Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2017-18

I know it's not Sunday, but with the long weekend approaching and the OHL preseason nearing, I felt it necessary to get this one out there. I mention this every time that I write this piece, but it truly is one of my favourites to write and look back on. This annual article looks at some of the rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next year. And by that I mean players not selected in the Import Draft or the recent priority draft (or new midget draft for that matter). I'm talking about 2000 (possibly even '99 or '98) born players who should finally crack their respective teams this year. The list of successful players of this ilk is long (see Mark Scheifele, Remi Elie, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Senyshyn, Nic Hague, Boris Katchouk, Alex Formenton, etc).

In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports from guys who see the Tier 2 ranks often. Have one scout who wishes to remain anonymous. For some players, who I was unable to "wrangle" up fresh scouting reports on, I've gone back to TheScout's priority selection guide and picked out a few tidbits from that. 

Thanks to the following (and give them a follow on twitter)

Andrew Sykes (@ASykes_hockey)  
Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) 
Conor Mulligan (@ConorMulliganFC)
Zack Schipper (@ZackShipper)
Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)
Jamie Neugebauer (@Neugsie)
Here's the list (sorted by position and alphabetical order): 


Marshall Frappier - Sudbury Wolves
A 6th rounder in 2017 (as a re-entry), Frappier is coming off an excellent season in the CCHL. He started for Nepean and was named the goaltender on the CCHL All Rookie Team. He also played for Canada White at the Under 17's, where his numbers were better than Olivier Rodrigue (who just backstopped Canada to Gold at the Hlinka). Look for Frappier to win the back-up job behind Jacob McGrath this year and give the Wolves a solid one-two punch.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Frappier was one of only 6 goalies to represent Canada at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he posted a very respectable 2.83 GAA and a .900 Save %. Last season as a 16 year-old he played 37 games and had very similar numbers to former Nepean Raider goalie Daniel Altshuller at the same age. His pure athleticism, quick feet, and ability to stop the puck will overcome any concern about his size. Next season he will likely be the back-up for the Sudbury Wolves but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get into 20-25 games."

Hunter Jones - Peterborough Petes
Big goaltender who is expected to be the back-up to Dylan Wells this year for the Petes (although if Wells plays like he did this past year, he won't be needed much). Jones is coming off an excellent year in the OJHL with Stouffville where he was named to the Second All-Prospect Team. He also suited up for the Silver Medal winning Canada Black at the U17's, serving as Jacob Ingham's back-up.
Scouting Report: Steven Ellis says, "Jones had a tough task of being thrust into a decent amount of games as a 16-year-old, something we’d seen out of goalies like Ben Blacker, Michael Giugovaz and Jake McGrath in recent years. Acting as a backup goalie to league veteran Aaron Taylor, Jones put up respectable numbers for the second place North Division squad. As a late-born 2000 goaltender, Jones will have to wait until the 2019 draft to hear his name called at the NHL Draft, giving him a chance to take over the starting role in Peterborough in 2018-2019. However, unless he gets at least 25 starts in his OHL rookie season this year, you have to wonder if it really makes sense taking the jump right away instead of letting him get the bulk of the starting time in the OJHL. He’d be one of the best goalies in the Northeast this season if he did, especially with Taylor gone in Stouffville, but it’s hard to doubt that he has the ability to play in the OHL." Meanwhile Jamie Neugebauer says, "Jones is buried behind some fantastic goaltending in Peterborough right now, but as a 16-year-old goalie, all he could have asked for last year was a chance to play at the junior level – and he got it, at least a little bit. Unlike the other goaltenders on this list, Jones has great size, and his pedigree already includes Hockey Canada camps, an appearance at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, and a backup spot at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge (though he did not appear). Jones has all sorts of puck stopping ability, and has major junior goaltender written all over him in that he has calmness and composure in spades, to go along with that 6-foot-3 frame. Current Petes backup Scott Smith is an over-ager, so it shouldn’t surprise if Jones ends up learning from Oilers’ prospect Dylan Wells as his understudy come Day 1 of the OHL season."

Ben Kraws - Niagara IceDogs
Highly touted goaltender who looks like he will be taking the OHL route instead of going to Miami (Ohio) University as he announced at the end of July. Listed on the IceDogs training camp roster, my understanding is that he will be attending. Kraws was one of the U.S.' goaltenders at the recent Hlinka tournament and was also recently named to the All American Prospects Game. Have to believe that if he comes, he'd easily supplant his competition to be Stephen Dhillon's back-up this year, reducing his workload a bit.
Scouting Report: Hard to find someone who has seen enough of Kraws to give a confident scouting report on Kraws. So he'll be the only one who gets a blank here. My apologies. 

Nathan Torchia - Oshawa Generals 
Not a huge goaltender, but Torchia was the 3rd goaltender taken in the 2016 Priority Draft and touted as the netminder of the future for the Generals. He played in the OJHL last year for Orangeville, posting modest numbers for a weak team that missed the playoffs. He'll come to camp in Oshawa and have to battle for a roster spot as the Generals do have a lot of depth at the position. Someone has to back-up Kyle Keyser though.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The son of long-time North American minor pro and European league goaltender Mike Torchia, Nathan potentially enters a very murky goaltender situation behind incumbent Kyle Keyser in the Oshawa net. Certainly, he is undersized by today’s standards (he stands around 5’10” and maybe 165 pounds), but he possesses loads of athleticism, and a strong desire to battle for every save. An off-season move to the resurging Stouffville Spirit at the Junior ‘A’ level should give him all sorts of playing time if the Generals elect not to go with him at the backup spot."


Ryan Bangs - London Knights
Undersized defender and former 3rd rounder by the Knights, Bangs will be battling it out with a group of other talented young defenders for a roster spot this year. It's likely that London will be giving ice time on the 3rd pairing to one of those young defenders, especially if Juolevi sticks in the NHL. Bangs is coming off winning a CCHL championship with Carleton Place and was a point per game player in the CCHL2 with Arnprior (a new league that gave us Oliver Castleman last year). 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Bangs started the season with the Carleton Place Canadians but was reassigned to the Arnprior Packers early in the season to help further his development. It ultimately was a smart decision for him because he excelled with the Packers and was one of the premier offensive defenseman in the league. After watching Bangs the last two seasons, he is one of the best pure offensive talents I have seen. The undersized defenseman can make a great breakout pass, handles the puck effortlessly, and is capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. If he can improve defensively he has the potential to be a top pairing defenseman in the OHL but next season I expect him to start in the bottom-pairing while receiving powerplay time."

Luke Beamish - Owen Sound Attack 
Beamish is a former 3rd rounder who saw limited action with the Attack already last year. However, most of the year was spent with Georgetown of the OJHL, where he helped them win an OJHL Championship. He likely slots in on the Attack's 3rd pairing this year and could be one to watch. 
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The smooth-skating and incredibly intelligent Beamish was outstanding for the OJHL Champion Georgetown Raiders last year. He struggled with a few injuries later in the post-season, but he figured very prominently, and got plenty of ice time as a 16-year-old in a veteran-laden, and loaded Raiders defence-corps. The former Halton Hurricanes minor midget, who steps in under 6-foot, still has to get stronger; but his smarts, and performance last year (which included nine full appearances for the Attack) should mean that he will step in and be a solid OHLer this year from Day 1, on what should be a dynamite Owen Sound club. In this era, his size should not be an issue, and that fact, mixed with his skating ability and lack of fear against bigger, stronger, older competition, means that Beamish looks to be one to absolutely watch at the next level. It doesn’t hurt that he got fantastic coaching from former Sarnia Sting coach Greg Walters in Georgetown."

Hunter Carrick - Windsor Spitfires
The brother of former OHL'er and current NHL'er Connor Carrick, Hunter was recently acquired by Windsor from Ottawa. He played for the great Oakland Jr. Grizzlies program last year and had a very good season as the highest scoring U17 defender in the league (TIEHL U18) by a significant margin and was 6th overall with 19 points. To give you an idea, Steelheads defender Austin Osmanski put up 17 points at the same age, and Firebirds defender Jalen Smereck put up 23. Needless to say, with some departures on the backend, Carrick looks like someone who can play a regular role.
Scouting Report: From a recent article by Jim Parker, GM Warren Rychel describes Carrick as follows: "He’s a good, two-way guy and is improving all the time and he’s been working out all summer with his brother. He’s matured the last year and is a bit of a late bloomer." Meanwhile Carrick describes himself as as "an offensive defenceman that moves the puck well."

Caleb Everett - Saginaw Spirit
Highly competitive, two-way defender who saw limited USHL action this year, instead helping Compuware win the HPHL Championship. He's a former favourite of blog friend and scout Matt Grainda. Looks like Everett will have a chance to make a big impact with the Spirit this year, perhaps even as high as playing on the 2nd pairing, if his play proves worthy.
Scouting Report: Andrew Weiss gives us his report on Everett from this past season: "Arthur Kayliev aside, U16 National Champion Compuware really didn't have a "big name player" that is traditionally seen on U16 National Title teams. That said, Caleb Everett, along with Barrie draft pick Xan Gurney, were outstanding for them and stepped up big to fill a hole left by Jacob Semik leaving early in the season. Needless to say, Compuware doesn't win a national title without him anchoring the blue line. For whatever reason, I don't think Everett has ever received enough credit for how strong of a player he actually is. Put it this way, after the NTDP had taken their player and USHL tenders had been signed I had Everett as a top 10 talent in the USHL Futures Draft for 2000 birth years (he ended up being the 14th player selected). He's always been a strong skating defenseman who had the physical tools that I thought would translate well into playing in the USHL this year. While he only played three games for Muskegon (one was a playoff game), the reports I got was that he looked right at home. I think his offensive game is still developing and not sure he'll ever be considered an offensive defenseman at and level but he'll certainly be a reliable stay-at-home defenseman with a bit of a two-way game that will be a welcome addition to the Saginaw lineup for years to come." Also, here's Grainda's scouting report from our 2016 Priority Selection Primer, "Offense is exciting, but “Defense Wins Championships.” Caleb Everett from Detroit Honeybaked AAA is one of those defenseman that team’s just love to trust. As a mobile player with an effortless 4-way skating stride, Everett does a great job attacking the rush through smart positioning, an active stick and big physical traits. Body contact is no issue at all, as he is able to use his strength and power to properly challenge players. Natural athleticism plays into one of Everett’s primary strengths, as he uses his patience and quickness to make the proper, safe play even with heavy pressure. Good situational awareness via his high hockey intelligence helps him accomplish the smart option in all zones. Everett projects as a “do-it-all” defensive defenseman who could fill many roles. National Hockey League teams love that type of player."

Pierre-Luc Forget - Niagara IceDogs
Offensive blueliner who was a crucial part on a very strong Toronto Marlboros minor midget team two years ago (runners up at the OHL Cup in 2016). Forget is coming off a very strong season with Fort Erie in the GOJHL (staying locally to play close to the Dogs), where he was one of the team's top defenders. Competition for a roster spot on Niagara's blueline is extremely wide open for this coming season and Forget should be right there battling. 
Scouting Report: From an article on the Niagara IceDogs website, "A dynamic defenseman that plays with the style of a forward, Forget is the kind of defenseman that can kill penalties, quarterback a powerplay and control even strength play.  Viewed by many as a potential second round pick, an average showing at the OHL Cup dropped Forget to the 9th round."

Emmett Gordon - Kingston Frontenacs 
Gordon is a good sized defender who already got into 18 games with the Fronts last year. When he wasn't playing for Kingston in the OHL, he was playing for the Voyageurs of the OJHL and played well. Should be a key fixture on the Fronts blueline this year, playing (at the very least), a third pairing role.
Scouting Report: From TheScout, "Well sized defender who holds the offensive line well, while showing abilities of picking up difficult passes on both the fore and back hand. Vocal leader who plays a smart calculated game."

Braden Henderson - Sarnia Sting 
Undersized offensive blueliner who is coming off a fantastic season in the GOJHL with Chatham. He was a point per game player from the back-end and was named the conference's top rookie defender. He got into 6 games with Sarnia this past season, but he should get a much larger role this year, perhaps even as high as the 2nd pairing. 
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Henderson was one of those players who was just head and shoulders above most at the Jr. B level from the moment he stepped onto the ice for the Chatham Maroons even as a first-year player. Not literally because he certainly doesn't overwhelm with size and strength, but he is the new-age defenceman who excels through his smarts, poise, skill and mobility. A near flawless skater, his agility achieved in all directions with his head up gives him that elusiveness which an undersized blueliner requires. A highly intelligent player who consistently reads the ice and makes the correct play. Averaged a point-per-game in 39 regular contests with the Maroons. He could play on my OHL team any day and I think he will do well with the Sting this season."

Riley McCourt - Hamilton Bulldogs 
A former 3rd rounder by the Bulldogs, McCourt is a relatively highly touted two-way defender who is coming off a fantastic season in the GOJHL, where he was a standout for St. Catharines (including being a nearly point per game player in the playoffs). He's likely to be a full time Bulldog this year on Hamilton's third pairing.
Scouting Report: From TheScout, "McCourt is a steady offensive defenseman who provides good defensive value as well showing good compete and awareness in all three zones. Possesses above-average feet with the quickness and lateral mobility to escape pressure. His offensive-oriented mindset can get him into trouble at times in the defensive zone because he does get caught thinking too far ahead of his responsibilities. His ability to maintain strong positioning helps with his defensive responsibilities both on the rush and deep in the defensive zone on zone cycles."

Zack Pilon - Flint Firebirds

Another player who suited up in the relatively new CCHL2 league this past season, with Pilon playing for Athens. A good sized defender (6'3), Pilon projects as a solid stay at home type and the former 4th rounder will likely be a third pairing defender for the Firebirds this coming season.
Scouting Report: From an article on the OHL's main site about Pilon committing, GM Barclay Branch says, “Zack is a high-ceiling type of player that every team looks for when building their defense core. He’s a big, right-shot defenseman who has a very good understanding and feel for the game. Zack is a player that you cannot help but see a significant upside to his future and we’re happy to have him committed to our organization.”

Merrick Rippon - Mississauga Steelheads
Big time defensive prospect who is coming of an excellent season in the CCHL and is projected as a top two round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft. Rippon was originally a high pick of the Kitchener Rangers but recently had his rights dealt to Mississauga, where he will be looked upon to be a top 4 defender. Rippon was the CCHL Rookie of the Year last year with the Ottawa Jr. Senators and should be an impact player as early as this season. 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Merrick was the CCHL Rookie of the Year last season and was a key contributor in the Junior Senators success last season. At the Under-18 Selection Camp this past summer I thought he struggled at times but that’s to be expected and there will be an adjustment period for Rippon as he makes the jump to the OHL. There’s a lot to like about Rippon’s game as he always seem to make the smart and simple play. He can play in any situation whether it’s on the powerplay or the penalty kill and is player you put on the ice when you need a goal or are defending a lead."


Dawson Baker - Sudbury Wolves 
Highly intense, throwback type of physical winger who was a 4th rounder of Sudbury and is coming off an excellent season with Trenton in the OJHL. He also suited up for Canada Black at the World Under 17's. After getting into 10 games with Sudbury last year, he'll have a chance to compete for more ice time this year. Baker will battle the likes of fellow younger players like Owen Lane and Shane Bulitka for a place on the 3rd line.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "In an Ontario where the GTHL gets so much press, how impressive is the list of excellent alumni coming out of the eastern powerhouse known as the Quinte Red Devils minor midgets? Baker is another in that tradition, possessing straight-line speed and tenacity that is extremely reminiscent of former OJHLer, and Colorado Avalanche second rounder Cam Morrison. Baker isn’t as big as Morrison yet, but the fact that the right-winger featured at Hockey Canada’s Under-17 World Hockey Challenge this past season firmly demonstrates what the wider hockey community thought of his rookie season with the powerhouse Trenton Golden Hawks. Baker didn’t put up eye-popping numbers for the Hawks last year, but considering he was playing on an extremely veteran team, one that averaged the full-allowed compliment of 10 20 year-olds-per game, what he was able to do in his minutes was more than impressive enough to earn 10 call-ups from the Sudbury Wolves. Of all the forwards on this list, Baker is by far the most likely to open Day 1 of the OHL regular season. He isn’t a player interested in dangling around everyone, preferring to use his speed to blow up and down the wing, and create off the fore-check."

Sam Bitten - Ottawa 67's 
Brother of Hamilton Bulldogs forward Will Bitten, Sam was a 5th round pick of the 67's and finished out the year with the team last year. But he played the majority of the year with Kanata of the CCHL and was a member of the All Rookie team. Heading into 2017/18, Bitten will battle with a whole whack of other talented young forwards (just look at the number on this list) for a spot on the 3rd/4th line. 
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Bitten is the younger brother of Hamilton Bulldogs forward Will Bitten. Bitten spent last season with the Kanata Lasers but was an affiliate with the 67’s where he managed to suit up for 14 regular season games. Sam is a highly skilled forward who sees the ice extremely well and possesses exceptional puck handling and passing skills. His best asset is his skating as his feet seem to never stop moving. He gets up the ice quickly and is difficult to contain once he receives the puck in stride. His speed makes him a threat every shift and opponents need to take notice when he’s on the ice. I personally don’t have high expectations for him next season as I think there will be some initial struggles but he has the potential to be a very good OHL player one day."

Tyler Davis - Owen Sound Attack
While it's not confirmed as to whether Davis is in the Attack's plans for this upcoming season, he did attend rookie camp last year after being a 15th round selection. Certainly a good sign. Davis is coming off an excellent year with Aurora of the OJHL (who were admittedly one of the worst teams in the league). But you can't ignore the 31 points in 48 games to go with 144 penalty minutes. That's excellent production for a 16/17 year old in Junior A. With the way the Attack like to play, Davis could be a candidate for a 4th line role this year.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "Davis impressed and improved a ton as a 16-year-old over the course of a tumultuous season in Aurora last season. He is plucky and plays a truly ‘in-your-face’ style, and so the Owen Sound Attack product looks to have real potential as an energy player at the next level. He’ll need to add discipline to his game, to reign in that pugnacity just a touch, but he has a solid frame, and has a touch of offensive upside as well as long as he keeps things simple."

Chad Denault - Peterborough Petes 
A 3rd rounder by the Petes, Denault had the highest point per game average of any U17 player in the NOJHL last year, where he played for Rayside-Balfour. The 6'2 winger looks to be a solid bet to be a 3rd or 4th liner for Peterborough this year after getting in only 6 games last year.
Scouting Report: Director of Scouting and Head Scout for Rayside-Balfour, Zack Shipper, took the time to give us his scouting report on Denault. "Chad is a player I’ve had the privilege of following since his Minor Midget year with the Sudbury Wolves. His game continues to grow with each passing day, and the future appears to be quite bright for this Peterborough Pete. Chad is a big, strong power forward type player who has a high level of offensive skill, but also the hockey IQ and smarts to give you solid play in the defensive and neutral zones. He is highly intelligent, a fierce competitor and has a nose for finding the back of the net. He finished 3rd in NOJHL scoring for 2000 aged players with 36 points (19-17-36) in 46 games and was easily one of Rayside Balfour’s most consistent players. Chad was quickly able to establish himself as a Top 6 forward in the NOJHL. While playing in Rayside this past season, Chad was able to improve upon his skating speed and strength; two qualities that will help him succeed in the OHL. He possesses a long and powerful stride which allows him to play with impressive pace. He got a taste for the OHL last season so he should be able to easily adjust to the speed of the OHL. Chad is a player who will not cheat you on effort and will bring 120% to the rink each and every day. He battles and competes hard and could become a fan favourite in Peterborough. Chad has a pro upside shot that he utilizes to score from different areas on the ice. He can snap a shot home from the top of the circle, or battle in front and jam home a dirty one. Chad does a good job protecting the puck on the rush and can create problems for opponents by using his size and soft hands. He is a team player and does not rely on 1 on 1 offence. Chad projects as a solid two-way forward who may also be able to surprise some with his offensive output in his rookie season; depending on the role he plays. It would not shock me to see Chad in the Petes Top 6 regularly at some point this year. His 6’2, 180 pound power forward frame paired with his improved speed, high end offensive ability and elite hockey IQ could make Chad Denault one of the more intriguing rookie forwards heading into this OHL season."

Bobby Dow - Peterborough Petes
One of the more interesting signings this offseason from an OHL perspective. Dow, a '98, was originally a 10th rounder by the Petes but had committed to Mercyhurst. He was slated to be a late round pick at the 2017 NHL Draft (rated by most publications in the mid to late 100's), but the November birth date forward was passed over in his first year of eligibility. After a great year with Kemptville of the CCHL (he was a second team all star), Dow de-committed and signed with Peterborough. Have to think he has a chance to be a top 9 player for the Petes this year, giving them an even deeper line-up.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Dow was one of the top forwards in the CCHL last season and was an integral part of the Kemptville 73’s postseason run where he lead the team in playoff scoring. He is a high energy forward who possesses an above average skillset. It seemed like last season he received the majority of his scoring opportunities on the powerplay or using his speed effectively to create odd-man rushes. Because Dow is a right shot playing on the left wing, he will sometimes struggle to get the puck out of the defensive zone when the opposing forwards have an aggressive forecheck. Next season with the Petes I would expect him to play in the middle-6 while receiving some powerplay time."

Daylon Groulx - Owen Sound Attack 
A 4th rounder by the Attack, Groulx spent this past season with Fort Erie of the GOJHL where he had the highest point per game average of any U17 player in the league (1.43). Daylon is the son of former OHL scoring star Wayne Groulx. He did manage to get in 9 games with the Attack last year but should see regular time this year. 
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A supportive winger with good offensive instincts and the skill to execute advanced offensive attacks. Crashes the net hard on offensive rushes using all his efforts to redirect pucks thrown into the slot. Decent skating ability but lacks overwhelming speed on the rush and through the neutral zone. What he lacks in explosiveness and top end speed, he makes up for with impressive agility to elude pressure and extend possession time. Works high in the offensive zone doing a good job of shutting down the boards as a breakout option and exhibits strong back checking responsibility. Displays good versatility and is capable of slotting into the centre position showing good impact and two-way awareness, including strong faceoff prowess." 

Cam Hillis - Guelph Storm
Huge get for the Storm after Hillis signed recently. With a solid 2017 Priority selection, the addition of Alexei Toropchenko, and now Hillis, the Storm lineup is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Hillis was considered one of the best 2000 born Ontario players not playing in the OHL last year after committing to St. Andrew's College and likely an NCAA school after that. But he signed and should slot into Guelph's top 9 next year, perhaps even as a top 6 player. Hillis was the second highest scoring player in CAHS last year and also suited up for Canada Red at the U17's. Massive add for Guelph and the league.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Cameron Hillis is a skilled forward with soft hands and excellent hockey sense. He is an offensive catalyst every time he is on the ice. Crisp accurate passer who always finds a seam to thread the puck through.  Although Hillis is a top notch playmaker he also uses his shot with regularity making him a double threat and hard to read on what he might do, shoot or pass. Utilizes great vision, shrewd awareness and outstanding anticipation to read the opposition and exploit their weakness. Propels to top speed smoothly using a wide, lowered skating base where he generates power through use of total leg range of motion. Defensive zone play is inconsistent and will need seasoning but shows a healthy compete tracking back to provide valuable back pressure. As a smaller skilled forward, Hillis recognizes that adding strength to his overall game will help him compete in smaller areas of the ice."

Mitchell Hoelscher - Ottawa 67's
A 3rd rounder by the 67's, Hoelscher was a standout for Elmira Sugar Kings last year on their way to a GOJHL Championship. He was a second team all star and looks like the type of player who could make an impact for the 67's in a depth role next year. But, as mentioned, the competition for those spots will be fierce. 
Scouting Report: An anonymous scout who sees a lot of the GOJHL's Midwest says, "Lucky enough to spend his year in Elmira alongside two of the top scorers in the GOJHL, Hoelscher proved an ability to elevate his game when playing with other skilled players. He’ll need to continue to add mass and strength to his frame, but shows strong puck skills in tight places. Will surprise goalies with an added oomph in his shot to find holes. His always-on motor combined with intelligent reads of the game enshrine him to coaches to use in various roles. Along with his six games as a call up last year, Hoelscher should be prepared to play in the middle six of Ottawa’s lineup in 17-18." 

Keegan Howdeshell - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Former member of the U.S. National Development Program (U17 and U18) gave up his scholarship to Ferris State to sign with Hounds recently. The '98 born, 6'0 forward played last year for Muskegon of the USHL, posting 24 points in 49 games. The former 10th rounder by SSM will fight it out for a 3rd/4th line spot this year and could be an impact overager in two seasons.
Scouting Report: Waiting on an updated scouting report on Howdeshelll, but in the mean time, here's what the Greyhounds and Howdeshell (himself) are saying. In an article on, GM Kyle Raftis says, "Keeghan possesses great speed and strength which allows him to be a dynamic two-way player who will compliment our group of forwards nicely." And in an article by Peter Ruicci for the Sault Star, Howdeshell calls himself "pretty fast when I get going and I also have pretty-good hands. I think I’m a smart player, I see the ice pretty well and I’m more of a passer, a play-maker, than a scorer.”

Blade Jenkins - Saginaw Spirit
It was great to see the Spirit get a commitment from Jenkins this summer (giving up his scholarship to the University of Michigan), their former 4th overall selection in the 2016 Priority Draft. He played last year for the U.S. Development Program (U17), but struggled and was ultimately a role player for the team. He was also a member of the U.S.' Hlinka team this summer, but struggled at that event too. Needless to say, it's tough to put unfair expectations on Jenkins and what he'll be able to do in his rookie season. But he is a former highly touted prospect and a massive addition for Saginaw. 
Scouting Report: Andrew Weiss says, "Heading into the Priority Selection, most saw a move to Saginaw as the inevitable for Jenkins but little thought it would happen after one season. After a rocky first season with the NTDP, it was easy to see why the move was made this season. Jenkins fell victim to the great depth that the 2000 NTDP forwards which I think was a direct result of his skating holding him back. I don't think there's a scout in the US that will question his offensive abilities and his ability to think the game. For that reason and the thought that he'll be a top six forward with Saginaw, I think he'll have a pretty decent year contribution wise. I didn't get the chance to see him during the Hlinka but heard he looked like the same player he was last year. Although he wasn't named to the All-American Prospects Game I'm hopeful if there's an injury replacement he finds his way into the game next month. He's certainly going to be under the microscope a lot this year given that many saw him with the likes of Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde, etc. as elite 2000 birth year talents before last year's rocky season. Was last year just a result of a bad fit? I'm going to try and reserve my opinion until seeing what he can do with the Spirit this season."

Danny Katic - Saginaw Spirit 
Katic is a big winger who tore apart the GOJHL last year with Fort Erie (49 point in 44 games), earning a look from the Spirit late in the year. The 6'3 forward has a chance to be a top 9 forward in Saginaw this year and could be a wild card for the 2018 NHL Draft.
Scouting Report: An anonymous scout who sees a lot of the GOJHL says, "Having spent his draft year playing Midget hockey with those older and younger, Katic played a role behind some older players at the time. His move to the GOJHL’s Fort Erie allowed him to blossom as a go-to player, leading Fort Erie in scoring. Blessed with a long frame, Katic is a true 200-ft hockey player, who impacts the defensive side of the game from the wing. Likely to show well in possession metrics, Katic has a knack for causing neutral zone turnovers. Utilizes a long stride with good straight line speed to get up the ice quickly, Katic makes small but smart plays with the puck as a distributor. Will endear himself to coaches quickly as a Swiss-Army knife type of player."

Matthew MacDougall - Windsor Spitfires
A 3rd rounder by Barrie, MacDougall had his rights acquired by Windsor recently and has given them a commitment. He spent last year with St. Andrew's College where he helped them win a CISAA Championship. MacDougall will battle it out with a few others for playing time on the 3rd and 4th line in Windsor, with a chance to move up if they start rebuilding.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A heart-and-soul attacker with excellent understanding of the game on both sides of the puck. His top end speed eats up neutral zone ice well allowing him to intelligently gain zone entry eventually setting up offensive zone possession time. His top end speed eats up neutral zone ice well allowing him to intelligently gain zone entry eventually setting up offensive zone possession time. Overall, MacDougall's competitiveness and high energy compliment his smarts and skill very well making him an easy-to-project two-way forward."  

Thomas Maia - Mississauga Steelheads
Late round pick out of the Mississauga Rebels program who had an excellent season with Milton of the OJHL last year, putting up 35 points in 53 games. The undersized forward definitely has a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Steelheads this year, given the relatively wide open competition for a spot on the team's 4th line.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "The second true bright spot on the Icehawks last year was Steelheads’ prospect Thomas Maia. Oakville’s brain trust wanted a team with all sorts of speed, and so going out and getting the 2000-born Brampton native (in a recent trade) made all sorts of sense. Maia uses his foot speed well, preferring straight lines towards the net, despite his lack of imposing size, and that factor will crucially aid him on the big ice surface that he’ll play on half the time. By all accounts he will spend another year at Junior A, like his teammate Paul on a club with higher expectations, so his development is in great hands. It’s worth repeating: you can’t afford to ignore his type of speed, Maia can fly."

Ethan Manderville - Ottawa 67's 
Not listed on the 67's training camp roster for this year so it looks like he'll be going the NCAA route. But if he has a chance of heart at some point, he has a chance to be an impact OHL'er down the line. Manderville played for Kanata of the CCHL last year, one year removed from an injury plagued Minor Midget year that saw him fall to 7th round of the OHL draft. Future Considerations has him ranked 78th on their preliminary 2018 NHL Draft rankings.
Scouting Report: Conor Mulligan says, "Manderville was considered a top OHL Draft prospect during his draft year but fell to the 7th round after playing only 9 games due to injuries. Ethan is a smart 6’-3’’ forward who uses his size effectively to generate offense and win puck battles along the boards. As a 16 year-old last season Manderville really impressed me with his play away from the puck and his ability to kill penalties. I wouldn’t expect him to produce a lot of points next season in the OHL but I would expect him to play a strong two-game and work his way through the line-up to the point where he’s capable of playing a regular shift and contribute on the penalty kill."

Billy Moskal - London Knights
Moskal has a chance to be this year's Alex Formenton for the Knights (although it feels like London gets a big contribution from an older rookie every year). The 2nd rounder did suit up in 13 games for London last year, but spent the majority of the season with St. Mary's of the GOJHL. There he was one of the best U17 players in the league and was his Conference's Rookie of the Year. He also suited up for Canada Red at the U17's. Could be an impact player as early as this year IMO.
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Awarded as the Rookie of the Year in GOJHL's Western Conference, Moskal was a force in his season with the St. Mary's Lincolns. He is a quick-skating, well-balanced winger who plays with enthusiasm every shift and dominates his side of the ice. It is always hard to predict where guys will slot into the London Knights lineup, but with his ability to control the puck on the wing along with scoring and playmaking attributes, the Sudbury native should make positive contributions. He'll certainly be surrounded by a lot of high-end talent which wasn't always the case in his first junior season and he was still able to score 23 goals and total 52 points in 41 regular season games with the Lincolns."

Justin Paul - Currently a Free Agent
Might be the first time (in many years of this list) that I've put a current OHL free agent in the article. He attended Sarnia's rookie camp as an invite, but was not brought to their main camp. Perhaps Paul wishes to preserve his NCAA eligibility. Paul starred for Milton of the OJHL this past year where he was the highest scoring U17 player in the league (although Jack McBain did have a slightly higher point per game average). Someone bring this guy into the fold!
Scouting Report: Steven Ellis says, "Paul was one of the most explosive rookies in the OJHL this year, leading Milton with 45 points in a year that saw the dismal squad record just four wins in their 50th season. He was a glimmer of hope for the squad, posting four points in the final three games, that saw his team allow 25 goals in that span. For the then 16-year-old to prove that he can put up close to a point-per-game while playing against 20-year-olds on a team that was historically bad showed that he can reach the next level. In fact, playing in the OJHL would slow him down likely as he needs to be give a good foundation to work with and given a chance to shine in a stronger environment. He looked good at Sarnia’s training camp, and he should be able to bring his quick skating and deceptive shot to the major junior ranks effectively as a 17-year-old." Meanwhile Jamie Neugebauer says, "It probably was hard to find a bright side for the four-win Milton Icehawks last year, but the play of the 16-year-old Paul was certainly one of them. A crafty, slippery offensive left winger, Paul led the woeful Hawks in scoring, posting 16 goals, with not a single one coming on the power play. His passing and vision are likely the best translatable parts of his game, but the tremendous amounts of ice time against the other team’s best defenders that he faced every night last season will only have helped his development. By all accounts his tryout with the Sting went well, but he’ll get excellent tutelage from Greg Walters and the Georgetown Raiders, to whom he was traded in the off-season, should things not pan out in Sarnia."

Chris Playfair - Windsor Spitfires
A 4th rounder by the Spitfires, Playfair already got into 13 games for Windsor last year in a depth role. When he wasn't playing for Windsor, he suited up for LaSalle of the GOJHL where he put up 17 points in 30 games. Windsor will be looking for players to step up and earn consistent ice time this year thanks to some graduations and Playfair could certainly be one of those guys.
Scouting Report: Andrew Sykes says, "Playfair will jump into a full-time role after seeing limited time with the Spitfires last season.  With the LaSalle Vipers in the GOJHL, Playfair did not much produce offensively but was not consistently put in situations to do so. While his offensive game grows, the Waterloo native can be counted on to be an effective puck-pursuit winger who gets to pucks quickly through his great speed and length. His checking attributes should begin to be utilized in Windsor this year and I would look for him to make contributions on the penalty kill."

Sam Rhodes - Barrie Colts 
Been a tough summer for the Providence Friars program. They can't be too happy with the OHL after losing Merrick Rippon, Cam Hillis, and Sam Rhodes. But the NCAA's loss is Barrie's gain. An undersized forward, Rhodes played last year with the Skipjacks program in Pennsylvania (which play out of the USPHL, same league Cam Dineen came from a few years ago). His numbers weren't great but it's important to remember that he played on a U18 team. Should give the Colts even more offensive depth as they continue their rebuild.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "A possession skill player who displays good confidence and an impressive knack for converting on net-side opportunities. Despite being undersized, Rhodes displays not hesitations in playing a feisty, aggressive game with loads of offensive jam. Fearless attacker who is always around the puck, impressing with his abilities to operate through intense traffic both creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. Displays hard-to-contain lateral agility and explodes onto loose pucks creating chances extremely quick. Impressive playmaker in the scoring area, drawing pressure towards himself before hitting linemates in the heart of the scoring area  - a testament to his awareness and feel for the game. Draws a lot of penalties because of his non-stop motor and ability to buzz around in traffic. Explosive from a standstill helps him in short-burst attacks. Pitbull attacker who slips into scoring areas uncontested. As good as his playmaking skills are, he has proved to be a pretty lethal finisher, especially on breakaways and near-crease scoring opportunities. Size will remain a concern with skills but he is deceptively strong on pucks and handles contact fairly well."

Ryan Roth - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 
Free agent signing by the Hounds this summer, Roth looks like the type of player who could make an impact eventually in this league. Played for Honeybaked last year, leading the team in scoring (over relatively highly touted prospect Ryan Savage, who is Brian Savage's son and the same age). Also showed well at the U.S.' U16 camp (which they use to select their Hlinka team...although he wasn't selected for the final roster). Roth should compete for a 3rd/4th line role with the Hounds this year.
Scouting Report: From an article on the OHL's website, GM Kyle Raftis says, "Ryan comes to us as an extremely skilled player who combines his skating ability with his high hockey IQ. This enables him to be in the position that makes himself or his teammates offensively dangerous at all times. In tracking Ryan’s development over the past two years, we are extremely excited to see the steps he has taken to push himself to the next level. We can’t wait to watch him continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be a student athlete for the Greyhounds.”

Thomas Tinmouth - Ottawa 67's 
A top performer for the Toronto Marlboros at the 2016 OHL Cup (where they finished 2nd), Tinmouth was a 4th rounder of the 67's. Last year he played for Stouffville of the OJHL where he put up 28 points in 49 games, solid production for a U17 player. He's yet another forward who will battle for 3rd/4th line ice time on the 67's this year, if he chooses to go the OHL route (he listed as part of Ottawa's training camp).
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "Most players need to get bigger and stronger when moving up levels, and that is certainly true for Tinmouth if he desires to make the jump to Ottawa this year. That being said, the 6-foot, 165-pounder’s on-ice instincts are certainly there. His 15 goals as a 16-year-old with Stouffville were solid, and unlike many minor midgets making the jump to junior hockey, his production didn’t suffer drastically as late-season fatigue set in. The positional, structured game of the next level will be an adjustment to a young man that was used to his fair share of improvisation the last couple of years, but the fact that he got plenty of situational ice time on the Spirit last year should be a big help in his development. He is still eligible for NCAA, so it will be interesting to see whether he wants to go the school route."

Richard Whittaker - London Knights 
Whittaker was a 4th round pick of the Knights after winning an OHL Cup with YSE in 2016. Last year he suited up for the London Nationals of the GOJHL where he put up 30 points in 45 games. He also helped the Nationals reach the finals of the Sutherland Cup (although they did lose to Elmira). Whittaker has a chance to be a 4th liner for the Knights this year and more than that moving forward.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Whittaker creates a ton of offensive chances with his strong carrying ability, astute vision and creative puck handling permitting him to catalyze chances inside the offensive zone. Smart and patient in possession, he owns the skill to out wait pressure holding onto pucks that draw defenders towards him before exploiting the opened up space. Prone to holding onto pucks too long and he occasionally falls into a support role but when he’s in control, he is as effective as many of his skilled teammates. Possesses excellent long-term potential and true offensive top-six upside."

Jack Wismer - Flint Firebirds 
One of the highest drafted players to not play in the OHL last year (41st overall in 2016), Wismer is a great candidate to make an impact as a rookie this year for Flint. It certainly wasn't a slam dunk that he would commit to the Firebirds (after speaking out last year when drafted about their turbulent situation), but he did sign his deal earlier this summer. Wismer missed the majority of last year with an upper body injury, but did serve as a point per game player with Ancaster of the GOJHL in limited action. He likely ends up a top 9 forward for the Firebirds this year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Brings a solid knowledge of the game and displays a quick hockey processor allowing him to utilize extra time on the attack and identify prime passing lanes. Average-sized winger who offers nice puck-carrying and goal-scoring capacities. Not an overly quick skater but he owns good top speed and noteworthy power and balance. Difficult to knock off of the puck especially below the hash marks where he can utilize strength and protection skills to extend puck time. Most dangerous on the rush, generating speed and powering into the zone with impressive power." Also was a favourite of TheScout's Matt Stewart in our draft primer in 2016, stating, "Sneaky type player who has all the skills necessary to excel at the next level. Can do things at top speed that others cannot. Has a quick shot off the wing and can also find team mates with a deft pass. Cerebral player, can out think opponents."

Quinn Yule - Ottawa 67's 
Massive winger (6'5) who showed well with Newmarket of the OJHL last year, posting 27 points in 46 games. Also got into one game with the 67's. As mentioned, the 67's have a ton of talented forwards competing for spots this year, but Yule certainly has something the majority of them don't; size and physicality. That could give him an advantage to earning a spot and becoming a quality 4th liner for Ottawa.
Scouting Report: Jamie Neugebauer says, "It is cliché because it’s true: you can’t teach size; and Yule has it in spades. At a towering 6-foot-5, Yule took great advantage of playing on a great line for a lot of last year in Newmarket, and half the battle in being as big as him is knowing how to use it. He isn’t yet very strong, but at that size, and possessing of nice soft hands in tight, the 67’s like what they have in him, and if he can fill in physically, he absolutely has the intelligence to do very well at the next level. He already has OHL experience, playing one game with Ottawa last season, and if he can add a physical element to his game, the sky is his limit."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Preseason Top 30 for the 2018 NHL Draft

With the Ivan Hlinka tournament completed and OHL preseason action around the corner, it's time for the first draft list of the season. I only started doing a preseason list a few years ago, but I enjoy it because it gives you a great perspective on where players have come from (for fun, here's the 2017 preseason list).

This is obviously a very difficult list to make. The progression for draft eligible players can often be a tad unpredictable. The player you see in a sophomore season isn't often the same player you see in a freshman year. Growth spurts occur. Strength is added. Confidence grows. Timid perimeter players can become physical beasts, etc. Or, conversely, you've got players who look great as 17 year olds but just don't progress in their sophomore seasons. Plus, you've got all the players who haven't yet played in the OHL (at least more than a few games), but who are projected to be impact players in their draft year (Andrei Svechnikov, Merrick Rippon, etc).

Heading into the season, I think the most noticeable thing about this year's OHL crop is the lack of a true top player (or players) on this current list. I honestly believe that a case can be made for any of the top 5/6 guys on my list currently as the #1. Because of that, it should come as no surprise that on early lists from scouting agencies, the OHL presence (in terms of current players) inside the top 10 is lacking. Of course, Andrei Svechnikov will probably cure that as a potential first overall pick, but it's interesting none the less. Which of these guys, if any, will really step up as potential top 10 picks?

Here's my early list:

1. Akil Thomas - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
At this point, Thomas is the top OHL prospect for me. He's not a big, power center. He's not a dominant physical player. He's not a quality two-way player. But, what he is, is an offensive wizard who is the complete package in terms of his ability to control play in the offensive end. He's a terrific skater, who looked like he had added an even more explosive first few steps at this year's Hlinka. His elite lateral agility is definitely most noticeable as it makes him incredibly elusive. IQ and playmaking ability is also elite IMO. Has fantastic anticipation and vision and the hands to create time and space for himself to extend possession and make plays. Thomas also possesses a quality shot and huge goal scoring potential. As an offensive player, he has practically no weakness. As a "complete" player, there's work to do. If he can find a way to use his speed to be a more consistent factor away from the puck, it would add another element to his repertoire. And obviously continuing to add strength would make him more difficult to separate from the puck. But the bare bones are there for a player that could be first line winger in the NHL.  

2. Ryan Merkley - Defense - Guelph Storm
Merkley is already the most talked about player from the OHL in this draft crop because of how he has scouts divided. Those who love him, love the way he can create offense using his fantastic skating ability. His ability to start, stop, change direction, and leave defenders in his wake is a sight to behold and can be mesmerizing. And his ability to control the point on the powerplay, opening up lanes and creating scoring chances is also a thing of beauty. Those who don't love him point to his questionable decisions with the puck and his weak play in the defensive end. And his lack of size has some comparing him to Ryan Murphy, who's had a tough time breaking into the NHL. Merkley is number 2 for me still because his potential is off the charts. Defenders who can create offense like Merkley can, do not grow on trees and are pivotal to success in today's NHL. When you've got a guy like Merkley, you're going to have to live with some turnovers because of the way he plays. High risk, high reward. That said, he's not number one because I've seen him at his worst, where he's turnover prone and ineffective in the defensive end. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will improve next year. And based on what we saw at the Hlinka, he's taken steps forward. He doesn't have to be perfect, but improving his awareness and effort in the defensive end will be the deciding factor as to whether he's a lottery pick or taken later.

3. Ryan McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Speaking of big, power centers (that I mentioned earlier), McLeod is one of those. With his play in this year's playoffs, he really elevated his status as a prospect IMO and secured this number 3 spot for me. The late '99, 6'2 forward is obviously the brother of teammate Michael McLeod and he plays a relatively similar game. Fantastic skater. Has the ability to dominate at both ends. Better playmaker than he is a goal scorer. Like his brother, Ryan will need to continue to improve his shot and his ability to drive the middle of the ice to create scoring chances. But if he can average a point per game (like he did in this year's playoffs) and dominate without the puck the way that he's capable of, McLeod will be an NHL first round pick. 

4. Ty Dellandrea - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Another power center, Dellandrea is coming off a solid first season with the Firebirds. He was also part of Canada's gold medal entry at this summer's Hlinka, where he played a shutdown, 4th line role and excelled as a penalty killer. Dellandrea is one of the most complete players of this age group, as he does a lot of little things well. Forechecks hard. Wins faceoffs. Wins battles along the wall. Uses his size to separate players from the puck. Uses his size to play the front of the net and be a disruptive force. Just a really solid player in all three zones who excels without the puck. This year I think we'll get a better idea of the offensive potential he possesses. Will he take that next step forward as a playmaking center who can drive the play and consistently create scoring chances with his size and speed? Close between McLeod and Dellandrea, but McLeod's playoff performance gives him the slight nod for me right now.

5. Evan Bouchard - Defense - London Knights
Another late '99, Bouchard is a mobile defender who has already improved a lot over his first two seasons in the OHL. Relatively effortless skater who does a good job starting the breakout and possesses a lot of offensive potential with the way that he jumps up into the play and can control the puck. Has learned to use his mobility to defend well off the rush, just as Victor Mete did under the Knights' coaching staff. He'll need to continue to work on his defensive zone coverage, and to limit his turnovers from trying to force plays up ice. But with good size, and mobility, he could be a quality two-way defender at the next level. If he could up his intensity in the defensive end and continue to create offense from the back-end, he could and should be a top 45 pick come June. I'm a big fan of his two-way potential.

6. Allan McShane - Forward - Oshawa Generals
McShane is best described as one of those guys that you sometimes don't notice a ton, but when the game is over, he's got three points. Hockey IQ is off the charts good. Was able to step right into two quality OHL lineups (Erie and Oshawa) and have an impact as a supporting offensive player despite not being the quickest or the strongest. Reads defenses very well and has great hands and vision. Shows intensity without the puck and could be a very good two-way player once he gets stronger. The one thing that he does have going against him is a lack of size and a lack of elite skating ability. As an under 6' center, he's going to need to show improvement in his first few steps this year if he wants to be an NHL first rounder (or tear up the league offensively the way Nick Suzuki did). Unfortunately, he missed the Hlinka because of an upper body injury (from an open ice hit by Jett Woo in camp), so hopefully he's ready to start the OHL season.

7. Barrett Hayton - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Moved up several spots on this list with an outstanding Hlinka performance. Was one of Canada's most consistent forwards. Really like the competitiveness and feistiness he showed. Drives the net with a reckless abandon and shows very good hands in close. But also has the skating ability and wrist shot to be a fantastic goal scoring forward. He's going to be a big part of a strong Soo Greyhounds team this year and I think that he'll be a quick riser up draft boards.

8. Giovanni Vallati - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Vallati was one of the most disappointing players at this summer's Hlinka camp (and was the reason he didn't make the team), but you can't completely overlook all the great things he did as an OHL rookie last season. Has everything you look for in an NHL defender. Size, terrific mobility, good IQ at both ends, solid puck skill. In particular, I loved his conservative and effective defensive approach as a rookie, as he emerged as a top 4 defender on an injury riddled Kitchener blueline. His skating ability really is an asset at both ends. But he'll need to increase his intensity level in the defensive end next year and really start to utilize his size. He'll also have to figure out a way to improve his offensive production without becoming turnover prone (which was an issue at the Hlinka camp). Should definitely be a top 2 round pick come June (although I think I said the same thing about Jacob Paquette at this time last year).

9. Kevin Bahl - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Massive defender who could be this year's Logan Stanley. At 6'6, Bahl has the length and size to become a dominant defensive player. He certainly showed that at this year's Hlinka where he played a shutdown role as a third pairing defender and PK specialist. Actually possesses pretty decent mobility for a big man too, which only further solidifies his potential as a stay at home stalwart. The million dollar question is what type of offensive potential and capability does he possess? At the Hlinka, I thought he did a great job with the puck, making quick decisions in the defensive end and actually displaying good skill and reads at the point in the offensive end. Scored a huge goal for Canada in the medal round. Like Hayton, Bahl could be a quick riser if he can show well at both ends.

10. Dennis Busby - Defense - Flint Firebirds
One of my personal favourites among this year's OHL crop. Busby is already one of the better skating defenders in the OHL and this gives him great potential as a two-way defender. Thought he showed exceptionally well at the Hlinka camp, despite not making the team. Offensively, he can push the pace of play and lead the rush deep into the offensive end. His skating gives him great separation from forecheckers. And defensively, he makes up for a lack of elite size with that plus mobility and a solid defensive IQ. With his size, he's going to need to put up good offensive numbers this year to be a top two round pick, but I am definitely a believer. 

11. Owen Lalonde - Defense - Guelph Storm
This ranking certainly has more to do with potential than it does performance thus far. Lalonde certainly wasn't bad in his rookie season in the OHL, but he wasn't a standout player either. Like Busby, The former 2nd overall pick in the priority draft did show well at this summer's Hlinka camp though. Saw more from him offensively in those couple days than I did all of last season. Lalonde does have the potential to be a quality two-way defender and with an increased role we could see that come to fruition. He finally got his trade from Sudbury and is now a member of the Guelph Storm, which is a great fit for him. He and Merkley actually looked great when paired together on the PP at the Hlinka camp.

12. Kirill Nizhnikov - Forward - Barrie Colts
Bit of a tough first year for Nizhnikov in the OHL. Held out for a trade from the Steelheads and went to Barrie, but was limited to only 43 games due to injury. Without question, Nizhnikov is one of the most offensively talented players in this age group. Size, speed, and skill on the wing. Off the rush, he can be a really dynamic player and has a ton of goal scoring potential due to a quick release and creative hands. Also plays with some jam to his game and isn't afraid to mix things up. But consistency is an issue, especially in his play away from the puck. When the puck isn't on his stick, he's not the most noticeable player. Really needs to keep his feet moving as he has a tendency to float. But Barrie is injecting some some crazy talent into their roster this coming year and if Nizhnikov gets to play with Svechnikov and Lipanov, he could put up some impressive offensive numbers. Major wild card for the draft at this point.

13. Jacob Ingham - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads
Without a doubt, the top goaltending prospect from the OHL for the draft at this point. Ingham had an excellent rookie season with the Steelheads where he split time with Matt Mancina. He really kept Mississauga afloat while Mancina was struggling to find his game. Big, athletic goaltender who displays excellent positioning in the butterfly. Really tracks pucks well and has good movement. Like any young goalie, rebound control and fighting through traffic are areas that need to improve. But he's going to be the starter on a quality Mississauga team this year. Would be extremely surprised if Ingham doesn't remain the top goalie of this OHL class this year and a top three round pick.

14. Serron Noel - Forward - Oshawa Generals
Noel is a player who got better and better as the 2016/17 season went on. The massive winger (6'5, 200lbs) is also coming off a very impressive performance at this summer's Hlinka where he played a key role on Canada's gold medal winning squad. Love Noel's intensity away from the puck. A tireless worker who is an excellent forechecker because of his wingspan and physical gifts. Has relatively impressive straight ahead speed for a big man too and drives the net with authority. Noel really has the potential to develop into a puck possession monster. I guess the big question I have is how much offensive potential does he have? Looks awkward when moving East/West and will need to work on his agility and balance. But if he can prove to be a quality goal scorer this year to go with the size and the impact he has without the puck, Noel is going to quickly climb up draft boards.

15. Connor Roberts - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
A solid pro style center who has the size and ability to dominate in puck possession. Already 6'4, 215lbs, Roberts shows flashes of being able to drive the play in the offensive end by grinding out along the wall and being very difficult to separate from the puck. Doesn't possess elite start-ups, but once he gets going, he's like a mack truck who can drive the net with authority. At the Hlinka camp, actually thought he looked even quicker than he did last year which is bad news for the OHL opposition. Would love to see him play more physically and have greater intensity without the puck. Also still wonder about his overall offensive potential, especially as a playmaker. How good is his vision? But definitely a potential power center who will garner a ton of NHL interest if he produces offensively.

16. David Levin - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
Probably going to be a surprise to many with how low I have Levin. Firstly, he's a very creative player with the puck who possesses high end stickhandling ability. Can create time and space for himself with his hands. Has a sneaky good release on his wrist shot too and is slowly getting more aggressive in using it. But there are a lot of red flags for me when it comes to him being an elite level NHL prospect. He hasn't grown since entering the OHL and remains relatively undersized for a center in today's NHL. Couple that with the fact that he's not the quickest skater. Has good agility which makes him relatively elusive, but he doesn't possess great straight ahead speed or starts ups, which limits his effectiveness off the rush. I also still find him to be relatively turnover prone in the offensive zone; a lot of dazzle, but not a ton comes from it. Lastly, his two-way play and effectiveness away from the puck also remains a work in progress as he looks to get stronger. Now I know that Levin hasn't been playing high level hockey for very long, so there was bound to be a learning curve. But this is a kid who's a late '99, entering his 3rd year in the league. Because he doesn't skate incredibly well, isn't much of a complete player, and lacks ideal size, I'm just not sure he's going to be a high draft pick. Unless, of course, he lights up the league offensively and finds himself up near the top of the league's scoring race. And at this point, I'm just not sure I see that least not yet. Still a solid prospect, but not in the first round as some publications have him.

17. Matthew Struthers - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Very underrated prospect for this draft right now because of his late '99 birth date and because he's yet to take on a large role in the OHL. But he has the makings of developing into a quality two-way center with size. Really excelled in a depth role (3rd/4th line center) for the Attack last year. Really seems to know how to work in tight spaces, drawing in defenders and showcasing good vision coming off the wall. Also shows the potential to be a solid net presence with good strength on the puck. And playing for an Attack team that preaches two-way play from it's players, his defensive game has improved and shows a lot of potential, especially when paired with his size. Really interested to see what he can do with a little more ice time this year (although it looks like he'll battle a guy like Aidan Dudas for that). Just how good he can be offensively remains to be seen, but I have liked what I have seen thus far.

18. Nathan Dunkley - Forward - Kingston Fronteancs
Highly competitive two-way, playmaking center who is coming off an excellent rookie season and performance at the Hlinka camp (even though he was left off of the final roster). One of the first things you notice is Dunkley's speed. Incredibly quick player who has an extremely high motor, always buzzing around looking for an opportunity to battle for the puck. As he gets stronger, I think we'll see his physical game really develop to match his forechecking ability. Shows good vision as a playmaker, and the ability to use his speed to create plays off the rush. He's slightly undersized and I do wonder how much of a goal scorer he can be, but if he performs well, he could be a quick mover up the rankings.

19. Liam Foudy - Forward - London Knights
Speedy, competitive forward who has been tough to get a read on because of wavering ice time with the deep Knights (a tune we're all used to hearing). But I saw enough games of London last year where he made the odd play or two that really made me believe his potential is quite high. Like how he uses his speed to attack the middle of the ice and he does seem to possess quite good hands. And he's a competitive kid who is already a pretty good forechecker. A lack of size and strength really seemed to prevent him from making a consistent impact as a rookie. And is he a center or a winger? Lots of questions surrounding Foudy (including how much ice time he gets this year too), but I've seen enough to rank him this highly.

20. Tyler Tucker - Defense - Barrie Colts
Easily one of my favourite prospects for the draft right now from this OHL crop. To be blunt, he was one of the only reasons I enjoyed watching the Colts, at times, last year. Tucker, with only a year of OHL hockey under his belt, is already one of the most physical defenders in the OHL. Really competitive kid who seems to relish in the opportunity to lay out an attacker, and defends the crease and the corners with pride. His skating isn't great, but IMO it's already improved. At the beginning of the year we saw teams looking to abuse him out wide, beating him with speed. But by the end of the year, it seems like he had made some great adjustments to utilize his size and anticipate the play better. Currently, makes simple decisions with the puck and doesn't really look to take chances. But I know he was known for a massive point shot in minor midget. As long as he continues to improve his mobility, and shows a little more with the puck, Tucker could be a quality stay at home defense prospect.

21. Kody Clark - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Really liked the development of Clark as the OHL season went on last year. Transferring from St. Andrew's College, there was bound to be a learning curve, but I felt like Clark got better and better as the year progressed. The son of Leafs' legend Wendel Clark, Kody has undergone a big growth spurt over the last few years (was 5'9 in his OHL draft year and was listed at 6'1 by the 67's last year). It's really helped his competitive style of game, giving him the strength to drive the net and it's given him better puck protection skills. Showed a lot of potential late in the year as a power winger who can put defenders on his back and make skilled plays with the puck. Possesses a heavy shot and could definitely have goal scoring potential. He's a late '99, so he'll probably have to have quite the breakout season to stay on the draft radar. But he could be this year's Jonah Gadjovich. Really curious to see how his game looks this year.

22. Carter Robertson - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Raw defender who was one of my favourites heading into the 2016 Priority Draft. His rookie season in Ottawa had major ups and downs. Thought he looked pretty decent to start the year, showcasing his natural offensive abilities from the back-end. But as the season went on, he really seemed to tire/lose confidence and his ice time was cut as well (even drawing in as a forward a few times). Still think he's got among the highest potential of any defender in this age group, as he gains strength and confidence in his abilities. Has size, mobility, smarts, and skill. Just needs to gain experience. Was disappointed that he didn't stand out more at the Hlinka camp, but I still think he'll have a good sophomore season. 

23. Adam McMaster - Forward - North Bay Battalion
McMaster is an undersized center who is also one of the quickest players of this age group. He can flat out fly on the ice and he's learning how use his speed to be an asset without the puck too, under the tutelage of Stan Butler. Like how competitive he is and how he plays bigger than his size. He flashes great skill with the puck and the ability to be a top flight playmaker too. Given his lack of size, I want to see how his offensive game continues to grow before I put him higher on my list. He looked good at the Hlinka camp and hopefully he can take that experience and use it to become a go to player for the Battalion this year. They're going to need the scoring help. 

24. Riley Damiani - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Another undersized forward who plays with a high compete level. Demonstrated great effort at both ends for the Rangers in a checking line role last year. But I think there's a lot of offensive potential here. Flashes great hands and creativity, to go with great acceleration. He's very quick to loose pucks and always seems to keep his motor running. Damiani is another player I thought had a very good Hlinka camp and looks poised to have a breakout in the OHL. The question is, where does he slot in a deep Kitchener lineup? Will he get the ice time necessary to standout?

25. Hunter Holmes - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Really intriguing offensively oriented center. Center with decent size who flashes potential to be able to control the middle of the ice. Looks comfortable working in close to the net and displays good hands in close. Because he lacked strength, he struggled a bit as an OHL rookie. But as he gets stronger, he could be a very interesting prospect. Good size, good skating, good hands, and the potential to control the tempo in the offensive end if he adds more intensity to his game. It will be really interesting to see where he slides into Flint's line-up this year and how he grows with a young team.

26. Declan Chisholm - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Smooth skating, potential two-way defender who received sheltered minutes on a deep blueline as a rookie. The biggest compliment that you could make is that he didn't ever stand out in a negative way. Makes smart decisions with the puck and shows a good head for the game defensively. I guess the question is, how much can he impact the game offensively using his skating ability? As he moves into a top four role this year (likely), we'll get a good chance to see what he's capable of at both ends. Could be a quick riser if he shows well. 

27. Pavel Gogolev - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Even with limited ice time on a solid Peterborough club, Gogolev had a relatively disappointing rookie season after being drafted 8th overall. You can tell he has a high skill level, but the strength, confidence, and intensity level were seriously lacking last year and it prevented him from making more of an impact. Billed as a puck protection beast and net presence, it's likely Gogolev just wasn't physically mature enough to play his game. That brings us to this season where he's hopefully gained the strength to give him the confidence to use his speed and puck carrying ability to put a few more pucks in the net. But he'll have to play better to earn more ice time on a still strong Peterborough club.

28. Aidan Dudas - Forward - Owen Sound Attack
Absolutely love this player. He's extremely exciting to watch and you can tell that his hustle and non stop motor is contagious among his linemates. Thought he had a great Hlinka tournament, where he showcased his intense, puck hound style. He's just a very complete player and I think he's going to eventually develop into a terrific OHL player. The problem is, he's extremely undersized, even by NHL standards. At only 5'7 (as per his Hlinka measurements), Dudas is going to have to play out of his mind to stay on NHL draft lists. But he could get a chance to be a 2nd liner in Owen Sound this year and I think he's going to have a good year. But will it be enough? If this guy were 5'11, or even 5'10, he'd be in my top 15 on this list.

29. Max Grondin - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
A very interesting prospect for this year's draft and a guy who will rise pretty quickly if he can up his offensive production. Grondin is a 6'3 power center who drives the net hard, works the corners, and plays both ends efficiently. His skating needs to improve, and I think it remains to be seen as to how good his hands are and what his offensive potential is. But these are the types of guys NHL teams love and Grondin is going to get more of a chance to contribute this year if he shows progression early on.

30. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev - Forward - Peterborough Petes
One of the more exciting players to watch in this age group because of his playmaking ability. Dazzles in puck control at times because he can keep the puck on a string. But also exhibits the vision to spot passing lanes and anticipates the play well. For a rookie, I thought he did a good job limiting his turnovers in the offensive end. He is undersized though (5'9) and he'll need to continue to get quicker to make himself more elusive. And obviously adding strength will be crucial to filling out the rest of his game so he doesn't have to constantly rely on his hands to create time and space. Potential is very high here.

Honorable Mentions:

Jordan Kooy - Goaltender - London Knights

Damien Giroux - Forward - Saginaw Spirit

Connor Corcoran - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Peter Stratis - Defense - Ottawa 67's

DJ Busdeker - Forward - Saginaw Spirit

Brady Hinz - Forward - Sarnia Sting

Eric Guest - Forward - Kitchener Rangers

Appearing Soon:

Andrei Svechnikov - Forward - Barrie Colts

Merrick Rippon - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads

Nico Gross - Defense - Oshawa Generals

Blade Jenkins - Forward - Saginaw Spirit

Zach Malik - Defense - Sudbury Wolves

Adam Liska - Forward - Kitchener Rangers

Billy Moskal - Forward - London Knights

Cam Hillis - Forward - Guelph Storm