Friday, August 17, 2018

Top 25 OHL Prospects - Summer of 2018

As has become regular practice now, following the conclusion of my NHL team write ups ('31 Teams in 31 Days'), I give you a list of the top prospects who played in the OHL during the previous season. In this case, it was the 2017/18 season. The list is capped at 25, with some honorable mentions. I'm also going to keep the write ups slightly short. If you want to read more about these guys, simply click on their NHL team in brackets and you'll be taken to the team's '31 in 31" from this summer and you'll get a detailed write up on their skill set and progression.

1. Andrei Svechnikov - Forward - Barrie Colts (Carolina Hurricanes)
The 2nd overall pick in the most recent NHL draft, the Hurricanes struck gold with Svechnikov. He is without a doubt, the top prospect who played in the OHL this year (in my eyes). He can control the game in every facet and his ability to use his size and speed to wreck havoc in all three zones is reminiscent of Marian Hossa. Excited to see what he does in the NHL next year. 

2. Gabriel Vilardi - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs (Los Angeles Kings)
I remain a huge Vilardi fan, despite the fact that injuries are still following him around a bit. Played half this year, but was dominant in that half. And he had to sit out the most recent World Junior summer showcase. But I just feel that his game is so perfectly suited for the NHL. Can breakdown defenses with his skill and his head. Because of his size and strength, I have him slightly ahead of guys like Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou.

3. Robert Thomas - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs (St. Louis Blues)
Had such a tremendous draft +1 year, winning World Junior Gold and an OHL Championship. Massive steps forward in almost every facet of his game. If there was a redraft a year later, I think he'd be a surefire Top 10 pick. Like Vilardi, he breaks the game down and dictates the pace because of how intelligent he is. Such a well rounded player who could play in the NHL next year.

4. Jordan Kyrou - Forward - Sarnia Sting (St. Louis Blues)
On pure skill alone, Kyrou has to be considered the most dynamic player in the OHL. His ability to carve up opposing defenses with his speed, puck handling ability, and creativity can be downright electric to watch. At times in the OHL, it feels like he possesses the puck for entire shifts. The elusiveness will play in the NHL. He'll need to continue to round out his game in multiple areas, but Kyrou was born to play in the modern National Hockey League.

5. Evan Bouchard - Defense - London Knights (Edmonton Oilers)
Such an intelligent defender whose game has evolved exponentially over the course of his OHL career, leading him to be a top pick of the Edmonton Oilers recently. His vision and decision making with the puck are as good as I've seen from a defender in the OHL. The physical gifts may not be as grand, but they can be improved upon. A team like the Oilers could really use his ability to quarterback the powerplay.

6. Nick Suzuki - Forward - Owen Sound Attack (Vegas Golden Knights)
One of a few extremely intelligent centres to appear on this list. Suzuki doesn't possess the skating ability of a Robert Thomas, or the size of a Gabriel Vilardi, but he does play with a fire in his belly that can not be taught. His tenaciousness away from the puck and his feel for the game in all three zones makes him a consistent threat. His goal scoring ability is also extremely underrated.

7. Morgan Frost - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Philadelphia Flyers)
Huge jump for Frost this year and deservedly so. As he has matured physically, we've seen his game grow leaps and bounds within a year. That added strength has allowed him to showcase his abilities as a playmaker. Makes such quick decisions with the puck and is a very complete player. 

8. Barrett Hayton - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Arizona Coyotes)
Probably surprised some to see Hayton taken at 5th overall, but he's a top quality NHL prospect. Has the versatility to not only play in any situation, but excel at it. Such a terrific player away from the puck and he does so much to elevate the play of those around him. The comparisons to a guy like Patrice Bergeron are legitimate. 

9. Logan Brown - Forward - Kitchener Rangers (Ottawa Senators)
I remain high on Brown because I still believe in his size and skill package as a center. There may be an adjustment period as a pro as he learns to make his intensity level a little more consistent. But players like him don't grow on trees. Can be so dominant down low with his puck protection ability.

10. Owen Tippett - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads (Florida Panthers)
Tippett had a very good year in Mississauga, where we saw his game grow from being more than just a pure goal scorer. His vision and tenacity without the puck saw growth and that bodes well for his development as a top 6 scorer at the NHL level. He's a bit lower down on this list because I'm not as confident he'll impact the game in as many ways as the guys ahead of him will.

11. Ty Dellandrea - Forward - Flint Firebirds (Dallas Stars)
Anyone who reads this blog knows how big of a fan I am of Dellandrea. But I'll temper his place on this list for now until he showcases his offensive ability more (which I think he will). Like Hayton, Dellandrea is such an effective player without the puck. Forces so many turnovers off the forecheck and in the neutral zone. And...he's way more skilled with the puck than people give him credit for. Will be next year's Robert Thomas.

12. Conor Timmins - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Colorado Avalanche)
A rock for the Greyhounds this year and for Team Canada at the WJC's, where he was, without a doubt, one of the better defenders at the tournament. Timmins is one of the best at coming away with the puck along the wall, which really limits time of possession for the opposition. And he is obviously quite skilled offensively. Don't know if I see a future top pairing guy, but he should play as a reliable second pairing guy for many years.

13. Nic Hague - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads (Vegas Golden Knights)
Had one of the best offensive seasons from a blueliner in the history of the OHL. 35 goals in today's day and age is insane. With his shot and offensive aggressiveness, he could be a big time factor on Vegas' powerplay in the near future. The rest of his game will need to continue to improve (especially the pace he plays at), and like Timmins, I'm not sure he's a top pairing guy. But with his size, physicality, and skill, he has to be ranked highly on a list like this.

14. Boris Katchouk - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Huge fan of Katchouk. Canada's Russian rocket. Plays with reckless abandon and leaves it all on the ice. Such an effective forechecker and penalty killer. But his offensive game grew leaps and bounds this year. Dangerous with the puck and has very good hands. Should be a solid complimentary 2nd line winger in the NHL.

15. Michael McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads (New Jersey Devils)
A fall for McLeod on this list. It's not because I dislike him as a prospect. I actually have always been a fan of McLeod's and the history of this blog proves that. It's more so that I feel other prospects in the OHL have stepped up offensively and have shown to possess a little more upside than McLeod might for the NHL level. Still likely a 10+ year vet ala Andrew Cogliano though.

16. Rasmus Sandin - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Toronto Maple Leafs)
I was so impressed by this rookie defender this year. He's a guy you really have to see multiple times to gain an appreciate of. Doesn't play a flashy game, but is such an effective player at both ends because of his reads and anticipation. Makes as good of a first pass as anyone in the league. Lack of true physical skills probably makes him a solid second pairing guy too, like other defenders on this list.

17. Ryan Merkley - Defense - Guelph Storm (San Jose Sharks)
Without a doubt, Merkley's physical gifts would be tops among OHL defenders on this list. Such a dynamic skater; one of the best that I've seen in the OHL from the back-end. Creates so many lanes with his agility. The volatile nature of his on ice persona is obviously talked about just as much unfortunately. High end potential for days. Let's see how his game develops over the next two years. Is he Ryan Murphy/Tony DeAngelo or is he Paul Coffey?

18. Jason Robertson - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs (Dallas Stars)
A truly gifted offensive player who controls play along the wall and below the hash marks as well as anyone on this list. Keeps his feet moving and is uber aggressive as an offensive player. Just a well rounded player in the o-zone. Skating will continue to need work, as will his play in all three zones. But he's a quality prospect for the Stars.

19. Alex Formenton - Forward - London Knights (Ottawa Senators)
Speed, speed, and more speed. Formenton knows his role on the ice is to push the pace of play and put pressure on opposing defenses. His play without the puck and his physical intensity level improved drastically this year. And he continues to get better at making plays with the puck at top speed. Going to be a very useful NHL player for a long time, perhaps even as early as next year.

20. Michael Dipietro - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires (Vancouver Canucks)
The ultra competitive Dipietro is the reigning OHL goaltender of the year and likely a top 10 goaltending prospect on the planet. He makes up for his lack of elite size with fantastic anticipation and athleticism. Just a human highlight reel. Hopefully he can lead Canada to WJC gold this season and further cement his status as a blue chip prospect.

21. Logan Stanley - Defense - Kitchener Rangers (Winnipeg Jets)
Behemoth defender who had a good year in helping the Rangers to the West final. Moves very well for a big man which really helps to establish him as an effective two-way defender at the OHL level. Remains to be seen how much the offensive game translates at the pro level, but the size, physicality, and mobility certainly will. 

22. Max Jones - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs (Anaheim Ducks)
Had a disappointing year in the OHL IMO. Was tempted to leave him off the list, but the physical gifts are just too alluring still. The size, skating ability, hands, and obviously the physical intensity are all there. I do question how good his vision and hockey sense are, which would help to explain why his game was never able to reach that next level. But with the right linemates in the NHL, he could certainly still develop into a consistent 25-30 goal scorer.

23. Jack Studnicka - Forward - Oshawa Generals (Boston Bruins)
A criminally underrated prospect who won't be underrated after next year. With his strong play at the WJC summer showcase recently, he's finally started to garner attention from the main stream media. This kid can do it all. Improvements in his skating really helped him take his game to the next level this year. Let's see just how much he has in him offensively now. Can he lead the Oshawa Generals to an OHL championship next year?

24. Isaac Ratcliffe - Forward - Guelph Storm (Philadelphia Flyers)
Players with Ratcliffe's package of size and skill don't grow on trees; a phrase that I've ironically already stated in this article. And while the game is getting smaller, behemoth's like Ratcliffe who can put the puck in the net will still have a place. His skating continues to evolve and his 40+ goals this year were no fluke. He can rifle the puck. Need to see how the rest of his game develops.

25. Taylor Raddysh - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Probably much lower than you expected to see Raddysh on a list like this. He has been a heck of an OHL player over the course of the last few years, and a guy who has been a big part of his team's success. His hockey sense is terrific and will be his bread and butter at the next level. A very well rounded offensive player who can play any role asked of him. I'm just not as confident in his offensive game translating to the next level, because of a lack of dynamic skating ability. 

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Sasha Chmelevski - Forward - Ottawa 67's (San Jose Sharks)
Had a fantastic year where he re-established himself as a top prospect after a very disappointing draft year. Marked improvements in his play away from the puck. Dare I say he's becoming a complete player?

Cam Dineen - Defense - Sarnia Sting (Arizona Coyotes)
A terrific puck moving defender who has a great head for the game. Terrific vision in the offensive end. Knee injury didn't hamper his mobility. Time to see how he holds up defensively at the pro level.

Sean Durzi - Defense - Owen Sound Attack (Toronto Maple Leafs)
One of the OHL's elite powerplay quarterbacks and offensive defenders. So effective leading the rush and operating on the attack. Remains to be seen where he plays next year and how good he can be defensively.

Liam Foudy - Forward - London Knights (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Huge fan of Foudy's game and was elated to see him drafted in the first round. At this point, I think it's fair to see what he can do offensively over a full season with significant ice time before we move him up on a list like this. But I think next year we'll see him up quite high. In terms of offensive potential, I think Foudy possesses more than teammate Alex Formenton.

Jonah Gadjovich - Forward - Owen Sound Attack (Vancouver Canucks)
Tough year on the injury front for the big man child. But he's going to be an NHL player IMO. A very complete player and he's got better hands than people give him credit for. Skating just needs to continue to get better.

Joey Keane - Defense - Barrie Colts (New York Rangers)
5 on 5 point leaders among defenders last year: Bouchard, Hague...and Keane? I'm telling you, this guy is a legitimate NHL prospect with his skating ability and effectiveness at both ends of the ice.

Kirill Maksimov - Forward - Niagara IceDogs (Edmonton Oilers)
Bull in a china shop scoring winger who has size and skill. One of the most underrated prospects around. Possesses one of the best shots and releases of any forward in the OHL.

Adam Mascherin - Forward - Kitchener Rangers (Dallas Stars)
Speaking of shots, Mascherin is among the cream of the crop in that category. Stocky forward who is tough to separate from the puck below the hash marks. Garnered a lot of attention recently because he failed to sign with Florida, re-entered the draft and was taken by Dallas.

Ryan McLeod - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads (Edmonton Oilers)
Very different player than his brother Michael. Ryan's game is built around his ability to dictate pace with his speed and creativity. Just needs to play with more intensity and attack the middle more consistently. Could have a big year next season.

Serron Noel - Forward - Oshawa Generals (Florida Panthers)
A very raw forward, but one with untapped potential. Powerful skater who has a ton of physical gifts. Let's see how the rest of his game catches up.

Cliff Pu - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs (Carolina Hurricanes now/Buffalo Sabres prior)
One of the main pieces going back to Carolina in the Jeff Skinner trade. Pu is a terrific skater who has the potential to be a solid pro in a variety of different roles. I think there are questions as to how good his vision and hockey sense is.

Akil Thomas - Forward - Niagara IceDogs (Los Angeles Kings)
Was shocked to see him drop as far as he did at this year's draft. Very good playmaker who has also shown the ability to play with a chip on his shoulder. Consistency is an issue, but should be corrected as he matures physically. Has a good head on his shoulders.

Dmitry Sokolov - Forward - Barrie Colts (Minnesota Wild)
Would have been #26 on this list and a guy I wanted to try to fit into the Top 25. His game has improved a lot over his OHL career. Top goal scoring import in OHL history. Conditioning and skating were once big worries, but have definitely improved. Very curious to see how his game translates to the pro level. I do think he'll be the type that needs a quality playmaking center to help him get the puck.


Unknown said...

Nice write-up!

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