Monday, November 13, 2023

Preliminary Top 50 for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft

It's time for my first official ranking for the 2024 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. 

A reminder that this list does not include potential re-entry candidates (players already passed over in the draft). A guy like Anthony Romani is off to a tremendous start, but I do a separate list for these types later in the season.

This was one of the most difficult preliminary lists for me to compile. I think that Dickinson is without question the top OHL player available this year, but after that it gets messy. I've flip flopped on many players over the last month or so. I think that next group of Greentree, Parekh, and Sennecke is very tight. Then I think there is another group after that of about five or six players that could be ranked in any order. Once you get down into the 20's and 30's, it's all about preference...and my preference has moved around constantly. I wanted to push this list a little bit longer, but wasn't even sure that would give me more clarity. I think that this is just going to be a year in the OHL where rankings are going to be all over the place on guys. Part of the reason for this is the lack of depth this year too.

Here's my list:

1. Sam Dickinson - Defense - London Knights
As mentioned, I think that he is unquestionably the top player available from the OHL this year. I don't see that changing over the course of the year. IMO, he and Michigan State's Levshunov will be in direct competition to be the first defender selected. Dickinson plays such a calm and mature game in the defensive end already. He knows how to leverage using his size. He's confident playing the body. His terrific four way mobility allows him to suffocate would be attackers and he can be so quick to close out because of his length and quickness. Offensively, I think things have been a little more inconsistent, but that's probably to be expected of a player who is still finding his bearing in this league after inconsistent ice time last year. Dickinson makes terrific decisions with the puck in the defensive end and is a true breakout machine. He's so poised under the pressure of the forecheck. However, I've found his decision making to be erratic as he attempts to advance play up ice with his feet. Turnovers in the neutral zone have been a bit of an issue. When he does get runway, he can be tough to stop because of how well he protects the puck in stride. Inside the offensive zone, he has solid instincts and does have the shot and touch to be a powerplay QB at the next level IMO. I think we're all just trying to figure out what the high end offensive upside is and ultimately that will determine how high Dickinson goes in June. Is he a future #1? Or is he more of a solid #3 who can be a longtime fixture of a defensive unit, but lacks the dynamic qualities to be a true perennial Norris candidate?

2. Liam Greentree - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Finding a big winger with the kind of skill and poise that Greentree possesses is difficult and for that reason, I think he'll end up shooting up draft lists over the course of the season. There are a lot of layers to his game offensively. He protects the puck well along the wall and can extend plays with his feet and strength. He dominates touches near the crease and has great anticipation/hands in tight. He can beat defenders one on one, be it attacking with pace or when trying to create in tighter spaces down low. He has a great shot, but also great vision with the puck. As I said, this is an offensive player with few weaknesses. I've seen a lot of people attack his skating. I don't see the big issue. I think his agility and strength on his edges are fine and it allows him to attack East/West and get looks in the middle of the ice. I think his top speed is sufficient for a bigger winger. The explosiveness will need to improve, but as he gains strength, I see that improving. I think I'm probably more concerned with the play away from the puck being fairly inconsistent. I certainly wouldn't call Greentree a power forward. He's a skilled offensively oriented winger who just happens to have great size. He's not an overtly physical player. If he could improve that area of his game in the second half or in the future, we're talking about a potential star. Getting him to use his size more effectively in all three zones is going to be a focal point. Here's my video breakdown of Greentree's game for McKeen's Hockey.

3. Zayne Parekh - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
I've seen Parekh pretty high (like top 10, top 8 high) on some lists lately...and I honestly get it. He's so damn fun to watch. He's worth the price of admission for fans. There are so many things to love about his game on the puck. He's one of the most skilled players in the OHL regardless of position. We could talk at length about his ability to create. His ability to blend movement and control allows him to keep defenders guessing; it's that concept of keeping the puck on a string. His edgework and lateral quickness are really impressive too. It's what makes him so dangerous inside the offensive zone. On top of all the skill, the vision and overall offensive zone awareness are also elite. He's the complete package as an offensive defender. I've watched a lot of Parekh this year and there just haven't been many poor plays with the puck. For all the fun...there are bound to be naysayers at the NHL level. He's given a ton of freedom to create in Saginaw and he's not likely to get that at the NHL least from many organizations currently. The question marks in his own zone are legitimate. He can struggle defending down low and in coverage, and a mindset switch will be needed. It can't be all offense all the time. That said...I do think his defensive game can be improved and it's why I do see him as a potential top 25 selection. Firstly, he's absolutely fantastic when defending aggressively in the offensive zone or neutral zone to try to earn touches. He's got a great stick and is so good at stopping or disrupting breakout attempts. Secondly, there is jam to his game at times. He can play physical and he doesn't like to get hemmed in his own end. Will improved strength improve his defensive consistency? Can he become just as hungry for the puck in the defensive zone as he is in the other two? There will be inherit risk attached to Parekh on draft day. Maybe he is only a Gostisbehere type powerplay QB at the NHL level. But, on the flip side, he is a young defender with a lot of time to figure things out; one with a great head for the game. I usually bet on hockey sense.

4. Beckett Sennecke - Wing - Oshawa Generals
For whatever reason, Sennecke has been the forgotten man among the top tier of the OHL, despite having the potential to be the second OHL player drafted this year IMO. I see a young man who oozes potential as he fills into his frame; a frame that has grown considerably in the last year or so. Sennecke has rocketed up to 6'3, yet I actually think he's managed to improve his skating a bit this year. Really only consistency has been the issue this year, but Oshawa has been pretty underwhelming as a team too. When he's filled out and finished his development, I actually think Sennecke could be a really complete player. He competes physically. He is active on the forecheck and the backcheck. He can beat defenders one on one to create for himself or teammates, but he is also a heady player who understands how to find space and soft spots in the offensive zone. For a competitive winger, his playmaking and vision are terrific and I think that ultimately makes him a really good complementary guy in the middle six at the next level. The skating, especially the agility is actually quite good for a big guy who is still growing, but the power and speed will definitely need to improve further. I think it can. Sennecke is the kind of guy who will continue to fly under the radar until he ends up making the Canadian U18 team at the end of the year and has a great tournament...then suddenly people will start saying "how is this 6'3 winger with skill and a competitive streak not considered a lock for the first round?"

5. Lukas Fischer - Defense - Sarnia Sting
This is where my list starts to get "spicy" the cool kids might say. I don't dislike Henry Mews, I just really like Lukas Fischer. I don't understand why he hasn't received the kind of attention he deserves. We're already talking about big, athletic defenders like Charlie Elick, EJ Emery, and Will Skahan...but not Fischer? Why? This is a guy who is one of the youngest players available this year, with terrific bloodlines, who happens to be playing big minutes in all situations with under 70 games of OHL experience under his belt. The runway for improvement is significant and we've already seen a massive step forward this year. Defensively, he has the potential to be an absolute rock. It wouldn't shock me at all if he finishes growing at close to his Dad's height/weight, yet he's also a terrific skater. He plays aggressively in the defensive zone and is so disruptive because of his reach and mobility. When the physical component becomes more consistent...look out. Offensively, I love how he starts the breakout. He already trusts his feet and protects the puck well to help him shed forecheckers. The puck skill and creativity are TBD, but he's shown flashes of being someone who can be a difference maker at both ends. Again, his game is raw in some areas and it's easy to forget that he only played half of last year in the OHL. For me, Fischer is a top 40 guy right now, right there with the likes of Emery as an athletic, toolsy type. Here's my video breakdown of Fischer's game for McKeen's Hockey.

6. Henry Mews - Defense - Ottawa 67's
The reads on Mews are just so all over the place right now. I've seen and heard some classify him as a high upside offensive type. I've seen him called more of a steady "jack of all trades" type. Where's the truth? It's funny, because when Mews was OHL draft eligible the mixed feelings on him among scouts were just as real. Is he just a guy that is tough to get a read on? It does seem like every time I watch Mews (be it in U16 action, U17 action, Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, the OHL), I get a bit of a different version. In a way, this kind of scares me a bit. There have been guys with that profile over the years who just haven't developed well to become long time NHL defenders. For me, that's why he's more of an early second round type. I certainly see the upside. The skating is terrific. He can create by leading the charge offensively, pushing deep inside the offensive zone to break down coverage. The defensive game and decision making have improved since his erratic Hlinka/Gretzky Cup performance. This is especially true for his physical intensity level; he seems to get "meaner" with every viewing. Maybe he will continue to grow on me. But in a year with so many good defenseman available (across the entire 2024 draft), I see others with a more defined role at the next level. 

7. Luke Misa - Wing/Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Watching Misa skate is just downright impressive. He is lightning quick; easily one of the OHL's quickest players. He's relentless in utilizing that speed too. He is a zone entry machine, who is always looking to circle back to lead the charge into the opposing end. He is a very active forechecker and backchecker and an overall effective three zone player because of his speed. The move to the wing this year seems to have really simplified things for him and he's playing the best hockey of his OHL career. He's also clearly worked really hard to improve his shot, which has added another dimension to his already well rounded skill set. I do have some concerns. A lot of his drives do still end up with him being kept to the perimeter and he can still easily be pushed off the puck; there's still a need to "beef up." Additionally, I don't see Misa as an overtly skilled or creative player. He's at his best in a straight line. The hands are right there with the feet, that's not an issue the way it was for guys like Liam Foudy at the same age. However, I'm just not completely sold on Misa having significant offensive upside at the NHL level. I kind of view him similarly to another former Steelhead in Owen Beck. I think there's a great chance that Misa ends up being a long time NHL player, I'm just not sure it's as more than a solid middle six type. Either way, you have to love the progression he has shown this year, finally taking that next step as a high end OHL player.

8. Cole Beaudoin - Center/Wing - Barrie Colts
I just really like that Beaudoin already has such a clear identity on the ice. He already has such a great understanding of how he needs to play and his game will translate well to the pro level so long as he can continue to upgrade his skating. There's a lot of versatility here; something that Beaudoin proved at the Hlinka/Gretzky this summer. He can play multiple forward positions. He can kill penalties or play down low on the powerplay. He competes hard physically and in all three zones. He loves to attack the middle of the ice and is great at protecting the puck in stride to offset any speed and quickness deficits. He's quicker without the puck than he is with it, but his stride still has a heaviness to it. It's not the most efficient from an energy perspective. Early on this year, I haven't really loved his vision with the puck and I think that area of his game will need to grow in order for him to stick down the middle. But overall, there's a lot to like here and I think he's a fairly safe NHL prospect. There's untapped offensive upside here, but also a safe floor of a Casey Cizikas type.

9. Carter George - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
I've found it pretty bizarre that Leenders has been getting a ton of attention as a potential early selection but George hasn't. Stats and physical profile are pretty similar. How soon people forget that George was pretty solid for Canada at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. Now...I say this but I view the two pretty damn interchangeable. Both are terrific play trackers. Both are athletic (Leenders probably a little quicker). But I view George as a little more technically sound, quiet in his movements and better with his rebound control. Owen Sound hasn't been great this year, but I can assure you that things would be worse if it weren't for George. 

10. Ryerson Leenders - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads
Leenders' athleticism is mighty impressive. He has been all over the plays of the week this year so far, stretching out to cover his posts to rob would be shooters. He never quits on a play and his composure in the crease this year for a younger Mississauga team has been impressive. The consistency hasn't always been there, but you really can't knock him for that in his first year as a starter. Once he cleans up a few technical things, that will improve. This is especially true about his rebound control. He can have trouble cleaning controlling shots up high and through screens and as such, he's having to make too many second/third chance saves. I'm always skeptical of putting goaltenders this high early in the year. And given that George and Leenders aren't the biggest, I wasn't sure I wanted to place them this high. But, from what I understand, both of these guys are highly regarded by NHL scouts right now and are right in the conversation as the top goalies available. Both of their track records have been too good so far. 

11. Jakub Fibigr - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Really impressive two-way Czech defender who has emerged as a minute eater for the Steelheads in his rookie year. Fibigr's skating ability is the key to his success. He is an effortless mover and it allows him to have a positive impact in a lot of areas. He can lead the breakout and quarterback the powerplay, however he's also been a penalty killing anchor for Mississauga because of how effective he's been in the defensive end. I love how he brings the fight to opposing puck carriers, stepping up early to disrupt clean entries. However, he also competes hard down low and near the crease and has some jam to his game. This is just a really solid two-way defender. Honestly, I wanted to put him higher, but decision making errors have been an issue all year without a ton of growth and that has me a little concerned about the processing ability. Poorly timed pinches. Poorly chosen times to be aggressive to defend high. Neutral zone turnovers. This really needs to get cleaned up. He's managed to cover a lot of these errors at the junior level because of his terrific mobility, but at the next level, he'd get eaten alive. I love Fibigr in that late second/early third round range right now. Here's my video breakdown of Fibigr's game for McKeen's Hockey.

12. Anthony Cristoforo - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
I kind of feel for Cristoforo. The Spitfires have been a real disappointment so far this season and he's been caught up in that a little bit. I don't think he's played poorly by any means. I also don't think that he's been able to take his game to that next level that I expected him to. I think that because the Spitfires have been reeling a bit, he seems to be playing things pretty safe and we're not seeing him take the kind of offensive chances that we did as an OHL rookie. His play on the powerplay has left a lot to be desired; there's been some indecisiveness there. Given his skill, poise, and vision, I want him to command the puck. Overall, Cristoforo is still a solid prospect thanks to his IQ. This is a very smart player. However, I do believe that there is some concern that he's one of those heady, jack of all trades types who can have difficulty transitioning. I just want to see him taking the bull by the horns to help lead this Windsor team out of their funk. Until I see more "dynamic" play from him, I feel more confident with him ranked in this range, rather than pushing for the first round as I had him preseason.

13. Jett Luchanko - Center - Guelph Storm
Easily one of the most improved 2006's in the OHL this year. Luchanko impressed at times last year because of his tenacity and forechecking, but he wasn't able to make much of an impact offensively. This year, he's emerged as a go-to offensive player for the Storm, taking over the first line center role thought to be occupied by Matt Poitras until he made the Bruins. Luchanko is a terrific skater who builds to top speed very quickly. He has a profound impact on the transition game and is largely responsible for helping the Storm gain the zone at even strength and the powerplay. Even though Luchanko clearly has a need to bulk up a bit to improve his ability to protect and maintain possession through contact, I've been really impressed with his ability to play through traffic and earn touches between the hash marks. Even though he has that speed element, his game is actually predicated on quick touches and quick movement, as he darts in and out of coverage. The aforementioned high energy approach he had as a rookie is still there too, even though he's taken on a larger offensive role. It's cliche, but Luchanko only knows one way to play. I'm not entirely sure we're looking at a high impact guy at the NHL level, but similar to Luke Misa, Luchanko has a chance to be a long time pro because of a tenacious and speed based game.

14. Ben Danford - Defense - Oshawa Generals
I did not anticipate having Danford this high after his rather weak showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. But, quite frankly, he's been terrific for the Generals this year in all facets of the game. He's a rock defensively who rarely makes an error in coverage. While he's not a Derian Hatcher-esque physical stalwart, his intensity level is terrific. Danford is one of those guys who'll do anything to secure a victory for his team; shot blocking is an art and Danford is already a master at it. His decision making with the puck has been sound too. We're seeing him round into form as a solid two-way player. He has shown an ability to extend rushes this year, but he's picking his spots well and limiting turnovers. In fact, he's shown more skill and creativity than I thought he had. To summarize, he's really developed well. But what's the pro upside? You certainly wish he was a little bigger and a little more agile. Danford is far from a poor skater, but I wouldn't classify him as better than average in any one category either. That's bound to cap his NHL draft position, even if he's performed well. At this point, I seem him as a top 75 candidate, but towards the back end of that. Here's my video breakdown of Danford's game for McKeen's Hockey.

15. Luca Testa - Wing - Brantford Bulldogs
Is the hot start sustainable? After a late start to the year due to injury recovery, Testa has been terrific for the Bulldogs through the first month or so of his return. A high skill player, Testa was one of the more disappointing OHL rookies last year. He was just invisible on most nights and he really struggled away from the puck. This year? He looks like a completely different player. In fact, he looks like a completely different player than he did as a U16 star too. We're seeing a Testa that is intense and competitive away from the puck, earning touches through forechecking and physicality in the neutral zone. If he played with this kind of fire and intensity at a consistent rate with Niagara North, he would have been a top five pick IMO. So now what do we have? We've got a highly skilled and creative offensive player who skates well and who has developed more consistency as a "complete" player. If his play continues at this high level, he'll be higher on my next list. Testa has more upside than the likes of Misa and Beaudoin IMO.

16. Nathan Villeneuve - Center/Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Tough sledding for Villeneuve lately. The arrival of Dalibor Dvorsky has had a real negative impact on his ice time and responsibility, and as a result, his offensive production has plummeted. However, I think he's still playing well in more of a high energy, checking line role. He's one of the most physical players in this Ontario class and even though he's been playing a lot of wing lately, I think he does project as a center moving forward. Much like Liam Greentree, Villeneuve is very center of the ice focused. He drives the net. He battles for position and can play net front on the powerplay. He is active and engaged in puck pursuit. I think his skating looks improved this year, although further improvements made to his first step quickness could help him. If he were on another team playing 18 minutes a game with top powerplay responsibility, I think we'd be talking about him as a top two round selection. As is, he's probably going to end up as more of a 75-100 guy. Given his projected lack of ice time this year, it could be difficult to truly ascertain his high end offensive upside as a pro.

17. Christopher Thibodeau - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Even on a team with some NHL draft selections, Thibodeau has been the straw the stirs the drink for the Fronts this year, emerging as a top flight offensive talent in the OHL. I love the pace that he plays with. Even as an undersized player (he's listed at 144lbs!), he is always trying to take the puck to the net and he's doing a lot of his damage between the hash marks by driving the middle. His speed and ability to make quick cuts at top speed are impressive. He's a very elusive and slippery player. I've been impressed with nearly every component of his offensive game too. The release is top notch. The vision with the puck has been impressive, especially when operating with pace. As a late birthday, he has the kind of poise you'd expect from a third year OHL player too, understanding when he needs to alter pace to slow the game down, incorporating delays and varying speed to make him a more difficult cover. Even as a smaller forward, I'd have no qualms taking Thibodeau inside the first three rounds right now. This is a high upside forward who may have even more to give after he bulks up.

18. Sam O'Reilly - Wing/Center - London Knights
O'Reilly has been great in his first full OHL season, emerging quickly as a dependable source of secondary scoring for London. This is a power winger (although he has played some center) who plays a heavy, pro style game. It's very obvious as to why Dale Hunter has been quick to give him more ice time. He competes physically and loves to lay the body in puck pursuit. He drives the net and competes along the wall. He plays all three zones and has been a dependable defensive presence. His work in the neutral zone has been particularly impressive. He has a great stick and instincts. Offensively, he seems to be best when he keeps things simple as a North/South attacker. He's not the most skilled or creative player, but I've been impressed with his puck poise as an OHL rookie. He's not afraid of putting the puck into space to earn his touches and has done well to vary pace...even without high end skating ability. Really, that's the only thing missing from his game. His top speed isn't bad, but he's definitely got some heavier boots. The first step quickness will need to improve. But Dale Hunter has done a great job of developing players like O'Reilly and IMO, he's someone that will continue to rise up rankings as the year goes on.

19. Marek Vanacker - Wing - Brantford Bulldogs
This power winger who plays a North/South attacking game has shown some nice flashes of progression this year. His skating has really taken a nice step forward and would be classified as a strength for him. Once he builds that head of steam in transition, OHL defenders are having a tough time with him. I really like his upside as a goal scorer too. He's got a really heavy shot. The release needs to get quicker and he needs to find those soft spots in coverage more consistently (his play away from the puck has been inconsistent), but I think he's going to be a top end goal scorer in this league and perhaps beyond. The rest of his game is definitely a work in progress. Brantford has struggled to find consistency as a team and Vanacker can be included in that. But this is the type of player NHL scouts are going to be drawn to in the middle rounds.

20. Kevin He - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
The IceDogs have been a bit of a mess...surprise, surprise. After a really strong rookie year, He's development has kind of plateaued this year. Like many of the players ranked in this range, consistency has been an issue. Decision making with the puck, in particular, has left some to be desired. A high volume shooter, He has not taken the necessary next steps forward as a playmaker or three zone player. But, there's still significant upside here. He is quick. He is skilled. He projects as a high end goal scorer. One has to wonder how He would be performing under different circumstances or in a different environment. Is he feeling pressure to create given Niagara's struggles and that's what is leading to some of those offensive zone turnovers and forced plays? He is going to need a big second half to stay ranked in this range as a potential top 100 selection.

21. Riley Patterson - Center - Barrie Colts
Coming into the season, I definitely didn't expect Patterson to be ranked this far down. But his transition from OJHL star to OHL standout has been a difficult one. So much so, that NHL Central Scouting didn't even bother to list him as a player to watch. I obviously wouldn't go that far (given where I have him ranked), but I've been pretty underwhelmed by him offensively. If not for his strong defensive habits and potential, I probably would have had him lower. A strong skater, Patterson has looked good as a two-way threat. He has a great stick in the neutral zone and the effort has been consistent to try to earn touches. What he does with those touches has been the frustrating part. He's largely shown tunnel vision as an attacker and the majority of his carries have resulted in turnovers as he tries to take on defenders one on one. There's a definite need for him to add mass to his frame in order to withstand contact and make more of an impact between the hash marks. Additionally, he needs to simplify his approach. He's not going to be able to beat OHL defenders off the rush the same way he did in the OJHL. I've spoken to a few OHL management types about Patterson this year and the disappointment has been pretty mutual. If his game doesn't pick up in the second half and demonstrate growth, he'll continue to fall. Obviously...since I still have him ranked in this range I'm of the belief that he can show growth.

22. Parker Von Richter - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
This is a tough one for me. I absolutely love Von Richter. He's one of my favourite players in this Ontario draft class. Yet...I also understand that his NHL draft ranking should be in this mid round range for a variety of reasons. Let's start with the good. Von Richter is such an intelligent defensive player. He's always in the right position. His gap control is solid, even if he's not the most agile player. He engages physically and rarely loses a battle for the puck. But, best of all, I think Von Richter is also an intelligent offensive player. He makes a solid breakout pass and manages the puck well, even under pressure. He keeps things simple. In that simplicity is effectiveness and it's why he has been used to quarterback the powerplay at times. He can get pucks to the net and makes quick decisions at the point. Now, the not as good. Von Richter doesn't have the kind of size/mobility package that you like to see from potential stay at home types at the next level. And the reality is that Von Richter probably does project best as that type of pro, rather than a true two-way defender. A guy like Adam Pelech had a similar profile as an OHL player, but he definitely had a size advantage over PVR. The defensive types who have average size at the NHL level happen to be high end skaters, so that's where my concerns lie...even if I love Von Richter.

23. Luca Marrelli - Defense - Oshawa Generals
I think it's pretty appropriate to have PVR and Marrelli ranked consecutively. A true "jack of all trades" type, Marrelli is just solid in all aspects of the game. He doesn't necessarily have a dominant trait or attribute, with everything grading out at average or above average. The feet are good, but not great. The size is good, but not outstanding. The physical intensity is good enough. Scouts will love the right shot. Marrelli has good instincts at both ends and can move the puck, even if he's not flashy or dynamic. A late born 2005, he has certainly shown the kind of progression that you'd expect and he continues to play a key role for the Generals. What's the pro upside? I think similar to PVR, that's the question mark. I was a bit surprised to see him earn a B grade from NHL Central Scouting, as to me he has a lot of qualities of that classic tweener. The rest of the year will be used to truly ascertain what kind of pro he can be. 

24. Ethan Procyszyn - Center - North Bay Battalion
There is a reason why NHL Central Scouting gave Procyszyn a B grade. NHL scouts love types like him. The size and athleticism package is very intriguing. A great skater for a 6'3 center, Procyszyn is already a great player away from the puck. He has great attention to detail and is dialed in physically, making him a dual threat for the Battalion and someone who can be utilized in all situations. There's a very clear path to the pro level for someone like him, even if it's in more of a checking line role. The one name that comes to mind here is Zach Ostapchuk. I think they're similar kinds of players and prospects. If you follow my work at McKeen's, you'd know that I was a HUGE Ostapchuk supporter in his draft year. At this point, I'm not at that spot with Procyszyn. I see the allure. However, I'm not sure I see the same kind of creativity, skill, and offensive upside. That said, I wouldn't be shocked if I grew to really appreciate him more as the season progresses.

25. Gabriel Frasca - Center - Kingston Frontenacs
The forgotten man in this Ontario crop, Frasca has yet to play this season after injuring his shoulder in the offseason. But, he's rumoured to be returning soon and it will be very interesting to see how he performs and ultimately slots into this draft landscape. Like any of the Frasca brothers, Gabriel is a heady player. He excelled as an OHL rookie because of his intelligence level and vision. He's also probably the best skater of the brothers and as such, is likely to be the best NHL prospect. I know he has his fans in the NHL scouting community (the B grade from NHL Central Scouting is evidence of that). But, I want to see the progression this year before I slot him above a lot of guys who have been playing and who showed similarly as OHL rookies last year.

26. Charlie Paquette - Wing - Guelph Storm
Paquette, a late born 2005 winger, has been great this year for Guelph. IMO, he's been one of the most improved 2005's in the league and this positive progression has him firmly on the scouting radar. A big winger, he plays a traditional power game. He's got a powerful release and has done a really good job of converting on his looks this season. Even though he probably projects as a complementary piece at the next level, I've been impressed with his ability to drive possession and create his own chances this year. He's very difficult to separate from the puck and has been a real work horse for the Storm. I wanted to put him higher, but at this point I want to see if this level of play is sustainable. 

27. Jacob Battaglia - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Another big bodied winger ranked in this range, Battaglia has a similar profile to the likes of Paquette, O'Reilly, and Procyszyn. I've really liked how he controls play down low and along the wall. He protects the puck really well and is difficult to strip or separate from. He's got quick feet for a big guy too, although the top end speed/linear quickness will need to improve. Battaglia has enough skill to spin off the wall and convert chances in tight and he's found a lot of success cleaning up garbage near the crease. I don't think his play away from the puck is as refined as some of the others ranked ahead of him who play a similar game, but inside the offensive end he has been impressive. 

28. Jack Van Volsen - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Van Volsen is a player, to me, who is still trying to find his identity as an OHL player and potential NHL draft prospect. It's obvious that he has the skill to be a top flight contributor at this level. That was obvious at the U16 level and it's why he was drafted so high. Yet, he's struggled with a lot of things since progressing to a higher level. The physical intensity level needs to increase. The confidence with the puck seems low at this point as Van Volsen has struggled to make plays deep in the offensive zone. There's a hesitancy there to make quick plays/reads. Does this point to a lack of processing? He's basically strictly a complementary player at this point in his OHL career, able to finish off plays because of his skill, but if you're not actively looking for him, he's not likely to catch your eye. The offensive upside is still way too high to give up on him and it's not like he's playing completely terrible. It's more that he's too much of a passenger right now and scouts are going to want to see him take the bull by the horns.

29. Frankie Marrelli - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Marrelli is another player that I really like, but I have to ask he truly a terrific NHL prospect? Like PVR, he projects best as a stay at home type, yet he's only 5'11, lacking high end reach. Now, he makes up for that by being a physical demon, but he's also not the kind of high end skater you'd like to see either. That's not saying Marrelli is a poor skater. Far from it. But he's not an elite mover either. All that said, as I mentioned, I love the player. I love how he competes in the defensive end. I love his gap control and positioning in the defensive end. I love how he defends pace aggressively by stepping up early, squashing a lot of plays in the neutral zone or at the blueline. I love how he starts the breakout and I think he has sneaky offensive upside inside the offensive blueline because of his high end processing ability. Without those high end physical/athletic tools, I just wonder how NHL scouts are going to view his game and I wonder how well that game projects to the next level. 

30. Charlie Hilton - Wing - Ottawa 67's
Might be a bit shocking to see him ranked this high, especially since I haven't really seen him on anyone else's radar. However, every time I'm watching the 67's and trying to focus on other players, he manages to stand out. The production hasn't really been there yet, but he's doing a lot of things well that just aren't showing up on the stat sheet. He's creating chances and I think it's only a matter of time before he starts to produce more consistently. This a is big 6'5 winger who happens to be the youngest player eligible for the draft this year. Yet, he's already quite a physical player who has a clear understanding of the way he needs to play to be successful. His skating is far from poor too. He can drive the net. Once his fills out physically, I see Hilton as having the potential to develop into quite the player. He just passes the eye test too often for me not to have him ranked pretty aggressively. 

31. Lucas Ellinas - Center - Kitchener Rangers
This year's Ethan Hay. Ellinas has great attention to detail as a defensive center already and has the length and skating to play that role at the next level too. He's already used in key defensive situations by the Rangers. What's the offensive upside? 

32. Kieron Walton - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Massive winger with good offensive upside who has been a solid secondary scorer for the Wolves this year. He has skill and he's shown improvement away from the puck this year, but the physical intensity level is still too inconsistent for a player of his size. 

33. Kaden Pitre - Center - Flint Firebirds
Hasn't played since mid/late October after taking a shoulder on shoulder hit against the Battalion. But Kaden is kind of a similar player to Coulson. A guy who plays bigger than he is to make up for a lack of truly dynamic athletic tools. I'm not sure he's got the kind of vision or upside as Coulson, but it did take me some time to come around on him last year too.

34. Bode Stewart - Wing - Barrie Colts
Stewart has been a great role player for Barrie this year. He's been great on the penalty kill. He plays a heavy game. I'd love to see him playing consistently with a more dynamic playmaker at center. Skating needs to improve.

35. AJ Spellacy - Center/Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Like many of the Windsor Spitfires, Spellacy has disappointed this year. However, he's been much better the last few weeks, getting back to playing the kind of power game that he finds success with. Easy to forget that he had a significant knee injury last year. A big second half could move him back up my list and the list of others. 

36. Matthew Virgillio - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
The biggest disappointment of this Ontario group so far for me. Had such high expectations for him, but he's been pretty quiet. He showed such great flashes of offensive ability last year, but he's been way too conservative this year. I'm not sure I've seen him skate past his own blueline with the puck this year. I know Karki has come in and taken his projected role and ice time, but he's capable of way more.

37. Jakub Chromiak - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Coming into the year I was lower on Chromiak than a lot of my contemporaries. I just didn't see a dynamic defender. That has held through this season thus far. A move to Kingston to earn more ice time has not helped. He will likely continue to fall unless he's able to find a way to make a larger impact.

38. Callum Cheynowski - Defense - Brantford Bulldogs
Good sized defender with solid athletic tools. Ice time has been inconsistent thus far, but he shows flashes of being a high impact defender in this league at both ends. If Brantford ends up selling off at the deadline and he gets more ice time down the stretch, he could be one to watch.

39. Braydon McCallum - Wing - Peterborough Petes
High energy winger who has been a solid secondary scoring option for the surprising Petes this year. He's not big, but he keeps his feet moving in the offensive end and relishes the opportunity to play that pest like role. Offensive upside is limited, but he's been good. 

40. Daniel Chen - Defense - Brantford Bulldogs
Tall and lanky defender who played heavy minutes early on, but has seen his ice time and responsibility decrease as the weeks have gone on. Not the most fluid mover, but he's shown some upside as two-way toolsy type. Very, very raw.

41. David Egorov - Goaltender - Brantford Bulldogs
I had very high expectations for Egorov coming into the year, viewing him as only a notch below George and Leenders in this crop. But he's really struggled with his reads and consistency. I still think that he's got a lot of upside as a starter in this league, but his NHL draft prospects are looking weak.

42. Carson Woodall - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Woodall has been a pleasant surprise for the Spits this year, one of few. He takes care of the puck, makes a clean exit, and has good instincts at both ends. I'm just not sure I see an NHL draft prospect. Not a dynamic player. Solid presence, but I don't think he has the skill set to dominate at either end. Not big either. Looks to be a potentially great find as an OHL player, but not more.

43. Cole Davis - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Another awesome surprise for the Spitfires...again one of the few bright spots. Smaller winger, but he plays a high energy game. Strong skater who always seems to be around the puck. Want to see how his offensive game continues to evolve this year. He could end up moving up lists if he can prove to be more of a play driver at his size.

44. Mason Zebeski - Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
Big winger who plays a heavy support game. Creates space for his linemates and is at his best when he can push the pace North/South. Not sure I see a ton of upside, especially as a late born 2005, but in a weaker year for depth in the OHL, he definitely deserves a place on this list.

45. Christopher Brown - Center - Soo Greyhounds
Intelligent playmaking center who has taken a nice step forward this year for the Greyhounds. Strong skater. There's a definite need to get stronger, but he shows flashes of being a high energy guy away from the puck. Have had a hard time determining the upside so far this year. Truthfully, a player that I need to see more of over the next little bit. 

46. Alex Kostov - Wing - Soo Greyhounds
Good sized winger with intriguing athletic tools. Hasn't really shown that he can be a consistent offensive contributor or that he has the hands/skill to be a top six OHL player. 

47. William Nicholl - Center/Wing - London Knights
The classic London Knights slow play kind of guy. Nicholl is being used in a variety of different situations because he's playing hard, but a lack of consistent ice time is perhaps masking the kind of upside he might possess. OHL rookie, so we don't have a ton to base it on either. Curious to see how he looks down the stretch.

48. Nathan Aspinall - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Aspinall is similar to Kieron Walton in that he's a massive winger who isn't really a power forward. More skill based. He's not as good of a skater as Walton is and he hasn't shown the same level of skill with the puck. He's capitalized on some chances and remains intriguing because of the size, but let's see how his game improves over the year.

49. Carson Campbell - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Campbell has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers after being acquired from Sarnia. His emergence as a steady hand allowed Kitchener to deal Tomas Hamara (in combination with Roman Schmidt's return, of course). Campbell is a strong skater who has shown flashes of being a capable puck mover and he's making good decisions at both ends. Tough to truly determine his upside given his lack of ice time, but there might be something there.

50. Josh Brady - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Basically the same player as Campbell. Brady has been a pleasant surprise for Ottawa and has shown flashes of offensive upside. For now, he's making the most of limited ice time by keeping things simple and making strong plays inside his own blueline. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

2023/24 OHL Season Preview Part 3: Award Predictions

The conclusion to my three part season preview sees me look at potential award candidates for 2023/24.

Red Tilson Trophy - David Goyette (Sudbury Wolves)
The second leading returning scorer to the OHL this year behind Matthew Poitras. The only difference is that I expect Goyette to be surrounded by better talent on a better team. Thus...he's my pick. I think he has an absolutely monster year as part of a dominant first line with Musty and Delic. Poitras is obviously a candidate too. Does he see some time in the NHL? Colby Barlow is going to have a huge year for a great Owen Sound team. He should be right up near the scoring leaders too. How about Michael Misa as an underdog? Let us not forget that other exceptional status players took big steps forward as sophomores. Based on what I saw at the Hlinka/Gretzky, I think Misa has a huge season. Could we see an Import player take it? It doesn't happen often, but it does happen (two of the last four, in fact). Maybe Sale or Haltunnen come in and become immediate impact players?

Jim Rutherford Goaltender of the Year - Dom DiVnicentiis (North Bay Battalion)
We rarely have back to back winners, but it does happen. Mike Murphy was the last to accomplish it in 2008 and 2009. I just believe that DiVincentiis is clearly the best netminder in the league and the safest bet here. We have quite a few platoons heading into the year on good teams and that obviously decreases the odds of those players. One name that really sticks out as a potential winner is Andrew Oke. He wasn't as good last year, but he has proven previously to be a solid netminder and is clearly Saginaw's guy. Even though he has no prior experience in the league, Jakub Vondras in Sudbury has to be candidate given his situation and strength of team. Lastly, Michael Simpson has to be a candidate in London after the recent trade.

Max Kaminski Trophy - Ty Nelson (North Bay Battalion)
Nic Hague is the only other OHL defender to score 30 goals in the new millennium and I think Nelson joins him in accomplishing that feat. Nelson really took a nice step forward last year and returns to the league likely even stronger. The top candidate to stop Nelson is Guelph's Michael Buchinger. Yes, he's the highest returning scoring defender along with Nelson, but he's got the keys to Guelph's offense with Cam Allen out and he is one of the league's most underrated players. I look at Rodwin Dionicio, Hunter Brzustewicz, Beau Akey, and Zayne Parekh as other options.

Emms Family Award - Matthew Schaefer (Erie Otters)
It's a really strong rookie group entering the OHL this year. But for me, the most likely winner is Matthew Schaefer. As we saw in the preseason, he's going to contribute on offense immediately. He's in a great situation to succeed and I actually think he could join a pretty exclusive club among the U17 defenders to score 50 points. My second choice would be Barrie center Riley Patterson, who's an '06. He's incredibly talented and he's going to get a ton of ice time. Don't be surprised if he scores 80+ points this year. Otherwise, guys like Brady Martin, Jake O'Brien, Mattheas Stark, Tyler Hopkins, all had strong preseasons too.

Leo Lalande Trophy - Braeden Bowman (Guelph Storm)
Like any year, lots of good candidates here. But I think Bowman is in a great position to put up some huge numbers in Guelph this season, carrying over from his positive progression last year. Barrie defender Connor Punnett is another candidate that I really like. He's one of the league's most underrated two-way players. Kitchener's Mitchell Martin, Soo's Jack Beck, Owen Sound's Sam Sedley, Peterborough's Connor Lockhart, London's Michael Simpson and Windsor's Oliver Peer are others that I'm really looking at.

Matt Leyden Trophy - Dale Hunter (London Knights)
Despite some pretty good teams, Dale Hunter hasn't won this award in over a decade. I think it's his year. I think really highly of Chris Lazary in Saginaw and he's bound to be in contention. Greg Walters in Owen Sound and Ken MacKenzie in Sudbury are also great potential candidates.

Eddie Powers Trophy - David Goyette (Sudbury Wolves)
Basically, just take all the candidates for the Red Tilson and insert them here. I think Goyette is the top candidate and in fact, I wouldn't be shocked at all of Musty and Delic were in the top 6 or 7 of scoring too. I also mentioned Michael Misa. I think he's a great sleeper for this.

Goal Scoring Leader - Colby Barlow (Owen Sound Attack)
Without question, Barlow has to enter the year as the top candidate to lead the league in goals. As long as he stays healthy, I think he's a lock for at least 50. Other candidates that I like...Kasper Halttunen in London, Michael Misa in Saginaw, David Goyette in Sudbury, Nick Lardis in Brantford, and Gavin Hayes in Flint. 

1st Team All Stars
C - Matthew Poitras
LW - Colby Barlow
RW - David Goyette
D - Ty Nelson
D - Michael Buchinger
G - Dom DiVincentiis
Coach - Dale Hunter

2nd Team All Stars
C - Michael Misa
LW - Quentin Musty
RW - Kasper Halttunen
D - Beau Akey
D - Rodwin Dionicio
G - Michael Simpson
Coach - Ken MacKenzie

3rd Team All Stars
C - Martin Misiak
LW - Easton Cowan
RW - Eduard Sale
D - Hunter Brzustewicz
D - Zayne Parekh
G - Jakub Vondras
Coach - Chris Lazary

1st All Rookie Team
C - Riley Patterson
LW - Ryan Roobroeck
RW - Brady Martin
D - Matt Schaefer
D - Jakub Fibigr
G - Jack Ivankovic

2nd All Rookie Team
C - Tyler Hopkins
LW - Mattheas Stark
RW - Sam O'Reilly (although may qualify at center)
D - Cameron Reid
D - Ben Radley
G - David Egorov

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

2023/24 OHL Preview Part 2 - Western Conference

Part two looks at the Western Conference. Just like I mentioned in the East, parity is the name of the game here. Entering the year, the London Knights have to be the favourites, but you have some really good teams in the Conference who could easily push them when all is said and done.

1. London Knights (Midwest Division Champs)
At this point, how could you not go with London? Their defense should be the best in the OHL led by Oliver Bonk, Isaiah George, and top NHL draft prospect Sam Dickinson. The first line of Denver Barkey, Easton Cowan, and Finnish import Kasper Halttunen should be among the best trios in the league. Forward depth isn't as strong as usual, but expect London to address that at some point, especially with an open OA spot on the roster. The real concern is in net. Can Zach Bowen be the guy? He was at times last year, but consistency was a major issue. If he falters, I would imagine that London looks to bring in a netminder earlier, rather than later. 

Post Edit: London has acquired Michael Simpson solidifying their hold on preseason prognostications. 

2. Saginaw Spirit (West Division Champs)
We already know that the Spirit will be present at the end of the year as Memorial Cup hosts. Obviously, the strength of their roster was one of the reasons for their selection and I would expect them to add to that over the year. Like many teams in the OHL, goaltending is the question mark. Can Andrew Oke step up with Tristan Lennox finally out of the mix, leaving him the keys to the house? Like London, I would expect them to be active on the trade market if he struggles. Otherwise, look for Michael Misa to take a huge step forward as one of the OHL's leading scorers, and if the Matyas Sapovaliv from last years playoffs shows up, look out.

3. Owen Sound Attack
Look out London, this Owen Sound team will be right on you all season long. This is a veteran laden roster that was constructed for a deep run this year. Colby Barlow is the star, but this team is deep at every position, returning nearly every key player from a year ago. I'm very curious to see what they end up deciding at the OA spot, with four really good options and only three spots (Goure, Burroughs, Lawrence, and Sedley). The big thing that I'm looking for is who steps up to replace Nolan Seed, aiding Sam Sedley as a puck mover and minute eater on the back end.

4. Windsor Spitfires
How much will the Spitfires miss Matt Maggio? He was by far the team's best player last year, leading them to a division title. Thankfully, the framework of that same team returns. The roster has a solid mix of veteran talent, and good young players. I have little faith that this team will score goals. Dionicio, DeAngelis, and Cristoforo will anchor the backend. The forward group is deep. Expect Oliver Peer to have a monster OA year. Also expect Ryan Abraham to have a big year if he can stay healthy. I'd also expect Joey Costanzo to be more consistent this year, especially down the stretch.

5. Erie Otters
My surprise team in the Western Conference. I see this team as being super hungry to finally progress after five straight years at the bottom of the division. The Misiak addition should pay major dividends; look for him to be a difference maker. Ditto for rookie Matthew Schaefer. He is electric and gives the Otters two really good puck movers on both top pairings. Look for this team to really push the pace, which might seem weird to say given Stan Butler is their coach. However, because of Stan, they will also be highly detail oriented. I just have a good feeling about Erie this year.

6. Soo Greyhounds
I actually really wanted to put this Soo team higher. Especially after they picked up Jack Beck, a player I expect to be highly motivated to earn a pro deal as an OA. I really like the defensive make-up of this team and it helps to alleviate some concerns over their goaltending. Gibson, Kudryavtsev, Virgillio, and Karki is a heck of a top four. I think Bryce McConnell Barker has a monster season too. I'm just not necessarily convinced that this team has the high end depth at forward to truly compete in the Western Conference. Pace is going to be a bit of an issue too, as this forward group is not the most fleet of foot.

7. Kitchener Rangers
The early results under new coach Jussi Ahokas have been great this preseason. Important to's preseason. Erie was among the best in the Western Conference last year in the preseason and they selected first overall. That said, I have faith that Ahokas can bring a refreshing new outlook to the OHL and bring out the best in this group. They don't have the depth of some other Western Conference squads, but they do have some potential star talent. Carson Rehkopf looks poised for a big year. I'd expect the same from Mitchell Martin as he tries to earn a pro deal as an OA. 

8. Guelph Storm
I don't know what to think about the Storm. Part of me believes that they can contend in the Western Conference if all the chips align well. The preseason OHL power rankings poll (which I contributed to) definitely alludes to that with the Storm being quite high. But what if they don't? Matthew Poitras has been turning heads in Boston and they have some openings. Cam Allen will be out until Christmas. Michael Buchinger is a legit contender for the Max Kaminsky, but he can't do it all himself on the backend. In net, the Storm have pushed all their chips in on Import rookie Damian Slavik. It just seems like everything would have to go really well for this team to be a contender. 

9. Flint Firebirds
It feels weird to have the Firebirds this low, given that I really like certain players and components of their roster. Again, the parity in the league is real this year. What I'm concerned about is the lack of a primary play driver without Lombardi this year. I really like Hayes and Pitre, but I'm just not crazy about the team's centers this year. Ditto for the defensive depth behind Tristan Bertucci. According to InStat, Flint doesn't have a defender returning outside of Bertucci who played more than 17 minutes per game last year. That's asking a lot of some of these younger guys.

10. Sarnia Sting
I know, I know. They had a tremendous preseason. But, like I said earlier, so did Erie last year before they ended up picking first overall. The Sting are losing their top six scorers from last year, which amounts to almost 200 goals. For those keeping track, that's over 60% of the teams production from last year. That's just never a good sign for success in the cyclical OHL. It's time for a rebuild in Sarnia and they do have some nice trade chips, including Ben Gaudreau if they can get him playing well. The one guy that I'm most curious about is Sandis Vilmanis. He impressed me a lot last year and I think he can do a lot more with significant ice time and responsibility this season.

Monday, September 25, 2023

2023/24 OHL Preview Part 1 - Eastern Conference

The start of the 2023/24 OHL season is right around the corner. That means it is time to make some predictions and to preview each conference. As always, prognosticating the OHL (and the CHL in general) is extremely difficult. You never know which players surprise and make the NHL or the pro level. You never know which are surprisingly returned. In fact, I would say that this year is one of the most difficult to predict in recent memory due to the likely parity in the league. There are are lot of strong teams, but none without perceived weaknesses. Lots of veteran laden rosters hoping that this year is their year. Lots of younger teams hoping to take that next step in their development. 

First up is the Eastern Conference. I see the Central Division as clearly superior heading into the season. It's going to be a dogfight, which could hurt the records of some teams given inter divisional play. That's probably good news for Ottawa as they try to repeat as East Division champions. 

1. Barrie Colts (Central Division Champs)
Yes, the Colts have lost their top two scorers from last year, in addition to their best player in the second half (Brandt Clarke). But, adding Eduard Sale and Riley Patterson was huge for this club who still has terrific depth. Cole Beaudoin looks ready to take a huge next step too. This group does have an OA problem, depending on certain players returning from the pro level. But that's a great problem to have and maybe they can flip one for a talented '04 who can play a role this year. Look for the Beau's to have huge years (Jelsma and Akey). The only real question is in net. Ben West was excellent in preseason action, but he's an OA in an already crowded '03 group. 

2. Ottawa 67's (East Division Champs)
Let's not forget how good the 67's were last year in the first half before they made some moves to bolster their roster. So while I am concerned about depth following some roster losses, especially after moving a disgruntled Jack Beck, I do have faith that this young team can put together another really good season in a weaker East Division. They return their strong goaltending platoon of Donoso and MacKenzie, and they should be able to roll out two very good scoring lines. Their young defense is solid, but I am most concerned with the loss of Jack Matier, forcing the likes of Henry Mews and Frankie Marrelli into significant roles in their draft years. Their plenty talented, but we saw what that pressure did to Cam Allen last year. I'd look for the 67's to dip into the OA market early from teams facing a roster crunch.

3. Sudbury Wolves
This Sudbury team should be really, really good if they can get good goaltending from either Nate Krawchuk or Import Jakub Vondras. They are one hundred percent a contender for an OHL Championship this year. The line of Musty, Goyette, and Delic should be one of the best in the league and all three could be top ten in OHL scoring. However, their scoring depth is solid too, especially if Nathan Villeneuve takes that next step like many expect. One of the keys for this team is undoubtedly Jakub Chromiak. He needs to be much better than he was as an OHL rookie, giving this team four really solid defenders in he, Mania, Anania, and Collins. Losing Toure to the pro level (after signing a deal with the Senators) hurts, but it does solve their OA problem.

4. Mississauga Steelheads
The Steelheads have a chance to be this year's truly surprise team. They're very young, but boy are they talented. Getting Jakub Fibigr to report was huge for them as he will provide an offensive spark on the blueline that was missing. He's looked great in the OHL preseason and should transition seamlessly. Up front this team is three lines deep and has so many talented play drivers. Porter Martone is going to be a go-to guy and is a darkhorse to finish top ten in OHL scoring IMO. However, Luke Misa and Jack Van Volsen are probably the key to the Steelheads having a successful year. Both have to take that next step in their NHL draft years...and I think they will.

5. Kingston Frontenacs
Kingston is the best bet to be the second best team in the East Division IMO and they could even challenge Ottawa if everything goes according to plan. I hate to put a ton of pressure on one player, but this needs to be a breakout year for Paul Ludwinski, now that he is healthy. There is good depth, especially at forward, but he needs to be the straw that stirs the drink and finally reach his upside. Look for Tyler Hopkins to have a great year as a rookie too. Big fan of this young man and he should fit in seamlessly, as he showed in the preseason. Other than that, the key is getting healthy (with Frasca already banged up), and staying healthy.

6. North Bay Battalion
If you've got the best defender (Ty Nelson) and the best goaltender (Dom DiVincentiis) in the OHL heading into the season, you should be a playoff team. Granted, I'm a bit concerned about whether this offense will be dynamic enough after losing their top four scorers at the forward position; there really isn't a dynamic play driver. Yet, the depth is solid. And if there's anything that I've learned from covering the OHL the last few decades, it's that star power can carry you pretty far. Would North Bay consider moving Nelson or DiVincentiis for a King's ransom if they find themselves in the middle of the pack?

7. Oshawa Generals
I still see the Generals as being one year away from being considered among the best teams in the OHL. They're set up nicely for a monster run next season with so many good '05's, 06's, and 07's in the mix. That said, I do think a lot would have to go perfectly for them to find themselves in the hunt this year. First, and foremost, Cal Ritchie needs to heal up and return from shoulder surgery last year. A Ritchie/Kumpulainen one/two punch down the middle could be among the best in the OHL in the second half once one gets healthy and one adjusts to the OHL. The development of NHL draft eligible defenders Ban Danford and Luca Marrelli is definitely one of the keys to success. The Generals need them to be two-way anchors.

8. Brantford Bulldogs
I really wanted to put the Bulldogs higher, but I just don't know what to expect from this team. I really disliked the way that they handled the Import Draft this year. Taking Adam Jiricek was a waste of a pick. He wasn't going to come and it was an opportunity to add a high end player to this roster that I see lacking depth at some positions. Badinka may still come at some point, but right now it's a huge miss. Throw in the fact that this team is moving cities and playing in a new environment; that can be tough. Nick Lardis and Patrick Thomas should continue to cook as a feared twosome, but who will be their Panwar this year? Will one of the team's three netminders step up and emerge as a solid starter? Rookie Jake O'Brien was great in the preseason, but it seems unfair to be counting on him to be one of the team's largest offensive weapons.

9. Niagara IceDogs
I might have been one of the only people out there who didn't hate some of the recent moves by the Dogs. You've got some good young players on this roster and you want to make sure that they are surrounded by high character, veteran players. Ryan Humphrey is that. Gavin Bryant is that. You want this Niagara team to be competitive enough to win some games and keep most games close. I actually really love the look of the team's first line of Kevin He, Alex Assadourian, and Ryan Humphrey. That is a line that brings speed, skill, and competitiveness. I actually wouldn't be shocked at all if this team makes the playoffs if they can get good goaltending.

10. Peterborough Petes
By far the most difficult team to prognosticate this year. If they keep their current roster, they have enough star power (Owen Beck, Connor Lockhart, Sam Mayer, Michael Simpson) to be competitive and in the playoff hunt. I would actually expect that through the first part of the year. I don't think we'll see any truly bad teams in the Eastern Conference this year. But, with a bare cupboard from playoff runs, the Petes need to sell off the above assets to try to rebuild. And once that happens, they'll easily be the worst team on paper in the Conference and should fall below the others in the second half...thus my last place prediction. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Preseason Top 30 for the 2024 NHL Draft

It's the end of August and that means a new OHL season is right around the corner. It also means that it's time for me to release my first draft ranking for 2024. To assess these players we've seen them in the OHL (mostly) and for some we've seen them at the U17's and at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. Unfortunately, the lack of training camp for the Hlinka (due to Hockey Canada budget cuts) has prevented us from getting a glimpse of improvements made by other players on this list heading into the season, but thems the breaks. 

Of course, a ton is going to change between now and the actual 2024 draft. A lot will likely change before I make my first in season list in October/November. Here was last year's preseason list, as an example.

How would I classify this year's potential OHL crop? Very strong. The defense for this group is outstanding, possessing the potential to be among the best group of blueliners ever from the OHL, rivaling the 2008 draft when the OHL had five first round picks from the back-end. I mean, the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup was evidence of this as nearly all of Canada's blueline came from Ontario. The forwards are not quite as strong, but I'm sure a few will really step up and emerge as first round candidates. 

Here's the list:

1. Sam Dickinson - Defense - London Knights
Honestly, prior to the Hlinka/Gretzky, it was a toss up for me between Dickinson and Henry Mews. But Dickinson was so unbelievably good at that event, he made this a no brainer for me. This is a defender who has pretty much everything going for him. Think if Darnell Nurse and Alex Pietrangelo merged via cloning. He skates very well for a bigger defender. He is so poised in the defensive end with the puck, starting the breakout with ease, even in the face of pressure. He competes hard physically. He has a great stick in the defensive end. He has a booming point shot. He has first pairing NHL workhorse written all over him. This year in London, it will be interesting to see how his confidence as a puck mover grows. Will he be given a leash to take chances in transition, using his feet and hands to lead the breakout? I believe yes. Last year we saw Cam Allen start the year in this position and then falter under high expectations. I don't expect that to happen to Dickinson. I'll be shocked if he's not a top ten pick in June.

2. Henry Mews - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Mews may not be quite as polished as Dickinson, but his upside as a top pairing NHL defender is similar. A coveted right shot defender, Mews is extremely skilled. He has an aggressive offensive mindset and is constantly looking to push the tempo from the back-end. Does that lead to some miscues? Absolutely. He'll need to look to improve his decision making this year. He can be turnover prone in the defensive end as he tries to force things. Sometimes the high percentage, but "boring" play is the right move, especially in the face of a heavy forecheck. I do believe that Mews sees the ice well though and that with experience, he'll develop into a top notch playmaker. From a defensive perspective, he can be a high end player. He doesn't have the elite reach that Dickinson does, but he is mobile, competes hard, and shows strong understanding of how to defend the middle already. This year, as mentioned, it will be completely about assessing Mews' ability to process the game under pressure.

3. Beckett Sennecke - Wing - Oshawa Generals
Let's forget the puzzling Hlinka/Gretzky omission. I think Sennecke enters the year as the top forward available from the OHL. What I love most about his game is his sense and vision. He's such a quick processor in the offensive end. That was evident even as an OHL rookie. At times, he seems a step ahead of the competition, making quick one touch passes or finding those soft spots as a passing option. He's got great hands, flashes high end creativity, and is a strong finisher. Throw all that in a 6'2 frame and you have a potential top six winger at the next level. So what am I looking for this year? The first thing would be improving his skating. I wouldn't classify Sennecke as a poor skater. However, I think a lack of a dynamic burst was evident last year and it prevented him from getting consistent separation from defenders. Additionally, I'm looking for him to improve the consistency of his physical intensity level. Can he be stronger on pucks down low? Can he turn himself into a strong three zone player? Given that I expect Oshawa to improve this year, I have high expectations for Sennecke.

4. Zayne Parekh - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Parekh was already one of the most exciting defenders in the OHL last year as a rookie. He set a new league U17 goal scoring record by a defender with 21 goals. Parekh is pure chaos on the ice with how aggressive he is offensively. He scored a few breakaway goals last year and I think that tells you everything you need to know about him. The Saginaw system, which encourages free flow (essentially experimenting with positionless hockey), is perfect for him, just as it was for Pavel Mintyukov, encouraging his creativity with the puck. As a result, his offensive upside is immense. Outside of his puck skill and vision, Parekh's four way mobility is also an asset. He's terrific on his edges, giving him that elusiveness in tight spaces to help him evade pressure. The million dollar question is, how does Parekh's game transition to the next level? Given his lack of size, can he defend at the NHL level? Will he be as successful in the NHL in a different system that does not promote the kind of freedom that he has in Saginaw? I know that there is skepticism in the scouting community, even if he has his fans too. Right now, the talent is too strong to ignore and he deserves to be ranked accordingly. The points will be there again this year, but the real test will be the improvements that he makes in the defensive end. 

5. Anthony Cristoforo - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Cristoforo is kind of a similar player to Parekh. He shines most in the offensive end currently thanks to his combination of high end skill and high end vision. Even as an OHL rookie, it was rare to see Cristoforo make a poor decision with the puck. He's calm under pressure. He trusts his feet and his vision, always keeping his head up and on a swivel. His upside as a powerplay quarterback is terrific. And while he's certainly a bit bigger than Parekh, there are similar concerns over his ability to defend at the next level. Can he find consistent success in high traffic areas as an OHL sophomore, becoming more difficult to play against? Given his high IQ and his quick feet, he doesn't have to be a bruiser, but increasing his aggressiveness is a must. Given Canada's depth at the Hlinka/Gretzky, he didn't have a great opportunity to show how good he is to a larger audience, but he should have a really strong year with the Spitfires as a lead defender.

6. Liam Greentree - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Speaking of the Spitfires, insert big winger Liam Greentree. He was so good as an OHL rookie last year. He has really good hands for a bigger winger and his skating is a non issue. He plays well in transition and finishes off plays well in tight with a quick release. Last year, he already showed an ability to fight off checks and pressure to make plays down low, and as he gains further strength, he could be a really tough player to separate from the puck. So what's the next step this year? Like most second year forwards it's proving that he can be a primary play driver and not just a complementary piece. Can he be a consistent force with the puck who can create by driving the net with speed and power? Can he continue to develop physically and incorporate power forward esque tendencies into his approach? 

7. Parker Von Richter - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Definitely a personal favourite of mine early in this 2024 scouting process. Improved by leaps and bounds over the course of his rookie season and was playing top four minutes, well over 20 minutes a night by the playoffs for Mississauga. His strength lies in his play in the defensive end. He shows a really strong understanding of how to defend. Von Richter is one of those players who is always in the right position, showing great poise and anticipation already as a young defender. As the season went on, he gained confidence in his ability to use his size/strength down low and near the crease too. Critical for any strong defensive presence, Von Richter also showed well with the puck in the defensive end, especially in the second half. He started the breakout effectively and was calm in the face of forecheckers. There are two big questions though. 1) Can his skating improve further? I wouldn't call it a weakness, but there were instances last year where a lack of quickness/efficiency in his stride hurt him. Improving his footwork will be the key to him becoming a true defensive standout. 2) What's the offensive upside? We saw him start to gain confidence in his puck moving abilities late last year and I do believe that he has the ability to contribute offensively. But is that a skill that has the potential to carry over? Can't wait to see how he looks this year.

8. Frankie Marrelli - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Late last season, it was like the light bulb switched on for Marrelli. He was better than Henry Mews in the playoffs last year and that carried into this summer's Hlinka/Gretzky when I thought Marrelli was one of Canada's best defenders. He's not a huge defender, but he's tough to play against already. He's very competitive and has a penchant for the big hit, as he looks to step up on attackers early. His lateral and backwards mobility are excellent and it allows him to be a terrific rush defender, when you combine that with his aggressive, suffocating approach. Offensively, I think Marrelli has more to offer us thanks to strong vision and decision making. How skilled is he? That will be the big question mark this year. Given his average size, NHL teams will be looking for him to become a strong two-way presence as 6'0 stay at home types are not the most coveted. 

9. Ben Danford - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Danford didn't have the best Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, but you can't overlook how steady he was for the rebuilding Generals last year. A lot of those weak puck plays that we saw at the Hlinka did not happen last year and I think that points to a young man who was pressing a bit under the pressure of the event and the scouting presence. If anything, I thought Danford's decision making with the puck, especially in the offensive zone, was a strength as a rookie. He holds the offensive blueline well. Danford also defends well, using strong skating ability to stay ahead of attackers. Like a few others on this list, he doesn't have elite size/reach, but he showed well as a rookie with a good stick and anticipation. The key for Danford will be shaking that dreaded, "jack of all trades" label. Here we have an average sized defender who looks good at both ends, but who currently lacks a tool that I would label as well above average. Those can be the types that look great as OHL rookies, but who then fail to take that next step as others catch up to them physically. Right now, he very much deserves to be ranked in this range, but progression will be needed at both ends in order for him to hold this spot.

10. Cole Beaudoin - Center - Barrie Colts
The surprise of the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup as one of Canada's best and most consistent players. Last year as an OHL rookie, I thought he largely looked over his head. His lack of dynamic skating really held him back and kept him behind the play. But the player we saw at the Hlinka/Gretzky looked like a potential NHL first round selection. Firstly, it's obvious that improving his skating was a focus this offseason. His linear quickness and speed looked considerably improved. It allowed Beaudoin to be a dynamite forechecker and penalty killer. There's definitely still room for him to improve his agility and East/West movement, but Rome wasn't built in a day. What Beaudoin is, is a potential all situations, two-way center. I'm very curious to see how he carves out a larger role in Barrie this season.

11. Jack Van Volsen - Center/Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
The need for Van Volsen is simple. Get stronger. Get quicker. Anyone who saw Van Volsen play for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens knows that he is one of the most skilled players in the age group. However, I felt that he wasn't able to truly play his hard working style of game last year because he was consistently outmuscled off the puck. This resulted in him being primarily a complementary piece who relied on others to make plays for him, which certainly wasn't the case as a U16 player. Let's see if he put in the work this offseason to take his game to another level. Can he get back to dominating shifts in the cycle, dominating the net front, and being a primary play driver? It should also be noted that Van Volsen has a terrific shot and high end scoring potential. Among any forward on this list, his offensive upside might be the highest. 

12. Luke Misa - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Admittedly, I came away disappointed in Misa's development last year as a sophomore. Part of it was ice time related, but I also felt like his game didn't truly take that next step. Luckily for him, he's a late birthday, which means he is first time NHL draft eligible this year and that gives him another year to prove his chops. The backbone of Misa's game is his skating ability. He is absolutely dynamic in transition because of his speed. Misa is also a competent two-way player who is committed on the backcheck and who has the opportunity to develop into a really good penalty killer because of his speed and tenaciousness. Can Misa's offensive game take that next step this year though? Will the hands catch up to the feet? Can he be stronger on the puck to create when the game slows down and show an ability to get to the net consistently? Surrounded by some great young talent in Mississauga, he's going to be set up with a really nice opportunity to show that he deserves to be highly thought of for this draft.

13. Nathan Villeneuve - Center - Sudbury Wolves
A true power center in every sense of the word. Villeneuve was as advertised as an OHL rookie for Sudbury. The tenacious style that he was drafted for translated perfectly, even if the offensive production was inconsistent (mostly due to inconsistent ice time/responsibility). He loves to throw the body and is relentless in his pursuit of the puck. This work ethic translates to the defensive end where he is already an asset as a young center. Offensively, Villeneuve's best asset would probably be his shot, but he flashes high end skill on net drives and is very middle of the ice/attack oriented. The big thing for me is improving his skating. With a bit of a wide stride, Villeneuve doesn't have elite speed or quickness currently. It will be curious to see how that's improved this year. With improvements to his strength and quickness, he could move quickly up draft boards, especially with the second line center role in Sudbury all but locked up.

14. Kevin He - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
Turbulent times for the IceDogs these days, but He was a serious bright spot for them last year. His combination of speed and goal scoring prowess makes him a very interesting prospect heading into this draft year. Along with Misa, he's the best skater of the forwards available in this OHL crop. Everything about him screams high end goal scorer. He can really fire the puck. He can score in multiple ways. He creates his own chances by driving wide. He gets to the net and is not a perimeter player. Can the playmaking ability take that next step this year? What about the off puck play? How will he handle playing in a difficult environment in Niagara in his NHL draft year? Lots of question marks, but He possesses significant upside.

15. Matthew Virgillio - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
It wasn't easy for Virgillio in his first year given the Soo's position at the bottom of the standings. But he played a lot for them and largely held his own. The highly touted former St. Andrew's College product has immense potential, probably more than some of the defenders I've got ranked ahead of him. He is a strong skater who can have a positive impact on the transition game. He can quarterback the powerplay. He defends well and should develop into a quality two-way player as he adds strength. It's about putting it all together consistently as the Greyhounds improve. I thought about putting him higher, especially given the Soo's track record for developing defenders, but I think it's important to see what he shows this year first. I want to see how his game evolves around an improving Greyhounds team.

16. Jakub Chromiak - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Thought it was fitting to have Chromiak and Virgillio back to back here given their upsides as offensive defenders. The difference for me is that Virgillio is a year younger. The younger brother of former OHL standout (and LA prospect) Martin Chromiak, Jakub is a skilled puck moving defender who will be entering his second OHL season thanks to his late 2005 birth date. His rookie year was mired by inconsistency. But that's the case for a lot of OHL rookie defenders, and even more so for rookie Import defenders. So we're giving Chromiak a bit of the benefit of doubt here that those flashes turn into something more significant this year. The hype is certainly there and rightfully so given his offensive upside thanks to his combination of skill and mobility. However, I'm going to need to see significant improvement at both ends in order for him to hold this position. And given that I've got him 15th, I'm obviously lower on him than some of my contemporaries who have him in their first round currently.

17. Luca Marrelli - Defense - Oshawa Generals
The cousin of the 67's defender of the same name also appearing on this list, Luca is actually a similar kind of defender. He shows promise as a two-way defenseman and is a little ahead of some of the other players on this list due to his late 2005 birthday. He was probably Oshawa's best defender from start to finish last year. Love his poise in the offensive end when he's working the point. He shows great anticipation and vision holding the line and he generally keeps things simple to help Oshawa keep pressure on. Defensively, he's solid. Not as physical as his cousin Frankie, but he has a bit more length to help him apply stick pressure. I'm also not sure that he's as strong a skater as Frankie, but I wouldn't call it a weakness for Luca either. Like any later born player entering the draft year, it can be tough to evaluate him in comparison. I'm sure we'll get a better idea about his upside this season. 

18. Lukas Fischer - Defense - Sarnia Sting
Played a little over a half a season with Sarnia after coming over from the USHL and he seemed to get better with each passing month. The athletic tools are going to be very intriguing this year given his bloodlines (son of former NHL defender Jiri) and his late birthday (September 9th, making him one of the youngest players eligible this year). The 6'4 defender shows great potential at both ends. But his game and decision making are very raw, making it difficult to truly ascertain what kind of player he can become as of now. This is someone who is still trying to figure out how to get the best out of his tools. It would have been great to see him make the U.S. Hlinka team, but he was ultimately cut. I think the key for him is improving his skating, especially the fluidity of his four-way movement. If he plays well for Sarnia this year, he'll move quickly up draft lists.

19. Riley Patterson - Center - Barrie Colts
I loved Patterson as a U16 player with the Mississauga Sens and he proceeded to have one of the better U17 seasons in recent memory in the OJHL last year. He left his commitment to Michigan State to sign with Barrie following a trade from Flint and should be a big part of Barrie's plans the next few years. But what can we expect this year in his draft year and where should we rank him? This seems like a pretty safe ranking given how he has yet to prove himself in the OHL, but if he plays well, I can tell you right now that I'll be moving him up my list pretty aggressively. He brings speed. He brings tenaciousness as a two-way player. He is skilled. He makes his linemates better with his vision and creativity. Patterson has the upside to be the best forward from the OHL from this crop. But for every Mark Scheifele who has transitioned seamlessly from the OJHL as a 17/18 year old, there have been others who struggled (such as Brenden Sirizzotti recently). 

20. Gabriel Frasca - Center - Kingston Frontenacs
It almost feels criminal to have Frasca this low coming into the year. He was solid as a rookie for Kingston, earning a spot on the second all rookie team. And of course, he was terrific with the same Mississauga Sens team others on this list came from. Gabriel is unquestionably the best skater at the same age of the talented Frasca brothers. Still, that will be the focal point of improvement for Gabriel as he enters his sophomore season with the Frontenacs. Frasca is an intelligent and well rounded player. He shows well at both ends already. He has a great touch as a passer. He is a dual threat as a goal scorer. However, I also feel that his athletic tools may be a little less refined than some of the other forwards on this list. Is he the next Logan Morrison, Austen Keating type? Frasca isn't quite as physical and powerful as the likes of Villeneuve, Beaudoin, and Greentree. And he's not as quick as the likes of He and Patterson. Let's see how everything comes together for him this season. 

21. Carter George - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
George was excellent for Canada at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, stepping in for Gabriel D'Aigle to assume the starter's role. He provided the security and consistency the team needed in helping them capture gold. In reality, this should have come as no surprise as George was excellent in limited OHL action last year too. He's quick in the crease and is a great play tracker. He already does a good job of controlling his rebounds and limits second chances accordingly. It seems pretty likely to me that he's going to end up being an annual Jim Rutherford candidate (top OHL goaltender of the year) until he graduates. However, is he going to be highly coveted at the NHL draft? He's definitely on the smaller side for netminders, coming in at 6'0 currently. I would also say that having watched him last year and at the Hlinka, one of the things that he needs to work on is playing more aggressive in the crease to challenge shooters and fight through screens. He's definitely worthy of being listed on this preseason list, but is he going to get the Thomas Milic treatment?

22. AJ Spellacy - Wing/Center - Windsor Spitfires
One of my absolute favourite OHL rookies last year. It was a real shame that his season was cut short due to a knee injury. It was surprising to see him return so early as he made the U.S. team for the Hlinka/Gretzky...but surprising in a good way. Do I think he was great at the tournament? It certainly wasn't the best that I've seen him. However, it's only one small blip on the scouting radar and I think you need to take into account that this was his first action coming off a significant injury. So what do you get in Spellacy? You get an aggressive and tenacious forward who loves to throw the body and who loves to push the pace of play. He has a clear understanding of how he wants to play and how he needs to play in order to be effective. It will be interesting to see how the knee injury affects his skating upon his return. I liked his top speed as a rookie, but there's no question that there was room for improvement in explosiveness and agility. Additionally, I think we'll need to get a better read on his offensive upside and skill level with the puck. But he's entering the year as a personal favourite. Easy to see him developing the very Austin Watson type of player at the pro level (also a former U.S. based Spitfire).

23. Jett Luchanko - Wing - Guelph Storm
Another guy (similar to Spellacy) that I wanted to put higher, but just couldn't justify it at this current moment given the uncertainty surrounding his offensive upside. I love the effort and engagement without the puck. He stepped into the league and had an immediate impact as a forechecker with his speed. He just needs to get stronger to be able to use that speed more effectively in all three zones, something that I imagine we'll see this season. Is he more than just a high energy, checking type? I think so. I saw enough flashes of offensive ability, specifically his vision and ability to create plays for his linemates as a playmaker, to suggest that he can take his game to another level. He's not the biggest guy in the world so he'll need to produce to hold down a spot as a draft candidate.

24. Ryerson Leenders - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads
He played a ton as an OHL rookie. It's pretty rare to see a U17 goalie play as much as he did. In fact, his 35 games were the fifth most all time by a U17 netminder. Leenders was the third goalie for Canada at the Hlinka/Gretzky, but he didn't get into any game action unfortunately. Like Carter George, he's an athletic kid who shows great promise as a play tracker. Has that ability to make the highlight reel save. And like George, he's not blessed with great size at a position where size seems to be extremely critical for NHL scouts. Additionally, I'm not sure the technical components of Leenders game are quite as advanced as George's. He's still working to improve his positioning and control to improve his consistency. He should split starts with fellow highly touted netminder Jack Ivankovic this year, a great position for the organization to be in having two terrific young goalies in the fold.

25. David Egorov - Goaltender - Brantford Bulldogs
I definitely believe that Egorov deserves to be listed alongside George and Leenders as a preseason contender to be in the NHL draft mix. He might be the most athletic and the quickest of the three. While he didn't play much in the OHL last year, he was sensational for the Hamilton Kilty B's last year (GOJHL) in trying to help them capture a Sutherland Cup. He's also the biggest of the three netminders. There's definitely still a bit of mystique here as we wait to see how he can translate to a full year of OHL hockey, so for that reason he's third among the three goalies. However, it wouldn't shock me at all if by next June we were talking about Egorov as the top ranked goalie from Ontario. The real question is will he get the ice time that he needs given Brantford's goalie depth? Personally, I'd roll with Drobac and Egorov and work to find a new home for Malboeuf.

26. Kieron Walton - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
The upside here is enormous. You've got a big winger (6'5 already) with soft hands, creativity, and a scorer's touch. For a big kid, he also moves pretty well. Raw is the best way to describe him, but if/when he puts it all together...look out. The concern lies within the physical intensity level. It was the knock against him as a U16 player (causing him to fall to the second round). It was also evident in his rookie OHL year. He needs to use that size to find the middle and play through traffic more consistently. He doesn't have to be Mason McTavish. He just has to play with a little more tenaciousness. If he can up that dial and improve his production this year, he'll move up draft lists quickly.

27. Ethan Procyszyn - Wing - North Bay Battalion
Procyszyn is another player who will move up the board quickly if he can find that next level of production. He has a projectable frame. He competes hard at both ends. He skates well. He had a great scorer's touch in U16 and flashed a high end shot as an OHL rookie. There is lots to like. In reality, he's the kind of player that North Bay has developed well historically. I thought about putting him higher and I feel confident in saying that he'd be higher on the early list of NHL scouts, but I just want to see if he can secure a larger role and produce at a greater clip first.

28. Marek Vanacker - Wing - Brantford Bulldogs
Power winger who showed great flashes last year as an OHL rookie with limited ice time. It's obvious that he wasn't strong enough to play the way that he wanted to play last year, so it will be interesting to see how the offseason treated him. However, he's a bit similar to Procysyn in that he's a potential two-way, high energy, goal scorer. He should get a larger role this year with Brantford and he's someone to monitor closely early on.

29. Kaden Pitre - Center/Wing - Flint Firebirds
If you liked Coulson Pitre, you're bound to like his brother Kaden. They play pretty comparable games revolved around power, IQ, and tenaciousness. Kaden has played some center and it seems likely (given Flint's depth) that he does play there full time this year. I think that probably increases his value. Let's see how kind the offseason was to him in terms of improving strength and quickness. 

30. Alex Kostov - Wing - Soo Greyhounds
I could have gone in a variety of different routes with #30. I saw the top 29 as pretty set, and then deciding on number 30 was tough. However, I settled on Kostov (over more hyped former first round selections) because I think he has a solid NHL projection given his size and skill combination on the wing. Improving his skating and strength will be needed this year, but the frame and raw athletic tools are extremely intriguing.

Honorable Mentions
Caden Kelly - Wing - Ottawa 67's
Antonio Tersigni - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Luca Testa - Center - Brantford Bulldogs
Carter Lowe - Wing - Barrie Colts
Charlie Paquette - Wing - Guelph Storm
Christopher Thibodeau - Center - Kingston Frontenacs
Zach Sandhu - Defense - Guelph Storm
Noah Roberts - Defense - Brantford Bulldogs
Callum Cheynowski - Defense - Brantford Bulldogs
Ben Cormier - Wing/Center - Owen Sound Attack
Sam O'Reilly - Wing - London Knights