It's time for my first official ranking for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. I say official because I release a preseason ranking in the summer (which can be found here).
The list includes detailed reports on the Top 30 and small snippets on the other 20 that make up the Top 50.
As of right now, I'm not sure I would call this a strong draft crop for the OHL. This is especially true when you consider the depth many other leagues and countries have to offer. We have some solid talent near the top and as many as six first round candidates IMO, but the depth does not currently look terrific. Filling out the top 50 for this list was extremely difficult. In reality, I would say only about 35 or so names are truly on the draft radar. I'd put the early over/under for players drafted from the OHL this year at about 29.5 and that includes re-entry candidates that I have not listed here.
Speaking of re-entries, it is important to note (for those that aren't familiar with my lists), that I don't include 2nd and 3rd year eligible players on the list (like Kingston's Linus Hemstrom or Sarnia's Marcus Limpar Lantz). I do a year end list for those players.
Without further ado, here's my early season top 50.
1. Cal Ritchie - Center/Wing - Oshawa Generals
I've seen a few people suggest that Ritchie's offensive production doesn't warrant being as highly rated as he is currently. I'd argue that it's important not to stat watch and actually see the players play. The Generals just aren't going to be a terrific team this year. Expecting him to be near the top of the league scoring race is unreasonable. Instead look at the improvements that Ritchie has made to his game in comparison to last year. He's stronger on/off the puck and is really turning into a dominant two-way force. He's trusting his shot more and hunting down opportunities to get to the inside to score. He's making better decisions with the puck in transition and is varying pace to make himself more unpredictable. He's still got a great combination of length, skill, and speed. He's the complete package. The great thing is that he's almost assuredly a big part of the Canadian U18 team in April, where he'll be given a chance to build off of his terrific Hlinka/Gretzky Cup appearance.
2. Colby Barlow - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
I just wrote a piece on Barlow for McKeen's and Tony Ferrari and I recently spoke at length about Barlow on our THN podcast (found here). Needless to say...I'm a fan. I see his game transitioning to the NHL level extremely well. That combination of power, size, two-way ability, and goal scoring ability is just rare. He's also just a really good kid who's already wearing the "C" in Owen Sound as a 17 year old. He generates speed so quickly and it makes him very difficult to contain in transition. But, he's also very middle of the ice centric, which is something NHL scouts really look at. When he's using his speed to back down defenders, he's taking the puck to the middle and looking to get to the net. He's also physical and is a potential lock down defensive forward, something that he showed at the Hlinka/Gretzky and something that he has continued to show in the OHL. As a goal scorer, he has many weapons. He finishes well in tight. He has soft hands for re-directs. He has a wicked wrist shot and one timer. His scoring instincts are sound. We just saw a similar player in Cutter Gauthier go inside the top five and I'd honestly prefer Barlow as a long term prospect. Are there any downsides? The one area that needs to improve for Barlow is his neutral zone play with the puck and ability to handle at top speed. He can struggle to cleanly accept passes from his defenders and as he tries to push east/west, he can lose control. When he takes control in his own zone and builds a head of steam, he is rarely stopped. However, when he's supporting the breakout, it's not always the cleanest. This is something that can be worked on. I think his hands are good enough that as he gets stronger, this should improve. IMO it's truly the key to unlocking his high end potential.
3. Cam Allen - Defense - Guelph Storm
As you may have seen from the link to my preseason list, I had Allen at number one following the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. I had very high expectations for him entering the year and I fully expected him to be the top defender available in 2023. Now...I'm less sure of that and as such, I've moved him below Ritchie and Barlow who have started the year off very well (to go with their strong Hlinka/Gretzky Cup performances). I still like Allen. I still have high hopes for Allen. How much of Allen's struggles can be blamed on the Storm's poor performance to start the year? Or, conversely, are Allen's struggles a main reason why Guelph has struggled? Allen's decision making with the puck has left some to be desired. To me, he looks like a player who is trying to force the play, always seemingly trying to make the hard play instead of taking the easy one. That is leading to some bad turnovers. He's being asked to do a lot right now and my guess is that the pressure of his draft year is weighing on him a little bit. Last year and at the Hlinka/Gretzky, I liked his decision making and thought it was a strength of his game. This year...it's been a weakness. Additionally, his play in the defensive end has wavered. He needs to be more consistently dialed in physically. He can play a suffocating style, but he can also be pushed around and does not come away with the puck enough in those true 50/50 toss ups. He's still a strong skating, potential two-way workhorse. However, what's the offensive upside here? Is Allen more of a Calvin de Haan type than say...a Charlie McAvoy?
4. Hunter Brzustewicz - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
If you asked me who the most impressive draft eligible blueliner has been so far this year, it wouldn't be Allen, but Brzustewicz (or Barrie's Beau Akey). It's pronounced "Bru-stay-vitch" for those wondering. After struggling through injuries and a lack of ice time with the NTDP the last two years, Brzustewicz has entered the OHL and become an immediate top pairing defender for the Rangers. They rely on him to play 25+ minutes a night and in all situations. Part of me is a bit concerned by the fact that he doesn't have a true standout quality; nothing I would consider elite. Sometimes that can be the kiss of death for blueline prospects as they try to transition to the NHL. However, the other part of me loves the simplicity of his game, a game built around quick decision making and strong four way mobility. I really like how he takes control of the game inside the offensive blueline. His lateral quickness and pivots are very sharp and he always has his head up. He's not afraid to make the simple play and rarely tries to force things if they aren't there. He's content to hold the line and dump the puck back into the corner. But he also identifies opportunities to pinch and try to work his way down low. In the defensive end, he takes good routes to pucks and surveys the ice well to start the breakout. He makes crisp passes to his outlets and has really good scanning habits. He's not really a true burner from a linear speed perspective. He's not someone who you'll see going end to end. But you don't need to be to be a good NHL defender. In the defensive end, I think he's a smart player, but I think he needs to be a harder player to match up against. He loses too many battles for positioning near the crease and can be too passive along the wall. But I'm curious to see how his game develops over the course of the year as he builds confidence (and as the Rangers improve...like I anticipate they will).
5. Beau Akey - Defense - Barrie Colts
If you follow me on social media, you'd know that I really like Akey. At this point, I think he's right there with Allen and Brzustewicz as a candidate to be the top OHL defender off the board. With Brandt Clarke in LA, Akey has been the top pairing defender that the Colts needed him to be. In terms of offensive upside, I think he may actually possess more than Allen and Brzustewicz. His hands and ability to escape pressure are a step above those two. He can really carve up the neutral zone as a carrier because of his quickness and his skill blending abilities. I think he could actually stand to take more chances with the puck because of how well he can recover, but right now he's still fairly conservative. I also really like Akey's defensive awareness. His play in the neutral zone is a real strength. He's not afraid to step up to play aggressively to knock down clearing attempts and he will look to shut down transitional attacks early. He defends the slot well too with that quick stick and strong anticipation. Where Akey struggles is similar to Allen and Brzustewicz. He needs to be harder on puck carriers. He can be too complacent at times and allows the opposition to dictate the play, rather than being assertive to force their hand. He flashes this ability on some shifts, but then leaves large gaps or fails to pin his man along the boards on others. For a player with his four way mobility, his defensive footwork can get sloppy at times too. It's almost as if he is unsure of himself and just overthinking things. If he can learn to be as aggressive in the defensive zone as he is in the NZ, he'd be a lot better for it. Even still, he's a borderline first round candidate for me.
6. Quentin Musty - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Oh Quentin Musty, how you will frustrate scouts this year. There are so many intriguing qualities to his game. He's exceptionally skilled, especially as a one on one attacker. He has a big shot and scoring potential. He actually does have great vision at times and can thread a pass through the smallest of seams. The upside at the NHL level is extremely tantalizing. But then there are the disappearing acts. The shifts where he tries to take on three defenders and turns over the puck. The shifts where he is kept to the perimeter. The shifts where he is complacent and looks sluggish without the puck. What is the root cause of these deficits and the inconsistent performance? Is it processing? Is it conditioning? Is it skating related? He is bound to be one of the most heavily scrutinized players over the course of this draft season. The next Brandon Saad? Let's see how he plays under Derek MacKenzie. The early results are good.
7. Carson Rehkopf - Wing/Center - Kitchener Rangers
I actually know some people who prefer Rehkopf to Musty at this time and, honestly, I'm nearly there too. I don't think his offensive ceiling is nearly as high, but the floor certainly is. If you think Rehkopf can play center long term, he's going to be a very interesting player to you. Large frame. Plays the game hard and physical, especially below the goal line. Tough to knock off the puck already and strong on the wall. Has the potential to be a strong two-way presence IMO. Has excellent goal scoring potential too because of a quick release and heavy wrister. I think, for me, the biggest questions I have surround Rehkopf's processing and vision. I'm not saying it's poor. It's more that I just don't have a great read on that yet. I want to continue to see how his play without the puck evolves and how his playmaking ability improves in transition. Can he take over games consistently? There's a real intriguing combination of power and speed here.
8. Luca Pinelli - Wing/Center - Ottawa 67's
As of writing this, Pinelli is actually the highest scoring first time eligible player in the OHL. Not sure that would have been expected heading into the year. I know my pals at McKeen's Will Scouch and Sam McGilligan are huge fans of his and rightfully so based on the progress he has shown in the last calendar year. He was actually really strong in the second half of his rookie year and just continues to build off of that. He's a better skater than his brother Francesco was at the same age. But he has similar cognitive strengths. His play without the puck and anticipation in the offensive end are really strong. He slides in and out of traffic and plays through the middle of the ice. He's got more jam to his game than his brother too, consistently engaged in puck pursuit. I know he's played some center this year, but I've definitely liked him better on the wing. That's where I see him fitting down the line. I guess the million dollar question is...what's the upside? I don't see a guy with elite level skill. But I do see someone with the skill set to be a very strong complementary player at the next level...especially if he can continue to improve those physical tools. Good goal scorer. Supports the play well. Versatile. I don't see him as a first round candidate in this strong of a draft year, but if he keeps this up, he's assured to be a second rounder like his brother.
9. Denver Barkey - Center - London Knights
Seriously, how could you not like Denver Barkey? Yeah, yeah...I know. He's only 5'9 and a 155lbs. He's also not an elite skater like you probably want to see. Not a poor skater by any means, but he does not possess high end separation ability or elusiveness right now. Yet...he finds a way to be an impactful player in so many ways. He's versatile; already a fantastic penalty killer and two-way presence. He's competitive; someone who consistently fights to earn touches and competes away from the puck. He's skilled, more so than people give him credit for IMO. He's intelligent; his vision is a standout quality. What's going to happen after he matures more physically? I think there's a lot more potential to unlock here. I see Barkey in a similar light to Owen Beck last year. This is a young man that I believe has a high ceiling and a pretty decent floor. Even if he tops out as a Paul Byron type, that will still bring a lot of long term value to an NHL franchise. But what if he continues to get better and ends up as Joe Pavelski, JG Pageau type? Lots of different paths to the NHL for players like Barkey IMO. London is sure to yo-yo all season this year, but Barkey's going to consistently show well.
10. Nick Lardis - Wing - Peterborough Petes
Lardis is a really interesting prospect because of his combination of speed and goal scoring potential. He consistently puts defenders on their heals driving wide as he looks to cut to the middle. He's far from a perimeter player too. He will work his way between the hash marks and crash the net for scoring chances. Like Colby Barlow, he can score in a variety of different ways; the true mark of a top notch goal scorer. I like Lardis' energy off the puck in the offensive zone too. He battles for space and consistently applies pressure on the forecheck. I'm still trying to get a good read on his passing ability and overall vision. He can be turnover prone. There are instances of tunnel vision in transition. In a lot of ways, I think Lardis is still learning how to use his speed effectively and consistently. I think he's also still learning how to vary his attacks to incorporate changes of pace. These criticisms are similar to the ones that I had about David Goyette early last year. At this point, Lardis looks like a solid second/third round prospect, but with some improvements over the year, he could move up. Outside of Barlow and Musty, he has the highest upside as a goal scorer from the "O" IMO.
11. Carey Terrance - Center - Erie Otters
This is a player that is really growing on me, especially in the last few weeks. On the THN podcast I mentioned Terrance as a player that I felt was over-slotted as a "B" prospect. Since then, I've tried to watch Erie a bunch and get a better read on him. Turns out this was perfect timing because he's been hot from a production standpoint. I'm still not exactly sure of the offensive upside at the NHL level. But, there are quite a few standout and workable qualities to his game. His speed is a real asset and is the foundation of his game. He's always looking to push pace. However, his small area quickness is very impressive too. He spins off the wall and spins off checks really well, quickly exploiting gaps in the offensive zone. It seems like half his points in the last two weeks have come from plays that involved him exploding off the wall to hit a seam in the slot, catching defenders flat footed. The shot and two-way instincts are good too. He supports his defenders well down low and that really helps the transition game for Erie, as he can use his speed to turn things around quickly. Let's see how his game continues to develop over the year. I'm not entirely sure he's more than a Cody Eakin type, but that has great value.
12. Coulson Pitre - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Pitre was a bit inconsistent to start the year, but he's been playing much better the last few weeks. Perfect timing in correlation with my rankings. He's a real throwback power forward type who loves to throw the body, mix it up near the crease, and has some intriguing offensive tools. It's easy to see him carving out a long NHL career as a bottom six player, at the very least, because he skates pretty well for the type of game he plays too. Given Flint's depth, consistent ice time hasn't been easy to come by, and I think that contributed to some of the issues early on. I thought he was getting away from his identity a bit and wasn't bringing that consistent physical element that is the key to success for him. However, the last few weeks he has been dialed in. His best asset in the offensive zone might actually be his IQ/awareness. His anticipation in the offensive end is good and he has the quickness to exploit gaps, getting inside leverage for scoring chances in the slot and near the crease. This awareness also gives him good vision as a playmaker coming off the wall and when trying to drive the middle. He's great at drawing in defenders and sliding passes through coverage. Lots of check marks here for a player who could have a lengthy NHL career as a support player.
13. Alex Pharand - Wing/Center - Sudbury Wolves
The Sudbury Wolves have not been great to start the year, but Pharand has been one of the few bright spots for them so far. He's a big kid who excels playing through the middle of the ice. He's tough to contain near the crease and has been scoring and getting consistent looks by outworking defenders out front. I also like how he works the wall and keeps his feet moving. He's strong in the cycle and in puck pursuit. As he gets stronger, he could be a really solid support player. I think the most intriguing thing about Pharand is that he has shown an ability to play center and lead the offensive attack. His skating ability is not high end, but not poor either. He gets to where he needs to get and when combined with his size, it gives him an interesting profile and potential. I'm not sure the upside is extremely high. However, I'm really curious to see how his game develops further over the course of the season.
14. Ethan Miedema - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
It's probably a bit shocking to see Miedema this low, but I'm just not sold on him at this time. There are definitely some intriguing components to his game. He's certainly skilled, more so than the average 6'4 forward. He can create space for himself with his hands and I think his linear speed has improved to the point where he can be a transitional leader. He shows flashes of being a high end playmaker. Unquestionably, the offensive upside is very high and it's why Miedema was taken fourth overall. However, I have more questions about his game than answers at this time. For one, I find him too perimeter oriented currently, especially for a player of his size. He needs to get himself into the middle of the ice more consistently and he needs to find his way to the net when he doesn't have the puck. In transition, he attacks almost solely from the outside and can be forced to the wall and can be separated from the puck rather easily. When pressured, he can be turnover prone. The production has been pretty decent considering his third line ice time this season, but I have my worries about his game transitioning at this time. I like him a lot more as a third/fourth round target, rather than a true "B" prospect.
15. Cole Brown - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Much like Pharand, Brown has an intriguing blend of size and skill. I don't think he's as quick as Pharand is at this current moment, but he seems to have a very clear understanding of how he needs to play to be successful. He lives near the crease, protects the puck well, and drives the net from the wing. His hands in tight are pretty good and I think he possesses some interesting potential as a goal scorer. I wish he was a little more involved from a physicality perspective. He's not yet a terrific three zone player either. The key for him will be improving his quickness and top end speed. I think it's possible. His east/west movement isn't terrible and he accepts passes well in stride, pivoting and changing direction quickly. It's that he's not generating significant power in his pushes or sustaining the power he is creating with shorter strides. I think a power skating coach could really work wonders with him. There's just something about Brown's game that is very intriguing from a pro perspective.
16. Matthew Mania - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Part of me really wanted to put Mania higher on this list. I like so many components of his game. I think his offensive upside is really high. He's at his best when he can use his quickness and skill to lead the charge out of his own end and push the pace of play. He can be a very impactful puck mover at even strength. Yet...we just don't see him doing this enough. He seems hesitant to really unleash this year. Maybe new coach MacKenzie in Sudbury will help bring that out of him and let him feast and let him take more chances. Maybe it points to processing issues and not confidence ones. I also think he needs to grow further as a powerplay quarterback. I haven't been crazy about his decision making in the offensive end. He needs to make quicker decisions on the point and he needs to use his quickness more to beat pressure, helping to open up lanes. There's a level of rigidity there and there should not be given his skill set. Defensively, I actually think he's shown some growth. There's still room for improvement, but he's largely shown growth in his reads, chasing the play less and playing with a little more physical authority. If he doesn't show growth over the season, Mania likely falls on this list by season's end. But I'm still hopeful that he can gain confidence and be more of an offensive leader for the Wolves.
17. Joey Willis - Center/Wing - Saginaw Spirit
I have been so incredibly impressed with this young man in his rookie OHL season coming out of the U.S. AAA loop. That's a huge jump to make and he's come right into the league and become an impact player. He plays with a ton of energy in all three zones and is already a strong two-way player despite not having the size/strength to consistently win battles. It seems like every time I watch Saginaw, I find myself circling back to his play on the backcheck and his overall awareness/ability to force turnovers. His vision is also a standout quality. He is an excellent passer. One of those guys who seems to have eyes in the back of his head. Even when he's putting up zeroes on the scoreboard, he's making good plays and setting up chances. My heart wanted to put him higher, but my head has him here. The reason being that I think those "athletic" or "physical" tools will need to really improve for him to transition to the NHL level. He's not the biggest guy so he's going to need to improve his skating. His linear quickness is decent, but he needs to become a more dynamic mover overall. He can be forced to the outside when attacking with pace and is most effective when the game slows down right now. In a lot of ways, I'm getting Riley Kidney type vibes from him and I think the two are similar players with similar projections. In all honesty, this might be the most I've ever liked a player that I'm ranking at #17.
18. Oliver Bonk - Defense - London Knights
Another guy that people will be surprised to see so low down my rankings. I guess my concern is that, IMO, Bonk doesn't really have a standout quality. He's good in almost all areas, but is he elite in any? What's the projection here? Yeah, he's got great bloodlines. Yeah, he's been producing for the Knights. He's a good OHL player already and London utilizes him in a lot of creative ways (like having him work the flank a lot on the powerplay). He also has that coveted right shot and decent size. But I just can't help but see guys like Stuart Percy and Matt Finn in Bonk. His movement qualities are only average. He doesn't need to be a Cale Makar type. Not asking that. But I do have concerns about the dynamic qualities of his stride and whether his four way mobility can get to a point where it would be more than average at the NHL level. And his decision making with the puck is inconsistent. There are times where he looks great. He takes a great route to a retrieval or makes a strong defensive read and makes a great exit to start the breakout. Then there are other times where he fails to clear the zone, or turns the puck over in the neutral zone...especially when he tries to use his feet. Is this just a young player needing more experience in his truly first OHL season? Or are there some deficiencies which could cap his upside? It's highly possible that he grows on me over the year and pushes up my board.
19. Andrew Gibson - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
Really interesting OHL rookie who has jumped right into a top four role with the rebuilding Greyhounds this year. Last year he had possibly the best U17 season of this millennium in the NOJHL, winning the league's defender of the year. So there is a pedigree there. NHL Central Scouting has him listed as a "B" player already. To be honest, I'm still trying to get a solid read on him this early in the year. So this ranking is a fairly moderate one. The length is intriguing at 6'3 and he plays the right side. His four way mobility looks good, but not exceptional. His decision making has been sound and he's getting the puck off his stick quickly. He's not really an aggressive offensive player at this point. Inside the offensive zone, his shot looks like his biggest weapon. He has a really heavy wrist shot and he generally does a good job getting it through traffic. Defensively, Gibson holds his ground well and he has a good stick that he uses to keep attackers to the outside. He looks comfortable in his own end already. I guess my question is...what's the upside? How much further can his offensive game grow? Can he continue to improve in his own end too? Like I said, I'm definitely still trying to get a good read on Gibson.
20. Alexis Daviault - Defense - Sarnia Sting
I think what we, as a scouting community, need to determine this year is whether Daviault is someone who is going to be more than just a really good OHL defender. I feel very confident that he will develop into a very good, perhaps five year, OHL standout. What I'm less sure of is whether his particular skill set makes him a true NHL prospect or not. I actually like Daviault's play in the defensive end best right now. For a sub six foot defender, that may not be a great thing. He has really good anticipation in the defensive end. He always seems to be around the puck and he's more physical than you would expect him to be. He's a real competitive kid. Offensively, he's at his best when he keep things simple. He has a good exit pass, but when he tries to clear the zone with his feet or tries to be aggressive offensively, he can turn the puck over. I'm not sure he's innately skilled enough to be a true puck mover. At least at the next level anyway. He's also not a plus skater, at least moving forward anyway. Simply put, I think in order to stay on the draft radar his offensive production is going to have to be better.
21. Calem Mangone - Wing - Saginaw Spirit
Absolutely criminal that Mangone didn't receive a letter grade from NHL Central Scouting. Right there with Pinelli as one of the higher scoring first time draft eligible players in the OHL. Yes...I know he's a late born 2004. Yes...I know he's very undersized. I don't care. I liked Mangone last year too and he's building off that performance to take a really positive next step. He has everything you look for from a smaller player that you hope is able to transition out of junior. He's highly competitive. He's quick...especially moving East/West. He's skilled. He's smart. He drives play and is just a really fun player to watch. I almost put him higher on this list, but I do want to see him stay healthy this year and I do want to see him maintain this level of play for the Spirit. But I feel good about his odds to slowly creep up draft lists this year. You just can't ignore him when you watch Saginaw. A little ball of energy.
22. Brad Gardiner - Center - Ottawa 67's
This guy just keeps on scoring. But he's doing more than that for the 67's. He's taking key faceoffs. He's playing big minutes on the penalty kill. He's a strong linear skater with some explosiveness who can lead the attack from the middle. I like the offensive zone awareness. It's why he has so many goals already this year. He's one of those guys who just consistently finds himself in the right place at the right time and he keeps his feet moving in the offensive zone to work to the inside. I'm not convinced that he has significant upside at the NHL level at this time, but he definitely looks like someone who could carve out a role in some capacity. He's been really good for the upstart 67's. If he sustains this, he'll move up lists.
23. Matthew Soto - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Fairly strong skating winger who can be a difference maker in transition. Loves to lead the charge over the blueline and be first into the offensive zone. Doesn't always work his way into the middle, but can find his way to the net and is willing to work the cycle to slow the game down. I think he's a better playmaker than goal scorer. He shows a willingness to attack and is poised enough to make defenders bite before he dishes off. Soto doesn't have the kind of tunnel vision that you typically see from young speedsters. At this point, like many other players on this list, I'm uncertain of the upside. I don't think he'll ever be a highly physical player or an elite two-way player. So is he skilled enough to play higher up the lineup in the NHL? Or can he improve his play off the puck to be more of a consistent difference maker?
24. Owen Outwater - Center - Kingston Frontenacs
Kind of made sense to put these two Kingston forwards together. Former minor hockey teammates. Now OHL linemates. Similar strengths as players. Outwater has greater size, but similar speed. That's going to be attractive to NHL teams. However, I think Soto sees the ice better and has a better head for the game at this point, thus the slight nod despite the downgrade in physical tools. But, Outwater is going to be an intriguing player for scouts this year given his size and desired pace. He really likes to attack and similar to Soto, he has no qualms about working the inside lane. Similar to Soto, I also wonder what his upside is. I want to see how he develops over the course of the year and whether he can learn to use his size a little more effectively to be more consistent on the puck.
25. Quinton Burns - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Three Fronts in a row! Have really liked what I've seen of Burns so far this year. He's actually been one of those unsung heroes for the Fronts, helping them to be more competitive than many anticipated they would be. He's playing in all situations and playing quite well. Good mover. Can carry the puck. Holds the offensive line well. Plays aggressive defensively and closes gaps quickly. Brings a physical element. There is a lot to like. He's someone that I'm very much still trying to get a read on, kind of like the Soo's Andrew Gibson. What's the high end potential here? Can he continue to gain confidence as a puck carrier and show significant offensive potential? I could see him really moving up this list as the year goes on and I see him more.
26. Angus MacDonell - Wing/Center - Sarnia Sting
Drafted as a center, but MacDonell has been used almost exclusively on the wing so far this year. MacDonell is a high energy guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. He's probably a future captain for the Sting. Already noticeable on the penalty kill with his speed and tenacity. Throws his body around and blocks shots. It's cliche...but he's a guy who leaves it all out on the ice every shift. MacDonell is also a quality goal scorer. He's got a great wrist shot. Very quick release. He's not big, but with his tenaciousness, it's possible that he can develop into a high end offensive player at this level. At the next level...I'm not sure. He's kind of similar to the Brady Stonehouse, Owen Van Steensel types that NHL teams passed on at the draft last year.
27. Tristan Bertucci - Defense - Flint Firebirds
Bertucci is not a "sexy" potential draft pick. That's for sure. He's not a high end puck mover. He's not someone who will break down defenses with skill. He's not an elite linear mover, which limits his effectiveness in transition. But Bertucci knows this. It's why he keeps things simple. He gets the puck in the defensive zone and he's looking to pass out with his head up. He holds the line and doesn't take chances, simply dumping the puck back in or floating a wrister on net before he's pressured. Defensively is where he stands out. While he's only an average forward mover, Bertucci's backwards and lateral mobility are strong and it makes him very difficult to get around in the defensive zone. He defends aggressively and applies consistent pressure to puck carriers, maintaining a strict gap. He defends well below the goal line. I think NHL teams will be looking at Bertucci similar to the way they they did with Tnias Mathurin last year. There is a path to the NHL for Bertucci, even if its in more of a third pairing, PK role.
28. Donovan McCoy - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Even though he's playing a ton for the Petes (a strong team), I've been a little disappointed with McCoy this year. He's not playing poorly. But for a late born '2004 on a good team, he's been less noticeable than I would have hoped. I really liked McCoy as an OHL draft eligible player and felt that he possessed terrific potential as a two-way defender. But offensively, he just hasn't shown much. He is a strong mover, but he seems hesitant to involve himself as a puck carrier. Defensively, he is using his mobility to his advantage to be quick to pucks and to be aggressive to take away space. However, I think there's room for him to develop a little more snarl and bite. So right now we've got a pretty effective OHL defender, but one who isn't truly a standout at either end. I've said this a lot, but what's the upside here? I hope he has a really nice second half as he builds confidence.
29. Valentin Zhugin - Wing - Guelph Storm
Zhugin's game is all about speed. One of the quicker players listed here, he can flat out fly. He also blends skill with quickness well and can carve up the neutral zone to gain the offensive blueline. But once inside the offensive zone, he's had trouble trying to get to the inside. It's not an effort thing. I don't think he's being kept to the perimeter because he's not trying or lacks grit. But, at this point, he's very much all flash and no dash. He's just not been much of a true offensive threat outside of a few really impressive rushes per game. Even those rarely end up creating a significant scoring chance. Maybe as Guelph starts to play better, Zhugin starts to manufacture chances at a greater clip. Or maybe he just doesn't have the processing ability to get the best out of his gifts at this point in time.
30. Easton Cowan - Wing - London Knights
The production has not been incredible thus far, but I think Cowan has been better and more noticeable than the stats would suggest. He's a really strong skater and he can have a real positive influence on London's transitional attack. He's also a pretty decent two-way player and he uses his speed to play a role in puck pursuit and on the forecheck. That's a reason why he's been an anchor of the London penalty kill so far this year. Can the production catch up? Want to see more of him.
31. Juan Copeland - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
The IceDogs have been a bit of a disaster so far this year. Between all the trades and the inconsistent play, they look like the worst team in the Eastern Conference right now IMO. But one of the bright spots has been the play of Copeland. He was a standout at times last year as a rookie too and has carried that over as a sophomore. Copeland is at his best when he drives wide with speed and takes the puck to the net. He has skill and finishing ability and his speed can get him clearance from defenders. The rest of his game is a bit of a work in progress. I have questions about how well he sees the ice. Turnovers can be an issue as he develops tunnel vision driving wide. There is often some hesitancy to alter his pace and he can become predictable and easily neutralized. How he adjusts over the course of the year will be interesting.
32. Adam Zidlicky - Wing - Kitchener Rangers
I think that there is a place at the next level for a player like Zidlicky. Good skater. Brings consistent energy. Understands how to play off the puck and fill open lanes. Works his butt off. Finishing skills are OK in tight. The potential is not high IMO. But he's got great bloodlines (as the son of Marek), is a real work horse and should be a mid-late round pick IMO. Key is for him to continue to get quicker and stronger to be more consistent.
33. Marco Mignosa - Wing - Soo Greyhounds
Smart, well rounded offensive player who has definitely made strides in a few areas of need. I think he looks quicker and more explosive in a straight line. I think he's working hard to be better in the defensive end. The overall dynamic qualities of his stride still need to improve and I don't think he's ready to be the type of play driver the Greyhounds need him to be right now. Would love to see him at the U18's this year to see how he could do with high end offensively oriented linemates.
34. Lucas Moore - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs
I was pretty shocked to see Moore left off of NHL Central Scouting's preliminary regional grades. He definitely deserved a "C" rating. Obviously not a huge defender, but I like how he processes the game as a right shot defender. Quick puck mover. Good mobility. I think he's got potential as a powerplay quarterback as he works to improve his shot. He was good for the Bulldogs last year too.
35. Alex Assadourian - Center/Wing - Sudbury Wolves
The offensive production has not been there for Assadourian, but I'm really hoping Derek McKenzie can bring out the best in him since they play pretty similar games. Assadourian is lightning quick and he loves to push and attack the crease. The small area skill and finishing ability needs to improve though. Classic case of the hands needing to catch up to the feet.
36. Joey Costanzo - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
First goaltender listed and, right now, the only first time eligible goaltender I see with a real chance to be drafted. Costanzo isn't huge, but he's athletic and shows potential as a play tracker because of it. Reigning in his movement and working with him to improve his rebound control are musts, but he looks like a potential OHL standout down the line. Niagara moving him is a head scratcher.
37. Luke McNamara - Center - Saginaw Spirit
The athletic tools are still really intriguing, even if the production hasn't been there. Good sized center with decent quickness and scoring potential thanks to a quick release. But getting himself into scoring position consistently has been a challenge. As has maintaining possession through contact. Really want to see how he progresses over the year.
38. Bronson Ride - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Probably easy to compare Ride to former Spit Logan Stanley. Big kid with some intriguing movement qualities. I've found his play to be fairly inconsistent at both ends, but there have been flashes to suggest that he can grow into a competent two-way guy. How his overall decision making improves will dictate how high I move him up over the year.
39. Declan Waddick - Center/Wing - Niagara IceDogs
I believe Waddick is going to develop into a real high end OHL player at some point. He's both smart and skilled. He's also a competent two-way player (as a result of his IQ and anticipation). However, the athletic tools/quickness are a real work in progress and that's going to be a tough pill for scouts to swallow considering he's undersized at 5'10. Could see him being a slow burn on a Niagara team that's a bit of a mess right now.
40. Chris O'Flaherty - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
If O'Flaherty were a more dynamic skater, I'd have him higher. He's been pretty effective and consistent in a bottom six role for the Spitfires. Good size/length (has grown a lot in the last two years). Great scoring potential thanks to a quick release and good instincts. Will drive the net and use his size to be disruptive. He just needs to get quicker. Sustaining speed is an issue for him right now and he can struggle to beat defenders to the net.
41. Nic Sima - Wing - North Bay Battalion
Speaking of growth spurts, insert Nic Sima. Drafted at 6'0, he now comes in at 6'3. Even more impressive is that over that time, he's actually managed to improve his speed and become a better skater. Billed as one of the best goal scorers in the '05 age group in his OHL draft year, that part of his game just hasn't translated extremely well. He can attack with speed and supports the attack well, but his finishing ability and overall skill level hasn't really looked the part of an NHL selection at this point. Curious to see if he can progress over the year and earn more ice time. He could move quickly if he can show he has more to give offensively.
42. Matthew Mayich - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Mayich is kind of a tough one to rank. He's done great in the role that he's been asked to play, forming an excellent go-to pairing with Jack Matier for Dave Cameron. Mayich's strength in the defensive zone has allowed Matier's offensive skill set and confidence to blossom. Mayich has good size, decent four way mobility, and good physical intensity. But I also struggle to truly see him as long time player at the next level because the offensive skill set is fairly limited. Is he more than just a good stay at home type at the OHL level? I just need to see him/watch more him more to get a better read. Guys like Mayich truly need a lot of views to gain a true understanding of.
43. Anthony Romani - Wing/Center - North Bay Battalion
Romani has been really good the last few weeks for the Battalion and is slowly gaining more ice time. I like his skill. He can beat defenders one on one and he has an attacking mentality. At the very least, I see him developing into a quality scorer at the OHL level. His skating is a bit erratic though. He has this wide stride that limits his quickness and mobility, but once he gets going, he can really drive pace. Sustainability is the key word here. Very intrigued by him moving forward.
44. Cooper Foster - Wing/Center - Ottawa 67's
A jack of all trades type, Foster is an intelligent, high energy guy who has played well across a variety of roles for the 67's this year. He was phenomenal in the NOJHL last year and has been dependable as a rookie this year for Ottawa. He's the kind of guy who always seems to be around the puck and his vision/anticipation are good. I kind of see Foster as a bit of a less skilled Joey Willis. The physical tools are average across the board right now and I'm not sure he's innately skilled enough to be a true NHL prospect. Kind of reminds me of watching another former 67 at the same age in Austen Keating.
45. Niko Minkkinen - Defense - Guelph Storm
Minkkinen, a Finnish rookie import, is the type of player who is bound to be on the NHL draft radar regardless of limited production. 6'4, right shot defender with good defensive instincts. If you asked NHL scouts to make this list, Minkkinen would no doubt be in the top 30. My concern is that I don't think his four way mobility is fluid enough at this time. He can have trouble transitioning and is a little awkward defending pace. He also needs to get stronger on his skates and stronger overall to consistently win 50/50 battles along the wall or tie up forwards near the crease. The offensive skill set is pretty limited at this point too. So while I think his length can be very disruptive and his defensive potential is intriguing, I'm just not sure I see a true NHL prospect at this time.
46. Ethan Hay - Center - Flint Firebirds
Had a lot higher expectations for Hay this year. Came into the year liking his potential as a two-way center with decent skating ability. However, his offensive skill set really hasn't taken that step forward that I anticipated it would. He's getting the playing time, but a lot of plays are dying on his stick. He's struggling to make skilled plays through the middle (fumbling pucks, turning the puck over, not getting shots off quick enough). Maybe he can turn it around in the second half. He's worth listing still because I think the potential is still intriguing, but his play needs to improve with the puck.
47. PJ Forgione - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
His ice time has been pretty inconsistent so far this season and he's been out of the lineup the last month. Still has an intriguing skill set as a big defender with some skill and the ability to carry the puck. Decision making at both ends is the big question mark. Curious to see how he plays when he returns to the lineup.
48. Konnor Smith - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Smith is a throwback defender who has seen his ice time increase massively of late thanks to some injuries on the back-end (heck Connor Lockhart has been playing some defense). Great size. Extremely physical. Smith's puck skill is fairly limited at this point and his mobility will need to improve further, but I could see myself liking him more and more as the season goes on if he can show progression and improve his footwork/discipline.
49. Michael Podolioukh - Center - North Bay Battalion
Out since October with a lower body injury, Podolioukh is a guy that I thought was prime for a breakout season. Similar to Hay, I saw someone with good two-way potential and some intriguing skating qualities. Podolioukh has been pretty good defensively for the Battalion, but offensively he's been pretty much a non factor.
50. Matthew Andonovski - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Similar player to other defenders listed in this range. Good defensive first defender with some size and decent mobility. Offensive game is a work in progress and works best when kept very simple at this point. Is there upside?
Limited Viewing - Matthew Jovanovic - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Has still yet to play in the OHL due to injury. But there's a reason why NHL Central Scouting still listed him as a player to watch. He was considered one of the best 2004 born defenders in Ontario at one time for a reason. Potential two-way defender. If he does end up playing at some point (which I hope he does), and he plays well, he'll move up this list quickly.