Saturday, December 15, 2018

2019 OHL Trade Deadline Preview

The 2019 OHL Trade Deadline is set for January 9th (for overage players), and January 10th (for all other players).

As is the annual tradition, I will look at previewing the action we may see at the deadline and what some teams may, or may not do.

We've already seen three big trade chips move in Jason Robertson, Michael Dipietro, and recently Ryan Merkley. At this point, I think we know which teams are all in. The question remains, which teams are fully set on the rebuild?

In the East, the recent Justin Murray deal would suggest that Barrie is exploring the option of dealing all veterans (considering Murray was their captain). Given that Hamilton is coming off an OHL Championship, I would think that they move veterans too. Kingston and North Bay have to given their place in the standings. That leaves Mississauga. Last year, they let Nic Hague go without getting anything for him. But I understood that decision given the team's propensity for strong second half performances. This year, the team just isn't as strong and the East is extremely competitive. Can you let Tippett and McLeod go without bringing in assets to help the team moving forward beyond this year? I don't think you can.

In the West, Erie, Flint, Sarnia, Kitchener, and Windsor seem likely to move players. Like Mississauga in the East, I wonder what Owen Sound does. They are fighting for 3rd in the Conference. Their offense is terrific when it is firing on all cylinders. But goaltending remains an issue and I think it's far fetched to assume that they could beat London, the Soo, or Guelph and Saginaw after they load up at the deadline (an inevitability IMO). So do they move guys like Suzuki, Durzi, Phillips, Hancock? I think they have to explore the option. Either that, or they have to make deals to strengthen their weaknesses and make one final run. But is there a goaltender available that can be an upgrade over Guzda/MacLean? Standing pat is just not an option for the franchise considering how weak they look heading into next year.

So let's make some predictions:

Matthew Strome - Hamilton Bulldogs
One of the biggest names available at this year's deadline. Strome is someone with Championship experience, size, and who can play in all situations. He can improve your powerplay, your penalty kill, and with his hockey sense and vision, chemistry shouldn't be an issue for wherever he ends up. Take your pick; Ottawa, Peterborough, London, Guelph, Saginaw, The Soo. They could all use a guy like Strome. Ottawa seems like a really good fit for him, given their weakness on the left side and their need for another big body who can play down low. If Sault Ste. Marie decides to go for a big home run, he would look great with either Hayton or Frost too. And obviously London is going to make a deal for a bigger forward who can dominate down low and improve their powerplay unit.
Prediction: Strome goes to London (with Brandon Saigeon) in exchange for Luke Evangelista, Andrew Perrott, Matt Timms, KIT 2 2019, HAM 3 2020, NIA 3 2022, LDN 2 2024

Brandon Saigeon - Hamilton Bulldogs
Always difficult to move a high quality overager like Saigeon, given the lack of trade options (because of limited slots). But Saigeon will be a hot commodity given his dominance in last year's playoffs and how good he is on the powerplay. I look at the London Knights as a potential spot for him even with them at the limit for OA's. They'll want to improve their powerplay and few players in the OHL are as good on the man advantage as Saigeon. Ottawa and Niagara have space for overagers too. Ottawa, in particular, could use Saigeon on the left side and have him be a triggerman. But I think they may end up preferring more of a playmaker there.
Prediction: Saigeon goes to London (with Matt Strome) in exchange for Luke Evangelista, Andrew Perrott, Matt Timms, KIT 2 2019, HAM 3 2020, NIA 3 2022, LDN 2 2024

Isaac Nurse - Hamilton Bulldogs
Has taken a step backward this year as an offensive player, but teams wont forget his performance in last year's playoffs. Nurse is the type who can slide onto a 3rd or 4th line, bring energy and physicality, and who can improve your penalty killing unit. Plus, he'll be a solid overager next year. I would imagine that Hamilton will receive a ton of interest in him because of this. However, will the price be right? If I am Hamilton, I don't deal Nurse unless I am getting a couple high quality picks back for him and at this point, I'm not sure a team will be doing that. Could definitely see a team like Ottawa making a push for him. But I think the hometown kid ends up finishing the year as a Bulldog.
Prediction: Nurse stays with Hamilton

Mackenzie Entwistle - Hamilton Bulldogs
Another player who is going to draw a ton of attention leading up to the deadline. Entwistle can play any role and his versatility is going to be coveted. Size, speed, tenacity, playoff experience. You can play him down the middle. You can play him on the wing. You can ask him to be a front of the net presence on the powerplay, or have him anchor your top PK unit. There are a couple of really good fits IMO. Niagara comes to mind first. He would be a perfect 3rd line center for them and would help improve their penalty kill. Then Guelph, SSM, and Saginaw could all be good fits too. Saginaw is another team that could stand to improve their PK and they would use Entwistle as a 2nd/3rd line winger, improving their scoring depth. Fits well into the personality of their forward group too. Then again, any of the teams competing for an OHL Championship could fit a guy like Entwistle into their lineup.
Prediction: Entwistle goes to Saginaw in exchange for Aidan Prueter, LDN 3 2019, BAR 2 2020

Kade Landry - Hamilton Bulldogs
Solid two-way defender who was picked up from Barrie last year. Could be a solid depth option for a Championship caliber team who feels that their third pairing needs more puck skill. Will likely be a solid top 4 guy as an OA next year too. Could see a few teams in the East really looking at him, like Oshawa, Peterborough, and Sudbury. A possible fit in the Soo or London too. Like Nurse, I think Hamilton keeps him to be one of their OA's next year though, unless they're blown away by an offer.
Prediction: Landry stays in Hamilton

Nicolas Mattinen - Hamilton Bulldogs
Given how much the Bulldogs gave up to get Mattinen last year, I am sure that they are going to try to recoup those assets by moving him. The behemoth defender would be a great add for a playoff team. Can play in any situation and his bomb from the point is a real asset. Has that Championship experience from last year too. Problem is, how many teams have the overage room for him? And of those teams, how many will be using that OA spot on a defender? Ottawa has OA room but I think they'll add at forward in the OA department, not on defense. That leaves Niagara as a possibility, and they could use his size on the back-end. However, as you'll see further along in my predictions, I have them going a different route. Guelph is also a possibility, but things get complicated considering they would have to move out an OA or two first. With Merkley gone, the team could look to address their need for a PP QB and Mattinen's 4 goals are tied for the most among OHL defenders. His size and experience would greatly help right now.
Prediction: Mattinen goes to Guelph in exchange for Domenico Commisso, PBO 2 2019, KIT 2 2020, WSR 3 2021

Brett Neumann - Kingston Frontenacs
One of the hottest players going into the holiday break. Neumann has had a sensational year. Kingston is obviously rebuilding and he's going to draw interest. His faceoff prowess and tenacity will be coveted by playoff bound teams. I could see teams like Oshawa, Niagara, Guelph, London, and Saginaw all looking at him pretty hard. But there's no chance I deal him unless I get a bounty for him considering he profiles as one of the top OA's in the OHL next year. And quite frankly, I could see Kingston improving a bit next year, especially if they finish with the 1st or 2nd overall pick. Neumann could then be dealt next year for an equally solid haul (just as Erie is doing with Maksimovich this year).
Prediction: Neumann stays in Kingston

Ryan Cranford - Kingston Frontenacs
Not going to be a huge market for an OA like Cranford, but he would be the perfect low key add for a competitive team with OA room. Could slide on to a 3rd/4th line and play a role on the PK. That's why I could see Ottawa or Niagara being interested in his services. Ottawa has had some trouble with injuries this year and Cranford would be a great veteran to add to their mix for the stretch drive.
Prediction: Cranford goes to Ottawa in exchange for SSM 3 2021, and OTT 4 2019

Matt Hotchkiss - Kingston Frontenacs
Big, power forward OA who can slide onto a 3rd or 4th line heading into the playoffs. Plays well below the hashmarks and is hard to separate from the puck. Lack of OA spots is the problem though, especially with bigger fish on the market. As mentioned above, I think Cranford is the more likely guy to move. But Ottawa or Niagara could look at Hotchkiss too.
Prediction: Hotchkiss stays in Kingston

Tyler Burnie - Kingston Frontenacs
Only one goal this year, but I think that Burnie is a better player than stats have shown. I think he could be a really valuable OA next year. Guys with his size and raw skill profile usually are the ones who explode in their final year in the league. So if I am an OHL GM, I try to buy low on Burnie for my 3rd or 4th line this year, and then use him in a larger role as an OA. Take your pick, as any playoff bound team could come calling. However, I do think Kingston hangs on to him, just as they end up doing with Neumann.
Prediction: Burnie stays in Kingston.

Jakob Brahaney - Kingston Frontenacs
After a breakout season last year, Brahaney hasn't been quite as effective this year as part of the rebuild. He won't be given away, but he would be a solid add for a playoff team looking for a quality 2nd/3rd pairing defender who would play an even larger role next year as an OA. One team that I see as a fit is the Oshawa Generals. I think they'll look to add another 2nd/3rd pairing guy sometime before the deadline and Brahaney could be a nice fit. Moves the puck well. Skates well. Fits in with the other defenders they have.
Prediction: Brahaney goes to Oshawa in exchange for Ian Blacker, KGN 2 2021, WSR 3 2024

Gabriel Vilardi - Kingston Frontenacs
The biggest question mark surrounding this year's deadline. Will he be back in the OHL after the World Junior Championships are over? Quite honestly, I'd be shocked if he wasn't. The Kings can't send Vilardi to the AHL. And given his back issues, do they really want him stepping into the NHL midseason, adjusting to the pace and strength of the league while also rehabilitating? This is a big part of their future and they need to be careful with him. Send him back to the OHL where he can work himself back into form and push for a roster spot next year. Regardless of whether he comes back, you can bet your ass that Kingston will be moving Vilardi's rights. And that deal will have some serious conditions, perhaps even one of those two part deals that we see "completed" the following summer. So who are the suitors? Who wouldn't want one of the best players in the OHL when healthy? I could talk about almost any team here, but I'll only mention that one that I'm predicting he goes to; Saginaw. This is a team that could really use someone with playoff experience. They could really use another center with size. Vilardi is both of those things. And Saginaw has a ton of draft picks and young players at their disposal.
Prediction: Vilardi (plus WSR 3 2020) goes to Saginaw in exchange for Duncan Penman, and conditional draft picks on him reporting (SAG 2 2020, SBY 2 2020, SAG 3 2021, SAG 2 2023, PBO 2 2024 - of which, some of those picks would then be flipped for Nicholas Porco in the offseason)

Lucas Chiodo - Barrie Colts
Has had an absolutely fantastic season thus far, emerging as one of the league's top overage players. He would be an immediate impact player for any team that adds him, considering he can play on your top powerplay unit, on the PK, and in your top 6. The issue is him being an overager. As I've already mentioned, I just don't know how strong the OA buyers market is. You've got Ottawa, Niagara, in addition to Guelph, London, and Saginaw should they choose to upgrade. And if I'm being honest, I'd rather add guys like Saigeon, Brazeau, and Maksimovich first. That's without mentioning some quality defenders. Seems like Barrie would like to move him, but given that the team also wants to stay competitive this year, would they deal him if the return isn't as great? Ottawa could be a good spot for him on the left side. Could maybe see Saginaw swapping O'Grady for Chiodo as part of a bigger deal with Barrie (Keane?).
Prediction: Chiodo stays in Barrie.

Jaden Peca - Barrie Colts
High energy winger who hasn't had as good of a year offensively as last year. But he can play on your PK and be a great 3rd liner for a playoff push. Problem is, I can't see Barrie giving him away considering he'll return as an OA next year and be a potential top 6 forward. Could see a team like Oshawa or Ottawa looking at Peca for depth this year, and then utilizing him as an OA next year when the teams hope to compete for another OHL Championship.
Prediction: Peca stays in Barrie

Jason Willms - Barrie Colts
Like Peca, Willms hasn't been quite as effective offensively as he was last year, but he's a very competent energy player who can be a 3rd line center for a team with Championship aspirations. And like Peca, he could be a very good OA next year. Again, I just can't see Barrie being willing to give him away and the price will be high. As such, I'm not sure I see him moving. But could be a sneaky add for a team like the Soo, who could use him as a 3rd line center, but then move him up in the lineup next year when they have only DeMeo likely returning as an OA.
Prediction: Willms stays in Barrie

Joey Keane - Barrie Colts
Who couldn't use one of the OHL's best defenders in Joey Keane? One of the best at preventing zone entries in the OHL and he could be a big time factor for a team looking to improve their penalty kill and decision making with the puck. First team that comes to mind? Niagara. He would immediately become the team's top defender and gives them the difference maker that they need on the back-end. The issue is their lack of assets. I see London as a potential landing spot too, so that he can play with his brother in his final OHL season. He could be an amazing partner for Bouchard or Boqvist. And if SSM does decide to go all in again, he is the type of defender that Raftis and Co. really target. Of course, there's a chance Barrie doesn't move Keane in hopes of making a playoff run still. But after dealing their captain, why not move your best asset?
Prediction: Keane goes to Niagara in exchange for Drew Hunter, Andrew Bruder, LDN 2 2020, OSH 2 2021, NIA 3 2023, NIA 3 2024

Kai Edmonds - Barrie Colts
Will Barrie continue to carry on with their three way goaltending carousel (between Zhukov, Greaves, and Edmonds)? It's a good question. Edmonds is likely to end up as a starter somewhere, whether it's in Barrie or not remains to be seen. He certainly deserves a shot to play more. But he's also only a 2000 born and has a few years left in the league. Could a team like Owen Sound make a push for Edmonds? They need a starter this year, but what would that do to Guzda's (or MacLean's) confidence as the goalie of the future (only a year younger than Edmonds). More likely, I think, Barrie just continues the carousel knowing that Zhukov moves on next year and Edmonds can have his crack at the starter's role then.
Prediction: Edmonds stays in Barrie

Jacob McGrath - Sudbury Wolves
Lost his starting job to UPL this year, which I'm sure he's not happy about. He has also not played well at all this year. Could it be time for a fresh start? The Wolves just recently signed Mitchell Weeks who has been one of the top goalies in the OJHL this year. Whether that is just to cover for the WJC's, or to push McGrath out the door, remains to be seen. McGrath will be a candidate to start as an OA next year, pending he can turn his game around. So I'd look for a team like Erie, or Kingston to be possible suitors. Or even Peterborough who is likely looking for an established goalie to give Hunter Jones some time off. But he could be more likely moved in the offseason if Sudbury brings in another starter to replace UPL (perhaps another Import, cough Nick Malik, cough).
Prediction: McGrath stays in Sudbury

Justin Brazeau - North Bay Battalion
Again, moving overagers can be difficult. Brazeau has been one of the best players in the entire OHL this year. He has flat out dominated since the puck dropped in September. Teams looking to make a deep playoff run will want to add his size to their forward group, as his game is tailored to the way the game is played in the postseason. The question is, who has the room and will the Battalion even look to move him aggressively? One team that I really like as a fit for Brazeau is Guelph. They could follow in the footsteps of the Generals of 2015 by out-muscling opponents. Can you imagine Brazeau and Ratcliffe on the same line or powerplay? They could easily flip Poirier for a mid-late round pick to a team looking for a veteran presence to close out the season. If Brazeau was a left shot, I think Ottawa could have been have been very interested. And I see Niagara looking to the back-end or center for their OA open spaces. Obviously London could be a good fit if they flip a guy like Timms. Just as they did when they moved McKenzie last year, Butler needs to move Brazeau to keep this team competitive moving forward.
Prediction: Brazeau moves to Guelph in exchange for Tag Bertuzzi (then Guelph moves Poirier to another team for a later pick)

Luke Burghardt - North Bay Battalion
Great to see Burghardt back in action after stepping away from the game last year due to a back condition. Remains to be seen how long it takes him to get back to being an impact player, but it's obvious that his skating stride hasn't lost a step. We're still a little ways out from the deadline, so he has time to prove to potential suitors that he can be an impact OA for them down the stretch. That said, I'm just not sure North Bay moves him considering what he's gone through. The OA market is saturated and it could be best for Burghardt to just provide some stability to the Battalion's younger players as they push to earn one of the final playoff spots in the East.
Prediction: Burghardt stays in North Bay

Owen Tippett - Mississauga Steelheads
What do the Steelheads do with Tippett? His goal scoring ability, size, and skating ability are major assets. He is easily one of the best pure goal scorers in the OHL. But will there be a team out there who is willing to give up what Mississauga will be looking in return? Especially given Tippett's volatility. And if there isn't, would the Steelheads be willing to take a little bit less? So many questions. SSM would be an amazing fit, but I don't see them forking over the assets. London could be interested, but I think other players have their eye. Could Saginaw jump into the ring? I could definitely see them as a possible landing spot. And they have the assets. Again though, I think they go in a different route. Peterborough is a possibility, but I don't see them mortgaging the future too much as next year will be a bigger one for them. That said, they do have a chance to be a top 4 team in the Conference this year and with a few additions, could push if Jones stays hot. Problem is, they don't have a 2002 to move currently and I don't think there's a chance they move Robertson here.
Prediction: Tippett stays in Mississauga.

Ryan McLeod - Mississauga Steelheads
The Steelheads have to look to explore deals on McLeod too, given the team's status in the middle ground of the league. McLeod's size and speed down the middle make him an attractive target to teams who want to improve the pace at which they play. He's performed well in the playoffs too, especially during Mississauga's 2017 run. Oshawa is the team that comes to mind immediately. I think that they try to upgrade on the center position behind Jack Studnicka (shifting McShane to the wing) and they could really use an injection of more speed into their lineup to help with zone entries. This is where McLeod fits in. I could see Guelph and Saginaw being big players here too. McLeod would increase Guelph's pace of play too.
Prediction: McLeod goes to Oshawa in exchange for Nick Wong, OSH 2 2023, OSH 2 2024

Cole Carter - Mississauga Steelheads
Another top quality overager on the market and he may have less of a price tag than some of the other forwards available. It's not Tippett, or McLeod who lead Mississauga in scoring, it's Carter. He's also a guy who can play in any situation and who plays bigger than his 5'9 size. Like many of the OA's on this list, Ottawa and Niagara have to be considered the top targets. But I'm just not sure how large the market will be here.
Prediction: Carter stays in Mississauga

Alan Lyszczarczyk - Mississauga Steelheads
Recently acquired by the Steelheads, it would be odd if they then flipped him elsewhere for likely much less than they acquired him for. Again, the OA market is extremely saturated. Lyszczarczyk is a solid offensive player but isn't as complete a player as other OA's available. And with teams looking to add OA's for their playoff run, I think they probably look elsewhere to guys who can make a larger impact in all areas. Although Lyszczarczyk did have a solid playoffs last year for Owen Sound.
Prediction: Lyszczarczyk stays in Mississauga

Greg Meireles - Kitchener Rangers
Meireles is having an excellent bounce back season after last year's disappointing drop in production. He's going to draw a ton of interest because of his two-way game and the fact that he profiles as an impact overager next year too. I could see a team like Niagara having a ton of interest in Meireles to be their 3rd line center. Could see Oshawa looking at him heavily too, so that they can use him next year for another playoff push. Could a team like Sault Ste. Marie be a possible destination too? He fits the profile of the type of player that they usually inquire about. At the end of the day though, it would take a lot to pry him from Kitchener and I don't see them completely rebuilding. So there's probably more of a chance that he stays.
Prediction: Meireles stays in Kitchener

Rickard Hugg - Kitchener Rangers
Tough to move an Import, even if Hugg has had a terrific season for the Rangers (currently 2nd in scoring for Kitchener). The one team that I truly think adds an Import is Guelph. But would they be willing to move Hugg to such a rival? I could see the Soo being interested too, but I'm not sure that they would be willing to pay a ton. Outside of Yantsis, I think Hugg has the best chance of moving but even then I'm just not convinced that Kitchener truly commits to a rebuild.
Prediction: Hugg stays in Kitchener

Jonathan Yantsis - Kitchener Rangers
One of the most improved players in the OHL this year, Yantsis' 24 goals puts him tied for 6th in OHL goal scoring this year. The big bodied winger has excelled especially on the powerplay as a net presence. His 10 powerplay goals are tied for 2nd in the OHL. On the right side, Sudbury could be a fit. Could see London looking at him too for their powerplay. But I think Peterborough is a terrific landing spot. Not only could adding more size to their forward unit be good for them, but their powerplay needs improvement too (why not add another piece to go with Merkley). Would be a nice low key add for a team I expect to make a few smaller scale additions to give them a fighting chance in the playoffs. This is especially true given that the team moved Gogolev in the Merkley deal.
Prediction: Yantsis goes to Peterborough in exchange for SAR 2 2020, PBO 2 2022, and a conditional PBO 3 2024 (on Yantsis returning as an OA next year)

Joseph Gareffa - Kitchener Rangers
Gareffa would probably be considered the heart and soul of the Rangers. Does everything the organization asks of him, shifting back and forth between defense and forward. Recently it has been stated that he wants to stay on the back-end and wants to have some stability, which is understandable. Given how good he was last year in the playoffs and the fact that he would be an elite OA next year, there is no doubt going to be a ton of interest. I could see Oshawa being a possible destination. I think that they add a '99 who can help them this year and who will return as an OA next year for another championship run. His mobility and offensive ability would fit in really well with the Generals. And with Merkley gone in Guelph, would the Storm dare trade Gareffa to, essentially, a cross town rival? But like a few other 99's in Kitchener, I'm just not sure he ends up moving.
Prediction: Gareffa stays in Kitchener

Kyle Maksimovich - Erie Otters
Like Saigeon, finding a home for Maksimovich is going to be more difficult than some others because of his overage status. Only a few teams have a spot open. That said, Maksimovich is one of the top OA's in the league this year and some teams may even be open to swapping OA's to get the upgrade (like Guelph with Zach Poirier). Niagara is a candidate, but I think they're more likely to use their OA spot on a center or defender. Guelph could swap Maksimovich with Poirier. He'd actually be a great fit there to help get the puck to big guys like Ratcliffe, Schnarr, Hawel, etc. But I truly believe Ottawa is the best fit here for him. His tenacity and playmaking ability would fit perfectly into that lineup on the left side. And they have the picks that Erie is going to want for Maksimovich.
Prediction: Maksimovich goes to Ottawa in exchange for MISS 2 2019, PBO 3 2019, OTT 2 2020, OS 3 2020, KGN 2 2024

Hugo Leufvenius - Sarnia Sting
One of this year's breakout candidates, the big Swedish winger has been sensational for Sarnia. Leufvenius is the top scoring Import in the OHL this year and his playmaking ability and size would look good on a lot of teams. The problem (sorry if I sound like a broken record) is his Import status. Guelph, as I've stated, is definitely an option. He could be a great add to their top 6. The Soo is another option, but I'm just not as sure that he suits the Sault's style of play. Given how well he's played, I think Ruzicka is the more likely import to move.
Prediction: Leufvenius stays in Sarnia

Ryan McGregor - Sarnia Sting
Very versatile forward who can play anywhere in your line up. Brings speed, can play the PK. He crashes the net and has enough puck skill to be a complimentary piece on a scoring line. Also a chance he returns as an OA next year. Could be a great depth pick up for someone like Ottawa, Oshawa, Niagara, Saginaw, etc. But I think the Soo is a great fit. Plays the game the way the Hounds like and would fit in seamlessly with that lineup. I don't expect SSM to make any massive moves, but I do expect them to make a couple more minor ones like this. Wouldn't cost a ton but would really bolster depth as they prepare to try to capture their division.
Prediction: McGregor goes to SSM in exchange for Tye Kartye, SSM 3 2022, SSM 4 2020

Adam Ruzicka - Sarnia Sting
Ruzicka has never really developed into the player that many expected he would, but he's still a top 6 OHL forward who has the potential to elevate his game if brought into a different environment. Not too many teams have room for an Import, or would have the desire to swap Imports so the market will be limited. That said, I look at the Guelph Storm as a team that could have a ton of interest here, swapping out Toropchenko for Ruzicka, whose size would be coveted down low and who could slide into that 2nd or 3rd line center spot.
Prediction: Ruzicka goes to Guelph in exchange for Alexey Toropchenko, and NB 2 2020

Franco Spoviero - Sarnia Sting
For my money, Spoviero is easily one of the most underrated players in the OHL. This kid would go through a wall for his team and is a tremendous forechecker and penalty killer. Perfect little depth add for a playoff team. I look at Niagara and Ottawa as two great landing spots for him. Both could use a little help on the PK and both have overage spots open. Niagara has the greater need down the middle, a position that Spoviero is most effective at IMO. He would fit great with guys like Castleman and Sopa to form a quick and gritty 3rd line.
Prediction: Spoviero goes to Niagara in exchange for NIA 3 2020, MISS 2 2022, NIA 3 2024

Mitch Eliot - Sarnia Sting
Easily one of the most underrated players in the OHL right now. Came to the league with little hype last year and played a rather conservative role on a strong Sarnia team. But with more responsibility this year, he's flourished. He currently sits just outside the top 5 in defenseman scoring and is a big time minute eater. His OA tag is going to be an issue though. Again, the market is so saturated with talented players and as I said with Nic Mattinen, I think teams with space (Ottawa, Niagara, etc) may opt to go with a forward and not a defender. That said, Eliot could be a nice low key acquisition for Guelph to help them on the back-end. Would cause them to do some shuffling in the OA department, but he would look good there.
Prediction: Eliot stays in Sarnia
Alexandre Hogue - Sarnia Sting
Not too often you see a younger player appear on a list like this given I'm only really profiling the sellers (aka rebuilding teams). But the former 2nd round pick hasn't blossomed in Sarnia and there have been rumblings of his frustration with his place in the team's system. He seems like a trade candidate at some point in the near future, be it this deadline or this offseason. He still has lots of potential to develop into an elite offensive defender in the OHL and I am sure there are a few teams who have already inquired about his services. The Sting and Battalion hooked up on a deal last year and could see them doing so again as Hogue would fit in well as a powerplay QB for the future in North Bay. Erie could be another potential landing spot. Owen Sound is too. But this is probably a deal that happens in the offseason.
Prediction: Hogue stays in Sarnia

Luke Kutkevicius - Windsor Spitfires
Insert saturated OA market quip. Kutkevicius is a solid player. Versatile forward who plays down the middle naturally, can kill penalties and would look good on the 3rd line of a playoff competitor. But there are just so many options out there and not many potential landing spots. That said, Niagara is one team I really think could be interested if they look to pick up someone at a lesser cost (given their lack of assets). I see them upgrading their 3rd line center spot and he would be a good candidate.
Prediction: Kutkevicius stays in Windsor.

Sean Allen - Windsor Spitfires
Insert saturated OA market quip, again. Allen is a solid stay at home defender who brings physicality and would look great on the 3rd pairing of a playoff bound team. But if a team is going to go get an OA defender, it probably ends up being a guy like Mattinen, Durzi, or Eliot. No offense meant to Allen either. But he probably finishes his OHL career in Windsor.
Prediction: Allen stays in Windsor

Luke Boka - Windsor Spitfires
Even though I think Windsor will listen to offers on Boka given the position they're in, it's always a tough sell for a team to move its captain. And Windsor isn't going full rebuild. This is a team that expects to compete for the West next year, when they'll need Boka as an OA. But a team like Niagara or Oshawa could come calling and make an offer that's too good to pass up. Seems unlikely though.
Prediction: Boka stays in Windsor.

Cole Purboo - Windsor Spitfires
I don't anticipate the Windsor Spitfires to make a ton of moves following the Dipietro deal. But I do think that they'll look to move Purboo because his value would never be higher. Big body who can play on a 2nd or 3rd line. Play in all situations. Those types are valuable to playoff teams. I look at a team like Sudbury jumping into play here. They could use some help on the right side and Purboo would be a nice low key add for them. Like Peterborough, I see them making a couple moves to get themselves past round one.
Prediction: Purboo goes to Sudbury in exchange for OSH 3 2021, OS 3 2022, SBY 3 2024

Kevin Hancock - Owen Sound Attack
So.....many....OA's on the market. Obviously Hancock is one of the best though. Has been an extremely consistent player the last three seasons (averaging over a point per game). He just seems to keep getting better. And he's a proven playoff performer too. The usual suspects will be mentioned here. Ottawa, who could use him on the left wing. Niagara, who could slide him into the 2nd line center role (bumping Jones). Or even London, as part of a blockbuster trade with Nick Suzuki. But Owen Sound is going to want a big return on Hancock given the fact that they still have a chance to earn home ice in the first round. I'm still not convinced or certain that they rebuild. They could move a few pieces and then keep a few to make sure that the team still makes the playoffs.
Prediction: Hancock stays in Owen Sound

Maksim Sushko - Owen Sound Attack
Another one of those versatile forward types who could be a great, low key add for a playoff contender. Sushko is an excellent penalty killer and has the skill to line up on the 2nd line, especially if flanked by a talented playmaking center. Pushes the pace well too. Not too many teams with Import room, but one is the SSM Greyhounds and I think he would be a great fit there. Could be a perfect linemate for Frost or Hayton and wouldn't cost as much for the Hounds as some other candidates.
Prediction: Sushko goes to SSM in exchange for SSM 3 2020, SSM 3 2024

Nick Suzuki - Owen Sound Attack
It's going to take quite the package for the Attack to move Suzuki. There is no question that it would have to include a recent first round 2002 born player coming back the other way, in addition to picks. Suzuki is obviously one of the best in the OHL, but who has the assets to get the deal done? Saginaw? But would they move Perfetti and would he waive his no trade? London and Evangelista? Ottawa has gone on record to say that they aren't interested in dealing current players because they intend to contend for several years. But here's the thing, Suzuki is a difference maker in a Championship run. They've already gone out and brought in Dipietro. They're all in this year too. And Cameron Tolnai is a big trade chip for them considering some of their other 2002's have been better and they have the depth to make the move. Adding Suzuki would give them one hell of a top 6. Circling back to London, they could have a ton of interest because it would bring Suzuki home. Tough to peg how this goes down.
Prediction: Suzuki goes to Ottawa in exchange for Cameron Tolnai, PBO 2 2019, OTT 2 2024, SSM 3 2021, OTT 3 2023

Sean Durzi - Owen Sound Attack
Kind of a tough year for Durzi so far. Returned late from NHL/AHL camp. Has had trouble with injuries. Has only gotten into 11 games (as I write this). But he's one of the best defenders in the OHL when he's playing. The issue is his OA tag. And as I mentioned with Mattinen, Eliot, and other OA defenders, I think I see teams with OA room going the forward route. That said, Durzi is an upgrade for any team because of his abilities. Would London swap Matt Timms for Durzi? What about Guelph bringing in Durzi now that Merkley is gone? Again though, I'm just not convinced Owen Sound goes full rebuild.
Prediction: Durzi stays in Owen Sound

Markus Phillips - Owen Sound Attack
An interesting case here. Phillips is a quality two-way defender who can use his mobility to his advantage at both ends. He also had 33 games of playoff experience. But I think it's fair to say that his offensive game hasn't quite developed as well as many expected. His production has regressed over his OHL career, settling more into more of a defensive first role. But he'd be a solid #3-4 for a team that hopes to contend for an OHL title, with a chance of returning as an OA next year (if LA does not sign him) and being an impact player. If he is dealt, I would expect any deal to carry future considerations. I would also expect that if he's dealt, it could be in a combo deal with a guy like Hancock or Suzuki. I could see a team like Oshawa having a lot of interest here. His mobility fits their blueline MO and he could be a potential impact player next year in their quest for a Memorial Cup. Could see Niagara having interest in him too. Ditto for London. He would be a nice upgrade to their second pairing. But they have limited cards left. Guelph is an option too, but they probably look for someone with more offensive ability. I actually think Phillips could have a greater chance of being dealt than Durzi. As much as I want to suggest a deal to London (for say Golden, Duhart, and picks), I think he stays.
Prediction: Phillips stays in Owen Sound

Trenton Bourque - Owen Sound Attack
Could be a solid pick-up for a team looking to add a physical stay at home defender to its third pairing. Has a lot of playoff experience too. And as an OA, his price tag wouldn't be incredibly high. But as an OA, his list of suitors is limited. And there are so many other big fish out there. Just depends on whether teams go bargain hunting. Niagara looks at him if they can't line up a deal for a higher impact OA.
Prediction: Bourque stays in Owen Sound

Fedor Gordeev - Flint Firebirds
Gordeev has quietly had a decent season in Flint despite how much the team has struggled. He could be a real underrated pick-up for a competitive team down the stretch (think the Riley Stillman pick up for Hamilton last year). He can eat minutes, bring physicality and play on your secondary powerplay and PK unit. And of course, his size is going to be coveted for that long playoff run. Niagara likely goes after another defender to replace Liam Ham (who asked to be moved closer to home) and they could still use more size on the back-end. Oshawa, I think, goes after another defender. They already have a huge blueline, so why not make it bigger? Sudbury, Guelph, and Peterborough make sense too. In fact the Wolves could be a great fit because they could use his mobility and size in their top 3, taking the pressure off of some younger defenders like Liam Ross.
Prediction: Gordeev goes to Sudbury in exchange for Kirill Nizhnikov, BAR 2 2019, ER 3 2020, MISS 3 2021

Ty Dellandrea - Flint Firebirds
Will he, or won't he? What the Firebirds do with Dellandrea seems to be one of the bigger questions surrounding this year's trade deadline. The Firebirds are floundering in the basement, but injuries have played a pretty large part in that. This roster has talent. Just look at how many goals they've been scoring lately. If they keep this roster intact, I think they have a chance to be a pretty decent team next year. Last year, the Knights made the right choice in dealing Robert Thomas, anticipating that he would be in the NHL for his 19 year old season. I don't think Dellandrea ends up making Dallas next year, but do the Firebirds move him now, just in case? I think any team in the league would be interested in adding him. And the cost would be insanely high. Another issue is can the Firebirds get a premium young player to waive their no trade clause to come to Flint in return? They'll entertain offers (from teams like Oshawa, Niagara, Ottawa, London, etc), but I just don't see Dellandrea moving. I think they stay the course.
Prediction: Dellandrea stays in Flint

Emanuel Vella - Flint Firebirds
Has done his best to hang in there this year in Flint, despite the defense in front of him suffering massive injuries. There won't be much interest in him, except I do believe that Peterborough could look to add a veteran to spell Hunter Jones a bit as we get closer to the playoffs. But they'd have to move someone like Osmanski first. Oshawa could have been an option before acquiring Hughes. Or Flint just keeps Vella to help mentor Cavallin. I would imagine that they give Vella the option.
Prediction: Vella stays in Flint.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - Under the Radar Draft Eligibles for 2019

We're over a third of the way into the current OHL season. While this is unquestionably a down year from the OHL, we've still seen some strong performances from draft eligible players thus far, and we're likely to see many more as we approach the second half. The Preliminary Media/Scout Poll was recently released and that should give everyone a good idea of the top players that the OHL has to offer for 2019. But what about those who are flying under the radar thus far? The amount of depth that the OHL has to offer for this year remains to be seen, even if the top end talent appears to be weaker. This list aims to highlight a few of the guys who are bound to see their stock rise should they continue their high level of play and could end up being Top 100 picks come June.

Here are 10 guys (plus some HM's) that you should be keeping your eye on through the 2nd half (in alphabetical order):

Mitchell Brewer - Oshawa Generals
Mobile defender with good size (6'1, 200lbs) who projects well as a pro defender. Brewer is a top three defender for the Generals, switching between Nico Gross and Matt Brassard as his partner. He is also one of the main reasons why Oshawa has a top 3 penalty killing unit in the OHL. Brewer is the type of defender who can do it all (plays physical, blocks shots, makes smart plays with the puck). And I think he's been really gaining confidence in his offensive abilities too, looking to use his skating ability to jump up in the play more and has been more aggressive in looking for his own scoring chances. With Oshawa poised to be a top 3 team in the Eastern Conference, he's going to get a ton of looks down the stretch.

Petr Cajka - Erie Otters
Cajka entered the year as a potential top 50 prospect on some lists and had a decent amount of hype attached to his arrival in Erie. But he struggled out of the gate, which isn't uncommon for rookie Imports. But Cajka has been considerably better of late with four multi goal games in his last ten. While he doesn't possess elite size at 5'11, he's actually terrific at protecting the puck, using his strong skating ability and balance to keep plays alive in the offensive end. Works the wall very well and plays a relatively fearless game. Consistency is going to be an issue with Erie's struggles (especially of late), but this is a guy teams should be looking at in the later rounds come June, if not earlier depending on how he responds after Erie makes some inevitable trades in January.

Daniel D'Amico - Windsor Spitfires
Snake bitten to start the season and given his lack of size at 5'9, the lack of production was bound to correlate with a drop in draft rankings. But he's really found his stride; 10 goals in his last 12 games. D'Amico has a real nose for the net and has one of the best releases of any OHL player eligible this year. Seems like whatever line he's placed on, is consistently Windsor's best on any given night. Originally thought he could be a long shot to be drafted, but scouts won't be able to ignore his production if it keeps up. Just needs to continue to prove that he can play at a higher tempo given his lack of size.

Jacob LeGuerrier - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Was happy to see LeGuerrier get his first OHL goal the other night after going 100+ without one. That said, my stance so far this year has been that LeGuerrier is a better offensive player than the numbers might suggest. With his size, reach, and skating ability, he is good for about one impressive rush deep into the offensive zone per game. It's just not something that he looks to do very often. Will that confidence get there one day? Will he explode next year when Sambrook and Hollowell move on? In the mean time, he at least profiles as a modern day stay at home defender. 6'3, mobile, can make plays with the puck, and is a willing combatant in the defensive end.

Kari Piiroinen - Windsor Spitfires
All eyes on Piiroinen now that he has fully taken over the crease in Windsor after the Dipietro trade. He's been pretty good this year as a rookie, but he'll now be given a chance to get into a groove with consistent starts. Without a doubt, the most impressive part of Piiroinen's game is his athleticism. He's very quick post to post and I think scouts will like how aggressive he is in challenging shooters given his lack of elite size. That glove hand is great too. Where he has struggled (from my viewpoint) is in refining his movements. Pucks have a tendency to squeak through him when he's moving and he can have trouble holding his post. That could stem from a lack of strength though. But he's going to have the spotlight down the stretch and it will be interesting to see how he responds.

Mason Primeau - North Bay Battalion
Sometimes a change of scenery is all you need. Since being dealt to North Bay, Primeau is averaging a point per game and has given North Bay a quality 2nd line behind the Brazeau/Struthers unit. At 6'5 and with NHL bloodlines, there is absolutely no doubting that the big power forward is going to draw a ton of interest from NHL scouts if he keeps producing for the Battalion. He can be an absolute force below the hashmarks and while he's not Serron Noel, I think that there is a lot of potential for his skating to improve as he matures. Stan Butler (who has recently returned to GM duties and perhaps will return to coaching duties soon) has proven to be great working with guys like Primeau over his career.

Jamieson Rees - Sarnia Sting
It is going to take some time for Rees to get back into a groove after missing two months with a kidney laceration. Came into the year as a possible top 60 pick (especially after a strong Hlinka performance), but now has some ground to make up. Saw him play recently and thought he looked great, using his speed to play in all three zones. Was forcing turnovers and made a couple terrific passes to set up prime scoring chances. Jacob Perreault and he are the future in Sarnia and as the trade deadline approaches, they may have to elevate their play even further if the Sting continue their rebuild and move more veterans.

Cole Schwindt - Mississauga Steelheads
Offensive production has really declined (has not scored in 12 games), and the Steelheads are mired in a slump (even with beating Oshawa recently). But Schwindt's versatility is going to be attractive to NHL scouts. In a way, Schwindt is similar to Hamilton's Mackenzie Entwistle. 6'3 forward who plays any forward position and who can be relied upon in any situation. Even though the Steelheads PK hasn't been terrific this year, I've really liked Schwindt in that situation where he can use his length and skating ability to disrupt passing lanes and track down loose pucks. The offensive potential at the next level may not be extremely high, but given his size and coachability, he will draw a lot of interest.

Kyen Sopa - Niagara IceDogs
Sopa, a late 2000 born Import like Cajka (on this list earlier), has found himself in a nearly opposite situation. As part of a Championship contender in Niagara, Sopa has seen his ice time cut in recent weeks with the addition of Jason Robertson and the emergence of Philip Tomasino. Playing on the 3rd and 4th line is not a kiss of death for your draft value, but it does mean that he will have to find a way to stand out consistently with the time he does get. I continue to admire the energy that Sopa brings to the ice. Undersized, but he attacks the net and seems to revel in that pest role. Has very quick hands in tight. But playing with less talented players, he will need to create more of his own scoring chances and show more of a dynamic ability with the puck in transition.

Keean Washkurak - Mississauga Steelheads
Another Steelhead who is struggling big time lately; one point in his last 10 games. Unlike Schwindt, Washkurak doesn't possess elite size at 5'10, so a lack of production will have a big time negative influence on his draft stock. It's no co-incidence that the Steelheads are mired in a slump as their secondary scoring has disappeared. The Steelheads need Washkurak to pick it back up. But I do really like him as a prospect. Washkurak is one of the best skaters among OHL draft eligibles this year. He plays at such a quick pace, and is at his best when he's a big factor without the puck (backcheck/forecheck). I think he's got great potential to be a consistent impact player in this league and a top three round pick come June. Let's see how he responds to a drought.

Honorable Mentions:

Nathan Allensen - Barrie Colts
If the move of Justin Murray is just the beginning, and Joey Keane is next out the door, then Allensen could see his ice time increase substantially in the second half. Thought he was great as a rookie last year, but with a sheltered role this year, he hasn't been able to show a ton of progression. More ice time may be his chance to show his offensive skill set, which is needed given his average size.

Brayden Guy - Sarnia Sting
Hard nosed Guy (pun intended) who has proven to be a terrific complimentary offensive piece in Sarnia. Don't have a great grasp of what his offensive ceiling is at this point, but he keeps producing and could take on an even larger role once Sarnia moves more veteran forwards out.

Mason Millman - Saginaw Spirit
Has pushed himself into Saginaw's top three, even earning some time with Bode Wilde recently. Also quarterbacks the powerplay for the Spirit. Good size (6'1). Good mobility. Just a solid all around defender who should have a lot of eyes on him as Saginaw battles for a top 3 spot in the Conference down the stretch. With the addition of Justin Murray, one has to wonder if that affects his ice time.

Lucas Peric - Ottawa 67's
An anchor of the 67's 3rd pairing, which wouldn't be as impressive if the 67's weren't the top rated team in the OHL and he wasn't +15. His mobility is extremely impressive on the back-end and like Mitchell Brewer, he's going to have a ton of eyes on him down the stretch.

Liam Ross - Sudbury Wolves
One of my favourites in the age group dating back to MM. Solid two-way defender who leads Sudbury in defensive scoring and has been critical to their turnaround this year as a top defender for them. A lack of dynamic skating ability will hurt him in draft rankings, but look at the improvements that Tyler Tucker has made this year in Barrie.

Eric Uba - Flint Firebirds
While Ethan Keppen will be the draft eligible forward who will receive the most attention in Flint this year (and rightfully so), Uba has been impressive as of late. Yes, he's a late 2000 born player, but he's also an OHL rookie thrust into a tough situation. His speed and pace are noticeable every time I see Flint play. This kid will be a big scorer in this league by the time his OHL career is finished. 14 points in his last 14 games.

Bonus - Five Re-Entry Candidates to Watch (in alphabetical order):

Cole Coskey - Saginaw Spirit
Recently named to the U.S. training camp roster for this year's WJC's. Coskey is a competitive winger who is a very versatile player. Does it all. Is at his best working the wall, tiring out opposing defenders. Very difficult to separate from the puck and has good vision along the half wall. Can be a bit turnover prone though, so he just needs to keep things simple. With his size and continued improvement in production each year, it's only a matter of time before the NHL comes calling.

Nando Eggenberger - Oshawa Generals
Big Swiss Import who has come as advertised this year. He was one of the highest ranked players to go undrafted in 2018, and given his strong performance in the OHL this year, it seems unlikely that, that will happen again. Eggenberger's skating has been much better than I had anticipated after reading reports prior to him coming over. I've also been impressed by his commitment level at both ends. Has been one of the more efficient players in the OHL at 5 on 5 this year.

Hugo Leufvenius - Sarnia Sting
Another big bodied Import, Leufvenius has been a difference maker in his 2nd year in the OHL. Has already surpassed his goal total from last year (19) in less than half the games. Currently leads Sarnia in scoring and is riding a 16 game point streak. He won't be winning any skating competitions, but he's an extremely intelligent player who is also hard to separate from the puck. That gives him time to operate in the offensive zone.

Matthew Struthers - North Bay Battalion
Has cooled off after a terrific start (2 goals in his last 12 games), but has still been a much improved player over a year ago. Using his size more to his advantage down low and when paired with Justin Brazeau, the two have been terrorizing opposing defenses. His size and playmaking ability down the middle are going to be very attractive to NHL scouts this year, pending he can get his production back on track.

Jacob Tortora - Barrie Colts
The former first round priority selection finally came to the OHL recently and has paid immediate dividends. 7 goals in 7 games, proving that he is an impact player in this league. At 5'8, he's going to have to continue to put up big numbers like that to interest NHL scouts, but he appears more than capable. I don't believe that this is just a hot start. Tortora has proven to have a real nose for the net and he excels as the pace picks up. What a terrific pick up for the Colts.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Rickard Hugg
Austen Keating
Billy Moskal
Brett Neumann
Merrick Rippon
Cole Tymkin
Jonathan Yantsis