Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2019-2020

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 2002 (possibly even 2001) 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, Jack Quinn, etc).

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

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


Owen Bennett - Guelph Storm
A 4th round selection by the Storm, Bennett spent last year in the Carelton Place program of the CCHL (and CCHL2). At 6'2, Bennett has good size in the net and is a graduate of the Halton Hurricanes organization. To start the year, it seems likely that Bennett will be part of a three way goaltending carousel with OA Anthony Popovich, and returnee Nico Daws. But the rebuilding Storm will no doubt look for suitors for Popovich or Daws, so that Bennett can receive more starts at some point.
Scouting Report: "Possesses great size and uses it to take minimal angles out of the conversation. Some may wish for more athleticism, but his simple saves get the job done." 

Aidan Campbell - Erie Otters 
Fresh off winning a U.S. midget Championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins elite program last year, the 6'4 netminder has signed in Erie where he'll push Daniel Murphy for playing time during the upcoming season. A 12th round pick by Erie originally, Campbell has turned into a quality goaltending prospect, even seeing a few games for the U.S. U17 team last year as a fill in. With a late August birth date, patience may be required as he continues to physically mature, but this could be the Otters' goalie of the future.
Scouting Report: "Taller, very calm goalie. Knows what he is and what he needs to do. Plays poised and focuses on sound positioning and calm play. Doesn't move overly quickly but takes away space with his big frame. Soft goals at times."
Marco Costantini - Hamilton Bulldogs 
A 5th rounder of the Bulldogs, Costantini had an excellent season last year with Hamilton of the GOJHL, posting the best GAA and save percentage of any U17 goalie in the league (in fact, the fourth best in the last 10 years for his age). The former OHL Cup all star with Vaughn may not have elite size for the position (hovering around the 6'0 mark), but he has consistently been considered one of the better Ontario goaltenders in this age group. He will come to Hamilton's camp with the hopes of splitting time with Zach Roy in Hamilton's crease. Fun fact, his twin brother Anthony is also an OHL prospect; a defender with Ottawa. 
Scouting Report: "A consistent rock in goal who shuts down the lower portion of the net better than any goalie in the age group. Calm, controlled movements and rarely overplays a shot." Voted second most athletic netminder in the age group behind Tristan Lennox. 

Xavier Medina - Windsor Spitfires 
The hope for Windsor is that Medina will come in and battle Import Kari Piiroinen for playing time, creating an excellent platoon situation. The 6'0 netminder was a standout in the U.S. Midget league last year, posting the best GAA in the league for the terrific Oakland Grizzlies program. A 3rd round pick by Windsor, Medina, like Costantini (listed above), was at one time considered one of the best goaltenders in this age group.
Scouting Report: "Athletic goalie who does a great job challenging shooters, along with having good poise and patience under pressure. Slightly undersized, he uses his athleticism to take away space. Also plays the puck well."

Matt Onuska - London Knights
Like Marco Costantini, Onuska was a standout in the GOJHL last year, finishing the year with close to the same stat line. But Onuska also won a Championship with Waterloo, something that was, no doubt, terrific for his development. A 6'3 netminder, Onuska was going to be part of a crowded crease in Kingston, before a recent trade to London. He should have the inside track at the backup job behind Jordan Kooy.
Scouting Report: "Displays a calm, cool, and collected demeanor in the crease. Is an athletic netminder who rarely has to scramble to make a save because of good instincts."

Zachary Paputsakis - Oshawa Generals
A late 2001 born, and former 5th rounder, Paputsakis has signed with Oshawa for this season after a great season with Kimball Union Academy in the U.S. prep loop. The 6'3 netminder will be one of several goalies tasked with trying to fill the shoes of the great Kyle Keyser for the Generals. 
Scouting Report: "A big, calm goaltender who has flashed some terrific long term potential. Naturally fills the net with his size, but also moves well in his crease. Holds the line well and controls most pucks, limiting second chance opportunities. Does open up some holes due to his rangy limbs." 

Joe Vrbetic - North Bay Battalion 
At this point, Vrbetic has to be considered the top young '02 goaltender who did not suit up in the OHL last year. The 6'4 netminder had the best save percentage in the NOJHL last year and was a standout at the Canadian Hlinka camp this summer, making him one of the top '02 goaltenders in the country. He will battle returnee Christian Purboo for playing time to start in North Bay, but would imagine that by midseason, he will have hold of the starting gig. 
Scouting Report: "A big strong goaltender who uses his size advantage any way he can. Extremely strong in his positional play, tracking stopping pucks with confidence. Has quick leg work despite his size and resets his positioning quickly for second chance opportunities. Can at times be beaten high at times with quicker releases."


Clark Hiebert - Guelph Storm 
A late 2001 born, Hiebert was named to the prestigious OJHL all prospect team this past season after a terrific year with Burlington. At 6'2, 180lbs, Hiebert will add some nice size to a rebuilding blueline in Guelph, where he has a good shot at getting serious ice time. This was a big signing by the Storm.
Scouting Report: "Plays a simple and reliable game. Walks the blueline well and shows good shot placement from the point. Room for improvement in his puck handling ability as it can be rigid at times."

Tyler Deline - Flint Firebirds
Deline bounced around last season, splitting time between Flint, Pickering (OJHL), and playing midget with Clarington. The 5'10 defender will be in the mix for more ice time this season, although likely in the 6th or 7th defender role. 
Scouting Report: "Good skating defender with four way mobility. Has potential as a powerplay QB." 

Austin D'Orazio - Barrie Colts 
Physical defender who was originally part of the Vaughn Kings organization. D'Orazio had a solid season for Newmarket of the OJHL last year and appears poised to make the jump to the OHL this year for Barrie. He would be a candidate to play a third pairing role for the team.
Scouting Report: "A physical defender who exhibits good decision making with the puck. Compete level is quite high and is an excellent open ice hitter." 

Jack Harper - Flint Firebirds 
A teammate of Clark Hiebert (appearing earlier on this list) last year in Burlington (OJHL), Harper had an excellent season for a U17 defender in the league. A recent signee of the Firebirds, he will battle a guy like Tyler Deline to be in the mix for one of the final defensive spots in the lineup.
Scouting Report: "A strong puck moving defender who projects as a powerplay QB. A fluent skater, Harper's defensive game has been improving steadily." 

Brendan Kennette - Sarnia Sting 
A rebuilding Sarnia team will be looking for more from their young blueline this upcoming season and that could include a contribution from former 9th rounder Kennette. He is coming off a good season with Sarnia of the GOJHL, where he was a member of Western Conference's all rookie team. 
Scouting Report: "A very strong and mobile skater, he possesses good offensive upside. Decision making with the puck has been an issue, although did show better later in his draft year." 

James Mayotte - North Bay Battalion 
A product of the Shattuck St. Mary's program the last few years, Mayotte signed on recently with the Battalion. An offensive defender, Mayotte could be a good get for North Bay. He'll be in the mix for ice time with several other similar defenders as North Bay tries to improve on last year's disappointing result. 
Scouting Report: Nothing from TheScout, but some of the information that I've gathered from reading articles on him suggests that his mobility is a big time asset, as is his vision with the puck.

Bryce Montgomery - London Knights
Prep school defender who gave up a scholarship to Providence to sign as a free agent with London. Playing for Cushing Academy last year, the 6'3, 200lbs defender put up average stats, but is someone who could be a long term play for the Knights. Trying to rebuild their defense this year, Montgomery is going to fight it out with several other players on this list for ice time.
Scouting Report: "Tall, big bodied defender with athleticism and pro potential. Long stride really allows him to cover ground. Uses his body well to defend. Puck skill needs to refining and hockey sense remains a question mark."

Dylan Robinson - Windsor Spitfires
Robinson had one of the better seasons of any player on this list last year, taking home the top rookie defender in the GOJHL. Playing for LaSalle mostly, Robinson did also finish the year with Windsor, getting in playoff games. The 6'3 defender should be a shoe in for Windsor's top 6 for the upcoming year.
Scouting Report: "A high risk, high reward defender. Can be a factor leading the breakout and continues to improve defensively. Raw, but has all the tools need to be an impact player." 

Benjamin Roger - London Knights 
Roger did play one game for the Knights last year, but spent the rest of the season with the Wellington Dukes. Roger actually had the second most points of any U17 defender in the OJHL last year (behind Jack Harper, listed above). Like Montgomery, Roger will be in tough for consistent ice time, battling several other fresh faces.
Scouting Report: Nothing on TheScout, but after some research, Roger is considered to be a poised and strong puck mover.

Hunter Skinner - London Knights
Don't normally include NHL draft picks in this list, but given that Skinner is a little bit under the radar and is still young (2001 born), I have made an exception here (but I am not including Jonathan Gruden). A 4th rounder by the New York Rangers in 2019, Skinner split last year between Muskegon and Lincoln. Unlike Montgomery, Roger, and Winslow, it seems pretty likely that Skinner will be counted on to be a top 4 defender for London next season.
Scouting Report: McKeens listed Skinner as having the second best shot behind Cam York among American draft eligible players. Here's a great article from Blueshirtbanter on Skinner. Interestingly, he has not been playing defense long and is a converted forward. His athleticism is mentioned as a serious strength. 

Mitchell Smith - Saginaw Spirit
A standout with the Oakland Grizzlies program the last two years, Smith is a hometown product and a former 5th round pick by the Spirit. While he did not make the U.S. Hlinka/Gretzky team, he was the second highest scoring defender at the camp. He'll likely battle fellow 2018 selection Ian Lemieux, and 2019 first rounder Connor Punnett for ice time.
Scouting Report: "Fleet skating defenseman who excels at eluding out of his own zone, making quick breakout passes to send his team the other way. An excellent skater in all directions, Smith can put the opposition on their heels. Game can be a bit erratic but he has tools."

Avery Winslow - London Knights
A former product of the prestigious Notre Dame Hounds program, Winslow played last year in the BCHL for Wenatchee. He was one of only five U17 defenders to play over 30 games in the regular season and one of only two to play over 15 playoff games. That's quite impressive. Not to sound like a broken record, but the competition for those last few defensive spots in London camp will be intense.
Scouting Report: In my 2018 OHL Priority Selection Primer, blog friend Matt Grainda called Winslow one of his favourite sleepers. "A polished two-way defender with great skating ability. His four way mobility helps him in all areas. Great in the defensive zone with an active stick. Has potential offensively." 


Daniel Baldassarra - Erie Otters 
Remains to be seen what Baldassarra's intentions are, but the St. Andrew's College forward deserves to be mentioned here. The undersized forward is a former Vaughn Kings player and is someone who could help Erie next season in a third or fourth line role.
Scouting Report: "Smaller but skilled player who makes his presence felt with his energy and tenaciousness. With his speed, he can be a factor in transition and on the penalty kill." 

Hunter Brazier - Oshawa Generals
A Northern player who is coming off a very successful season in the NOJHL with French River. Brazier had the most goals and points of any U17 player in the league. Whether he intends to play for Oshawa remains to be seen, as he has recently signed on with Kemptville of the CCHL next year. Things can change though and Brazier could be someone looked at for a checking line role.
Scouting Report: "Possesses a good combination of speed and skill. Can make plays in traffic and is aggressive in taking the puck to the net."

Finn Brown - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Brown was a standout for the St. Michael's Buzzers of the OJHL last year (along with former Marlboros teammate Ryan Alexander), finishing 3rd in points among U17 players in the league. The massive 6'4 winger was recently named to Canada East's selection Camp for the World Junior A Challenge, which suggests to me that he's focused on returning to the OJHL next year and not to SSM. But his presence in the Soo would really give them a lift.
Scouting Report: "Brown can be a very effective player in the offensive zone with good finishing ability and vision." 

Nolan Burke - Sarnia Sting 
Burke split time last year between Pickering of the OJHL and Sarnia, even getting into some playoff games with the Sting. A December birth day, Burke is still physically maturing and is considered to be a part of Sarnia's future, likely starting this year in a 3rd or 4th line role.
Scouting Report: "A good sized two-way forward who can potentially play in any situation. A good playmaker who can open up lanes by driving the net. Burke is also strong without the puck as an aggressive forechecker."

Blake Butler - Sudbury Wolves
Remains to be seen whether Butler will report to the Wolves, as the former 3rd round pick recently signed on with Navan of the CCHL. But Butler had a solid year in the GOJHL with Sarnia and is one of the higher 2018 selections to not play in the OHL. Should he sign and report, Butler could be someone who plays a depth role for the Wolves next season.
Scouting Report: "Brings a healthy mix of size, speed, and skill to the table. An offensive catalyst who can make others around him better. High offensive potential at the OHL level." 

David Campbell - North Bay Battalion 
Earlier Hunter Brazier was mentioned because he was the top scoring U17 player in the NOJHL last year. Campbell wasn't far behind for Powassan. Not too often you see a Northern player spurn the Northern team that drafted him, but Campbell has yet to commit to the Battalion. If he does show in North Bay, he could be a part of their top 9 forwards and a potential impact player down the line.
Scouting Report: "A goal scorer who likes to use his size and strength to drive the net, beating defenders wide. He can play in all situations and has the offensive skill set to succeed in the OHL." 

Ethan Cardwell - Saginaw Spirit
Cardwell was one of the highest drafted players to not suit up regularly in the OHL last year. He did get into 15 games for Saginaw, scoring 5 goals (and one more in the playoffs), but he was also a standout for Trenton and Pickering of the OJHL. With a full time spot all but guaranteed this year, Cardwell could be a big part of Saginaw's offense already this year, although they do have terrific depth at the forward position.
Scouting Report: "Has the ability to make skilled plays with the puck and is good at using his body as leverage in the offensive zone. Also possesses a hard shot and goal scorer's mentality."

Elias Cohen - Erie Otters 
A Telus Cup Champion with the Toronto Nationals last year, Cohen did get into limited action with the Otters too, scoring 3 goals in only 6 games. He figures to be a permanent fixture with Erie this year and could potentially have one of the larger impacts of any player on this list.
Scouting Report: "A fun player to watch with his energy, smarts, and skill. Brings a great compete level and plays a very intelligent game. As he adds strength and continues to grow, he could be an impact player in the OHL." 

Yanic Crete - Ottawa 67's 
Good sized forward who got into 14 games with the 67's last year, but spent most of the year with Hawkesbury of the CCHL. Ottawa is going to have a very strong team next year, but with some graduations will be an opportunity to grab a few spots at forward. Crete is a likely everyday player for Ottawa.
Scouting Report: "Calculated and smooth center who demonstrates poise and playmaking awareness. Is a solid finisher too." 

George Diaco - Hamilton Bulldogs 
While Diaco had a good season with London of the GOJHL, he stepped up his game massively in the playoffs as one of the leading scorers in the league (of any age). He had 29 points in the postseason. Next closest U17 player had less than half of that. That shows progression. The quite small Diaco, at 5'5, is likely going to be a big part of Hamilton next year, perhaps as a consistent top 9 forward.
Scouting Report: "Creates offense with his speed and plays the game at a high pace. He's a true facilitator with the puck on his stick. What he makes up for in a lack of size, he makes up for in effort."

Tanner Dickinson - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A free agent signing by the Greyhounds this offseason (de-committing from Ohio State), Dickinson enters the OHL with a little bit of hype. The 6'0 forward was a standout for the Belle Tire program last year and even suited up in the USHL for 8 games with Green Bay. The hope is that he can come into camp and jump into the top 9 for a team that needs some forwards to really step up offensively this year.
Scouting Report: "Speedy forward who can beat defenders out wide and has a lot of confidence with the puck on his stick. Has a very quick release on his shot too." 

Ryan Gagnier - Oshawa Generals 
The GOJHL Western Rookie of the Year last year, Gagnier had an excellent season with Leamington. The average sized center was a 3rd round pick of Oshawa and should have a very good shot of playing a 3rd or 4th line role with the Generals for the upcoming season.
Scouting Report: "A complete 200 foot center who is willing to do whatever is necessary on the ice to help his team win. Can play with pace and displays good hands in tight."

Kyle Jackson - North Bay Battalion
Another of the players on this list that you would have to consider one of the most likely to have a big impact in the OHL. He is a legitimate potential top flight player. Jackson had a heck of a season last year in the CCHL, winning the rookie of the year and a league championship. To give you an idea, Jackson is one of only two U17 forwards in the last ten years to average a point per game or more with significant game action. The other was Lucas Lessio. I would expect Jackson to be a top 6 forward in North Bay by season's end.
Scouting Report: "Displays strong puck possession skating and has the ability to circle the offensive end, dangling around defenders until lanes open up. Can take the puck to the net, but it smart without the puck, identifying scoring lanes." 

Matt Maggio - Windsor Spitfires
Traded to Windsor this offseason from Ottawa, Maggio actually played 35 games already in the OHL last year. But seeing as he finished the year in Tier 2 and never really cemented himself in Ottawa's lineup, I've decided to include him. Maggio is a potential impact player who was a standout at the U17's last year for Canada and who also played well in the CCHL with Kanata. He should have a top 9 role with Windsor for the upcoming season and is a player to watch moving forward.
Scouting Report: "His play lacks consistency, but when he wants to turn it on, he can be one of the most dominant goal scorers in the age group. Is a dynamic puck handler who can electrify with his one on one moves."

Kosta Manikis - Sudbury Wolves 
A recent signing by the Wolves as Manikis gave up his scholarship to Clarkson. This was a bit of a shocking move, but a potential home run for the Wolves. A 2001 born, Manikis should be able to jump right into Sudbury's top 9 and be a consistent contributor. He had an excellent season in the OJHL last year, splitting time between Stouffville and the Toronto JR Canadiens, where he was very nearly a point per game player.
Scouting Report: "Plays a gritty, hard game that gets under the skin of the opposition. But also has a considerable amount of skill with crafty hands and a deft touch in tight. Just needs to be more consistent."

Declan McDonell - Kitchener Rangers

McDonell was a high profile signing by the Rangers, de-committing from Providence to ink with Kitchener. He was the highest scoring '02 in the OJHL last season with Buffalo and even got into a few games in the USHL with Lincoln. The expectation is that McDonell can be a fixture in the Rangers bottom six this year and be a potential impact player down the road.
Scouting Report: "Can lead the rush with his high end skating ability and does a great job spinning off checks. Has good vision and hands down low."

Sean McGurn - London Knights 

It's not always easy for young forwards to crack the always deep London Knights, but McGurn will be attempting just that next year. He made the GOJHL all rookie team after a great year with St. Thomas that saw him near a point per game. If he makes the Knights, he's likely a rotating fourth liner for now.
Scouting Report: "Oozes leadership and high character. Highly intelligent and solid at both ends of the ice. Has confidence with the puck and is an excellent playmaker. Excels in all situations asked of him."

Dawson McKinney - Oshawa Generals
McKinney did see a few games with Oshawa last year, but spent most of the season with St. Catharines of the GOJHL. He performed well there and the former 4th rounder will be hoping to be more of a regular contributor for the Generals this upcoming season.
Scouting Report: "Power skating center who can play physical and finish checks. Has a good shot but puck skill remains raw. Solid forechecker and penalty killer." 

Matthew Papais - Guelph Storm 
The 5'10 winger got into 12 games with the Storm last year, but was a standout with Brantford of the OJHL otherwise. With Guelph going through a rebuild this season, Papais could likely receive all the ice time he can handle if he performs well.
Scouting Report: "Highly intelligent forward who is great at finding gaps in the offensive zone. Excellent puck manager who always makes good decisions." 

Eric Russell - Barrie Colts 
Russell is a big bodied winger who was a former standout with the Vaughn Kings program. Last year, he played for the Toronto Patriots of the OJHL, putting up average stats. But the former 3rd round pick is no doubt in Barrie's plans as they look to work him into the lineup this year (along with former Vaughn teammate D'Orazio, who was listed above).
Scouting Report: "Possesses a natural scoring touch below the hash marks. Is a terrific support player who can open up ice for his linemates. Can force plays at times." 

Joshua Samanski - Owen Sound Attack 
An interesting player who played the majority of his minor hockey in Germany (with his father playing and coaching there). But the Canadian citizen came back home last year and played with Brantford of the OJHL where he had a pretty decent season. Seeing this, the Attack signed him and hope that he can be a regular contributor in a depth role next season. 
Scouting Report: Obviously nothing on TheScout for Samanski, but doing some digging he appears to be a big forward (6'3) who can play any forward position. He's lauded for two-way play and compete level, in addition to his offensive potential.

Ethan Sims - Niagara IceDogs 
Got into four games with the IceDogs last year, spending the majority of the year with St. Catharines of the GOJHL. He was nearly a point per game player and has a chance of playing a much larger role this year with Niagara having so many forwards graduate from the previous year.
Scouting Report: "One of the better pure playmakers in the age group with excellent vision. Also possesses a great wrist shot and creativity with the puck."

Cameron Snow - Niagara IceDogs 
Playing with The Hill Academy last year, Snow was one of the highest scoring midget players in the loop, helping his team win a prep Championship. The undersized center inked with the IceDogs in June and, like Sims, should be a regular player for the IceDogs in 2019/2020.
Scouting Report: "Has no fear or quit in his game. Has dynamic skating and puck skill to go with a terrific hockey IQ. Just a matter of whether he can overcome his lack of size and strength."

Austen Swankler - Erie Otters
Was ranked 109th by NHL Central Scouting last year but was not selected, despite having a strong season in the USHL with Waterloo and Sioux Falls. He was 7th among U18 players in scoring, and helped Sioux Falls win the Clark Cup. An August born 2001, Swankler will join Erie next year and should be a top 6 player for them. No doubt he is hoping that a strong season in the OHL can have his name called at the NHL draft.
Scouting Report: Not much on TheScout, but combing through draft coverage articles, Swankler is a speedy, attacking forward with improving puck skill. He can play through traffic and drive the net.

Brody Waters - Owen Sound Attack
Remains to be seen whether Waters will commit to the Attack, but the good sized winger had an excellent year in the GOJHL with Elmira. He was the only U17 player to average a point per game (although the sample size was smaller at 21 games). If signed, Waters could be a 3rd or 4th line winger for Owen Sound next season.
Scouting Report: "Power winger with a scoring touch who plays the game the right way. Is one of the more complete players in the age group and should be able to play in all situations."

Kalvyn Watson - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Undersized forward who has already committed to the Greyhounds after playing one game with the team last year. Spent the rest of the year with Lindsay of the OJHL, where he nearly led the team in scoring (one point off). He will be in the mix for a spot on the team's 3rd or 4th line.
Scouting Report: "A high IQ distributor who can play with pace or slow the game down. Confident with the puck, Watson is also a strong skater." 

Davis Young - Hamilton Bulldogs 
Hamilton second rounder Davis Young was one of the highest drafted players to not spend the whole year in the OHL. The talented center split the year between Oakville and Brantford of the OJHL, producing modestly. But he did finish the year with Hamilton getting into two playoff games. Would have to believe that he sees regular ice time with the Bulldogs next year.
Scouting Report: "One of the best passing minds in the age group. Skates well and can dictate the pace of a game. Needs to work on his shot to be more of a consistent offensive threat."

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