Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2018-19


This annual article looks at some of the rookies who could make an impact in the OHL next year. And by that I mean players not selected in the Import Draft or the recent priority draft (or new midget draft for that matter). I'm talking about 2001 (possibly even 2000) born players who should finally crack their respective teams this year. The list of successful players of this ilk is long (see Mark Scheifele, Remi Elie, Matt Clark, Trevor Carrick, Travis Dermott, Zach Senyshyn, Nic Hague, Boris Katchouk, Alex Formenton, Cam Hillis etc).

In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports from TheScout's priority selection guide and picked out a few tidbits from that.

Here's the list (sorted by alphabetical order and position):

Goaltender:

Gabriel Carriere - Kingston Frontenacs
The list starts off with two Kingston Frontenacs goaltenders. Carriere was a draft pick of Kingston in the inaugural 2017 U18 draft. Didn't make the Fronts then, but he played in the CCHL last year and was one of the league's top netminders as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie team. Remains to be seen if he is considering the OHL or not, but the Fronts have some big holes in net and it would be a great idea to try to bring him into the fold.
Scouting Report: Don't have a scouting report on Carriere.

Ryan Dugas - Kingston Frontenacs
Second Fronts netminder to appear and the one more likely to suit up for the team this year. Dugas backstopped the Mississauga Reps to an OHL Cup title two years ago and was a standout in the GOJHL with Ancaster last year, finishing with a .931 save percentage and a GAA barely above 2. He's long been considered one of the top netminders in the age group and profiles as a potential starter for Kingston this season.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Dugas is a good sized butterfly goaltender with excellent athleticism and body control. He displays strong mental focus, rarely giving up a bad goal. His glove and blocker are lightning quick and he rarely gives up rebounds to his upper extremities. He does have a tendency to play deeper in his net, which could be problematic against OHL shooters."

Matthew Dunsmoor - Mississauga Steelheads
With the move of Vella to Flint, someone is going to have to backup Jacob Ingham. Recent pick Joe Ranger is a serious candidate, but as is 2017 pick Matthew Dunsmoor. Dunsmoor spent the majority of last year playing Midget in Guelph, but did get in three games with Burlington of the OJHL where his stats would suggest he wasn't over his head (.898 save percentage).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Might be the biggest gamer of the 2001 crop, emitting a confidence and swagger. He combats below average size with outstanding competitiveness, using quick athletic limbs to steer away shots."

Jet Greaves - Barrie Colts
Remains to be seen what happens in the crease with Barrie this year. Import pick Maksim Zhukov has yet to sign, but did suit up for Barrie's summer league team. If he arrives, he'll no doubt be the starter. Last year's back-up, Kai Edmonds, is returning. And the team has top prospect Jet Greaves ready to take his next step after a solid year in the GOJHL with Guelph where he was named to the All-Rookie team. Greaves is a highly touted prospect, so one would have to wonder if they would consider moving Edmonds, should Greaves show well and Zhukov plays.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "One of the most athletic netminders in the 2001 age group, relying on this athleticism and post to post agility, more than technical efficiency. Excellent recovery quickness to turn away second and third chance opportunities. Is not tall, but rarely gets beaten high because of his competitiveness battling screens."

Ethan Langevin - Sarnia Sting
With Justin Fazio moving on, the crease in Sarnia remains wide open. Aidan Hughes will look to finally take hold of the starter's job, but nothing is set in stone. Insert Langevin, an undersized netminder who is coming off an excellent season in the OJHL with Pickering that saw him post a .914 save percentage and be named to the prestigious OJHL First Team All Prospect (which has alumni like Michael McNiven and Michael Giugovaz).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "His toolbox is full of all the qualities that you look for in elite goaltender and he couples that with outstanding work ethic. Challenging shooters and staying square to the puck allows him to limit holes despite his lack of size. Rebound control is not an issue for him as pucks stick to him like glue and he diverts pucks to the corners."
Luke Pearson - Ottawa 67's
One of the greatest mysteries heading into this OHL season is what the 67's are going to do with their starting goaltender position. The team could compete for the Eastern Conference Championship, yet has no starter in place. Cedrick Andree is returning, but remains relatively unproven. They drafted Will Cranley in the 2nd round this year. But they also have Luke Pearson in the pipeline, a former OHL Cup standout who was solid for Whitby of the OJHL this year. Not in 67's camp currently, however Pearson could definitely be worth a long look. Funny enough, Pearson was Langevin's platoon mate in minor midget.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Plays a composed style relying on positioning and technique. Good at limiting rebounds. Will need to improve his quickness to better handle second and third chance opportunities."

Defense:

Anthony Aguanno - Guelph Storm
After spending part of last year with the Storm, it seems very likely that Aguanno will spend the entire year with Guelph in 2018/19. Looks to be heading into the season as the 7th defender, but his development will be critical if injuries arise. Aguanno was excellent for Oakville in the OJHL last year, especially in the playoffs, where he averaged a point per game from the back-end.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "On the defensive side of the puck, Aguanno's physical presence leaves opponents timid below the goal line. With a strong frame he is rarely outmuscled for the puck. He consistently makes a crisp pass heading up ice, but if none are available, he is confident enough to rush the puck up ice. He is not the smoothest offensive defender, but his eagerness, quickness, and unpredictability make him successful at creating chances. He is a hard defender to play against and that should translate well to him being competitive in all situations."

Evan Brand - Kingston Frontenacs
Massive defender at 6'7, 200lbs who got into about a half season in Kingston last year. Split time between the OHL and OJHL, also suiting up for Canada Red at the U17's. Rebuilding, the Frontenacs defense will be going under a make-over thanks to the losses of Sean Day, Eemeli Rasanen, and Liam Murray. Brand (along with a guy like recent 1st rounder Jake Murray), could end up as a top 4 defender by season's end.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Brand displays an impressive combination of size and physicality on the defensive side of the puck. He proves difficult to beat along the boards and suffocates opponents with his strength, length, and reach. His skating has improved, although it will never be a standout trait. He handles the puck with grace and control, identifying smart options and executing heads up passing. He may never be leaned upon as a prime puck carrier but can support the rush well."

Robert Calisti - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Like many on this list, Calisti got into a few OHL games last year, but was mostly a standout in the NOJHL with the Soo Thunderbirds, where he averaged nearly a point per game in the playoffs as a defender. Likely a third pairing defender for the Greyhounds next year, Calisti could push for more playing time if his play dictates it.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Calisti is a defender who seeks out opportunities to lead the rush and gain the offensive zone by slicing through the neutral zone with slippery hands and elusive feet. He is undersized, but handles contact well because of his strength on pucks. When opponents think they have him beat, he uses his speed and physical play to knock larger opponents off the puck. His competitiveness is an asset in all situations."

Jake Gravelle - Hamilton Bulldogs
Originally a Mississauga Steelhead draft pick, Gravelle got into a few games in Mississauga this year until he was traded to Hamilton. This was a trade obviously made for this coming year when Hamilton knew that they would be losing some talent on the back-end. Gravelle should at the very least be a third pairing defender for the Bulldogs this year, after a strong performance in the OJHL last year with Mississauga (when he wasn't in the OHL).
Scouting Report: Not much in the way of a scouting report for Gravelle.

Xavier Henry - Hamilton Bulldogs
Remains to be seen whether Henry intends on going the OHL route (especially with him being a USHL pick this year too). The 6'4 defender played with St. Andrew's College this year where he won a CISAA championship. Like mentioned with Gravelle, the Bulldogs have some serious holes on the back-end entering the year so he'd most definitely get playing time should he sign.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a rangy raw defender with plus size and skating ability with some consistency issues. At his best when keeping the game simple, however does own impressive upside."

Mason Howard - Niagara IceDogs
No doubt about it, the Dogs have some impressive depth on the back-end currently. Even with the MacPherson deal, they may have upwards of 9 OHL quality defenders for training camp. Howard, already signed, is coming off an excellent year with Thorold where he led them in scoring among blueliners.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Offers a likeable and intriguing blend of a throwback style defending and modern day puck moving. One of the best checking defenders in the age group. May not be a pure powerplay option for the OHL, but is an intelligent puck mover. Skating needs work (especially start ups and lateral agility), but it shouldn't hold him back."

Ethan Lavalee - Sudbury Wolves
A once hyped prospect for the OHL draft, Lavalee has yet to crack an OHL roster. Could simply go the NCAA route at this point, but his rights were traded to Sudbury last year and I would assume that he will try to crack the Wolves' roster this coming year. The hulking defender (6'7, 220lbs) had a great first year in the NOJHL with Rayside-Balfour and could be a solid third pairing option for Sudbury in 2018/19.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Has shown improvement in his footwork and skating stride but it's an area that will continually need attention. Projects as a nasty shutdown defender so long as he can improve the consistency of his nastiness."

Mason Millman - Saginaw Spirit
Millman got into a few games with Saginaw last year but spent the majority of the year with St. Thomas of the GOJHL. He excelled there and was named the Top Rookie defender and to the All Rookie team. With the addition of Bode Wilde, Millman probably ends up as the 7th defender in Saginaw next year but should still see decent playing time with injuries.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "strong skating defender who owns a good level of skill and smarts. Thrives at getting point shots through to the net and at moving the puck up ice. Plays a relatively quiet game, but that shouldn't hide his upside because of his high IQ."

Daniel Nardi - Niagara IceDogs
Like Mason Howard, Nardi is facing an uphill battle on a crowded Niagara blueline. But he is signed and got into a few games last year as an injury replacement. Like Howard, he was a standout in the GOJHL for Fort Erie, where he too led his team in blueline scoring. Have to think one of these guys will be used as trade bait at some point.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "cerebral and calculated are two important characteristics of a player and that's precisely what Nardi is. A smooth, effortless skater who always makes the right decision. Nardi is an excellent stick on puck defender with great recognition of gaps. Underrated."

Ashton Reesor - Sarnia Sting
Reesor got into one OHL game last year, spending the rest of the year with Stouffville of the OJHL. With Stouffville, Reesor was a key defender on a younger, rebuilding team. The Vaughn Kings product projects to be an everyday player for a Sting blueline that has incurred some changes.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Reesor is a tall, tenacious defender who can control the pace of the game and be relied upon to be a shut down defender. Skating is a work in progress, but Reesor involves himself in the defensive zone by outworking opponents and using his long reach to push opponents to the perimeter. He must improve his zone exits, but he does possess the ability to read the play well and find options."

Cameron Supryka - Peterborough Petes
Brother of Josh, a part time player of the Kingston Frontenacs a few years ago, Cameron is a lanky defender out of the Quinte program. He got into a few games in Peterborough but spent most of last season with Lindsay of the OJHL where he was an everyday player. The Petes have a lot of depth on the back-end currently, so he'll have to battle some second year players like McNamara and Beraldo for playing time.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Supryka is a smooth skating defender with high hockey instincts and the athletic ability and skills to lead the rush. High level of efficiency transitioning the puck up ice, using his lively skating ability to gain the offensive zone. Has potential as a powerplay QB. With his impressive footwork he is able to stay square to the puck and maintains strong defensive positioning."

Payton Vescio - North Bay Battalion
Local product who got into one game with the Battalion last year but spent the rest of the year with Powassan of the NOJHL, where he was an everyday player on a playoff team. The Battalion will have to completely revamp their blueline this coming season (with Bruce, Saban, and Thilander all gone), so Vescio figures to get a lot of playing time if he proves capable.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "easy blueliner to like with his natural mobility, competitive demeanor, and two-way efficiency. Gifted skater who moves about the ice, acting as a cerebral puck carrier. Will need to add strength to improve his shot and separate attackers from the puck."

Forward:

Camaryn Baber - Saginaw Spirit
While the Spirit have built up some nice depth up front that could complicate Baber's role with the club this season, you have to believe that they will try to make room for him to play consistently. Baber was a point per game player in the NOJHL last year with the Soo Thunderbirds and even scored an OHL goal in limited action with Saginaw.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Unique player who has a knack for capitalizing on his opportunities, which comes from his ability to consistently push the pace of attack. He's got good puck touch around the net and displays good creativity in his attacks. Would benefit from adding size."

Brendan Bowie - Sudbury Wolves
The top scoring 2001 on the prestigious St. Andrew's College team last year, Bowie could end up being a nice diamond in the rough for the Wolves this year. Bowie is a former standout with the Toronto Nationals who were runners up at the 2017 OHL Cup (on a team featuring Brandon Coe, a guy he might see a lot of soon).
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "intelligent offensive winger with elusive skating ability. He's a smaller forward but he owns good strength on the puck relative to his height. Shows a high level of patience in possession and has the potential to develop into one of the better offensive players in the age group."

Jacob DiDanielli - Ottawa 67's
I remember DiDanielli being a favourite of Matt Barbera (formerly of TheScout, now Assistant GM of Whitby) before the OHL Draft (info from my primer here). The good sized center will be in a dogfight for a roster spot at 67's camp, but could be an ideal 4th line center for the team this year who can bring physicality after a strong year with Pickering of the OJHL in 2017/18.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Two-way pivot who uses his strong, long frame to engage and separate opposing players from the puck. Has shown some intriguing creativity as an attacker, but mostly uses his strength to drive the net and keeps things simple. Highly competitive player."

Curtis Fabbro - Kingston Frontenacs
A member of the CCHL all rookie team last year playing for Navan. The offensive numbers don't immediately jump out at you, but it's all relative because his 11 goals were right near the team lead on the last place team. There's no guarantee that Fabbro plays for Kingston this year (as he may keep NCAA options open), but given that they may lose 5 of their top forwards from a year ago, they could use the added depth.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a tenacious pivot who relishes the opportunity to carry the puck into traffic. Excels at maintaining possession while absorbing contact. His high work rate also makes him an effective penalty killer. Not the greatest skater or most creative player, but he is a bull in the offensive zone."

Peter Fleming - Barrie Colts
Looks to be leaning towards avoiding the OHL, after joining the Toronto Patriots of the OJHL for next year. But with some forward spots open, it is worth mentioning Fleming as a candidate for the Colts, none the less. Fleming is a big winger who had a good year in the GOJHL with St. Thomas last year, as one of the team's leading scorers in the regular season and playoffs.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "plays a very sound game and has a high hockey IQ. Excels with and without the puck and has underrated passing skill. Can play down the middle or on either wing. Someone who is reliable in all three zones and can generate offense to boot. Safe bet to be an OHL player (if he chooses that route)."

Jordan Frasca - Windsor Spitfires
The Spits are a talented young team with some wide open races for 3rd/4th line forward spots heading into the 2018/19 season. Frasca is one of the guys in the mix. He got into 11 games with Windsor last year, but spent most of the year in a starring role for Chatham of the GOJHL.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Determined and driven pivot who plays a north/south attacking style, using his speed to be effective. Has room to grow as a finesse player, but he's committed at both ends and projects well as a middle 6 forward at the OHL level."

Dennis Golovatchev - Guelph Storm
Remains to be seen if he has any interest in playing in the OHL, but the former OHL Cup champion and high draft pick would definitely be in Guelph's plans as a potential bottom 6 player should he sign. Spent last year with Burlington of the OJHL, but has since seen his rights transferred to Trenton.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "An impressive attacker who possesses elite potential if he can iron out inconsistencies in his game. His skating and power gives him separation that allows him to be a lethal finisher. Can be prone to forcing plays but owns one of the best shots and releases in the age group."

Alec Lovisek - Owen Sound Attack
Another St. Andrew's grad, Lovisek was a 4th rounder by the Attack in 2017. As part of St. Andrew's and their Championship squad in 2017/18, Lovisek was an integral component and a near point per game player. Owen Sound has some graduations at the forward position heading into this year and Lovisek could be an intriguing option for a 3rd/4th line role if he intends to take the OHL route.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "drives the puck to the net well with a strong power forward type game. At is best when competing with an edge and his attacking style can be hard to contain. Also possesses an excellent shot which makes him a potential goal scorer."

Tanner McEachern - Flint Firebirds
One of the top scorers on the Welland Jr. Canadiens last year (GOJHL), McEachern could be a candidate for a bottom 6 spot on the Firebirds this year should he choose the OHL route. The former 4th rounder recently had his rights transferred to Oakville (OJHL) though, which could suggest an interest in the College route.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "former captain of the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs who had a ton of injuries in his OHL draft year. He's a smart two-way center who possesses good speed and hand eye coordination. Needs to fill out, but should be a safe bet to be a competent OHL player."

Jack Quinn - Ottawa 67's
Possibly the player on this list with the chance to make the biggest impact. Quinn is a potential top 6 forward who was named the CCHL rookie of the year last year and the league's top prospect (5 of the last 6 have been NHL drafted). Spent most of the year with Kanata, but did see some limited time with Ottawa, including a couple playoff games. They'll make room for him on the roster this year to, at least, play a bottom 6 role.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Quinn's best attribute is his ability to finish, but also possesses above average puck skills. Top speed will need to improve, but he moves well without the puck. Will also need to improve his interest in the defensive end. But potential is high as an impact offensive player."

Jake Partridge - Peterborough Petes
Not too often that a team's recent 11th round pick gets into some OHL action, but that was the case for Partirdge last year. Played 4 games with Peterborough, but the rest of the year with Rayside-Balfour of the NOJHL where he was nearly a point per game player and a standout in the playoffs. He was also the highest scoring U17 player in the league. Should be a candidate to play a top 9 role with the Petes this coming year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "Possesses terrific skating ability that makes him a consistent threat. Controls the tempo in the offensive zone with good puck skill and displays efficiency as a passer."

Emmett Pierce - London Knights
Hulking winger signed on with London but did not get into any game action last year with the Knights. Spent 2017/18 with Strathroy where he was an offensive contributor, as his 15 goals were third on the team. He'll have his work cut out for him in making the Knights, but his size could definitely play in their bottom 6.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "sky is the limit for this winger as he learns to better utilize his range to his advantage. Pierce is displays advanced mobility for a big man. If he can improve his consistency as a physical player and become a little more selfish as a goal scorer, he will have NHL scouts interested in him."

Levi Siau - Sudbury Wolves  
Siau was one of three 2001 born players to hit the 40 point mark in the NOJHL last year (along with Partridge and Bowie). He did get into a few games with Sudbury though and should be in for a larger role potentially this coming year. Like I said with Partridge, not bad for a 12th round pick.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "At his best in possession as a crafty distributor. Very efficient below the hash marks and a quality skater. Definitely a subtleness to his playmaking game and is excellent under pressure and in traffic."

Eric Uba - Flint Firebirds
A late birth date 2000 who looks like a potential offensive difference maker as an OHL player in the future. Got into 4 games with Flint last year, but spent the majority of the year in the OJHL (split between Wellington and Oakville). Should be a bottom 6 winger for Flint this year.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "a strong, competitive forward who plays with authority and confidence. Skating could stand to improve, but his strength on the puck is excellent, allowing him to maximize possession opportunities. Creates havoc for defenders by driving through traffic and powering towards the net. Plays an aware and responsible two-way game. Going to be a versatile OHL player."

Liam Van Loon - Hamilton Bulldogs
Reigning GOJHL Rookie of the Year was over a point per game for Ancaster last year, while also suiting up in the OHL for a few games (including one in the playoffs). But Van Loon is going to get a big opportunity to be a top 9 forward this year on a Hamilton team who is going to lose players to graduation. Could definitely be one of the more impactful players on this list.
Scouting Report: TheScout says, "brings energy and a tremendous work ethic on every shift. Will challenge any defender, at any time and usually comes out on top. Drives the pace of play by being a confident puckhandler. Owns natural hockey sense and is able to control possession, exhibiting poise with the puck. Not the most innately skilled, but makes up for it with sheer determination."

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