Thursday, May 28, 2020

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft - Part 4: 10-1

We've reached the top 10 and it is time to conclude my rankings for 2020.

1. Quinton Byfield - Center - Sudbury Wolves
I admit, part of me wanted to put Drysdale at #1. I was close. However, at the end of the day, I still think that Byfield's high end potential keeps him on top. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't impressed with Byfield's play in the second half. I'm not talking about the World Juniors either, I could care less about his performance there. I'm talking about some of the turnovers that he was more prone to post World Juniors in Sudbury. I found him less deliberate with the puck, and less aggressive in using his size to drive through traffic to draw in defenders. However, I do think that a lot of this had to do with decreased confidence coming back from the World Juniors. I also wonder if he may have been nursing an injury prior to the official diagnosis of his wrist injury in February. Look, Byfield is far from a perfect prospect, not something you always utter about a kid who looks like a lock for the top 3. So I do actually understand why some have become skeptical of him. Some of the issues he had with turnovers and processing in transition were the same ones he had at times as a minor midget player. His shot and confidence in using his size to create shooting lanes will need to improve. He needs to do a better job of driving the net, with and without the puck, more consistently. I would love to see him dominate near the crease, getting himself more "easy" goals. All of that said, it's important to remember that if you're drafting Byfield, you're drafting him for the player that he's going to be in five years, not right now. I don't think he's NHL ready and being back in Sudbury would be great for him next year, so that he can learn to dominate consistently against his peers. And dominant he can. Few players come through the junior ranks who possess the combination of size, power, and skill that Byfield possesses. When playing down low, he can control possession for nearly entire shifts, by using his size to protect the puck, and his sharp edgework to keep defenders guessing. And while his decision making can sometimes frustrate (I find this more likely to occur in transition, or on odd man rushes), he actually does have good vision when the game slows down for him. His ability to work the give and go is particularly impressive and effective. Byfield is also a better defensive player than people give him credit for IMO. He shows understanding of his responsibilities down the middle by covering for pinching defenders and hustling back to provide back pressure. As he becomes more assertive physically, I think his effectiveness will improve as a defensive player. I think if we're asking Byfield to develop into a physical beast (like say, an Eric Lindros), we're asking too much of him. He's not that kind of player. However, he is an August birthday, so it's scary to think that he could still mature further physically. At the end of the day, Byfield's ceiling as a dominant first line center is too much to look past. Even at the low end of his ceiling is a power winger who can still play in your top 6, so the floor is quite high too.


2. Jamie Drysdale - Defense - Erie Otters
As mentioned, I really did think long and hard about putting Drysdale at number one. I have the highest opinion of him. He is my favourite defensive prospect to be draft eligible from the OHL since Drew Doughty (and that's saying a lot). He is the absolute perfect defender for today's NHL because of his elite mobility and high IQ. His skating ability is breathtaking. Just so effortless, yet so explosive. Teams have such a difficult time pinning down Drysdale in his own end when he's on the ice because of how well he handles dump ins. He's so efficient switching from backward to forward stride and he takes terrific routes to the puck, allowing him to keep forecheckers on his back as he skates away to start the breakout. Drysdale is also so difficult to get around because of his mobility. He has such an effective stick when defending one on one. However, attackers in transition can exploit his passiveness at times. His confidence in being a little more physically assertive will need to improve to defend at the NHL level. He'll never be a physical player. But another year in the OHL is needed so that he can become a little more effective in net front coverage. Offensively, Drysdale is just so efficient. His head is always up leaving his own zone and he makes great decisions on when to push deep and when not to. He is starting to realize how much of an advantage his skating ability gives him because he can be more aggressive jumping up in the play, but still have the speed to recover defensively. While he does not possess an elite shot, Drysdale is very good at opening up shooting lanes with his lateral mobility. He will step into the slot when he sees an opening, using a low hard wrist shot to beat goaltenders or generate rebounds. Bottom line is that Drysdale projects as the type of defender who can play in any situation at the NHL level, and eat up a ton of minutes. I could easily see him winning a Norris or two. And even if his offensive skill set (or defensive abilities) don't translate at an elite level, I think his floor is still that of a quality second pairing puck mover. Did I also mention that he's a coveted right shot defender?

3. Cole Perfetti - Left Wing/Center - Saginaw Spirit
Sometimes I feel like Perfetti is the forgotten man in this draft class. To a certain degree, a lot of that had to do with a perceived slow start (even though if you had watched him in the opening month, you would know that he was just snake bitten). However, Perfetti had a hell of a year and is a hell of an offensive player. One thing that Perfetti really improved this year was his ability to facilitate. In his rookie season, he was more of a goal scorer and at times I found him to be a little too complacent; waiting for the game to come to him. This year, he had way more of a take the bull by the horns approach by driving the play and allowing Saginaw's offense to flow through him and his ability to create. His 33 even strength primary assists led the entire CHL this year (ahead of Alexis Lafreniere) and are a testament to that. His hands are elite. His IQ is elite. He's not big (5'10), but he is elusive. His four way mobility and agility are quite good and when you combine this with his vision and creativity, you get a player who is difficult to separate from the puck when he works the half wall area. Much has been made about his lack of explosiveness and top speed. These are legitimate concerns. Skating can certainly be improved, but Perfetti is not likely to ever be a high end forward mover. However, he thinks the game so well and I think that truly does make up for it. Once inside the offensive zone, lateral quickness and agility are more important than pure speed and Perfetti has that. These skating concerns remind me of the way people picked apart Mitch Marner's stride in his draft year. Like Marco Rossi, Perfetti is just such a well rounded offensive player. He really can do it all in the offensive end. Where Rossi is ahead, is in the defensive end. Perfetti is not a poor defensive player. He does have a good stick which is a by product of his IQ. But he's not likely to ever be a high end defensive player, so his value will come in the offensive end. Additionally, Perfetti is a winger at the NHL level for me. This is why I've got Rossi slightly ahead, but I'd be lying if I didn't flip flop them a couple times. The two of them are slam dunk top 10 prospects for me.

4. Marco Rossi - Center - Ottawa 67's
For me, the players ranked 3 through 5 here (Rossi, Perfetti, and Quinn) are all pretty interchangeable. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see them drafted in any combination of order, be it even Quinn first (he's got a way higher standing with NHL scouts than some internet scouts want to believe). This is a Marco Rossi write up though, so let's talk about him. IMO, Rossi is the best two-way forward in the entire OHL. When the puck isn't on his stick, he is just so hungry to get it back and he plays with such a high intensity level. He pushes hard to apply back pressure and uses a strong lower body and a quick stick to force turnovers. As an offensive player, Rossi is just so well rounded. His skating improved a lot this year, especially his top gear, and this made him a way more effective player in transition. He can push the pace, but has the puck skill, creativity, and poise to make calculated decisions even when pressured. His identification of passing lanes is at an elite level. Rossi can also beat you from below the goal line. He often requires two defenders to separate him from the puck in the cycle, despite being only 5'9, and that's because he has such a strong base and always keeps his feet moving. But Rossi also has eyes in the back of his head, showing such great awareness of when to spin off a check to find that streaking linemate. Rossi also has a great release and navigates the slot extremely well with the timing of a high end goal scorer. I will admit, last year I just wasn't as high on Rossi because I didn't feel like he had the creativity or skating ability to be a top 6 center. But man, did he prove me wrong this year by improving so much. The one concern that I do see is his size and whether he'll remain effective down the middle at the next level. He's as strong as an ox, but it's certainly not impossible that he will need to move to the wing to be a more successful and durable two-way presence. I think he can stick down the middle, but I have heard and understand the concerns.


5. Jack Quinn - Left Wing - Ottawa 67's
As stated, Quinn has seriously closed the gap for me between Rossi, Perfetti, and he. It wouldn't shock me at all if he was drafted before one or both. NHL scouts love this kid. IMO, Quinn was actually the better and more consistent OHL player in the second half for Ottawa, if we're comparing him to Rossi. My write up for Quinn is going to focus a lot on those who downplay his abilities for various reasons. The first is his age. Yes, he only missed last year's draft by a few days. I don't care. Human development is non linear. Quinn was playing AA hockey and was well under 6'0 before his minor midget year. Physically, this kid is a late bloomer and is the exact reason why we have the September cutoff. That extra year has allowed him to fill out his growing frame (now over 6'0), and improve his overall athleticism and skating ability. The second is the team he plays for. Quinn doesn't play with Rossi at even strength. He plays with Mitchell Hoelscher (a late round NHL draft pick), and either a converted defenseman (Belanger) or a rookie (Jack Beck). Yet, he led the OHL (with Nick Robertson) in even strength goals. He plays with Rossi on the powerplay, on the penalty kill, and when protecting a lead late. But he does not ride piggy back. Quinn is terrific at creating his own scoring chances. He is such a deceptive player in transition. He has such a high level shot that defenders have to try to be aggressive in taking away his space, so he exploits that by cutting to the middle, using defenders as a screen. He is also exceptionally intelligent without the puck. His anticipation as a goal scorer is outstanding. And his play away from the puck as a defensive player improved by leaps and bounds this year. This kid has to be considered one of the most complete wingers available this year. The third is the quality of the team he plays for. This is an easy one to refute. Maybe the 67's are as good as they are because of Quinn? Ottawa had more injuries than any team this year, and to key players, yet they found themselves on top because of kids like Quinn. Look, I won't pretend that Quinn's game doesn't have limitations. I don't necessarily think that he's a high level playmaker. He is great working the wall to prolong possession. However, in transition, he's usually very driven to score. And while his skating has improved a lot, it's still not elite. Likely equates to being slightly above average in the NHL. However, IMO, it's rare to find such a quality goal scorer, who also happens to have good size and plays a 200 foot game. This is a kid you can have on the ice if you need a goal, or are up a goal. His minutes won't have to be sheltered. For that reason, he's a candidate for the top 7 IMO.

6. Ryan O'Rourke - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
How many draft eligible players that aren't late birthdays, play as captains in their draft years? It's a rare feat, but one that O'Rourke pulled off and it speaks volumes about his high level of character. He's a projected shutdown defender at the next level who hasn't received the same kind of hype as other similar defenders like Kaiden Guhle, Braden Schneider, and Justin Barron because he doesn't possess the same raw athleticism that they do. However, O'Rourke is far from a poor skater. His forward stride isn't necessarily explosive, but his four way mobility is very sound. His gap control is terrific and he is equal parts stick defender and assertive physically, selecting the right time and situations to play the body aggressively. When looking to seal along the wall or protect his crease, O'Rourke relishes in the opportunity to be physical and intimidating. However, again, O'Rourke is intelligent about it. It's rare to see him caught out of position. IMO, he's one of the best shot blockers in the OHL because of how well he anticipates the play and gets himself in position. As he gets even stronger, his effectiveness in the defensive end will hit even higher heights. But people understand how good O'Rourke is in the defensive end, at least IMO. What is more misunderstood and underrated is O'Rourke's offensive awareness and potential to improve as a play creator. I'm not going to come out and tell you that I think O'Rourke can be a first unit powerplay QB or a high end point producer. What I am going to tell you is that O'Rourke can confidently start the breakout, handle the forecheck, and jump into the play when required. His shot is very heavy and a great weapon, and he shows high level scoring instincts by jumping into the slot when the opportunity presents itself. By the time his OHL career is over, I think he gets into the 15-18 goal range. Because his puck skills are sound, O'Rourke is a potential second pairing defender who does not have as many limitations as some would lead you to believe.

7. Jan Mysak - Center/Left Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
There wasn't much of an adjustment period for this talented Czech forward. The Bulldogs needed Mysak to come in and replace Jan Jenik after he got injured at the WJC's, and he did just that. 15 goals in 22 games is a very impressive pace. He proved to be a very versatile player too. Was terrific killing penalties. Switched between the half wall and running the point on the powerplay. Was used to protect leads late in the game. Played both center and the wing. Mysak is most impressive when he is driving wide and using his size and skill to cut back in. His stride may not be the cleanest, but it is effective and he does a great job shielding the puck on his drives. His hands are very quick too. I would say that he averaged at least one blow by net drive per game that netted him a goal or resulted in a high end scoring chance. I think his vision with the puck could improve slightly in transition, as I do think that he has a tendency to put his head down and force drives. Part of me wonders if he might be better suited for the wing at the NHL level because of his skating style and his effectiveness playing off the wing, more so than driving down the middle. Mysak is definitely a multi-faceted goal scorer. He finds those soft spots in the slot with relative ease and is quick to gather and shoot. He also has a big slapshot and one timer, which he uses when running the point or half wall on the powerplay. As a defensive player, Mysak is excellent in coverage, applying pressure to the point and along the wall. He forces a lot of turnovers with his anticipation and quick stick. IMO, this is a kid who deserves consideration for the top 30 because I see a high upside because his puck skill, creativity, and finishing skills are all top notch. But a also a higher floor of a goal scoring third line winger who can contribute in a variety of situations.


8. Martin Chromiak - Left Wing - Kingston Frontenacs 
Chromiak is the type of player who requires a few viewings to truly appreciate. And considering he played less than half a year after coming over to Kingston in January, it had to be challenging for some clubs. Although they can at least rely on both their European and Ontario based scouts for an opinion. The more I saw Chromiak, the more value I attached to his skating ability. This is an underrated component to his game. His first step quickness is quite strong, as is his edgework. He is very quick to loose pucks and is able to keep up with Shane Wright stride for stride, not the easiest thing in the world. I also believe that Chromiak thinks the game exceptionally well. His vision and anticipation in the offensive end are very good. He's especially effective as a playmaker coming off the wall. He can come out of a scrum with the puck and find that open teammate in the slot after he draws in a second defender. As part of that very strong Wright, Chromiak, Wisdom line, Chromiak shows a ton of versatility. He can lead the rush when he needs to. He can be the first man in on the forecheck. He operates equally well as a triggerman as he does a facilitator. He works hard on the backcheck and can cover for a pinching defender. Needless to say, there is a lot to like here. His game has many different facets to it. As a pro player, I think he's more likely a complimentary piece on a scoring line as his creativity and puck skill are not extremely high end. However, I also don't think Chromiak is a completed puzzle. He's a late August birthday and I don't think we've seen the best of him at the OHL level yet. I am extremely excited to see him progress moving forward with Wright and Wisdom, as I believe that this could be one of the best lines in the CHL next year.

9. Jacob Perreault - Right Wing - Sarnia Sting
Honestly, Perreault is going to be one of the most difficult players for NHL scouts to formulate a concise opinion on this year. There are so many good components to his game that could translate to him becoming a high end and dynamic goal scorer at the NHL level. And there are some more alarming components that could scare teams away or prevent him from living up to his potential. It really depends on what night you see him. I also think that not having the U18's really hurt Perreault because it would have been his chance to show scouts that he can handle a lot of offensive responsibility against the best of his peers after being cut from the Canadian Hlinka/Gretzky squad in the summer. Let's start with the positives. At his best, Perreault is a dynamic skater who is both explosive and fluid, possessing the ability to beat any defender coming down the wing. Like JL Foudy in Windsor, the Sting use Perreault to handle zone entries, especially on the powerplay where he'll circle back to his own end and lead the charge from behind his own blueline. Perreault is also a skilled goal scorer because he possesses many weapons to find the back of the net. He is most at home working the half wall and below. You can't give him daylight down there, because he won't hesitate to gather and shoot, even from bad angles, yet he manages to still beat goalies clean. He can also set up at the dot and work one timers similar to Ovechkin/Stamkos. Perreault has some jam to his game too. I certainly wouldn't classify him as a perimeter player. Alright now the negatives. For such a dynamic skater, Perreault gets bottled up in the neutral zone a lot because he stops moving his feet. I had one scout tell me that they think it's a conditioning issue, which I could see. But turnovers can be problem in this area of the ice for him. I also think that he has yet to truly master the ability to use his speed to his advantage as an offensive player. He is very much North/South, but not as much East/West. A guy like Jack Quinn is able to be so consistently effective because of how deceptive he is in transition. Perreault's ability to use change of pace/direction is something he is still mastering. Lastly, Perreault is not a strong defensive presence at this moment in time. His turnovers can become more magnified when he's not effective in applying back pressure. This could, again, be a conditioning issue. The offensive skill set is top notch and Perreault is far from a finished product, however he's more of a project than some of the other high end offensive players available as potential first round selections.

10. Tyson Foerster - Right Wing - Barrie Colts 
Without question, Foerster possesses one of the best shots in the OHL and was one of the league's most improved players this year. He is the master of the faceoff dot set up, cranking off one timers on the man advantage the same way Alex Ovechkin does. He beats goaltenders clean up top, even without a net front screen. Foerster also exhibits great scoring instincts, sliding his way into the slot to get open in that home plate area so that he can use his quick release. Foerster is also strong without the puck as a support player in the offensive end. He protects the puck well along the wall and despite being only an average skater, is great at applying pressure on the forecheck because he uses his stick well to take away passing lanes. He's just a really smart hockey player. The concern is obviously his production at even strength. Foerster led the entire CHL with 18 powerplay goals this year. But at even strength, he was tied for 50th in the OHL...let alone the CHL. So what's causing the disconnect here? The skating has improved from last year, but his first step quickness will need to improve further. Additionally, his speed while carrying the puck will need to improve, as right now he's quicker without the puck than with it. He can get bottled up for this reason. Foerster also needs to be better at battling through traffic in the middle of the ice; finding his way to the net more consistently. Look, these things can be improved. The perfect example of this is a kid like Tyler Toffoli. The same concerns were said about him in his NHL draft year. The same things were said of Brett MacLean and Jeremy Morin too. So the difference maker will be Foerster's ability to progress further, both physically and creatively. Some players can, some can not. However, you'd be hard pressed to find a kid outside of the first round who can shoot the puck and think the game like Foerster does. That's precisely why you take the chance on him continuing to improve.


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