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 OHL.com, 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."