Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

Past the halfway point of the season now, NHL Central Scouting has updated their rankings for 2017.

Here's a look at how the OHL players fared. A total of 68 were ranked. And of course, if you wanted to compare, here's my midseason top 50. Also, see below for my thoughts on the list.

1. Gabe Vilardi (3)
2. Owen Tippett (4)
3. Nic Hague (11)
4. Nick Suzuki (16)
5. Matthew Strome (19)
6. Isaac Ratcliffe (20)
7. Alex Formenton (24)
8. Conor Timmins (26)
9. Adam Ruzicka (27)
10. Robert Thomas (28)
11. Morgan Frost (29)
12. Nate Schnarr (32)
13. Jason Robertson (34)
14. Mackenzie Entwistle (35)
15. Ivan Lodnia (37)
16. Sasha Chmelevski (38)
17. Greg Meireles (39)
18. Noel Hoefenmayer (41)
19. Brady Lyle (53)
20. Eemeli Rasanen (57)
21. Adam Thilander (59)
22. Jonah Gadjovich (60)
23. Markus Phillips (63)
24. Zach Gallant (71)
25. Maksim Sushko (73)
26. Ryan McGrgeor (79)
27. Jack Studnicka (80)
28. Marian Studenic (86)
29. Jacob Paquette (90)
30. Austen Keating (92)
31. Cole Coskey (96)
32. Ben Jones (99)
33. Dylan Seitz (100)
34. Linus Nyman (102)
35. Dmitri Samorukov (122)
36. Shaw Boomhower (123)
37. Nick Deakin-Poot (135)
38. Sean Durzi (139)
39. Jacob Golden (143)
40. Ondrej Machala (147)
41. Kevin Hancock (148)
42. Anthony Demeo (161)
43. Albert Michnac (162)
44. Matyas Svoboda (166)
45. Nick Isaacson (168)
46. Matthew Philip (173)
47. Nick McHugh (176)
48. Zachary Roberts (180)
49. Macauley Carson (183)
50. Kirill Maksimov (185)
51. Fedor Gordeev (188)
52. Oliver Castleman (189)
53. Joseph Garreffa (191)
54. Cole Purboo (194)
55. Tom Hedberg (205)
56. Cole Fraser (206)
57. Elijah Roberts (208)
58. Nick Grima (209)
59. Luka Boka (211)

1. Michael Dipietro (7)
2. Kyle Keyser (10)
3. Kaden Fulcher (12)
4. Matt Villalta (14)
5. Stephen Dhillon (19)
6. Jack McGrath (23)
7. Christian Propp (25)
8. Olivier Lafreniere (27)
9. Aidan Hughes (28)

If you're curious to see the full list, check it out here.

Here are my thoughts:

1. I have mentioned a few times about how much I like the depth of this year's OHL crop, despite lacking in sure fire first round talent. This list supports that. The OHL has only 2 players ranked inside the top 10 of North American players (20%), but they make up one third of the top 100 (roughly 33%). This is especially true when we look at the fact that the OHL has nearly half (44%) of the top 41. 

2. In comparison to my list, here are the biggest discrepancies:
I have higher:
Hayden Davis (+29...he wasn't ranked)
Daniil Vertiy (+21...he wasn't ranked)
Macauley Carson (+21)
Dmitri Samorukov (+16)
Jack Studnicka (+15)
Tom Hedberg (+14)
Nick Grima (+13) 
Liam Hawel (+12...he wasn't ranked) 
Jacob Paquette (+11
Reagan O'Grady (+11...he wasn't ranked)

I have lower:
Marian Studenic (-22...I don't have him ranked)
Noel Hoefenmayer (-17)
Maksim Sushko (-15)
Shaw Boomhower (-14...I don't have him ranked) 
Brady Lyle (-13) 
Nick Deakin-Poot (-13...I don't have him ranked)
Sean Durzi (-12...I don't have him ranked)
Jacob Golden (-11...I don't have him ranked)
Ondrej Machala (-10...I don't have him ranked)  
Conor Timmins (-9)
Alex Formenton (-8)
Nate Schnarr (-8) 

3. Yes...Michael Dipietro is the top ranked goaltender from the OHL (as he should be). But, he's also only ranked 7th among North American netminders. That's ludicrous IMO. Those 6 netminders that are ahead of him must be absolutely unreal because Dipietro is the best goaltending prospect that the OHL has produced since Malcolm Subban IMO (at least in terms of draft year performance and pedigree). They are obviously docking him for his lack of size, but if Alex Nedeljkovic can be a 2nd rounder, then Dipietro deserves to be in consideration for the first and that's not the 7th ranked goaltender available.

4. Kevin Hancock and Stephen Dhillon check in as the highest re-entry guys. Both deserving. Dhillon takes the cake as the top re-entry guy available from the OHL for me right now.

Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 OHL Trade Deadline Report Cards

OHL players can now sleep easy as the 2017 OHL trade deadline has come and gone. Many players have said goodbyes. But with a new team often comes new and rewarding challenges. Many of these players will get the chance to play deeper into the playoffs and perhaps win an OHL championship. While others will receive increased responsibility and ice time in hopes of catching the eye of NHL scouts.

Many of the teams in the league were active in the past month. Several teams (London, Erie, Peterborough, Windsor, etc) loaded up for deep playoff runs. Other teams (Oshawa, Saginaw, Kitchener, etc) made moves to rebuild so that they can be good again in the years to come. The Western Conference, in particular, has become quite the juggernaut. It will be crazy fun to watch these teams battle it out in the playoffs.

For this article, I'm cutting off trades at the beginning of December. So any trades made before December won't be factored into a teams grade. No sense assessing a team's ability to trade over the course of the season (even the last month or so is a bit of a stretch).

Let's do some grading! 

Eastern Conference

Barrie Colts
In: Jason Smith, Robert Proner, Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 10
Out: Cam Lizotte, Cordell James, Matt Brassard, Draft picks (5, 7)
Analysis: Given what they had to work with, I think the Colts did extremely well. No real blockbusters, so that prevents them from being an "A" (simply due to the impact these trades might have), but they did a great job. Dealing Matt Brassard was a bit of a surprise to me, but I think they dealt him at his highest value. Meanwhile, they brought in Robert Proner from Saginaw for a mid round pick, which is a tremendous value addition. Proner is a quality young defender who was holding out from Saginaw (was the 30th overall pick in 2015). He could impact the game at both ends and has a lot of potential. Really interested to see how he blossoms in Barrie, where he could see top 4 ice time. All in all, a very successful deadline for the Colts as they begin their rebuild.
Grade: B

Hamilton Bulldogs
In: Ben Garagan, Dawson Carty, Stephen Templeton, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6)
Out: Adam Laishram, Trent Fox, Jesse Saban, Draft picks (2, 5, 5, 5, 8, 10)
Analysis: All things considered, I'm a bit disappointed with what the Bulldogs did at the deadline and leading up to it. I thought that dealing guys like Laishram and Fox would lead them to use those picks to pick up another veteran offensive blueliner, the team's biggest need IMO. For a team that has aspirations in winning the Eastern Conference, I'm actually not convinced that they're worse now than they were before the deadline. Bringing in Dawson Carty gives the team a veteran goaltender with playoff experience to push Kaden Fulcher, but is he guaranteed to the the team's playoff starter? And if he isn't, does it really make sense for this team to utilize an OA spot on someone who isn't playing. The kicker here is that the team has battled injuries this year and they're finally healthy. As such, they're playing as well as they did to start the year when they came out gangbusters. Is that enough to win the East? I'm just not sure. I will say that they got good value for Laishram and Fox though.
Grade: C+

Kingston Frontenacs
In: Cal Davis, Brett Neumann Draft picks (3, 4)
Out: Warren Foegele, Zack Dorval, Draft picks (5)
Analysis: Let me preface this by saying that I love with Kingston was able to do with the Foegele deal. Brett Neumann is going to be a very high scoring forward at some point during his OHL career. He's also likely to be the type to play 5 years in the league because of his lack of size. So Kingston gets a high impact player who could be a cornerstone for the next several years, on top of a quality draft pick. Hard to ask for a much better return for an OA. That said, this is a team that is caught in a bit of limbo IMO. Without Foegele, they don't have the offensive firepower to compete in the East. Since the Foegele deal, they're 1-3, and against Conference rivals too. I think this is a trend that will continue to the rest of the year. While I understand that the Fronts wanted to try and stay competitive by keeping their captain, Stephen Desrocher, I don't think it's the best thing for the franchise in the long run. Now, of course, Desrocher might have requested to stay in Kingston since he's had a few lengthy playoff runs in his career. But if he didn't, it was a major boo boo to not deal him IMO. Just the same as it was to not deal one of their 97's before next year. They've got 4 quality 97's who will return as overagers (this counting Jeremy Helvig who I think will most certainly return) and they won't get nearly as much for one of them as an OA, as they could have by dealing one now. Just think that they missed the boat on getting a few more draft picks or another quality young player to help this team be really good again in a few years.
Grade: C+

Mississauga Steelheads
In: Trent Fox, Jacob Cascagnette, Draft picks (7, 14)
Out: Jason Smith, Joseph Murdaca, Draft picks (3, 3, 4, 4, 5)
Analysis: Going into the deadline, I had mentioned on twitter that I had felt Mississauga really needed to go out and get more veteran forwards to round out their depth. While their 3rd and 4th lines bring energy, offensive production they do not. In the playoffs, that's going to be needed. So the additions of Fox and Cascagnette are just what the doctor ordered and they didn't have to give up the farm to get them. Cascagnette is a great penalty killer too and will go a long way to improving that. The Steelheads get to keep their couple of high end 2nds (Guelph's this year and Niagara's next year), which they will need to restock the cupboards after this season and round out the team's depth moving forward. Of course, I'm sure some people would have liked Mississauga to go out and improve their goaltending and/or their defense. But IMO, they can still win the East with what they currently have. Sounds like they did offer up a ton of picks for Michael McNiven, but the Attack wouldn't budge.
Grade: B

Niagara IceDogs
In: Kiril Maksimov, Nate McDonald, Justin Brack, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5)
Out: Hayden Davis, Chris Paquette, Cal Davis, Draft picks (4, 11)
Analysis: Have to say, really shocked by the Hayden Davis trade. Didn't see that one coming, especially with Davis being a bit of a local boy (Hamilton born/raised). That said, the value that they received was pretty good. Maksimov has a ton of offensive potential and is the same age as Davis, while they also picked up a couple quality picks in that deal too. Then the real coup was grabbing 5 excellent draft picks for Chris Paquette. Of course, he'll be back again next year, at the very least, but with the team rebuilding, they just would have ended up dealing him then anyway. When you get that kind of offer, you take it. All those picks are going really help this team moving forward. Have to imagine that the Dogs look heavily to the blueline at this year's priority selection though (however, if they pick in the top 3, doesn't sound like there is a blueliner worthy of that high of a selection).
Grade: B+

North Bay Battalion
In: Jesse Saban, Draft picks (5, 10)
Out: Stephen Templeton, Maurizio Colella, Draft picks (5, 6, 10)
Analysis: A very quiet trade deadline for the Battalion, as they essentially stand pat, keeping their overagers and their veteran players. North Bay has not been playing great hockey of late, so I think some people half expected them to make a few moves to start a rebuild. But that's just not Stan Butler's style. Quite frankly, of their 96's and 97's, only Brett McKenzie would have brought back a ton. And since he's a candidate to return as an OA (unless Vancouver signs him early, or they have him play in the AHL on a minor league deal), North Bay seemed content to keep him around. This is a team that should be better next year, lead by a veteran defensive unit, so unless a team was willing to give up the moon for McKenzie, it makes sense. The acquisition of Saban is actually quietly a very strong one IMO. He's an underrated defender and is an upgrade over the likes of Bruce and Shoemaker as an OA candidate next year IMO. I suppose, though, if McKenzie ends up playing in the AHL next year, this won't look quite as good.
Grade: C+

Oshawa Generals
In: Mason Kohn, Allan McShane, Ian Blacker, Matt Brassard, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 6, 10)
Out: Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Daniel Robertson, Stephen Templeton, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3)
Analysis: Easily one of the busiest teams at this year's deadline. They deal their two biggest stars, but also make a few subtle moves to try and improve next year too (Kohn, and Brassard). I do really like what they managed to do though. They got great value out of dealing Cirelli and Vande Sompel. McShane and Blacker are solid young players who will be a part of the Generals core for the next several years. Kohn will be a very valuable overager next year and Brassard provides more depth to a defense. Then there is all the picks, that the Generals will no doubt utilize to improve their club again either next year or the year after (depending on how the Memorial Cup process goes and whether it accelerates their mini rebuild). All in all, the Generals should still be competitive in the East this year (give themselves a chance to win a round), but also make themselves way better for the future.
Grade: A

Ottawa 67´s
In: Zack Dorval, Chris Martenet, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 15)
Out: Dante Salituro, Drake Rymsha, Chase Campbell, Draft picks (4, 8)
Analysis: I think the 67's made the deals that they needed to make at this year's deadline. They got great draft pick value out of Rymsha (holding out), Campbell, and Salituro (who was a surprise return to the league). I think the loss of Rymsha hurts a bit moving forward, but they can replace him with an astute selection (likely to be top 8, maybe even top 5) at this year's priority selection. Martenet was the veteran OA defender I had talked about the 67's needing on twitter. They've got a very talented young blueline, but one who could use some veteran tutelage to close out the season. This team could still win an opening round series in round one IMO, but also improved a ton for the future. A successful deadline, given what they had available.
Grade: B

Peterborough Petes
In: Chris Paquette, Nikita Korostelev, Alex Black, Jake Bricknell, Draft picks (2, 3, 4)
Out: C.J. Clarke, Nick Grima, Nate McDonald, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 6, 15)
Analysis: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Peterborough finally makes a splash on the trade market and they draw criticism for overpaying. Yet, if they don't pay up, they don't make deals and people accuse them of being complacent like they were last year. Bottom line is that Peterborough is playing very well and with the East being weak, this was the year to go for it and utilize that draft pick surplus to bring in talent. They didn't have to give up Pavel Gogolev. They didn't have to give up Zach Gallant. Grima is a quality young player, but the Petes have a very good young defense, so I don't think they need to be worried there. Peterborugh made themselves better and they did it from positions of strength. The underrated component that people aren't talking about here is that all three of these acquisitions have a great chance of returning next year. Black and Paquette will definitely be back and I think Korostelev is a 50/50 chance too as well (if the Leafs don't sign him). This isn't a one and done team. Peterborough will be just as strong next year, if not stronger. Thanks to these deals and player progression. IMO, this is the team to beat in the Eastern Conference now.
Grade: A-

Sudbury Wolves

In: Patrick Sanvido, Draft picks (5, 5)
Out: Ben Garagan, Draft picks (6, 14)
Analysis: Not much going on for the Wolves at this year's deadline. I think they made the right choice not to sell off their veterans, like Kyle Capobianco. This is a team that needs to make the playoffs this year because of what they've been through in recent years with ownership turmoils, coaching changes, player recruitment issues, etc. What has seemed like a very long rebuild is showing light at the end of the tunnel and it's time to get these young kids some playoff experience. Heck, the Wolves could even make it out of the first round too. Picking up Patrick Sanvido was really smart. He's not massively impactful player on the ice, but his experience will go a really long way to helping out in the locker room and his size will help this team down the stretch and into the playoffs. There's a reason he wore the "C" in Windsor. For the first time in a while, I feel like this team has an identity, so kudos for that. They get a good mark for holding steady and not doing anything rash.
Grade: B

Western Conference

Erie Otters
In: Cam Lizotte, Anthony Cirelli, Warren Foegele, Joseph Murdaca
Out: Allan McShane, Brett Neumann, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14)
Analysis: Once Dylan Strome was returned to Erie, the writing was on the wall for this load up. Erie has been one of the top teams in the OHL the last 4 years, but has no Championships to show for it. When a guy like Strome suddenly returns, you owe it to your veteran players to give it one last kick at the can and that's just what Dave Brown and company did. But, they did it the right way. Cirelli and Foegele are not only fantastic scoring options, but they are also among the best two-way forwards in the entire OHL. These are the types of guys who help you win a playoff series. And Lizotte is an underrated pick up. He's a relentless physical presence who can help to take some pressure off of the young kids in a 3rd pairing role and on the PK. And sure, Erie gave up a ton. The cupboards are bare. BUT, they'll recoup a lot of assets next year when they move Taylor Raddysh, Jordan Sambrook, and Kyle Maksimovich. Such is the OHL cycle. And Otters have made success last longer than most teams in this league do.
Grade: A

Flint Firebirds
In: C.J. Clarke, Maurizio Colella
Out: Draft picks (2, 3, 5)
Analysis: Not much doing for the Firebirds. Instead of moving some of their veteran players (like Alex Peters), they decide to stand pat. Well actually, they brought in a couple forwards to help provide more depth to their team's offensive attack. Clarke is an interesting pick up who could flourish with more ice time. Given everything this team has gone through in the past year the difficulties with player recruitment, I think what they did was the right move. Keeping the leadership group intact so that they can make the playoffs and show growth. Heck, Flint might just be the 6th best team in the Western Conference after Kitchener and Sarnia made a few moves. What's that going to get them? A butt kicking in the first round. But it doesn't matter. Just making it that far has to be considered a win for the franchise. Like Sudbury in the East, this team gets a good grade for being patient and holding steady.
Grade: B-

Guelph Storm
In: Liam Hawel, Draft picks (3, 15)
Out: Noah Carroll, Jake Bricknell, Draft picks (2, 3, 3)
Analysis: Guelph didn't really do much, other than the big Carroll to SSM deal. Even though they had to give up a few extra draft picks, I think they did well in the deal. Liam Hawel is the big center that every team covets. He's definitely raw, but he fits extremely well into that lineup moving forward. I'm sure the Storm explored a few other deals, but with guys like Garrett McFadden and James McEwan returning as OA's next year, they obviously felt like the offers they were getting, just weren't good enough. I respect that, because next year the Storm should be that much better and having talented OA's will help.
Grade: B-

Kitchener Rangers

In: Andrew Burns, Cole Carter, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5)
Out: Mason Kohn, Jeremy Bracco, Jacob Cascagnette, Dawson Carty, Draft picks (8, 13)
Analysis: I applaud the Rangers for doing the right thing. Even though they've played pretty well this year, there's just no chance they could compete in the loaded West this year. Especially given their injury issues on the backend. Now, that said, I'm not sure I'm incredibly enamored with their returns. Sure they loaded up on draft picks, which is going to help them in the future. But I can't help but be disappointed with the return for Jeremy Bracco. Yes...I know about his no movement clause that likely lowered the value he brought back since it handcuffed the organization to a degree. But when you see a guy like Chris Paquette bring back more than Bracco, I think you can't help but feel like Kitchener didn't play the cards as best as they could. Andrew Burns is a solid defender, but do they really need a '97 player? Wouldn't a guy like Tyler Nother been a better option because he'd be with the team for a few more years. And Cole Carter is a solid offensive player, but not getting back a '99 or 2000 player for Bracco has to hurt. Bottom line, I like the approach they took at this year's deadline, but the Bracco deal really has to leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.
Grade: C+

London Knights

In: Mitchell Stephens, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Dante Salituro, Draft picks (8)
Out: Ian Blacker, Chris Martenet, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 15)
Analysis: OK, they gave up a lot of draft picks. can you argue with what London was able to do at this year's deadline. Stephens is a great add and the type of kid you win with in the playoffs. Vande Sompel has lots of playoff experience and is an elite defender. And Salituro, there's a stroke of genius with bringing him back from the AHL/ECHL where he was struggling as a first year pro. This team is locked and fully loaded for another run. And what did it cost them? They got to keep their best young players (Foudy, Formenton, Bouchard, etc), which can't be said of some other teams who made deals. With London's ability to draft well and turn surplussed assets into draft picks, they'll give those up all day because they know they can get them back. Well done. 
Grade: A+

Owen Sound Attack
In: Cordell James, Chase Campbell, Draft picks (11)
Out: Justin Brack, Draft picks (3, 4)
Analysis: The Attack made the deal that I predicted they would, jettisoning Justin Brack and bringing in Cordell James. James is a perfect fit for this roster as a top faceoff man, penalty killer and solid two-way player. The Chase Campbell pick up at the beginning of December has proven to be an excellent acquisition too. The Attack are playing some pretty phenomenal hockey of late, and I truly believe that behind Michael McNiven, this team could make some noise in the Western Conference. That's why I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't use a bit of a draft pick surplus to go out and pick up a few more players to make that push. When you've got the best goaltender in the league, and he's playing in his final OHL season, I think you need to make sure you really make a run.
Grade: C+

Saginaw Spirit
In: Hayden Davis, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 5)
Out: Mitchell Stephens, Robert Proner, Kiril Maksimov, Draft picks (2, 3)
Analysis: I feel a little bit bad for the Spirit. It's obvious that they were handcuffed by Stephen's no trade clause. Bottom line is...the team has dealt their best player the last two years and not received a young player back. When you see a team like Oshawa deal their players for quality young assets, it's a hard pill to swallow. And sure, the amount of draft picks they got back was fantastic. But this is also a team whose top two picks (Blade Jenkins and Bode Wilde) aren't playing for them this year and are not guaranteed to suit up for the Spirit. And the team's 2015 draft is now looking pretty weak too thanks to those players failing to take a step forward this year (direct correlation to the team's disappointing performance in 2016/17). Speaking of the 2015 draft, the Spirit turned their 2nd rounder Robert Proner into a measly 5th after he demanded a trade. And while I like the Hayden Davis deal (because I like him as a player), they had to give up a lot to get a player that with the right tutelage, Robert Proner could have turned into anyway. IMO, this is a team in a lot of trouble moving forward unless things change and they have some luck with player commitments. 
Grade: D+

Sarnia Sting
In: Theo Calvas, Drake Rymsha, Nick Grima, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6)
Out: Alex Black, Nikita Korostelev, Draft picks (2, 2, 3, 4, 7)
Analysis: I absolutely love what Sarnia did at this year's deadline. Think of it this way. The Sting turned Korostelev and Black into Nick Grima, Drake Rymsha, two quality draft picks (2nd and 3rd). That's two quality young players who will be impact OHL players for the next two years and two very good picks. Grima is a quality young offensive defender and Rymsha is an underrated player. His speed and two way play are a perfect fit for this line-up. The Sting have positioned themselves to be solid yet again next year and they did it by only moving a few pieces. And I actually think this Sting team is better without Korostelev in the lineup because they can play a more up-tempo game offensively that suits their offensive stars a little bit more.
Grade: A-

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
In: Noah Carroll, Draft picks (2, 3, 3, 7)
Out: Theo Calvas, Liam Hawel, Draft picks (3)
Analysis: I think that the Hounds did extremely well in picking up Noah Carroll. They dealt from a position of strength and picked up future assets AND got better at the same time. Hard to argue with that. That said, I do think that the Hounds missed the boat on trying to improve. They've got a great roster this year. Offensively, I think they can compete with the other super powers of the West (even post deadline). But defensively and in goal, they could be a step behind, even with the acquisition of Carroll. Not utilizing their final OA spot is a make IMO. But, I know the Hounds have prided themselves on building a consistent winner and they've positioned themselves to be just as good next year, if not better. When do they go for it though and really go all in to win that Championship?
Grade: B-

Windsor Spitfires
In: Jeremy Bracco, Adam Laishram, Daniel Robertson, Draft picks (2, 6 8, 8, 13, 14)
Out: Cole Carter, Andrew Burns, Patrick Sanvido, Draft picks (2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4)
Analysis: The Memorial Cup hosts joined the Otters and Knights to load up for the Western Conference playoff showdown. The reality is though, that the Spitfires have been loading up all year, picking up Addison, Knott, Nattinen, and Day. The Bracco deal was a great one because they didn't have to give up some of their best young talent to make it happen. The Laishram pickup is an excellent under the radar one too. He's a gritty competitor. This team has all the talent in the world. But they need to stay healthy AND they need to get more from their best players like Mikhail Sergachev and Logan Brown. 
Grade: B+

Who do you think were this year´s winners and losers?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2017)

This is a yearly tradition (take a look at the Sunday Top 10 sidebar for other years). It's time to take a look at the top overagers in the OHL, available to be signed by NHL teams.

None of the players on this list have signed an NHL contract yet, but even if they had, they would still be included. This list intends to rank players according to the likelihood that they continue their career at the professional level. 

Likely half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not (be signed) and those players who do not, will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University.

It's important to note that this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (numerous examples this year, like Stephen Desrocher, J.J. Piccinich, Steven Lorentz, etc). This list is for those players who are NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on their birth date).

Here's the list:

1. Ryan Mantha - Defenseman - Niagara IceDogs
Spurned by the New York Rangers this summer when they didn't offer him a contract, Mantha returned to the OHL with a chip on his shoulder this year. He's been sensational as the captain for the upstart IceDogs. He's currently just outside the top 5 in defenseman scoring and leads all blueliners in shots by a very large margin (in fact he's second in the entire OHL in shots). He looks like a completely different player this year, quite frankly. Big difference is improved foot speed, which is allowing him to be more of a factor leading the rush and jumping up in the play, where he can use his size to really drive the play. At 6'5, 225lbs, he can be a real tough guy to separate from the puck. Defensively, he's looked good too. He's playing with more intensity in his own end. With his size and the impact he's making at both ends, I'd be surprised if an NHL team doesn't give him a second chance. 

2. Darren Raddysh - Defenseman - Erie Otters
Raddysh has been the model of consistency the last few years for Erie, playing a top 4 role for them and excelling at both ends of the ice. Over the course of the last four seasons, Raddysh is a combined +110. Defensively, he's been a rock since he entered the league, but his offensive game has hit a new level this year, as he's gained more confidence in his ability to lead the breakout and run the point on the powerplay. There's really nothing that he can't do. I think the main reason that team's have shied away from him thus far, despite good production, is the combination of average size (6'1, 200lbs) with average skating ability. He's certainly not a dynamic skater, which could prevent the offense from translating. But I think his defensive game is rock solid and should make him an valuable asset at the next level. He deserves an NHL deal.

3. Jeremy Brodeur - Goaltender - Oshawa Generals
Brodeur has been one of the OHL's top netminders this year, currently 2nd in the league in save percentage and top 5 in wins and goals against average. What a difference a year makes, with Brodeur really emerging as a star for the surprise first place Generals. The one thing I've noticed about Brodeur this year is how much quicker he looks post to post. Making a lot more athletic saves and making things look much easier than he did a year ago. When you factor in the obvious bloodlines, it goes without saying that I'd be surprised if Brodeur isn't playing pro hockey somewhere next year (either on an NHL or AHL deal).

4. Bobby MacIntyre - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Hate to toot my own horn here, but I called his offensive explosion in my preseason previews. I wrote, "A real wild card that I'll throw out there is Bobby MacIntyre in Sault Ste. Marie. He has fit in extremely well in that lineup and they'll be able to score a ton of goals this year. He could be an 80+ point player quite easily." And sure enough, he currently sits 5th in league scoring and is well on his way to that 80+ point plateau. He's long been a guy that I've felt had the talent level to be a top scorer in this league, but he lacked the strength and confidence to extend rushes and play through traffic consistently. Since the trade to the Soo, it's like something has clicked for him and he's been a real force. Brings so much energy to the ice and never gives up on a play. Has a lot of skill with the puck too and creates time and space for linemates with patience and poise. He's definitely undersized, but with the way the pro game is played now, there is a place for guys like MacIntyre. 

5. Kyle Pettit - Forward - Erie Otters
The 2nd player on this list who was an unsigned NHL draft pick this past summer. Pettit was a Vancouver selection in 2014 who they chose not to sign, and rightfully so as he had not shown any growth offensively over his OHL career. But this year (as is often the case for overage players), he looks like a different player. He's visibly stronger on and off the puck, and also looks quicker. Just a big kid (6'4) who seems to have finally grown into his big frame. He's been dynamite on the powerplay, where he's playing the role of net presence and using his size to be a Tomas Holmstrom type of player for the Otters. And he continues to be one of the OHL's top faceoff men (he's up near 60%). Think of him as this year's Jordan Maletta, who managed to earn an NHL deal last year.

6. Medric Mercier - Defenseman - Oshawa Generals
I've long been a fan of Mercier's and since the move to Oshawa, his offensive game has exploded. He's up near the top 10 of defenseman scoring and if he continues to produce like he has, he could be top 5/6 by year's end. He's been a real asset for the Generals on the powerplay, where he's fit in perfectly as the triggerman to Mitchell Vande Sompel's quarterbacking ability. At 6'3 and 215lbs, I've always been impressed with Mercier's mobility. When you've got a big kid with a big shot, mobility, and defensive acumen, he's bound to draw interest from pro teams (be the NHL or AHL). This is especially true if Oshawa can continue their surprise success and go deep in this year's playoffs.

7. Mathieu Henderson - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
We're just past the halfway point of the year and Henderson has already set a new career high in points. The OHL's 2nd leading scorer among blueliners has most definitely had a breakout campaign in his overage season. Henderson is aggressive leading the attack, using great speed to cut his way up ice and across the blueline. While Henderson isn't huge (6'0), he isn't a pushover in his own end and will battle hard to win puck battles. He also uses his mobility well to defend off the rush, compensating for his lack of reach. I'm not sure he gets a look from an NHL team, but I could see him with an AHL/ECHL deal next year.

8. Hayden Hodgson - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Big, power forward who has rebounded exceptionally well after a disastrous 2015/16 season that saw him battle injuries and change teams (from Sarnia). He's leading the Spirit in goals by a pretty large margin and has looked like a man among boys at times this year. When he gets going off the rush, he can be really tough to separate from the puck and is very effective on net drives. I don't think he has elite level hands, but he does a great job of using his size to shield the puck and has good enough scoring instincts to find himself in the right place near the crease. His skating is also pretty decent for a power winger. Not sure if he's a true pro prospect, but he could certainly get a look.

9. Jalen Chatfield - Defenseman - Windsor Spitfires
Chatfield is just a solid two-way defender who doesn't have elite size (6'0), but who plays the game hard. He does pretty much everything well, whether it be quarterbacking the powerplay, leading the rush, or laying the body in the defensive end. I suppose the big issue is that he does none of these things at an elite level, which can be the kiss of death when it comes to earning an NHL contract. But I do believe that he has the capability to play at the pro level next year, be it the AHL or ECHL. 

10. Alex Peters - Defenseman - Flint Firebirds
The third former NHL draft pick to crack this list, Peters looks a lot better than he did last year, coming off that knee injury. I thought he looked slow and hesitant at times in 2015/16, which obviously helps to explain why the Dallas Stars chose not to sign Peters this summer. But Peters seems to have regained a lot of mobility and is playing exceptionally well in his own end. He's a tough guy to play against and his leadership qualities can't be overlooked either. At 6'4, and 215lbs, Peters could still get a look from a pro team for next year. 

Honorable Mentions (sorted by position):

Outside of Brodeur, I don't really see any goaltenders that deserve a place on this list. Mississauga's Matthew Mancina has had a very disappointing season, and Hamilton's (after the trade) Dawson Carty is a solid OHL goalie, but not a pro prospect IMO.

The captain in Kitchener, Frank Hora, actually got a taste of pro action to start this year as he signed a tryout contract with Cleveland of the AHL and played 3 games there before heading back to Kitchener. He's a very solid defensive player who also can move the puck. He'd be number 11 on this list. His teammate, Dylan Di Perna has steadily improved every year in the league and is on pace for his best offensive season of his career. He has a new found confidence with the puck to pair with his stout defensive play. Speaking of stout defensive play, Peterborough's Brandon Prophet epitomizes this. The 6'3, 217lbs Brockville native may not bring much in the way of offense, but he's one of the league's premier stay at home defenders. Owen Sound's Santino Centorame and Sarnia's Jeff King are a pair of undersized, but quality two-way defenders. Both play the game hard and Centorame has served as captain of the Attack the last two seasons. Lastly, speaking of captains, Sarnia's Kevin Spinozzi has had an excellent season at both ends and has the size that pro teams will look for (6'2, 200lbs). Fun fact, he hasn't finished a season below +15 since his 16 year old season out of minor midget.

Like the goalie position, I don't know if I see any other forwards worthy of mention on this list. Hamilton's Niki Petti is a slick skating, energy player who does everything for the Bulldogs. He could make a quality checking line player at the next level. Ditto for Barrie's Cordell James. He's a lot like Kyle Pettit in that he's got size and plays hard and smart at both ends of the ice. He also happens to be one of the league's top faceoff men.