One of the many annual traditions I have on this blog is to rank the new batch of OHL rookies in order of the impression they left on me. Only the "true" OHL rookies have been included, thus why it's labeled the "Most Impressive 2005 born players."
I always like to note that this isn't an early ranking for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. This ranking isn't the order in which I believe these players should be ranked for the draft, but an order of which players impressed me most. It's not a draft prognostication, it's an acknowledgment of the significant impact these players have had on their teams this season.
As mentioned, this is a tradition, so here are the previous year's lists.
2003's, 2002's, 2001's, 2000's, 1999's, 1998's. 1997's. 1996's. 1995's. 1994's. 1993's. 1992's.
Here is this year's list:
1. Cam Allen - Defense - Guelph Storm
I am always more impressed when a 16/17 year old defender can come into the league and become an immediate impact player at both ends. That's what Allen did, routinely playing close to 30 minutes a night down the stretch, which was critical with Daniil Chayka out. Allen is the complete package and is a player with very few holes in his game already. He skates well. He moves the puck well. He has a cannon of a shot that works well on the powerplay. He's a confident physical presence already. There is just so much to like about his game and his transition to the OHL was absolutely seamless.
2. Calum Ritchie - Center - Oshawa Generals
Ritchie pretty much came as advertised this season for Oshawa. Maybe the offensive production wasn't quite as consistent as some may have been expected. I think he definitely seemed to hit a rookie wall through the middle part of the year. However, his package of size, skill, and mobility is very impressive. At this point, he would be the top draft prospect available from the OHL for next year's draft. As he gets a little stronger, I think he is going to tear up the league with his ability to create in transition.
3. Colby Barlow - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
How could you not be impressed by the year Barlow had for Owen Sound? Should we be surprised that one of the best goal scoring prospects available at last year's draft came into the league and immediately popped 30? He's only the fifth U17 player to do it in the last decade and his 30 goals obliterated the team record for the Owen Sound franchise (previously held by Bobby Ryan and Daniel Sisca). His shot is already among the best in the OHL. Once he gets stronger and is able to fight through contact a little more consistently, look out. He could easily lead the OHL in goal scoring next year. Pretty close between Ritchie and Barlow for me, but Ritchie's more well rounded profile gives him the slight edge on a list like this.
4. Quentin Musty - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
The first overall pick in the previous draft didn't really have a disappointing season. He absolutely dazzled at times with his creativity and ability to create in transition. He is already pretty tough to stop once he gets going. Injuries got the best of him at times and Musty will definitely need to work to improve his play and effectiveness away from the puck. But on the puck, he is damn exciting to watch. The Wolves are so exciting to watch already and as this team matures in the next few years, look out.
5. Ethan Miedema - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Miedema was excellent for the Spitfires in a supporting role this year. He's already such a strong complementary offensive player because of his ability to protect the puck through traffic and because of his vision/playmaking abilities. His movement east/west is already pretty decent for a bigger player of his age, but improving his explosiveness and top speed will be the focus this offseason. Additionally, there is a need to add strength so he can use his size and reach a little more effectively off the puck. However, big wingers with skill like Miedema don't grow on trees and he definitely had a great rookie year.
6. Luke Misa - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Maybe a bit of a surprise to see Misa this high, but I think he deserves it. Thought he struggled a lot early on. Looked to lack the confidence to use his skating ability and seemed afraid to take chances. But as the season went on, he just got better and better. The center depth in Mississauga made it tough for him to get significant playing time, but he was always noticeable when I saw the Steelheads in the second half. I feel confident saying that he's already one of the best skaters in the OHL. With a late birthday, he's not eligible for the NHL draft for another few years. By that time, his skating and quickness could be off the charts good. His ability to create in transition and slither through the neutral zone is a sight to behold. Really excited to see where his game goes next year and beyond.
7. Nick Lardis - Wing - Peterborough Petes
Consistency was an issue, but Lardis definitely progressed over the season. His quickness and skill are very evident. When you give him an inch, he can take a mile. Later in the year he really seemed to gain confidence in his ability to lead the attack. I think he is the complete package as an offensive player. Given his lack of size, I'd really like to see him add a little more physical intensity to his game. He will need to find a way to get through to the middle more consistently to impress NHL scouts and get the best out of his skill set.
8. Matthew Soto - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
The skating ability came as advertised. Soto has gotten the chance to play with some pretty terrific players this year (like Shane Wright) and there are times where he looked great and others where he looked like a 16/17 year old still trying to find his footing. I think the hands are good and I think he's already pretty coordinated at full speed. Like Lardis and Misa, it will be about adding strength to his frame to be able to play through contact. He looks great using his speed when he has a lane, but lacked the ability to consistently create those lanes out of nothing. But I think he showed great potential this year.
9. Alexis Daviault - Defense - Sarnia Sting
Always seems like there is at least one young defender who comes out of "nowhere" to be a terrific first year player in the OHL. By nowhere, I mean a slightly lower draft pick. This year it was Daviault, who became a fixture in Sarnia's top four this season. His mobility on the back-end is a real asset and he is already confident leading the attack and poised enough to limit his turnovers and pick his spots well. I also really liked how he never seemed to back down from a defensive challenge. He's not always effective due to a lack of size/strength, but he competes for space. Me thinks he should have been taken a little higher in 2021.
10. Carson Rehkopf - Center/Wing - Kitchener Rangers
The Rangers shocked everyone at the OHL Draft last year when they took Rehkopf even though it appeared he had already signed a tender with Muskegon of the USHL. Potential wise, Rehkopf is right up near the top of this list. He's definitely a creative player. His hands may be among the best of anyone in this '05 Ontario class. He's also quick and the type of player who is at his best when he can push the pace. However, consistency was a real issue for him and not just because his ice time was inconsistent. At times he looked frustrated when he wasn't able to use his speed to beat defenders one on one and it resulted in turnovers. Improving his vision and poise, especially if he wants to stick down the middle, is a must. The upside here is massive, though.
Alex Assadourian - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
I really, really wanted to include Assadourian and almost threw him in at #10. From start to finish this year, he was a spark plug for the Wolves, always noticeable because of his motor. He's like the little engine that could. His speed can be a real problem on the forecheck. I think he's also got the potential to be a pretty solid offensive contributor too.
Angus MacDonell - Wing/Center - Sarnia Sting
Another guy I really wanted to include and could have probably slotted in at #10. MacDonell wears his heart on his sleeve. It's cliche, but this guy seems like a future captain. Wouldn't be shocked if he's wearing a letter already next year. His speed is a real asset, but it's his determination and hustle that make him a great player. Offensive confidence really improved in the second half.
Marco Mignosa - Wing - Soo Greyhounds
Slippery offensive player who did well in a supporting role for the Hounds this year. Quick strike winger with a strong shot and scoring instincts. The physical tools will need to improve further, but he was solid.
Luca Pinelli - Wing/Center - Ottawa 67's
The brother of Francesco, Luca struggled the first half of the season. However, second half he was a different player. The skating will need to improve, but his hands and instincts are great. Confidence with the puck later in the year really started to blossom. Consistently extends plays well in the offensive zone despite not being the quickest or strongest.
Carey Terrance - Wing/Center - Erie Otters
Another '05 who got a lot better at the end of the year. One of the best skaters in this '05 class, for Terrance it will be whether the hands can successfully catch up to the feet. Late in the year, we saw glimpses of that as he was able to carve up space effortlessly. Promising for next year.
Juan Copeland - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
Not easy to stand out on a poor team but Copeland did that a fair amount this year when he was healthy. His hands are terrific and despite lacking strength, he manages to do a great job maintaining control through traffic and contact. Have to think that with a strong rookie year, he put himself in strong contention for a spot on the U.S. Hlinka squad this summer (along with a few other OHL players).
Cal Uens - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
What Uens lacks in size, he makes up for in everything else. Already a poised puck mover and someone who always caught my eye when watching Owen Sound with his clean breakouts and ability to handle pressure. The Attack really seem to have had a dynamite draft last year.
Beau Akey - Defense - Barrie Colts
Akey's skating ability really stands out. He might be the best skating '05 defender that I saw this year in the 'O.' How he applies that is currently inconsistent. However, the potential for him to develop into a terrific two-way blueliner, and NHL prospect is significant.
Denver Barkey - Center/Wing - London Knights
The way Barkey started the year, I thought we'd be talking about him near the top of this list at season's end. However, once London got back to full strength, he really faded with decreased ice time. There were still moments every once in a while that really made you stand up and say "wow." He is a serious breakout candidate next year.
Alex Pharand - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
If you have followed me for a while, you know I'm a sucker for forwards like Pharand. He is a big, potential power forward who already has shifts where he dominates down low. Shift to shift consistency was an issue in both Hamilton and Sudbury, however I think his potential is great. Just my kind of player.
Adam Zidlicky - Wing - Kitchener Rangers
On a lot of nights that I saw Kitchener, I thought Zidlicky did more with his limited ice time than Rehkopf. Love how he impacts the transition game. Very dangerous on the counter attack. Just seems like a really smart player, on and off the puck. He does have that pedigree (father is longtime powerplay QB Marek Zidlicky).
Matthew Mania - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Another player I really wanted to include. But I just don't think he played enough. Mania is just a dynamite offensive defender. As he gains confidence in this league, look out. Of note, his birthday is wrong on the OHL site, so he is draft eligible next year. Sudbury got a good one here.
Tristan Bertucci - Defense - Flint Firebirds
As mentioned, coming into the OHL as a 16/17 year old defender is very difficult. Many have positive contributions from an offensive perspective. Few find consistent success in actually defending. Insert Bertucci. He's just rock solid already. Always seems to be in the right position. Uses his mobility to his advantage. Makes quick decisions. Really interested to see how his offensive game grows moving forward.