This is the third part of my final top 50 OHL players eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Here you will find players ranked 30 through 11.
11. Hunter Haight - Center - Barrie Colts
Coming into the year many felt that Haight was a first round candidate and had a chance to be the second best forward available from the OHL behind Shane Wright. His strong performance at the Hockey Canada U18/U20 camp solidified that belief. However, Haight just never really got things going this year consistently. Every time he started to get going, playing really well over mini stretches, he would fall back into a production slumber and fade into the background for an equally long stretch. His lack of development as a true offensive standout was one of the reasons Barrie underachieved this year and ultimately lost in round one to Mississauga. So why is he ranked 11th still by me? The answer is simple...I still believe that he can develop into a quality NHL player. For Haight, the big thing is trying to figure out what kind of player he wants to be. He has a well rounded skill profile. Really, there isn't a skill that he doesn't possess and there isn't an attribute of his that would be considered weak. But, his play is erratic because not all of those attributes are firing at the same time. Some games he looks like he wants to be a power forward, throwing his weight around as he tries to be tenacious and pesky away from the puck. But when he does that, he can become a non factor offensively as he just kind of runs around, chasing pucks and puck carriers. Then there are other games where he looks dominant on the puck and every bit the offensive star we expected him to be...but he struggles to be a factor away from the puck and he struggles to find his way to the middle of the ice. Truthfully, I think a lot of Haight's issues stem from a lack of strength/conditioning. This would help him get a little quicker. It would help him be able to maintain possession through contact more consistently. The upside is just so high. Best case scenario, he becomes a really solid top six center who can play in any situation and who brings a physical element. Worst case scenario, a lack of processing ability proves to be the culprit behind Haight's lack of development despite possessing high end skill and traits.
12. Isaiah George - Defense - London Knights
If you like athletic defenders...you will like George. He tested extremely well at the NHL combine. He tested extremely well at the CHL Top Prospect's Game. This guy is just a natural athlete. And it shows on the ice. George is one of the best skating players (period) available this year. His stride is so naturally smooth and effortless. He is explosive in any direction and his transitional agility is phenomenal. Good luck beating George to a dump in. The thing is, he is still learning how to use his quickness to his advantage as an offensive player. Sometimes turnovers can be an issue in the defensive end as he takes on pressure from forecheckers because he takes poor routes or because he tries to force passes through traffic. Additionally, he is capable of so much more as a puck mover through the neutral zone and across the opposing blueline. When he activates, he rarely gets stopped. Yet, he also rarely looks to push further than center ice. Right now, he stands out first, and foremost as a defensive player. The mobility is obviously an asset there as he can be suffocating when defending transitional attacks; his gap control is terrific. However, over the year, he really started to assert himself physically and this helped him defend the middle of the ice better and be more effective (overall) in coverage. Dale Hunter really leaned on him this year through injuries. George's own injury in the playoffs was one of the main reasons London was upset early. So what's the upside? It's significant if you believe George has the IQ and vision with the puck to be a true two-way standout. Even if you don't, his athleticism should at least help him to become a new age shutdown type who can be a steady and reliable #5 and penalty killing option.
13. Matthew Poitras - Center/Wing - Guelph Storm
Poitras is going to be a very good OHL player when his athletic tools improve and mature. Just how far he plays up the lineup at the NHL level will be dictated by how MUCH they improve. He's already such a versatile player. I love the energy he brings in the offensive end as a forechecker and boards player. He is really effective at causing chaos and turnovers. However, he is also a really smart player. Love how he plays through traffic with the puck. The skating is only average, but he has no issue inviting contact and sliding the puck through openings, identifying passing lanes the moment they open. When you have a player who is both energetic and intelligent, it's a great combination. However, as mentioned, Poitras just doesn't have great athletic tools right now. The lateral movement and edgework are good, but his first step quickness and top speed will need to be upgraded. Additionally, he needs to get stronger to be better at fighting off checks. The will is there, but the success rate is not as high as you would like it. I think becoming a little quicker and stronger would also help Poitras be more consistent in the defensive zone too. Playing through the middle of an NHL lineup would be a pretty realistic expectation for him as his versatility and intelligent approach are likely to make him a coaches favourite.
14. Jake Karabela - Wing/Center - Guelph Storm
Karabela is a player that really grew on me over the course of the year. I was lukewarm on him before the CHL Top Prospect's Game, but his strong performance at the event really caused me to track him closely in the second half and it helped me to gain an appreciation for all the things he does well. Karabela is someone with a real attention to detail, especially in the offensive zone. He has that "slippery as an eel" quality to him. Never stops moving his feet and it makes him very difficult to pin down, even despite some obvious size/strength deficits. This workman like mentality helps him to be an excellent playmaker as he draws in help defenders and tires out defensive units. However, what people don't realize is how good of a skater Karabela is. Without question, I feel like he is one of the quicker linear skaters available in the draft. He just doesn't use this all the time. Playing with two fast paced and creative players like Jagger Firkus and Owen Beck at the Prospect's Game really brought the best out of him and showcased his ability to create in transition. But with Guelph, the application of his speed is inconsistent. When he becomes unleashed and gains confidence in his ability to carry the puck, look out. So here's what I see: Karabela has untapped upside in a variety of roles and what role he ends up settling into remains to be seen. There are a lot of different routes to the NHL available to a player like Karabela depending on how he develops over the next two seasons.
15. Vinzenz Rohrer - Wing - Ottawa 67's
This is my man Dylan Krill's (OHL running mate at McKeen's) favourite. And I love him too. This guy would go through a wall for his team. Just watch him play the penalty kill. He blocks shots. He plays the body. His effort level is always 100% and it is why the Ottawa coaching staff uses him in so many different situations. Whether the 67's are down a goal or up one, Dave Cameron has him on the ice at the end of a game. His four way mobility and agility are standout qualities. He is very confident and balanced on his edges, with or without the puck. His linear quickness could stand to improve still given his average size (his stride mechanics are inconsistent), and this limits his effectiveness in transition at times. However, I love how he alters pace and alters the plane he plays through to make him an unpredictable cover. The hands are smooth and quick, even through pivots and tight quarters. I'm not extremely confident that he's more than a high end third liner, however if his shot, scoring instincts, and skating continue to improve, he could be a complementary scoring line player.
16. Servac Petrovsky - Center/Wing - Owen Sound Attack
I think it's important that Petrovsky is not forgotten in this draft class. Even myself, there are times where I am listing off or talking about other similar high/energy two-way forwards in this OHL class, but I don't mention Petrovsky. This shouldn't be the case. I feel very confident that Petrovsky will play in the NHL. Maybe it's only in a fourth line/PK role, but it will happen. He skates well enough. He is a really intelligent and committed three zone player. He plays through contact and excels along the wall (despite not being the strongest on his skates). He is strong at the faceoff circle. These are all things that effective energy players do at the NHL level. How high you're willing to select him at the draft depends on how you feel about his offensive potential. He is not the most creative player. His scoring ability is only average. He effectiveness as a transporter can be limited by some strength deficits. But these things can be improved and I think the Owen Sound development model is extremely underrated. It wouldn't shock me if Petrovsky was selected in the second round and it wouldn't shock me if he lasted until the fifth/sixth. But I love the versatility.
17. Bryce McConnell-Barker - Center/Wing - Soo Greyhounds
Probably lower than you expected to see BMB and certainly lower than I expect him to go at the actual NHL draft. There is a lot to like (obviously since I still have him ranked 17th). However, is there anything to love? Maybe a harsh comment, but I think many components to his game will need to develop a lot in order for him to be an NHL player. The skating is good, but not great. There is room for improvement in his quickness and agility (especially with the puck). The shot can be a real asset, but his release in traffic needs work and he needs to do a better job of working his way to the middle to earn looks. The IQ shows well as a three zone player; his stick placement and defensive positioning is a particular strength. However, he will need to increase his physical intensity level to be a true defensive standout. What about his position? He played both center and the wing this year and was equally inconsistent at both. I think his skill set features best on the wing, but I have no doubt that the Soo and his NHL team will try to develop him further down the middle. If all of those things improve, BMB could be a real standout and someone who looks like an NHL steal in a few years. If none of those things improve, I don't see a path to the NHL like some of the other guys ranked in this range. I know that NHL scouts really love this guy, I just have some other preferences.
18. Brady Stonehouse - Wing - Ottawa 67's
I don't expect him to go this high at the NHL draft, but a few years down the road, I think teams will be kicking themselves for not taking him earlier. Not every selection needs to be a slam dunk with first line upside. You need to find NHL players in every capacity through the draft in the modern cap era and I feel that Stonehouse will be one. He does everything well that you look for in a high end bottom six player. Speed...check. Tenacity...check. Dedication to playing without the puck in all three zones...check. Enough skill and creativity to play with pace...check. The one aspect of Stonehouse's game that will need to improve is his shot, especially if he wants to produce offensively in some capacity at the next level. I'm not worried about the lack of size. He'll fill out and he has that peskiness that makes him tough to play against. I've compared him to the likes of Cal Clutterbuck previously and I think he can have a long and successful NHL career much like Cal. If your team selects Stonehouse at some point in the draft, be happy. He will develop into a fan favourite and a very useful and versatile NHL player.
19. Owen Van Steensel - Wing - North Bay Battalion
Basically whatever I said about Stonehouse goes double for Van Steensel. The fact that he wasn't ranked by NHL Central Scouting is criminal. I have Stonehouse slightly ahead because I think he's just a bit quicker and a little more consistently involved physically, however Van Steensel has the better shot and scoring instincts. He started the year as a change of pace attacker on the fourth line, but he worked his way up to a much larger role by season's end, excelling as a complementary goal scorer in the top six for North Bay. He competes for every inch of ice and his high energy level is consistently noticeable. Van Steensel is that classic guy on a scoring line who opens up space for more skilled players with how he keeps his feet moving and drives the net. Like Stonehouse, I expect him to be an NHL player in some capacity. It won't be high in the lineup, but if he can be a consistent 15 goal scorer who can anchor your penalty kill, that's a major success to find outside of the first two rounds. Again, you need to find NHL players...even if they're role players.
20. Michael Buchinger - Defense - Guelph Storm
I know he has his fans in the NHL scouting community. With good reason too. Buchinger is a good skater and there is a real effectiveness in his simplicity. He starts the breakout really well, even in the face of pressure. His instincts with the puck are sound and he always seems to have his head up; the scanning habits are also top notch. For that reason, he can be tough to truly pin down in the defensive end. Defensively, he also competes along the wall and near the crease. He doesn't win every battle because he definitely needs to get a little stronger, but the effort is there. A high IQ, but mobile defender, it is easy to see Buchinger developing into a long time #4-5 defender. However, my concern is that he's good at a lot of things, but elite at none of them. What is the path for him to the NHL? We've seen many similar kind of jack of all trades type of defenders from the CHL falter (Stuart Percy, Matt Finn, Noah Juulsen, Roland McKeown, etc). McKeown is a terrific comparison in fact, as we used a lot of the same sort of descriptors with him. Can Buchinger turn himself into an elite player at either end? Offensively, I found that as he pushed deeper outside of the defensive zone with the puck, he ran into trouble and it showed some limitations to his puck moving ability. Defensively, he doesn't have the kind of size, reach, and physical tenacity that you typically see from a standout stay at home type. I really like Buchinger in that 75-120 range because I do feel there is value in selecting high IQ defenders two-way defenders in hopes that a few of the tools really improve. But earlier than that? I'm not sure.
21. Christian Kyrou - Defense - Erie Otters
Without question, Kyrou was one of the OHL's most improved players this year. He was barely a replacement level player two seasons ago, but now he's one of the league's elite offensive defenders. His shot is one of the best in the OHL at any position. It's not just the velocity and accuracy, it's how he utilizes it. He is terrific at walking the line and using his linear quickness and smooth hands to help him evade pressure, which in turn opens up a shooting lane for him. A lot of his points this year came from his ability to get his point shot through traffic. This is a skill that can translate. However, what about the rest of his game? I'm just not sure. My ranking of him in that third/fourth round range is certainly lower than many have him now (a late season riser). Although his four way mobility is strong, I don't think he's tremendously explosive moving forward...not like his brother Jordan. I think that this limits his ability as a puck rusher at the next level. Does that mean his zone starts will need to sheltered? Defensively, there is a lot of room for improvement. I like the tenacity, but the reads are often questionable and he struggles to defend the middle of the ice. His riverboat gambler tendencies can also cause him to play a high risk game. Erie saw that first hand this year as that team gave up an abundance of odd man rushes this season. Like Buchinger, Kyrou has value for me later in the draft, but I'm not as convinced as others that his game translates well to the pro level.
22. Beau Jelsma - Center/Wing - Barrie Colts
Jelsma probably deserves to be rated up with Stonehouse and Van Steensel. He's a similar kind of player. He makes up for a lack of size (vertically) by being as strong as an ox. This makes him a very effective three zone player with a low center of gravity. Tough to knock off stride and tough to match up against defensively on the backcheck. Jelsma always seems to keep his feet moving in the offensive end too. His quickness is an asset and his confidence on his edges makes him a difficult cover in transition. Jelsma also has a high end shot that should make him a top goal scorer in the OHL by the time he graduates. I have him a little lower than the other two because I'm not as convinced he has the same level of awareness/vision. Jelsma can get tunnel vision as he drives the net and this limits his effectiveness. I like him best when he plays the wing and is supporting other puck carriers, but I also think his transitional play is a standout quality of his. Quite the dilemma. It just means that his vision will need to improve as his game matures. I'd also like to see him be a little more consistently physical, rather than just buzz around as a stick checker.
23. Tnias Mathurin - Defense - North Bay Battalion
Mathurin has to be considered one of my favourite potential middle round selections available this year. I think he possesses immense upside as a defensive player. The size and length are there. He's a strong four way mover. He is learning to play more physical. He makes a quality first pass. Even if injuries were a bit of an issue this year, he was a huge part of North Bay's success this year in the defensive end and I don't think enough people are giving him credit for that. I think we also saw him starting to flourish offensively in the first half before he got hurt, which suggests to me that there is some hidden offensive potential in there once he gains the confidence to use his quickness to carry and move the puck. Later in the year, the offensive game was much less noticeable, but that's alright. Even if his play with the puck remains safe, he still has upside as a strong stay at home defender. One hundred percent, the key will be becoming more difficult to play against in traffic. He defends transitional attacks really well, but he needs to take away space more aggressively and really assert himself. I think he could easily develop into a John Marino type.
24. Cedrick Guindon - Center/Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Tale of two seasons for Guindon in Owen Sound, something that could be said about a lot of these young men coming off the long lay-off. It was certainly encouraging to see him excel in the second half and become a consistent offensive contributor. Guindon is exactly the kind of player NHL scouts make their money on, and stake their reputation on. By that I mean...he's a potential diamond in the rough. He does everything offensively well. The hands are good. The instincts are good. He can really shoot the puck (explosive release on his wrister). He can create his own chances or capitalize on others through hard work and determination. Early on in the year, he was being kept to the perimeter, but in the second half, he developed a real fearless attitude. So the disconnect is...the athletic tools are only average. Speed, strength, size. It will need to improve. Guindon is the kind of player who could make us all look silly in five years because as he physically matures, he becomes a more explosive offensive player. Or, those tools could stay average and it limits him to being a really good OHL player but nothing more. Again, this is the kind of player scouts truly go to bat for if they like him. I'll say one thing, Owen Sound has done a great job of developing players like Guindon in recent years. People weren't crazy about Nick Suzuki's athleticism either.
25. Jorian Donovan - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs
Speaking of athleticism...insert defender Jorian Donovan. The son of former NHL'er Shean Donovan, Jorian is a tremendous skater. Explosive moving forward, he shoots out of the defensive zone as if he's been shot out of a rocket. An aggressive offensive defender, he can have a real positive impact as he jumps up into the play. The problem is....how Donovan uses his athletic gifts is a major work in progress. Turnovers were a real problem for him this year. In the second half, they improved, but only because he stopped taking chances and appeared to lose confidence in his puck moving abilities. As such, he found himself in and out of the lineup for the Bulldogs down the stretch and into the playoffs. Defensively, his game is equally as raw. Even though the mobility is good, he gets caught standing flat footed far too often and will chase the play. Basically, his game is in need of major refinement. That said, if you CAN refine his game, he has upside at both ends. It's just a matter of whether you believe that "hockey sense" is an innate trait or one that can be drastically improved. No question he'll be drafted, though, because the upside is too tantalizing. Just be prepared with a very focused development model for him.
26. Ruslan Gazizov - Center/Wing - London Knights
Early on in the year I flirted with the idea of Gazizov being in my top ten from the OHL. I really liked his playmaking ability and his ability to problem solve in the offensive end. In terms of creativity and pure skill, Gazizov has to be near the top among OHL players available this year. However, by midseason it had become very apparent that he had some major things to work on. Firstly, he's not the kind of high end skater that you'd like to see from a player with his creativity. Because he does not get terrific separation, he has to constantly rely on his hands to get him out of problems and as teams started to play him more physically, he struggled. Secondly, the tenacity and strong two-way play that we had previously seen from him internationally (playing for Russia) never became a consistent part of his game with London. I think that this obviously frustrated Dale Hunter as he moved him around the lineup to try to ignite a flame. Much like Donovan, Gazizov presents himself as a boom/bust selection. The upside is very high, but the downside is quite low. I hope we see him back in the OHL again next year, but will it be with London?
27. Liam Arnsby - Center/Wing - North Bay Battalion
Arnsby is the kind of player that coaches appreciate a hell of a lot more than internet scouts. Look at the accolades he piled up in this year's OHL Coaches Poll. In that poll, he was named the Eastern Conference’s hardest worker, second best defensive forward and penalty killer, and third best body checker. Although he struggled with some injury issues this year, Arnsby was largely the anchor of North Bay's successful third line and he matched up against the best the opposition had to offer (see his work on former U16 teammate Shane Wright in this year's OHL playoffs). The only thing missing for me is a lack of high end quickness and speed. If he had that, I'd have him much higher. But, without that, his upside if severely limited. I could easily see Arnsby having a long NHL career similar to a guy like Matt Hendricks and I think he'll go surprisingly high at the NHL draft.
28. Spencer Sova - Defense - Erie Otters
Sova's game is built around his excellent mobility. An effortless and explosive four way mover, he can have a profoundly positive effect on the breakout. Once he gets clear of forecheckers, he almost always gains the offensive zone and this helps Erie set up shop. The offensive upside is quite high. That said, Sova was my biggest disappointment this year. I had him as a top defender from this class coming into the year and now I'm ranking him as a mid-later round flier. Defensively, his game needs a ton of work. This was obvious in the OHL and it was obvious at the U18's where he played a large role for Canada. He chases the puck. He is not hard enough on puck carriers. He does not defend the slot or crease well. This needs to improve. Offensively, the tools are good, but the application of them is wildly inconsistent. He needs to make quicker decisions with the puck and he needs to pick his spots better when trying to walk or hold the line. Offensive zone turnovers were a problem for him. An NHL team likely jumps on him earlier because of his mobility, but a lot of work is needed at both ends for him to be an NHL player.
29. Kirill Kudravtsyev - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
Consistency issues really plagued Kudravtsyev's first season in the OHL with the Greyhounds. He came into the year with probably just as much hype as Mintyukov (as a Russian import defender), but it was clear that the two were not on the same level. Kudravtsyev has some interesting tools. The offensive game is pretty well rounded. He has good hands that allow him to carry the puck through traffic. He has good offensive instincts for jumping up into the play. He also shows well at times in the defensive end, with a good stick and anticipation for defending the slot. As a puck mover, I think adding power to his stride would really help him. More fluid than powerful, Kudravtsyev can struggle to gain separation from forecheckers and defensive zone turnovers were a problem as he held on to the puck too long. Additionally, his physical intensity level in the defensive end wavered. He needs to be better along the wall and when defending near the crease. A passive approach just does not work there. As the athletic tools improve, will his projection? That remains to be seen, especially since I have questions as to how well he processes the game with the puck on his stick. But I'd take a flier on him in the later rounds to see how the Greyhounds' coaching staff works with him (they have developed defenders well).
30. Pano Fimis - Center - Niagara IceDogs
I really felt bad for Fimis at this year's U18's. He wasn't put in a situation to excel on the wing. It's just not a good spot for him and it's no wonder that he struggled to standout. That event could have done wonders for his draft stock after playing on a poor Niagara team all year, but it probably did more harm than good. If there's one thing about Fimis that I really love, it's his ability to problem solve through traffic with the puck on his stick. He is most effective at center because of how well he controls pace, pivoting and darting in and out until he finds a passing lane that he likes. As he gets stronger, this part of his game will only become amplified. The real key for Fimis is improving his quickness. As a smaller guy, he will need that to help him avoid checks at the NHL level. I think the odds are that Fimis develops into a very, very good OHL player. But will he develop into a good NHL prospect? That's something that I'm less certain of.
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