Sunday, June 12, 2022

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 50-31

In three straight drafts (2019, 2020, 2021), only three players ranked in this range have been selected. The reality is that NHL teams are using mid to late round picks on European and College bound players more often these days because they get a longer signing window in regards to their rights. Longer shot prospects take longer to develop because they have more to work on. That longer window allows them a few extra years to see how they progress before they have to hand out an ELC.

That said, I do expect more than a few players to be selected from this group. The quality of this OHL crop is better than it has been in recent years. However, I will say that I expect there to be more second/third year eligible players selected (like Tucker Robertson who appeared in this section last year) than those ranked by me in this 31-50 range.

Without further ado, here are the players ranked 31 through 50.
31. Kocha Delic - Center/Wing - Sudbury Wolves
One of Canada's most impressive players at the U18's, it was actually a bit of a blessing for Delic that the Canadian coaching staff decided to separate he and David Goyette at the event (much to the surprise and disappointment of many). It allowed him to really stand out on his own and show that he can be the focal point of an attack because of his aggressive approach, skill, and motor. The aggressive approach gets him in trouble at times. He can be prone to undisciplined penalties (this was extremely evident at the U18's), but I have faith that he will be able to reign that in. As he gets a little quicker and stronger, he won't have to reach as much to apply the kind of pressure off the puck that he wants to apply. I'm not sure Delic possesses a ton of offensive upside as a pro, but I could see him having a long NHL career as a Brad Richardson type. I think he deserves a ton of credit for adapting his game to the OHL level by improving his commitment to playing off the puck and in the defensive end.  I would be advocating for my club to jump at selecting Delic if he is still available in the later half of the draft.
32. Evan Konyen - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Speaking of the U18's, it was a real shame that Konyen was not able to get approval from the IIHF to play for Canada due to residency rules. Would have been great to see him at the event. Playing and developing with Goyette and Delic, Konyen is going to be a high end goal scorer at the OHL level. His scoring instincts and shot are both terrific. He consistently finds open lanes in the middle and finds a lot of success there despite lacking ideal size. Konyen is also a quick skater and confident on his edges, giving him that elusiveness that he needs as a relatively undersized attacking winger. The key for Konyen will be the development of his on puck play. He can be ridden off the puck too easily and his decision making will need to improve to play a top six role at the NHL level. I think that as he gets stronger, he will also need to develop more of a pest like mentality to find success at higher levels, similar to how a guy like Michael Bunting has emerged as a standout complementary piece for the Maple Leafs. 
33. Zak Lavoie - Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
Lavoie proved to be an extremely versatile player for the Steelheads this year. He played a lot with Owen Beck, but did slide up and down to be wherever he was needed. He is at his best when he is dialed in physically and aggressive on the forecheck. When he is outworking and outhustling defenders, he is also able to get himself open looks from the slot for him to use his wrist shot, which is one of the better ones in this age group in Ontario. If Lavoie can really work to get stronger and quicker, he not only has a decent ceiling as a goal scorer, but a decent floor as a high-energy attacker. However, he seemed to really fade down the stretch and the physical component to his game became very inconsistent. I don't believe he is innately skilled enough with the puck to be a primary play creator or someone who can truly drive possession metrics. So playing all out, all the time will be a necessary progression for him. 
34. Chas Sharpe - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
I really liked the progression of this 6'2, right shot defender this year. He started the year playing on the third pairing, playing minimally, but worked his way up the lineup by the end of the year and was routinely seeing 20+ minutes a game in all situations late. He has a really well rounded profile. To an extent, that makes it hard to project him as an NHL player. "Jack of all trades" defenders at the junior level don't often translate unless they do a few things exceptionally well. However, I think that every single component to Sharpe's game improved over the course of this season, which suggests that he could continue to improve next year. Sharpe can quarterback the powerplay with good vision and puck poise when walking the line. His skating improved a ton, especially his quickness and four way mobility. He will take away space aggressively in the defensive end and could become a defensive standout with his improving mobility, reach, and physical approach. I'd have a lot of time for Sharpe in the later rounds because I like the upside at both ends.
35. Ryan Abraham - Center - Windsor Spitfires
Undersized, but tenacious center who is consistently noticeable for the right reasons. This is especially true for his play in the postseason for the Spits. Abraham is just a really annoying player to match up against because he never stops moving his feet. He'll apply pressure on the forecheck, but maintain that pressure through all three zones, consistently hounding puck carriers to take away their space. He forces a ton of turnovers in the offensive end and those turn into scoring chances because Abraham is also a skilled and intelligent playmaker. As a transitional attacker, Abraham relies on the "mohawk" stride, using his edges and four way agility to weave through traffic. The track record for this approach at the NHL level isn't terrific. Given his lack of size, that will be concerning to NHL scouts. I'm also not quite sure Abraham is skilled enough to create his own time/space consistently at the NHL level, meaning he probably profiles more as a bottom six guy. Not listed by NHL Central Scouting, I have time for Abraham because I think he plays the way you want undersized players to play.
36. Max Namestnikov - Center - Sarnia Sting
Tale of two seasons for Namestnikov really. The younger brother of NHL'er (and former OHL'er) Vladislav, Max struggled mightily in the first half, but really picked it up in the second half.  He's tiny too, but he is another player who plays with tenacity and without fear. Namestnikov is actually a pretty physical player, at least he tries to be. A strong skater, he can impact the game in a lot of different ways. He can lead the attack in transition. He can force turnovers on the forecheck. He looks confident as a playmaker along the half wall and his vision allows him to excel on the powerplay. But, when pressured, I do worry about his decision making. Turnovers are a problem as he just throws pucks away, rather than exhibit patience and poise in the offensive zone when defenders try to take away his time/space. Too many blind passes that just don't work and in fact, end up going the other way for odd man opportunities. His high energy approach is also not consistently applied in the defensive zone, as Namestnikov looks more focused on heading back the other way to be involved offensively. The skill and athletic tools are there as an undersized forward. The application of those skills and play style will need to change for him to be a successful pro player. Someone with a real confident development plan for him will likely take him, banking on the upside.
37. Aidan Castle - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
Castle is a strong complementary offensive player who had an up and down year on a rebuilding Niagara team. He's a true grinder in every sense of the word and I mean that as an endearing sentiment. He is very tough to separate from the puck along the wall and as he gets stronger, he is going to be one of the better players below the hash marks in the OHL. I think the thing that gives Castle promise is that he also has terrific vision and scanning habits with the puck. He is a way more talented playmaker than many give him credit for. He routinely makes passes from the wall that find his teammates in the slot for scoring chances, timing his passes perfectly as he draws in double coverage. The issue with Castle is his ability to play with pace at the OHL level. An average skater, Castle becomes less than that when tasked to carry the puck or receive passes at full speed. His ability to improve this and improve his overall athleticism will be the key to him playing at a higher level. If it happens, he does have the kind of traits you would look for in a middle six support winger.
38. Jackson Edward - Defense - London Knights
Edward will unquestionably go higher than I have him ranked. I'm fine with that. Good size. Good mobility. Physically aggressive. Plus, NHL scouting teams have a ton of trust in Dale Hunter's development model. That said, he's a late round gamble for me and not someone I take in the earlier rounds. I don't think his play with the puck showed much growth over the course of the season. Neither did his decision making at either end. His zone coverage reads are still quite unrefined and I thought he struggled when London asked him to play a larger role due to injuries (at times) this year. While London is a great place for him if he develops well, if he doesn't, he'll find himself on the outside looking in pretty quickly with the depth of the London organization. A player like Oliver Bonk will be pressing hard for his ice time next season. The raw physical tools are great, and that's why I'd take him late. But, I haven't seen enough at either end to suggest that those tools can be put to use the kind of way they would need to be for him to be a long time NHL defender.  

39. Rodwin Dionicio - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Dionicio could be a real nice project pick for an NHL team. I've said it a few times, but I see a lot of former Barrie Colt Tyler Tucker in Dionicio. He manages to have a positive impact on the game despite being a rather limited mover. His forward mobility is alright. He can lead the attack out of the defensive zone with his feet because his hands are good and because he can get up to a decent top speed. However, his lack of four way mobility really hurts him in the defensive end, and his lack of first step quickness can make it tough for him to separate from forecheckers. His physicality can be an asset when going up against slower forwards, or when defending below the goal line, however it could be put to better use if his footwork improved. I also understand that Dionicio has not played defense all that long, so some of his question decision making can be attributed to that. As a late round pick, Dionicio will very much be a boom or bust pick. However, he does have NHL upside.
40. Colton Smith - Wing - London Knights
Smith got off to a blazing hot start, establishing himself as a skilled net front presence for London...especially on the powerplay. The son of former OHL bench boss (and current Ottawa Senators coach) D.J. Smith, Colton then faded hard down the stretch. His success at the beginning of the year was no fluke. He can score. He also shows good understanding of how to play without the puck in the offensive end. The kind of player the puck gravitates toward. As the pace increased over the course of the season, he tended to disappear. Improving his skating and quickness will be key for him. Additionally, I'd like to see his physicality without the puck become a more consistent element of his game. To an extent, I think this is tied to his speed and quickness, as he finds himself just a step behind, but given the style of play he needs to utilize, it will be important none the less.  
41. Brice Cooke - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
I think Cooke's upside is actually higher than his teammate Castle, who I ranked a few slots higher. Cooke is the better athlete. He has the kind of size and length you would look for in a middle/bottom six forward today. His linear quickness is pretty good too. He can look good driving the net wide and can beat defenders one on one to cause defensive zone breakdowns. However, Cooke is way more inconsistent. His off puck play is not as strong. His physical intensity wavers. He needs to improve his four way agility and confidence on his edges to allow him to work his way to the middle more consistently. In a lot of ways, Cooke is a bit of a one trick pony right now. If he can't beat you in a straight line, he can be kept to the perimeter. However, Cooke shows just enough in flashes to suggest that he could have high upside as a scoring line winger with size and reach. 
42. Sam Alfano - Wing - Peterborough Petes
Alfano came into the year with fairly lofty expectations. He had played well at Hockey Canada's combined U18/U0 summer camp and his size and skill package was sure to be attractive to scouts. However, the pace of the OHL proved to be too much for him to start and he had trouble standing out. The 6'3, 200lbs winger has some intriguing tools. He has good offensive instincts, something that not all big wingers have (because they can run through people at a young age). He has good vision with the puck, making him an equally effective playmaker. He can hit and hit hard, especially in puck pursuit. However, his lack of mobility hinders him in a big way right now. This is especially true of his first few strides, which lack both power and grace. This limits his ability to create separation from defenders. If Alfano can really work hard to become even an average mover, I think his upside is still quite high.
43. Zander Veccia - Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
Veccia's versatility makes him a very intriguing player. He showed the ability to do a lot of different things well this year. He can play in any situation. He is active on the forecheck and the backcheck. He can lead the attack in transition with good speed. He can crash the net and win loose puck battles. He played everywhere from the fourth line to the first line for Mississauga this season. However, that versatility has also clouded his true upside and NHL projection. Does Veccia have any true standout qualities, or qualities that have the capability of being elite? Or does he project as more of a quality energy guy at the OHL level who will play his years in the OHL and then move on to the CIS? 
44. Brody Crane - Wing - London Knights
Crane is another young forward who got buried on London this year. This happens year after year, and every following year there are one or two who break out in a big way. Is that player going to be Crane next season? This year, he showed value as a physical forechecker. He can cross the line physically at times and ran into penalty problems, but the aggressiveness could play well at higher levels, especially when combined with his quickness. Crane also shows flashes of being a quality goal scorer with the skill and creativity to create his own chances in transition. The one thing that was really tough to ascertain this year, given his ice time, was how well Crane thinks the game. I'd probably wait to see how Crane performs next year before looking at him as a serious draft pick, but I could see why a team would use a later pick on him this year.
45. Simon Slavicek - Center/Wing - Flint Firebirds
Part of me wonders if Slavicek had come over at the start of the OHL season, would his performance this year have been better? Entering the season, he and fellow Czech Matyas Sapovaliv were on pretty equal footing as potential NHL draft selections. One started the year in the OHL and flourished. The other did not, came over late, then had trouble breaking into a deep Flint lineup. It took a while, but Slavicek actually started to look pretty decent before he was allowed to leave to play for Czechia at the U18's. Unfortunately, Slavicek was pretty invisible at that event...pretty much the only chance he had of saving his draft stock. I still see a player with NHL upside. That doesn't disappear in a year. He can be effective in all three zones. He can play multiple forward positions. He is active in puck pursuit and shows skill playing through traffic to get shots off. But the skating needs to continue to improve and he needs to regain his confidence. I really hope he returns to Flint next year or at least stays in the OHL with another team. I think he could do well in his second year in the league.
46. Nolan Collins - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Collins is a right shot defender with good size and mobility. That alone is going to put him on the scouting radar. He had a solid rookie season with the Wolves and actually earned a spot on Team Canada at the U18's, where he played a depth role for the Canadians. Collins' projection is that of a quality defensive defender. His game is not flashy, but it can be effective. To be an NHL defender his defensive reads will need to improve. The same could be said for his reads with the puck and ability to make a clean exit pass. He is at his best when he can use his feet to help him clear the defensive zone, but when forecheckers close off those lanes, it can lead to turnovers. Right now, the raw physical and athletic tools are intriguing, but the application of those is inconsistent. It would not shock me to see him selected not unlike Chandler Romeo last year. I can see the intrigue.
47. Andrew Oke - Goaltender - Saginaw Spirit
Ranking this year's OHL goaltenders is tough. But, Oke may have emerged as the league's top option for the draft. With Tristan Lennox banged up, Oke stepped in admirably for the Spirit, seeing a ton of rubber. He had quite a few rough nights. But, he also had quite a few standout performances. His athleticism and puck tracking abilities are impressive. It's why he was able to make the highlight reel more than a few times this season. The finer technical components of his game will need to tighten up. He has a habit of scrambling a bit and this can take him out of position. Additionally, he can make life tough on himself with some weaker rebound control. Patrick Leaver would be my first goaltender off the board from the OHL, but among first time draft eligibles, I'd give Oke the nod. 
48. Nolan Lalonde - Goaltender - Erie Otters
Lalonde emerged as the starter for the Otters this year thanks to the injury to Aidan Campbell and he had some really strong performances for Erie. This earned him the back up role for Canada at the U18's. Again, it's not a strong year for netminders, so how many get drafted remains to be seen. I think Lalonde's best asset is his athleticism. He is very quick post to post and this strong agility allows him to be aggressive in challenging shooters. However, his play tracking ability, rebound control, and positioning are all inconsistent. He had some really strong stretches this year, but with a weaker defense in front of him, stringing strong performances together was tough. An NHL team may see upside in his athletic tools.
49. Domenic DiVincentiis - Goaltender - North Bay Battalion
I know he has some fans in the scouting community and his standing with Hockey Canada is pretty strong. The argument could certainly be made that he is the top draft eligible netminder from the OHL too and that's why I have he, Oke, and Lalonde ranked consecutively. For my money, I don't think he tracks the play as well as Oke does and I don't think he's as gifted athletically as Lalonde. His attributes are pretty well rounded, but is he elite in any one area in the crease? I just feel a little more confident at this point in Oke and Lalonde, but it truly is a toss up.  
50. Noah Van Vliet - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs 
A long shot to be drafted, but I felt the need to include Van Vliet as my final player ranked. There is a reason why he was called back up for the playoffs and had been playing over Jorian Donovan at times. I really don't think the offensive upside is significant at all. However, he does do a good job of taking care of the puck and helping to clear the defensive zone. Just don't expect him to be leading the rush or quarterbacking the powerplay. He will make his money in the defensive end with his size, mobility, and physicality combination. I think he has the potential to be one of the better stay at home defenders in the OHL by the time his graduation from the league occurs. He has been very impressive in limited action this year.

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