Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Preliminary Media/Scout Top 10 for 2023

Time for the first media/scout poll for the 2023 NHL Draft!

For those unfamiliar with how this works, I poll many of the OHL's brightest minds; those who cover the league incredibly well and know the OHL inside, and out. These contributors supply me with their top 10 available players from the OHL, in addition to some comments. I then put it all together and provide you with a cumulative list. Call it "the consensus."

At this point, this OHL crop does appear to be on the weaker side. Coming into the year, there was a lot of hope for it. Cal Ritchie was being discussed as a possible top 7-8 selection. Cam Allen was in consideration to be the top defender available. There was some hope that a few high end Imports would come over. Instead, it now appears that there is no guarantee that an OHL player will be selected inside the lottery and there may not be more than two or three taken in the first round. Additionally, the depth available does not appear to be strong either. That said, it's still quite early in the scouting season. Lots of time for players to turn things around.

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this preliminary list for 2023 were:

Corey Pronman - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@coreypronman)

Dominic Tiano - Writer for The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)

Ryan Kennedy - Editor in Chief for The Hockey News (@THNRyanKennedy)

Scott Wheeler - NHL Prospects Writer for TheAthletic (@scottcwheeler)

Will Scouch – Founder of Scouching Draft Analytics & Contributor to McKeen's Hockey (@Scouching)

Peter Baracchini - Draft Content at The Hockey Writers (@PBaracchini)

Mike Morreale - Staff writer for (@mikemorrealeNHL)

Mat Sheridan - OHL Regional Scout for Future Considerations (@sheridan_mat)

Dylan Krill - OHL Regional Scout for McKeen’s Hockey (@dylan_krill)

Matt Young - OHL broadcaster (@mattyoung71)

Josh Tessler - Director of Scouting for Smaht Scouting (@JoshTessler_)

Tony Ferrari – NHL Draft Content for The Hockey News (@theTonyFerrari)

Olivia Carter - OHL Regional Scout for Future Considerations (@oliviamcarter)

Joely Stockl – OHL Regional Scout for Drafts Prospects Hockey (@joelystockl04)

Jared Brown - Head Scout for Drafts Prospects Hockey (@JaredBrownn97)

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten)


Here's the List:

1. Cal Ritchie – Center – Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 1st (10x)
Lowest Ranking: 2nd (6x)
I really, really struggle with Calum Ritchie to this point. I know I’ve seen better than what he’s shown so far this season, but I do see some good application of his size to protect pucks, move them up the ice and move them to teammates in effective ways, but the results just haven’t been there. He’s still in my first round, but to me, other talented players have surpassed him so far this year. I’ll keep my eye on him, and his tracked data isn’t bad, but it ain’t on the same level as my #1 OHLer, and is simply lagging behind many top junior prospects in my prior years of experience in a variety of areas.” - Will Scouch

He's just smart and skilled and once he has the puck, it's hard to get it off him. He can get to the net, and plays that power forward game so he can score. I think he's going to create a lot of interest just because a lot of what he does will translate to the next level. He's excellent on the power play too.” - Mike Morreale

A full package and complete centreman, Calum Ritchie can do it all whenever he’s on the ice. He’s extremely skilled and has great IQ and awareness to be a highly effective playmaker at the next level. He can find the seams very well and can execute plays perfectly with tape to tape or long stretch plays. He has soft hands in tight spaces, great control to maintain possession and provides excellent support for his teammates. While he has average speed, he has strong edges to weave his way through traffic and his body positioning allows him to gain the inside edge on his opponents. He has a high end compete level and work ethic and does a great job engaging on the forecheck to force turnovers. Defensively he’s very sound, forcing the opposition to the outside in order to regain possession. Having all the tools and qualities of an NHL centre already, Ritchie should hear his name early on in the draft.” - Peter Baracchini

Despite the lack of production and not meeting his high expectations, I still believe Ritchie should be in consideration for going top 10 in the NHL Draft. Ritchie is a very responsible two-way centre who possesses elite hockey sense and high-end tools in both his shot and vision. He reads and anticipates play very well in all three zones and is highly effective at pick pocketing opponents. He’s not the most dynamic player, but there are flashes where he pulls you out of your seat with his blend of skill and creativity with the puck. I believe Ritchie’s skill-set and all-around game will allow him to adjust to the NHL very well.” - Dylan Krill

Calum Ritchie plays very conservatively at times, especially in the neutral zone. Often, he is the last forward into the offensive zone. In situations in which he is the F1, he quickly distributes the puck once entering the zone (out of his hands before the perimeter). When the Generals are mid-cycle, Ritchie is completing quite a few cross perimeter passes instead of driving into dangerous areas. I’d like to utilize his handling and reach to skate around attackers at the perimeter to try to acquire space down low. If he can use his stick-handling to open up separation and drive into the slot, his 5v5 production will go up.” - Josh Tessler

A smart and cerebral player, it is hard to argue that Calum Ritchie is not deserving of the top draft-eligible player in the OHL. While he had his ups and downs in his rookie season last year, he showed glimpses of his potential and has started the year off well in Oshawa. Ritchie is dangerous with the puck on his stick, capable of driving the middle of the ice to gain an offensive zone entry or getting a quick wrist shot off through multiple layers of defence. Ritchie’s off-puck play makes him a threat as well. He takes smart routes in the defensive zone and is routinely in position to support his defencemen. He plays with pace, always moving his feet, to disrupt defensive zone breakouts for the opposition and causing havoc below the hashmarks. Ritchie could serve to add some quickness to his step as he lacks top-end acceleration, but he's easily been one of the Generals best players so far this season.” - Mat Sheridan

2. Colby Barlow – Wing – Owen Sound Attack
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 1st (3x)
Lowest Ranking: 7th (1x)
The reason why Barlow is #1 on my list right now is that I see him as both a safe NHL contributor and a bit of a unicorn. Players like Barlow are pretty rare to find. Wingers with good size, speed, physicality, and the ability to play both ends well do not grow on trees. How many strong goal scorers can also be counted on to be on the ice in the final minute to protect a lead? Many prominent goal scorers in the NHL need to have their zone starts sheltered because they can't be trusted in the defensive end. That's far from the case with Barlow. Am I concerned about his ability to create his own chances at the NHL level due to some inconsistencies in his transitional skill set? Yeah...a little bit. But I do think that the hands will catch up to the feet at some point and I think he does so many other things well that it's easy to see him being a long time complementary piece. A modern day Steve Larmer?” - Brock Otten

Barlow’s just one of those players who, in skill, shot, makeup, build, and approach, just looks like a pro already. He plays a very projectable, consistent, intentional, direct game that blends scoring with competitiveness.” - Anonymous

Mainly shines in the defensive end and shows good efforts in taking up space when challenging his opponents in all areas of the ice. His stick work is really good, he’s able to block passes and intercept in the defensive zone to turn the play offensive. Able to make those smart puck handling decisions for passing lanes and creating good shot opportunities.” - Olivia Carter

A hot take has Colby Barlow well into my 2nd round. He’s got a great shot in a variety of scenarios, but that’s about all I’ve really been able to put down as a positive. His tracked data across both games is bad. His ability to get chances at 5v5 seems to be very limited whenever I’ve seen him, but perhaps I’m just not watching the right games. He has isolated moments where I’m really taken with his one on one skill and finishing ability, but more often than not, I find myself wondering what all the fuss is about. He’s scored his even strength goals off of rebounds and tips rather than creating his own chances, and has a few empty netters at time of writing. He brings back memories of how enamored I was with Matt Puempel’s ability to shoot the puck, ignoring other key areas of the game that required attention. Similar to Cam Allen, there are just other players who have impressed me more to this point that knocks Barlow down that bring other traits to the game that I believe are more important in the context of an NHL Draft.” - Will Scouch

Barlow is closing the gap on Ritchie for me with his outstanding play as of late. He possesses the athletic tools scouts drool over. He’s a strong power forward with high-end finishing ability. He plays the game at a high tempo and pushes the pace with his explosive linear speed with or without the puck. Consistently displays the ability to find open space between the dots where he’s ready to receive the puck and deliver his powerful one-timer toward the net. His shooting technique, power, and off-puck scoring instincts give him the potential to be a 30 goal scorer in the NHL. He’s equally effective on the forecheck and in defensive roles, showing that he’s a versatile, ultra-competitive player. Utilizes his size to play a physical forechecking game and create turnovers. Barlow can shoot, skate, play physical, and defend. What’s there to dislike? He’s going to have a promising NHL career as a top six forward.” - Jared Brown

The scoring is undeniable. He gets to the net and has some really nice hands in tight. He and Pinelli have gone back and forth as the OHL points leader among draft eligibles. So why am I constantly left asking for more from Barlow? He is a great complimentary player who goes to the net, puts himself into position for his teammates to set him up. Barlow is the definition of a “meat and potatoes” player, who just does the right thing most of the time and gets rewarded for it. The problem is that he doesn’t carry the play himself or create for his teammates. The Owen Sound captain is a hard worker but lacks the play-driving ability of a Pinelli. His tools are good but not great all around and his playmaking is average. Dynamism, facilitation, and the transition game are areas that leave you wanting more.” - Tony Ferrari

3. Quentin Musty – Wing – Sudbury Wolves
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 3rd (5x)
Lowest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Musty is having a great start to the season. His overall skill set – shot, vision, passing – all scream NHL potential. The knock on Musty has been the lack of consistency not just from game to game, but shift to shift. Others argue that the effort is lacking as well. I think we are seeing less and less of that and I expect Musty to be higher on this list by the end of the season after he’s put those knocks behind him.” - Dominic Tiano

Quintin Musty is definitely an interesting prospect. The 2021 first overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection Draft has some of the best hands and skillset in this year’s draft class. He’s got excellent control of the puck and has the knack to constantly drive hard to the net, utilizing his size to his advantage. Combining the high-end skill and power forward like game will definitely attract a number of teams. While he has the dazzling skill and hands, his decision making and lack of IQ with and without the puck has hurt his draft stock. There are times where he tries to do too much and ends up turning the puck over or makes some questionable decisions with the puck. He is definitely a high-risk, high-reward kind of player.” - Peter Baracchini

Quentin has solid north-south speed and size that allows him to move the puck past traffic with ease. He has excellent puck protection and uses his reach to push the puck away from oncoming pressure while driving through the neutral zone on the rush. While Musty has quality north-south speed, he seems to be struggling with east-west speed and that presents challenges when Musty is on the forecheck as he struggles to keep pace with attackers who are looking to skate laterally around Musty. When Musty has the puck in the offensive zone and is facing tight pressure, he struggles to push the puck past the attacker and then recapture possession. If Musty can further develop his handling in high pressure situations, he will be difficult to contain for attackers.” - Josh Tessler

Although Musty was projected as a first round pick after the Hlinka Gretzky Tournament, he has had more negatives than positives this season. A one dimensional player with his lethal scoring and offensive intelligence, lots of development needed in the other aspects of his game. Potentially comparable to an 18 year old Arthur Kaliyev.” - Joely Stockl

I’m not the biggest fan of Musty. I’ve had too many rather poor or frustrating viewings than positive ones. There’s no denying his high-end level of skill with the puck to be a dynamic playmaker and threat on the powerplay. But when things aren’t going his way, he can give off horrible body language, force plays, or be selfish and try and do too much with the puck which leads to turnovers. I also think he’ll struggle with the pace of the NHL level as his first few steps still need further development. His ceiling is very high but I view him as a boom-or-bust pick.” - Jared Brown

Musty has been hit or miss depending on the game you’ve seen. In one game, he will be a dominant offensive force, attacking defenders with the puck and using his strength and skill to overwhelm them. In others, he will fade to the background and allow himself to be outplayed by lesser talent on his team. He’s begun to find some consistency recently, especially as a facilitator, which hasn’t always been his forte. The American is a July birthday so he is on the younger side of the draft class as well, making his high-end tool set even more attractive if a team thinks they can get him to put it together more consistently.” - Tony Ferrari

4. Cam Allen – Defense – Guelph Storm
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 2nd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: 9th (1x)
Allen is still second on this list and one of the top defencemen available in this draft. While a little undersized, he's a right-shot defenceman with excellent puck-moving ability, and those are always sought after at the next level. Add in Allen's leadership ability as he was Captain of Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and you have a pretty complete player. The fact that he got off to a slow start in Guelph this year was a bit worrisome but it was a slow start across the board for a Storm team just now finding its legs. I think Allen could have a big second half of the year, but he's still the second-best OHL player available.” - Matt Young

Allen is in a similar boat as Calum Ritchie, playing on a below-average team and tasked to log huge minutes on the backend for Guelph. He’s a well-rounded defenseman who can play in all situations and does a bit of everything. He’s an athletic skater with great power and agility off his edges. He cuts and changes directions swiftly with effective weight shifts on the puck. His offensive instincts are at a high level and he has the ability to create offense inside the offensive zone. He’ll be able to score goals here and there at the pro level due to his heavy point shot and active shooting. I love the way he defends the rush, forcing puck carriers to dump the puck with his tight gap control. Has a bit of that old-school nastiness in his game to play “playoff hockey”. I still see him as a top 20 pick despite his struggles this year.” - Jared Brown

The year hasn’t gone well for Allen or the Storm. Allen approached 40 points last season and then was named captain of Canada’s Hlinka team, setting up a year in which the young defender could grab hold of the status as the draft’s top defender. Now, he’s in a battle for the top defender coming for the OHL. He has the mobility and raw tools that should make him a high-end prospect but he hasn’t been effective this year and his ranking reflects that.” - Tony Ferrari

If you recall, I had Allen ranked at #1 on my preseason list and I thought he was the best defender available in this draft class. His play at the Hlinka/Gretzky largely backed that up. Since then it's been all downhill. I think he's slowly turning things around and playing better, but he still looks like a different player than the one we had seen previously; slightly lost and without a true identity. To me, it looks like he has succumbed to the pressures of being a potential high pick in his NHL draft year. The fact that Guelph has been bad hasn't helped either. So he's feeling draft pressure and the pressure to turn around his team. As such, a lot of the errors being made have come from forcing things. Forcing breakouts. Picking bad times to pinch or activate. Chasing the puck in the defensive end. He just looks like he's trying to do too much out there. In the last month or so, I have found his puck management has been better, but it's been at the expense of not really taking chances either. Is his upside limited? I don't think you can really rank him extremely low at this point given previous performances, but he's going to need a strong second half (and potentially a strong U18's) to save his chances at being a top 50 pick.” - Brock Otten

I’ve really struggled with Cam Allen, even going back to last year with the Guelph Storm. His skill level and deception from the offensive blueline is undeniable, and the shot he can let go is probably among the best in the draft this year, but whenever I’ve seen and tracked him this year, I just can’t bring myself to see him as a top defender in this class. He’s not managing gaps well, he’s not moving pucks with his feet or hands particularly effectively outside the offensive zone, and there are a lot of players that have been more intriguing to me playing outside the OHL that knocks him down into my second round. He could easily be higher on this list in the future, but so far, I just do not see it with Allen and would let someone else take him in the first round.” - Will Scouch

5. Hunter Brzustewicz – Defense – Kitchener Rangers
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 3rd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: 10th (3x)
I liked Brzustewicz’ s game so much at the start of the season I named him my Draft Eligible Defenceman of the Month for October. I think the most impressive thing I’ve found so far is his decision making. I can’t, through 20 plus games, remember a bad decision he’s made. He’s not flashy like some others, he’s just steady eddie going about eating huge minutes for the Rangers and doing the right things right the first time.” - Dominic Tiano

Hunter Brzustewicz’s overall upside may not be as high as other defenders in this draft. However, his offensive production of 18 points in 22 games says otherwise. Even though he doesn’t stand out or is flashy with his play, he still manages to make the right decision with or without the puck. He displays great playmaking abilities as he’s always scanning the ice to make a play or stretching the play up with a strong breakout pass. He’s a very mobile skater and possesses a responsible game within his own end. While he won’t wow you at any point, he does catch your attention with his simplistic style.” - Peter Baracchini

Brzustewicz has been a strong player for the Rangers so far this season. He has the ability to create in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, drawing in opponents to find teammates in open space and does well to get shots through traffic. His ability to make a clean first pass allows his team to transition quickly and create offensive odd man rushes. He keeps a good gap when defending and uses his strength to close off opponents in front of the net and in the corners. I think he projects as an impact defenceman at the next level and will continue to be an important part of the Rangers core moving forward.” - Mat Sheridan

Confidence, confidence, and more confidence with Brzustewicz. Not many defenders in this draft class can handle the puck and drive the play from the back end like he can. He quarterbacks each Kitchener powerplay and moves the puck around with tremendous intelligence and awareness. I would argue him as the best offensive defenseman in this draft class, at least from the OHL.” - Joely Stockl

He’s one of the older defenders in the draft class and he’s racked up some points this year but he hasn’t been able to truly put himself ahead of the pack as a blueliner. He lacks defensively and his offensive game has been predicated on making a high-quality first pass and allowing teammates to work their magic. The flair in the offensive zone hasn’t quite come out as of yet but he has a history of it so the hope is that he continues to gain confidence and brings more of it to the table.” - Tony Ferrari

6. Luca Pinelli – Wing – Ottawa 67's
Total Votes: 13
Highest Ranking: 1st (3x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
The 67’s would not be having the kind of season that they are without Pinelli taking the leap forward that he has. He plays hard, he’s got skill, he’s always around the puck in the offensive zone, he’s much stronger than his listed height and weight suggest, and he has become a driver on a top team night-in and night-out. He deserves mid-round attention because of it.” - Anonymous

We’re already getting off the board here, but I absolutely have loved what I’ve seen out of Luca Pinelli. Huge production, but his game goes so far beyond offense in my opinion. He’s an excellent analyzer of play all over the ice, causing turnovers and headaches for opponents without the puck. If he were a couple inches taller, he’d probably be among the top C’s in this draft and he’s steadily worked his way into my top 20, which I certainly didn’t expect coming into this season. He’s creating, he’s finishing, he plays hard, he brings so many tools that I look for and the tracked data backs that up. He’s been by far the most consistently impressive OHL player to me so far this season.” - Will Scouch

Pinelli is constantly looking to find space in medium and high danger areas to key up dangerous passing lanes for the 67’s to exploit. His desire to grab open ice down low has led to many quality one-timer shots on net. Pinelli also will take over the cycle and look to distribute the puck to dangerous areas. When driving up the ice, Pinelli won’t force the puck into highly pressured areas. He will peel back, regroup and find an open teammate to pass towards. There is a lot to like in Pinelli’s game and I could see him as a top six contributor down the road.” - Josh Tessler

Pinelli has been one of the most impressive draft-eligible players this season to date. While he plays on a strong Ottawa 67s team, he has been one of their most dangerous players in every game. His ability to find open space in the offensive zone is impressive, as he is able to go undetected through multiple layers of defence and strike with a quick shot. With the puck on his stick, he is eerily calm. He never forces a play and is able to maintain the puck even when he is being pressured by numerous players on the opposing team. While he can stand to add more strength to his frame, if Pinelli continues to play like he has, he is going to continue to rise on many scouts’ lists.” - Mat Sheridan

Not only is Pinelli fighting Barlow for the scoring lead amongst draft-eligible OHL'ers but the 67’s forward is the creative and driving force on his line. He brings the dynamism and skill that is required to be an offensive difference-maker at the NHL level but Pinelli is also incredibly intelligent. His biggest knock is size but he isn’t afraid to outwork bigger players and plays a sound two-way game, intercepting passes and disrupting puck carriers defensively. Pinelli is a true dual-threat attacker who can make his teammates better.” - Tony Ferrari

7. Beau Akey – Defense – Barrie Colts
Total Votes: 14
Highest Ranking: 3rd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
Among the defenders from the OHL available this year, Akey has emerged as my personal favourite. I think his offensive upside is the highest because of his creativity and escapability, and his skating ability is already one of the best in the OHL. The defensive game is inconsistent. He needs to increase his physical intensity. He needs to learn to use his strong mobility better to his advantage in the defensive end. But, at the end of the day, I think he can be a very strong two-way contributor eventually in the same mold as Toronto's TJ Brodie.” - Brock Otten

Skilled defenseman who can skate. He's trending, more natural offensive touch than someone like Allen.” - Anonymous

If you like raw defenders who can really skate and play with skill, Akey is your guy. I really have enjoyed watching him through last season and into this one, but he’s a pretty raw player that has some shortcomings in his game. If he’s got the puck or a chance to jump into a rush, the skating ability comes out, he finds space, and can generate production. Without the puck, he sits back. Lets opponents come to him, and far too often lets them through without consistent pressure to turn pucks over. Akey is a guy that looks impressive, and certainly could be in time, but has holes that will need to be patched. Still, the mobility, skill and upside as a transitional defender that leans offensive has left him as my top OHL defender this year so far.” - Will Scouch

Despite Akey being my 10th ranked OHL player and 4th ranked defenseman, I still believe he has the highest potential out of the 4 defensemen. I also believe he has the most refining to do in order to reach that potential. Akey is a highly mobile defenseman who is very effective in transition because of his ability to drive play from the back. His 4-way mobility is high-end and he has very good skill that he displays consistently, being able to beat opponents 1-1 and open up space for himself. I think Akey’s defensive game is where I want to see him improve the most. He has a very active stick, but I don’t think he’s always in control of it. He kind of just throws his stick out and creates chaos. I believe opponents at the next level will be able to take advantage of that and it will become more and more difficult to defend, making him less effective. Akey has a lot of room to move up this ranking and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up being my 5th ranked OHL player by the end of the year.” - Dylan Krill

8. Carson Rehkopf – Center/Wing – Kitchener Rangers
Total Votes: 13
Highest Ranking: 4th (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (3x)
Rehkopf has a solid all-around game but his best asset might be his shot; he's one of the better goal scorers of this draft class. He's got good size (6-3, 195), skates really well and has good hockey IQ.” - Mike Morreale

I might be a lot higher on Kitchener Rangers forward Carson Rehkopf than others, but I just love what he brings to the table. He’s a highly competitive, two-way centre that plays with an edge and has a wicked release with his wrist shot. He has great hands and with his long reach with his stick, he has no problem making moves at a quick pace to get around defenders with such ease. He’s a smooth skater with great speed to beat players to the outside or get the jump on a breakaway and can make moves in tight on goalies with no problem. He’s quick, in your face and can play a sound defensive game as well. Having that high-end skill and smarts should make him highly sought after.” - Peter Baracchini

Rehkopf has a lot of tools that many scouts are looking for in first round candidates. He has the size, skating, skill, but also the defensive awareness that makes him so valuable. The one thing that may keep Rehkopf outside of the first is that although there aren’t any glaring weaknesses to his game, none of his strengths are considered elite at this time. However, he has a very solid all-around game and is very effective on both sides of the puck. He reads and anticipates play very well, having great positioning to stay in the play and make it difficult on opponents to find open space. He suppresses many chances in transition and displays great compete on back checks. I believe Rehkopf is still quite raw and has a lot of room to grow offensively, making him someone to keep an eye on.” - Dylan Krill

Though his production hasn’t been through the roof thus far, Rehkopf certainly has all of the tools to be an impact player. He has the shot, the confidence, the hands, but it hasn’t seemed to come together for him yet this season. He needs to become a game changer for Kitchener, and it has been difficult for him because of the older, elite talent ahead of him in the lineup. There is still lots of time for him to get it together, but as of now, his stock is certainly dropping out of the first round.” - Joely Stockl

Rehkopf has tons of raw potential when you put together his size and skilled hands. I like his elusiveness and deceptive body language while controlling the puck. I find his skating to be fluid and agile for a big man and allow him to be an effective puck transporter through the neutral zone. Carries the puck with confidence and soft hands. He possesses high-end handling skills. His hands are always free off his hip allowing him to take a quick shot on net or a quick pass that opponents aren’t expecting. He’s got a very quick release on his wrister and is an accurate shooter between the dots. He will utilize his size to knock players off the puck and be physically abrasive. He has the potential to be a power forward with above average puck skills which aren’t all that common in the NHL.” - Jared Brown

9. Oliver Bonk – Defense – London Knights
Total Votes: 9
Highest Ranking: 5th (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (7x)
As is often the case with London Knights, Bonk has come into his own as the season — and his role — has progressed. He’s the two-way right-shot defenceman that every team covets. While his game isn’t dynamic, he can comfortably make plays and influence the game in all three zones.” - Anonymous

A real good understanding of the game due in large part to the tutelage of his father and former NHL forward Radek. He skates really well, and is good at distributing the puck on transition. He's got a decent ceiling and is improving. Oliver was named OHL Rookie of the Month for November after leading all rookies with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 12 games.” - Mike Morreale

I’m a big fan of Bonk for many reasons, but what makes him my top defensemen from the OHL is his defensive game and how well his tools will translate to the NHL. There have been many games where Bonk is by far the most effective player in the defensive zone. He has a very active stick and has excellent stick positioning, quickly taking away space and time from opponents. He’s consistently timing his stick checks perfectly, making it very difficult for opponents to get a clear shot off. He’s able to use his size and strength well to clear the net-front and pin opponents to the boards. His defensive game alone makes him an intriguing prospect, but he is starting to gain more confidence and is showing more of his offensive abilities by driving play in transition, being a strong puck mover and utilizing his cannon of a shot more. He’s relied on heavily and can eat minutes for his team. His offensive game is still raw, but I really like the foundation of his game and the potential he has to become a middle-pair defensively minded defenseman who can contribute offense and compliment his teammates very well.” - Dylan Krill

My first (but not last) London Knights player on the list and the son of a former NHLer in Radek Bonk. He's got good size at 6'2" and is yet another right-handed shot on defence in this list. Bonk is also a first-year player in the OHL having spent his 16-year-old season in junior B with the exception of a small 10-game stint in the OHL. In a world where everyone is raving about Logan Mailloux's offensive game this year, Bonk is roughly posting a similar points-per-game pace at a younger age and flying under the radar doing it and getting a lot of rope from Dale Hunter who is usually far more reliant on his veterans.” - Matt Young

10. Denver Barkey – Center – London Knights
Total Votes: 7
Highest Ranking: 3rd (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (9x)
Very strong positioning around the defensive zone, strong efforts to disrupt the plays and possesses strong anticipation. He’s quick and tight on his edges, quick cuts when being challenged and puck handles very well.” - Olivia Carter

I’ve had my eye on Barkey since last year in the preseason, and in a similar vein to Pinelli, I’m highly drawn to his style of play. He’s got skill and speed, sure, but he also utilizes it very well off-puck. He drives great transition results going both directions, but involves himself defensively at a huge rate relative to other forwards, especially those that may lack some size. He gets his chances from dangerous areas through his sneaky positioning and ability to quickly change angles and spots on the ice, but also can create chances offensively and has done so in both games tracked to this point. He’s a skilled, feisty player that could slip in the draft due to being undersized and perhaps not the best under pressure with the puck, but he’s been an excellent puck transporter through his carries to this point, and he checks a ton of boxes in my books.” - Will Scouch

After a nine-game point streak with 13 in that span, Denver Barkey’s offensive creativity and awareness is what stands out and has put him on the map for the draft. He’s a quick and agile skater as he’s got a really strong burst of acceleration and speed. He’s quick and shifty in transition with great hands as he’s a dynamic playmaker. He has the vision to draw opponents, create space for his teammates and find the seams with crisp passes. His smarts and positioning allows him to always be in the right spot on the ice, with or without the puck. He isn’t afraid to attack the net and use his soft hands in tight to beat goaltenders. If Barkey wasn’t on your radar before, he should be now as he continues to make a name for himself.” - Peter Baracchini

Barkey is a highly efficient puck mover. He does a good job of finding tight passing lanes in transition and using them quickly without deliberation. When he doesn’t have control of the puck and his teammates do, he is constantly looking to establish open ice near them in every zone to open up quality outlet passing lanes. Barkey will utilize speed nicely on the rush. When entering into the offensive zone as the F2, he uses his speed to get past the defense and provide his teammates with quality passing lanes. Once Barkey gets control of the puck, he activates quickly and drives to the net. When facing tight pressure in low danger, he will complete quality passes underneath the attacker’s stick. He uses whatever space he has.” - Josh Tessler

The London Knights center has been one of the most entertaining draft eligibles in the OHL this season. He plays with incredible offensive instincts. You can find him rolling off defenders and darting toward the net, working the puck off the wall before finding a teammate in a pocket of space, or pulling off any number of crafty offensive maneuvers. He has a good shot and could stand to use it a bit more. His vision and passing ability to go along with his quick hands has been what's made Barkey such an effective player. He works the give-and-go as good as anyone in the OHL, understanding the geometry behind beating defensive structures. Barkey has a high work rate to go with his skill and pace, making him worth discussing among the top end OHLers.” - Tony Ferrari

Honorable Mentions

Matthew Soto – Wing – Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 5
Highest Ranking: 7th (2x)
I had no idea who Matthew Soto was going into the season but between he and Owen Outwater, I’ve liked those Kingston linemates quite a bit. Soto brings tenacity, pace, fierce one on one confidence, and offensive creativity that gives him a spot at the tail end of my list. I question his NHL likelihood as an offensive player due to his lack of true footspeed relative to how much effort it looks like he’s putting out there, but with some efficiency improvement in his skating and playing with a bit more dynamic pace, he could be a nice energy forward you could snag in the mid to late rounds. He’s also among the younger players in this year’s draft, and that bodes well for future development in my view.” - Will Scouch

Soto has excellent spatial awareness. He will pass the puck underneath the attacker’s stick when he is driving the rush and an attacker is closing in on him and in between a teammate of Soto’s. If he runs out of options in the offensive zone and an attacker has put tight pressure on him, he will once again go underneath the stick. When pressure has tightened up on him, he constantly shows that he can navigate out of pressure. He has been able to showcase his escapability on the regular against OHL defensemen.” - Josh Tessler

One of the younger players available in the draft and just making the 2023 draft by 16 days, Soto is averaging a point per game in Kingston. The 2021 fifth-overall pick is an intelligent player with a strong work ethic and has become a terrific playmaker since coming to the league. His acceleration could use work but as we've seen in the past, skating is something that can be improved as players get bigger and stronger; his overall IQ makes up for that deficiency right now but it is something that will need to improve in order to play with the pace at the next level.” - Matt Young

Soto’s dynamic skating and fast-paced offensive style are extremely fun to watch when he’s on his game. The issue is when he isn’t on his game, he can be invisible due to his lack of effectiveness without the puck. His transition speed is elite and has confident puck handles in full flight. He can explode up ice with the puck and also possesses the edgework to spin off pressure and maintain control of the puck along the boards. I love his ability to quickly identify passing options and move the puck accurately in motion. I’d like to see him attack the middle of the ice more consistently off the wall instead of staying stuck on the perimeter with the puck. I can see Soto driving play in transition with his blazing speed and above average hands as a middle six winger in the NHL, but needs to develop more consistency in his game.” - Jared Brown

Coulson Pitre – Wing – Flint Firebirds
Total Votes: 5
Highest Ranking: 8th (3x)
NHL teams are always looking for the next Tom Wilson types, and that's a tall order. He's a pretty unique player. But Pitre does have some similar qualities. He plays that power game but also skates well enough to be a factor in transition and has high end vision/smarts with the puck that make him a strong playmaker. Consistency has been a bit of an issue to start the year, but it's important to note that he's counted upon to be more of a secondary threat for Flint and his ice time/responsibility has fluctuated to a degree.” - Brock Otten

Pitre is just a good player. That has been clear in each of the last two seasons. If you watch the Firebirds, it doesn’t take long to recognize that he’s driving play as a young player on that team (and the proof is in his goal differential results). Pitre is a smart player who understands where to be to support play and how to use spacing to his advantage. He’s also got more of a goal-scoring touch than we’ve seen so far this season. I expect him to push for 40 goals next year.” - Anonymous

I’m not sure how many to-10 lists Pitre will make either and I admit I thought long and hard about it. I just like where his game is at right now. He can be a physical force who moves pretty well. He’s not shy about mixing it up either. He’s a power forward from yester-year. But he also has pretty good vision and playmaking skills. If he could add a touch more scoring ability to his repertoire, he would be intriguing. But I am putting him in my top-10 anyway.” - Dominic Tiano

Ethan Miedema – Wing – Windsor Spitfires
Total Votes: 4
Highest Ranking: 4th (1x)
A strong paced playmaker who is able to safely create cross ice passes and set up well around the offensive zone to set his linemates up for scoring opportunities. He’s able to create decent offensive rushes, possesses an accurate shot and has okay positioning overall.” - Olivia Carter

Big forward with skill. His skating is rough but there's a pro toolkit here. He'd score more on a different team.” - Anonymous

A 6'4" winger averaging nearly a point per game that played in a long playoff run in his first year in the league. There's a lot to like here and he's playing for Marc Savard in Windsor who has helped take several players to the next level in their game. I'm excited about what Miedma can become later on as players of his size always take a bit longer. He could take some time once he becomes a professional player but the wait could be worth it for a team that is patient for the former fourth-overall OHL selection.” - Matt Young

After a very slow start, Miedema is starting to get his game going. He’s got a big frame and great hands that give him a chance to put himself on a highlight reel at a moment's notice. He isn’t using his shot nearly enough which has affected his point totals but he has developed as a playmaker this season. If he can develop a bit more consistency and help Windsor get back on track, it would go a long way toward making him a riser among OHL draft eligibles.” - Tony Ferrari

Nick Lardis – Wing – Peterborough Petes
Total Votes: 4
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
Lardis has impressed me this year more than a number of OHLers. Coulson Pitre and Owen Outwater really pushed for this last spot too, but Lardis’ ability to use his edges to find space, keep up with play, and gain scoring chances with an excellent release on his shot has been really fun to watch. He’s determined, pretty skilled, and has offensive tools that could project with some time and patience.” - Will Scouch

I don’t know how many top-10 lists Lardis will make, but he should make them all and I say that with all the bias I can muster because I just love the way he plays. He’s constantly flying down his wing taking on defenders and driving wide, but he will also take it right to the net. And he’s a natural goal scorer who can score in multiple ways. I wonder if he would get more attention if he wasn’t playing in Peterborough.” - Dominic Tiano

Lardis’ speed and scoring ability have stood out to me. His start to the year was impressive but the trade acquisition of Brennan Othmann by the Petes has limited his offensive opportunities and ice time. He’s got the speed and top-notch acceleration to be a threat off the rush and drive defenders off their blueline. He should look to drive the middle of the ice more in transition and not stick only to the outside lane. He’s dangerous in the slot as he possesses a quick release off the pass and is excellent at finding the soft spots in coverage to get lost and open for his teammates. He still has lots of physical maturing to be had so he can be heavier on pucks and withstand contact better, but the speed and finishing touch give him a high ceiling.” - Jared Brown

Carey Terrance – Center – Erie Otters
Total Votes: 2
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
With every viewing, I become more intrigued by Terrance. I think he's just scratching the surface of his potential. What I have really grown to appreciate about his game is that he works through traffic really well down low with great small area quickness and puck protection habits. For such a strong skater, he's actually more consistently effective inside the blue line, IMO. Once he learns how to truly harness his speed to be a full length playmaker and pace pusher, look out. And even if the transitional puck skill never really develops, he still brings a lot to the table as a potential two-way center and workhorse. At worst, he could be a Cody Eakin type. At best, he's a much more involved offensive player. Really curious to see how he closes out the year as he gains confidence.” - Brock Otten

Terrance is an elite skater with a solid two-way game and his offence has taken a step forward from a year ago. Terrance is a team-worst -12 but he's also lining up most nights as the Otters' number-one centre in his draft year which is never an easy task. The fact that he heads up the penalty kill in Erie and wears a letter at 17 years old tells me all I need to know about the character and two-way game at his age. There's a lot to like and I think Otters' fans should be excited for the future with Terrance and Malcolm Spence yet to play their best hockey in the league.” - Matt Young

Andrew Gibson – Defense – Soo Greyhounds
Total Votes: 2
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
He's big, can skate and works hard. His offensive sense is a question though.” - Anonymous

A two-way right-handed defenseman who exhibits a lot of patience, a good first pass and smarts on the back end. He'll just need to improve his decision-making.” - Mike Morreale

Easton Cowan – Wing – London Knights
Total Votes: 1
Highest Ranking: 10th (1x)
Cowan is your definition of a utility player. He brings tremendous playmaking ability, but also plays big penalty kill minutes and covers for the defense often. Cowan is a player you want on the ice in the last minute of the game, whether your team is down a goal, or up a goal. This is a player that is being overlooked, and is one of my sleeper picks in this draft.” - Joely Stockl

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