Saturday, January 21, 2023

Midseason Top 50 for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft

What an unbelievable OHL Trade Deadline it was this year. We saw over a half dozen teams across the league really load up and this is going to make the stretch run and the playoffs incredibly exciting.

As is the case each year, the passing of the deadline signals that it is time to update my draft rankings. Recently you saw NHL Central Scouting release their rankings. You'll see several differences in my rankings, but also some similarities. 

At this point, I would probably call this draft crop from the OHL a little underwhelming. This is especially true given the strength of some other regions. There are only a couple of players that I would consider first round locks and it's conceivable that the OHL does not have a player selected inside of the lottery. Additionally, I'm not crazy about the depth the league has to offer this year. I wouldn't be shocked if the number of players selected from the league hovers around 30. 

For those unfamiliar with my lists, I only include first time eligible players. So a guy like Spencer Sova isn't listed despite the fact that I'd expect him to receive very heavy draft consideration. I do a list of "re-entries" or second/third year eligible players prior to the draft.

And for comparison's sake, here's my preliminary top 50 from November. Additionally, here is the preliminary media/scout poll from late December.

Here's the list:

1. Colby Barlow - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
I'm in the midst of writing my report on Barlow for McKeen's (look for that in the next week or so), which would ultimately be a much deeper dive than this write up. However, here's why Barlow is my number one. I see a prospect with a very safe NHL projection. All the things he does well, he should continue to do well at the next level because of his combination of size, quickness, physicality, and IQ. At the very least, he is going to end up as a quality middle six player who can play in any situation. That safety in a year where the OHL does not seemingly have many safe bets is attractive. I think Barlow's playmaking and vision is extremely underrated. His goal scoring production this year has been impressive, but he can pass the puck too. It's rare to see him make a poor play or read in the offensive zone. He's probably one of the better forecheckers in the OHL already. He finishes plays off in a multitude of ways. He's defensively reliable and intelligent. I'm not worried in the least about him being too physically mature. It's not like Barlow is 6'4, 220lbs, or dominating because of his sheer strength in the absence of skill. If anything, I think his game could hit another level still with better conditioning and strength. I see three things being key to him unlocking his upside as a top six player. One; improving his ability to blend speed and skill. He can struggle to cleanly corral pucks when he's at full speed or trying to pick up speed. This leads to missed opportunities. Two; Improving his hands and shot even further. This sounds ridiculous to say given that Barlow is currently third in the league in goal scoring as a U18 player, but I actually think he's capable of being an even more dangerous goal scorer with some adjustments. That would include improving his catch ability on imperfect passes, in addition to blending his skating and shooting ability to create better angles for his wrist shot. Third; becoming a more consistent physical presence. Barlow is unquestionably a hard worker, but I'd love to see him really punishing people on a shift by shift basis. If he could become that true power forward, he becomes an even more valuable player.

2. Quentin Musty - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Just when you think you've got Musty figured out, it seems like a poor performance throws a wrinkle in that. My live viewings of him this year have been poor. While my video viewings of him have been terrific. I was really starting to grow to like him but then I saw him play in Hamilton recently and he had a very poor game. Now...granted he played through a hand injury in that game (which has kept him out of action since), so it's probably measured with a grain of salt. Point being, he's a tough player to form a steady opinion on. There's so much good...especially under new coach Derek MacKenzie. He is highly skilled. He shows well as both a scorer and playmaker. His decision making with the puck has slowly started improving; his turnovers are being limited. He is playing with more physical tenacity and finding his way to the middle of the ice more consistently. His upside is, without question, the highest of any OHL player eligible this year. Yet...I'm just not sure an NHL scout will be willing to risk their neck for him as a first rounder. His defensive game is nearly non existent. He is often the last player back to the defensive zone and the first to exit. His first step quickness is not terrific. His ability to utilize his shot and get himself in scoring position remains a work in progress. And, while it has shown progress, his puck management remains a development target. I had a scout ask me the other day about what Musty can do to shake his reputation as a "risky selection" (we actually answered this on the THN podcast). It's a great question. The answer is probably continue to show the positive growth that he has the last month or two. When he returns from his injury, hopefully he can continue to show progress. If he's able to improve on the above areas, the upside truly is that of a first line player.

3. Calum Ritchie - Center - Oshawa Generals
Speaking of consistency, insert Cal Ritchie. He came into the year as a potential top 7/8 pick, but is now looking more like a mid to late first rounder. Given Oshawa's rebuilding status, it has to be tough on Ritchie and I understand how he's probably not ready to be the true focal point of an offense. But what scouts have to be asking themselves is "how do we view Ritchie's high end potential?" I've had a few tell me about how his projection may have shifted to that of a middle six guy instead of a true, top center. Even through his offensive struggles at even strength, Ritchie's defensive effectiveness has remained consistent. He's an intelligent two-way player. As an offensive player his two most valuable assets are his hands and his playmaking sense. He's shooting the puck more and hesitating less this year, but he's still a pass first player with the puck and always will be IMO. As a transitional attacker, Ritchie's skating limitations have prevented this from being a consistent part of his game. I think his top speed is actually good, but his boots are a little heavy. Adding that quickness would really help him shed defenders at even strength more consistently. It seems like every time he falls into a bit of a lull in production and performance, he breaks out in a big way (like his performance in the first TSN game of the year against Kitchener). It makes him tough to truly peg. I kind of want to move him down further , but then I'm sucked back in by that package of size and skill from the middle. It feels like a trap...that if we underappreciate Ritchie as a draft prospect, he's going to burn us in the future.

4. Carson Rehkopf - Center - Kitchener Rangers
I am firmly on the Rehkopf bandwagon (see this twitter thread on him). IMO, he's going to be an NHL first round pick so long as he can continue to produce down the stretch on a deep Kitchener team. Similar to Colby Barlow, I see a real safe projection here. Rehkopf is a very powerful skater and he uses this in so many different ways to be effective across all three zones. His quickness is a real problem for OHL defenders considering his length and puck protection ability. He's starting to realize this too and is looking for situations to exploit this advantage more consistently. Rehkopf also has a deceptive and quick release, perhaps among the best of any forward in this OHL class. His potential as a goal scorer is huge. Lastly, he's a disruptive defensive force because of his length, quickness, and physicality. Really, he's been great all year and I don't think he's getting the kind of respect he deserves. He started the year off with a great Hlinka/Gretzky and he's just continued to perform well. I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that Rehkopf is even higher on my year end list at the expense of Musty/Ritchie. However, I want just a little more time to analyze his puck skill and overall ceiling. Production for him down the stretch will be critical, especially if he continues to be more of a third line option. He needs to make the most of his ice time.

5. Beau Akey - Defense - Barrie Colts
Oliver Bonk has emerged as the top defender available from the OHL in the eyes of many, but for me it's still Beau Akey. I think Bonk is the better two-way defender now, but I think Akey has the higher NHL upside of the two. Akey is among the best skaters in this OHL draft class and the best of the defenders. His impact on the transition game is profound when he's being aggressive as a transporter. He can carve up space and really put pressure on opposing defenses thanks to his elite level top speed and effortless four way mobility. His hands are excellent and his small area skill is good enough to help him weasel his way out of pressure at both ends. Even with Brandt Clarke back in Barrie, I would expect Akey continues to produce offensively (he has so far). However, I think Akey can be a solid defensive player too. The IQ is there, but he just loses too many battles for positioning right now. As he gains strength, I see him becoming a quality two-way player. His elite four way mobility will eventually become an asset at both ends. Depending on how his year finishes out, Akey could be a borderline first rounder for me too. He just seems like the kind of player who doesn't yet realize how truly good he could be.

6. Carey Terrance - Center - Erie Otters
I feel like Terrance is flying under the radar right now because the Otters just aren't great and because his production is fairly modest. But he leads the team in goal scoring as of writing this and is a player who I like better every time I watch him play. Similar to a few of the other players listed so far, I think Terrance has a very safe NHL projection. He's one of the best skating forwards in this OHL crop and he's a solid defensive center/forechecker. He also has an underrated shot and release. At the very least, there's a path to being a Cody Eakin type. But, his offensive tools, as raw as they are, could easily continue to improve as the Erie team improves around him. These days, I don't bet against athleticism. I think the other thing I really like about Terrance is how he already understands how to weaponize his speed. He changes pace well to be deceptive and he's very effective exploding off the wall and out of the cycle. Thus far, I'm still trying to get a read on his processing and vision as a distributor. I think it's a required area of growth. The same could be said for his skill blending ability, not dissimilar from Barlow and Rehkopf. Maybe he ends up having to play the wing at the next level where his speed, tenacity, and goal scoring touch could make him a really good complimentary piece? At the end of the day, I'm confused as to why he's not on more lists as a top two round pick.

7. Coulson Pitre - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Pitre is my kind of player. If you've followed my work for a long time, you'd know that power forward types like Pitre are my jam. I thought he started the year pretty poorly; he seemed a bit lost with trying to carve out a role on a deep forward group and he got away from the things that made him successful last year. But the last few months, he's been outstanding. The physicality is consistent. He understands how to play without the puck. He's a solid skater. But what I like most about Pitre's game is his vision with the puck. It's rare to find power forward types who see the ice the way that Pitre does. His IQ grade is quite high. As a late 2004, I do understand that some may believe he has less room for development and what you see might be what you get here. No question, I do believe there are players ranked below Pitre who have higher upside. But if I'm drafting in the second round, Pitre is an attractive target because he does so many things well and already has a pro style game. It's not far fetched to say that he develops into a Nick Foligno, Jason Zucker type. 

8. Oliver Bonk - Defense - London Knights
Yes, he's moving up my list finally. And's not out of peer pressure. But I've had to watch a lot of the Knights and lot of isolated videos of Bonk to really develop more of an appreciation for how he is playing this year. He's probably the best defenseman (in London) on one of the best teams in the OHL. That's an impressive feat for (essentially) a first year player. Bonk's best attribute is unquestionably his IQ/processing ability at both ends. He's got a great stick in the defensive zone and always seems to be in the right spot to break up plays. He doesn't chase the play and has the poise of a five year OA. This is evident at the offensive end too, where he is great at picking his spots to jump up in the play. Yes, he's got a great point shot, but he's scoring a lot from the backend because he times pinches well and finds those soft spots in coverage consistently. I had someone mention to me the other day that Bonk could be a Devon Toews type at the NHL level and that's certainly possible if he can continue to upgrade his four way mobility. However, as I have been all year, I'm still a little weary regarding his projection. I think the skill, skating, and physicality components of his game grade out as average. There have been so many similar OHL defenders who have failed to take that next step because they aren't athletic enough/skilled enough to take advantage of their high end IQ. That said, he is growing on me because he does so many of the little things well. Is he Matt Finn? Is he Travis Dermott? Is he Calvin de Haan? Is he Devon Toews? The range of outcomes is vast and I just need to see him even more. However, I do feel like he will continue to rise on my list.

9. Luca Pinelli - Wing - Ottawa 67's
It was not shocking to see Pinelli lower on NHL Central Scouting. Undersized and not a dynamic skater can be a tough combination to overcome. For that reason, I see Pinelli as more a second/third round prospect. But I know he has his fans in the scouting community. Even if his production has slowed a bit, he's still playing well for the 67's. He's such a smart player who has a very well rounded offensive profile. He can get after it on the forecheck and makes great reads without the puck. He's skilled enough to be a play driver at the junior level and he uses deception to help him carry in transition, overcoming his lack of explosiveness. Pinelli has a good shot. He competes hard at both ends. Like I said, just a well rounded profile. The flip side of this is that there may be some projection issues here. What is Pinelli at the NHL level? I don't see him as a true offensive catalyst there without significant improvements to his skating. So is he then more of a complimentary piece then? Probably. Looking at someone like Michael Bunting is probably the best case scenario for Pinelli. Worse case, he ends up as more of a tweener like Nic Petan. 

10. Cam Allen - Defense - Guelph Storm
Great to see him return from his shoulder injury. I was worried that his participation in the Top Prospect's Game was in doubt Interestingly enough, Guelph had been playing their best hockey as of late without Allen. That's certainly not a criticism, but it means that now that he has returned, he should have a little less pressure on him to perform and he can work to keep things simple and play within the flow of the game. Coming into the year, I had him ranked first in Ontario. I loved him as a U17 player and I loved him at the Hlinka/Gretzky. But his play this year has pointed to some limitations in his processing at both ends. When he keeps things simple, he's at his best. Does that mean that his potential as an offensive defender might be limited? Lots of questions and not a ton of answers right now. All signs point to the U18's this year being a huge event for Allen. That is if the projection of the standings remains about the same and Guelph ends up losing in round one or missing completely. Some of the concerns scouts have with Allen this year were the same that they had with Spencer Sova last year who went through a similar curve. Hopefully Allen's draft stock doesn't take a similar dive. And if it does...look at how well Sova is playing this year, proving that he should have been drafted last year.

11. Hunter Brzustewicz - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
There are a lot of things that I like about Brzustewicz's game. His four way mobility is an asset. His edgework and lateral quickness help him at both ends and give him escapability to start the breakout. It also helps him when he's running the point in the offensive end. He keeps pucks in well and he pushes laterally well to open up lanes that he can exploit. I also really like the way he processes the game with the puck on his stick. Similar to a guy like Oliver Bonk, he keeps things simple. Quick outlets. Safe dump ins. He always seems to have his head up and his puck management is sound. I guess the question I have is what's the upside? He's not a dynamic or explosive mover, which will limit his ability to impact the game offensively at the next level. He has struggled defensively at times, both in his reads and in handling physicality. He will ultimately become a quality two-way defender IMO, but will that be at the NHL level? Earlier I mentioned a guy like Travis Dermott and if you go back and look at Dermott's scouting report from junior, you'll see a pretty similar player. Dermott has had some trouble carving out a niche at the NHL level without a true standout skill. Lots of pressure on the Rangers in the second half and I want to see how Brzustewicz handles that.

12. Matthew Mania - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Upside, upside, and more upside. Playing under Derek MacKenzie, Mania has been terrific as an offensive defender. He skates really well. He's starting to take more chances with the puck, jumping up into the play. He's very skilled and is the type of offensive blueliner who can seemingly go end to end when he wishes. Mania is also doing a much better job in the offensive end, getting pucks on net, making better decisions on his pinches, etc. Defensively, he's a work in progress. There needs to be an increase in physical intensity. He can be pushed around too easily along the wall and near the crease and it puts the Wolves at a disadvantage. He, flat out, needs to be more difficult to play against. However, you just can't ignore what he's been able to do with the puck on his stick in recent months. As said, his offensive upside is significant. Can the defensive game show growth by the end of the year? 

13. Andrew Gibson - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
I'm really coming around on Gibson. He's a slow burn and he really requires many viewings to gain an appreciation of. I recently did a long thread on twitter on Gibson (here). In a nutshell, Gibson is a raw, potential two-way defender. 6'3, right shot defenders with decent mobility and an all around game do not grow on trees. Gibson is terrific in the offensive zone. He's not the most innately skilled or flashy; he keeps things simple. However, he supports the play really well and is gaining confidence in his ability to play deep in the offensive zone. Defensively, he is physical and has the kind of length that makes him a disruptive force to transitional attackers. His footwork isn't always clean, but I have faith that Brendan Taylor and the Hounds coaching staff can really bring the best out of him. The track record is there. I think the most concerning thing for me is his puck management in the defensive end. He can get bottled up in the defensive zone and turnovers have been an issue. He doesn't shoulder check enough and he doesn't yet have the confidence to use his feet consistently to help him clear forecheckers. Again, though, I would harbour to guess that this gets cleaned up eventually. Over the rest of the year my focus will be on determining Gibson's NHL upside. 

14. Ondrej Molnar - Wing - Erie Otters
He has only played a handful of games in the OHL, but I've been impressed with many components of his game. He's an electric skater who can really put pressure on opposing defenses. He has elite level elusiveness with his agility and ability to stop/start in the offensive zone. He's actually been a little better without the puck than I expected too. He can be effective on the forecheck with his speed. On the man advantage, his vision and passing ability has been very noticeable. However, at even strength, he's been a lot less effective. He's struggling to find ways to get to the inside and is getting pushed off the puck too easily. There are some strength deficits here. He seems hesitant to really take control too. He's passing up shooting opportunities and seems to be lacking confidence in that area. Unquestionably, his offensive upside is high. As he gets stronger and becomes more confident on North American ice, he could be a really electric player. I hope he sticks it out in Erie moving forward and into next year because they're building something good with guys like him, Terrance, Pano Fimis, Malcolm Spence and whoever they select early in 2023.

15. Ethan Miedema - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
The big piece moved in the Shane Wright to Windsor deal, Miedema hasn't had the best start to his time in Kingston. But it's obviously very early. The issue with Miedema has been consistency this year. He's big and skilled. He can be a physical presence. I've always been impressed with his passing ability and vision with the puck, especially coming off the wall. But there's a definite need to improve his quickness and balance so that he can shed defenders more consistently. And it would be great to see him take the bull by the horns more often. There's a passiveness to his game at times that you don't like to see from a 6'4 forward. Can he put it all together? There will be a lot of eyes on him in the second half to see how he plays in Kingston where he will be expected to be more of a focal point of the attack. 

16. Quinton Burns - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
IMO, Burns is one of the most underrated players in this OHL crop right now. He's played incredibly well for Kingston this year and is playing a lot for the Fronts across a variety of different situations. He's very mobile and is a strong skater. He's extremely physically aggressive and makes life difficult for opposing forwards; there's a real edge to his game. He moves the puck well inside the offensive zone. He's learning to be better as a carrier in transition and will eventually be the type who consistently looks to push pace and use his legs to start the breakout. Similar to Andrew Gibson, his puck management in the defensive zone has been a weakness at times. Additionally, I'm still trying to figure out just how skilled Burns is. What's the true upside here? But a defender with good mobility, size, and physically who isn't a liability with the puck? Sign me up.

17. Denver Barkey - Center - London Knights
Similar to Pinelli, it's not shocking to see Barkey disrespected by scouting agencies given that he's undersized and not the world's most dynamic skater. I don't think he's a top two round selection, but he's definitely someone I have a ton of time for in the mid rounds. There are a lot of paths to the NHL for Barkey if he can work to improve his quickness/speed. He's already a great defensive player who is a valuable penalty killer. He plays much bigger than his size and never backs down from a battle. He's also a skilled and deceptive playmaker whose quick hands afford him the time and space that his lack of quickness does not. I ultimately see him becoming a very versatile player as a pro who can slide up and down the lineup. Maybe he's a tweener. Maybe he's not more than a fourth liner and PK'er. Maybe he's a lot more than that. The range of outcomes is wide. Don't doubt the London development model. London has some reinforcements now, but for most of the year Barkey has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Knights. There's no way you can let him get outside the top 120 or so.

18. Joey Willis - Center/Wing - Saginaw Spirit
Is Willis truly an NHL prospect? There's no way you're watching Saginaw games and not coming away impressed with his play. He's been so good as a rookie, even if the production hasn't been consistent. He plays both ends. He's smart. He's an excellent playmaker. He's got great hands. He makes a couple really impressive plays every game, even if it's not showing on the score sheet. Yet, I do understand the concerns over his projectability. In a lot of ways, it's similar to the Barkey situation and thus I've lumped them together. Willis is not a dynamic skater. His strides lack power. He's also not the biggest at 5'10. That combo can be difficult for scouts. Additionally, he's kind of a player without a position. I'm not sure if he's a winger or a center long term. Sometimes as an analyst you have to try to separate the great junior players from the great NHL prospects. All that said, I have to trust my eyes here. I'm banking on processing ability here. I think it's important to realize that Willis is playing his first year above the AAA level. He's going to be behind the eight ball from a conditioning and strength perspective. I believe there is room for his athletic tools to improve and I'm happy to look his way in those middle rounds, banking on long term upside.

19. Brad Gardiner - Center - Ottawa 67's
Gardiner is a creative and intelligent pivot who has proven to be a versatile, swiss army knife for the 67's this year. He's been everywhere from the first line to the fourth line and he's played in every situation imaginable. I really like how he plays through traffic. His game is predicated by quick touches and quick feet and for that reason he's a tough cover. He protects the puck really well by spinning off checks and keeping his feet moving. While his first step quickness is not impressive, he builds up to a solid top speed which he can use to apply pressure on the attack. I've seen him pretty high on some lists lately, like Craig Button's. I've been impressed, but I'm also still trying to get a read on the high end upside here. 

20. Easton Cowan - Wing - London Knights
Similar to Barkey, Cowan has been really good for London this year. The two have developed remarkable chemistry with each other. Cowan loves to play at a breakneck pace. His motor is really good. He's hard on pucks. He drives the net. Yeah, he's not big, but he plays the way you want smaller players to play; fearless. I love how quickly he makes decisions too. High IQ player who can pass it off, but also has a quick release to help him finish off plays. I don't think he's got fantastic upside as a scoring line option at the NHL level, but I see someone who could carve out a long career as a high energy checking line player. Hopefully he doesn't get buried down the stretch by London's depth. 

21. Alex Pharand - Center - Sudbury Wolves
Pharand is a big bodied center who knows his role. He is aggressive in pursuit of the puck, he protects it well in the cycle, and he heads to the net as a screen option. His hands are actually quite good. You don't score as often as he has this year if they weren't. He can put pucks home under pressure and finishes equally well on his backhand as he does his forehand. The boots are a bit heavy. He's not a strong puck carrier at this time. The overall ceiling might be a little limited. But he's still a 6'3 natural center with good hands and physicality who shows potential as a two-way player. These are the types that NHL scouts love. 

22. Nick Lardis - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Lardis sure is enjoying life with the Bulldogs so far with the opportunity to operate as a primary scoring option and the focal point of an attack. He's at nearly two points per game with Hamilton. I'm going to need a ton of views on Lardis in the second half because I, admittedly, don't feel like I have a good read on him at this time. In Peterborough, it felt like he was too often simply a passenger, despite possessing the quickness and skill to be a difference maker with the puck. But in Hamilton, the early returns have been great as he can be the one leading the charge over the blueline, with the flow of the game being dictated by his actions. He's a strong skater, which is critical given his lack of size. That much has always been obvious. But can he work his way into the middle of the ice? What kind of upside does he have as a goal scorer? I'm sure I'll have a more concrete opinion by season's end, especially given the kind of ice time he's getting in Hamilton.

23. Tristan Bertucci - Defense - Flint Firebirds
There is definitely a path to the NHL for a defender like Bertucci. Good size. Good mobility, especially laterally and backwards. Plays with physicality. Has a good stick in the defensive zone and tracks the play well. He's been a stalwart in the defensive end. The offensive production actually has been pretty good too. Bertucci makes a good first pass and does have good scanning habits. He's not the kind of defender who is skilled enough to be a powerplay QB at the next level, but he can start the breakout efficiently and that counts for something. John Marino comes to mind as a comparison and a best case scenario for Bertucci. More likely, he probably has less potential than some of the other defenders from the OHL this year, but he has the intangibles that NHL scouts are really going to like. It's early, but it would not shock me if he's a top three round selection come June.

24. Matthew Soto - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Soto is a high energy, chance of pace attacker who loves to play up tempo. Feels like I'm describing an NBA point guard prospect, but that's kind of how I see Soto. Even though he loves to push pace and is at his best in transition, he's also got great vision. His decision making with the puck always stands out as a positive for me. Quick wingers who can make quick decisions transition well to the next level. He's far from the tunnel vision type. I guess my concerns with Soto are upside related. Consistency has been an issue for him. Part of that is related to playing on a young Kingston team. Part of that stems from the fact that he needs to improve his strength/conditioning to be better playing through contact. Is he skilled or creative enough to be a top six winger? Can other parts of his game improve with experience and strength, rounding him into a more complete two-way presence? Love him as a mid round candidate.

25. Cooper Foster - Center - Ottawa 67's
Foster is quietly having a really good year in a middle six role for the 67's. He was the NOJHL MVP last year as a U17 player and his transition to the OHL has been pretty seamless. He has a really well rounded profile. Good skater. Good skill. Intelligent. Competitive. Equal parts playmaker and scorer. The issue I have had so far is trying to figure out what Foster would be at the next level. I have zero doubt that he will be a really good OHL player, perhaps even next year. But the lack of a true standout attribute, in combination with average size makes his projection a bit murky. I really like him at this point as a mid/later round option. Higher than that, I'm just not sure. 

26. Cole Brown - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
The production isn't great, but Brown is the kind of intriguing athlete that teams have been selecting in the mid rounds a lot lately. There is a wide range of outcomes regarding Brown's development because I feel like he's still finding his way in the league. It will be interesting to see how he plays in the second half with a ton of ice time and powerplay responsibility. At this point, Brown is very much a North/South winger who knows his role is to get to the net. He relishes in this and he finds success in it. He flashes an ability to drive wide, using his length/frame to protect the puck too. However, he disappears for stretches and needs to find a way to impact the game more consistently without the puck. Maybe that's as a forechecker. As a physical component. As a two-way winger (using that length). The skating isn't terrible for a player of his size at this age, but adding more explosiveness would definitely be key moving forward. It would help him to be better in pretty much every facet. 

27. Owen Outwater - Center - Kingston Frontenacs
Since acquiring Outwater, it's been interesting to see the chemistry develop at this level between he and Soto, former minor hockey teammates with the Oakville Rangers. I kind of see them as polar opposites to be honest and perhaps that's why it's working well. Outwater is this athletic, but raw pivot who is currently at his best when he can push pace. He's quite quick for a big, lanky pivot and he uses his speed to drive the middle. At times, this is to a fault, as he can try to drive through people when he should be dishing off; there is some tunnel vision at play here. I'm actually not completely convinced that he's a center long term. But, for now, he is being developed as such. I'm also not completely sold on the high end skill level, which means the rest of his game is going to really need to round into form, but there is definitely an intriguing package of athleticism here. Kind of like Brown, the range of outcomes is vast.

28. Lucas Moore - Defense - Hamilton Bulldogs
Moore is an undersized, right shot defender who has quietly been very good for the Bulldogs this year. There's a real simplicity to his game as a puck mover. He transitions quickly and is comfortable making an exit pass or using his feet to clear the defensive zone. He's not a completely dynamic linear attacker, but his four way mobility is sound. His decision making in the offensive zone is solid too. Makes quick decisions, uses his feet to get clearance, gets pucks on net. Defensively, I like the intensity level to make up for his lack of size. But he can chase the play at times and for a player with good mobility, his footwork can get sloppy defending attackers with pace. I'm not entirely convinced that he's more than a really good OHL defender in the future, but there's enough positives that I'd still look at him in the mid to late rounds. 

29. Angus MacDonell - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
One of the many new pieces brought in by the Steelheads, I really like MacDonell. I think he's a future captain in the league and someone who will be a really good OHL player. His energy level on the ice is infectious and consistent. It's go, go, go. He's not a big kid at 5'10, but he competes hard and is just a solid all around player. The rest of the skill set probably grades out as average. His shot is probably the best of that; there's a solid goal scoring ceiling here. Would he be better as an attacking winger? Hard to say. I'd say yes, but we'll see how Mississauga develops him. The upside likely isn't very high, but he's an easy player to like and cheer for. His intangibles should get him a look in the later rounds.

30. Valentin Zhugin - Wing - Guelph Storm
At this point of my rankings, I see most of the guys listed as long shots to be drafted this year. So I'm going to rank a guy like Zhugin pretty high. His upside is quite high. He is extremely quick and he is very skilled. Zhugin is a dynamic transitional attacker. When you watch Guelph play, he always seems to stand out, but the production just doesn't match the eye test. Why is that? I'm not sure the processing ability is great. A lot of his impressive rushes end up not really creating much in the way of a dangerous opportunity. Additionally, he needs to find a way to work between the hash marks more consistently. There is a need to add strength and physical intensity to his game. I could see a team taking a swing at him late because of his speed and skill combo.

31. Matthew Mayich - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Mayich has been really good for the 67's this year; one of the team's unsung heroes thus far. He's a 6'2 defender with good mobility and a strong defensive IQ. His projection at the next level would definitely be as a stay at home type, however he shows flashes of being a capable puck mover too. Is there offensive upside? Tough to say.

32. James Petrovski - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Another good sized defender (6'3), Petrovski is definitely a lot more raw than Mayich. He hasn't really found that niche in the league that many expected he could carve out. His four way mobility is pretty decent for a big kid and he shows flashes of being very good at both ends of the ice. However, consistency has been an issue. Puck management has been an issue. Kind of a similar player to Nolan Collins last year when the Pens took him in the sixth round.

33. Donovan McCoy - Defense - Peterborough Petes
McCoy has been a disappointment for me this year. Really thought he'd have a monster breakout year, but that just hasn't happened. I like the mobility. I like the defensive zone intensity. He's playing a lot for the Petes, which is great, but the fact that his offensive game and decision making haven't taken that next step is concerning in regards to his upside. Way too early to give up on him, but as a late born 2004, the expectations were going to be higher. 

34. Joey Costanzo - Goaltender - Windsor Spitfires
It is bizarre to me that Costanzo was not listed at all by NHL Central Scouting. Do I think he's a lock to be drafted? No. But I think he's the better goaltender and a better goaltending prospect than the other four OHL goalies they listed. Costanzo has been terrific for Windsor since coming over from Niagara. This is especially true of late. He never quits on a play. He's athletic. He could be the starter for one of the main contenders in the OHL. 

35. Konnor Smith - Defense - Peterborough Petes
Massive stay at home defender is one of the most physical players in the OHL. The 6'5 behemoth is one mean customer. He truly suffocates in the defensive end. But his play with the puck is pretty weak at this point. Turnovers are an issue in the defensive end. Four way mobility is a concern too. But, I'd bet on him being drafted late because of how he could project as a depth, shutdown crease clearer.

36. Adam Zidlicky - Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
Very curious to see how Zidlicky does with more ice time and responsibility in Mississauga. Decent results so far. Look, I don't think the upside is high. But Zidlicky is a hard worker, has a nose for the net, and I think could potentially develop into a useful role player at the next level if his skill development can take that next step. The bloodlines are great.

37. Anthony Romani - Wing - North Bay Battalion
Romani is another guy that I think eventually becomes a really good OHL player. He's pretty skilled. His hands in tight are particularly impressive. I think he sees the ice pretty well and is a responsible two-way player. Romani is versatile. If he were a better skater, he'd be a more consistent offensive contributor and that's the next step for him. Could be the kind of guy who suddenly explodes with greater conditioning, or he could be more of a solid OHL player only type.

38. Matthew Andonovski - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Another defender with good size, mobility, and physicality. But another guy I'm not certain has the skill or sense with the puck to be a longtime NHL defender. How he plays down the stretch for the Rangers will dictate where he ends up slotting in for the draft, especially in comparison to the likes of Mayich, Petrovski, Smith, etc.

39. Chris Barlas - Center/Wing - Ottawa 67's
Honestly, Barlas is probably not an NHL draft prospect this year, but I'm listing him anyway. He's not big, but he competes hard. He knows his role on this 67's team is to provide energy from the bottom six and he does just that. His combination of quickness, physicality, ability to protect the puck, and shot should make him a quality goal scorer at some point during his junior career. Can he be a high energy, bottom six guy in the NHL too if he develops accordingly?

40. Luke McNamara - Center - Saginaw Spirit
Center with good size who just hasn't put it all together consistently in the OHL. He can have a few shifts every game where he flashes impressive potential as a play driver, but mixes that in with too many where he's not visible. Would love to see him use his size to attack the net more consistently and be more assertive. Was originally touted as one of the better goal scorers in this age group and in order for that to happen, he'll need to increase his intensity.

41. Ethan Hay - Center - Flint Firebirds
Really good defensive center who can take key faceoffs. Solid enough skater. Intelligent. I'm just not sure he's skilled enough to be a true offensive catalyst. Can he have a similar trajectory to a guy like Tyler Gaudet (a blast from the past who ended up earning an NHL contract but now plays in Germany)?

42. Marco Mignosa - Wing - Soo Greyhounds
At this point the physical tools just haven't caught up to the brain. Mignosa is very clearly a smart player. He understands how to position himself in the offensive zone and his anticipation/reads are usually spot on. I think he looks quicker this year too. However, there's still work to be done as a skater and in terms of his strength on the puck. He's too easily kept to the perimeter and that limits his production and his projection.

43. Calem Mangone - Wing - Saginaw Spirit
I really like Mangone. He's really fun to watch when he's on his game because of how quick and skilled he is. He's tenacious too, which is good for his long term projection. However, the last few months he just hasn't been quite as effective. Maybe partially snake bitten, but also not noticeable enough as a late born 2004, who also happens to be undersized. 

44. Juan Copeland - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
Hard for players on this Niagara team to look good at this point of the season. It's been a rough year for the franchise. Copeland is the team's best hope at the NHL Draft IMO. Good speed and creativity on the wing. Is at his best when he's attacking wide and looking to get to the net. His decision making with the puck leaves some to be desired, but he's going to be a point per game player in this league and probably a 35+ goal scorer by the time he graduates. Not sure he's a true NHL prospect, but I've always been intrigued by him.

45. Charlie Robertson - Goaltender - North Bay Battalion
Big goalie who is going to play in the CHL Top Prospect's Game this year. Other than Bjarnason and Ratzlaff, it's not a strong year for goalies in the CHL, so that's Robertson's gain and a great opportunity to impress scouts considering his back-up role in North Bay this year. Tall and lanky, Robertson kind of resembles a young Matt Murray in the crease from an appearance perspective. He's actually very aggressive in challenging shooters, something you don't often see from big, young netminders who usually seem more comfortable playing deep. His agility and quickness is a work in progress, as you might expect. Consistency has also been a bit of an issue, which is not a surprise. Bottom line, Robertson is getting a look because he's big, shows some positive play tracking ability, and could have great potential if he can continue to get quicker in the crease.

46. Nic Sima - Wing - Saginaw Spirit
Sima is a big winger with good speed; he's an intriguing athlete. The rest of his game remains a work in progress. North/South, he looks good. He can operate as the F1. He uses his length well on the backcheck. He shows promise as a transitional leader. But the hands and finishing ability need to improve for him to score consistently in this league. If you draft Sima, you're banking on unlocking his potential based on his athletic build and traits.

47. Declan Waddick - Wing/Center - Niagara IceDogs
Not the biggest. Not the quickest. Maybe that means I've lost you already. But Waddick is an impressive thinker on the ice. Always puts himself in good position to make a play. Has a good compete level. I think he's eventually going to be a very good player in this league. But an NHL prospect? That will be reliant on whether he can get quicker.

48. Alex Assadourian - Center - Niagara IceDogs
He's been fantastic since the trade to Niagara. I love to see this because I was a big fan of his heading into the year. He's ultra quick, but I feel like he's still learning how to use his speed to be a truly effective all around, impact player in the OHL. Getting more ice time in Niagara hopefully unlocks that and the early returns are great. At his best, Assadourian is a feisty, speedy, play driving pest. There's NHL upside there if he can prove that he has the skill to play at the next level.

49. Alexis Daviault - Defense - Erie Otters
It's been a pretty disappointing season for Daviault. He came into the year as one of the better defenders in the age group, but he's been very underwhelming this year. As a U17 player, we saw someone who was aggressive (for his size) in the defensive end, but who also showed promise as a puck mover. This season, I don't think he's been as aggressive defensively and thus, not as effective given that he's only average sized. And he's been fairly timid with the puck, especially in his time with Erie. The big return of the Christian Kyrou trade needs to turn things around.

50. Bronson Ride - Defense - Niagara IceDogs
Massive defender who is now going to get significantly more ice time with Niagara after a move from Windsor. His potential as a defensive stalwart is great. His mobility isn't terrible considering his size and when combined with his reach, he can be very disruptive. The key for Ride is simply to become more difficult to play against physically. For a big guy, his ability to win those 50/50 battles has been pretty inconsistent. Additionally, decision making with the puck...especially under pressure, has been an issue. Could see an NHL team looking his way late banking on defensive upside, but let's see how he closes out the year.

Friday, January 13, 2023

2023 NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

NHL Central Scouting has released their first official draft ranking for 2023. Let's see how the OHL players were ranked. In total, 55 were listed. I'll be releasing my own midseason rankings very shortly (likely by the end of the month). See below for some commentary on these rankings.

1. Colby Barlow (10)
2. Quentin Musty (11)
3. Calum Ritchie (17)
4. Oliver Bonk (18)
5. Beau Akey (25)
6. Cam Allen (29)
7. Carson Rehkopf (31)
8. Andrew Gibson (32)
9. Hunter Brzustewicz (33)
10. Quinton Burns (37)
11. Coulson Pitre (41)
12. Brad Gardiner (43)
13. Ethan Miedema (45)
14. Ondrej Molnar (48)
15. Luca Pinelli (49)
16. Carey Terrance (50)
17. Tristan Bertucci (51)
18. Alex Pharand (54)
19. Matthew Mania (62)
20. Cooper Foster (74)
21. Easton Cowan (75)
22. Owen Outwater (76)
23. Denver Barkey (84)
24. Konnor Smith (87)
25. Matthew Soto (88)
26. Ethan Hay (90)
27. Luke McNamara (92)
28. Nick Lardis (96)
29. Florian Xhekaj (103)
30. Cole Brown (105)
31. Matthew Andonovski (115)
32. James Petrovski (116)
33. Matthew Mayich (122)
34. Blake Smith (123)
35. Nic Sima (133)
36. Spencer Sova (136)
37. Djibril Toure (156)
38. Alexis Daviault (169)
39. Anthony Romani (170)
40. Chris Barlas (171)
41. Angus MacDonell (172)
42. Joey Willis (174)
43. Calem Mangone (176)
44. Marco Mignosa (191)
45. Donovan McCoy (192)
46. Lucas Moore (207)
47. Bronson Ride (210)
48. PJ Forgione (214)
49. Wyatt Kennedy (216)
50. Valentin Zhugin (219)
51. Adam Zidlicky (220)

1. Charlie Robertson (12)
2. Nathan Day (14)
3. Charlie Schenkel (23)
4. Zach Bowen (29)

For the full list, see here.


1. When we compare this to my own rankings (nearly solidified) the following players would be ranked higher by me: Carey Terrance, Luca Pinelli, Matthew Mania, Denver Barkey, Joey Willis, Easton Cowan, Nick Lardis, Angus MacDonell.

2. When we compare this to my own rankings (nearly solidified) the following players would be ranked lower by me: Oliver Bonk, Brad Gardiner, Cooper Foster, Konnor Smith.

3. This list looks similar to what I expected it to look like given NHL Central Scouting's track record. I expected guys like Barkey, Willis, Lardis, etc to be lower. I expected Bonk to be ranked quite high. The only real surprise for me is Carey Terrance. He's the type of player that NHL CSS typically really likes. I think they're underrating him because of the quality of the team he's playing on and subsequent production deficits. Similarly, the fact that so few OHL players ranked highly is not surprising. At this point, I'd set the over/under at 3.5 for the number of OHL players selected in the first round this year.

4. Good to see Spencer Sova ranked. I think he's the top re-entry guy from the OHL currently. I'd even be more aggressive with that ranking than 136. A bit surprised to see Linus Hemstrom not on the list. I think he deserves to be.