Tuesday, July 31, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Montreal Canadiens

It was a tough year for Montreal fans, so let's see what their OHL prospects did and how they progressed.

1. Cam Hillis - Guelph Storm
A savvy pick by the Canadiens in the 3rd round this year. A first year OHL player, Hillis was a standout for the Guelph Storm as a rookie, acting as the team's first line center. Hillis plays with a very high intensity level. He's not the biggest, but he's relatively fearless. He's at his best keeping his feet moving in the offensive end, working the wall, setting up shop behind the net, and driving the middle to create scoring chances. I like his vision as a center when the game slows down. His puck skill is quite high and he bides time for himself with his hands and is good at drawing in defenders to create openings. Consistency is an issue for Hillis at this time though. Strength will need to be upgraded. He's fearless in traffic, but not always effective. He can be pushed off the puck. He also will need to get quicker. His skating has apparently already come a long way, but becoming more explosive will be key for him given his lack of size. Improving those two things will help him be a better player outside the offensive zone. And it will help him be more consistently dangerous. Hillis will return to Guelph next year and be the first line center on a team who should aspire to win the Western Conference. I think he's an 80+ point player next year and he possesses the highest potential of any player on this list for Montreal and that's why I have him ranked first.

2. Will Bitten - Hamilton Bulldogs
For the first time in his OHL career, we saw Bitten hit the point per game mark and that should certainly be celebrated. Especially when you factor in his importance in the Bulldogs successful season that saw them reach the Memorial Cup. Bitten started the year at center, but was shifted to the wing after the team brought in Ryan Moore from Flint. I think we definitely saw Bitten be more of a factor without the puck than we had previously seen. Added strength can likely help to explain that as he was way more effective working the wall and using his speed to retrieve pucks on the forecheck. He's definitely still at his best off the rush where he can use his speed and terrific puck handling ability to gain the zone and make things happen. All that said, I think we would be lying if we didn't have higher expectations for Bitten offensively. His goals per game went down yet again and his goal scoring ability and shot never really developed to the point most expected it would after a 30 goal draft eligible season. His speed and tenacity will play at the next level on the wing, but I do wonder just how much his playmaking ability will. He may have to alter his game to turn himself into an impactful energy player who can disrupt and make plays in all three zones; perhaps even adding a physical element to his game, in order to be an NHL player. He'll turn pro next year and should be a bottom six player in his first season. He's probably a 20-25 point guy to start as he works his way up the line-up.

3. Allan McShane - Oshawa Generals 
McShane is easily one of the best young playmakers in the OHL right now. His vision is almost at an elite level. His hockey sense and ability to create plays in the offensive zone are top notch. It's like he has eyes in the back of his head at times, as he finds open teammates coming off the wall or exhibiting poise off the rush. McShane also has an excellent stick in the defensive zone, where his hockey sense is on display. When all is said and done, McShane could win an OHL scoring title. All that said, his skating needs to improve greatly to be an NHL player. His top speed and his first few steps are both only average for this level and it prevents him from being a truly consistent play creator at this time. This is also combined with a lack of strength on the puck and lack of physical intensity. He needs to attack the middle of the ice with more urgency and learn to play within a few feet of the net. These are all correctable issues though and I would expect his game to grow leaps and bounds within the next two years. Oshawa should be a Memorial Cup contender within the next couple of seasons and McShane will be at the forefront of that. Next year, I expect him to be an 85+ point player and I would expect his goal totals to increase.

4. Hayden Verbeek - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Speed, speed, and more speed. Verbeek has to be considered one of the elite skaters in the OHL. His fantastic season for the Greyhounds was rewarded by Montreal with a contract after his OA year. Montreal fans are going to love Verbeek because of his tenacious and infectious energy level on the ice. He played in all situations for the Hounds and was one of the league's elite penalty killers. Quite honestly, his injury in the playoffs was one of the main reasons that SSM lost in the OHL finals. They greatly missed his presence. So what can Montreal expect of Verbeek moving forward? I don't think he has the innate offensive ability required to become a top 6 player, perhaps even at the AHL level, let alone the NHL level. But his hockey sense, skating ability, and effectiveness in all three zones could make him a very valuable checking line player in the same vein as a guy like Darren Helm. He'll start his pro career next year and it actually wouldn't shock me if his offensive output was pretty similar to Will Bitten in his first year. He could move quickly if he proves he can handle the pro game physically.

5. Michael Pezzetta - Sarnia Sting
Power center (although who shifted to wing with Sarnia after a trade from Sudbury) who pretty much doubled his previous career highs offensively this year. It was a make or break year for Pezzetta in terms of earning an NHL contract and his progression obviously impressed Montreal brass. Pezzetta plays a power game and knows his role on the ice is to lay the body, drive the net, and provide energy in all three zones. He skates pretty well and that helps him be an effective player away from the puck and a guy who can open up space for linemates. Offensively, he has limitations and he's never going to be a big time scorer at the next level. If I'm being quite honest, I was a bit surprised that Montreal signed him. But they obviously see him as a potential 4th liner who can play hard and be the team's Ryan Reaves. Between Pezzetta, Verbeek, and Bitten, I think that Montreal should at the very least find one very capable and effective bottom 6 forward. As he turns pro this year, I wouldn't expect much from Pezzetta offensively. Getting into the line-up every day, and getting used to the pro speed will be the main focus.

Monday, July 30, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild are today's feature.

1. Dmitry Sokolov - Barrie Colts
Really good year for Sokolov as he hit the 50 goal mark for the first time in his OHL career; tying Aaron Luchuk as the leading goal scorer in the league. We all know what Sokolov can do in terms of putting the puck in the net. His shot is deadly. But it was his playmaking ability and vision that improved the most this year. Making much quicker decisions with the puck, keeping defenders honest and preventing them from playing just his shot. They had to respect his ability to work the give and go, and his ability to drive the net to create scoring chances. His skating continues to improve, to the point where I would say it's no longer a major issue. He'll never be confused with Connor McDavid, but he's worked hard to improve his skating and conditioning. This is a big time offensive player. After the midseason trade to Barrie, Sokolov scored at a goal per game clip and was also solid in the playoffs for the Colts; impressive feats. This is a player who is most definitely ready for the next challenge in the AHL next year. He'll need to continue to improve his play without the puck and he'll need to adjust to the speed of the pro game. But his shot and goal scoring instincts should play relatively immediately. I think he can be a 25 goal scorer at the AHL level next year.

2. Ivan Lodnia - Erie Oters
Tough year for Lodnia given what the Otters went through as a rebuilding team. As the focal point to the team's offense, Lodnia struggled big time following the Taylor Raddysh deal. From January 14th on, this was Lodnia's stat line: 20 games, 3 goals, 6 assists. During this time period, we also saw him shift back from center to the wing. Lodnia remains a very versatile player who can play in any situation, and who can line up at any forward position. He brings a high energy level without the puck and has become a very good penalty killer. Offensively, there was definitely a level of frustration present in his game later in the year. On the wing, without the puck on his stick, he still lacks the strength to be a lethal player in traffic. With the puck, he can use his good mobility to prolong possession; he has that elusiveness to him. But getting to those scoring areas, winning consistent battles along the wall and avoiding turnovers off the rush are areas of focus. As I said last year, would love to see him upgrade his explosiveness too. Needs that to create more separation. He'll return to Erie next year, where he'll be a go to offensive player. Whether he finishes the year in Erie remains to be seen (if they continue their rebuild which I expect they will). Would love to see him in that 80 point range next year, for whatever team he ends up playing for.

3. Damien Giroux - Saginaw Spirit
Giroux is kind of a similar player to Lodnia in that he's an average sized offensive forward who plays with his heart on his sleeve. Giroux was a go to player for the Spirit this year and is definitely future captain material. Like Lodnia, Giroux plays in all situations and is a very intelligent player in all three zones. Forces a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone with great positioning and an active stick. Giroux's big drawback right now is his skating. That part of his game needs a major upgrade in order for him to take that next step forward as an elite offensive player. And again, like Lodnia, Giroux needs to be more aggressive attacking the middle of the ice and playing through traffic. I know people in the league applaud this kid's work ethic and mentality and because of that, he's a good bet to improve. Saginaw aims to be a contender in the Western Conference next year, and Giroux should be a point per game player.

4. Jacob Golden - London Knights
With the Knights retooling and dealing off veterans, Golden was given the opportunity to log more minutes in his first full OHL season (after playing sparingly in his rookie season). His skating ability remains his best asset as he glides around the ice with ease. The rest of his game remains a major work in progress. Decision making with the puck is a major issue at this point. He can be very turnover prone in his own end and in the neutral zone. When pressured by the forecheck, he can be a frustrating player to watch. Defensively, he needs to play with a little more bravado. Winning loose puck battles and tying up larger forwards near the crease are areas that lack consistency. I think it's important to remember that Golden is coming off his first true season in the OHL though. The London coaching staff has a great track record working with defenders and he'll return to the OHL for another year in 2018/19. Under their tutelage, I expect his game to grow. I'm not entirely sure that he's a serious NHL prospect, but let's see if he can gain some confidence heading into next season. To earn a contract from the Wild, Golden will likely need to be in the 40+ point range (a massive jump) and really improve his play in his own end.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Los Angeles Kings

Here's another team that is heavily invested in the OHL.

1. Gabriel Vilardi - Kingston Frontenacs
Was great to see Vilardi finally return to the OHL in January after his back injury. Following a trade from Windsor to Kingston, Vilardi didn't miss a step. Immediately returned to being an impact player. When all was said and done, Vilardi posted the 2nd highest points per game average (1.80) in the league next to Jordan Kyrou. Continue to love how Vilardi controls the pace of the game. He's such a smart player in the offensive end and he uses his size so effectively to extend possession. He is a very difficult player to separate from the puck and his vision is fantastic. This year, we saw him be way more aggressive in using his shot, which really rounded out his game. He's always had a good shot and goal scoring potential, but was more of a pass first player. While I'd still label him that, he was more aggressive in going hard to the net and looking to use his size to gain leverage for shot attempts and way more aggressive in letting it rip. Vilardi also remains a terrific two-way forward whose effort is consistent through all zones. I guess the million dollar question is, did his skating ability look improved? I've never felt his skating was that bad in the first place, so it's tough for me to say that it did look improved. I think status quo in that department. I don't think he'll ever be an above average skater, but he has so many other strengths that it should overcome an "average" skating ability and explosiveness. The second million dollar question is, is Vilardi ready for the NHL? So long as he is healthy, I would say that the answer is yes, especially given the fact that Los Angeles has some open forward spots up for grabs heading into next season. I see him playing a 3rd line center role to start (similar to the way Sean Couturier was eased in), and likely in the 30 point range this year. Tough to see him coming back to the OHL (my apologies Fronts fans).

2. Akil Thomas - Niagara IceDogs
Fantastic pick by LA this year where they got him in the 2nd round. Wasn't surprised to see him fall out of the first, but did expect that he would be one of the first selections of the second round. Thomas is an extremely talented offensive player who also plays with an edge. He can really use his speed to get after it on the forecheck, and shows a budding physical game which could develop further should he decide to take it there. As a play creator, Thomas has a ton of potential. He's a creative player thanks to his great stickhandling ability and vision on the ice. He completely controls the play at times. Thomas also wears a letter in Niagara and is seen as a potential captain down the line. Consistency is an issue at this point. I think a lot of that stems from conditioning/lack of strength. As he gets stronger, he'll be able to win more of those battles that he initiates and he'll be better at protecting the puck and working the boards. Also needs to upgrade his shot and look to shoot the puck more. Lastly, we need to get a better read on what position Thomas plays moving forward. Is he a center or is he a winger? He has played both thus far. Thomas will return to Niagara where I expect the IceDogs to be among the East's elite. I see Thomas being right up near the leaderboard in scoring and he should crack the 90+ point mark.

3. Aidan Dudas - Owen Sound Attack
Given his size and relatively average skating ability, it was no shock to me that Dudas fell in this year's draft. But, I remain a big fan of his. Dudas has a non stop motor and his conditioning in that regard is fantastic (a former cross country star). He also possesses one of the best shots and releases of his age group in the OHL. He could win a scoring championship by the time his OHL career is over. Dudas also demonstrates terrific hockey sense in all three zones. Combine that with his work ethic, and you've got a great two-way player who can excel in any situation and play any role you ask of him. That said, there are things that need to be improved upon and it's why he was drafted later. His explosiveness is currently only average and for a small player, that can be troublesome. He'll need to really improve that if he wants to be a goal scorer at the next level. I'd also like to see Dudas' physical intensity be more consistent. Look to attack the middle more often and be a little more ferocious in loose puck battles. To be honest though, a lot of the same things I'm writing right now are the same ones we said about Alex Debrincat when he was drafted. So let's see how Dudas develops. He'll return to Owen Sound next year and be their go to offensive player; something I think he's ready for. I see him as a 40 goal scorer as early as next year.

4. Jacob Moverare - Mississauga Steelheads
Tough year for Moverare on the injury front. Held to only 32 games thanks to a knee injury suffered at the World Juniors. He was having a pretty good year too, especially offensively where we saw his game take a step forward (quarterbacking the powerplay, leading the rush). Thought Moverare's mobility looked improved. But his bread and butter and ticket to the NHL will be his defensive ability. He's at his best in the defensive end as a terrific stick on puck defender. He's not a physical type, instead using positioning and intelligence to match up against the opposition's best. Plays a very reserved game and doesn't take unnecessary chances. His play with the puck really improved this year too; way less turnovers and we even saw him explore the ability to skate the puck out of trouble. My stance on him has not really changed, even with some improvements this year. I don't think there is a ton of NHL potential here. An NHL defenseman? Absolutely, but more likely a solid #4-5 who can anchor your penalty kill and play key defensive minutes. But I don't see the offensive game translating. And as he returns from that knee injury next year, it will be interesting to see if it impacts his mobility and the steps forward he took in that department. At the pro level, he should definitely be an AHL regular next year, just don't expect a ton offensively.

5. Drake Rymsha - Sarnia Sting
Another solid year for Rymsha with Sarnia. He's an easy player to pick up on the ice and an easy player to cheer for because of his effort level. This guy battles for every inch of ice and is such a well rounded player. Call him a jack of all trades. Need a big faceoff won? Rymsha. Need a penalty killed? Rymsha. Need someone to score a big goal? Rymsha. The speed is there. The hockey sense is there. The only thing that I'm left wondering still is just how well will his offensive game translate to the next level? The hands are good, but is he creative enough and good enough with the puck to stay down the middle, despite that fantastic faceoff ability? Rymsha definitely plays a basic game in that regard. Dump and chase. Win loose puck battles. Work the wall. Go to the net. He can play off the rush when needed, but he's not the type who can create consistently in this regard. Without a contract (because he was an older draft selection), the Kings have some choices with Rymsha. They can send him back to Sarnia for his overage year. Or they can have him sign an AHL deal to get a look at him at the pro level before signing him to an NHL deal (something that this organization has done several times before). I'd like to see Rymsha back in the OHL though. I think playing in the league as a 20/21 year old would be very beneficial. Give him the opportunity to really explore his offensive game and gain confidence in his ability to create as a go-to offensive player. With a strength advantage, he could have a very good year, perhaps even hitting the 40 goal and 85 point mark. 

6. Markus Phillips - Owen Sound Attack
Bit of a step backward for Phillips this year offensively, but I think that was by design to some degree. He was most definitely not as aggressive in leading the rush or jumping up into the rush this year compared to his draft year, and that appeared to be so that he could focus on improving his play in the defensive end. And I think Phillips did that. A stocky defender, Phillips has good mobility and a very wide base, making him a very difficult player to beat one on one. His intensity level in his own end was much better and more consistent this year too. Saw him win way more battles in the corners, using that wide base to gain leverage and keep it. And he's a valuable player because of his vision with the puck and ability to start the breakout once he gains possession. Without question, we saw Phillips transform himself into a solid two-way defender this year, something he was rewarded for by Hockey Canada, as he was an injury replacement at the summer WJC camp/series. Next year, it will be about getting those offensive numbers back up, while maintaining the defensive improvements that he made. Would love to see Phillips up near the top of the leaderboard among defenseman scoring, in the 50+ point range. 

7. Matthew Villalta - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Villalta remains a difficult player for me to get a read on. The size and athleticism in the net are definite pluses. He moves very well post to post and has excellent recovery ability. As the starting netminder for one of the OHL's elite, he was given a pretty good opportunity to shine this year. However, when it came time for the playoffs, I thought Villalta struggled. He has a tendency to get himself out of position and as such, can give up some weaker goals low as pucks find a way between his pads. Rebound control can also be an issue as he's a bit more of a stopper right now. Next year, he'll return to the OHL and the Greyhounds will need him to have a big year. I think we'll learn a lot more about Villalta and his NHL potential then. Sault Ste. Marie will be a good team, but don't have quite as good a team on paper as they did the last two seasons. That means that if they want to be an elite team yet again, they'll need Villalta to really step up and steal games for them. I'm not going to make a prediction here because I could see it going one of two ways. One, Villalta struggles with being that go to guy, or he excels and gets the Hounds home ice advantage in the first round.

8. Jacob Ingham - Mississauga Steelheads
Despite being a much lower draft pick, I actually think Ingham possesses a bit more potential than Villalta does. He's just not as likely to reach it and thus I have him ranked below. Coming into this year Ingham was considered to be a possible top 60 selection and, arguably, the top ranked goalie from the CHL. But his season was a disaster that saw him nearly lose his starter's role for the Steelheads. His confidence appeared to be very low for most of the year as even the most routine saves were an adventure at times. Like Villalta, Ingham is a big kid with great athleticism. But major refinements are needed in his positioning. And his mental toughness and resiliency; the ability to bounce back from a bad goal or bad defensive play in front of him, need to improve. But, there was the odd game where Ingham just flat out dominated and showed that he has the capability to steal games and be an elite netminder in this league. This coming year is a big one for Ingham because he's going to be challenged equally thanks to the fact that Mississauga will likely have a weaker club as they go through a bit of a rebuild. He's going to face a ton of adversity. Will he be up to the challenge?  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Florida Panthers

Like Edmonton before them, the Florida Panthers have a nice group of prospects playing in the OHL.

1. Owen Tippett - Mississauga Steelheads
Certainly a busy year for Tippett; a year that saw him start the season with Florida (for a 7 game trial), be returned to Mississauga, and finish the year with Springfield of the AHL. Back in the OHL, he managed to improve his points per game average to 1.47, which was just inside the top 10 of the league. Developmentally, I think it was a pretty good year for Tippett. Thought his defensive game and effort in all three zones was definitely improved. The Steelheads even used Tippett on the penalty kill fairly regularly, where he can use his speed to apply pressure on the forecheck, and he's really improved his play and engagement level along the wall. There's still continued room for improvement, but no question Tippett has made strides to be a more complete player in nearly every year in the league. Of course, his bread and butter is still his shot and release, which is among the best in the OHL. He has no conscience when it comes to shooting; he'll fire it from anywhere. He is definitely learning to use his teammates better too, committing less turnovers off the rush and showing better vision and identification of openings. I think he'll still need to be more aggressive in driving the net and looking to find those "easier" scoring chances, and his play below the hash marks; being able to work the cycle and create scoring chances from it, will still need to be improved before he turns pro. Next year, it'll be the NHL or OHL again for Tippett. Considering he earned a look last year, it's safe to assume that he could again in 2018/19. However, the Panthers brought in Mike Hoffman and their top 6 looks pretty set. They also have a fair amount of depth for their bottom six. Is there actually room? Wouldn't surprise me either way. But another year in the OHL wouldn't hurt and would allow Tippett to continue to round out his game. Would have to think he would be bet to make the Canadian WJC team too. And if Mississauga chooses to rebuild, he'd be one of the biggest trade targets in the OHL this year. Back in the OHL, I'd love to see him inch closer to that goal per game mark, like a 45 in 55 kind of year.

2. Serron Noel - Oshawa Generals
Getting Noel in the 2nd round this year was great for the Panthers as pretty much everyone expected him to go in the first because of his size and raw offensive abilities. The 6'5 winger had a breakout draft season that saw him triple his goal production and become a top 6 player for the Generals. One of Noel's biggest strengths is his skating ability, which is crazy considering his size. He is a very explosive skater North/South and he is a very effective player off the rush because of his size and speed combination. Also really like how Noel tracks the play without the puck in the offensive end. His hockey sense will allow him to be a very consistent offensive contributor once everything else comes into place. Really want to see him start to use his size consistently in all three zones, especially asserting himself physically in the offensive zone. He can be very good in puck protection along the wall, but too often he seems content to be a passenger. And while his skating is great north/south, working on his edge work, stops/starts, would help him to be a bit more illusive because at times he can be a little bambi-ish. Noel will return to Oshawa where he'll be part of a Generals club that could challenge for the Eastern Conference title. I think he's a 35 goal scorer and a point per game player next year.

3. Riley Stillman - Hamilton Bulldogs
Tale of two seasons for Stillman. He started off the year so poorly in Oshawa that I think many were beginning to right him off as a prospect and a long shot to sign with Florida. He was really struggling with his decision making with the puck in Oshawa and had become extremely turnover prone. His confidence looked shot. But after a trade to Hamilton, his game nearly immediately found itself again. In fact, I would say that he was playing the best of his OHL career. In Hamilton's run to the Memorial Cup, I would actually go as far as to say that he was the best defender in the OHL playoffs this year. He really elevated his game. In Hamilton, we saw the return of his confidence as a puck carrier and the type of defender who could use his mobility to jump up in the play to create scoring chances. Looked the most confident working the point and walking the line in Hamilton too. Defensively, he's a very effective player. Stillman relishes in the opportunity to lower the boom on incoming forwards. Without a doubt, he's one of the OHL's most physical players from the neutral zone to blueline. But he really improved his defensive zone play below the hash marks, chasing the play less, winning more battles in the corners and really making himself one of the OHL's elite in the defensive zone. As he turns pro next year, it will be interesting to see how Stillman's two-way game translates. Springfield has several vets slated to play on the back-end in the AHL, which likely pushes Stillman to a third pairing role to start. While I would expect modest production next year, I think eventually we see him settling into a Johnny Oduya type of role in the NHL if he develops properly.

4. Jonathan Ang - Sarnia Sting
Speed, speed, and more speed. Ang plays the game with relentless energy. He is one of the OHL's elite skaters and he uses that speed to be a disruptive force on the ice. His play away from the puck and his effectiveness as a two-way player really improved over the course of his OHL career. He's a very effective player on the penalty kill because of his speed, and has really upped his physical intensity level to the point where I would classify him as a pest and a very effective forechecker. Offensively, I'm not sure his game really developed to the point that we all thought it would. His vision in the offensive end and his shot and goal scoring ability remain average. He can still be forced into turnovers and is best when he keeps the game simple, using his speed to push the pace and open up holes. Even though he has played some center in the OHL, I feel his pro future is on the wing because of this. He'll turn pro next year and should be a bottom six player in the AHL. He'll need to gain the confidence to play physically and play with energy as that will be his key to becoming an NHL player IMO, as I'm not sure I see someone with top 6 scoring line potential. He should be a 25+ point guy if he gets regular playing time, with the chance to slowly increase that.

Friday, July 27, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are up next. A very strong group of OHL prospects.

1. Evan Bouchard - London Knights
Tough to have a better draft season than Bouchard did for London this year. Highest point total by a draft eligible defender in 9 years (since Ryan Ellis), all while captain of a very young Knights' team. His ability to run the powerplay and his ability to start play up ice with an exit pass or rush are nearly unrivaled by his peers. This guy is as cool as a cucumber with the puck; his vision outstanding and his composure rarely shaken. He just doesn't make many mistakes with the puck. When you pair that with a big time point shot, you have one heck of an offensive defender. His skating does take some heat, as he's a good mover, but not an elite one. His defensive play, especially intensity level near the crease and along the boards, does also. And neither criticism is unfounded. But he's already improved so much as an OHL player, there's no reason to think that his game can't continue to evolve. So what happens with Bouchard in 2018/19? Is he in the NHL with Edmonton, or is he back in the OHL with London? Even though Edmonton could use his talents on the powerplay, it's tough to see where he slots in, on a defense with 6 NHL defenders already. Will he be able to push a guy like Matt Benning out? Using him as a 7th defender probably isn't the most ideal either, as you want him to play. A guy like Ryan Ellis is actually a pretty good comparison in this regard. He was touted as someone who had to work on his defensive game and improve the dynamic nature of his stride, so he went back to junior for a few years despite previously dominating offensively. And his game improved so much. Look at him now, as he has to be considered one of the NHL's premier two-way defenders; an absolute warrior (and a beard to match). If Bouchard returns to junior, he still has things he can work on and he will still be challenged to be a better player. I do expect that he gets a few games (at least) at the NHL level to give him a taste, but I also do think he ends back up in London where he could be up near the 1.5 points per game mark (tough to predict a point outcome given he'll start late and likely miss time due to the WJC's too). 

2. Ryan McLeod - Mississauga Steelheads
Predictably, McLeod fell a little bit at the NHL draft after an indifferent draft year that saw him go through stretches of inconsistency; his third year in the league as a late birth date. But in the 2nd round where Edmonton grabbed him, it was a savvy pick. McLeod's speed and skill level are definitely NHL quality. This guy can absolutely fly down the wing. And his hands are terrific, especially in tight quarters and under pressure (something he puts to good use on the powerplay, excelling within 5 feet of the crease). Also think he's a natural playmaker who sees the game pretty well and can make his linemates better. However, McLeod needs to attack the middle of the ice with greater frequency; using his size to take defenders head on and drive the net with his speed. Too often he is a passenger and not the director. Given his skill set, that leaves an underwhelming taste in some mouths. This upcoming season, McLeod will return to Mississauga and I would really like to see him take the bull by the horns more consistently. Look to create more scoring chances for himself. Shoot the puck more. Drive the net more. Play with greater urgency. Mississauga is likely to rebuild this year (unless by some miracle they land Jack Hughes), which will make McLeod a prime trade target for other teams. I'd really like to see him with 35+ goals and 90+ points in his last OHL year.

3. Kirill Maksimov - Niagara IceDogs
Was very close to ranking Maksimov ahead of McLeod, but I'll be a bit more conservative at this point. However, no doubting that Maksimov had a better season in the OHL this past year. Nearly every aspect of his game improved and he's really put himself on the map as a premier prospect. His bread and butter is his shot and release. This guy can fire a puck. But he also works very hard to get himself in scoring position. In the offensive end, he doesn't stop skating and is consistently first to loose pucks in the slot or goal area. Just a true goal scorer. His size certainly helps here too, and he played with so much more fire this season. He's actually starting to develop into a power forward, a guy who exerts himself physically and gets under the skin of opponents. This has really helped him to be a better player in all three zones and a good penalty killer. But there are still things to work on. His skating is good, but it would be great to see him work on his first few steps; making him more explosive. This is especially true as he tries to drive wide toward the goal area. And he needs to improve his decision making with the puck in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. Can be turnover prone from overhandling the puck and needs to keep things simple sometimes. Next year he'll return to the OHL where he'll be a part of a quality Niagara team that could take home the East. I see him hitting the 40 goal mark and tickling the 90+ point mark.

4. Dmitri Samorukov - Guelph Storm
Samorukov had a nice second season in Guelph which saw his development take a predictable path. The Storm struggled to take that next step forward as a team, but Samorukov largely did his part. Liked the progression of his game in both ends. Thought his decision making with the puck was much improved this year, as he cut down on his turnovers in the defensive end. He's learning to trust his skating ability to help him get pucks out and to help him evade the forecheck. Defensively, thought he played more in control. He chased the play less, took less sloppy penalties, and, again, learned to harness his plus mobility as a defensive asset. Next year in Guelph, he'll be a go to player again and I expect him to take another leap forward. I want to see him get more powerplay time (even with Ryan Merkley in Guelph) and I want to see him use his skating ability to take more chances offensively; jump up in the play, extend his rushes deeper into the offensive zone. And defensively, hopefully his decision making can continue to evolve and we'll see his physical game really hit that next level. I'd like to see Samorukov around the 45+ point mark and for him to be a '+' player for the first time in his OHL career.

5. Dylan Wells - Peterborough Petes
Such a tough year for Wells...and the Petes. The team's young and inexperienced defense couldn't keep up and Wells had to face a ton of rubber. A lot of those pucks were the result of prime scoring chances too (odd man rushes, breakaways, players left alone in the slot, etc). You could tell that it was tough mentally for Wells. After such a strong breakout in 2017, the air got taken out of his sails in 2018. There were some games where Wells battled to keep his team in games, making big save after big save. And there were others where he was prone to bad goals, especially due to poor positioning/reads. By season's end, he just looked tired and had a tough time making the saves he did easily the year prior. But it's way too early to give up on this talented young netminder. A summer off will do wonders to refocus him. The question is, where does he play in 2018/19? He's going to battle the likes of Shane Starrett and Stuart Skinner for the back-up job in the AHL, with the two losers ending up in the ECHL. But would Edmonton rather he get a full workload in the OHL as an overager? I would harbor a guess that after this past season in Peterborough, the Oilers would prefer it be for another team, so a trade is possible. Or they could have the two pro rookies, Skinner and Wells, split time in the ECHL. I think that's the most likely outcome.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Detroit Red Wings


1. Givani Smith - Kitchener Rangers
Essentially a tale of two seasons for Smith in his final OHL year. The regular season saw him post his lowest point per game average since his rookie OHL season. A lot of that also had to do with an extremely slow start thanks to a high ankle sprain that delayed the beginning of his year until mid November. But in the playoffs for Kitchener (after a midseason trade), Smith really elevated his game and was one of the key contributors in a run to the Western Conference finals. In the playoffs, we saw the return of the Smith who could control possession in the offensive zone and who was aggressive in wanting the puck on his stick to drive the net.; creating scoring chances with his size and skill. For to much of this season, he seemed to be a passenger, so it was very encouraging to see him step up in the playoffs when he was needed most. One thing that I will applaud Smith for this year was reigning in his antics on the ice. Played with a lot more composure physically, limiting the bad penalties and using his physicality for the positive. At this point, I don't see Smith developing into a top 6 player for the Wings; although I'm not sure that was ever a serious expectation. His vision and hockey sense in the offensive zone are only average, and his skating ability never really developed to the point of being an asset. But, Smith is the type of player who can disrupt physically, go hard to the net, and cash in, in tight. As he turns pro next year, one of the main focuses for him will be improving his play through all three zones. Becoming a better defensive player will be required if he wants to play that 3rd/4th line role for the Wings in the future. In the AHL next year, I'd probably expect him to be somewhere between 10-15 goals as a rookie.

2. Alec Regula - London Knights
Really liked this pick up by the Wings this year in the 3rd round. Regula is a player that I've written a lot about on this site and is a player I believe in moving forward. At 6'4, his reach is a major asset in the defensive end, especially when you consider how mobile he is. Shows the potential to develop into a terrific player in his own end as he gets stronger and gains experience. Offensively, his mobility and puck carrying ability are potential pluses. It's a matter of confidence in leading the rush and picking his spots. Bottom line, this is a kid coming off of his first OHL season, who has already improved a ton. As he gains experience, expect his decision making to improve, especially under the tutelage of the London Knights coaching staff. So what can we expect next year? The Knights should be a contender in the Western Conference again. The addition of Adam Boqvist potentially cuts into Regula's ice time, but only if Evan Bouchard returns. Either way, he's a top 3 defender who will see secondary time on the powerplay and penalty kill and should improve his production. I would expect Regula to be in the 35+ point range next year.

3. Kaden Fulcher - Hamilton Bulldogs
A savvy signing by the Wings after last year's training camp; Fulcher was one of the better goaltenders in the OHL this year. The stat line isn't really that sexy, but you need to look at the bigger picture. Fulcher led the Bulldogs to the top of the Eastern Conference and to the Memorial Cup this year. At 6'3, he's extremely athletic and covers a lot of ground in the crease because of his agility. Post to post, he's extremely quick. His consistency from game to game really improved this year and he could be relied upon to make the big saves when needed. Unfortunately, his athleticism does make him slightly prone to being out of position, as he over commits and can go down a bit early. His rebound control will need work at the pro level too. The question for the Wings is, what to do with Fulcher next year? With Rybar and Sateri already signed for the AHL, Fulcher would be destined for the ECHL where he could start and get accustomed to the speed of the pro game. Or, like Carolina did with Jeremy Helvig this year (which was extremely beneficial), they could send Fulcher back to the OHL for his overage year. Quite frankly, I'd like to see Fulcher back in the OHL, but it's not my choice.

4. Zach Gallant - Peterborough Petes
A very tough year for Gallant that saw him take a step backwards developmentally. The Peterborough Petes were not a very good team this year and Gallant struggled when relied upon to be a leader of the team's secondary scoring unit. He remains a very physical player who can excel as a forechecker, penalty killer, and at the face-off dot. But offensively, it's safe to say that the Wings want to see more from him. One of the big things for him will be continuing to improve his skating, especially those first few steps. Needs to add that explosive element to his game in order to take advantage of his physical gifts, like his ability to work the boards and create coming off the wall. Improving his shot and his confidence in using it is also a must. Bottom line, he needs to take the bull by the horns in the offensive end and create more scoring chances, for him and his linemates (especially as a center). Next year, Gallant will be one of Peterborough's top 6 centers and he should get significant time on special teams. They will need him to really take a step forward if they want to get back to the playoffs. And he's likely playing for a contract from the Wings. In order to earn one, he'll likely need to take the same steps forward that Travis Barron did for Ottawa this year, inching close to the point per game mark, while maintaining his intensity level.

5. Brady Gilmour - Saginaw Spirit
Gilmour is another Wings' prospect who had a tough year. An upper body injury ended his season in January, a season that saw his offensive numbers take a dive. I did find that Gilmour's skating ability looked much improved this year. He brings so much energy and the improvements to his stride really helped him to be a more effective player away from the puck. Offensively, his play on the puck still needs work. Being able to control the puck at top speed and create off the rush is something that would really help his game. Being able to drive play down the middle and be the type who can gain the blueline and push the pace. He seems to prefer being the guy who gets after it on the forecheck and tries to work the boards to open up lanes. But his strength along the boards does not allow him to win those battles consistency and create from it. Next year, Saginaw will need him to be an offensive leader as they look to improve heavily. The Wings will also be watching Gilmour closely to see if he deserves a contract. Like Gallant, Gilmour will likely need to be around that point per game mark, with offensive production to match his energy and effort, in order to be signed.

6. Reilly Webb - Saginaw Spirit
The major positive for Webb this year was staying healthy after a couple injury plagued seasons. It's crazy to think that coming into the year, Webb had only 20 games of OHL experience under his belt. So health had to be the number one focus. Developmentally, it's hard to say if we saw improvement, only because we didn't have a ton to base that off of. So instead, let's just examine what we saw this past season. Webb's size and mobility can be a big asset defensively. He's 6'3, but he's a very capable mover. He's primarily a stick on puck defender who tries to stay ahead of attackers, angling them off and using his stick to keep them to the outside. But as a stay at home defensive prospect, we need to see increased intensity in the defensive end. Needs to win way more battles along the wall and be a tougher guy to match up against. Offensively, there isn't a ton to talk about. The confidence with the puck is not present currently and he tends to differ to his partner or simply chip it out. Working on his exit pass and his confidence in making decisions with the puck is huge for his development. He has that mobility, but it's not put to use in an offensive sense. Realistically, he will return to Saginaw next year and is probably a third pairing defender again for a team that has major playoff aspirations. In order to earn a contract from the Wings, Webb needs to become more assertive in the defensive end and improve his play with the puck.

7. Cole Fraser - Peterborough Petes
A throwback defender, Fraser relies on physicality and determination to be a reliable player in the defensive end. He'll block shots, push people around in front of the net, drop the mitts, and impose his will in the corners. The rest of his game does remain a work in progress though. As a puck carrier, he's more advanced than Webb, but his decision making can come into question. His skating ability is also still a bit rough. Becoming more agile would help him to stay with forwards off the rush more effectively. He can have difficulty in coverage too for the same reason. Ultimately, Fraser does look like a long shot to be signed by Detroit at this point. In Peterborough, he probably returns to anchor their second or third pairing and will be a big part of their penalty kill unit. I could also see the Petes moving him prior to the start of the season. If Fraser can improve his skating, his play with the puck and overall effectiveness in the defensive end, he could surprise and earn a contract with Detroit. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars have dipped into the OHL pool quite significantly over the last few years.

1. Ty Dellandrea - Flint Firebirds
Those who read my stuff know how much of a Dellandrea fan I am. As such, it goes without saying that I loved this pick by Dallas in this year's draft. I have a lot of faith that Dellandrea can grow into a quality top 6 center who can play in all situations and wear a letter for the Stars in the future. Dellandrea's offensive skill set is greatly underrated. His skating ability is underrated and is already good. As he gets stronger, it could be an even bigger asset. And he's both a North/South and East/West player; in the sense that he can create off the rush and push the pace, or slow the game down and exhibit patience and poise in the offensive end working the cycle. Also love Dellandrea's play in all three zones. His intensity level is very high and he is an extremely effective forechecker who creates a lot of turnovers with an active stick. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how much more confidence he can gain in his ability to carry the puck and make creative plays. And it will be interesting to see just how much better his shot can get, as he possesses good goal scoring instincts. As the young talent around him develops in Flint, look for his numbers to truly skyrocket. I expect him to be up near the 80 point mark next year, with a 35/45 type of season. Also expect him to play a 3rd/4th line center role for Team Canada at the WJC's.

2. Jason Robertson - Kingston Frontenacs
Robertson remains one of the OHL's most aggressive offensive players, and also one of the more difficult players to separate from the puck. He controls play in the offensive zone like few in the OHL can, putting defenders on his back and using his size and skill to keep plays alive along the wall. He is also ultra aggressive in taking the puck to the net and looking to create his own scoring chances; always looking for an opportunity to shoot the puck. But I wouldn't classify him as having tunnel vision, as he utilizes his linemates quite well and is a good passer, especially coming off the wall as he draws defenders to him, opening up passing lanes which he is able to identify. The question is...did Robertson improve a ton this year? I'm not sure the answer is yes. His skating is still an area of weakness that will need improvement. And while his play away from the puck and play defensively did improve slightly, it also will need to continue to be improved. This is a big season for him, but also could be a frustrating one. I would expect Kingston to rebuild with them losing the majority of their top end talent. That means Robertson could be a major trade target at some point this season. Either way, I would expect him to be a 90+ point player, and for him to really up his game in the postseason should he move to a contender at some point during the year.

3. Adam Mascherin - Kitchener Rangers
After failing to come to terms with Florida, Mascherin re-entered the 2018 draft and was selected by Dallas in the 4th round. Mascherin is coming off of his first 40 goal season in the OHL and his first lengthy playoff run with Kitchener. He possesses one of the best shots in the OHL, both in terms of velocity and his lightning quick release. Previously hampered by a bad shoulder, Mascherin was fully healthy this year and as such was able to finally hit the 40 goal mark. Mascherin is also excellent below the hash marks. A strong lower body helps him to extend possession along the wall and he is a solid distributor who makes his linemates better. The shortcomings remain the same as they were when he was drafted though. His skating is not dynamic, as he lacks that explosive first step to create separation. And when you combine that with his lack of size, it could cause some issues at the pro level. And while his play away from the puck has improved, it's still not at the level where we could see him develop into a role player. Mascherin will be a top 6 player, or nothing. But you have to take a chance on players who can score like Mascherin can, and thus Dallas' gamble in the 4th round was a good one. I do think that there will be a serious learning curve at the pro level next year, as he figures out how to find scoring lanes and outwork larger opponents in tight to get scoring chances.

4. Nicholas Caamano - Hamilton Bulldogs
After taking a huge step forward last season in Flint, Caamano was not able to take his development a step further this year. He did not regress though, and his role in Hamilton's run to the Memorial Cup should be applauded. Following a move from Flint to Hamilton, Caamano took on a different role with the Bulldogs. He was asked to bring energy as a complimentary piece on the Bulldog's 2nd/3rd line and to help kill penalties. His size remains a major asset away from the puck as he attacks on the forecheck and looks to force turnovers in the neutral zone. He also clears room for his linemates by driving the middle and is a very strong presence near the net and in the slot. While he's not an elite skater, he does have quick feet and good agility, which helps him be an effective boards player and elusive in tight coverage. But his offensive game did appear to plateau this year, especially in terms of being someone who can consistently generate his own scoring chances. And while his shot is good, I don't see him being a prime time goal scorer at the next level. With a contract in hand, it seems extremely likely that Caamano starts his pro career next year. He'll likely slot into a 3rd/4th line role in hopes of developing into a quality checking line player who can eventually ascend to the NHL level in a similar capacity.

5. Riley Damiani - Kitchener Rangers
Love watching Damiani play. This is a kid who would go through a wall for his team. Does whatever the Kitchener Rangers ask of him. Pushes the pace and plays at a high tempo. Kills penalties and gets after it on the forecheck. Out there blocking shots to preserve a lead. He does it all. The lack of size is certainly a bit of an issue. And his lack of strength on the puck currently does prevent him from being more of a consistent force offensively. I think we would also like to see him add to his lower body strength to add more power to his stride. Being a more explosive skater is important for players of his stature. But, the hockey sense, playmaking ability, and skill are all there. Next year, Damiani could be Kitchener's first line center as the Rangers go through a bit of a mini rebuild. I would expect a major jump in production, with him being over the point per game mark. 

6. Curtis Douglas - Windsor Spitfires
Douglas, a 4th rounder in 2018, is a massive, massive kid. Really like how he plays in tight to the crease. Knows his role is to create havoc near the blue paint, and with his size, he can be a real tough kid to tie up. But he actually has good hands and finishing ability. Douglas is also a physical asset in the offensive end. Tough to win battles against along the wall and he can really lower the boom on the forecheck if he gets you in his cross hairs. The rest of his game is a work in progress. Is he a center or is he a winger? How much better can his skating get, given his frame? Can he become a more effective puck carrier and a guy who can play at a higher tempo in transition? The answer to these questions should begin to be answered next year. He will return to Windsor and will be a big part of their top 6 as they aim to take their division. I would expect some modest production improvements, maybe to the 30/30 mark, just under a point per game.

7. Liam Hawel - Guelph Storm
Decent year development wise for Hawel, who continues to grow and is now listed at 6'5. The lanky center really developed as a three zone player this year, emerging as one of Guelph's most dependable two-way forwards and penalty killers. And because of his faceoff ability, he was a guy they could rely on late in games to protect leads. Physically, he's still not the type to impose his size on others, opting instead to use his long reach and wingspan to help separate men from the puck. Offensively, he keeps things simple. Gets pucks in deep and can retrieve and win loose puck battles. Controls the wall pretty well and is willing to attack openings and head to the net. Certainly not the most creative player with the puck, and he needs to develop more confidence in his shot and look to take the bull by the horns a little more. He'll be on the bubble for a contract next year IMO. To earn one, he'll need to take hold of Guelph's 2nd line center spot behind Cam Hillis and get to the point per game mark for the first time in his career.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next.

1. Liam Foudy - London Knights
Caught quite a few people off guard when Columbus took Foudy so early in the first round. But you have to remember just how much this kid improved in the second half. Was one of the highest scoring draft eligibles in the OHL in the second half and his game is perfectly suited for the way that the NHL is played now. His speed is electrifying. But he's also a very capable player with the puck who can keep possession at top speed and make plays. He's not just some high energy player who's value is measured by his ability to disrupt without the puck. In fact, that's probably his weakest area right now and the area requiring the most growth for him to take that next step forward. Increasing that intensity level, becoming a better player below the hash marks, and looking to use that speed to drive the net consistently. But Foudy is a remarkable athlete and it would be foolish to put a cap on what he is capable of. Next year, he'll return to London and continue to receive the big time minutes he saw late this past year. He'll also see an increase in powerplay time. I would expect him to be around the 35/35 mark this year, with a chance to hit 75+ points.

2. Kole Sherwood - Kitchener Rangers
Was a bit surprised when the Blue Jackets sent Sherwood back to the OHL for his overage season. It gave him the chance to play for a contender in Kitchener (after a trade from Flint), and ultimately he was fantastic in the playoffs for the Rangers, leading them in goals with 14 and helping them reach the Western Conference finals. Development wise, I would say it was pretty much a status quo type of year for Sherwood. Not sure if that's really a bad thing though, considering the massive step forward he took last season. At this point, we know what Sherwood brings to the table. Big body who can skate, prolong possession in the offensive end and who possesses a fantastic shot and release. That North/South game could play very well at the pro level with the right linemmates. Keeping up that intensity level without the puck will be key, as he's going to need to be solid in all three zones to really earn the trust of his coaching staff at the next level. Truthfully, Sherwood is one guy who is tough to peg at the next level. The toolbox is solid. I'm not quite sure his hockey sense and puck skill is quite good enough to be a top 6 goal scorer, but it wouldn't surprise me either. He's an underrated prospect and I'm hoping he gets good ice time in the AHL next year and isn't sent to the ECHL. In the AHL, I'd expect him to be a 15/15 guy in his rookie season.

Monday, July 23, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Colorado Avalanche

Colorado is next.

1. Conor Timmins - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Despite the fact that Timmins missed the vast majority of the second half of the season with a lower body injury, it has to be said that he had a terrific season. He was one of five defenders in the OHL to average over a point per game and he was so fantastic at the World Junior Championships for Canada where his +15 actually set a new record at the event, beating the likes of Alexei Zhitnik, Peter Forsberg, Ryan Getzlaf, and Alexei Kovalev. Timmins really elevated his play in his own zone to match his ability to move the puck and quarterback the powerplay. His understanding of gap control, and body positioning is so strong and he just rarely loses a battle for the puck in the defensive end. Felt like his decision making with the puck greatly improved this year too. Way less turnovers from trying to force things offensively.  I will say that when he returned for the OHL playoffs this year, he had some rust and some of those turnovers (especially in the OHL final) crept back into his game. That will be the focal point as he turns pro next year. Trying to keep things simple 5 on 5 and making smart decisions with the puck. And also continuing to improve his forward skating explosiveness to allow him to be a factor in the transition game at the next level. I see Timmins eventually developing into an Alec Martinez, Andy Greene type at the NHL level who can play in all situations and eat up 20+ minutes a night on a second pairing. The Avalanche don't have a ton in the pipeline at the pro level for next year, which means Timmins should be able to get top 4 ice time and powerplay time. I think he's a 30+ point player and should only need a year or two before he's NHL ready.

2. Brandon Saigeon - Hamilton Bulldogs
Loved this pick up by the Avalanche at this year's draft. Few players in the OHL have worked as hard as Saigeon to improve like he has the last two seasons. The former high pick in the OHL priority selection was a disappointment in his first two seasons in the league, as his skating just wasn't good enough to be an impact player. But he's worked extremely hard to improve that and as such, his confidence has flourished. He's a major asset on the powerplay because of his shot. He'll try to set up in the slot or at the corners and requires very little time to get shots off; Saigeon has one of the best releases in the OHL. His two-way game is also a major asset, as he works hard to be a factor in all three zones. His hockey sense is one of his better assets. He was just so good for Hamilton in their run to the Memorial Cup. The Avalanche have options, but I'd like to see him back in the OHL for his overage year. He can continue to improve his explosiveness and his playmaking ability 5 on 5, all while taking on a leadership role for a Hamilton club that could be losing a ton of players to the pro level. But they'll still have talent up front like Matt Strome, Mackenzie Entwistle, and potential first rounder in 2019, Arthur Kaliyev. If he's back in the OHL for his overage year, I see him as a 40 goal scorer and 80+ point player.

3. Travis Barron - Ottawa 67's
Barron needed a big year to earn a contract from the Avalanche and he came through in the clutch, setting career highs in all major offensive categories. Look, no one is going to confuse Barron with Connor McDavid. Skill wise, he rates out very average. His hands never really developed at the OHL level and his vision and ability to exploit holes in defenses does not project him as as someone who will hit the score sheet with regularity at the next level. But, his ability to handle the puck in transition and protect the puck through to the net definitely improved, and that will be an important part of his game moving forward. All the little things that Barron does are so important though. From his leadership on and off the ice, to his ability to set the tone physically. Or his compete level in all three zones and tenaciousness on the forecheck. Barron is the type of kid you can't rule out from being an NHL player somewhere down the line; in the mold of a Matt Hendricks type. With an NHL contract, I think it's safe to say that Barron starts the year in the AHL/ECHL. But if he's not contributing or getting regular ice time, don't rule out a return to Ottawa for his overage year to be a part of a potential Eastern Conference leader.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Chicago Blackhawks

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

1. Mackenzie Entwistle - Hamilton Bulldogs
Recent acquisition by the Hawks in the Hossa deal. I really like Entwistle, if you recall from his draft year. His size, skating ability, and tenacity through all three zones makes him an ideal 3rd liner at the NHL level today. Reminds me a ton of Austin Watson from his OHL days. Injuries were a bit of an issue this year, as Entwistle missed time with rib and hand injuries. But he saved his best for last with 10 goals in the OHL playoffs, helping the Bulldogs reach the Memorial Cup. In the playoffs, I think we really saw him gain confidence in his ability to carry the puck and be a go to offensive player at this level, and hopefully that carries into next season. One thing that really needs to improve is his faceoff ability. The Bulldogs are going to need Entwistle to be a center next year in their top 6, but his faceoff percentages have been quite poor through his OHL career thus far. If he wants to be that guy out there in the last minute of a game protecting a lead, he needs to be more reliable on the dot. Overall, I'm very excited to see what he can do next season, especially with powerplay time. I think he hits the point per game mark for the first time in his career.

*Adam Boqvist - London Knights
The 8th overall pick this year, Boqvist was a 2017 Import Draft selection by London and it has since been announced that he will be playing for the Knights next year. He will receive a ton of ice time and will get terrific coaching from a London staff who has improved the defensive play of many offensive blueliners who have come through their system in recent years. Boqvist will play a prime role, but just how much he's relied upon will depend on whether Evan Bouchard makes Edmonton or not. I don't want to set the bar too high, but I would expect Boqvist to be at least a 55 point player next year with a strong supporting cast and a solid powerplay group.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Carolina Hurricanes

Without question, Carolina has the top prospect playing in the OHL.

1. Andrei Svechnikov - Barrie Colts
The 2nd overall pick in 2018, Svechnikov came exactly as advertised this year in the OHL. His 40 goals in 44 games, including 31 at even strength, put him in some elite company (like Connor McDavid) in terms of draft eligible production at the CHL level. I've seen a lot of OHL hockey over the years, but I don't think I've seen a player able to put defenders on his back off the rush like Svechnikov can. With his size, skating ability, and skill level, he is able to gain inside position on defenders with ease and is just so hard to stop because of it. Svechnikov also has a terrific shot release, so defenders have to try to take that away from him too, so giving him a large gap isn't ideal either. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Canes' fans), this is the last we've seen of Andrei in the OHL. He is extremely pro ready. He's such a complete player and should transition effortlessly to the NHL level next year. Gabe Landeskog had 52 points in his rookie year, and I think Svechnikov is ahead of where he was as an offensive player coming out of junior. I can see Svechnikov being a 30 goal scorer as early as next season.

2. Jeremy Helvig - Kingston Frontenacs
Really smart decision for the Hurricanes to send Helvig back to the OHL for his overage season. Was only his second season as Kingston's starter and he had a terrific year, leading the Frontenacs to the Eastern Conference finals and finishing near the top in every goaltending category. He was a consistently steady presence who could be relied upon to make the big saves when needed. Thought his agility looked better this year, allowing him to challenge shooters more aggressively. This really helped him to fight through traffic to make saves. His rebound control continues to improve too, as previously he had some difficulty preventing shots from being kicked back out into the slot. Sometimes it can be tough to be in full control when you're 6'4, 210lbs like Helvig is. Moving forward to the pro level next year, continuing to improve his lateral quickness will be key to his development into an NHL netminder. Former OHL star Alex Nedeljkovic will be the starter in Charlotte, so Helvig will battle Callum Booth for the back-up job, with the loser ending up in the ECHL (where Booth spent most of last year). 

Friday, July 20, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Calgary Flames

First Canadian team to be reviewed is Calgary. Only one OHL prospect for the Flames.

1. Adam Ruzicka - Sarnia Sting
A very good season for the Flames' lone OHL prospect. Ruzicka saw a significant uptick in production as he garnered more responsibility for a solid Sarnia Sting team. Last year I spoke of his wavering intensity level being the thing holding him back, and this year his effort level was significantly more consistent. He's really starting to embrace the style of play that he needs to employ here in North America, using his size to dominate in possession and below the hash marks. His board play and ability to keep plays alive improved a lot, as he now has the confidence to remain patient and wait for openings to create scoring chances. Ruzicka was a lot more engaged without the puck too, looking to find the front of the net, using his size to gain inside position for rebounds, tips, etc. Another thing worth noting was his improved percentage on the faceoff dot. Massive improvement there which is huge if he wants to stay down the middle moving forward. Next year, Sarnia will lose a lot of key players so they'll need Ruzicka to step up even more and be a dominant player. I'd like to see him continue to work on his skating. Off the rush, his decision making still is a question mark for me, as when the pace increases, he can still be turnover prone. And defensively, improvements could still be made to utilize his size on the backcheck and in his own end. If Ruzicka can be a 40/40 player next year and really take charge of the Sting in Jordan Kyrou's absence, I would consider that to be a very successful season.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Buffalo Sabres

4th on the list are the Buffalo Sabres.

1. Cliff Pu - Kingston Frontenacs
Pu started the year with London, but was dealt to Kingston near the trade deadline to help them with their playoff run. Overall, Pu had a solid year and was excellent in the playoffs for the Frontenacs, even though they came up short against the Bulldogs. This was an improvement from the year prior where Pu had a very disappointing playoffs with London. Pu remains at his best off the rush, dictating pace with his size and speed combination. He accelerates to top speed very quickly, especially as he cuts through the neutral zone, picking up speed to gain entry to the offensive zone. Is willing to drive the net and puts defenders on his back. Pu's two-way game has improved a lot over his OHL career too, making him more prepared for the pro game. I found that his vision and playmaking ability off the rush took a step forward this year. Didn't see as many turnovers from him trying to force things; that classic tunnel vision issue. Moving forward, there are things that he will need to continue to work on. His play in the offensive zone when the game slows down, is still slightly erratic. The hockey sense and vision can sometimes be lacking here. Being able to prolong possession through the cycle, and be the first man in on the forecheck to gain possession are areas that never really hit that elite level in his time in the OHL. His shot will need to continue to improve too. But he's a solid prospect with a shot at developing into a solid #2 or #3 center for Buffalo. He'll start his pro career next year. Former teammate Janne Kuokkanen put up 40 points this year in the AHL as a rookie and I would expect Pu to be around that same mark.

*Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - Sudbury Wolves
One of the first picks of this year's CHL Import Draft, Luukkonen has a chance to be the starting netminder for an upstart Sudbury franchise looking to restore itself to glory on the back of much hyped first overall pick Quinton Byfield. Signed by Buffalo, one would wonder if this is a serious option and could be a smart move to get him some confidence and playing time for a year before turning pro in North America. If he's in the OHL, I would expect him to have a good season. Sudbury won't be amazing, but if he could post an above .900 save percentage and get them to the playoffs, that would be huge.

**Matej Pekar - Barrie Colts
A 4th rounder by Buffalo in 2018, Pekar played last year in the USHL and has a commitment to Miami University next year. But Barrie rolled the dice by taking him in this year's Import Draft. If they can convince him to join the Colts and forgo his scholarship, he could be a solid top 6 forward for Barrie. The Colts will likely be a middle of the pack team and he would get playing time in all situations. A point per game season would not be out of the question.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Boston Bruins

Boston is up next.

1. Jack Studnicka - Oshawa Generals
Definitely a breakout season for Studnicka, who emerged as one of the OHL's best two-way centers. He led the Generals in scoring and +/-. Really felt like his skating looked improved this year. He'll never be confused for Connor McDavid, but Studnicka did clearly improve his leg strength and stride to become more powerful. This really helped him to dictate pace off the rush and quickly turn play up ice after forcing turnovers in the neutral or defensive zone. Also loved how he ratcheted up the physical intensity level, making him a very difficult player to match up against. I continue to be impressed with Studnicka's hockey sense and vision as a playmaker. He makes his linemates better with his patience and poise in the offensive end. Next year, I expect even bigger things. Hopefully his skating continues to improve. And I'd like to see him be more aggressive in attacking the net and shooting the puck, looking to create his own scoring chances, and not just for his linemates. But he's a serious candidate for the Canadian WJC team and could very well be a 90+ point player on a very solid Oshawa Generals team.  

2. Kyle Keyser - Oshawa Generals
Solid year for Keyser after the Bruins signed him to contract after he attended their training camp as an invitee. He solidified his role as Oshawa's number one and emerged as one of the better goaltenders in the OHL. Keyser moves well in the crease and really worked to shore up deficiencies technically. Saw his rebound control get better, and his positioning improve, as he over-committed much less. Next year, Oshawa should be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and Keyser is a candidate to be the OHL goaltender of the year IMO. I think we'll see his save percentage climb into the .915 rate with a potentially solid defense in front of him. One thing I'd really like to see him improve upon is his aggressiveness in challenging shooters and fighting through traffic to make saves. Can still get caught deep in his crease. But he's trending in the right direction to becoming a quality pro prospect.

*Axel Andersson - Kitchener Rangers
A 2nd round pick of the Bruins this year, Andersson was an import selection of the Kitchener Rangers this year. Sounds like he'll be coming over to play and he should make an immediate impact in the OHL. Kitchener needs someone to run their powerplay and I would expect that he has a good offensive season surrounded by some talent. A 40+ point season is definitely a reachable target.

** Daniel Bukac - Niagara IceDogs
Bukac has played the last two years in the WHL, but had his rights released by Brandon after an injury plagued year. The towering defender had his rights picked up by Niagara where he will suit up for a quality young team looking to add size to a smaller blueline. He'll likely be looked at to be a stay at home type who can play a safe, physical game while paired with one of Niagara's smaller offensive blueliners. He'll play out his contract year in the OHL, but I probably wouldn't expect a ton from him offensively. The 25+ point mark would be good, as long as his defense is reliable.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Arizona Coyotes

Second stop on the tour, the Arizona Coyotes have half of the OHL's prospects in their farm system.

1. Barrett Hayton - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The 5th overall pick in 2018, Hayton is coming off of a breakout sophomore season in the OHL where he was a key part on a fantastic Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team. Hayton is already one of the more well rounded centers in the OHL; a guy who can make an impact in all three zones. He's such an effective player without the puck and his hockey sense is terrific. Hayton also has great goal scoring potential because of his quick release. Next year, Hayton will continue to form a dynamic one/two punch with Morgan Frost down the middle. This summer, I'd like to see him work on his skating, to make himself a little more explosive. He's certainly not a poor skater, but there's room for improvement and it would help him be a more dynamic player in the offensive end. Next year, I also want to see him taking over play more; being that guy who can lead the rush and dominate time of possession in the offensive zone. His hands are good, but this year he had a tendency to defer to his teammates in favor of being a guy who could create room and drive the net. But the Hounds are going to need him to be a focal point and a guy who makes his linemates better. I think he'll be up to the challenge. A realistic expectation would be a 30+ goal, and 75+ point season in his draft +1.

2. Cam Dineen - Sarnia Sting
Fantastic season for Dineen, as he returned from a knee injury. Set career highs in nearly every offensive category and ended up finishing 4th in defenseman scoring with 64 points between North Bay and Sarnia. Most encouraging sign for me was that Dineen's mobility on the back-end didn't appear to be hampered. In fact, I thought the opposite. I thought his first few steps looked quicker and more explosive, something that he needed to work on. Also saw him take more chances offensively, by extending his rushes deeper into the offensive zone and looking to jump up into the play. However, the most encouraging thing for me was his improved play in the defensive end. I remember seeing North Bay play Barrie early on in the season, and Dineen went head to head with Andrei Svechnikov. Svechnikov is one of the hardest players to stop one on one in the OHL, and the two went head to head on a one on one rush. Dineen, kept Svechnikov to the outside, angled him to the corner and actually put him on his ass. That's not something we would have seen in previous years. Now, that's not to say Dineen is a physical defender. It's just that we saw him really engage more and be a tougher player to go up against. Positioning wise, his coverage has always been pretty good, it's just that he lacked strength and the will to win one on one battles consistently. We saw that improve this year. Dineen will be turning pro this year and will head to the AHL. He'll have less time to operate, and because of that he'll have to continue to improve his skating if he wants to create time and space for himself to make plays offensively. And he'll have to continue to get stronger to win battles against larger men. I think Dineen is ahead of where Kyle Capobianco and Kyle Wood were upon graduating from the OHL and both had solid first seasons in the AHL for the Coyotes organization. While I think Dineen is a few years away from being an NHL player, I do see him having a 35+ point season in the AHL next year.

3. Kevin Bahl - Ottawa 67's
Loved the selection of Bahl in the late second round this year. Great value at that spot for the Coyotes. The tower of power is definitely a potential NHL defender. He's a terrific skater for a big man. If you combine that with his great reach and physical intensity level, you have a potential shut down defender. But Bahl is capable of more offensively. He played things relatively safe in the OHL this year, electing to defer to others to make plays with the puck. But Bahl has quick hands, a good shot, good instincts and the potential to be an offensive contributor from the back-end. We saw that this year when Bahl played against his peers in larger scale atmospheres, like the Top Prospect's Game and both U18 events (Hlinka and WC's). He'll return to the OHL next year and be a part of a terrific young Ottawa 67's team that could win the Eastern Conference. Bahl will likely be counted on in all situations and could be the team's number one defender when all is said and done. I see him around the 30 point next year, with the potential to be even higher if he can squeak out more powerplay time.

4. Nate Schnarr - Guelph Storm
It was a tough year for Schnarr, who failed to improve upon his production from his draft year. Guelph, as a whole, was an inconsistent team and Schnarr was not different. Perhaps part of it was the fact that he switched back and forth between center and the wing. That type of lack of continuity can be tough to adjust to. Ultimately though, Schnarr still gets pushed off the puck too easily and seems to lack that killer instinct in the offensive end. He works hard, plays a relatively fearless game and will look to drive the net. But he's not able to prolong possession the way that you'd like to see from a 6'3 forward. I was also disappointed with the fact that Schnarr received very little time on the penalty kill. He was used on the powerplay, but others were used ahead of him for the PK. Now, I still have him ranked 5th because I believe in his talents and ability to progress this year. 5 on 5, he needs to be better and I think he will be. I would like to see him stick on the wing, where he can learn to use his size and speed to drive the net, forecheck, and be a better player without the puck. The talent is there. Realistically, I would imagine that Schnarr will have to get himself close to the point per game mark (or over it) to earn a contract from Arizona. A 25 goal, 35 assist season would be great for him and a solid goal.  

5. Jalen Smereck - Flint Firebirds
After starting the year at the professional level, the Coyotes decided to send Smereck back to the OHL for his overage season. He made the best of it playing for last place Flint, sticking it out past the deadline and embracing a leadership role as part of a young defense. Did Smereck improve much? I don't really think so. He's still a solid two-way defense prospect who is very well rounded. His mobility is a major asset. He can quarterback the powerplay. He plays a smart game in the defensive end and engages physically. He makes generally good decisions with the puck. These are all the same things that I said last year. I do think that Smereck has a chance to be a solid third pairing defender at the NHL level, but he's probably a guy who will have to chip away at it for a few years. Arizona's prospect depth is quite strong and Smereck will be competing with several quality defenders for ice time in the AHL next year. Wouldn't surprise me if he spends most of the year in the ECHL to get his feet wet. 

6. Noel Hoefenmayer - Ottawa 67's
A tough transitional year for Hoefenmayer. He saw his offensive production drop as he was asked to tutor a young 67's defense. Hoefenmayer went the entire regular season without scoring a powerplay goal and the 67's had one of the worst powerplays in the OHL. Hoefenmayer also took way less chances in terms of jumping up in the rush, or looking to push the pace, than he did the year previous. That appeared to be by design, limiting his risks so that he could focus more on the defensive side of the puck. I guess the question you have to ask is, how much did his defensive game improve? I definitely think some, but I'd still love to see him be more aggressive without the puck. Next year, Hoefenmayer returns to Ottawa and will look to really improve his offensive production again. That will be his meal ticket to earning an NHL contract and he needs to show that he can QB a powerplay effectively and create off the rush consistently. Ottawa will aim to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and they will need Hoefenmayer to step up his game as a veteran. Anything less than a 50 point season would be a disappointment IMO and may cost him an NHL deal.

7. Dennis Busby - Flint Firebirds
Loved this pick by the Coyotes. Sure, he only played a couple games last year because of a collarbone injury, but the potential is massive. He's consistently been one of the better defenders in his age group for Ontario and will look to prove that next year, fully healthy. His skating is his best attribute and he'll look to be a big time offensive contributor for an improved Flint team. Staying healthy and looking to engage physically in the defensive end will also be areas that he'll look to achieve. This 8th ranking is pretty conservative given his injury, but with a good year, he could leap frog everyone and be the Yotes best prospect in the OHL behind Barrett Hayton. I am going to predict a 35+ point season as he gets himself back on track.

*Jan Jenik - Flint Firebirds
A 3rd rounder by Arizona this year, Jenik was taken extremely early by Flint in this year's Import draft. Given Arizona's connection to the Flint organization, I would be surprised if he does not report. I've read some great things about him and would expect that he could be a possible linemate of Ty Dellandrea's on the Firebird's first line. If that's the case, a 30/30 season could be a real possibility.

**Ivan Prosvetov - Saginaw Spirit
A hulking netminder and 4th rounder by Arizona in 2018, Prosvetov suited up in the USHL last year. Saginaw has made some terrific adds this offseason and will look to be extremely competitive in the Western Conference. And Prosvetov will be their starting netminder and back-bone. Excited to see what he can do and I would expect him to be close to the top 5 in most goaltending categories next year.

***Liam Kirk - Peterborough Petes 
The pride of Great Britain, Kirk was taken by Peterborough in this year's import draft and will be coming over to play for the Petes. Very excited to see what he can do, given he played against men the last two years and has had a fair amount of hype attached to him (despite only being a 7th rounder). Peterborough might not be terrific next year, but Kirk should receive top 6 ice time. I would expect him to at least be a 25/25 guy in his first OHL season with the chance to build off of that in his draft +2 year.

Monday, July 16, 2018

31 Teams in 31 Days - Anaheim Ducks

We start at the beginning of the alphabet again this year which means that the Anaheim Ducks are the first team with a write-up.

1. Max Jones - London Knights/Kingston Frontenacs
The good news? Max Jones went the year without getting suspended once! The bad news, he had another injury shortened season. Thanks to a broken finger injury and a trip to Buffalo for the WJC's, Jones was limited to 31 games in the OHL regular season, his lowest total to date. He also posted his lowest points per game average in his three year OHL career (lower than his draft season). The goals were there in London, but after a trade to Kingston the finger injury happened and he never really found chemistry in that line-up and struggled in the playoffs. In the playoffs, he also struggled to control his temper and maintain discipline; epitomized by a Game 4 freakout in the Eastern Conference finals that saw him earn a game misconduct (ironically the only game of the series that Kingston would win). I think you could also say that Jones didn't really improve a ton as a player this year. Skill wise, what you see is what you get. He's a powerful skater who can drive the net, has a good shot release and can dictate the physicality of a game. But I'm not sure he has the hockey sense and playmaking ability to be a consistent top 6 forward. That part of his game just never really developed in his three years in the OHL. Next year he'll turn pro and will likely suit up in the AHL, as playing a top 9 role with some powerplay time would be better for his development than playing an energy role on Anaheim's 4th line. I would expect him to be around the 20 goal mark in his rookie AHL year.

2. Jack Kopacka - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A very good season for Kopacka. Nice uptick in production as he inched closer to the point per game mark and had a terrific postseason, finishing 2nd in goals for the Greyhounds in the playoffs. Kopacka continued to round out his game, improving his play without the puck, using his speed to be a factor in pursuit. Not just a North/South player now, Kopacka showed an ability to slow the game down a bit, working the wall and really improving his ability to work in the offensive zone, through give and go's, the cycle, and overall puck protection. He's still not a very physical player, given his size at 6'3, 200lbs. But he has a nice skill set and has really progressed to become a solid, well rounded player. Kopacka will also turn pro this coming year. The question I have is, where does Kopacka fit in as a pro? The skill set is nice, but not elite. Perhaps not quite at the level needed for a top 6 winger at the NHL level. The size, speed, and improved three zone play are pluses, but his physical intensity level may not be high enough to make him an ideal bottom 6 player. But he improved every year in the OHL and if Anaheim is patient, they could have a Zach Hyman kind of player on their hands. A 15/15 first pro season is a realistic expectation.

Monday, July 9, 2018

2018 CHL Import Draft Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2016
23 of 30 players selected came to the OHL (76%)
21 of 30 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (70%)
12 of 30 (open for debate) of the 28 players had a significant impact on their OHL teams (40%)

In 2017
18 of 25 players selected came to the OHL (72%)
16 of 25 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (64%)
10 of 25 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (40%)

Of course this article wouldn't have been possible without the help of these experts:
Jimmy Hamrin (@jimmyhamrin)
Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory)
Matt Grainda (@graindaiv)
Viktor Fomich (@RUSProspects)
Anton Vasyatin (@Av1376)
Chapin Landvogt (@Csomichapin)
Marco Bombino (@marco_bombino)
Justin Froese (@FroeseFC)
Donesh Mazloum (@DMaz16)
Karel Malek of juniorskyhokej (@karl_karlsson)

Here are the reports:

3. Sudbury Wolves - Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - Goaltender
With the first OHL selection of the Import Draft, the Wolves wasted little time taking the first goaltender (now that they are eligible again). The Buffalo Sabres 2nd rounder in 2017, Luukkonen recently signed his NHL deal and looks like he could be headed to the OHL to be the Wolves' new starting netminder. Luukkonen is coming off a bit of a down year that saw him struggle internationally. Sudbury has to be hoping he can turn things around and get the team back to the playoffs next year.

Scouting Report: Marco Bombino says, "Luukkonen performed quite well for LeKi in Mestis last season but could not bring his 'A' game to the national team at the World Juniors. At his best, Luukkonen is very calm and shows great quickness and fluid movements. On the downside, he possesses mediocre puck handling skills and his play reading and net coverage also require work. All things considered, he would be a top goalie in the OHL if he decides to go across the pond."

6. Flint Firebirds - Jan Jenik - Forward
The 65th overall pick by Arizona at this year's NHL, Jenik was the 6th overall pick at the Import Draft this year. The youngest player eligible this year (shares a birthday with Der-Arguchintsev), Jenik has some physical maturing to do and the OHL could definitely be an attractive spot for him. This is especially true given Arizona's connection with the Flint organization (Smereck and Busby). Jenik had a great year internationally for the Czech Republic, winning a Silver in the summer at the Hlinka and leading the event with 6 goals, and being named a top 3 player for the Czechs at the U18's. He could be an ideal winger for Ty Dellandrea next season.

9. Peterborough Petes - Liam Kirk - Forward
Such a cool story here with Kirk. One of the best prospects to ever come out of Great Britain. He was a 7th rounder of the Arizona Coyotes this past NHL draft. KIrk played a ton of hockey last year, suiting up in the EIHL for Sheffield (alongside former Petes' captain John Armstrong), and playing at the U18's, U20's, and the World Championship for Great Britain. Will be interesting to see just how well his game translates to the OHL level next year.
Scouting Report: Future Considerations had Kirk rated 136th for the 2018 NHL Draft and had this to say about him: "He skates very well and is efficient in his strides, displaying good agility. He's shown natural instincts for the game, getting himself in the right position on the ice. He has the puck skills and finesse skills, especially passing and playmaking, to be an offensive contributor. He needs to add weight to his lanky frame and needs to bring more of a physical element. He tries to model his game after Mitch Marner." 

12. Erie Otters - Petr Cajka - Forward
The Otters selected a Czech center who has been playing out of Switzerland the last four years. The late born 2000 forward suited up for the Czech Republic at last year's Hlinka and U18's too. He can hopefully slot into Erie's top 9 forward group next year alongside Gera Poddubnyi as Stephane Patry's rights were released.

Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Petr Cajka is a Czech centerman who came over to Switzerland to play when he was in the age of 15/16 or so. I have seen him in the Swiss U20 league as well as in international games for the Czech Republic and somehow always liked his performance. Not necessarily because he caught my eyes while playing an extremely skilled or physical game but because of his mature two-way game. Cajka contributes at both ends of the ice and does a lot of small things right in order to support his team. Has never been the first centerman in his teams but provided good and reliable work in a smaller role. Although he is not the biggest in size, he can play physical. He understands the game at a high level and makes reliable decisions with the puck. I like his release in his shot, especially quick when firing the puck with his wrist. Cajka is a smooth skater and possesses good overall speed." 

15. Saginaw Spirit - Ivan Prosvetov - Goaltender
Needing to replace Evan Cormier in the crease, the Spirit took advantage of the eligibility of goaltenders by selecting the massive Ivan Prosvetov. The 6'5 netminder was a 4th round pick of Arizona in 2018, playing out of the USHL last year with Youngstown. In fact, he's been in North America already for two years, having suited up in the NAHL the year prior. In the USHL last year, Prosvetov finished top 10 in save percentage and led Youngstown to an appearance in the Clark Cup final. Given the improvements that Saginaw has made this offseason, Prosvetov could be an elite OHL netminder for them.

Scouting Report: Matt Grainda says, “Now that the European goalie ban is over, the Saginaw Spirit recently utilized their high 2018 CHL Import Draft pick on a tall, athletic goaltender with a lot of pro-potential in Ivan Prosvetov. Born in Moskva, RUS, Prosvetov has spent the last two years looking to adapt to the North American game by tending goal two years ago with the NAHL Minnesota Magicians and by spending last year in the crease with the USHL Youngstown Phantoms. Prosvetov posted very good numbers in both leagues, maintaining a save percentage of .928 in the NAHL and .913 in the USHL all while playing 44 NAHL and 36 USHL games. Prosvetov did lead his Younstown team to the USHL Clark Cup Finals this season as well, posting a 2.58 GAA and a .921 save percentage during the run. Prosvetov is primarily described as a very tall, athletic goalie with strong coordination and reflexes. He relies a lot on natural talent which is why he is often described as a raw goaltender who still needs to refine his rebound control and focus more on technique. Either way, the Arizona Coyotes liked what they saw this season as they selected him in the 4th Round of the 2018 NHL Draft. It seems likely that Prosvetov could end up in Saginaw next year.”

18. Ottawa 67's - Marco Rossi - Forward
Rossi is a much hyped prospect and could be a big time contributor to the 67's should he come over. A late 2001 birth date, Rossi is almost universally ranked inside the top 10 on early 2020 NHL Draft rankings. The slick, dynamic center is an Austrian who has been playing in Switzerland and who has put up comparable stats to Nico Hischier at the same age in the same leagues. This looks like the playmaker that the 67's needed to really elevate them to the top of the Eastern Conference over the next few years.

Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Marco Rossi is a very fluid skater, shows great top speed and is mobile on his skates. Very poised with the puck, has smooth hands and can handle the puck with great care. Real smooth hands and silk puckmoving skills. Always aware of his line mates, Rossi doesn’t need much space to make plays and set up team mates. He is strong in setting up plays as well as finish them off using his strong shooting tools. Good shot accuracy and fires the puck with decent power out of his wrist. Rossi is a good two-way player too, backchecks hard and follows his guy until deep into his own zone. Overall, he understands the game at a high level and his hockey IQ impresses me. He has been an impact player in the Swiss U20 league and also played some pro games already. A very gifted player that could become one of the top Austrian players ever played the game."

24. Mississauga Steelheads - Filip Reisnecker - Forward
After trading Albert Michnac to Saginaw and seeing Jacob Moverare turn pro, the Steelheads picked twice at this year's Import Draft. The first was a Czech born forward playing in Germany whose late birthday doesn't make him eligible for the NHL entry draft until 2020. Reisnecker led the DNL (U19) in scoring this past year and even scored a goal professionally in the German 3rd division. This is a kid who looks like he has some offensive upside and who could be a nice find for Mississauga.

Scouting Report: Chapin Landvogt says, "The drafting of Filip Reisnecker, who is technically a Czech with a German passport, was absolutely fascinating. This is a kid with a lot going for him offensively and he's been tearing things up here in Germany the past two seasons. He's just got a ton of hockey sense and great anticipation. He's only 16 right now and is first eligible for the 2020 draft, so if he'd head over now, he could spend two seasons in the OHL to make a name for himself. He's talented and at 6'1", 170 lbs., he won't get pushed around in quite the same manner as could be the case for Alberg and Fleischer. I'd be very excited to see him in North America. If he stays in Germany, he'll likely be splitting time between the DNL and the men's third league with a possibility to latch on with a 2nd league team (via affiliations). Definitely an exciting name to follow, no matter where he ends up."

27. North Bay Battalion - Yegor Postnov - Forward
With their first pick in the Import Draft, the Battalion opt for offensive winger Yegor Postnov, who had 17 goals in the MHL last year. The 2000 born, 6'0 forward was ranked in the 70's by NHL Central Scouting, but went undrafted. Now, strangely enough, this guy is listed as a defense by some places and forward by some places. NHL Central Scouting has him listed as a defender, as does Elite Prospects. Thinking it's an error as official MHL websites list him as a forward.

Scouting Report: Viktor Fomich tries to clear up some of the confusion. "He played a bit of defense two years ago in the U18 league, but played forward this year in the MHL."And Anton Vasyatin has the true scouting report, "Right now Yegor Postnov is in that situation I like most of all. He is not the most famous junior from Russia, and the CHL is his chance to show the best of him. In 2018 Postnov played for weak team (Kapitan Stupino) and collected nice numbers - 17 goals, 29 points. Definitely worth remembering Nikita Scherbak who played in Stupino a few years ago and was an unknown player, but then he went over seas and became a first rounder. Postnov is that type of winger who doesn't like to shoot the puck a lot but makes it accurately. Also has quite good on-ice vision during the powerplay and can make accurate assists. He should work on his defensive game. I suppose he won't turn into great player even in Canada, but next season will be very useful. Centers like Adam McMaster or Matthew Struthers will help him to play the best game in North Bay.

30. Windsor Spitfires - Kari Piiroinen - Goaltender
Hoping that they have grabbed their goaltender of the future (along with Xavier Medina, a recent priority selection), Windsor took 2001 born Finnish netminder Kari Piiroinen. Piiroinen was Finland's starter at the most recent U17's and won a league championship with HIFK's U18 squad. Adding someone like Piiroinen gives the Spitfires protection for once Dipietro graduates after next year.

Scouting Report: Marco Bombino says, "Piiroinen definitely belongs to the top tier of Finnish goalies in the age group. He has very good technique and good vision, reading the developing play well in front of him. He's athletic and has good rebound control, both on low and high shots. Though drafting goalies is a crap shoot, I'd say he has a good shot at getting picked even in the mid rounds of the 2019 draft."

33. Oshawa Generals - Nando Eggenberger - Forward
The Swiss forward was one of the biggest surprises to go undrafted at the 2018 NHL Draft. Redline Report had him inside their first round, while most other scouting agencies had him firmly in their top 100 (including Bob McKenzie at #90). He's been hyped for quite some time, but definitely did not have a good draft season. The late '99 born winger could come over to Oshawa, play a top 6 role and hope to get himself drafted the second time around in 2019.

Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Nando Eggenberger is a player that plays a power forward type of game. He is extremely effective around the net and shows that nose for the net as he always finds great shooting spots around the crease. Very good at circling away from the play without the puck and finding open ice. A goal scorer at heart, possesses good shot accuracy as well as a quick release in his wrist shot. Often not noticeable for a while and then able to sting and score the goal. Eggenberger improved his skating skills this past season and possesses powerful steps and also good top end speed. He is not shying away from checks and board battles, however, not an overly physical player but still good at protecting the puck and fighting for space and open ice around the crease. He is a somehow one-dimensional player and not someone who creates offense on his own, but if lined up with the proper players that feed him, he can be a dangerous offensive weapon."

36. Niagara IceDogs - Kyen Sopa - Forward
Sopa is a smaller, offensive forward who is first time eligible for the 2019 NHL draft thanks to a late 2000 birth date. The Swiss winger has been a top scorer in the Swiss leagues the last few years and was also a standout for the Swiss at this year's U18's. Niagara has a pretty deep roster going into next season, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in.

Undersized forward who put up great numbers in the Swiss U20 league. Was a top 5 scorer as a 17 year old, which shows where his strength are. Can move the puck nicely and knows how to rack up points. What I like about him is his work ethic and physical maturity although being undersized. He is strong on his skates and shows a good lower body balance and is somehow hard to knock off the puck. He shows a willingness to battle and shows grittiness too. I am curious how he’s going to work out if he comes over to play Canadian Juniors facing older and more mature opponents.
Scouting Report: Dennis Schellenberg says, "Undersized forward who put up great numbers in the Swiss U20 league. Was a top 5 scorer as a 17 year old, which shows where his strength are. Can move the puck nicely and knows how to rack up points. What I like about him is his work ethic and physical maturity although being undersized. He is strong on his skates and shows a good lower body balance and is somehow hard to knock off the puck. He shows a willingness to battle and shows grittiness too. I am curious how he’s going to work out if he comes over to play Canadian Juniors facing older and more mature opponents." 

39. Kingston Frontenacs - Ian Derungs - Forward
With Linus Nyman and Eemeli Rasanen moving on from the OHL this year, the Fronts had to pick in this year's import draft. They chose Derungs, a tiny offensive forward who hails from Switzerland. The late born '99 was 2nd in goals (with 33) in the Swiss U20 league. Of note, Kingston only selected once because they decided to keep Rasanen on their protected list in hopes that he changes his mind.

Scouting Report: My contacts had little information on Derungs, so here's some info from a Kingston Whig article by Doug Graham (here), with quotes from GM Darren Keily. "His experience and his character are going to be huge for us this coming season," Keily said. "He's a pretty good player. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he competes like crazy, can skate and do all the little things we are going to be looking for."

42. London Knights - Matvei Guskov - Forward
London opts for Russian center, Matvei Guskov, a standout from this past year's U17's. The 6'1 center led Russia in goals at the event with 4. He also played for Russia at last summer's Hlinka tournament as an underager, scoring two goals. Assuming London hopes the 2001 born, 2019 eligible Guskov can come in and be the team's 3rd line center next year.

Scouting Report: Viktor Fomich says, "Here we have some upside from what I've seen: potentially a complete two-way center, skates well, works hard, isn't afraid to get his nose dirty, already at his age he has some good strength in his game. His father is former Russia NT player Alexander Guskov." Anton Vasyatin says, "Matvei Guskov is one of the best young Russian forwards. He showed terrific hockey IQ and puck skills playing for Team Russia at International tournaments (even with Russia U18, where his partners were one year older) and in the MHL where he represents CSKA Moscow junior team. He is a very agile and quick skater. Reminds me Rangers' 2018 first rounder Vitali Kravtsov. It would be much better if he improvs his game at the faceoff circle, but not so necessary, because he also can easily play as a winger. If Guskov decides to leave Russia to play in the CHL, the next season will be the most important for him if he wants to be drafted in the first round in 2019. I think OHL is the best option as he has no chances to debut in the KHL soon. London Knights is very good organisation for improvement especially in the pre-draft season

45. Owen Sound Attack - Manuel Alberg - Forward
Alberg is an undersized forward from Germany who is 2001 born. He suited up for Germany at last year's Division 2 U18's, averaging a point per game as an underager. He should provide some offensive depth to the Attack this year, who are poised to lose some players to the pro level.
As for Alberg and Fleischer, we are talking about two offensively oriented forwards who need to gain weight. Both are under 160 pounds and only Fleischer even comes in at six foot, but he might be less. Both have produced above-average DNL stats (albeit nothing like a Michaelis or Kahun, much less Draisaitl). Both were part of the U18 team that was in Latvia for the D1A U18 tourney in which Germany lost only to host Latvia and scored the most goals in the tournament. Each got a few points along the way, with Alberg checking in at a PPG pace, finishing the tourney with a +5 rating. Certainly, he has been the more interesting prospect of the two to date. This said, I think Fleischer may end up being the better player. If you're wondering what type of CHL impact they might have, it's hard to tell at this juncture as both need to mature physically more than anything else. I think both could end up being a bit like Max Kammerer, who just signed with the Washington Capitals as a young European UFA after two eye-opening seasons in the DEL. He always had some tools, but his one season for the Regina Pats was less than stellar. I'm also not sure either is quite as talented as Andreas Eder, a former Vancouver Giant who has a lot of great tools himself, but has struggled to establish himself as a DEL player to date. It'll be fascinating to see how they present themselves, if they head over.

Scouting Report: Chapin Landvogt provides his report on both Alberg and Hamilton selection Tim Fleischer. "As for Alberg and Fleischer, we are talking about two offensively oriented forwards who need to gain weight. Both are under 160 pounds and only Fleischer even comes in at six foot, but he might be less. Both have produced above-average DNL stats (albeit nothing like a Michaelis or Kahun, much less Draisaitl). Both were part of the U18 team that was in Latvia for the D1A U18 tourney in which Germany lost only to host Latvia and scored the most goals in the tournament. Each got a few points along the way, with Alberg checking in at a PPG pace, finishing the tourney with a +5 rating. Certainly, he has been the more interesting prospect of the two to date. This said, I think Fleischer may end up being the better player. If you're wondering what type of CHL impact they might have, it's hard to tell at this juncture as both need to mature physically more than anything else. I think both could end up being a bit like Max Kammerer, who just signed with the Washington Capitals as a young European UFA after two eye-opening seasons in the DEL. He always had some tools, but his one season for the Regina Pats was less than stellar. I'm also not sure either is quite as talented as Andreas Eder, a former Vancouver Giant who has a lot of great tools himself, but has struggled to establish himself as a DEL player to date. It'll be fascinating to see how they present themselves, if they head over."

48. Barrie Colts - Maksim Zhukov - Goaltender
With Leo Lazerev moving on, Barrie elected to bring in a new starting goaltender by way of the Import Draft. The team intends to still contend next year and it was likely felt that Kai Edmonds still needed more seasoning. Zhukov has played the last two years in the USHL with Green Bay, where he's been a top 10 netminder. The Vegas Golden Knights draft pick (in 2017) has definitely explored NCAA destinations, so recruiting him might not be so cut and dry. But should he report, he could be an impact player for the franchise.

Scouting Report: Matt Grainda says, “The floodgates have opened on European goaltenders, and the Barrie Colts didn’t waste any time by taking a chance on a highly-touted goaltender from the USHL in Maxim Zhukov. Zhukov spent his minor league career in Russia prior to coming over to the USHL Green Bay Gamblers two seasons ago. He has experienced a pretty solid international career with Russia, tending the crease at the U17 World Hockey Challenge along with winning Bronze at the U18 World Junior Challenge while earning Best Goaltender, Best Save %, and Top 3 on Team honors. Zhukov has also had a lot of success in the USHL as well, posting a 2.25 GAA with a .913 save percentage during 31 games in year one while earning USHL All-Rookie Second team honors and following that up with a big workload playing in 53 games and putting up a 2.45 GAA with a 9.09 save percentage. As a strong, athletic butterfly-style goaltender, Zhukov does a great job using his agility and angle work to put shooters in tough situations to score. He’s got the prototypical height and weight that NHL scouts look for, and he can steal games as demonstrated by his performance in the U18 World Junior Challenge. The Vegas Golden Knights made Zhukov the first goalie drafted in their franchise history, so it will be interesting to see if they want the uncommitted NCAA prospect in the OHL for next season.”

51. Kitchener Rangers - Axel Andersson - Defense
A 2nd round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2018, Andersson is an offensive blueliner who could be a very shrewd pick up for the Rangers. With the loses of Logan Stanley and Austin McEneny on the horizon, Kitchener needed to look for someone to quarterback their man powerplay unit and Andersson could definitely be that guy. He has suited up internationally for team Sweden (winning bronze at the Hlinka and U18's), and lead the U20 SuperElit league in assists from the back-end.

Scouting Report: Jimmy Hamrin says, "Good skater with good technique and room for improvement. Puck skills are strong, both his shot and his passing skills have NHL potential. He’s also smart both defensively as offensively. In a future role I see Andersson as a top 4 NHL defenseman as the ceiling and an AHL/SHL defenseman as the floor. For him to reach the ceiling, his game needs to standout and flash more often and for that to happen he’ll need to use his best skills more often and effectively. If he takes more risks in his game, he’ll also learn more on where his limits are and where he can work on improving to become the player he wants to be."

54. Hamilton Bulldogs - Philip Broberg - Defense
The Bulldogs beefed up their blueline by selecting one of the top 2001 born blueliners in Sweden. Broberg was the 2nd highest scoring U17 defender in the SuperElit U20 league last year and at 6'3, his size will be alluring to scouts too. He also played for Sweden at the U17's. If Broberg can step in and fill a top 4 role, that would be huge for a team set to lose RIley Stillman, Justin Lemcke, and Connor Walters on the backend.

Scouting Report: Jimmy Hamrin says, "A two-way defenseman. Solid in the defensive game, but takes offensive risks as well. Not super skilled with the puck, but can transport it well and has a good shot. He has good size and reach. Plays with poise. Makes things happen on the ice. Smooth and agile skater, but with average top speed. Still a bit early to say, but long term and with good development, I see NHL potential in Broberg. Although I haven't looked deep on next years NHL draft class, I'd say Broberg has a good chance of being drafted next year."

57. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Roman Pucek - Forward
The Greyhounds Import situation is extremely cloudy heading into next year. Will Rasmus Sandin return? Will Rasmus Kupari show up a year later? Because both are NHL first rounders, SSM gets to add more imports to their protected list. The first is Pucek, a 2000 born forward who went undrafted in the NHL this year (but was ranked 74th by NHL Central Scouting). He finished 3rd in scoring in the Czech U18 league and was recently at the Toronto Maple Leafs development camp. Seems that Toronto definitely has interest in him and what better fit than with the Hounds?

69. Peterborough Petes - Erik Cermak - Forward
Peterborough grabs another forward with their second selection, Czech winger Erik Cermak. He's a 5'10, 2001 born forward who will be eligible for next year's NHL draft. He's competed in the Czech U18 league the last two years as an underager, putting up over a point per game. But if we're comparing him against his peers, the ppg average this year was not even top 20 for U17 players in that league. Never know if he ends up being a diamond in the rough, and he will at least add some depth to Peterborough's forward group.

84. Mississauga Steelheads - Nikita Zuyev - Defense
With their second pick, the Steelheads took a relatively unknown defender from Belarus. Zuyev played in the Belarussian men's league this past year, and posted 3 assists. As a late birthday '99, he was passed over in this year's NHL draft and was not ranked by NHL Central Scouting. Listed at 5'11 by Elite Prospects, so he's not bringing a ton of size to the table either. Could be a real shot in the dark.

Scouting Report: No contacts had any information on Zuyev, so here's some info from the Steelheads themselves (as per this article), "The second round selection attended a camp in the GTA a couple of weeks ago and demonstrated to Steelheads’ coaching staff to be a strong d-man who exemplifies a good first pass and who skates and moves well. After spending the 2017-18 season in the Belarus men’s league, Zuyev is a promising young defenceman who the Steelheads expect to grow and develop into a solid blueliner."

87. North Bay Battalion - David Maier - Defense
In the 2nd round, the Battalion grabbed an Austrian defender (and international teammate of Ottawa selection Marco Rossi) who will look to provide some offense from the blueline for North Bay. He went undrafted at this year's NHL draft, but was named the best defender at the 2nd division U18's while playing for Austria. No question, the Battalion will need someone to QB their powerplay this year and Maier (or Postnov) could be that guy.

Scouting Report: My contacts had no info on Maier, but here's some information from the North Bay Battalion website and quotes from Adam Dennis (here), “David was a guy whom I actually came across through some mutual contacts while playing in Austria,” noted Dennis. “I was watching one of his former teammates at the under-20 by the name of Marco Rossi and just fell in love with David." “I think he’s going to fit in really well with our system. He really likes to jump into the play. He’s a good skater, and I think he’s going to be a pleasant surprise in the second round.”

96. Niagara IceDogs - Daniel Bukac - Defense
A hulking defender at 6'5 and over 200lbs, Bukac is actually a CHL veteran at this stage of his career. The Boston Bruins 7th rounder (2017) has played the last two seasons in Brandon of the WHL, but they released his rights so that they could pick again in this year's Import Draft. He'll add some size and physicality to a Niagara blueline that could badly use it.

The first thing that stands out with Bukac is his size. He is an imposing 6’5” with an even longer wingspan. His reach gives opponents fits when trying work to the inside and he excels at disrupting the rush with an active stick. Bukac also shows solid agility and mobility for his size. He has smooth balance transfer in transitions and can cover a lot of ground with his long stride. Like most big men he could use some quickness in tight spaces but he’s not a player that will be burned often. While Bukac is a steady defender in his own end, he brings very little to the table offensively. He can at times seem uncomfortable with the puck on his stick and his awareness on the ice needs some work. Additionally he is still very raw physically and has room to add strength. Bukac was drafted on his potential as a defender with NHL size and decent mobility however he still has a long way to go in his development. He got a late start last season due to offseason knee surgery which kept him behind the eight ball for most of the year. Here’s hoping with a fresh start in Niagara he can revitalize the evolution of his game. At this point I’m skeptical that he has the mental processing to play at the pace of the pro game however he’s at the precipice of being a solid middle pairing junior defender.
The first thing that stands out with Bukac is his size. He is an imposing 6’5” with an even longer wingspan. His reach gives opponents fits when trying work to the inside and he excels at disrupting the rush with an active stick. Bukac also shows solid agility and mobility for his size. He has smooth balance transfer in transitions and can cover a lot of ground with his long stride. Like most big men he could use some quickness in tight spaces but he’s not a player that will be burned often. While Bukac is a steady defender in his own end, he brings very little to the table offensively. He can at times seem uncomfortable with the puck on his stick and his awareness on the ice needs some work. Additionally he is still very raw physically and has room to add strength. Bukac was drafted on his potential as a defender with NHL size and decent mobility however he still has a long way to go in his development. He got a late start last season due to offseason knee surgery which kept him behind the eight ball for most of the year. Here’s hoping with a fresh start in Niagara he can revitalize the evolution of his game. At this point I’m skeptical that he has the mental processing to play at the pace of the pro game however he’s at the precipice of being a solid middle pairing junior defender.
Scouting Report: Donesh Mazloum says, "The first thing that stands out with Bukac is his size. He is an imposing 6’5” with an even longer wingspan. His reach gives opponents fits when trying work to the inside and he excels at disrupting the rush with an active stick. Bukac also shows solid agility and mobility for his size. He has smooth balance transfer in transitions and can cover a lot of ground with his long stride. Like most big men he could use some quickness in tight spaces but he’s not a player that will be burned often. While Bukac is a steady defender in his own end, he brings very little to the table offensively. He can at times seem uncomfortable with the puck on his stick and his awareness on the ice needs some work. Additionally he is still very raw physically and has room to add strength. Bukac was drafted on his potential as a defender with NHL size and decent mobility however he still has a long way to go in his development. He got a late start last season due to offseason knee surgery which kept him behind the eight ball for most of the year. Here’s hoping with a fresh start in Niagara he can revitalize the evolution of his game. At this point I’m skeptical that he has the mental processing to play at the pace of the pro game however he’s at the precipice of being a solid middle pairing junior defender."
Justin Froese echoes this. "Bukac is a raw player but has some positive attributes that can be deemed useful if he ever pieces it together. He struggles a little bit with puck retrieval and clearing the zone by overcomplicating plays. I feel that even though there are some mental blunders in his own end when he faced a lot of pressure, he’s done a better job of managing the puck than in the past. He has little skill with the puck, although he at times thinks he’s more fluid than he is and often becomes his own worst enemy by trying to over handle himself out of traffic. He is willing to use his teammates and is capable of laying some good quality breakout passes and manages the point at a satisfactory level. Bukac is at his best in his own zone when he uses his frame and length to sweep at pucks and using his frame to pick his spots and ride opponents into the boards. He’s got a big frame, but is not the best at utilizing his size as he lacks strength and the demeanour to use grit. Along with his lacking physical game, Bukac tends to be drawn away from coverage and has a tendency to miscalculate play and gets beat. If he were to tighten up his defensive positioning and add some abrasive play at the net front, he would be a lot more effective at defending forwards who are consistently going to the crease. Offensively he has adequate awareness in moving the puck and will be active off the offensive line. He gambles very little and seldom pinches deep but shows an ability to get shots off, although his shot isn’t consistently accurate or coming off his stick with power. One of his best assets at this point is his skating ability, showing a great length and smooth transition footwork. His skating helps him mask some coverage mistakes as his gap control on the rush is inconsistent. Long way to go yet for him, but he’s seen lots of minutes and learning by fire. I saw progression in his second season in the WHL but he is not a top 4 guy on most teams in the league."

102. London Knights - Vladislav Kolyachonok - Defense
London picks Belarussian defender, Vladislav Kolyachonok, who suited up as an underager (2001 born) for Belarus in the main draw of this year's U18's. He was named as one of the team's three best players, which is a great feat for a player not eligible for the NHL draft until 2019. One has to wonder if he's a back-up plan if Adam Boqvist doesn't end up playing for London this year, though. Could be a nice stow-away for next year if he ends up having a good year in the KHL (he has signed to play for Dinamo Minsk of the KHL next year).

Scouting Report: None of my contacts had any solid information on Kolyachonok, other than he and Guskov are represented by the same agency. Here's some info from a Ryan Pyette article (here) courtesy a Rob Simpson quote, "The 6-foot, 176-pound left-shot blue-liner caught the Knights’ attention while playing up an age group at the under-18 worlds in the spring. “He had an exceptional tournament,” Simpson said. “There’s a lot to like about him. He has a good stick defensively. His shot is good. That’s one part of his game he could probably improve on, but a lot of his hockey sense and instincts for the game, you can’t teach. Those are things you’re born with.”

105. Owen Sound Attack - Moritz Seider - Defense
The Attack rolled the dice in the second round, taking big (6'4) defender Moritz Seider, one of the top young players in Germany. He's slated as a potential top 60 pick next year after playing for Germany as an underager at the U18's the last two years. He was named the top defenseman at the most recent U18's (second division though). However, the German media is reporting that Seider plans on staying in Germany for his draft year after signing a pro contract with Adler Mannheim. Should he change his mind, he could be an impact player for Owen Sound who could use the defensive help next year.

Scouting Report: Chapin Landvogt says, "Moritz Seider is currently a man among boys. It's not just that he's already 6'4" and may be 190 lbs. before summer's end (and won't turn 18 until April of 2019), but his play is extremely mature. He is a very heady Dman who moves far too well for a kid his size at that age. Don't look to much into the stats to date; he won't blow you away with points. Neither his junior stats nor those in international play are all that noteworthy (although he had 10-17-27 in 26 DNL games this season). It's his all-round game, instincts, shutdown abilities, and propensity to make good outlet passes that have him ahead of maybe every other defenseman to ever have come out of Germany. This is no Tim Bender we're talking about here. Very telling is that the Adler Mannheim of the DEL, one of the top addresses in Germany for years, felt highly enough of him to dress him for four games this season - at the age of 16. You may get that in Sweden, but it doesn't happen in Germany. To my knowledge, it may have been the first time in DEL history. As such, he's not your everyday prospect and it should be no surprise if he ends up being a top 60 pick in the 2019 draft."

108. Barrie Colts - Matej Pekar - Forward
Pekar , a 4th rounder by Buffalo at this year's NHL draft, has played in North America already for three seasons, competing for Muskegon of the USHL last year. In Muskegon, he averaged nearly a point per game and was named the USHL rookie of the year. He also had a standout performance for the Czech's at the U18's. He would most definitely be an impact player and potential top 6 forward should he report to Barrie. Problem is, he has a commitment to Miami University. Going to take some heavy recruiting.

Scouting Report: Matt Grainda says, “If the Barrie Colts were looking for a hard-working 200-ft two-way forward who can really put up some quality scoring numbers, they picked the right player in the CHL Import Draft with Matej Pekar. Pekar spent the last season with the USHL Muskegon Lumberjacks after originally being selected in the USHL Phase II Draft by the Chicago Steel. Pekar played his youth hockey in the Czech Republic before coming over to the United States to play locally in the Detroit area. He was the highest scoring player for Jimmy Johns 16U AAA as a 15-year-old before moving over to the Oakland Jr Grizzlies 16U team the following season. He really jumped on the radar with Oakland and became a valued prospect for the USHL draft, displaying himself as a tough-to-play-against kid with a great motor and valuable puck possession skill that often led to scoring chances through his playmaking and internal drive. Pekar played last year with the USHL Muskegon Lumberjacks and had a very successful season, almost scoring at a point-per-game pace while earning the USHL Rookie of the Year award along with USHL All-Rookie Team honors. He really was one of the best puck pursuers in the USHL this season through his relentless pace of play, but his biggest knock is his skating mechanics. That didn’t stop the NHL Buffalo Sabres though, who selected Pekar in the 4th Round of the 2018 NHL Draft. Pekar is committed to play NCAA Hockey with Miami University (OH), so it looks like the Sabres will need to help him decide between the NCAA and CHL.”

114. Hamilton Bulldogs - Tim Fleischer - Forward
With their second import selection, the Bulldogs take German forward Tim Fleischer, who is a late 2000 born center who led the DNL (U19 league) in points per game this past season. He also suited up for Germany at the second division U18's.  Hamilton could use the depth at center as they could potentially be losing some of their key players at the position. Fleischer was also a second round pick by Cedar Rapids of the USHL, so they will likely have to compete to have him suit up.

Scouting Report: Chapin Landvogt provides his report on both Fleischer and Owen Sound pick Manuel Alberg. "As for Alberg and Fleischer, we are talking about two offensively oriented forwards who need to gain weight. Both are under 160 pounds and only Fleischer even comes in at six foot, but he might be less. Both have produced above-average DNL stats (albeit nothing like a Michaelis or Kahun, much less Draisaitl). Both were part of the U18 team that was in Latvia for the D1A U18 tourney in which Germany lost only to host Latvia and scored the most goals in the tournament. Each got a few points along the way, with Alberg checking in at a PPG pace, finishing the tourney with a +5 rating. Certainly, he has been the more interesting prospect of the two to date. This said, I think Fleischer may end up being the better player. If you're wondering what type of CHL impact they might have, it's hard to tell at this juncture as both need to mature physically more than anything else. I think both could end up being a bit like Max Kammerer, who just signed with the Washington Capitals as a young European UFA after two eye-opening seasons in the DEL. He always had some tools, but his one season for the Regina Pats was less than stellar. I'm also not sure either is quite as talented as Andreas Eder, a former Vancouver Giant who has a lot of great tools himself, but has struggled to establish himself as a DEL player to date. It'll be fascinating to see how they present themselves, if they head over."

118. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - Jaromir Pytlik - Forward 
Again, the Hounds had a ton of flexibility at this year's import draft, so why not take some chances. Pytlik is likely a stash for next season, as I doubt there is room for him this year. But he is considered one of the top 2001 born Czech players, having already scored a goal at the men's level and posting the 2nd best point per game mark in the Czech U18 league among U17 players. He also played the Czechs at this year's U18. His late birth date makes him ineligible for the NHL Draft until 2020 though. So if he wants to play in SSM for his draft season, you know that the Greyhounds will be recruiting.

BONUS - London Knights - Adam Boqvist - Defense
Last year the Knights rolled the dice on talented 2018 draft eligible defender Adam Boqvist, who decided to stay in Sweden for his draft year. But London had to know that there was a chance that he'd come over for his draft +1 year and that is the case now. Boqvist has inked his ELC with Chicago and has left Brynas of the SHL. That gave him three options for next year. He could make the NHL squad. Or Chicago could have him play in the AHL. But the 3rd one was sending him to the OHL for a year and that was the selected route with Boqvist signing on with the Knights recently. In London, Boqvist will get top 3 ice time, perhaps more if Evan Bouchard cracks the Edmonton Oilers' roster. This is a massive get for the Knights.

Scouting Report: Future Considerations has Boqvist rated 7th in 2018 and had this to say, "An offensive blueliner who owns a fluid skating stride that allows him to carry the puck coast to coast and be a constant threat with the puck in his possession. He's a natural on the powerplay who can pick apart penalty killers with his crisp and accurate passing and powerful/accurate point shot. However, defensively he can be an adventure. His decision making is too high risk for the defensive zone and he's too passive clearing the front of the net. Offensively, many of his tools are elite, but he needs to add upper body strength to improve defensively. He has the chance to be a difference maker at the next level."