely improved this year, especially in terms of velocity. Moving forward, I still wonder about Cornel's ability to transition to the pro game. I'm not sure his innate offensive skill set is good enough for him to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level. And at this time, his two-way game and overall make up don't make him an ideal 3rd/4th liner, especially when you consider him a playmaking winger. Moving forward, I think that (being improvements in his two-way game and overall intensity level) will be key to his development in the AHL. I'd imagine he'll start slow there and I wouldn't expect more than a 10/15, 25 point season.

3. Cliff Pu - London Knights
One of the biggest draft risers in the second half of the season, Pu found himself as a 3rd round pick in 2016. His terrific conclusion to the year and fantastic playoff performance helped him be a Top 70 pick. Pu is a potential power forward who shows a complete game already in his career. He uses his great skating ability to disrupt, annoy, and play physical. He also uses it to drive the net to create offensive opportunities. At this point, his overall offensive game is a work in progress. As a center, his vision and playmaking off the rush will need to continue to develop. Same goes for his shot and confidence in using it. Next year, he'll likely have that opportunity. He likely goes into the year as London's second line center and should see some powerplay time and will continue to be a big factor on the penalty kill. I think his production in the playoffs this past year represents a good indication of how he'll do next year with more ice time. A 25/30 (55 point year) is a very reasonable expectation.

4. Austin Osmanski - Mississauga Steelheads
The Sabres were obviously impressed by Osmanski in their viewings of Nylander this year and made him their 7th rounder. The big freshman defender was impressive in the first half of the year, showcasing good strength in his own end, as well as some offensive upside. But as the year went on, I felt like his play really dropped off. Not sure the reason (injury? fatigue? confidence?), but he'll look to re-establish himself next year. In terms of ice time, he's not likely to receive more. If anything, his potential ice time is threatened by the two Import acquisitions that Mississauga has made this offseason (Saarijarvi and Moverare). It's possible that he could be used as trade bait to acquire a goalie, or one of Mississauga's other defenders could go (like Sean Day, which has been long rumoured). Either way, I wouldn't expect a huge jump from Osmanski next year. The 2017/2018 season will be the big one for him.

Friday, July 15, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Arizona Coyotes

Arizona is the second stop (but kind of the third stop because I messed up the order by jumping the gun on Boston). There are some crazy good prospects in this system and an extremely long list of OHL players. Definitely the best in the OHL when it comes to OHL prospects.

1. Dylan Strome - Erie Otters
The battle for top spot on this list is closer than some give it credit. There isn't a lot separating Strome and Dvorak as a prospects, except maybe their draft position. End of the day, I give a slight nod to Strome. He's such a talented player one on one. His skating was only moderately better this year (a tad more explosive), yet he was a consistently dangerous player on the ice because of how well he thinks the game and because of how good his hands are. He consistently makes defenders miss and buys a lot of time for himself to make plays with his puck handling ability. Combine that with his size and you've got a player who could be very hard to remove from the puck once he adds strength to a relatively slender frame. One of Strome's other top assets remains his shot release. He's so dangerous from the slot because of how quick he gets rid of the puck. Obviously the key moving forward is the development of his skating. He can be one of those guys who isn't incredibly noticeable until you look at the score sheet and he had a 3 point night. It will be interesting to see what Arizona does with him next year. I'd imagine that they will give him every opportunity to make the team out of camp, but if his skating and strength is still not up to NHL standards, he could find himself back in junior (where he doesn't have a lot left to prove IMO). Playing at the NHL level would be better for his development IMO, even if it's in a limited role that they ease him into. Practicing and training with NHL players would be best. If he does go back to the OHL, he'd obviously be a candidate for the Red Tilson.

2. Christian Dvorak - London Knights
A more NHL ready player than Strome IMO, but it's also important to realize that Dvorak is a year older. That means a year stronger and it shows. Dvorak is one of the OHL's elite two-way players. He thinks the game on another level and has an intensity about his game that is contagious for his linemates. Everything is done at a high tempo and he loves to push the pace of play, whether it be off the rush, on the forecheck, or being aggressive in taking the puck to the net. Like Strome, Dvorak's shot release is fantastic and profiles him as a goal scorer at the next level. He also does a lot of little things well which makes him the more NHL ready player. Like killing penalties, working on the backcheck, winning faceoffs. If it comes down to Dvorak versus Strome for a roster spot, I wouldn't be surprised if Dvorak won that battle. That said, maybe there's a chance both make the team. Either way, Dvorak's pro career will start this year and I'd expect him to find a lot of success no matter whether he's in the NHL or AHL.

3. Jakob Chychrun - Sarnia Sting
Took a big fall at the NHL Draft and he's no doubt going to play with a chip on his shoulder. Chychrun is already an extremely motivated player so I'm very curious as to how this causes him to elevate and re-evaluate his game. A physical specimen, Chychrun didn't have the greatest of seasons. All year, it looked like he was pressing, especially offensively. This caused some to question his decision making, especially in his own end. No question he was turnover prone. But as he learns to relax and trust his innate skating and physical abilities, I think everything will fall into place. As he regains the confidence in rushing the puck and jumping into the play that he showed as a 16 year old, Chychrun could develop into a dominant two-way defender. Is he NHL ready? Physically and defensively, I think so. There aren't many players who win one on one battles against Chychrun in the corners. He's among the best in the league at sealing off. But I think he needs another year in junior to regain his confidence in his offensive game and to improve his decision making in a slower paced game. I'd expect him to be the front runner for the Max Kaminsky and a 60 point season is possible, even with a WJC appearance.

4. Christian Fischer - Windsor Spitfires
110% impressed with Fischer's game this year, in his first OHL season. Such a powerful player. I wouldn't necessarily call him a power forward. He's not a Wendel Clark who throws his body around. But he's definitely a power winger who excels in driving the net and who is extremely difficult to tie up in close to the net. Just a very strong player who showcases a great scoring ability. Whether it's flying down the wing and unleashing a bullet, or crashing the net, Fischer can score goals in multiple ways. Not one to make a ton of comparisons, but he reminds me a lot of former Boston Bruin Glen Murray. Plays that power game to a tee. Even though he's a '97, Fischer can play in the AHL next year because he was drafted out of the USNDP. But I'd be surprised if Arizona decides to do that. Windsor is hosting the Memorial Cup this year and being a part of that would be fantastic for his development. A 50 goal season is certainly possible with an improved supporting cast around him.

5. Ryan MacInnis - Kitchener Rangers
MacInnis definitely had his best season in the OHL to date, in a year where his team was counting on him heavily to be a go to guy. MacInnis was much more aggressive with the puck this year, looking to make things happen by driving the net and utilizing his size to protect the puck and be a tough player to stop off the rush. He shows good vision and hockey sense and I think his two-way game greatly improved. He was more consistently engaged without the puck and that's a major positive. I still think he could stand to really improve his first few steps and his play in the offensive end when things slow down will need to improve for the next level. Playing through traffic will continue to need to be a focus. Adding strength should help both of those things. He also needs to greatly improve his performance at the dot if he wants to stay down the middle. Ultimately, I'm not sure how I view MacInnis' potential. I don't know if I see a player who's got the innate skill level to be a top 6 player. Yet, his game still has growing to do if he wants to make it as a quality 3rd line player. As he starts his pro career in the AHL this year, perhaps we'll get a better idea of the type of player he'll become at the next level.

6. Brendan Perlini - Niagara IceDogs
Definitely a tough year for Perlini and his development. He regressed big time from his draft year and draft year +1 IMO. But that's not news to Arizona fans. I think the biggest issue for Perlini remains how inconsistent he is in using his size, both with and without the puck. He's kept to the perimeter way too much for a player who is 6'3, and 205lbs. His shot remains a major asset, as does his skating ability. But he remains a massive work in progress in every other area. I saw a quote from someone in the Arizona organization suggesting that he'd make a better pro than junior player. That's certainly possible. But first, someone needs to get through to him on how he needs to play the game in order to find consistent offensive success. He'll start his pro career in the AHL this year and I honestly don't know what to expect. If he winds up on the 4th line and is held to under 10 goals, I'd probably say, "I'm not surprised." And if he breaks out and pots 20+, I'd probably say the same thing. He remains a real wild card, and ultimately a big time project that just hasn't progressed since being drafted.

7. Kyle Wood - North Bay Battalion
Hulking defender who doesn't necessarily play like one. Not saying that's a bad thing, but he's not your prototypical 6'5, 225lbs defender. In a lot of ways, he's a pretty unique player. Offensively, his game is fairly complex. He makes a terrific first pass and rarely turns the puck over in his own end. He has great vision up ice. But he's not the type to skate the puck deep out of his own end consistently and isn't a dynamic player in that respect. He does a lot of his damage offensively on the powerplay, where he boasts an absolute cannon from the point and continues to utilize that strong vision on the ice to be a solid quarterback. Defensively, he's purely a positional defender who looks to stay ahead of attackers so that he can utilize his long reach. He's improved his skating over his OHL career and it's made him a better player in his own end. I do think that he'll need to get meaner if he wants to be a good defender at the next level though. And he'll have to continue to improve his skating. Offensively, I'm not sure how much his skill set will translate. I see him as a potentially solid #4-5 who can play the powerplay and eat up some decent minutes as a steady/consistent player. He'll start his AHL career this year and I'd expect him to get around 20 points or so (perhaps half of them goals) as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

8. Cam Dineen - North Bay Battalion
Big fan of Dineen and I think he was a great value pick up where the Coyotes grabbed him in the 3rd round. His physical skills are relatively weak. He needs to get stronger. He needs to improve his explosiveness as a skater. But he's also coming off his first OHL season and as such, I think there's a lot of untapped potential there as he starts to improve his conditioning. His hockey sense is off the charts good. The amount he improved this year at both ends of the ice was tremendous. He uses this hockey sense and vision to be a fantastic powerplay QB who really does a great job of getting a good, low, hard point shot through and exhibits great patience and poise on the point. Defensively, he improved a ton under coach Stan Butler and with his hockey sense, as he gains strength, he could really develop into a solid two-way defender. He'll return to North Bay next year and should be among the league leaders in defensive scoring again.

9. Kyle Capobianco - Sudbury Wolves
Was a little underwhelmed by Capobianco's performance and development this year. Granted, it was a tough year being the go to defenseman on a very weak team. And while he didn't necessarily have a poor year, I don't think he really improved in any particular area either. Defensively, he still struggles with reads and chasing the play, although he did make an attempt to be a more physical player in the corners. Offensively, his skating ability makes him an asset as a puck rusher, but he hasn't yet showcased an ability to take over a game with that ability. He seems to still lack the confidence to take his rushes deep and be an offensive leader. Sudbury will aim to finally improve this year and make the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Capobianco may be one of their most important pieces and for that to happen, he's going to need to take that next step forward at both ends. I'd like to see him put up 50+ points, but also be a + player for the first time in his OHL career.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Boston Bruins

The Bruins are second up (with only one OHL prospect)!

1. Zach Senyshyn - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Anytime a player finishes inside the top 5 of goal scoring, said season has to be considered a success. To give it perspective, he and Alex Debrincat were the only '97's or younger to hit the 40+ goal mark this year. With 45 goals, Senyshyn beat last year's mark by 19. Quite the improvement. Confidence in carrying the puck and attacking scoring areas was way up this year. Utilizing his shot and the velocity behind it also massively increased. Senyshyn has definitely become one of the best at flying down the wing, using the defender as a screen, and firing one past the netminder. His release while at top speed is excellent. That said, there are still some areas that could improve heading into his (likely) final OHL season. Firstly, I think he still needs to involve himself more at both ends, and in general without the puck. He's a terrific skater, and I'd love to see him use that to be a more complete player. I think there were minor improvements made there this year, but again, more is needed before he reaches the next level. Also, the assist totals (20) do reflect a lack of awareness at times with the puck. He needs to do a better job of utilizing his teammates off the rush, as at times he can exhibit tunnel vision. Next year, SSM should be one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Great depth on that roster. As such, I think I'd like to see Senyshyn over the 40 goal mark again, while improving his assist totals, and (this is especially important) being more of a factor in the playoffs for the Hounds. The one wrinkle for him is that he's contracted mono over the summer (he isn't participating in the Bruins development camp because of it) and that could interrupt his offseason conditioning. Hopefully he recovers fully with enough time to prepare properly for the coming season.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Anaheim Ducks

Summer has arrived and that means that it's time for my annual '30 Teams in 30 Days' segment. I review the progress of each NHL team's OHL Prospects and provide some level of prognostication as well.

I started at the bottom last year with Winnipeg, but I'm going back to the top this year (don't worry Winnipeg fans, I'll alternate each year).

Here's Anaheim's review.

1. Max Jones - London Knights
Any time you can capture a Memorial Cup, it's pretty tough to consider the year a failure, or a disappointment. Anaheim's 1st rounder in 2016 definitely had a solid first year in the OHL, but there were a few hiccups. The long suspension in the playoffs probably hurt his draft stock a bit, as it prevented him from having much of an impact. Discipline is definitely the thing that Jones needs to improve upon most. He needs to find a way to walk the line of playing physical and abrasive, but not reckless. This year he had 28 goals, which was pretty impressive considering that he had only one goal in his first 8 games. Also impressive because Jones saw secondary powerplay time and scored only 4 with the man advantage all year. He also played on the 3rd line quite often. Next year someone is going to have to jump up to replace Christian Dvorak (at the very least, maybe Marner and Tkachuk too) on the top powerplay unit and first line. If Marner shifts to the middle, one of Jones or new import pick Janne Kuokkanen look like potential replacements (if either can play the right side). If Jack Roslovic is brought in, Jones could find himself back on the second PP. Either way, I'd expect production to increase to the point per game mark, at the very least. A 35/30 season is a reasonable expectation. At the end of the day, Jones needs to prove that he has the hockey sense to be a goal scorer at the next level. The shot is there, but I do wonder if the head is.

2. Julius Nattinen - Windsor Spitfires (formerly Barrie Colts)
Nattinen had a solid first season in the OHL after coming over in the Import Draft. He helped to anchor a spot in Barrie's top 6 and was quite often a member of Barrie's top powerplay unit. He shows a solid hockey sense at both ends of the ice and I was routinely impressed by his ability to work the boards and set up teammates. That said, I think there are areas of improvement for Nattinen. His skating and explosiveness needs to improve to make him more of a factor when entering the zone, a necessity for any center in today's NHL game built on speed. Consistency also needs to be better. His disappearing act in the playoffs was one of the reasons that Barrie was bounced earlier than expected this year. This offseason he's been dealt to Windsor where he will be counted on to play a similar role for the Spitfires as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup. Windsor's center depth is already excellent, so it's possible he may shift to the wing, and if not, he's going to need to be more consistent to earn top 6 ice time. He should still see first line powerplay time too. I'd expect him to be around the 80 point mark this year.

3. Jack Kopacka - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Anaheim's 4th rounder in 2016, Kopacka is an interesting player. I say that because I don't think he's nearly the sum of his parts quite yet. What type of player Kopacka becomes is a bit of a mystery at this point because he played a variety of roles in the Soo this year and played the role of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde at times. Any way that you describe Kopacka's game, the word "sometimes" needs to be attached. Sometimes a physical asset on the forecheck. Sometimes a workhorse at both ends. Sometimes a talented offensive player who looks dynamic off the rush. Next year in SSM, Kopacka will look to take on a larger offensive role. But it won't be easy. This is a very good young team with a lot of depth. He's going to have to work hard to be a part of the top 6 and to receive consistent powerplay time. I think a realistic expectation would be a 25/30 season, especially given how the Greyhounds coaching staff likes to spread the wealth when it comes to ice time. In the future, Kopacka could easily turn into a Mike Amadio type of player (who was drafted with the same type of description).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 CHL Import Draft Review

On Tuesday, June 28, the Canadian Hockey League held its annual Import Draft. It is here, CHL teams get the opportunity to add import talent to their roster. There are two rounds of the draft, and a team can pass on their pick at any time. Import picks can not be traded. Goalies are not allowed to be selected.

Just to remind you, CHL clubs are permitted to carry only two import players on their team or protected list every year. However, if a CHL team has an Import who was an NHL first round pick (such as London with Olli Juolevi), they receive the opportunity to add another player to their protected list to cover should that first round import (like Juolevi) make the NHL. There are other scenarios which can allow you to carry the rights of three (such as having an OA Import, having an Import on their protected list who didn't show the year prior, etc). Overall, it's pretty complicated.

While the Import Draft can be a bit of a crap shoot, many of the players drafted do come over and can have an impact. Let's breakdown the results of previous five Import Drafts.

In 2011
17 of 20 players selected came to the OHL (85%)
17 of 20 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (85%)
10 (open for debate) of 20 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (50%)

In 2012
22 of 27 players selected came to the OHL (81%)
17 of 27 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (63%)
9 (open for debate) of the 20 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (33%)

In 2013
22 of 25 players selected came to the OHL (88%)
20 of 25 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (80%)
7 (open for debate) of the 25 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (28%)

In 2014
19 of 25 players selected came to the OHL (76%)
18 of 25 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (72%)
11 (open for debate) of the 25 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (44%)

In 2015
23 of 28 players selected came to the OHL (82%)
17 of 28 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (61%%)
10 (open for debate) of the 28 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (36%)

This article will provide you with some information and scouting reports on those selected.

Of course this article wouldn't have been possible without the help of these experts:

Matt Grainda is currently a US Scout for, and is a former USHL scout for ISS Hockey. He can be followed on twitter too (@graindaiv

Dan Stewart is the head scout for Future Considerations. He and the staff there were able to help out and I'm grateful for that.  

Marco Bombino is a Finnish hockey expert who writes for Dobber Prospects and Future Considerations. (@marco bombino).

Patrik Hansen is a Swedish hockey expert who scouts for Future Considerations and works for Djurgardens of the SHL (as a scout). (@Patrik_Hansen)

Mike Mackley is a junior hockey expert who is a scout for the Powassan Voodoo's of the NOJHL. He writes about the OHL at his great site, Prospects Hockey. You can check out his very lengthy Import Draft Previews there. (@Macker61)

Anthony Mauro is the founder and director of scouting for Draft Buzz Hockey. (@draftbuzzhockey)

Miro Simurka is a Slovakian and Czech hockey expert who scouts for Future Considerations. (@SimurkaM)

2. Guelph Storm - Dmitri Samorukov - Defence
Guelph did the right thing selecting a top flight defender to help rebuild their blueline. Samorukov is a 6'3 offensive blueliner (bigger than he's listed on the import draft page) who had a lot of success internationally for Russia this year. He was among the team's best defenders at the U17's and the U18's (because of the meldonium scandal). In fact, he lead the Russian U18 team in scoring as a defender and was the 4th highest scoring '99 at the event. Also, HockeyProspect has him listed 18th in their early rankings for the 2017 NHL Draft.
Scouting Report: Mike Mackley says, "intelligent defender with strong compete and excellent poise. Engages physically, makes a crisp and accurate first pass showing good vision and decision making skills. Keeps his game safe and simple, plays with an edge. Game is tailored as a defensive defenseman with developing two-way skills." From a Paul Osborne article at the Guelph Mercury, GM Mike Kelly states, "“He is real intelligent and plays his position with above average bite and consistently makes high percentage plays.  (Matt Finn) would be a good comparison for Samorukov.  Finn might have been a little better offensively, but Samorukov has better size (at about 6-foot-2).” (that article can be read here). Anthony Mauro says, "Russian D saw substantial growth over the year...really enforced his will at the U17 5 Nations as a punishing hitter and shooter from the point...can skate, defend well, and start the breakout...toning his game down at the WJC U18 shows he has the capacity to become a top D."

5. Sudbury Wolves - Jachym Kondelik - Forward
Sudbury looks to add some size to their forward group, going with the 6'6 native of the Czech Republic (or Czechia...). This could definitely be a valuable addition to their lineup, especially if he can play center. He lead the Czech U18 league in assists this past year.
Scouting Report: In a Ben Leeson article for the Sudbury Star (article here), Wolves GM Barclay Branch states, ""We wanted to take the most intriguing prospect, as well as somebody who fits into the overall plan we have in place. The fact he's a late birth date and the blend of his size and his skill, his potential as a prospect, all of those things go into the decision-making. It all fit, in terms of what our plan is and what we want to continue to do moving forward."

8. Flint Firebirds - Michal Steinocher - Defence
Firebirds go defence...and go big with another Czech player. The 6'5 defender is no doubt going to be raw considering his December '99 birth day (making him ineligible for the NHL draft until 2018). And he didn't even play for the Czech's at the U17's. But that doesn't mean that there isn't potential there.
Scouting Report: From an article on Flint's website (here), GM George Burnett describes Steinocher. "“Michal is a big, physical, mobile, puck-moving defenseman,” said Flint Firebirds general manager George Burnett. “Presently, our roster is very limited with 1999 birth year players and it was important for us to have balance moving forward. We’re excited to get Michal to Flint early and begin the process.”

11. Hamilton Bulldogs - Marian Studenic - Forward
Bulldogs grab a Slovakian forward with a late '98 birthday, making him eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Studenic has played for Team Slovakia at nearly every International event over the last two years (U17, U18, Ivan Hlinka), but has found only modest success. 
Scouting Report: Mike Mackley says, "a smooth skating, offensive minded winger with developing two-way abilities. Skates well and shows an underrated playmaking ability. Protects the puck well and is a strong decision maker. Studenic engages defensively and can force turnovers by getting his stick in passing/shooting lanes." Anthony Mauro says, "Super slick Slovak has immense pure skill with the puck...wavering intensity level means he misses impacting in a greater manner...great hands, eye for directing in open ice yet checks out when faced with pressure...his frustrating inconsistency draws parallels to a better skating Simon Stransky." Miro Simurka says, "Studenic is a pretty good skater, which is very rare in Slovakia. He is offensive minded guy, but as he played a lot against older competition he had to made a big step in his defensive game. In offensive zone he is every time in the right spot, he has instincts of a goal scorer. I would describe his stickhandling as very good both on the rush and in the traffic."

14. Saginaw Spirit - Filip Hronek - Defence
Looking to be very competitive next year, the Spirit go for an older defender who can make an immediate impact; the 53rd overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. Hronek, a Wings selection, is a big time player who should help to improve the Spirit's defensive situation (which struggled last year). Considering Detroit drafted him, I'd say it's likely he comes over for a year (a late '97) to be closer to the Detroit's watchful eye.
Scouting Report: The Hockey News had Hronek ranked 76th for 2016 and said, "skilled and smart puck mover who played against men a lot." Mark Seidel of NACS scouting had Hronek ranked 156th for the 2016 NHL Draft and said, "Small but highly skilled defender that showed at the WJC's that he can make plays. Still struggles defending so that has to improve but he makes accurate passes to create scoring chances and help teammates. Would be a deadly CHL Import if he would leave Finland." Future Considerations had Hronek ranked 76th for the 2016 draft and said, "a solid two-way defenseman who has a solid understanding of the play around him. Handles the puck well but can struggle in pressure situations and needs to make quicker reads. Needs to shoot the puck more. Defensively, he needs to add muscle so that he can separate his man from the puck and not get outmuscled in the crease. He did have some very impressive moments this year though."

17. Oshawa Generals - Eeli Tolvanen - Forward
If they can get him to report, what a coup that would be. Tolvanen, an undersized offensive forward, had an absolutely fantastic 2015/2016. He lead the U17's in scoring, Led the U18's in goals (and won a gold medal), and made the USHL all rookie team. He's considered a potential top 10 pick in 2017. Problem is, he's got a commitment to Boston College for 2017. So if the Generals can convince him that playing in the OHL is better for his draft year than the USHL (because his NCAA commitment is another season away), they might luck out and advance their rebuild a little bit. However, it's already been stated he's going to play in the USHL still. A worthy gamble I suppose. 
Scouting Report: The Hockey News has Tolvanen ranked 7th among 2017 draft eligible players and said, "another Under 18 hero for the Finns. Slick wizard will be eyed by CHL teams." Future Considerations currently has Tolvanen ranked 7th for the 2017 NHL Draft and says, "This goal scoring winger is a real offensive threat. He plays with speed and is elusive with the puck on his stick. Likes to shoot and has an absolutely deadly release. Is a hunter on the forecheck and is aware defensively. Does not avoid physical play." Matt Grainda says, "Highly effective offensive catalyst. Great speed and intensity. Smooth skating stride, really loves to keep moving. Quick shot rate along with very good accuracy. Awesome hockey intelligence, knows where to be to create chances. Strong puck-handling skills with quick, dynamic moves and good puck protection. Dual threat with the puck, very efficient generating offense through creative passing and skilled moves."

20. Mississauga Steelheads - Jacob Moverare - Defence
With it seeming more and more likely that Alex Nylander won't be in Mississauga next year (either the AHL, back to Sweden, or the NHL), the Steelheads went big for the rights to their 3rd Import (to go with the recently acquired Vili Saarijarvi). Moverare was a 4th rounder of the LA Kings at the 2016 NHL Draft and he was voted as one of Sweden's top 3 players at this year's U18's. Considering LA and Mike Futa love the OHL as a development league, I'm sure he could be coerced into coming over if Nylander ends up being done.
Scouting Report: The Hockey News had Moverare ranked 98th for 2016 and said "smart, rarely gets in trouble but his skating is a concern." Mark Seidel of NACS scouting had Moverare ranked 61st for the 2016 draft and said, "Been very well coached and it shows. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes and has good defensive positioning, active stick and clears the crease effectively. Not a high end defender but a winner." Future Considerations had Moverare ranked 72nd for the 2016 NHL Draft and said, "is a quick thinking, strong, two-way defender. Shows good skating but can be a little choppy when skating the puck up the ice. Possesses a big, powerful slap shot from the point. Is very steady in his defensive positioning and acts as a leader on the ice. He will make you work for every inch of ice in his own end."

23. Peterborough Petes - Matyas Svoboda - Forward
Svoboda is a 6'3 forward from the Czech Republic who played at the U17's this year where he scored 2 goals. Peterborough, set with a solid defence, is hoping Svoboda can provide some scoring depth next year.
Scouting Report: From a Peterborough Examiner article by Mike Davies (found here), Petes GM Mike Oke says, "“He's a big boy,” Oke said. “He's strong and demonstrated an ability to go to the net with and without the puck. He's strong on the puck and tough to check. He's good on the cycle. We saw him score a pretty nice goal in a shootout during one of the games in Plymouth. He showed a decent touch around the net.”

26. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Otto Makinen - Forward
A very astute pick by the Hounds, selecting a likely very motivated Finnish forward. At different times this year Makinen was considered to be a candidate for the top three rounds of the NHL Draft in 2016. But a disappointing U18's caused his ranking to slip and he ultimately went undrafted. A smart two way center, Makinen would be a great add for the Hounds.
Scouting Report: The Hockey News had Makinen rated 59th overall for 2016 prior to the draft. "From a first liner at the Five Nations to a deft third liner at the U18's, Makinen as impressed scouts in a variety of roles. One scout says, he's your prototypical two-way guy with really good hockey IQ. He works as hard as anyone in the draft defensively and always seems to make the right play." Mark Seidel of NACS scouting had Makinen ranked 108th among 2016 eligible players and said, "Makinen came into the year high on our list but his season was just ok. He is kind of a 'tweener in that he isn't big but he isn't small and he has shown some offensive flair but not enough to guarantee an NHL career." Marco Bombino says, "A center with good offensive skill set and playmaking abilities. Good vision and pretty soft hands. Definitely of a passer but does have a quick shot. Plays with decent intensity in all three zones. Personally, I expected a little more from him in the U20 league in his draft season, however, I do think he can be a key player in the OHL next season."

29. Owen Sound Attack - Maxim Sushko - Forward
One of those selections that comes a little bit out of thin air, but Sushko hopefully can add some scoring depth to a lineup that could stand to be a little more dynamic in the offensive end. Sushko is a Belarussian who led Belarus in scoring at the U18's (Division A), helping them get back to the main pool next year.
Scouting Report: Mike Mackley says, "Maxim Sushko is a dynamic offensive minded winger with good size and impressive speed. A player who analyzes his options quickly and makes good decisions with the puck, Sushko thrives on the power play were he excels running things off the half boards. Sushko possesses a deceptively strong shot that comes off a quick release and packs impressive velocity, he can beat you as a goal scorer or a playmaker. A player who shows a relentless in puck pursuit, Sushko really hunts the puck and wants to take possession, leading to a strong compete in puck battles. Lacks engagement away from the puck, puck watches and gets caught flat footed defensively, Sushko’s upside at this time is purely offensive and even then there he is certainly far from a finished product."

32. Ottawa 67's - Andrei Golikov - Defence
Who knows what to expect out of this 6'1 Russian defender. He didn't play internationally for Russia (and never has), so it could be tough to get a read on what to expect from him. 
Scouting Report: From an article on the 67's website (here), GM Jeff Brown says, "“We like what we’ve seen from Andrei. He’ll be a solid three year player for us. He’s a big, right shot defenceman that compliments the assets we already have in place on defence.”

35. Niagara IceDogs - Pavel Demin - Forward
The IceDogs opt for an undersized offensive center who played for Russia at the U17's and U18's. Demin (also spelled Dyomin) also saw some minimal time in the MHL this year (Russia's feeder league). He could potentially be a nice addition to Niagara's lineup as they retool a little next year.
Scouting Report: From an article on Niagara's website (here), Director of Player Personnel Joey Burke says, "Demin is a young, high end player that will grow with our young group. He has good feet and skill, and is committed to playing in Niagara this upcoming season. We hope for him to be a huge part of this group moving forward.” From an article by Bill Potrecz at the St. Catharines Standard (found here), head coach Dave Bell says, "He’s extremely skilled and an extremely intelligent player. He’s not the biggest guy but we watched video and did research on him and got multiple reports that he is slick player. He’s all-out skill.”

38. North Bay Battalion - Adam Thilander - Defence
As North Bay aims to replace Kyle Wood next year, they select a very talented Swedish defender, Adam Thilander. A late '98, Thilander (also spelled Tilander) has long been considered one of the top defenders of his age group in Sweden. As part of the Swedish national team, he won two silver medals this year (at the Hlinka and the U18's). Will be interesting to see if he comes over.
Scouting Report: Mark Seidel of NACS scouting has Tilander ranked 10th overall for 2017 currently and says, "We like him more than most. Plays a smart game with a lot of upside." Patrik Hansen says, "A right handed, two-way defenceman with nice mobility and good size. His good hockey sense and passing game allows him and his teammates to maintain speed going forward. He likes to play the puck forward and stick to stick. Got put under pressure a few times taking a little bit to long before delivering the puck. He has an active stick trying to knock the puck off the opponents and also uses his body to stop them from trying to enter his own zone. Likes to join the rush when opportunity is given. His quick feet and hockey IQ makes him a good PP-option on the blueline."

41. Windsor Spitfires - Urho Vaakanainen - Defence
An interesting pick by the Spitfires, who could stand to take a chance on a high quality player thanks to Mikhail Sergachev being an NHL first rounder. Vaakanainen, a 6'1 defender, is a very highly touted prospect who is considered to be a potential lottery selection in 2017. As an underager, he played a key role for the gold medal winning Fins at the U18's. He also played a regular role already in the SM-Liiga for Espoo (Blues), and has already signed with JYP for next season. With the acquisition of Julius Nattinen and Serg likely to return, this is a pick for next year (if his NHL team wants him in NA). 
Scouting Report: Mark Seidel of NACS scouting has Vaakanainen ranked 17th for 2017 currently and says, "Moves well and already plays a heavy game. Will be a CHL Import Draft pick." Future Considerations currently has Vaakanainen ranked 8th for the 2017 NHL Draft and says, "an intelligent two-way defender. Moves the puck well and has a good first pass. Is composed and does not panic with the puck. A great, smooth, and balanced skater. Complete defender who is more of a stick defender than a physical aggressor." Marco Bombino says, "Shows lots of composure with the puck and makes crisp passes to start the attack. Fluid skater with agility and speed, has a clean stride and displays superb edge work. Defensively, he can keep forwards on the outside and has a quick stick to interrupt plays. Good hockey sense but does have a tendency to make some risky plays at times."

44. Barrie Colts - Alexei Lipanov - Forward
The Colts seem pretty set to enter rebuild territory after trading Julius Nattinen this offseason. As such, they roll the dice on Lipanov, an offensive center from Russia who excelled with the U17 and U18 teams this year. 
Scouting Report: Back in November, TSN's Craig Button released an early ranking for 2017 and Lipanov was on it, ranked 15th (here), He describes Lipanov, "Open up ice quickly' type of speed that can break down defenders and leave them defenseless. Also has excellent agility and quickness that he uses in tight areas to be elusive. Very smart and he makes good plays everywhere in the game and he competes hard. Has an excellent shot and is a hungry, determined player. Very responsible centre in the Russian mold of centres."

47. Sarnia Sting - Filip Helt - Forward
Helt, a 6'1 winger from the Czech Republic was a 7th rounder by the St. Louis Blues at this year's NHL Draft. He should jump right into Sarnia's top 9 and be able to provide (at the very least) solid scoring depth for them.
Scouting Report: Honestly, I've never seen so little information available about a recent NHL draft pick (even if he was the last pick of the draft). St. Louis' 7th rounder seems to be quite the unknown. Anyone I ask seems to know next to nothing about him. The only thing I can really find is a few random notes from St. Louis' recent development camp where onlookers were describing him as very quick and the type of guy who can play with high energy.

50. Kitchener Rangers - Cedric Schiemenz - Forward
Kitchener takes an average sized scoring forward from Germany who's been playing in the terrific EC Salzburg program in Austria. The problem being that he's got an NCAA commitment to Maine and was also selected in the USHL draft this year (By Fargo). But he recently renounced his NCAA intentions and has stated that he's coming to Kitchener.
Scouting Report: Not much to be found here. Only a small tidbit from Josh Brown of the Kitchener Record (here), where GM Murray Hiebert says, "He's quite a skilled player. He competes hard and makes really good passes."

53. Kingston Frotnenacs - Linus Nyman - Forward
Kingston hopes to grab some scoring depth by taking Finnish forward Linus Nyman. He's undersized at 5'9, but did play with the Finnish National Team at the U17's this year.
Scouting Report: Marco Bombino says, "A skilled, creative forward with really good puck skills. Always has his head up, allowing for smart decisions. Pretty dangerous in one-on-one situations and makes fine passes. An agile skater with good speed and skating technique, plays with good jump. He isn't a very physical player though, will need get much stronger to be more effective in battles."

56. London Knights - Janne Kuokkanen - Forward
Had to know that London would be utilizing their first import pick on a top quality player. They nab Carolina 2nd rounder Kuokannen, who won a gold medal with Finland at the U18's. Kuokkanen does apparently have a contract with Karpat for next year, but I'm sure Carolina could work their magic to get him loaned to London.
Scouting Report: The Hockey News had Kuokkanen ranked 70th for 2016 and said "goal scorer with a terrific release and a powerplay expert." Mark Seidel had Kuokkanen ranked 82md among NHL draft eligibles for 2016 and said, "Started out slowly but really came on as the year progressed. We weren't sure about how high his compete was but it is good and he has the skills to match. Rising by the end of the year." Marco Bombino says, "A very smart player who can play both center and wing. Has some nice finesse to his game, handles the puck well in tight areas, moves the puck through traffic. Versatile offensively, has a quick shot too. Not an explosive skater but regardless quick and agile. Responsible and aware defensively but could be more aggressive."

58. Erie Otters - German Poddubnnyi - Forward
Poddubnnyi has actually been playing in North America already for quite some time, suiting up for various teams in the Philadelphia area over the last few years. He was also the 8th overall selection at this year's USHL Draft. So the competition for his rights will certainly be fierce. 
Scouting Report: Matt Grainda says, "Talented, offensively skilled scorer and playmaker. Very good hockey sense and situational awareness. Stealthy shooter with great accuracy. Likes to take his chances and gets shots to the net often. Makes strong decisions with the puck, has some skilled hands and solid puck protection. Skates hard with speed and good quickness. Moves through traffic with ease, can shake off defenders fairly well with the puck."

62. Guelph Storm - Albert Michnac - Forward
Michnac is an undersized forward (listed at 5'10) from the Czech Republic who managed to play most of the year in the Czech U20 league. Tough to say what to expect from him. 
Scouting Report: Paul Osborne's article from the Guelph Mercury (linked above) includes a scouting report from Redline Report on Michnac, which states, “(It is like) watching a waterbug on ice, flitting around with great, short bursts and constantly changing gears and directions.  He has very fast hands and great puck control.  Instinctive around the offensive end, and often goes to where the puck is going to be two seconds from now.  Slick and elusive and has the knack of getting to open ice in scoring territory.” (here)

68. Flint Firebirds - Kristian Vesalainen - Forward
Super interesting selection by the Firebirds in the 2nd round. Vesalainen is considered to be a potential lottery selection for next year's draft. He's a 6'3, 200lbs winger who won Under 18 gold with Finland this year as an underager. Early word is that he's not going to come over, but this was well worth a shot by Flint who's doing a lot of things correctly this offseason after doing so many things wrong last year.
Scouting Report: The Hockey News has Vesalainen ranked 6th among 2017 draft eligible players currently and said, "big powerful kid was a driving force for the gold medal winning Finns at the U18's." Future Considerations currently has Vesalainen ranked 9th for the 2017 NHL Draft and says, "a big and strong winger who can impact the game in many ways. Plays a versatile and up tempo offensive game, but is also a beast along the wall. Mixes a heavy game with very soft hands and a great, powerful shot. Builds impressive speed and is tough to stop. When he wants to he can dominate but does not always play with consistent effort." Marco Bombino says, "I've always liked Vesalainen's potential. Big, strong kid who's skating has come a long way since I first saw him in the U16 league. He's also started to utilize his frame more effectively, both offensively and defensively. Strong along the boards and in front of the net, smart in possession and has a deceptive shot. Versatile, has pretty soft hands, plays with good intensity."

77. Oshawa Generals - Renars Krastenbergs - Forward
Interesting selection by the Generals in the 2nd round. Could be a bit of a diamond in the rough. Already in North America after playing with the TPH Thunder program this year. The late '98, 5'11 forward also suited up for Latvia at the U18's this year and led the team in scoring. This year's Martins Dzierkals?
Scouting Report: Mike Mackley says, "A competitive, undersized winger with intriguing two-way capabilities, Renars Krastenbergs shows a raw but intriguing skill set. Offensively speaking Krastenbergs would be considered a shot first winger and for good reason as he possesses a fairly strong shot that comes off a deceptively quick releases and boasts above average accuracy. A player who shows a tenaciousness in puck pursuit, Krastenbergs will engage physically, however his lack of strength often leads to him simply bouncing off the opposition. With a long and powerful stride, Krastenbergs does possess good to slightly above average speed, however his first step does lack some explosiveness. While Krastenbergs competitiveness is there and his developing skill set is intriguing, he does lack vision and offensive creativity, along with ideal hockey sense. A player who can find a niche a complimentary third line winger or fourth line energy player at the Major Junior level, Krastenbergs season with the TPH Thunder has allowed him to adjust to the North American style of game."

83. Peterborough Petes - Igor Martynov - Forward
Belarussian forward from the same program as Owen Sound's pick Maxim Sushko. Martynov is a 6'0 forward who scored 4 goals for Belarus at the U18's, helping them (Like Sushko) qualify for the main division at next year's tournament. Interestingly enough, Peterborough seems like it will have a choice to make because last year's pick Janne Tammela will be reporting to the Petes after signing an NHL deal with Tampa (and should be an impact player). Of course, that means that 2nd Import spot will come down to Svoboda vs. Martynov at training camp.
Scouting Report: From the same Davies article linked above (in the Svoboda profile), Petes GM Mike Oke says, "He's a good-sized player, too. He's got some skill Being in Belarus I think he's maybe a little bit under the radar, but he's played for the national U18 team and produced there with four goals in five games. He's shown he has a knack for finding the back of the net."

95. Niagara IceDogs - Ondrej Machala - Forward
IceDogs select another forward hoping to provide them with some more depth at the position next year, given the amount of graduations they'll incur. Machala suited up for the Czech Republic at the U17's but went scoreless.
Scouting Report: From the same Potrecz article linked above, Coach David Bell says, "He’s more of a shooter, he’s a goal scorer. He’s nifty around the net and he plays a little bit more in traffic.” Meanwhile, Joey Burke says, “Machala is a high end young player that fits with our group and new direction. He was a very highly touted forward and we are very excited to have him join.”

104. Barrie Colts - Tom Hedberg - Defence
I'm sure Barrie is hoping Hedberg can be Rasmus Andersson's replacement on the backend. Hedberg already played against men last year with Leksands in the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd league), which is mighty impressive for a 1999 born defender. 
Scouting Report: From an article by THN's Ryan Kennedy (here), "A modern offensive defenseman in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Erik Karlsson mould, Hedberg is a 2017 NHL draft prospect who was also apparently considered by Mississauga. Now the Colts have the right-shot blueliner in their stable." Patrik Hansen says, "Tom is the modern defensive d-man. He moves well and he got that nice combination of smartness and skills. Good positioning and a good first pass. Very young but mature for his age. Impressed during the qualifications in the post season so he´s already been put to test at senior level."

107. Sarnia Sting - Adam Ruzicka - Forward
Sarnia swings for the fences with their other import pick (aka insurance for Pavel Zacha). Ruzicka is considered a potential first round pick at next year's draft and has long been hyped as one of Slovakia's next superstars (considering their current slump). He's a 6'4 center who was already near a point per game as an underager at this year's U18's. If he comes, that's a BIG get for the Sting.
Scouting Report: Anthony Mauro says, "Agile man-child has been a workhorse for Team Slovakia as an underager...takes to the ice as a forward looked upon to lead...can handle himself well one-on-one, but could glue the puck to his stick more...complete package offsets the risky, slowly improving resume." Working on finding another concrete scouting report on Ruzicka, but he's consistently described as a budding power forward with raw physical skills. Miro Simurka says, "He is big, fast and possesses great offensive skills. In my opinion he may be the best slovak prospect since Tomas Tatar or even longer. He creates a lot of offense, makes a lot of successful zone entries, can hold on the puck in the offensive zone and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. He is also very smart without the puck. The thing I like the most about him is his stickhandling on the rush, alongside his fast and agile skating he is almost unstoppable when he skates with enough speed through the neutral zone. He is a goal scorer, he can make accurate and well timed passes as he sees the ice very good, but he likes to shoot much more. Sometimes he miss the right moment for a pass. He is backchecking and trying to play responsibly in the defensive zone, but he could use some practice there. If necessary he can keep the game simple and when he will use big body better along the boards he will translate very easy to the North American hockey."

110. Kitchener Rangers - Lias Andersson - Forward
Kitchener is another team who swings for the fences with their 2nd import selection. Andersson is a late '98 forward who is considered a potential lottery selection for next year's draft. The 5'11 forward was one of Sweden's top players at the U18's this year (wearing an "A"). Will he come over? 
Scouting Report: Future Considerations currently has Andersson ranked 14th for the 2017 NHL Draft and says, "A smart, mature, two-way center. A three zone player who has an advanced understanding of the game. Protects the puck very well and has solid offensive instincts. Has good balance and decent speed but there is room to grow in his skating. A potential two-way guy in the Zetterberg mold." Patrik Hansen says, "The son of former NHL player Niklas Andersson shows potential to be a great 2-way center. Lias was given an A this season and he has really grown with the responsibility. He led his team by example out on the ice blocking shots, covered up the ice for his teammates on the backcheck and always gives his best in both ends. Offensively he put up some really good numbers last year. A lot thanks to his smartness and playmaking skills. With his quick hands and good vision he runs the PP from the circle, finding a rushing defencemen with a nice cross that cuts the defence open on the far post. His skating is average so it could use some improvement to gain his skill as a puck mover."

113. Kingston Frontenacs - Eemeli Rasanen - Defence
Frontenacs take a hulking 6'6 defender who played for Finland at the U17's this year. Hopefully he ends up being a better player than Konstantin Chernyuk.
Scouting Report: Marco Bombino says, "Big defenseman with excellent reach. When I saw him this season he was strong defensively, fairly physical and hard to get around. Good point shot that hit the net quite often. However, struggled with the puck under pressure, puck skills need some refining. Lacks some mobility and isn't very agile, so if he comes over he'll likely need some time to adjust to the speed of the league."

116. London Knights - Robin Salo - Defence
Olli Juolevi insurance plan. London's 3rd Import is a back-up plan should Juolevi make the Vancouver Canucks this year. Salo's a pretty solid prospect though. He's a late 98 and he played in the Liiga this year and won gold with Finland at the U18's. Not a bad insurance plan.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations currently has Salo ranked 13th for the 2017 NHL Draft and says, "A guy a coach can rely on in all situations. Skates well and has impressive vision. Is more effective when making a solid first pass compared to rushing the puck out of the zone. Not overly big but plays a physical game. His defensive anticipation is outstanding." Marco Bombino says, "Makes a good first pass and processes the game quickly. Plays efficiently under pressure and makes calculated decisions. Has a heavy point shot with high velocity. Shows strong positioning and awareness defensively. Not the flashiest defenseman nor the greatest skater in my eyes but he's solid all-around."