Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Preliminary Top 50 for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

It's time for my first official ranking for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. I say official because I release a preseason ranking in the summer (which can be found here). Now that the 2019/20 season has started (well under way in fact), updating that list to reflect changes of opinion is a priority. That said, it's important to not over react to hot or cold starts. Some of those currently disappointing, will most definitely pick up their play. And some of those off to blazing starts won't be able to hold that production. At the end of the day, it is a cool exercise to go back and look at my first list of the season. For instance, here's last year's early season draft list.

The list includes detailed reports on the Top 30 and small snippets on the other 20 that make up the Top 50. 

This draft crop from the OHL is obviously significantly stronger than last year's. It has a serious top 3 candidate, multiple top 10 candidates, and a whole whack of players who could earn first round consideration. It also has significant depth, with several players left off this top 50 still having the potential to be NHL prospects. While the crop is still shaping up, I think it is pretty safe to label this group one of the best that the OHL has produced in recent years. 

It's also important to note (for those that aren't familiar with my lists), that I don't include 2nd and 3rd year eligible players on the list (like Saginaw's Ilya Solovyov or Guelph's Pavel Gogolev). I do a year end list for those players.

Without further ado, here's my early season top 50.


1. Quinton Byfield - Forward - Sudbury Wolves
With how dominant he has been to start the year, I don't think it's unreasonable at all to consider him a challenger for Lafreniere's first overall spot. While I'd still give the nod to the QMJHL star (who has been on a torrid pace himself), there's no denying Byfield's immense potential as an NHL star. The league has few players who can dominate with power and skill the way that he does. While he may not have the physical bravado of a guy like Eric Lindros, he dominates shifts in a similar fashion by controlling entries and possession down low. He can beat you in so many different ways. If you try to take away his space, he beats you with his speed and power. If you give him gaps, he uses his skill, quick feet, and strength to maintain possession until he's able to create a scoring chance for himself or a linemate. His vision is a highly underrated component of his game. Usually a player with his skill set will force plays, especially when driving the net, but he's incredibly poised and intelligent with the puck. He makes passes that are so good sometimes that his linemates aren't ready or expecting the pass to be so precise. Additionally, Byfield's defensive game has come a long way under Cory Stillman. He's incredibly committed on the backcheck, and looks comfortable rotating back to the point allowing Sudbury's defenders to be more aggressive with their pinches. This is a prospect with no weakness and a possible NHL superstar. 

2. Jamie Drysdale - Defense - Erie Otters
There was a reason that I predicted Drysdale to win the Max Kaminsky this year as the league's top defender. And he's lived up to that expectation so far. IMO, he is already the best defender in the OHL with no disrespect meant to the likes of Thomas Harley, Declan Chisholm, etc (although Harley has been sensational this year too). Drysdale is the perfect defender for today's NHL game because of his mobility and decision making. While his ability to defend the crease and handle larger forwards will no doubt require some improvement before the next level, he's already such an asset defensively because of the routes he takes to loose pucks and how difficult it is to pin the Otters down in their own end when he is on the ice. He is able to turn play back the other way and start the breakout, keeping the opposition on their toes. Drydale has also greatly improved his point shot and is being way more aggressive in using it or trying to jump up into the play to get himself scoring chances. One area that I think he still has more room to grow in, is his ability to quarterback the powerplay. I think he has another level there that he has not hit yet, especially in terms of using his skating ability to open up gaps, being more assertive and aggressive with the puck in attacking those lanes. I definitely expect that to develop further, even as this season progresses. I know many have Perfetti second here, but I think Drysdale is the top defender available in the draft this year and should be ranked accordingly.

3. Cole Perfetti - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Don't look now, but after a bit of a "slower" start, Perfetti is right in the thick of things in the OHL scoring race. There were some criticisms early on that he wasn't being assertive enough with the puck, but I think that those concerns were overblown. I watched two Saginaw games early on in the year and Perfetti hit multiple posts in both games. And from talking to others, the pattern was similar in other games. He was creating chances, he was just snake bitten. There are also some concerns about whether Perfetti can stick down the middle at the next level, and whether his lack of an elite skating gear given his average size, will hold him back. I do think that Perfetti profiles as a winger moving forward; that much I agree with. But I am not concerned about his skating. His agility and edgework are excellent and as he matures physically, I am guessing we will see improvements in his power. What can't be taught is Perfetti's vision and understanding of the game. He is just such an intelligent player. It is rare to see him make a poor decision with the puck on his stick. Additionally, he reads the play so well without the puck and is so good at exploiting the gaps provided to him. He has that elusive quality to him. Of course, there's the shot, puck skill, creativity. He's a multi faceted offensive force. One criticism I do have is that I would like to see his tenacity and aggressiveness without the puck become more consistent. These were some of the same concerns that I had with a guy like Nick Robertson last year. One shift, he's all over the ice on the forecheck, engaged physically and forcing turnovers. Another, there's a degree of complacency. Once he learns to harness that energy, Perfetti could be just as unstoppable as Byfield.

4. Marco Rossi - Forward - Ottawa 67's
The thing I really love about Rossi's game is how aggressive he has become (although that did hurt him recently with a suspension). He is a real pain in the ass to play against. He may not be the biggest guy on the ice, but his compete level is insanely high. He is so difficult to contain below the hash marks because of how slippery he is. His feet never stop moving and his skill with the puck is very high. Rossi also has excellent vision that makes him an elite playmaker. Most shifts it's rinse, repeat for his line. Puck in deep, Rossi gains possession along the half wall or down deep, he spins off a few checks, draws in a second or third defender, which then opens up a passing lane for him to exploit. I know some do have concerns about his top gear not being good enough for a smaller forward. Like Perfetti, gaining more power in his stride would be ideal. But also like Perfetti, Rossi's agility is quite good and that makes him elusive. That said, I do wonder if he's a future first line player in the NHL. He might be more of a David Krejci type, and in such a strong draft year overall, I also wonder if he'll be able to hold a spot inside the lottery. But he's started very strong and the overall team success that Ottawa accomplishes this year will likely be closely linked to how high a team is willing to select him.

5. Jacob Perreault - Forward - Sarnia Sting
Has started the season on a 10 game point streak and is playing some very good hockey. Sarnia's starting to turn things around as a team lately and that will only help his push for a high NHL draft position. There's a real quiet effectiveness to Perreault's game. With NHL bloodlines from father Yanic, Jacob's hockey sense and ability to find scoring lanes are his best qualities. Perreault is a magnet for the puck and with his quick release, he's a very dangerous player inside the scoring area. His skating is an asset too. I wouldn't go as far as to call it elite, but Perreault is very quick and his solid first few steps allow him to really push back opposing defenses. I'd like to see him be a little more assertive with the puck on his stick. And adding strength to help him prolong possession and be more effective along the wall would make him a more consistent player. But I think Perreault can be a very good pro who could be a nice complimentary piece inside the top 6.

6. Antonio Stranges - Forward - London Knights
For a variety of reasons, Stranges has become quite the sensation inside the scouting community. Clips of his remarkable hands/creativity, in combination with his unique skating stride, have circulated the net and it has created quite the buzz around him. No question, Stranges is a talented player. He consistently makes defenders miss by keeping the puck on a string as he dances through the neutral zone and deep in the offensive zone. He also possesses a lethal backhand, a lost art in hockey at times. His 10 to 2 skating style is similar to former OHL'er and current Maple Leaf prospect Jeremy Bracco, but Stranges generates a lot more power and speed than Bracco did/does. However, there are some that believe this type of skating style won't translate well to the NHL level (similar to the way Bracco was criticized as an OHL prospect). Me, I'm a little more concerned with the inconsistencies in his play away from the puck. He can be an electric player when the puck is on his stick. But he needs to play with more grit and determination when it isn't. The upside here is quite high, but if his game fails to add other layers to it by season's end, I'm not sure I'll have Stranges ranked this high. Let's see how his game progresses.

7. Jaromir Pytlik - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Pytlik has progressed very nicely in his second OHL season; all be it his first full one. With some graduations on the Hounds and Barrett Hayton currently in the NHL, Pytlik has had to be the focal point of their attack and he's met that challenge head on. He's also taken well to playing center, although has shifted between there and the wing. This type of versatility is going to make him a very attractive option to scouts. Pytlik also plays a very pro ready kind of game. He's at his best fighting off checks below the hash marks and he is very good at using his 6'2 frame to protect the puck. Pytlik is also aggressive in driving the net and does the majority of his damage down low. I think his skating has improved, in particular his first few strides. But he'll likely never be a burner. That's not to say that he's a poor skater. But it won't be an asset at the next level. That said, I do like him. Pytlik is just a very well rounded player and I really like the fact that he's been able to be a consistent, driving, offensive force this year for those around him. 

8. Ryan O'Rourke - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Just a real throwback. O'Rourke is a tough as nails defender who has improved by leaps and bounds as a puck carrier, mover, and overall offensive player this year. He showed well as a rookie last year because of his physical aggressiveness in the defensive end. But I think his movement is more fluid this year and it's allowing him to be even more effective in his own end. He's not as big as most guys who play like he does (6'1, 170lbs). So continuing to upgrade his mobility will be key, matching that high intensity level with smarts and positioning. Offensively, he has taken off while running the point of the Greyhounds' powerplay. He has a cannon of a point shot and he's been very aggressive in jumping up into the play to try to get himself looks. He's also become way more confident handling and moving the puck. A true two-way defender, O'Rourke is forcing himself into contention for the first round. Guys like him just don't grow on trees anymore. 

9. Oliver Suni - Forward - Oshawa Generals
The thing I have loved about Suni's game so far is his fearlessness. He is an easy player to like because of how hard he plays; always willing to take a hit to make a play. He's very adept at using his size to get inside leverage on defenders, almost like a defensive lineman coming off the line through the o-line in football. Suni is also a good skater, which in combination with his physical gifts, makes him a difficult player to slow down. I've also liked Suni's effort in all three zones. He's hungry for the puck and has had a seamless transition to the OHL so far. At this point, I'd actually like to have him a little higher. I have been that impressed. But, I'm also not quite sure about his high end offensive potential. I need to see him more to truly evaluate his skill level with the puck and upside as a goal scorer. 

10. Jack Thompson - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
In my preseason rankings, I told you to watch for Thompson to breakout in a big way, running the point on a talented Wolves team. Well, he's done just that, quarterbacking the top powerplay unit (although Kalle Loponen has cut into that a bit). But he's actually done most of his damage at even strength, among the league leaders in ES goals. Not only does he have great scoring instincts, but he has a big time point shot and is aggressive in jumping up into the play to get himself scoring opportunities. He's also a very strong skater who generates a lot of power in his stride, allowing him to have quick bursts up ice to lead the rush. His defensive game is quite raw though. He is going to need some work here and patience will be required. But let's see how he improves over the course of the year.

11. Jean Luc Foudy - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
Foudy might be a little lower than you might expect on my early season rankings. He hasn't really had a poor start to the year, operating at near the point per game mark. I guess the question for me is, has his game progressed from his rookie year? His speed is a big time asset, and he is a patient puck carrier who will circle the zone until he finds a pass that he likes. And I think he has more weapons in his offensive arsenal than his brother; ultimately possessing higher offensive upside. That said, I think his game has some limitations. I still would like to see him attack the middle of the ice with more consistency. At times, his game becomes too predictable and too easily stifled by the opposition, as they allow him to circle the perimeter, daring him to bring the puck into the scoring area. I'm also not convinced that he is a center at the NHL level. And if he is a winger, is he strong enough away from the puck to be successful? If Foudy was a little more physical, better along the wall, or a better three zone player, I'd be more convinced. But you can't deny the speed and skill package either.

12. Will Cuylle - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
While Foudy has had a nice start to the year, Cuylle has not. 1 goal through the first 13 games of the year, and a -5 rating. At this point, Cuylle is still being ranked highly, by myself, and most scouting agencies. But if he does not turn things around soon, he will start to fall. I think the biggest thing for me is that Cuylle just does not seem to be as engaged physically so far this year. He's a power winger and a kid who possesses a lot of potential as a goal scorer because his hands are good and he is strong in tight. But we're seeing him less effective as a puck carrier this year; or at least a lot less assertive. As a rookie, he would look to drive the outside and then cut hard to the net once he gained some leverage. But he's being kept to the perimeter by opposing defenses, and is becoming a little too complacent in the slot. He needs to get back to the basics and improve his engagement level without the puck, and then hopefully the puck will find him in those scoring areas a little more consistently. Cuylle is a great prospect who still has lots of time this year to really get his game going.

13. Tyson Foerster - Forward - Barrie Colts
At this point, how do you not have Foerster ranked this high? The kid produced well as a rookie last year and is now the third leading scorer in the age group at over 1.6 points per game (behind only Byfield and Perfetti). I think there are a lot of similarities between Perreault and Foerster's game in the sense that he has a quiet effectiveness to him due to his hockey sense. Of course, it helps that his line with Ryan Suzuki and Metaj Pekar are really clicking, but he's been a big part of that too. He's got a pretty good frame that could see him up around 6'2, 200lbs by the time he is done growing. And his skating has improved a lot from his minor midget year, from what I understand. This is just a well rounded kid who is versatile and does a lot of things well, from a quick release which he utilizes to finish off plays in the slot, to quick feet and hands in the corners that allow him to work the cycle, especially with Pekar. Just how high he can climb remains to be seen. I think many, myself included, are still trying to figure out how high his ceiling is. 

14. Tyler Tullio - Forward - Oshawa Generals 
Tullio is another well rounded offensive player who has started strong this year. Like Foerster, he's extremely versatile. You can throw him in the slot because he has a fantastic release and shot, among the best in the age group. But you can also have him working the half wall because of his strong skating ability and motor. Tullio is an excellent forechecker and puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses because he closes well, has a good stick, and is strong along the wall. He plays center for the Generals, but he is another guy that I see destined for the wing at the next level. One thing that I'd like to see from Tullio is better decision making with the puck in the neutral zone. Can be a tad turnover prone from not making quick enough decisions and is currently at his best when his linemates can gain the zone for him. That's not to say that this part of his game, his ability to create in transition, can't improve. But I like Tullio because I think there is upside, but also safeness in him as a prospect because of the things he can do well away from the puck. It's easy to see him becoming an NHL player.

15. Jack Quinn - Forward - Ottawa 67's
A late 2001, but Quinn is only in his second OHL season so he needs to evaluated accordingly. His hands and skill with the puck are among the best of players on this list. Quinn creates a lot of time and space for himself with his creativity and hands, stopping, starting, spinning, and darting in and out of traffic from the wing. His skating has taken a nice step forward this year, which has allowed him take better advantage of his offensive gifts. He had difficulty creating that separation as a rookie and just wasn't able to be a consistent offensive factor because he could not escape coverage. This year, that hasn't been the case. And his play away from the puck has improved too, with a greater dedication to the back check and a desire to fight for pucks and space below the hash marks. To find even greater consistency, this will need to continue to evolve, in addition to his skating and strength also improving further.

16. Ruben Rafkin - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Rafkin has been quite the nice find for the Spitfires as he has emerged as one of the team's top defenders early in the season. An all situations player because of his competitiveness, mobility, and vision. In the defensive end, Rafkin makes his presence felt physically, both as a strong open ice hitter and as someone who can take time and space away in the corners and in net protection. But I've been impressed with his restraint and positioning, given the style of play that he favors. Often you'll see defenders like Rafkin lose their positioning at times as opposing players use their aggressiveness against them. But I have liked his composure. As an offensive defender, Rafkin isn't incredibly flashy. You won't necessarily see him carving up the neutral zone. But he makes a very strong first pass, picks his spots well to extend his rushes and has looked comfortable running the point of the powerplay. The upside may not be incredibly high, but Rafkin could be a quality second pairing minute eater at the NHL level and looks destined to be a solid Top 75 selection this coming June.

17. Hayden Fowler - Forward - Erie Otters
For Fowler, it's all about consistency. He's an immensely talented kid. Very aggressive in attacking the offensive zone, looking to use his speed to push the pace. But he also has great hands that allow him to make quick moves and decisions while in full stride. You'll see him cut to the middle, using defenders as a screen before unleashing a quick wrister, or spinning off checks to maintain and extend possession for his line. But what he does without the puck is still a work in progress. He's not the world's biggest kid (5'10), so he's going to need to prove further that he can make plays in traffic and excel when the game slows down. He has a tendency to disappear a bit in these situations and consistency from shift to shift is an issue. He's a late 2001, but he missed a lot of time last year with a clavicle injury so he's still trying to find himself more than your average third year player. 

18. Andrei Bakanov - Forward - Guelph Storm
Have really liked watching Bakanov so far this year. No question, consistency is an issue at this point. He disappears for long stretches. But he's also an OHL rookie (even if he played last year in the USHL) on a team that is going to have its ups and downs through a rebuild. What I love is his power game. At 6'2 and nearly 220lbs already, Bakanov is very difficult to stop on his pushes to the net. He plays that North/South attacking style quite effectively and is a solid skater and puck handler for a big man. He's also flashed some physicality and I think that we could see him develop into a real puck hound eventually if he can harness that and improve his conditioning. I need to see him more to get a better grasp of his goal scoring potential and overall ceiling, but I've really liked what he has shown thus far.

19. Logan Morrison - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Morrison has had a terrific start to the year, operating as the focal point of the Bulldogs second line behind the Kaliyev/Jenik unit. He's also been a fixture on the first powerplay unit with Kaliyev and Jenik. Morrison is a talented two-way center who controls the pace of play well, even if he doesn't possesses the quickest of feet. His top gear has improved though, so once he builds up that head of steam, he can be a factor leading the push across the blueline where he can use his excellent vision to survey the ice and make the correct decision. He has a lot of weapons in his arsenal too, including a quick and powerful wrist shot that he can use while in full stride. As alluded to, Morrison is also a strong presence on the back check and is a committed player without the puck in all three zones. If he were a more dynamic skater or a little bigger, he'd probably be ranked a fair amount higher. But he's still a solid prospect.

20. Cameron Butler - Forward - Peterborough Petes
Had a terrific preseason which really made me think that we would see Butler as a massive breakout candidate. But he hasn't been quite as effective to start the regular season. Now, of course, the ice time and responsibility hasn't been as abundant for him with Peterborough's solid depth. But the limitations in his playmaking ability and vision at this current time have held him back from being more of a factor. But the potential is absolutely tantalizing here. This is a 6'4, 200lbs kid who skates well, plays physical, and has a big, powerful shot. He can be very effective North/South. But finding those scoring lanes without the puck and adding additional layers to his game so that he's not quite as predictable in his approach with the puck are necessities. Really eager to see how he improves as the year goes on though.

21. Evan Vierling - Forward - Flint Firebirds
Here's the thing with Vierling. I really don't yet have a feeling for the type of player he can become at the NHL level. There are some very nice aspects to his game. He's not the biggest guy at 6'0, 170lbs, but he does such a good job working the wall and extending possession for the Firebirds deep in the offensive zone. He has very quick feet and excellent balance as he fends off checkers to make plays. I think his decision making with the puck and vision are also assets. He identifies gaps well and will usually find the open man as a result of him drawing in that second defender to try and separate him from the puck. He's also a solid defensive player. Like Logan Morrison, I'm not sure he's the most dynamic skater, but his agility and edgework are strong and that makes him elusive. What I don't yet know is how good he can become as a goal scorer and puck carrier in transition. And even if center is his natural position, he's played a lot of wing this year and I'm not sure if his puck skill and creativity are good enough for him to excel as a center and the primary puck carrier. To me, he's still kind of a mystery and I wonder if other scouts are having the same kind of issue. 

22. Donovan Sebrango - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Out right now with an upper body injury (and could miss over a month of action), but Sebrango is a solid two-way defender who excelled in a shut down role for Canada at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup this past summer. He doesn't have terrific size, but he plays much larger than his 6'0 frame, engaging physically, especially down low. He's also very adept at using his strong skating ability to be quick to loose pucks/dump ins, and quick to turn play around the other way with a strong outlet or rush. Sebrango also quarterbacks the powerplay in Kitchener and is good at using his feet to open up passing lanes. His shot isn't much of a weapon at this point, but Sebrango plays a very well rounded game and is someone that can be relied upon to play any situation. 

23. Lleyton Moore - Defense - Oshawa Generals
The NHL has come a long way from being "size-ist." But it's still an uphill battle for undersized defenders like Moore who comes in at 5'8 currently. I think Moore is an immensely talented kid with a very bright future in the OHL. He is an elite skater who escapes the forecheck really well and is a big time asset in starting the breakout. Moore also has excellent vision, especially when running the point on the powerplay. He does a great job using his mobility to open up passing lanes and to keep pucks in. But his effectiveness 5 on 5, as a puck mover, is limited currently by a lack of strength on the puck. He can be easily pushed off balance or separated from the puck and turnovers in the neutral zone and offensive zone can be an issue. Additionally, as a powerplay QB, his shot is not quite good enough to make him a duel threat. Teams are starting to collapse when playing him, daring him to be more assertive and shoot. The offensive potential is still immense, but he's going to need to start hitting the score sheet a little more consistently if he wants to stay on the draft radar.

24. Luke Evangelista - Forward - London Knights
In typical London Knights fashion, Evangelista has exploded in his sophomore season after playing sparingly last year. The Knights' first rounder in 2018 didn't even score an OHL goal last year. This year, he's operating well over a point per game and has been part of a dangerous scoring line with Jonathan Gruden and Connor McMichael. If Evangelista continues to play at this high of a level, there is no doubt that he will be higher than 24 the next time I release a list. His hands are electric. As is his hockey IQ. That combination allows him to control the half wall and operate as a top notch playmaking winger. His edgework and overall agility are also excellent. As he gains strength, he will be a true force to be reckoned with. After such an uneventful rookie year, I just want to see this level of play sustained deeper into the season. I also want to get a better read on Evangelista's play away from the puck to see if he can impact the game as more than just an offensive player. Look for him to start moving quickly up draft lists though.

25. Rory Kerins - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Competitive goal scoring center whose 10 goals place him 3rd in the OHL among first time draft eligible players (behind Byfield and Foerster). Kerins has a very high motor that is generating him a lot of scoring opportunities, especially within five feet of the net. But his hands are very good, as is his release. He's really developed some nice chemistry with Jaden Peca this year and the two of them are feeding very well off of each other, hounding puck carriers, driving the net, and generating consistent scoring chances. Like Evangelista, I want to see Kerins continue his strong start. I also need to get a better read on his skating. Guys with such a high motor like Kerins can be difficult to assess in this regard. And when you factor in his slightly below average frame (5'10, 173lbs), a lack of dynamic skating will likely hurt his draft ranking and projection.

26. Tanner Dickinson - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One guy whose skating ability is obvious, however, is Kerins' teammate Dickinson. This kid can flat out fly on the ice. And he uses his speed well, with and without the puck. Loves to drive the middle of the ice to open up space for his linemates, and identifies lanes quite well, executing drop passes or drawing in defenders before dishing off. His 12 assists this year (among the highest of draft eligibles) are no fluke. He gets to loose pucks and closes in on defenders quickly. He'll need to get stronger to force a few more turnovers, however, as his work along the wall is still developing. Curious to see how his game continues to develop this year as an OHL rookie, playing his first full year above the midget level (saw only 8 games in the USHL last year). 

27. Ville Ottavainen - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Evaluating European players in their first OHL season can be a difficult thing. While adjusting to a new league and a new culture, their games can often be inconsistent and ever changing. That said, how can you not be intrigued by a 6'4 right shot defender who has 8 points through his first 13 games? His defensive game seems to be already improving. When I saw him early in the year, his defensive game was a bit disorganized. But the more recent viewing, he looked way more comfortable and in control. With that long reach and some pretty good mobility, there's potential for his game to grow. Offensively, he covers a lot of ground with those strides, even if they may lack a bit of power currently. But he is confident in his shot and is already aggressive in looking to jump up into the play to get into a shooting lane. If he continues to progress well, he'll move quickly up this list. I still need to see more.

28. Ethan Cardwell - Forward - Saginaw Spirit
Really like Cardwell's game and I think he's been way better this year than the stat line indicates (0.50 ppg). He operates extremely well off the rush, showing an understanding of how to use his body to open up space, but also exhibits good scoring instincts to fill gaps and generate scoring chances. I've generally been quite impressed with his decision making with the puck too. There have been times when I've thought Cardwell was Perfetti (they are similar in stature and skating ability) before seeing the number. I think Cardwell has a lot of potential as a goal scorer at this level as he gains strength and his shot becomes a little heavier. I think we'll see his production start to increase as the year goes on.

29. Reid Valade - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
Ultra competitive two-way winger who plays with a serious chip on his shoulder. Not the biggest at 5'10, but it does not hold him back from winning battles consistently in the corners, along the wall, and near the crease. Valade has also shown a nice goal scoring touch this year, improving his release and ability to receive passes. He's had some very nice finishes on his goals this year. I think his versatility as someone who can play up and down the lineup and stay consistent will endear him to scouts. He just needs to stay healthy, given his lack of size and abrasive style of play. He's already missed time from injury this year and will need to prove that he can be durable.

30. James Hardie - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
Hardie is very much a shoot first winger with a high ceiling as a goal scorer. Only Cole Perfetti and Jaromir Pytlik have more shots on goal among draft eligible players this year, with Hardie currently sitting 8th in the OHL with over 4 shots per game. He hasn't met a shot that he doesn't like. I think his skating has improved a lot from his rookie year too. Looks more explosive and it's helping him find those scoring lanes a little more efficiently and consistently. That said, I want him to see a higher engagement level from him in the offensive zone. Defensively, I think the effort is solid. But in the offensive end, there's a tendency to hang around the half wall in hopes of getting a pass. I'd like to see him play with the puck on his stick a little more and look to create his own scoring chances. But in terms of goal scorers in this crop, Hardie has among the highest potential.

31. Isaak Phillips - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Way more to his game than the three points on the year might indicate. I know you'd like to see a little more production from a late 2001, but that's just not his game at this point in time. At 6'3, 195lbs, he moves very well and has a real fluidity to his stride that helps him cover a lot of ground defensively. He takes on a lot of tough assignments in the defensive end for the Wolves because he swallows up space with his reach and mobility. The offensive component is still very raw, but he flashes potential there. This is a project pick that could pay off big in a few years.

32. Brandon Coe - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Still waiting for a bit more from Coe. There are these flashes of him being able to use his size (6'4), speed, and skill to dominant in the offensive end. But consistency is still an issue, although playing for a bottom dwelling team can certainly be tough. This is his 3rd year in the league and I'm not sure he's much different as a player than when he entered the OHL. Potential is still massive, but he needs to takes some steps forward.

33. Jake Murray - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
The Frontenacs are rebuilding and that can be a tough environment for defenders to really shine through. 5 on 5, Murray can still look overwhelmed at times, especially as his playing time and responsibilities increase. But his offensive abilities are way better than the 3 assists he has posted this year. He's still anchoring the Frontenacs top powerplay unit and he looks very comfortable on the point with a big point shot and excellent mobility. Hoping he gets better as the year progresses, as I expect Kingston will.

34. Aidan Campbell - Goaltender - Erie Otters
Massive goaltender at 6'5 who tracks the play well and squares himself up to shooters. Plays a little deeper in his crease and really takes away the bottom of the net. His movement is a little raw and some holes can open up as you get him moving. But he's flashed the potential to be a number one netminder in the OHL and has NHL potential because of his size in a position that often demands it now.

35. Tucker Tynan - Goaltender - Niagara IceDogs
Tynan has been remarkable so far this year for a rebuilding IceDogs team. He's seen the most shots of any goalie in the league and it isn't really close, yet his save percentage is .920. He has decent size at 6'1, and is sort of the antithesis of Campbell. Quick movements laterally that allow him to challenge shooters and play aggressively. Makes a lot of acrobatic saves. Was tempted to put him higher, but want to see this level of play sustained. 

36. Dylan Robinson - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Raw defender who has a similar physical skill set to Ottavainen (6'5, good mobility, although lacking in power). He's playing a fair amount for the Spitfires and has shown potential at both ends and as a puck mover especially. As he fills out his frame, he could really blossom down the road.

37. Declan McDonnell - Forward - Kitchener Rangers
McDonnell is extremely noticeable because of his energy and hustle in all three zones. Good skater and despite being only 5'10, manages to force turnovers and work the cycle because of his quick feet and strength/balance. Much like Cardwell from Saginaw, I feel like his production deserves to be better than it has been thus far. Still trying to determine his offensive potential for the next level.

38. Kyle McDonald - Forward - Windsor Spitfires
6'5, 200lbs power winger who has been a common linemate of Jean Luc Foudy's so far this season. Had a strong showing as a rookie last year and has continued to play well. Good finisher in tight and does well to clear space for more skilled players in the middle. Would like to see him use his size a little more away from the puck; along the wall and to create more of his own scoring chances. Jury still out on his skating too.

39. Olle Bjorgvik Holm - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Norwegian Import defender with good size (6'3) who has seen a lot of time beside Thomas Harley for the Steelheads this year. He's an intriguing player who I could see really improving as he adjusts to the speed of the OHL. He makes a very good first pass and does well to separate his man from the puck and win those battles in the corners. His skating is good for his size too. Can struggle with maintaining puck possession when forced to make a move though. 

40. Cameron Tolnai - Forward - Ottawa 67's
Didn't think that I'd have Tolnai rated this low at this point of the year. Power center who has the potential to impact the game in all facets. But consistency from shift to shift still not there and he's struggling to assert himself physically the way that he was able to do as a minor midget player. Way too early to give up on him as the potential is still quite high.

41. Alex Johnston - Forward - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Might not be the most physically gifted player in terms of power, but he's been effective with more ice time for the Soo this year. Still really like how drives the offense from the middle of the ice, pushing the pace and surveying the situation before making a decision. A very calculated player. Not sure if the lack of physical gifts will prevent him from being on the NHL radar, but I'm still a fan (as I was last year).

42. Zayde Wisdom - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Not the biggest kid on the ice (5'9), but he plays with a ton of heart and tenacity. Seems to insert himself in every battle out there and has been the perfect winger for Shane Wright so far. Excelling down low and near the crease and as he continues to improve his skating, he could be even more effective as an offensive player.

43. Nick Wong - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
I think Wong is a solid offensive player. Has a complete game in the offensive end, equal parts finisher and distributor. Has good scoring instincts and has a greasy/elusiveness to his game. But he's also undersized at 5'8, a late 2001, and only an average skater. If he could really add more of a speed element to his game, he'd be that much more dangerous.

44. Mark Woolley - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Late 2001 born defender with great size (6'3, 210lbs) and a defensive acumen. Plays with an edge, blocks shots, and has pretty good mobility. Not sure the offensive upside is extremely high, but you have to love how effective he has been in his own end for a surprising Attack team. Like Max Domi, Woolley has Type 1 diabetes.

45. Kirill Steklov - Defense - London Knights
Far from a finished product. Another defender with good size (6'4) and mobility. At times, it's like he doesn't quite know how to utilize his gifts and seems unsure of himself. His decision making with and without the puck will need to improve. But, I think he flashes a lot of potential as a stay at home defender at the very least. Like how he closes gaps and takes away space with his reach and skating.

46. Anthony Tabak - Forward - Sarnia Sting
6'5, 200lbs winger/center who really caught my eye when I saw Sarnia recently. Massive improvements to his game from last year, especially in terms of his confidence with the puck and his ability to drive the net. Is he a winger or a center? What kind of offensive upside does he possess? Need to see him find consistency as a late 2001 born, and I need to personally see him more too.

47. Igor Chibrikov - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Another late 2001 born player later on this list. Chibrikov is a massive human being, standing at 6'7 without skates. He's a real intimidating presence out there. His skating has improved from last year and he's playing a more poised/patient game in his own end. Like Woolley, he's been a big part of Owen Sound's strong start defensively. Will need to get stronger and continue to work on his mobility, but he's going to catch the eye of NHL scouts with his size and reach.

48. Alec Belanger - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Belanger hasn't been quite as good this year as I hoped and expected. I think there are still some limitations with his skating that is preventing him from being more involved offensively. But I think he's a really smart defender who will be a solid OHL defender. The question is...is he an NHL prospect at this time?

49. Gerard Keane - Defense - London Knights
Kind of the opposite of Belanger at this point. Keane's mobility is a big plus like his brother Joey. But the rest of his game is still a work in progress. Quite frankly, he hasn't been great so far this year and has not met my expectations. It's important to remember that brother Joey was a late bloomer, so I wonder if Gerard may follow in the same footsteps.

50. Aidan Prueter - Forward - Mississauga Steelheads
The late 2001 born center has been better than the lack of production would indicate (1 goal, 2 assists in 13 games). He's generating chances and playing with a lot of energy. And he looks quicker than last year. But he's just not finishing off plays or exhibiting a ton of confidence with the puck right now. I think he can turn things around and he steals the last spot on this list because of it.

Honorable Mentions

Vitali Pinchuk - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Avery Winslow - Defense - London Knights
Will Cranley - Goaltender - Ottawa 67's
Mitchell Smith - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Marco Costantini - Goaltender - Hamilton Bulldogs
Jonah De Simone - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Jake Uberti - Forward - Niagara IceDogs
Colton Kammerer - Defense - Sarnia Sting
Brett Brochu - Goaltender - London Knights
Xavier Medina - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires

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