Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

Past the halfway point of the season now, NHL Central Scouting has updated their rankings for 2018.

Here's a look at how the OHL players fared. A total of 61 were ranked. And of course, if you wanted to compare, here's my midseason top 50. Also, see below for my thoughts on the list.

1. Andrei Svechnikov (1)
2. Evan Bouchard (5)
3. Barrett Hayton (6)
4. Serron Noel (9)
5. Akil Thomas (10)
6. Rasmus Sandin (15)
7. Ryan McLeod (16)
8. Ryan Merkley (21)
9. Blade Jenkins (24)
10. Kody Clark (28)
11. Kevin Bahl (30)
12. Allan McShane (33)
13. Giovanni Vallati (38)
14. Sean Durzi (39)
15. Declan Chisholm (42)
16. Alec Regula (43)
17. Nico Gross (47)
18. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (58)
19. Cam Hillis (59)
20. Carter Robertson (61)
21. Merrick Rippon (63)
22. Curtis Douglas (70)
23. Pavel Gogolev (75)
24. Ty Dellandrea (76)
25. Mitchell Hoelscher (82)
26. Albert Michnac (84)
27. Caleb Everett (86)
28. Liam Foudy (91)
29. Sam Bitten (94)
30. Connor Corcoran (96)
31. Tyler Tucker (104)
32. Matthew Struthers (108)
33. Peter Stratis (116)
34. Maxim Golod (118)
35. Riley Damiani (119)
36. Matthew MacDougall (121)
37. Brady Lyle (127)
38. Billy Moskal (130)
39. Aidan Dudas (131)
40. Nathan Dunkley (132)
41. Mac Hollowell (133)
42. Rickard Hugg (134)
43. Hugo Leufvenius (136)
44. Renars Krastenbergs (137)
45. Justin Brazeau (141)
46. Brandon Saigeon (143)
47. Hunter Holmes (149)
48. Connor Roberts (150)
49. Luke Burghardt (153)
50. Adam Thilander (155)
51. Kirill Nizhnikov (161)
52. Adam Liska (162)
53. Justin MacPherson (163)
54. William Ennis (173)
55. Damien Giroux (177)
56. David Levin (183)
57. Linus Nyman (202)
58. Maxim Grondin (211)
LV. Zack Malik
LV. Dennis Busby

1. Jacob Ingham (3)
2. Jordan Kooy (13)
3. Nick Donofrio (17)

If you're curious to see the full list, you can find it here

Here are my thoughts:

1. In comparison to my list, here are the biggest discrepancies:
I Have Higher:
Kirill Nizhnikov (-28)
Damien Giroux (-25)
Nathan Dunkley (-25)
David Levin (-25) 
Dennis Busby (-24)
Brady Hinz (-23) - Not Ranked
Riley Damiani (-19)
Adam Liska (-19)
Aidan Dudas (-17) 
Owen Lalonde (-17) - Not Ranked
Alex Gritz (-14) - Not Ranked
Ty Dellandrea (-12) 
Connor Roberts (-12)
Cam Hillis (-9) 

I Have Lower:
Mitchell Hoelscher (+23)
Liam Foudy (+22)
Maxim Golod (+15)
Peter Stratis (+14)
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (+14)
Declan Chisholm (+13)
Sam Bitten (+11)
Nico Gross (+10)
Blade Jenkins (+9)
Rasmus Sandin (+8)

2. There are definitely some major differences between my list and the one released by Central Scouting. There are some real oddities for me. The low rankings of Nathan Dunkley, Aidan Dudas, Riley Damiani, and Ty Dellandrea are head scratching. In particular, Dunkley, Dudas, and Damiani are all ranked below the likes of Michnac, Mitchell Hoelscher, Sam Bitten, and Maxim Golod. Some of those guys are undersized themselves. So I just don't get it. 

3. I wanted to touch on Hoelscher. Yes, he shows up as the player with the biggest discrepancy (in terms of CSS having him higher than I), but I'm actually quite happy to see that. I've mentioned a few times this year on the blog and on social media that I'm a huge Hoelscher fan. I'm shocked they have him that high (even with me liking him, I wouldn't have him that high), but he's a solid player and is better than the numbers he's putting up.

4. Amazingly high number of draft re-entries listed. This isn't shocking to me. Looking around the OHL (and the CHL), the number of potential candidates is massive. Tons of players who were previously passed over have had sensational seasons. Durzi isn't a shock as the top ranked one. He deserves it. What does shock me is the absence of Joey Keane, Jakob Brahaney, and Tyler Burnie, three of the league's top re-entry candidates. Keane, in particular, screams NHL pro to me and he's only one year off being draft eligible. I honestly thought he would be in the 60-75 range on this list.

5. One last thing to touch on is the high ranking of Serron Noel. This one seems to be being used as the example of what's wrong with NHL Central Scouting on the whole. People see Noel as a huge kid whose offensive stats aren't terrific and point to CSS' fascination with size. But they aren't alone in having Noel high in the rankings. Many do, including me. Noel is an extremely raw player who is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of. Do I think he should be a first round pick? No. But this guy is a legit top 45 talent because of what he could become.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Overagers Worth Signing (2018)

This is a yearly tradition (take a look at the Sunday Top 10 sidebar for other years). It's time to examine the top overagers in the OHL, available to be signed by NHL teams for the 2018 calendar year.

Only one player on this list has signed an NHL deal thus far, but they will still be included. This list intends to rank players according to the likelihood that they continue their career at the professional level. 

Likely more than half of the players on this list will not end up getting a professional contract and will play in the CIS. It's the nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a few will and many will not (be signed) and those players who do not, will take advantage of their education package while continuing to play a high level of hockey at a Canadian University. This is a particularly weak crop of overage players for NHL scouts, as many of the top overage players in the league this year already have NHL affiliation.

It's important to note that this list does not include overagers who have yet to sign NHL contracts, despite having their draft rights owned by a team (for example Jeremy Helvig, Kole Sherwood, Jalen Smereck, etc). This list is for those players who are NHL free agents after going through the draft two or three times (depending on their birth date).

Here's the list:

1. Aaron Luchuk - Forward - Barrie Colts
The only OHL overage free agent to sign an NHL deal thus far (with Ottawa), and quite frankly, he might be the only one on this list to actually get an NHL deal. He's improved nearly every year that he's been in the league and this year has been no different. He's already set career highs in goals and points and we've still got a third of the season to play. Luchuk is an intelligent, energetic forward who has very quick hands. Always keeps his feet moving and processes the game at a high speed. He's not the world's fastest skater straight ahead, and if you combine that with his lack of height (5'10), it helps to explain his lack of interest from NHL scouts prior to this year. But coming into his OA year, Luchuk looks quicker laterally and more explosive thanks to added size. Said bulk has also helped him to be stronger on and off the puck, where he's now able to bide more time for himself to operate in the offensive end. To go with his offensive skill set, Luchuk has always been a strong two-way player who competes just as hard defensively as he does in the offensive end. The added strength has made him that much more effective at working along the wall and winning loose puck battles. In terms of NHL potential, it's tough to say where Luchuk fits in. I think his puck skill and shot release will need to continue to improve for him to become a top 6 player. And he'll need to become a little more physically intense to play a checking line role. But he's without question the top OA available to sign this year IMO and the Sens did well taking a chance on him.

2. Nikita Korostelev - Forward - Peterborough Petes
The former Leafs draft pick has had a pretty good season for Peterborough after failing to earn a pro contract this offseason. The size (6'1, 200lbs) and skill package is going to be alluring for NHL scouts. Korostelev has a great shot with an extremely quick and powerful release. And his skill with the puck is unquestioned. He creates a lot of time and space for himself in the offensive zone, especially coming off the wall or if he can get a step on a defender coming down the wing. One on one, he can be tough to stop. But his skating just has not improved over the course of his OHL career, as he lacks separation ability, relying on his hands to create that space. And not enough of his goals are scored in the middle of the ice. A guy with his size should dominate down low, but it just hasn't been the case consistently over the course of his OHL career. There are certainly flashes, but that's been the criticism since his minor midget days. I think he plays pro somewhere next year and if a coach can truly motivate him to change the way he plays, he could be an asset to an organization. 

3. Justin Lemcke - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs
Long serving captain of the Bulldogs, Lemcke is the very definition of a "solid" defender. Does everything for the first place Bulldogs. The 6'2, 200lbs defender has to be considered one of the best in his own end in the Eastern Conference. Always in the right place at the right time, and has worked hard to improve his lateral and backwards mobility to keep pace with the league's skilled forwards. Lemcke is extremely difficult to win board battles against. He's no slouch offensively either, even if he'll never be mistaken for a speedster. Makes a good first pass and isn't very turnover prone. He also plays a bit on the powerplay where he does a good job getting a low, hard shot through to the net. Depending on how well Hamilton plays in the playoffs this year, I could see Lemcke being this year's Dakota Mermis or Jacob Graves.

4. Ryan Moore - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Speed, speed, and more speed. Moore has to be considered one of the quickest forwards in the OHL. And while his offensive production has dipped a bit from last year, I'm not sure his play has. Extremely dynamic in transition as he's very good at protecting the puck through the neutral zone and across the blueline, despite being only 5'8. And he's fearless on the ice. Attacks the net and is effective fighting through traffic to get to loose pucks in the slot and near the crease. Moore also uses his speed to be an effective forechecker. Will need to prove that he can use his speed at the pro level to create just as effectively, but I could see him earning a pro contract like Niki Petti did last year.

5. Justin Fazio - Goaltender - Sarnia Sting
Easily one of the OHL's most improved goaltenders this year. Fazio might just be the front runner for the league's top goaltender award at this point. At 6'1, he has the size that NHL teams look for in goaltenders these days and he's worked hard to improve his post to post quickness in the crease. But it's his reads and rebound control that have improved the most this year. I always found him to be the type to get caught out of position previously, over-committing or going down to early. But he's playing with more poise and control this year. Sarnia needed him to have a big season to make them contenders and he's done just that. Has been great from puck drop this year. It's pretty rare for overage goaltenders to earn pro contracts (unless they're massive), but if Fazio can lead the Sting deep into the playoffs, he could get himself a pro deal IMO. You have to applaud the improvements he's made.

6. Connor Schlichting - Defense - Sarnia Sting
It's great to see Schlichting put his injury woes behind him as he's played two consecutive seasons injury free after only playing 56 combined the previous two. I think that this season we're really seeing what he's capable of now that he's healthy and confident. At one point, he was considered one of the best defenders in the '97 age group in Ontario. Schlichting has been Sarnia's number one defender this year, playing a ton of minutes for the Sting in all situations. He has the size (6'3, 200lbs) to play on an NHL blueline, but his skating will need to continue to evolve. He was billed as a puck mover coming out of minor midget, but it's actually been his defensive game that has grown to become his main asset. His +24 this year is no fluke. He is extremely impressive in the defensive end as someone who can take away space below the hash marks, although I would still consider him more of a positional/stick checker. The same things I said about Justin Lemcke apply to Schlichting. If he can be the #1 defender on an OHL champion, he's going to earn an NHL deal.

7. Mason Kohn - Forward - Saginaw Spirit 
Trade to Saginaw has saved Kohn's season after a disappointing start to the year in Oshawa. His acquisition by the Spirit has also turned their season around, as he's been the catalyst to their run up the Western Conference standings (after a slow start themselves). He's over a point per game in Saginaw and is arguably their most important player outside of Evan Cormier. Kohn is a high energy center who does pretty much everything well. Engaged in all three zones, he's a tireless worker whose energy and effort is infectious for his linemates. Leads by example. Skates well. Has good vision and works the wall well. Kills penalties. Can finish in tight. Could definitely be a potential fourth line center at the NHL level if he continues to work and improve his game. A pro player next year IMO.

8. Owen Headrick - Defense - Erie Otters
Transfer from Lake Superior State who played a depth role for the Otters during their Championship run last year. This year he's earning big minutes and wearing a letter. Headrick is a smooth skating offensive defender who heads up Erie's powerplay. Shows excellent lateral mobility running the point and is aggressive in jumping up into the attack (top 10 in shots on goal per game). Was a bit surprised that he didn't change homes at the deadline, so he'll close out his OHL career in Erie. With the focus on moving the puck quickly and starting the transition game at the pro level, Headrick may attract attention from NHL scouts, especially since I see him being a little better defensively than a guy like Garrett McFadden or Marcus Crawford.

9. Logan DeNoble - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Hasn't had quite as good of a season as I expected he would, but he's still one of the better OA's in the OHL and the captain of the Petes this year. His goal production is a bit down this year, but he still has a chance to hit the 30 goal plateau for the second straight year. DeNoble possesses a terrific shot, one of the better wristers in the OHL IMO. Quick release and is excellent at coming down the wing and using defenders as a screen. DeNoble is also a solid two-way player who plays the penalty kill for the Petes too. Ultimately, what I think has held him back is an inability to develop his puck skill and creativity to the point where he can consistently generate his own scoring chances. Purely a trigger man in that sense. Paired with the right playmaker, DeNoble can be an asset to a pro franchise, so long as he continues to get stronger and quicker.

10. Hayden Verbeek - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 
Absolute warrior on the ice. Easily one of the hardest working players in the league. Doesn't have the world's most dynamic skill set but gets the most out of it possible by using his brain, his skating ability, and his lower body strength (a real bull despite being only 5'9). Always fighting for loose pucks, especially near the crease and in the slot where he's extremely elusive. Also, watch this guy in the neutral zone. Does a great job stopping advances and lifting sticks to break up plays, turning the tide the other way. Verbeek is also one of the OHL's best penalty killers. Again, not sure the offensive skill set is good enough for him to be a significant NHL player, but if the Hounds make it all the way this year, he's going to get a ton of exposure. All heart. All hustle.

Honorable Mentions (By Position)

I don't see any goaltenders other than Fazio that deserve mention as potential pro candidates.

A couple of terrific puck movers in Guelph's Garrett McFadden and Saginaw's Marcus Crawford. Similar sized guys who have similar skill sets. McFadden is the better skater IMO, where as Crawford is the better powerplay QB. I would say McFadden is the slightly better defender too, as Crawford can have some issues in his own end still (especially with decision making). Could see either as a potential pro player (more dynamic than Stefan Leblanc who signed with Montreal last year). Kitchener's new acquisition Austin McEneny is just a solid two-way defender who was a big part of Windsor's Mem Cup victory last year. Makes a good outlet pass and plays a relatively mistake free game. Lastly, North Bay's Riley Bruce, a former Calgary Flames pick, is an absolutely massive defender at 6'7. Skating remains a concern, but his size on the backend will always be attractive to NHL scouts.

Kenny Huether is the current leading goal scorer for Oshawa (as I write this). He's a little ball of energy on the ice who plays the game similar to Hayden Verbeek. Has a very quick release in the slot. Jordan Ernst is a converted defender who was originally at Bowling Green on a scholarship. The second year forward is a power winger who has a big shot and who plays the game hard, perhaps even teetering on the edge of pesky. Lastly Johnny Corneil is a hard working winger who plays a secondary role for the IceDogs, driving play with his skating ability and looking to create by driving the net and working the wall. He's also the captain of the upstart Dogs.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2018 OHL Trade Deadline Report Cards

OHL players can now sleep easy as the 2018 OHL trade deadline has come and gone. Many players have said goodbyes. But with a new team often comes new and rewarding challenges. Many of these players will get the chance to play deeper into the playoffs and perhaps win an OHL championship. While others will receive increased responsibility and ice time in hopes of catching the eye of NHL scouts.

Many of the teams in the league were active in the past month and a half. Several teams (Hamilton, Kingston, Sarnia, Kitchener, etc) loaded up for deep playoff runs. Other teams (Windsor, London, Sudbury, etc) made moves to rebuild so that they can be good again in the years to come. It will be crazy fun to watch these teams battle it out in the playoffs.

For this article, I'm cutting off trades off at November 25th (the date of the huge Hamilton/Flint deal). So any trades made before then won't be factored into a teams grade. No sense assessing a team's ability to trade over the course of the season (even the last month or so is a bit of a stretch).

Also I think this is the place to state my opinion about the broken system that is the OHL trade market. I went on quite the rant on twitter the other day about it, and felt this would be the place to put it. When you have draft picks almost 10 years away being dealt in the OHL, I think we've got a major issue with the system. And it all stems from the fact that the OHL is the only league that prevents the trading of first round draft picks, and does not limit the year of which picks can be dealt. The QMJHL and WHL does both. Here's what I said on Twitter and I stand by it.

More than half the picks dealt by OHL teams this year were beyond 2020, which is also beyond where the QMJHL and WHL allow picks to be dealt. It's becoming absurd as GM's look to exploit the system more and more, as the value of players increase each trade deadline. I do not think it is too late for the league to address this. And allowing the trading of first round picks is the first step. And capping the year of picks that can move is the second. Why not create consistency among the three leagues? Wouldn't allowing the trading of first round picks be better than allowing the movement of select 16 year olds as it is tough for these kids to move in their first year in the league, and for some (not all) their first year away from home?

End rant. Let's do some grading! 

Eastern Conference

Barrie Colts
In: Dmitri Sokolov, Aaron Luchuk, OS 3 2022 (Conditional)
Out: Alexei Lipanov, Curtis Douglas, SBY 2 2021, BAR 2 2022, BAR 3 2024
Analysis: The surprise team of this OHL season, the Colts bring in a couple of veteran scorers to add more depth to their line-up. Luchuk has been a breakout star in his overage season, where as Import Sokolov is playing in his final OHL season after scoring 48 goals last year and is well on pace for his 3rd straight 30 goal year. The cost was high for Luchuk as they had to part with massive young forward Curtis Douglas and draft picks. I guess the real question I have is...are the Colts really THAT much better after having made these deals? I would say that their top 6 is more dynamic, but I'm not sure these these moves make the Colts a serious contender for the Conference come playoff time. I expected them to do more to capitalize on Svechnikov's final OHL season (as I'd bet a large chunk of cash on him being in the NHL next year). The Colts will still be solid next year, but under Svechnikov, I think they had a chance to make a few more deals to really go for it. I'm not sure they'll have that same opportunity next year. Problem was the lack of assets I'm sure, but failing to add veteran leadership to their defense and size to their forward group will likely hurt them down the stretch. At this point, Niagara may even capture the Division over them. Bottom line, I wanted them to do more.
Grade: B-

Hamilton Bulldogs
In: Robert Thomas, Nic Mattinen, Jake Gravelle, Riley Stillman, Nic Caamano, Ryan Moore, KIT 2 2018, SAG 5 2020, SAG 3 2023 (Conditional)
Out: Reilly Webb, Riley McCourt, Connor McMichael, Connor Roberts, WSR 3 2018, HAM 12 2018, HAM 2 2019, SBY 3 2019, MISS 2 2020 (Conditional), HAM 2 2020, HAM 3 2020, HAM 2 2021, HAM 2 2022, HAM 3 2022 (Conditional), HAM 2 2023 (Conditional), HAM 4 2023 (Conditional), HAM 5 2023, HAM 2 2024, HAM 3 2024 (Conditional), HAM 2 2025 (Conditional), HAM 2 2026 (Conditional)
Analysis: Talk about going for it. Already the top team in the Eastern Conference, look at all the talent the Bulldogs added in the past month and a half. Three legitimate top 6 forwards and two top 4 defenders. This team is flat out stacked. Love them going for it too as I believe in this roster and the way that it's assembled. Size and grit up front, puck movement from the blueline, and a goaltender who is playing lights out this year. The Thomas add, in particular, is huge. He's such an intelligent and dynamic player and if he doesn't make the Blues next year, he'll return next year when the Bulldogs could be equally as good if they get a few guys returning and not turning pro (highly possible). And yes, they did give up a TON of future assets. Their last two first round priority selections. They don't have a 2nd rounder from 2019-2026 (potentially). But here's the thing. They still have Arthur Kaliyev, who if the draft were held again today would no doubt be a top 5 selection. And they protected themselves by making the majority of those selections conditional (likely tied to guys like Thomas and Mattinen returning).
Grade: A

Kingston Frontenacs
In: Mitchell Byrne, Max Jones, Cliff Pu, Sean Day, Gabriel Vilardi
Out: Sergey Popov, Nathan Dunkley, Cody Morgan, KGN 6 2018, WSR 3 2019, KGN 2 2020, MISS 2 2020, KGN 3 2020, KGN 13 2020, KGN 3 2021, KGN 2 2022, KGN 2 2023, KGN 3 2023 (Conditional), KGN 2 2024, KGN 2 2025, KGN 2 2027 (Conditional), KGN 2 2028 (Conditional)
Analysis: Don't tell Kingston that the East Division is Hamilton's. Sure the Bulldogs might have a big lead right now, but anything is possible. And quite frankly, I think Kingston made these moves for the playoffs and to ensure that they at least take that 3rd spot in the Conference. Outside of goaltender Jeremy Helvig, this team is built to make that run next year, but I suppose they felt that they needed to make that run this year and not end up like Owen Sound who's had the most difficult of times this year because of poor goaltending. I applaud them for taking that chance. And they'll still be a very good team next year so long as they can find that goaltender in the offseason. The acquisition of Vilardi helps that too. But there's no question that they gave up a ton. Not really a fan of the Dunkley/Pu deal because I don't see enough of an upgrade and Pu was a no show in the playoffs last year for London. And the Fronts only have one 2nd rounder in the next 11 years. And how will they re-coup these picks in two years? I don't see a 2000 born or 2001 born who will be a prime time trade asset in 2 years when this team is rebuilding and (quite frankly) potentially very, very bad. If this team doesn't win a Championship within the next years, all of these acquisitions are going to look very poorly. To summarize, I love the aggressiveness to a degree to give them a solid two year window to capture an OHL Title, but I don't love a few of the deals and how void their future looks right now. Some of their competitors did better without sacrificing as much.
Grade: B

Mississauga Steelheads
In: Cole Carter, Reagan O'Grady, Mathieu Foget, SAR 2 2018, HAM 12, 2018, OTT 3 2019, OTT 5 2019 (Conditional)
Out: Jake Gravelle, OTT 3 2018, MISS 2 2019, WSR 3 2020, MISS 6 2020, MISS 3 2021 (Conditional), MISS 3 2022
Analysis: Was kind of a shock to see the route that Mississauga took at this year's deadline. Sitting out of the playoffs, the team opted to make moves to try to kick start their offense and shake things up. It's hard to argue with the results so far as the team has won 4 of their last 5 and is looking like an offensive juggernaut again. Is it a repeat of last year when the team caught fire in the second half and ended up capturing the Eastern Conference? It's certainly possible. But what if that doesn't happen? The team loses Michael McLeod, Nic Hague, and Jacob Moverare for absolutely nothing. And the cupboards are relatively bare after Jack Hughes has failed to report, and the team sits with only one 2nd and one 3rd over the next four drafts. And yes, the team could certainly deal Tippett and Ryan McLeod next year for a King's ransom. That would help. And Jack Hughes could report in his draft year. But we're talking about a lot of ifs and buts here. I just don't think that this team is constructed well enough (depth wise) to compete with the likes of Hamilton, Kingston, or multiple teams in the West. With the prices teams are paying, why not deal McLeod, Hague, and Moverare now, and then deal Tippett, and McLeod next year and really build properly for a run in a couple of years? Again, can't argue with the early results and if they go on to win an OHL Championship this year, I'll look like an idiot. But it's just not how I would have done things and I just don't see it as extremely intelligent asset management.
Grade: C

Niagara IceDogs
In: Sam Miletic, SBY 3 2018, WSR 7 2019
Out: Zach Shankar, PBO 2 2018, NIAG 3 2022, NIAG 2 2024, NIAG 2 2025
Analysis: Love the subtle Sam Miletic pick up made the IceDogs. Niagara has taken over first place in the division from Barrie and is positioned to give their young roster some serious playoff experience. Niagara is competing for a Conference championship a year earlier than most would have expected, so why not do what you can to make sure this young roster gets a ton of playoff exposure to make them even better next year when they could be the best team in the Conference? Miletic brings grit and playoff experience and the early results are tremendous (7 points in 3 games). Sure they had to give up some draft picks, but Niagara has a ton and the picks they gave up are mostly far into the future. Subtle, but excellent trade deadline.
Grade: B+

North Bay Battalion
In: Jake Henderson, Braeden Henderson, Matthew Struthers, OS 14 2018 SSM 2 2019, FLNT 4 2019, OS 2 2020, SAR 4 2020, SAR 2 2021, SAR 6 2022, KIY 10 2021, SAR 3 2024 (Conditional), SAR 2 2025 (Conditional)
Out: Cam Dineen, Brett McKenzie, NB 8 2019
Analysis: The Battalion bring in a pair of Hendersons and a talented younger power center in Matthew Struthers, while sending out the team's two trade chips in Dineen and McKenzie. The Struthers pick up is an excellent one for the Battalion as he is the type of player who really excels under coach Butler and is likely a top 2 line center over the next 2 and a half years. He's played quite well since the trade too. Not sure they did quite as well in the Dineen trade after seeing the returns for some other defenders (like Riley Stillman), but it all relies on how well Braeden Henderson develops. He has had a rough transition from Junior B thus far, but there's still lots of time for him to turn it around. Also like the Jake Henderson pick up to add veteran leadership to the team and to help them try to crawl into the playoffs. Paid barely anything for him, but this guy is an absolute warrior (especially on the PK).
Grade: B

Oshawa Generals
In: WSR 3 2018, HAM 2 2020, HAM 2 2022, HAM 4 2023 (Conditional), HAM 3 2024 (Conditional)
Out: Riley Stillman
Analysis: Just the one deadline deal for the Generals, which was surprising IMO. I thought that they would move at least another '98. Now the Generals go into next year with too many quality 98's and not enough spots. Will the value of a guy like Domenico Commisso be as good this offseason when he's a pending OA, as it would have been at this year's deadline? A good question and a bit of a risk IMO. But the return on Stillman was solid, getting an early 3rd and what will likely be an early 2nd in 2020 (when the Bulldogs could be starting a rebuild).
Grade: B

Ottawa 67's
In: Shaw Boomhower, Jacob Cascagnette, Merrick Rippon, ER 3 2018, MISS 2 2019, PBO 2 2019, OS 8 2019, SSM 3 2021, OS 3 2021 (Conditional)
Out: Peter Stratis, Mathieu Foget, Olivier Lafreniere, SAR 2 2018, OTT 3 2019, OTT 5 2019 (Conditional)
Analysis: I really like what the 67's did this deadline. Bringing in Boomhower to be an OA next year and Rippon as a quality young defender. They end up getting more for Stratis than they had to give up to get Rippon and I see Rippon as the better OHL defender down the line. Ottawa's defense could be downright scary to play against in a couple of years when Bahl, Robertson, Rippon, and Okhotyuk are all fully developed. I think that this team is better than they were before the deadline started, and they managed to add draft picks too (Ottawa has 11 2nd rounds over the next 4 years). Now that's a quality deadline.
Grade: A  

Peterborough Petes
In: Brady Hinz, SAR 2 2020, SAR 3 2020, SSM 15 2018 (Conditional)
Out: Jonathan Ang, Janne Tammela
Analysis: Kind of torn on what the Petes decided to do this trade deadline. They fired coach Jody Hull in hopes of saving their season. Then they moved Jonathan Ang to the Sting for a few picks and talented young offensive player Brady Hinz. The Ang deal is a good one because I'm actually not sure that the team is that much worse by swapping Hinz and Ang. Hinz has consistently been one of the higher scoring players in his age group and Ang has been a disappointment this year (IMO). The real question I have is, why not move out more players? I get it, you want to remain competitive and you believe in your roster. But you're currently last in your division and two teams in your division just loaded up big time. So why not trade guys like Korostelev and Dylan Wells to get even more assets and hope to compete again next year (which Peterborough has a chance of doing after drafting well the last few years)? I'm never a fan of doing things half-assed and I kind of feel like Peterborough did that this year.
Grade: C+

Sudbury Wolves
In: Alexei Lipanov, Peter Stratis, Ethan Lavalee, Kirill Nizhnikov, OTT 3 2018, BAR 2 2019, MISS 2 2019, SAR 4 2019 (Conditional), KIT 8 2019, ER 5 2020, MISS 3 2021 (Conditional), SAR 2 2023
Out: Dmitri Sokolov, Reagan O'Grady, Troy Lajeunesse, Michael Pezzetta, Mario Culina, ER 3 2018, OS 3 2018, GUE 8 2018, MISS 2 2019, PBO 2 2019, HAM 5 2019, SBY 2 2021, SSM 3 2021, OS 3 2022 (Conditional), SBY 2 2023
Analysis: I actually really like what the Wolves did at this year's deadline. They traded away the guys that they needed to (Sokolov, Pezzetta), but also used a draft pick surplus to bring in two quality young players in Nizhnikov and Stratis. Both add something to the roster that was badly needed; skill up front and puck movement from the blueline. Wolves management took a bit of a hit social media for the Sokolov deal. But I actually like them taking a chance. Probably 50/50 that Lipanov ends up in the AHL next year, and if he does, the Wolves have nothing to show for Sokolov. But, if he ends up returning to the OHL, Sudbury gets an impact forward who can play on their first line next year. Isn't that better than just bringing back a few extra draft picks (likely well into the future)? The market for Sokolov was not large. In the position that Sudbury is in, hoping to earn a top 4 spot next year, I take that chance and roll the dice every time. Only if the Lightning could somehow tell the Wolves their intentions before the Import Draft, but that's very, very unlikely.
Grade: A-

Western Conference

Erie Otters
In: Troy Lajeunesse, Hayden Fowler, Luke Beamish SSM 3 2018, SSM 6 2018, KGN 6 2018,FLNT 2 2019, GUE 2 2020, KGN 13 2020, SSM 2 2021, SSM 6 2021, SSM 2 2022, LDN 2 2023, SSM 3 2023
Out: Mitchell Byrne, Taylor Raddysh, Jordan Sambrook, Cade Robinson, ER 5 2020
Analysis: While the movement of Raddysh and Sambrook doesn't completely re-stock the cupboards, it's most certainly a start. Fowler is a solid addition to the team's future and all those draft picks will help (although the team still has few picks in 2018). Bottom line is that Erie is far from done. Ivan Lodnia and Kyle Maksimovich will most certainly move next year or this offseason, which will complete the cupboard filling. This is only the beginning. My only question is this...would dealing Lodnia now (like London did with Thomas) give them a better return than they would get this offseason or next year? Ditto for Maksimovich?
Grade: B+

Flint Firebirds
In: Riley McCourt, Connor Roberts, HAM 2 2019, SBY 3 2019, HAM 3 2020, HAM 5 2023, HAM 2 2023 (Conditional), HAM 2 2024
Out: Nic Mattinen, Ryan Moore, Nic Caamano
Analysis: Flint dealt off three of its four main trade pieces and got back some great future assets for them. Connor Roberts has played very well since the trade to Flint at the end of November and McCourt has a lot of potential as an offensive defender at this level. Flint has had some very bad luck this year, but one lucky thing was the return of Jalen Smereck. So why not deal him too? Is his veteran presence worth more than the return from limited suitors? That's the only thing I can think of, as Smereck's OA status made him a more difficult player to deal. That said, there had to have been interest as he's a quality player. After a couple of quality drafts and tons of picks coming up, the Firebirds did probably as well as they could have at this year's deadline, Smereck aside.
Grade: B

Guelph Storm
In: MISS 2 2021, WSR 2 2024, KIT 2 2025 (Conditional)
Out: Givani Smith
Analysis: Just one move for the Storm and that was moving out an unhappy Smith who requested a trade. Smith went to Kitchener in exchange for a couple of 2nd round picks far into the future. It's really unfortunate for Guelph that they couldn't get more, but Smith just hasn't been great this year after starting the season late due to injury. If he had been playing well, there's no question that they could have gotten a return similar to what London got for Max Jones, which included a quality young roster player. IMO, that has to factor into the grade though, even if it was outside of their control to a degree
Grade: B-

Kitchener Rangers
In: Mario Culina, Logan Brown, Austin McEneny, Givani Smith, NB 8 2019, WSR 3 2020, MISS 6 2020, MISS 3 2022
Out: Grayson Ladd, Cole Carter, Jake Henderson, SAG 2 2018, SAG 3 2018, KGN 2 2019, KIT 5 2019, KIT 8 2019, MISS 2 2021, KIT 10 2021, WSR 2 2024, KIT 2 2025 (Conditional)
Analysis: Kind of torn with what Kitchener did. Can you really argue with bringing in Memorial Cup winners Logan Brown and Austin McEneny? Especially when they did it without giving up Riley Damiani or Giovanni Vallati. Brown is the prized pick up as he adds a veteran presence down the middle that was needed. And Smith was picked up relatively cheap and could have a huge impact. But McEneny is the underrated pick up. He's a true warrior and will be counted upon heavily in the playoffs at both ends. And even though he's not listed, the addition of Mike Vukojevic is HUGE. His signing offsets the loss of Ladd (and then some). But I can't help but wonder if the Rangers are going to regret not really going after a top flight goaltender. Picking up Culina as depth was smart. And Richardson shows potential. Are either the true answer though? Are either going to get Kitchener to the OHL Finals? The counter argument to that is, Erie won an OHL Championship last year with Troy Timpano as goalie and he's playing Junior A now, so is it really that important if the team in front is just that good? The Rangers get a good grade though because even if they didn't completely address their biggest weakness, they did improve and they did it without sacrificing the fact that they could be good again next year too.
Grade: A-

London Knights
In: Connor McMichael, Sergey Popov, Nathan Dunkley, PBO 2 2018, WSR 3 2019, KGN 2 2020, MISS 2 2020 (Conditional), HAM 2 2021, KGN 3 2021, HAM 3 2022 (Conditional), NIAG 3 2022, KGN 2 2023, NIAG 2 2024, NIAG 2 2025, HAM 2 2025 (Conditional), HAM 2 2026 (Conditional)
Out: Sam Miletic, Robert Thomas, Max Jones, Cliff Pu, SBY 3 2018
Analysis: Love that the Knights moved their big trade pieces. I expected them to move a couple, but not nearly all of them. They made the right calls though, especially given the returns they received. The deals with Kingston were particularly great for London. IMO Nathan Dunkley might be close to as good as Cliff Pu is right now and they'll have him for the next few years. He's a true Hunter kind of player and is going to excel under his tutelage. McMichael looks like a great young player too and did well with limited ice time in Hamilton. London now has five picks inside the first three rounds this year (allowing them to roll the dice on some NCAA commit types), and seven 2nd rounders over the next three years. No doubt they will use these to bolster their line-up through trade at some point. Now imagine if they move Formenton and Bouchard next year in similar fashion...
Grade: A

Owen Sound Attack
In: Cade Robinson, Brett McKenzie, Olivier Lafreniere, Daniil Vertiy
Out: Luke Beamish, Matthew Struthers, OS 14 2018, OS 5 2018 (Conditional), OS 8 2019, OS 2 2020, OS 3 2021 (Conditional)
Analysis: Owen Sound was put in a tough spot at this year's deadline. No question that this team is way better than their current standing position. Injuries and WJC appearances have prevented the team from being at full strength for quite some time. And it continues with new acquisition Olivier Lafreniere already getting injured (groin). So do you tear down because of your bad luck or do you stay the course, wait for the team to get healthy and hope to make a surprising run in the playoffs? Problem is, the team needs to avoid finishing near the bottom so that they don't have to play the Soo, Sarnia, or Kitchener in the first round. That's uphill sledding, but not impossible. Ultimately, I would have done the same thing that Owen Sound did though. Add McKenzie to fill an open OA spot (although pundits will point to Struthers outproducing him thus far). And bring in a low cost goaltender to try to change your fortunes. My only question is, if you're not going to retool, why not go out and fill your open Import spot too and add even more depth up front? Could you have put together a better package for Sokolov? Or could you have brought in a guy like Renars Krastenbergs? Realistically, I think the only non OA that this team loses next year is Gadjovich, so that will give them another shot next year if things don't work out in 2018.
Grade: B-

Saginaw Spirit
In: Reilly Webb, OS 15 2018 (Conditional)
Out: Daniil Vertiy, KIT 2 2018, SAG 5 2020, SAG 3 2023 (Conditional)
Analysis: Relatively quiet deadline for the Spirit, except for the acquisition of hulking defender Reilly Webb. Didn't really expect them to add on the blueline, so it was a bit shocking to me. Webb hasn't had a terrific bounce back year from injury, but he's still a raw player with potential to improve next year. Even then, how much playing time will he get? A good insurance plan if Middleton doesn't return as an OA I suppose. Thought that Saginaw might address their open Import spot, but they didn't. This is an underrated team right now who could easily get into the 2nd round of the playoffs. And they should be even better next year so long as they address their goaltending situation this offseason (just like Kingston).
Grade: B-

Sarnia Sting
In: Michael Pezzetta, Jonathan Ang, Cam Dineen, GUE 8 2018
Out: Ethan Lavalee, Brazy Hinz, Braeden Henderson, SSM 2 2019 BAR 2 2019, SAR 4 2019 (Conditional), FLNT 4 2019, SAR 2 2020, SAR 4 2020, SAR 2 2021, SAR 3 2022, SAR 6 2022, SAR 2 2023, SAR 3 2024 (Conditional), SAR 2 2025 (Conditional)
Analysis: Busy deadline for the Sting as they bring in Pezzetta, Ang, and Dineen. And they made the right choice to load up IMO. Their window was this year with Kyrou in his last year in the league and Justin Fazio playing some terrific hockey. Dineen gives them a much needed puck mover. Ang fits their up tempo style well. And Pezzetta gives them size and depth down the middle. Three very wise additions. And they did it all without giving up talented 2001 Jamieson Rees (where as their competitors had to give up their 2001's). But they did have to give up a ton of draft picks and now are pretty bare for the next three years. And my only concern is their lack of experience on the blueline. I am a bit shocked that they didn't try to address that. That's just nitpicking though.
Grade: A

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
In: Taylor Raddysh, Jordan Sambrook, Janne Tammela
Out: Hayden Fowler, SSM 3 2018, SSM 6 2018, FLNT 2 2019, GUE 2 2020, SSM 2 2021, SSM 6 2021, SSM 2 2022, LDN 2 2023, SSM 3 2023, SSM 15 2018 (Conditional)
Analysis: The best team in the OHL gets better. How can you argue with that? Well you can't. Raddysh was one of the top fish available and better yet, he developed chemistry with Boris Katchouk at the World Juniors that will carry over to the Soo now. And Sambrook is a quality top four defender who can play in all situations. Two fantastic adds that make an already great team better. Underrated pickup of Tammela too. He's been injured all year, and is only now rehabbing in the AHL. It's obvious that Kyle Raftis is going to work on them sending him down to the OHL to finish the year and he could be a quality top 9 guy if so. Because he's an OA, you get to keep the rights to Kupari in hopes that he comes next year, while also potentially improving this year's squad. Genius if you ask me. Also, the Hounds may have moved Fowler, but they get to keep their two best 2001's in Cole Mackay and Joe Carroll. Benefit of great drafting. The only stone the Hounds left un-turned was that final OA spot. My guess is that the team hopes Colton White returns from the AHL, but that's far fetched. If you do go get an OA, they likely play sparingly and take away ice time from young guys who will be needed next year. Would the acquisition of Jake Henderson or Kyle Rhodes really be the difference between OHL Champs and an early exit? I don't believe so.
Grade: A

Windsor Spitfires
In: Grayson Ladd, Zach Shankar, Cody Morgan, Curtis Douglas, Cedric Schiemenz, SAG 2 2018, SAG 3 2018, KGN 2 2019, KIT 5 2019, MISS 2 2020, KGN 3 2020, SBY 2 2021, BAR 2 2022, KGN 2 2022, KGN 2 2024, BAR 3 2024, KGN 2 2025, KGN 2 2027 (Conditional), KGN 2 2028 (Conditional)
Out: Logan Brown, Austin McEneny, Gabriel Vilardi, Sean Day, WSR 7 2019
Analysis: It's the cycle in Junior hockey. Memorial Cup champs one year. Rebuilding the next. The Spits dealt off their valuable assets (minus Mike Dipietro) and got back a ton of future assets. Cody Morgan is a quality young player, but Ladd and Douglas could be the real keys. Ladd has really turned a corner the last month or so and Douglas could be an absolute beast in this league (8 points in 10 games so far). The picks re-fill an absolutely barren cupboard too. How quick we forget that this team is currently 4th in the Western Conference though. And even though I don't expect them to stay that high, keeping Dipietro will give them a chance of advancing past the first round in the playoffs. It's extremely obvious that Dipietro will be moving next year or this offseason, with about as many as a dozen teams as suitors. They'll get a ton for him and fill those cupboards even more. Also love the upside of picking up Schiemenz on waivers. Thought this guy was going to have a monster year last year after a great preseason, but strength was an issue. The skill set is there and if playing against men this year has made him stronger, he could be an impact player this year and next.
Grade: A

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