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.
Monday, July 23, 2018
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