Sunday, November 1, 2020

Preseason Top 30 for the 2021 NHL Draft

Well it's pretty obvious that scouting the 2021 draft crop is going to be different. No Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, or training camp for that matter. That camp always gives you a great idea of the improvements that draft eligible players have made over the summer. Additionally, we have a late start to the season, coming in February. And that's if everything goes according to plan and the pandemic "cooperates." As difficult as this list was to make this year, I think it's still a great exercise. I only started doing a preseason list a few years ago, but I enjoy it because it gives you a great perspective on where players have come from (for fun, here's the 2020 preseason list).

Never mind the pandemic, in any year this is a tough list to make (as mentioned). The progression for draft eligible players can often be a tad unpredictable. The player you see in a sophomore season isn't often the same player you see in a freshman year. Growth spurts occur. Strength is added. Confidence grows. Timid perimeter players can become physical beasts, etc. Or, conversely, you've got players who look great as 16/17 year olds but just don't progress in their sophomore seasons. Plus, you've got all the players who haven't yet played in the OHL (at least more than a few games), but who are projected to be impact players in their draft year (like Logan Mailloux, Brenden Sirizzotti, Artyom Grushnikov, Colby Saganiuk, Alec Geci, etc).

The strength of this year's crop for the OHL remains to be seen right now. We have a contender for first overall in Brandt Clarke. I would be shocked if he is not a top 5 selection when all is said and done. We have a strong group of forwards that look like candidates for the first round. And we also have what looks like it could be the best crop of OHL goaltenders in several years (Gaudreau, Lennox, Vrbetic, Cajan, Drobac, and any other first year goalie who wants to step up). I am also really curious to see how many Import players and '03's and '02's (who didn't play much last year) find their way into the rankings because it looks like a very strong group on paper. Bring on the 2021 scouting season!

Here's my early list:

1. Brandt Clarke - Defense - Barrie Colts
About as complete a 16 year old defender that I've seen come through the OHL. Defensively, he was the most composed, mature, and effective rookie blueliner since Aaron Ekblad. I mean, that should come as no surprise considering Clarke came from a Don Mills MM team that played with more structure than some OHL teams. However, it's still impressive. If you recall, I posted some advanced stats in my (relatively) recent Top 25 prospects release (here). Clarke's defensive metrics, such as his 9.17 takeaways per game, were right up near the top of the class already. Offensively, his confidence really soared in the second half after the coaching change to Todd Miller. In the 22 games under Miller, Clarke had 21 points. We saw him get more powerplay responsibility. We saw his confidence blossom in leading the attack, taking more chances to create. This is a 6'1 (and possibly still growing), right shot defender who tracks as a possible number one, all situations, franchise defender. He has mobility. He can play physical. I mean, there aren't many, if any faults to his game. Needless to say, it looks like he'll get drafted higher than his brother Graeme (of the 67's and New Jersey Devils). Brandt has a very real chance of pushing for first overall and I would be shocked if he's not a top five pick in 2021. 

2. Mason McTavish - Left Wing/Center - Peterborough Petes
There's a lot to like about McTavish's game from an offensive standpoint and that's why he's ranked second on this list. He is a very talented goal scorer. The release on his wrist shot is superb and he has the type of shot and aggressiveness that makes him a threat from anywhere on the ice. I also really like how he attacks the middle and plays net front. These are the types of goals that are easily translatable. McTavish is also highly skilled with the puck and has that ability to create his own scoring chances. He is so much more than just a triggerman. Coming out of MM, McTavish was billed as a physically aggressive player and someone who could drive time of possession down low, but we didn't see that as much in his first OHL season. It will definitely be something to watch for in his sophomore season as he gets stronger. Ultimately, how high McTavish goes will depend on his ability to round out his game and find consistency. He hit a major wall in the second half of his rookie season, but that's not uncommon for first year players. I'm particularly interested to see how his ability to facilitate and his patience with the puck matures this year. If he takes the necessary steps forward, there's no reason to suggest that he can't be a top 10 selection.

3. Francesco Pinelli - Center/Left Wing - Kitchener Rangers
A personal favourite of mine dating back to his MM days, I'm not sure we got the best of Pinelli last year, or a true indication of the type of dominating force that he can be. With a game built around his aggressiveness, on and off the puck, I don't think he was strong enough to truly showcase his talent. We got bits and pieces of a larger puzzle, but I think he's in for a monster draft year. At his best, Pinelli is a driving force in transition because of his skating ability and assertiveness in driving through defenders, rather than around them. He may not be huge (5'11), but he plays the game hard. His shot is also a big weapon, IMO, particularly his ability to shoot while in full stride. Again, I'm not sure that's something we saw a ton of in his first year. I just see Pinelli as this potentially dominant two-way force down the middle who can be a future star at the NHL level. With some graduations in Kitchener, he's likely to get all the ice time and responsibility he can handle and I am very excited to see what he does with it.

4. Daniil Chayka - Defense - Guelph Storm
A late 2002 born defender, Chayka had a really nice breakout season for the Storm in 2019/20, where he established himself as a top 3 OHL defender on a team that surprised many with their strong play in the face of numerous graduations. Chayka has a lot going for him. He's big (6'3). He's mobile. He can quarterback a powerplay or anchor a penalty kill. He is a possible all situations type of pro at the next level. I think he shows a lot of composure when holding the offensive blueline and does his best work when he's controlling the point. His instincts as a goal scorer are excellent and he does a great job identifying opportunities for him to jump up into the slot to use his big shot. Next season, there are a couple things that I'll be looking for. The first is, can he be more effective leading the rush and help to create in transition? The second is, can he learn to use his size more to his advantage in the defensive end to play a little more aggressively and to take away space? If the answer to both of those is yes, he's a potential lottery selection. If not, he may see his ranking slide a bit as scouts question his upside as a pro. I've been told that he was excellent for the Russian U20 team in a preseason event this summer, so that bodes well. He's also currently getting reps in, in Russia as he awaits the start of the OHL season.

5. Brennan Othmann - Left Wing - Flint Firebirds
Honestly, I wanted to put Othmann higher on this list. I really like his game. I think it is easy to see his game translating well to the NHL; he's composed and mature on the ice beyond a typical 16 year old forward. Two things really stand out about him. The first is his shot. He can rifle the puck, possessing both a great wrist shot and one timer when positioned near the dot. The potential for him to develop into a high end goal scorer is high. The second is his understanding of how to play without the puck in all three zones. His defensive awareness is terrific and his effectiveness as a defensive player will only improve as he gets stronger. Bottom line, Othmann is just a very efficient and intelligent support winger. The big thing that I'll be looking for this coming season is improvements in his skating, both in his power/start ups and his top gear. If he can really upgrade that area, he'll be weapon as the F1 on the forecheck and an even more dangerous goal scorer. 

6. Brett Harrison - Center/Left Wing - Oshawa Generals
Harrison did a great job for the Generals in his first OHL season. I think his skating was definitely better than it was advertised to be (one of the reasons he fell to Oshawa at 16th). He plays with such power and conviction through the middle and has a lot of success driving the net or playing near the crease despite his age and his physical immaturity. His hands are quite good and he proved to be an excellent net front presence on the powerplay for a talented Generals team. I think that because of his strength on the puck, size, and hands, he could develop into a very solid and dependable player down low who can really drive time of possession. Like any young player, I found that his decision making with the puck, in particular the quickness of his decisions and precision of his passes, was very inconsistent. If he's going to be that "power center," we're going to want to see him increase his pace of play to be the guy leading the charge over the blueline, making those quick decisions to get the puck to his wingers. The Generals hope to be one of the best teams in the OHL this year and they are hoping Harrison can have a big year.

7. Ben Gaudreau - Goaltender - Sarnia Sting
I am always a little uneasy ranking goaltenders this high in preseason rankings because their development is so unpredictable. However, Gaudreau has been hyped for a few years now as one of the top young goalies to come through Ontario in recent years. His play at the U17's not withstanding, he was about as good as you could have expected him to be last year with Sarnia. He had some stinkers, and playing behind that Sarnia defense could not have been easy. However, he also had some amazing performances where he absolutely stole games for the Sting. His tracking ability is just phenomenal and as such, so is his positioning. Given his size and how well he sees the ice, he truly can be a wall at times. He's just one of those kids who makes the hard saves look easy. That sort of composure is really attractive to NHL scouts, perhaps more so than the goalie who relies on just his athleticism to keep him in plays.  

8. Ryan Winterton - Center - Hamilton Bulldogs
An aggressive ranking for Winterton here as I haven't really seen him this high on other early lists. But I think he is going to really rocket up draft lists this year with a strong season. At times last year with the Bulldogs, he looked like a real force out there. When asked to play up in the lineup, he elevated his game. And when asked to play lower, he was still effective as a two-way center. As an early September birthday, he is going to be one of the youngest players in this draft class and as such, I believe that there is a ton of untapped potential here. I see speed and power. I see high end skill with the puck and the ability to be creative to facilitate for teammates. I see a high end IQ in all three zones. I really hope that Hamilton gives him an increased role next year so that he can showcase possible improvement.

9. Chase Stillman - Right Wing - Sudbury Wolves
The son of coach (and former NHL'er) Cory Stillman, Chase had a terrific rookie season in Sudbury. I really like how he pushes the pace of play in transition and is already effective at gaining the offensive zone. He handles the puck well at full speed and is certainly not lacking in confidence when the puck is on his stick. I also really like his intensity level without the puck in the offensive zone. Like his brother Riley, I see him developing into a very physical player and a guy who could be a real pain in the ass to play against. Ultimately, I want to see how he handles an increased role this coming season with the Wolves to get a better gauge of his overall scoring potential and NHL upside.

10. Wyatt Johnston - Center - Windsor Spitfires
Much like the rest of his teammates in Windsor, it was an up and down first year for the former 6th overall selection. Johnston is a lot like Hamilton's Ryan Winterton in the sense that he's a strong two-way player already and has a high IQ as a playmaker. I've got Winterton a little higher right now because from what I've seen, I think his skating ability and puck skill/creativity are a little more advanced than Johnston. But a lot can change in an offseason (especially one as long as this one). Competition for ice time will be high in Windsor next year due to so many forwards returning. But I'm betting we see him rise to the top.  

11. Connor Lockhart - Right Wing/Center - Erie Otters
An offensive buzzsaw, Lockhart may have been a little underwhelming in his rookie season with Erie, but he remains a forward with an abundance of skill and a high offensive ceiling. He is ranked 11th because I am assuming that the issues that he had last year (strength on the puck, consistency, fighting through traffic) will all be much improved this coming season. While he may be a little undersized, he possesses the speed, skill, and finishing ability to be a superstar in this league and a high end NHL player. 

12. Tristan Lennox - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
It was a tough year for Lennox, a player that I thought would come in and be one of the best goaltenders in the OHL last year. But an injury at the Hlinka/Gretzky really seemed to deflate him and he just wasn't able to get himself on track. His confidence just seemed really low and every time I saw him play, he seemed to really be fighting the puck and having trouble tracking the play and controlling his rebounds. But make no mistake, this kid has the potential to be one of the first goaltenders off the board in 2021. At 6'4, he has the size and athleticism you look for. And when he's on, he is nearly impenetrable. Saginaw should have a strong team yet again and I really do think that he gets himself back on track.  

13. Joe Vrbetic - Goaltender - North Bay Battalion
Another late born '02, Vrbetic differs from Lennox in that he is still entering only his second OHL season. Like Gaudreau and Lennox, Vrbetic has a very high ceiling. A hybrid goalie (certainly rare to see a goalie who stays on his feet as much as Vrbetic does), Vrbetic's size at 6'6 gives him a major advantage. He's a huge kid. When hes squaring to shooters and covering his angles well, Vrbetic is a brick wall. His rebound control, especially on low shots, really seemed to improve over the season. In fact, his entire game did. Before the pandemic stoppage, he was playing some really good hockey. If he managed to get a little quicker in his crease (he can look a little stiff at times) and bulk up a bit to be stronger covering his posts, he could easily push Lennox and Gaudreau. As mentioned, the goaltending crop for this draft looks fantastic from the OHL.

14. Ethan Del Mastro - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Without question, Del Mastro was one of the most improved 03's in the league from the start of the 2019/20 season to the end. You could really see him gain confidence in his ability to play physically and in his ability to move the puck. At 6'3, his size makes him really intriguing as a potential two-way defender, especially when you factor in his fluid stride in all directions. We've seen how guys like Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider have rocketed up draft lists in 2020 and Del Mastro has a chance to be a similar kind of player. Look for him to develop into one of the most feared hitters in the OHL over the next few seasons. Ultimately the question will be, how good can he be with the puck?

15. Avery Hayes - Right Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
A late '02, Hayes missed some time with injuries in his second OHL season and as such, wasn't able to make the kind of impact that some may have expected him to. The upper body injury came at the worst time too, as Hayes was really heating up at the end of December. When he's at his best, Hayes is a high energy winger who impacts the game in a variety of ways. He has the speed and skill to push the pace and handle zone entry. However, he can also be used as a forechecker because of his strong work along the wall and his quick feet to cut off passing lanes. Hayes can play the PK or the PP and has good vision as a playmaker. Basically, he's a versatile kid. Let's hope he can stay healthy next year and take his offensive game to the next level.  

16. Isacc Enright - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Mobility and quickness are the name of the game here. Enright has the potential to be one of the better skating defenders in the OHL and as such, a very effective puck mover. He certainly struggled at times in his rookie season, both with decision making and in his own end. However, I do think that he improved over the course of the year and that his confidence as a puck carrier really stood out. He also happens to be a right shot defender who can potentially QB a powerplay, obviously a hot commodity. I would imagine that he is given first crack to replace Elijah Roberts' ice time this year and could be the IceDogs QB on PP #1. 

17. Jack Beck - Left Wing - Ottawa 67's
A personal favourite of mine. Just a player who does everything well. And he does everything well because his hockey sense and overall ability to excel without the puck is among the best of any Ontario player in this '03 class. He played so many different roles for the 67's in his rookie season, even getting significant time on a scoring line with Jack Quinn. Beck is just the perfect complimentary winger. The question is, what kind of upside does he have? Can he continue to upgrade his skating, his shot, his skill level with the puck, and his confidence with the puck in order to be more than just a passenger? I think he can, but let's see how this year turns out.

18. Josh Bloom - Left Wing - Saginaw Spirit
Another personal favourite who I felt was a real steal for the Spirit in the second round a year ago. His play as an OHL rookie certainly made that seem so too, as even as a fourth liner on a lot of nights, he found a way to make himself noticeable with his energy level and strength driving through the middle of the ice. A good sized winger, Bloom plays the power game to a tee and is going to be a very attractive player for NHL scouts should he prove that he can be an effective goal scorer. With the likelihood that some of Saginaw's net front presences and complimentary wing attackers graduate, Bloom could be a guy who ends up playing in the top 6 this year. The fact that NHL Central Scouting left him off their watch list was head scratching.

19. Deni Goure - Center - Owen Sound Attack
Goure is a quick, goal scoring center who has the potential to develop into an all situations player in the OHL and at the next level. A quick strike player as an OHL rookie, I was also impressed with his work ethic away from the puck and how he managed to hunt down scoring chances in the slot despite being undersized. His release and shot are both high end. Ultimately, as a slightly undersized center, I want to see how he responds to being more of a focal point in Owen Sound's attack this season. 

20. Stuart Rolofs - Left Wing - London Knights
Man, is it tough to evaluate London rookies. There's a reason why they start low on preseason lists and then rocket up when games start being played. The Hunter development model works and should be trusted. This is especially true for players like Rolof. A big winger, Rolofs can absolutely fly out there and he can really shoot the puck too. The rest of his game and how he utilizes that speed is a major work in progress. But his potential as a serious NHL prospect is quite high. This ranking is unquestionably made with the belief that Rolofs will take a big step forward this year, like other Knights in the past.

21. Paul Christopoulos - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Big fan of Christopoulos, going back to his MM year with Don Mills. His skating ability, IQ with the puck, and ability to create in transition/push the pace make him the perfect modern day defender. His rookie season with the Battalion was certainly up and down (although I don't think he was as bad as his -41 would suggest). As an undersized defender (5'10), the focus and attention will be on Christopoulos to improve his offensive production in his draft year in order to stay on the draft radar. Hopefully he is given a chance to be the QB1 on North Bay's powerplay and I'm curious to see if his game takes that next step.

22. Jack Matier - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Tough to get a read on the type of OHL player Matier could become with limited ice time with Ottawa last year. But the 6'3, right shot defender did stand out at times with his decision making with the puck when holding the blueline, and his positioning defensively. With good four way mobility and potential to develop into a two-way defender, Matier could shoot up lists quickly if he shows progression. The 67's have a very talented young defense though, so playing time will be tough to come by yet again as he battles to push for a top four spot in light of a few graduations.

23. Jacob Holmes - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
One thing that the Greyhounds have done very well in recent years is develop defenders and Holmes could be the next in line. A strong skating two-way defender, Holmes certainly had his minutes sheltered in his rookie season, but stood out at times, especially in the defensive end. Drafted as someone who possessed high end offensive potential, Holmes will look to showcase his ability to carry the puck and jump up in the rush more consistently this year. With several returning defenders, it may have to be from the third pairing, yet again though.

24. Braeden Kressler - Center/Right Wing - Flint Firebirds
An undersized forward (5'8, 155lbs last year), Kressler is noticeable because he plays so much larger than his size. With speed to burn, he excelled without the puck for Flint, looking to force turnovers without the puck, driving the net, and excelling as a penalty killer. This coming season, he'll be looking to showcase what he can do with the puck on his stick as he prepares for an increased role in the Flint offense.  

25. Ty Voit - Right Wing - Sarnia Sting
One player who was really hurt by the lack of the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup this summer as I think he would have been a top six player for the U.S. squad. No question, Voit is a skilled player. He dazzled at times as a rookie with his creativity in the offensive end. The skating is high end too, which you like to see from an undersized forward (5'8, 140lbs last year). Like Arcuri, Voit could move up lists quickly if he's producing and is able to improve his consistency and confidence. 

26. Ethan Burroughs - Right Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Assertive, support winger who was a standout for the Attack last year as an OHL rookie. Burroughs excels down low and along the wall and plays the game hard. He very much fits the type cast of the kind of forward Owen Sound has been developing well in recent years. Just how high is Burrough's offensive ceiling? Can he be a leader on a scoring line and if he doesn't, does he have the scoring instincts and skill to still be an effective middle six player?

27. Francesco Arcuri - Left Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
One of the key members of that strong Don Mills team, Arcuri struggled at times in his rookie season with Kingston. Incredibly skilled (evident by his shootout success), he seemed to lack the strength to really push through traffic and maintain possession long enough to show what he is capable of as a playmaker. No question, Kingston will be hoping that he has improved some of those physical skills in order to be a consistent contributor. As mentioned, he's a very creative player and could rise quickly if he's producing. He'll need to cut down on some of those offensive zone turnovers that were abundant as a rookie.

28. Connor Punnett - Defense - Barrie Colts
Physical, stay at home defender prospect who was a key piece in the Ryan Suzuki deal from Saginaw. At 6'1 (and likely still growing), Punnett already excelled at times as an intimidating presence in the defensive end as a 16 year old, showing a penchant for the big hit and for competing hard along the wall. Look for that to increase moving forward. The question is, does he have the puck skill and the IQ to be a two-way defender? He struggled at times with his offensive decision making as a rookie. He could get a look as a top four defender in Barrie this season.

29. Maddox Callens - Left Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Sometimes you just have to go with your gut in these preseason lists and Callens, like Wisdom the year prior, always impressed me in a limited role when I watched the Frontenacs. Not a huge kid at 5'10, but he plays much bigger than that and displays a real nice power game from the wing. He drives the net. He controls the wall. He kills penalties. I'm operating under the impression that his skating and offensive game take nice steps forward this year.

30. Braden Hache - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Another instance of following my gut. Hache may not have played a ton for Kingston last year, but he always stuck out. Good size. Good mobility. Good instincts at both ends. I think he tracks well as a very good stay at home defender, at the very least. Got some flashbacks to watching Kevin Bahl in his rookie season at times. Additionally. Hache seems like a real amazing kid with his humanitarian efforts. If he works as hard on the ice to improve, as he does off of it, he should be a player.

Honorable Mentions

J.R. Avon - Center - Peterborough Petes

Alex Christopoulous - Right Wing - North Bay Battalion

Simon Motew - Defense - Kitchener Rangers

Kyle Jackson - Left Wing - North Bay Battalion

Daniel Michaud - Left Wing/Center - Oshawa Generals

Tucker Robertson - Right Wing - Peterborough Petes

Kaleb Lawrence - Left Wing - Owen Sound Attack

Landon McCallum - Center - Sudbury Wolves

Giancarlo Chanton - Defense - Niagara IceDogs

Matthew Maggio - Right Wing - Windsor Spitfires

Bryce Montgomery - Defense - London Knights

Lawson Sherk - Center - Hamilton Bulldogs

Appearing Soon

Logan Mailloux - Defense - London Knights

Brenden Sirizzotti - Right Wing - Ottawa 67's

Colby Saganiuk - Ceneter - Erie Otters

Artem Guryev - Defense - Peterborough Petes

Ranvir Gill-Shane - Defense - Ottawa 67's

Matvei Petrov - Right Wing - North Bay Battalion

Alex Geci - Center - Sarnia Sting

Artyom Grushnikov - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs

Brian Zanetti - Defense - Peterborough Petes

Pavel Cajan - Goaltender - Kitchener Rangers

Vsevolod Gaidamak - Center - Ottawa 67's

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

2020 NHL Entry Draft Results

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft commenced today and 31 OHL players had their names called by NHL clubs. This is honestly a much lower number than I anticipated. Last year, a draft crop many believed to be the worst that the OHL has produced, had 25 selections. This year, many believed (myself included) that this crop was significantly stronger, yet it did not see many more selections. 

Below you can find the results for OHL players, as well as my draft ranking before the draft (for comparison's sake).

Some general thoughts on how the draft played out: 

- Highest players to go unselected from my rankings included Oliver Suni, James Hardie, Nick Malik, Ruben Rafkin, and Ethan Cardwell. Additionally, Pavel Gogolev and Robert Calisti from the re-entry crop did not go. I found all of these to be pretty surprising.

- In my draft rankings write up, I mentioned that it would not shock me if Jack Quinn went ahead of Rossi and Perfetti. It happened and I'm still not surprised. NHL teams look at how valuable a guy like Mark Stone is to Vegas and Quinn certainly has similar potential (in the sense of being a strong two-way forward). 

- Shocked to see how far Martin Chromiak fell. I knew that he wouldn't go as high as I had him ranked, but I did figure that he would be a selection in the 50-75 range. He is a terrific player and I do believe that he will eventually prove to be someone that should not have fallen that far.

- Really disappointed that Cameron Tolnai was not drafted. But the sample size was ultimately too small. If the pandemic did not end the season abruptly, he could have been a point per game player in the OHL playoffs with the way he closed the year and the chemistry he showed with Graeme Clarke. If he did that, there's no way he makes it outside the fourth round, let alone being undrafted. I expect big things from him next year (if the league plays) and I think he puts himself back on the draft map.

- Full draft results can be found here.

My RankPlayer NamePOOHL TeamNHL TeamRDPick
1Quinton Byfield
2Jamie Drysdale
3Cole Perfetti
4Marco Rossi
5Jack Quinn
6Ryan O'Rourke
7Jan Mysak
8Martin Chromiak
9Jacob Perreault
10Tyson Foerster
11Luke Evangelista
12Will Cuylle
13Jean Luc Foudy
14Evan Vierling
15Brandon Coe
North Bay
16Ty Tullio
17Donovan Sebrango
18Zayde Wisdom
19Jack Thompson
20Oliver Suni

21Jaromir Pytlik
22Antonio Stranges
23James Hardie

24Nick Malik G

25Ruben Rafkin

26Ethan Cardwell

27Will Cranley
28Declan McDonnell
29Isaak Phillips
30Andrei Bakanov

31Mitchell Smith

32Cameron Tolnai

33Reid Valade

34Tanner Dickinson
35Rory Kerins
36Hayden Fowler

37Logan Morrison

38Cameron Butler

39Riley Piercey

40Jake Uberti

41Vitali Pinchuk

42Ole Bjorgvik Holm
43Lleyton Moore

44Jake Murray

45Ville Ottavainen

46Tucker Tynan

47Kirill Steklov

48Brett Brochu

49Alec Belanger

50Mark Woolley
Owen Sound

1Nico Daws
2Yevgeni Oksentyuk
3Pavel Gogolev

4Robert Calisti

5Ilya Solovyov
6Billy Constantinou

7Joe Carroll

8Tag Bertuzzi

9Tye Kartye

10Louka Henault

N/AChad Yetman

Thursday, October 1, 2020

2020 NHL Draft Primer

It's here, it's finally here! With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft slated for next week, here is everything you need to know about the players available from the Ontario Hockey League during the longest draft season ever.

My Rankings:
Honorable Mentions

Media/Scout Poll

Top Draft Re-Entries (second and third year eligible)

2020 Mock Draft 

Of course, I also have to plug the hard work that the McKeen's Hockey team has put into the 2020 Draft. If draft guides are your thing and you are looking for more information on players outside of the OHL, look no further than our 2020 Draft Guide (which can be purchased here).

Best of luck to all the OHL players eligible this year!


Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 NHL Mock Draft

This is now an annual tradition. As I always mention, while I cover the OHL extensively, I'm a hockey prospect nut in general and as such, have a fair amount of knowledge of the other players available, especially given my role with McKeen's Hockey.

It is certainly weird to be writing this mock draft in late September, given the October draft date this year because of the pandemic. It feels like we have been providing coverage and reading about this 2020 draft class forever. I feel that this class definitely has tiers which make it a little easier to predict. There are always surprises though and I expect there to be a very large number of deals leading up to the draft and at the draft, given the delays in the season and the expansion draft next year. All those deals (if they happen) could certainly make this mock obsolete, but none the less, it is a fun exercise to complete and one I know people love reading.

Previously, I have cut the mock draft off at the Top 50, but why not see it through to the end of the second round? This year, I bring you a Top 62.

1. New York Rangers - Alexis Lafreniere
The Rangers truly did hit the jackpot by winning the lottery this year, moving up from 10th to first overall and earning the chance to select Lafreniere. Already showing signs of turning around their rebuild, Lafreniere helps New York massively, giving them another potentially elite offensive player to give their top six further depth. Lafreniere plays such a pro ready game because he plays heavy. For all the skill he possesses and how intelligent he is, he is also a physical force down low who likely sees that part of his game grow further in the future. 

2. Los Angeles Kings - Tim Stutzle
What does a team with an already loaded farm system do at number two? There's certainly some talk that they're interested in Jamie Drysdale. And that does make sense. They could also go with Byfield at two, the player that I'd select if I were them. But there's also a lot of talk that German sensation Tim Stutzle is their guy and I think ends up being the way that they go. His speed really would play well with the players LA already has in the fold and his high end puck skill could make him the type of dynamic play creator who can elevate his linemates. I think the Kings become enamored with his upside.

3. Ottawa Senators (from SJ) - Quinton Byfield
I really see Byfield being Ottawa's primary target. And with good reason. He's certainly not as polished as some of the other players available. Given his size and physical tools, he has the potential to be the best player from this draft class ten years down the road. 

4. Detroit Red Wings - Cole Perfetti
This is where a lot of people really see the draft becoming unpredictable and they wouldn't be wrong. The Red Wings have so many different ways that they could use this selection. I could see them loving Drysdale, Raymond, Rossi, and even Askarov (as crazy as that sounds). But here's why I think it will be Perfetti. Firstly, the team has a connection with the Saginaw Spirit. They've drafted players from there. They've placed European players there through the Import Draft (like Albin Grewe just this year). If there is a team who knows Perfetti's game, inside and out, it would be the Red Wings. Secondly, Perfetti is a brilliant hockey player and is the type of offensive catalyst and magician that this franchise badly needs up front. The Wings used to really value IQ above anything else, and I think they have gotten away from that a bit in recent years. This is a really good fit IMO.

5. Ottawa Senators - Jake Sanderson
This is another pick that I feel pretty strongly about. Sanderson is the type of player who you gain an appreciation for the more that you watch him. He is so suffocating in the defensive end because of his skating ability and intensity level. I do think that his offensive game progresses enough for him to become a top 3 defender on the team too. If you look around the league, the teams finding playoff success are those with players like Sanderson on the roster and I believe Ottawa sees this and will look to Sanderson to be the future anchor to aid Thomas Chabot. Of course, there is lots of chatter about Askarov here too.

6. Anaheim Ducks - Jamie Drysdale
While some talk about Askarov as the draft's biggest wildcard, I actually think that honor belongs to Drysdale. He could go second overall or he could fall out of the top 10 completely if a team isn't convinced he's going to be a good enough defender in his own end. Those who read my work know where I stand on this, so I ultimately believe a team will jump on him sooner, rather than later. What better team than the Ducks, who know how important mobility is on the back-end (see Scott Niedermayer) to team success in today's NHL. 

7. New Jersey Devils - Lucas Raymond
Lots of discussion about Raymond's hot start in the SHL this season so far and that could certainly propel him up some draft boards. The common thought here is that the Devils select one of the top 67's available (Rossi or Quinn) given their familiarity with the franchise. But Raymond may just be too good to pass up at seven. While this could certainly be said about every team, New Jersey really needs to focus on selecting the player who they believe possesses the highest upside and I think that's Raymond. If they don't take Raymond, don't be surprised if Jack Quinn is their man and not Rossi from the 67's. Or...of course Askarov.

8. Buffalo Sabres - Seth Jarvis
The first real "surprise" of the draft and that is Seth Jarvis moving up inside of the top 10. Draft history suggests that someone universally ranked outside the top 10, will find their way inside the top 10 on actual draft day. I think Jarvis is someone who really makes sense as that guy and I think he makes a lot of sense as a target for the Sabres. Jarvis is a player who had such a strong second half to the abruptly ended WHL season and he doesn't have a ton of weaknesses in his game. His effort away from the puck would breathe fresh air into an organization that can't seem to get over the hump and he is a guy who could probably fit in really well alongside Jack Eichel in the future.

9. Minnesota Wild - Yaroslav Askarov
You know someone is going to take Askarov high. It is going to happen. But who will it be? Having had some success with Russian players recently and with the team needing more future depth at the goaltending position, Minnesota makes sense as a landing spot. This is especially true for a franchise who really prides itself on being strong defensively. I could also see a team trading up to secure his services (like Chicago for example).

10. Winnipeg Jets - Jack Quinn
Quinn ahead of Rossi? Are you insane? I have Rossi ahead of Quinn in my own personal rankings, but this is a mock draft and I do think that NHL franchises are going to put more value into what Quinn brings to the table. Elite goal scorers who play both ends of the ice do not grow on trees. Quinn is the type of player that the Jets seem to love and if the team does decide to move on from Patrik Laine, he could fill his shoes. Just look at what Mark Stone did for Vegas in the playoffs. Quinn has the potential to be that sort of impact two-way forward.

11. Nashville Predators - Alexander Holtz
Holtz could most definitely go higher than this. He may not possess the flash of some others projected to go inside the top 10, but his quiet effectiveness and high end IQ makes him a strong bet to be an NHL player and top end goal scorer. But he also strikes me as the kind of guy who could fall out of the top 10 simply because every team likes him, but not more than another player who is still available from their list. Holtz's "safeness" is what makes him attractive to a Nashville team that could use more players like him. 

12. Florida Panthers - Marco Rossi
Let me preface this by saying that I don't agree with Rossi falling to 12th. He one hundred percent deserves to be drafted higher and I hope he will be. This is an incredibly hard working player who strives to improve and has the mindset of a pro hockey player. I think he ends up as a strong top six center. But I also could see NHL teams being concerned with his lack of size at the center position and his lack of elite explosiveness and top speed. Like Holtz, Rossi could be the type of player teams like, but not more than another player still available. Florida selects him because he's the best player on the board and because he also happens to be the kind of two-way center the organization needs behind Barkov.

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR) - Dylan Holloway
Sure Holloway's freshmen season didn't quite go according to plan in Wisconsin. But it is so hard to put up significant production as a true freshman. This is especially true considering that the Badgers were a bit of a hot mess last year. I still believe in Holloway's potential to be a top six forward and I think that his skill set will be highly coveted by an NHL franchise. Look at what the market was for guys like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow at this year's NHL deadline. Holloway projects to be that kind of player and I think that's why Carolina could be all over him. These bunch of jerks like players who can skate and who can provide pressure on the forecheck and that's Holloway.

14. Edmonton Oilers - Kaiden Guhle
I see the Oilers connected to Jack Quinn a lot because people just love to see the Oilers drafting a high end goal scorer that they can pair with McDavid. But I don't think Quinn lasts until 14. At the end of the day, while the Oilers still struggle because of a lack of scoring depth, they also struggle because they can't keep the puck out of their own net. By drafting a kid like Guhle, who has similar qualities to Jake Sanderson, they continue to stockpile young defenders and that could give the team some flexibility to move one of their underachieving young defenders out for a forward who can make an impact right now. 

15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT) - Braden Schneider
This just seems like the perfect fit doesn't it? The Leafs can certainly be unpredictable at the draft, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not believe that Schneider isn't exactly the type of player the team lacks. Given his age, he is also closer to making an impact and could make the same sort of impact a kid like Brandon Carlo did in Boston. 

16. Montreal Canadiens - Dawson Mercer
I think anyone who watches the NHL closely knows that the Montreal Canadiens lack that top six forward with size who can consistently win those battles down low and near the crease. Mercer projects as that player and also just happens to be the best player available according to most lists. Seems like a pretty perfect fit to me.

17. Chicago Blackhawks - Hendrix Lapierre
With the star core of the Hawks' beginning to age and only a mediocre farm system, the Hawks really need to focus on taking high upside players, even if they carry some risk like Lapierre. If the team wants to avoid a full rebuild, they may need to take a chance on a guy like Lapierre who could still develop into one of the best players in this draft class if he puts his injury issues behind him. His hot start in the QMJHL preseason is definitely encouraging.

18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ) - Anton Lundell
A bit of a fall for Lundell who is certainly a guy who could go inside the top 10 or 12. However, like some others on this list, he strikes me as a potential faller only because he lacks a true standout quality and is the type of player a lot of teams may like, but not love. His skating concerns (even if you believe they are slightly overblown) could certainly scare some teams away who want a center who plays with pace. With three first round selections, the Devils can roll the dice on Lundell and continue to build up a ton of center depth moving forward. This is strictly BPA.

19. Calgary Flames - Brendan Brisson
The son of agent Pat Brisson, Brendan was a standout in the USHL with Chicago last year and also had a strong World Junior A Challenge. An intelligent playmaker, Brisson is the kind of player that the Flames scouting department has targeted in the early rounds in recent years and he certainly fits in well with the current group and farm system. Calgary has also never been shy to take a chance on a kid with perceived pace issues, so long as their IQ is strong like Brisson.

20. New Jersey Devils (from VAN) - Rodion Amirov
When you have three first rounders, you can roll the dice a little bit and the Devils do that by selecting their third forward in as many selections; Rodion Amirov. Never shy to pick out of Russia, the Devils know that they can be patient with Amirov and let him develop before bringing him to North America. Between Raymond and Amirov, the Devils select two potential top 6 wingers and two players who have a chance to be among the best players in this draft class.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets - Jacob Perreault
One hundred percent, I could see a team taking Jacob Perreault even earlier than this (even if he's lower on my personal ranking). He's one of the top goal scorers available this year and has NHL bloodlines. But I know there are some concerns over his pace of play, conditioning, and consistency. These could easily be ironed out and Columbus swings for the fences here, trying to inject a high end goal scorer into the system. The Jackets certainly have trouble with scoring consistently and Perreault could develop into a player who could help them with that.

22. New York Rangers (from CAR) - Ridly Greig
I really like Greig and have always been impressed with his play when I have watched him. I think there's a lot of growth left in his game because of his later birthday. Already a physical player and someone who can play through traffic, Greig should eventually gain a lot of confidence in his offensive abilities to develop as a Mike Richards esque two-way player. He should be able to fit in well and support some of New York's younger skilled players.

23. Philadelphia Flyers - Sam Colangelo
This might be high for Colangelo, but I believe that NHL scouts have a lot of faith in the Chicago Steel program and as such, I see Colangelo going higher than he is ranked by a lot of independent scouting agencies. Teams that find success in the NHL playoffs still need power and size on the wing in their top 6 and Colangelo excels driving the net and playing below the hash marks. The Flyers seem like a good fit for him.

24. Colorado Avalanche - Lukas Reichel
With how well German players have been developing in recent years, it would not shock me at all to see Reichel and Peterka fall inside the top 20 come draft day. That said, I have both just outside that range. In Reichel, the Avalanche get a player who fits the system that they use currently. A well rounded offensive player, Reichel has the potential to develop into a tough guy to play against because of his IQ and assertiveness along the wall.

25. Washington Capitals - John Jason Peterka
The Capitals have selected Swiss players in three of the last five drafts, so it is obvious that they spend a lot of time scouting central Europe. Peterka, a German forward, has steadily risen up draft lists this year with his strong play Internationally. With speed to burn and a raw offensive skill set, Peterka could be very intriguing to a Capitals team who could stand to add more pace among the forwards in their farm system. Additionally...hear me out. Peterka is a London Knights selection in the Import Draft (not currently signed). They could push for him to join London to play alongside Connor McMichael. 

26. St. Louis Blues - Ryan O'Rourke
While the Blues do have Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich entering the fold, it wouldn't hurt for them to take a defender with this selection if they feel like that player is a contender for the best player available. This is especially true given that Alex Pietrangelo is a free agent and the team may look to move someone like Vince Dunn or another defender to try to re-sign him. O'Rourke is a tough as nails two-way defender who oozes leadership qualities and who should be a long time NHL defender.

27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS) - Mavrik Bourque
Honestly, Bourque is the kind of guy who can slip through the cracks of the NHL scouting community; the type of player who is underappreciated and better than their ranking indicates. He could certainly go higher than this. He could go lower than this (OK, I guess that could be said about any of these players). But the Ducks are happy to select him here, giving them a first round haul of Jamie Drysdale and Bourque, two potential impact players.

28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI) - Noel Gunler
One of the draft's biggest wildcards, Gunler oozes offensive potential. However, concerns about his role within the Swedish hockey organization have made him a bit of a mystery. Consistency issues may be masking his effectiveness. Ottawa has so many selections and they can afford to roll the dice on Gunler, hoping that he can add some strength and improve his play in all three zones.  
29. Vegas Golden Knights - Helge Grans
Grans is one of those raw defenders with size who are hard to slot in for a mock draft. At 6'3 and with a right handed shot, if an NHL team is convinced that he has top four upside, he could go much higher than this. Vegas has had a real affinity for these type of defenders so far at the draft (Hague, Demin, Korczak), but it fits the way that they want to play too. This is a nice upside play by Vegas 
30. Dallas Stars - Tyler Kleven
Whether internet scouting community likes it or not, guys like Kleven get selected high at the NHL draft. It's a fact. He's big. He's mean. And he can skate. This is the prototype of the modern NHL shutdown defender. Would I take him this high? Not likely. But Dallas has really coveted these types of players in recent years and it has made them a tough team to play against (as you can see from this year's NHL playoffs). The hope here would be that Kleven could develop into the perfect partner for someone like Heiskanen or Harley. Dallas has a type and Kleven is it.

31. San Jose Sharks (from TB) - Luke Evangelista
Seeing Evangelista in the first round might surprise some people, but I've certainly heard some rumblings that teams could like him in this range. Do not underestimate the faith that NHL organizations have in the Hunter (and London) development model. Evangelista was terrific as a support winger for London this year, showing a well rounded game. However, if you're convinced that his offensive game has more than he has shown us (especially in terms of driving the play and creating his own chances), you definitely look at Evangelista as a first rounder. The Sharks would have seen a ton of him this year while keeping tabs on Ryan Merkley. After losing their top 5 selection in a trade with Ottawa, it makes sense that they would roll the dice on someone who could really progress and show high offensive upside down the line.


32. Detroit Red Wings - Connor Zary
Zary falls out of the first round (there will always be a few perceived first rounders who do) due to some concerns over his pace of play and skating ability. However, Detroit is happy to select him to kick off the second round. A potential playmaking center, even if there might be some similarities between Zary and Joe Veleno.

33. Ottawa Senators - Justin Barron
When you have so many selections in the first few rounds, you can take a chance on a player who falls or who is considered a little more high risk. Sidelined for a good portion of the year with a blood clot, Barron was once thought to be the best defender in this draft class. And now, he's out again after another procedure. The risk is high. If the Senators can grab Sanderson and Justin Barron, and both develop to their full potential, they would be a damn difficult team to play against.

34. San Jose Sharks - Jean Luc Foudy
Again, I see San Jose targeting someone they believe possesses significant upside. I would not likely be looking at Foudy this high because I do have some concerns about his game. However, given his speed and skill level, and given the great progression his brother Liam has shown, I do see one NHL team taking him high. Adding speed to this San Jose lineup should be a priority and Foudy is one of the draft's best skaters.

35. Los Angeles Kings - Dylan Peterson
Peterson is another guy that I see an NHL team taking higher than independent or internet scouts have him ranked. He's an elite skater with size and raw offensive tools. His game improved from the start of the year to the end. He has a good chance to developing into a high end checking winger if the offensive game doesn't develop. Los Angeles knows that they're going to need guys like Peterson to compete in the West in the future.

36. Anaheim Ducks - Tyson Foerster
The Ducks grab one of the draft's elite goal scorers in Tyson Foerster. Armed with one of the best one timers in the OHL, Foerster is an elite powerplay weapon. Skating and ability to shoot/create in motion need work, but he would be a great pick in this range. 

37. Nashville Predators (from NJ) - Jan Mysak
Mysak is someone whose ranking is all over the place this year. Some have him with a mid first projection, where others have him in late first/early second. I certainly had him ranked higher than this, but like some others that I mentioned, he strikes me as the type that NHL scouts might like, but not love. And that could push him down into this range. Nashville makes a heck of a selection here.

38. Buffalo Sabres - Ty Smilanic
From what I understand, scouts had a tough time getting a read on Smilanic last year. As part of the U.S. U18 squad, Smilanic was at times one of the team's most effective forwards. And at other times, he was completely invisible. That inconsistency can be frustrating. However, Smilanic possesses a high offensive upside and that intrigues the Sabres enough to roll the dice.

39. Minnesota Wild - Marat Khusnutdinov
A high end skater, many consider Khusnutdinov a first round talent. However, when you combine concerns over upside and the allure of the KHL, teams may look elsewhere in the first round. He looks a lot more appealing in the second. The question is, would the Minnesota Wild have the gumption to use their first and second round selections (as per my predictions) on Russian players?

40. Winnipeg Jets - Jack Finley
Finley is the son of former NHL defender Jeff Finley, who just happens to be an amateur scout for the Jets. Sure there is a connection there, but this would actually be a savvy selection by the Jets. Finley is simultaneously one of the largest forwards available this year and one of the most physically raw players. This is a kid who shows really well in flashes and his size down the middle and projection will make him very attractive to NHL teams in this range.

41. Carolina Hurricanes (from NYR) - William Wallinder
Wallinder is another one of those raw defenders with size who could go anywhere from 15-50 in the draft, depending on just how sold an NHL team is on him reaching his potential. His decision making is often questioned, however the physical tools are there. He just may take time. The Hurricanes are willing to be patient and add him to the team's already strong group of young defenders. 

42. Nashville Predators - Jake Neighbours
A bit of a fall for Neighbours, a player many tab as a late first round selection. However, I do believe that projection issues could push him into the second round. That isn't to say that Neighbours doesn't have upside, but many see him as more of a third liner and there are always a lot of similar players available. He does fit the Predators style of play and to a certain degree, is the type of player they used to draft when they were having some success.

43. Florida Panthers - Topi Niemela
Niemela is a right shot defender who projects as an intelligent puck mover at the NHL level and would be a really good selection by the Panthers here. This is especially true considering that the Panthers defensive unit is far from a top notch group and the organization really only has Chase Priskie as a potential puck mover as far as prospects are concerned.

44. Toronto Maple Leafs - Daniel Torgersson
Torgersson certainly fits the bill of the type of player that Dubas and his scouting staff have targeted at the draft in recent years. Big kid who skates really well and can play a physical style, but whose offensive potential remains a bit of a mystery. Seems like a safe bet that the Leafs could be looking at a forward with some speed and physicality with one of their top two selections.

45. Detroit Red Wings (from EDM) - Drew Commesso
If the Wings don't shock the world with Askarov at number four, I could see them rolling the dice on a goaltender at 45. While his ranking seems to be a bit all over the place and the lack of a U18's didn't help that, Commesso is the second best goaltender available IMO and the Wings would have seen a lot of him out of Plymouth. He's a long term play but he certainly satisfies the organization's need for a top goaltending prospect.

46. Chicago Blackhawks (from PIT) - Nico Daws
Another potential landing spot for Askarov if he falls in the first or the Hawks trade up. However Chicago could also look at a goaltender at 46. Daws is an intriguing option because he's a lot closer to being an NHL netminder than others in this class because of his age. I know some doubt Daws based on him being in his final year of eligibility and his world juniors performance, but those who saw him in the OHL know how hard he has worked to become an elite netminder.

47. Montreal Canadiens - Ian Moore
The Canadiens have taken a prep school defender inside the top 75 of two straight drafts (Struble and Harris) and both look like great selections thus far. So why not go three for three? With so many selections, it's also important to stagger where these prospects are drafted from, to help with contract deadlines. Moore is an elite mover from the back-end who shows potential to be a two-way defender. He'll play with Chicago in the USHL this year and then head to Harvard. That's two pretty awesome programs too. 

48. Montreal Canadiens (from CHI) - Thomas Bordeleau
With back to back selections, Montreal selects undersized forward Thomas Bordeleau out of the U.S. Development Program. Armed with a wicked shot and slick hands, Bordeleau was one of the few creative players on this year's U18 squad and his play through traffic improved greatly over the course of the season. Maybe there are too many similarities between he and Caufield, but he's the best player available here.

49. Arizona Coyotes - PICK FORFEITED

50. Calgary Flames - Will Cuylle
Lord knows how much the Calgary Flames love "heavy" wingers who can play with physical intensity. Cuylle is one of the few true power forwards available this year. Consistency is an issue, but it is for most big junior forwards. As he continues to improve his skating, look for him to develop into a quality goal scorer and someone who could play a middle six role for the Flames down the line.

51. Los Angeles Kings (from VAN) - Roby Jarventie
Jarventie is a true draft enigma. At times, he has the look of a first round selection with a big shot and goal scoring potential. He has size and high end skating ability. That combination usually gets you drafted pretty high and the Kings would be a great landing spot for him. With such a strong prospect pool, they can roll the dice on him to develop slowly and eventually become an impact player.

52. Ottawa Senators (from CBJ) - Martin Chromiak
The Senators would have gotten a great look at Chromiak last year in nearby Kingston, even if he only played half a season in the OHL. A strong supporting winger, Chromiak projects as an intelligent complimentary piece in the top 9. I believe that his game has lots of room for growth as he gains confidence. 

53. Carolina Hurricanes - Tristen Robins
Without question, Robins has to be one of the draft's most polarizing prospects. He's in the first round of some publications. He's in the fourth round of some publications. A phenomenal second half in the WHL should certainly pique the interest of NHL scouts. He could be a great fit in a Carolina system that has drafted other well rounded forward prospects in recent years, targeting IQ and effort over size and physical tools.

54. Philadelphia Flyers - Jeremie Poirier
Look, Poirier could definitely go in the first round. He is one of the most talented offensive defenders available this year. But concerns over his defensive commitment and four way mobility could certainly push him deeper into the draft as a "faller." Here, the Flyers finally take him, even after selecting Cam York in the first round last year. 

55. San Jose Sharks (from COL) - Danil Gushchin
Gushchin is a bit of enigma. He has been an offensive standout in the USHL and there is absolutely no doubt that he is talented. The upside is certainly appealing. However, scouts do have concerns over his lack of intensity and consistency from shift to shift, in combination with his lack of size. But, as I've mentioned a few times, I see the Sharks really focusing on taking high upside players early this year to try to rebuild their farm system.

56. Detroit Red Wings (via WSH) - Ozzy Wiesblatt
An undersized, but high energy winger, Wiesblatt certainly has the qualities you look for in a quality middle six forward. Much like Jack Neighbours, I see him going a little lower than anticipated due to a perceived lack of potential. However, the Wings have always gravitated towards these types of forwards (see Albin Grewe who will suit up for Saginaw this year). 

57. Montreal Canadiens (from STL) - Shakir Mukhamadullin
Look, I know that he's the favourite whipping boy of some scouts and perhaps with good reason. Yet, given his physical tools, you know that an NHL team is going to take a chance on him inside the first two rounds. He has, after all, played well in the KHL to start the year (no easy task for an U20 defender). Montreal could be a good landing spot for him. They took a chance on Alex Romanov a few years ago and that has worked out well for them. Additionally, continuing to add projectable defenders with size should be a priority at the draft.

58. Boston Bruins - Zayde Wisdom
On one hand, there is a good chance that the Bruins swing for the fences with this selection, opting for a high upside player, given that they do not have a first round selection this year. On the other hand, Boston's scouts do seem to have a type and Wisdom is most certainly that type. Few work as hard or are as motivated as this kid. The perfect complimentary piece to skilled/creative playmakers, the Bruins have become so difficult to play against because they draft and develop hard workers who can provide versatility.

59. Ottawa Senators (from NYI) - Brock Faber
Faber is one of those quietly effective two-way defenders that NHL teams always seem to favor at the draft. He moves well, has that precious right shot, and processes the game quickly, all things that point to him being an NHL defender down the line. Ranked all over the place this year, Faber is the kind of player I see going in the top 60 and Ottawa has targeted similar kinds of defenders in recent years.

60. Los Angeles Kings (via VGS) - Pavel Gogolev
If there is one thing you can count on at the draft, it's the Los Angeles Kings taking a second or third year eligible player. Few teams in the NHL have gone this route as much as (and as successfully) as LA. Gogolev emerged as one of the top players in the OHL this year, working hard to prove to scouts that his game has more layers to it than just his goal scoring ability. I really don't think it's far fetched to consider him a candidate for the top 75 or so.

61. Ottawa Senators (from DAL) - Luke Tuch
With his brother having such a strong NHL playoffs this year, NHL teams could certainly be looking at Luke a little bit earlier. Players with size and skill will always have a place in the league, even if smaller players are starting to take over. Heck, I could see Tuch going even higher than this. He's probably someone whose stock certainly was not helped by the lack of World U18's this year.

62. Tampa Bay Lightning - Wyatt Kaiser
Prep school defenders (and players) always go higher than the independent scouting community ranks them, something I already mentioned in the Ian Moore write up. Kaiser, out of Minnesota HS Hockey, is a high end skater who has room to grow as a two-way defender. He's very raw (understandably so) and Tampa Bay would need to be patient, but these are the types of picks teams without a first round selection make.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday Top 10 - Unheralded Rookies Who Could Make an Impact in 2020/21

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 the midget draft for that matter). I'm talking about 2003 (possibly even 2002) 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, Ethan Cardwell, etc). Obviously, this year is a bit different given the uncertainty surrounding the season (due to the pandemic) and the late start date (December). However, operating under the assumption that a season will happen at some point, these are the names to really keep an eye on.

In addition to my write ups, I've also included brief scouting reports that I've found from some trusted sources on twitter.

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


Max Donoso - Ottawa 67's
A Windsor, ON native and former 5th round pick, Donoso had a terrific 2019/20 season south of the border where he starred with Salisbury Prep, a very prestigious prep school with a bevy of NHL alumni. As a comparison, Donoso's U17 numbers in the "New England" prep circuit were better than current 67's netminder Cedrick Andree's when he played for another top school, "The Gunnery" in 2016/17. Obviously, Donoso could stay at Salisbury for another year with the hope of continuing south of the border to hunt down a scholarship. However, he could also end up in the OHL, especially if the 67's move one of Andree or Cranley (likely Andree). 

Matteo Drobac - Hamilton Bulldogs
While there's certainly some uncertainty around where Drobac fits in next year (given the Bulldogs still have Zach Roy and Marco Costantini), there's no question that he's highly touted. One of the six goalies invited to the virtual U18 Hockey Canada camp this summer after a fantastic year in the GOJHL with Hamilton. One would think that Hamilton sees him as a future fixture and that one of Roy or Costantini (assuming Roy) would exit to make room.

Dixon Grimes - Guelph Storm
Massive, 6'4 goaltender is the son of former OHL player and coach Jake Grimes (who now coaches Cape Breton in the QMJHL). Grimes had a terrific year for Listowel (GOJHL) that saw him earn the goaltending spot on the OHA Top Prospect team (Hunter Jones was another recent recipient). With Nico Daws likely moving on to the pro ranks next year (following his selection in the 2020 NHL Draft), Grimes will be looked to push Owen Bennett for playing time.

Patrick Leaver - Oshawa Generals
Leaver appears to be the top candidate to back-up Zach Paputsakis next year, if the team decides to walk away from Jordan Kooy next year (given his OA status and the team's already solid group of OA's). Leaver was a standout in the CCHL2, not exactly a premier feeder league for the OHL, however he was originally a highly touted netminder for the 2019 OHL Draft out of the Ottawa region (even suiting up for Canada at the Canada Winter Games).

Michael Simpson - Peterborough Petes
While the future crease in Peterborough looks pretty crowded (given the recent selections of Liam Sztuska and Mikael Kingo), Simpson figures to be the running mate with Tye Austin this coming season after Hunter Jones moves on to the pro ranks. Simpson, like many Peterborough draft selections, stayed local to play midget AAA so that he could also practice with the Petes and they could keep a close eye on his development. Even if he was a 10th round selection, Simpson was highly touted for the 2019 OHL Draft and does carry higher expectations than usual for a late round pick.


Andre Anania - Sudbury Wolves
After a strong season with Stouffville (OJHL) looks poised to earn a spot on the Wolves roster for this upcoming season. A former member of that great Toronto Red Wings MM team, Anania's fourteen goals as a U17 defender in the OJHL were mighty impressive. Would imagine that Anania takes Kalle Loponen's spot on the roster and should push a guy like Ribau for ice time.

Owen Brady - Oshawa Generals 
By now, I think anyone who covers the OHL is familiar with Owen's story. Diagnosed with the same kind of bone cancer as Terry Fox, Brady has conquered the diagnosis and is ready to begin his comeback in order to make the OHL. The road to recovery will be long given the kind of surgery Brady required, so it's unknown as to when he'll be able to truly push for a roster spot in Oshawa. However, he is an extremely motivated and former highly touted player who is completely worthy of a spot on this list.


Chase Costantino - Kingston Frontenacs
A relatively recent signing by the Frontenacs, the former Burlington Eagle played south of the border for the 16U Compuware team (along with some pretty good prospects like Tyler Duke, Cutter Gauthier, Zach Filak, among others) last year. A good sized, right shot defender, Costantino is a candidate to slide into a second or third pairing role for the Fronts this year. The team currently does not have a right shot defender, so that certainly gives him a leg up.


Tyler Dunbar - Flint Firebirds 
Certainly a long shot to include the talented Dunbar on this list, but given the state of the pandemic, one has to wonder what his intentions are. Even if he doesn't come next year, there's always a chance he does head North for his NHL draft year (a December birthday makes him 2022 eligible). This is especially true given that he is currently without a college commitment. The Sault Ste. Marie dual citizen was a standout for Muskegon in the USHL last year and is a very highly touted prospect who could become an instant top four defender for the Firebirds.


Ranvir Gill-Shane - Ottawa 67's 
Even though he was held pointless last year in limited action, Gill-Shane still made a positive impression and proved that he is an OHL player with a bright future. A member of the CCHL All Rookie team last year, Gill-Shane is ready for a greater role with the 67's this upcoming season. Ottawa has to replace Bahl, Hoefenmayer, and Okhotyuk back there and they have a ton of talented young defenders to choose from. 

Dylan Gratton - Guelph Storm
Another far fetched addition to the OHL, given his commitment to Penn State and current status in the USHL with Muskegon. However, that commitment was made long ago (2017) and the Storm can offer Gratton a spot in their top four this season, in his NHL draft year. Of course, Gratton can get an equal amount of looks alongside Tyler Dunbar in Muskegon, but I felt he was worth mentioning on this list given his immense talent level.


Artem Guryev - Peterborough Petes
A high second round selection in 2019, Guryev split the year between the OJHL (with Lindsay) and Peterborough because of the Petes' depth on the back-end. The big, physical blueliner is expected to be a big part of a rebuilt Peterborough blueline that is losing Chisholm, Wilson, Paquette, and Maier. Along with 2020 first round pick Donovan McCoy and 2020 Import pick Brian Zanetti, Guryev will be given all the ice time he can handle if he proves worthy. This is especially true for the penalty kill, the unit hit the hardest by graduations.

James Jodoin - Windsor Spitfires 
A high pick in 2019, Jodoin did see minimal ice time with the Spitfires last year when he wasn't with LaSalle (GOJHL). A 6'3 right shot defender, Jodoin could battle Import pick Daniil Sobolev to help replace two integral right shot presences on Windsor's blueline (Corcoran and Rafkin) from a year ago. 


Josh Kavanagh - Peterborough Petes 
An offensive defender out of Northern Ontario, Kavanagh, like Michael Simpson, spent most of last year playing for the Petes' midget team. As such, he got in a lot of practice time and even some game action for the parent club. As mentioned with the Guryev write up, the Petes will be looking to replace a lot of bodies this year and Kavangh has a chance to earn some of Chisholm's powerplay time if he performs well.


Christian Kyrou - Erie Otters 
The brother of former OHL star Jordan Kyrou, Christian is a defender who split last year between the GOJHL and the OHL with Erie. Even though the Otters aren't replacing too many defenders coming into the year, Kyrou does have a chance to solidify his spot in the lineup permanently. His skating ability can surely be an asset to Erie's coaching staff if he can improve his strength. 


Logan Mailloux - London Knights 
The player on this list who certainly has the greatest chance of being an immediate impact player, Mailloux was otherworldly in the GOJHL last year with the London Nationals, dominating award season and putting up some of the best offensive numbers ever from a U17 defender in "Junior B" history, even dating back to before the merger. The big right shot defender is already drawing some attention as a possible first round NHL selection in 2021 and could jump right into the top four of the Knights next year.


Will Murphy - Erie Otters 
Murphy will compete with the likes of Kyrou for a depth spot on the Otters, should he report to Erie. Playing midget back home in Kingston this year, Murphy was a standout in the league and certainly has some potential to be an impact defender in the OHL. He was highly touted as an OHL Draft prospect back in 2019. 


Nicholas Paone - Peterborough Petes
While Paone is certainly a longer shot to make an impact with the Petes given some of the other young defenders they're bringing into the fold next year, he deserves mention on this list after a strong season in the GOJHL with Fort Erie. The former Southern Tier Admiral rearguard has not yet committed to the Petes and may not be interested in the OHL.


Chandler Romeo - Hamilton Bulldogs
A former OHL Cup runner up as part of the Toronto Red Wings team in 2019, Romeo was a standout in both the GOJHL and the OJHL this year with Brantford. A big kid at over 6'4, Romeo is committed to the Bulldogs and will join 2020 first rounder Jorian Donovan and 2020 Import Pick Artyom Grushnikov in trying to reshape a Hamilton blueline that struggled last year. 


Ryan Beck - Saginaw Spirit 
A signing out of the USHL, Beck is an undersized, but feisty '02 center that the Spirit have to be hoping can replace the likes of Damien Giroux or Blade Jenkins (should the two actually leave for the pro ranks this upcoming season). Beck had a solid season with a strong Dubuque team, playing behind the Jackson twins. Originally a Barrie draft pick, Beck's rights were acquired by Saginaw in the Ryan Suzuki deal. He also played for the U.S. at last summer's Hlinka/Gretzky Cup and is eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft in October. 

Rylan Bowers - Mississauga Steelheads
After a strong season with Listowel (GOJHL), Bowers signed with the Steelheads in January and even scored his first OHL goal in limited action. A feisty winger, Bowers was a selection in 2018 who looks like he can play a role for the Steelheads this upcoming season, even if it's as a fourth line agitator. 

Braeden Bowman - Guelph Storm 
A big winger, Bowman got into limited action with the Storm last year. He spent the majority of the year with Kitchener of the GOJHL, where his production was solid. The competition to replace the likes of Cam Hillis, Cedric Ralph, and likely Pavel Gogolev (if he signs after being drafted) will be fierce in camp, with the 2020 OHL draft selections and others battling for spots. He was a linemate of Marko Sikic in MM, so perhaps they look to re-unite those two in a checking line role this coming year.

Brett Bressette - Erie Otters
Over a point per game for Thorold of the GOJHL last year, Bressette also got into limited action with the Otters, scoring his first career OHL goal. The undersized center certainly has a chance to nail down the fourth line center spot for the upcoming season, likely battling with someone like Elias Cohen for ice time.

Jordan D'Intino - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 
While not yet committed to the Greyhounds, D'Intino is a good sized center who had a good year for Strathroy of the GOJHL, finishing as the team's second leading goal scorer. The Greyhounds are expected to return all their centers from a year ago and they added Bryce McConnell-Barker at the draft. However, D'Intino is a guy they likely give a look to if he shows interest in reporting.

Nolan Dann - Sarnia Sting
Dann was a player that I really enjoyed watching at the 2019 OHL Cup, where he was a key member of the runner up Toronto Red Wings. He had a terrific year for Georgetown of the OJHL in 2019/20, finishing as one of the highest scoring '03's in the league. Have to believe that the undersized winger has a real chance of being a top 9 forward for the Sting this year, bringing energy and tenacity to the ice.


Nick DeGrazia - Sudbury Wolves
Few players selected in the U18 draft have had successful runs in the OHL, however DeGrazia has a chance to become one of the better ones. A late bloomer, DeGrazia is a late born '02 who was terrific last year; capturing a Silver medal at the World Junior A Challenge and the NOJHL's rookie of the year award. There are a lot of forward roster spots up for grabs this year for the Wolves (with graduations and OA decisions to be made) and that means DeGrazia could be a top 9 option for them.

Vladislav Dvurechensky - Barrie Colts
A mammoth forward (already 6'4, 200+lbs last year), Dvurechensky split the season between Barrie and Collingwood of the OJHL, where he posted modest stats. A highly skilled player, Vladislav Dvurechensky was definitely someone who made waves at Colts' camp last year. He will certainly be right in the thick of things for one of the bottom six forward spots.

Nolan Forster - Guelph Storm 
A former member of a talented Toronto Marlboros MM team, Forster was a standout in the GOJHL last year with Cambridge. He was one of the highest scoring '03's in the circuit and given his offensive talent level, will push for one of those open forward spots alongside the aforementioned Bowman in Guelph.

Matteo Giampa - London Knights
While likely a long shot to sign with the Knights, he is exactly the type of player that London has had success recruiting in recent years. A Canadian playing prep hockey last year in Connecticut (at the Gunnery), Giampa could certainly help fill out the London forward group that is bound to lose a few players to the pro ranks next year and is considered a forward with a high end ceiling.

Zacharie Giroux - Flint Firebirds
With one Giroux potentially leaving the OHL for the pro ranks, we welcome another. The brother of Saginaw's Damien, Zacharie is a chip off the old block and plays the game similarly to his brother. The only difference is the size, with Zacharie coming in at 5'5 (at least last year). Giroux has always been one of the highest scoring forwards on whatever team he has played for, but will need to show that he can perform at the OHL level given his lack of size. Flint will be counting on him to be a potential top 9 player next season.

Bill Gourgon - North Bay Battalion 
Named the CCHL2's top prospect after a strong season a year ago, Gourgon is certainly a potential forward for the Battalion next season. While the CCHL2 is far from a breeding ground for OHL players, strong production in the league has equated to OHL success before (Oliver Castleman comes to mind). The 5'11 forward has not yet committed to the Battalion, however.

Tyler Hotson - Owen Sound Attack
Perhaps a long shot to sign with the Attack, Hotson does deserve mention on this list following a strong season for Listowel in the GOJHL. A former highly touted minor hockey player, the undersized Hotson will likely have many options available to him next year. Should he choose the Attack, he could help replace some of the team's graduating players (like Dudas, Struthers, and Philip).

Jake Kovacs - Barrie Colts 
Originally thought that Kovacs would be one of the most coveted free agents this year after a terrific season in the NOJHL that saw him above the point per game mark (one of only four U17 players to hit that mark). However, the 5'9 center ended up being a mid round selection of Barrie as a "re-entry" in the 2020 Priority draft. The Colts have a strong collection of '03 and '04 forwards, so Kovacs will be in a battle for playing time should he commit to Barrie.


Steven LaForme - Ottawa 67's
Many believed that LaForme would be heading south of the border after announcing a commitment to Merrimack in January, however after his rights were moved from North Bay to Ottawa, LaForme changed his tune. While not official yet, it's highly believed that LaForme will be in Ottawa next season. The talented playmaker was a standout with Hamilton of the GOJHL this year and has a chance to be in the mix with a bevy of other young players for some open bottom six forward positions.


Mitchell Martin - Kitchener Rangers
The highest scoring U17 player in the NOJHL last year, Martin has signed with Kitchener and should be in the mix for a top 9 spot on the team next year. Given his size (6'2), he could be given a look on the powerplay to help replace the likes of graduates Jonathan Yantsis, Liam Hawel, and Serron Noel. 


Cole Patey - Peterborough Petes 
Another one of those Petes' draft picks who played midget hockey locally so that he could be more highly involved with the Petes and their development staff. A physically intense winger, expectations are pretty high for Patey in terms of jumping into a top 9 role next year and helping to offset some of the major losses up front for Peterborough.


Josh Reid - Mississauga Steelheads 
One of the higher 2019 draft picks to not play in the OHL last year (as a 3rd round selection), Reid split the year between the CCHL and CCHL2. Hopefully his struggles in the CCHL are not indicative of an inability to make the jump. Mississauga will be looking at Reid as a potential depth player this year should he commit to the Steelheads and given his profile as a two-way player, he could make a great fourth line center option.


Colby Saganiuk - Erie Otters
One of the biggest signings of the offseason, the Otters managed to lure Saganiuk away from the U.S. National Development Program. The diminutive, but talented playmaker was buried on the depth chart of the U17 program and obviously wanted to make sure he was getting the ice time he needed in his NHL Draft year. Safe to assume that Erie will be counting on Saganiuk to come in and be an immediate fixture in the Top 6 with powerplay time. 

Tyler Savard - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 
While not officially signed with the Greyhounds, one would have to assume Savard's interest in playing in the OHL for the Greyhounds, considering he left the Peterborough area to play in the NOJHL last year. With the Soo Thunderbirds, Savard was one of the highest scoring U17 players in the league. The 6'2 winger is the son of former OHL and NHL'er Marc Savard and could definitely have a role with SSM next season. 


Devon Savignac - North Bay Battalion
A gritty winger who surprisingly fell to the 9th round of the 2019 Draft, Savignac worked to prove some doubters wrong with an excellent NOJHL season with Blind River last season. While not officially signed with the Battalion, Savignac would fit right in with the strong group of aggressive attackers that North Bay has accumulated for their bottom six. 


Thomas Sinclair - Hamilton Bulldogs 
Not too often you see double re-entries selected in the OHL Priority Draft, but that was the case for Sinclair this year. The December born '02 was selected by Hamilton this year after a fantastic season with St. Mike's of the OJHL. Sinclair was an invite to Sting camp last year, so the interest in the OHL has to be there to some degree. However, he was also selected by Muskegon in the USHL Draft this year. Where he ultimately ends up remains to be seen, but if it's Hamilton, Sinclair is a big center with a shot at being a top 9 player for the Bulldogs.

Brendan Sirizzotti - Ottawa 67's
With such a deep roster upfront last year, there just wasn't any room for consistent ice time for the talented Sirizzotti, a second round selection. As such, he spent most of the year with Pickering of the OJHL, where he was one of the best U17 players in the league. No question, Sirizzotti is one of the most talented players on this list and should be able to make among the largest impacts by claiming a place inside the 67's top 9. He is an electric offensive player.


Oliver Smith - Barrie Colts 
Smith's 28 goals last year in the NOJHL were the most of any U17 player and he even scored his first OHL goal with Barrie in limited action. The 6'0 winger is definitely someone that the Colts are hoping can help improve their forward depth from a year ago and make their bottom six more consistently dangerous next season.


Matthew Sop - Kitchener Rangers 
Much like Mitchell Martin, Sop is a player that the Rangers hope can come in and help fill the gap left by some graduating forwards. He was terrific for Mississauga of the OJHL last year, producing at near a point per game clip. A local product, Sop did earn his first OHL point in limited action with the Rangers last year.


Luke Strickland - Sudbury Wolves 
A late born '02, Strickland was a massive standout in the OJHL last year with Stouffville. His 30 goals earned him a spot on the prestigious OJHL All Prospect Team. The 5'11 winger is likely a long shot to sign with the Wolves, however he was a teammate of Andre Anania's last year and perhaps there is hope that he can help persuade Strickland to play in Sudbury. He would certainly be given a look as a possible top 9 winger with the Wolves.