Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Top 10 - 2023 NHL Draft Re-Entries

It's that time of the year for my annual (2022202020192018201720162015201420132012201120102009) list of the top second and third year eligible OHL players for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. NHL teams continue to draft re-entry players in increasing number. This is mostly because drafting a second or third year eligible player gives NHL teams a lot of flexibility in their development under the CBA. Plus, a lot of these guys have been having success in recent years (Andrew Mangiapane, Tanner Pearson, Sean Durzi, and Colin Miller as legitimate NHL players are great examples from the OHL), which basic psychology tells us that other NHL teams will try to mimic.

Just to clarify, yet again, for those with limited understanding of the NHL draft system; North American players have either two or three years to get drafted, depending on their birth date. For those born from January 1 to September 15, they will go through three NHL drafts. For those born from September 16 to December 31, they will go through two NHL drafts. The players on this list are a mix of those having been passed over once or twice already.

Also, do not confuse this list with players drafted in 2021 who will re-enter the draft should they fail to come to a contractual agreement with their NHL team by June 1 (and whose birth date still allows them to be eligible). Quite often those too are referred to as draft re-entries. But this list does not contain them because it is not yet known who those players will be.

Last year this group was very strong because of the OHL hiatus. Two years of physical development "unscouted" led to many OHL re-entries selected. In total, seven were selected, including OHL scoring leader Matt Maggio, and Tucker Robertson/Amadeus Lombardi, who look like terrific NHL prospects at this point. This year, I would not call the group as strong. I would suspect that we only see two or three of the players from this list selected. 

Without further rambling, here's my list:

1. Rodwin Dionicio - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
No question, Dionicio is a complicated NHL prospect and one who remains a bit of a long shot to be an NHL player. Yet, we have to applaud the improvement that he showed this year, especially after being dealt to the Windsor Spitfires. He was one of the best offensive defenders in the OHL in the second half and is only a year away from being first time draft eligible. His hands and creativity are top notch. He routinely beats the initial layer of pressure and is a threat to go end to end almost every time he leads the attack out of Windsor's zone. He can quarterback the powerplay with a good point shot and quick movement. His offensive potential is significant at the next level. Defensively, he's a bit of a riverboat gambler. He likes to play physical, but he can chase the hit and the play, taking him out of position. His four way mobility improved a lot this year, but his backwards stride and transitions will still need to improve for him to be an NHL defender. There's a reason why he was used as a forward at times this year by Windsor (including in the playoffs). Of course, his untimely suspension in the playoffs likely didn't help his cause either. As much as he's a player with warts, I'd still have him ranked as the top re-entry from the OHL and someone I'd consider in the mid-late rounds because his upside is quite high under the right development model. Considering how much he improved in a half a season in Windsor, I'd be curious to see what a full year next season could do.

2. Brady Stonehouse - Wing - Ottawa 67's
Ottawa's second leading goal scorer this year, on a lot of nights, Stonehouse was the straw that stirred the drink for the 67's. He showed a great deal of development this year after being passed over last year as a first time eligible player. He's such a tenacious player and his quickness, speed, and balance all showed great improvement this year, which is critical given his lack of ideal size. He'd still be only an average skater for the NHL level, but improving his skating was a critical next step and he did that this season. Because of his tenaciousness, Stonehouse can be utilized in any situation; he's like a Swiss army knife. Perhaps the most underrated component to his game is his puck skill and finishing ability. You don't score 37 in the OHL as an 18/19 year old by accident. He can carry the puck at full speed and he has quick hands and a quick snapshot to finish off plays in tight. The only real strike against Stonehouse is that he looks like he's hit a bit of a physical wall in the playoffs thus far, much like some of Ottawa's other younger players. I don't think the upside is significant, but I would probably said the same thing about a guy like Michael Bunting at the same age.

3. Spencer Sova - Defense - Erie Otters
Speaking of hitting a wall, that's what Spencer Sova did this year too, playing a ton of minutes for a rebuilding Erie team that consistently took a beating down the stretch to close out the year poorly. First half of the year, Sova would have easily been number one on this list and IMO was looking like one of the top re-entries available for the draft...period. Second half...not so much. However, I'd still look at him late. You'd be hard pressed to find a better skating defender not currently without an NHL affiliation. He's that good of a mover. First half, we saw him consistently using his speed to be an impact player in transition. Second half, he fell back into the shell that we saw last year in his original draft year. He's got a great point shot, one of the better ones in the OHL, but he needs to use his feet more consistently to get himself those open looks; increasing aggressiveness is key. One thing I'll give him credit for is improving his physical intensity level, a major knock from his draft year. His willingness to battle for positioning was consistently noticeable and it's the reason why I'd be willing to spend a late pick on him. I do think that he will continue to improve, especially as Erie becomes a potential Western powerhouse again. Adding Matt Schaefer into the fold next year will help Sova significantly, by taking some pressure off of him.

4. Beau Jelsma - Center/Wing - Barrie Colts
I would have drafted Jelsma last year and I'd advocate for him again this year. I thought he closed out the regular season really well and has been good for Barrie in the playoffs so far. Look, I'll be honest. I'm not really sure what Jelsma is at the NHL level. Those projection issues are the reason why he wasn't drafted last year. He has a well rounded skill set, but isn't exactly elite at anything. He's also undersized. Yet, when you watch him play, he consistently passes the eye test. The sum of his parts is a quality hockey player. With the big time OA's graduating in Barrie next year, look for him to have a huge offensive season. He's quick. He's strong. He's feisty. He has underrated skill. He can kill penalties. He can play multiple positions. Again, the projection is muddy. He's not a perfect fit in a stereotypical way as an NHL top six player or bottom six player. Yet, I'd be willing to take a chance on him late to see what my development team could do with him in the future. I'm sure you could milk a niche out of his skill set. 

5. Braeden Bowman - Wing - Guelph Storm
Bowman was easily one of the most improved players in the OHL this year. Yeah, his goal scoring totals only increased from 27 to 33, but it was how he scored those 33 goals and the improvements made in other areas that has him firmly on the NHL draft radar. As an OHL rookie last year, Bowman was almost exclusively a net front presence and complementary player. Even going back to his GOJHL days with Kitchener, that was his game. That changed a lot this year thanks to significant improvement made to his skating, small area skill, and confidence carrying the puck. Bowman suddenly became dangerous with the puck on his stick in transition, showing an ability to drive the net and beat defenders one on one. His vision and playmaking ability, especially coming off the wall, also improved to a spot that I didn't conceive as attainable previously. Bowman is now a 6'2 power winger who can create his own chances and ones for his teammates. The skating will still need to improve, but given the rapid development curve here, I would be shocked if an NHL team does not select Bowman this year.

6. Kocha Delic - Center/Wing - Sudbury Wolves
It wasn't the healthiest season for Delic, but you can't discount the production. After a strong performance for Canada at the U18's last year, I really felt like Delic would be a later round pick. Tat wasn't the case. This year, he returned to Sudbury highly motivated to be a difference maker and he was that on a lot of nights for the Wolves. His motor is consistent and I think that gives him a really decent floor as a pro. He has strong defensive instincts, can be utilized in a variety of roles, is a great forechecker, and skates pretty well. I'm sure scouts wish he were bigger, but his compete helps to offset that. As an offensive player, he continues to show great chemistry with Musty and Goyette, operating as a workhorse of the line. However, I really like how he uses quick touches to operate in high traffic areas. The puck is on and off his stick quickly as he darts in and out of coverage, and he's willing to take a hit to finish off a play or make a pass. In a lot of ways, he's like Beau Jelsma. I see the hesitancy from scouts. However, I think he's shown enough this year to warrant consideration.

7. Djibril Toure - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Raw. Like, very raw. Toure hasn't spent a ton of time at the higher levels and as an '03 he was playing in his first year in the OHL this season. His game is currently far from mistake free. He can bobble pucks. His decision making and reads leave some to be desired. On some shifts, he looks in over his head. Yet...there's just something about his game that screams late bloomer. He's a 6'7, right shot defender with above average movement qualities. He can get around the ice well and close gaps quickly. As he becomes more fluid in his transitions and improves his confidence on his edges, are we looking at a 6'7 defender whose mobility is an asset? Additionally, he's extremely difficult to play against. He's very aggressive physically. He'll step up on you at the blueline. He'll punish you below the goal line. He makes life difficult for forwards near the crease. As he fills out his frame further, what kind of defensive potential does Toure have? If Toure was an '04, I'd have him right at the top of this list. But as an '03, the runway for development just isn't as long. He'll be an OHL overager next year and then what? I think he's that much of a long term project. But, his athletic tools are just really, really intriguing. 

8. Oliver Peer - Center/Wing - Windsor Spitifres
Pace is the name of the game here. Peer is one of the quicker players in the OHL. Even without long, powerful strides, his quick feet generate so much power and this allows him to be one of the better transitional attackers in the OHL. I really like how his game is middle of the ice focused too. He's also looking to drive the middle to open up space and this allows him to excel as a playmaker. Peer is also a hard worker who kills penalties and competes on the backcheck. He's not necessarily a physical player, but he works hard without the puck to earn touches. What's the upside? I'm not entirely sure. Like any player on this list there could be limitations. But, I'm always drawn to the breakneck pace that Peer plays at and how successful he is at creating scoring chances. I'd bet that he is one of the higher scoring OA's in the OHL next season, in which case he'll draw NHL interest. Given how much he's improved over his short OHL career, I'd possibly be willing to bring him into the fold to see if I could turn him into a high energy, bottom six guy as he improves his strength on the puck and physical intensity.

9. Connor Punnett - Defense - Barrie Colts
Everyone had their eye on Brandt Clarke and Beau Akey this year in Barrie and it's caused many to be sleeping on the positive development of Punnett. A minute muncher for the Colts, he's probably the favourite to be the team's captain next year as an OA. Punnett has always been one of the more physical defenders in the OHL, with a penchant for the big open ice hit, but this year his confidence with the puck grew substantially. Armed with a booming point shot, Punnett generates a lot of second chance opportunities with his shot. He's also a good skater who can skate himself out of trouble in the defensive end and who can lead the counter attack when he sees an opportunity to jump up in the play. From a skilled perspective, the offensive production likely wouldn't carry over to the next level. He can get boxed in and isn't the world's most creative player. But, he's got good size, a big shot, a penchant for physicality, and is a decent mover. Many a junior defenders have used that combination to become NHL defenders. 

10. Dylan Roobroeck - Center - Oshawa Generals
The move from Niagara to Oshawa really helped Roobroeck develop into a highly useful OHL player this season, his second in the league. His brother Ryan was just recently selected second overall by Niagara in the priority selection and is a much more hyped player, but we can't overlook Dylan's progression this season. A 6'7 center, Dylan is the epitome of a player still growing into his frame; he's very much still learning how to use his size to his advantage. Continuing to improve his skating, especially his agility, quickness, and balance, will be key. However, much like Toure, there's something intriguing about his raw physical tools. He can be really tough to knock off the puck and he shows well as a playmaker after holding possession deep in the offensive zone. I could definitely see an NHL team selecting Dylan this year.

Honorable Mentions (listed alphabetically):

Ryan Abraham - Center - Windsor Spitfires
Unique player who battled a wrist injury this year, limiting him to only 29 games. When he was healthy, he looked great. Small, but competitive player who is as slippery as an eel thanks to dynamic edgework. Small sample size saw him be way more confident with the puck this year. Hopefully he stays healthy next year.

Alex Christopoulous - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
One of the most improved players in the OHL this year. He's not huge, but he's a near immovable object from the net front. Just takes constant abuse but battles to be a presence and has great hands in tight and a quick release from the slot. Skating needs to continue to improve, but he's putting himself on the scouting radar. 49 goals this year and many came from within a few feet.

Pano Fimis - Center - Erie Otters
Don't think he's done enough to warrant a draft selection at this time, but Erie is going to be a good spot for him to develop further. Improved as a two-way player this year. Looked stronger on the puck. He needs to produce consistently to be on the NHL radar at his size. Look for him to have a much better season next year.

Jacob Frasca - Center - Barrie Colts
Massively improved player this year. That first line with Vierling and Cardwell (and Frasca) was an absolute load to handle on a lot of nights. They just grinded down opposing defenders with their work down low. The big center is on a career trajectory similar to his brother Jordan who signed with Pittsburgh last year. 

Ruslan Gazizov - Wing - London Knights
After a disappointing draft year with London last year, Gazizov has been much better this year, even if the production is only mildly better. Skating has shown improvement but will need to continue to get better. Physical intensity more consistent, but will need to increase even more. Skill level is high. Have a feeling that if he returns to London again next year that he's going to have a big year.

Linus Hemstrom - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Hemstrom was really good in the first half, but faded big time in the second half. Physically, he wasn't the same player down the stretch. Like the quickness. Like the tenacity. He just needs to get stronger on and off the puck. I know he lost a lot of development time coming into this year (part of why he chose to come to the OHL). Hemstrom is someone that I'd be watching very closely next year.

Jacob Julien - Wing - London Knights
Late bloomer who barely misses out on being first time draft eligible this year thanks to a September 12th birth date. He's been a great find for London and has really stabilized their bottom six since joining the team around midseason. Big, rangy winger who is really effective North/South. Loves to drive the net. Has big strides that need to gain more power, but with the right development, he could be a player. I've certainly heard some chatter about NHL interest here in the same vein as the aforementioned Toure and Roobroeck. 

Zak Lavoie - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
A real bulldog on the ice who has great for Niagara after coming over from Mississauga. He's not the biggest, but he competes hard. Good forechecker and someone with great goal scoring potential. Not a true draft prospect at this time IMO, but if he develops well, he'll get an NHL contract ala Tye Kartye in the future.

Jacob Maillet - Center - Windsor Spitfires
Say what you will about Windsor's disappointing end to the year, but their regular season was a success thanks to the positive development of players like Maillet. He's a good two-way center who has improved his skating a lot since entering the OHL with Guelph. The offensive upside at the NHL level wouldn't be high, but I could see him developing into a useful NHL player under the right circumstances. He'd probably be #11 for me on this list if I had one.

Samuel Mayer - Defense - Peterborough Petes
I liked Mayer a lot last year as a potential draft pick, but I didn't see a ton of progression in his game this year. I had higher expectations. Thought his decision making wavered with the puck and his vision as a powerplay QB didn't show a ton of growth. He's still a solid two-way guy and I still think he has NHL upside, but I wanted just a bit more from him this year after being slighted last year.

Max Namestnikov - Wing - Guelph Storm
Vladislav's younger brother was a different player after that trade to Guelph. He's skilled. He's feisty. He's quick. He can fire the puck. Still unsure about the IQ, especially with the puck on his stick. At his size, I'd want to see a full year of production before using a draft pick on him.

Marko Sikic - Wing/Center - Sarnia Sting
Sikic is essentially Jacob Maillet without the high end ice time. He's a rangy forward who excels at both ends and who shows well as a playmaker. I would expect him to be one of the league's better OA's next year when he gets a ton of ice time following graduations.

Patrick Thomas - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
The third wheel on that Panwar/Lardis line that was so good for the Bulldogs down the stretch. My colleague at McKeen's, Joely Stockl, loves him because of his work ethic and offensive zone awareness. He's one of those guys who always seems to make the right play with the puck in the offensive zone. Reminds me a lot of former Ottawa 67 Austen Keating.  

Florian Xhekaj - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Continues to be ranked highly by NHL Central Scouting but I'm not sure that I'm buying it. This is coming from someone who absolutely loved his brother Arber, right from the get go (check the history of the blog). Yeah he was a solid high energy checker in his first OHL season. He competes hard like his brother. He shows flashes of potential as an offensive contributor. But I'd want to see more before committing a draft pick to him. You can't just automatically assume that because Arber's development was so steady, year after year, that Florian's will be too. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

2023 NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings

NHL Central Scouting has released their final draft ranking for 2023. Let's see how the OHL players were ranked. In total, 56 were listed. See below for some commentary on these rankings, in addition to the risers and fallers from the January midseason list.


1. Colby Barlow (12)
2. Cal Ritchie (13)
3. Quentin Musty (14)
4. Oliver Bonk (20)
5. Nick Lardis (27)
6. Carson Rehkopf (29)
7. Andrew Gibson (31)
8. Tristan Bertucci (32)
9. Beau Akey (33)
10. Quinton Burns (34)
11. Coulson Pitre (37)
12. Carey Terrance (38)
13. Hunter Brzustewicz (41)
14. Cam Allen (46)
15. Ethan Miedema (50)
16. Easton Cowan (51)
17. Luca Pinelli (54)
18. Brad Gardiner (57)
19. Cole Brown (69)
20. Matthew Mania (70)
21. Matthew Mayich (72)
22. Alex Pharand (77)
23. Denver Barkey (79)
24. Ethan Hay (83)
25. Cooper Foster (88)
26. Konnor Smith (94)
27. Luke McNamara (100)
28. Anthony Romani (106)
29. Rodwin Dionicio (114)
30. Owen Outwater (126)
31. Ondrej Molnar (129)
32. Matthew Soto (130)
33. Florian Xhekaj (131)
34. Matthew Andonovski (134)
35. James Petrovski (136)
36. Angus MacDonell (142)
37. Blake Smith (155)
38. Alexis Daviault (160)
39. Jacob Julien (161)
40. Donovan McCoy (173)
41. Joey Willis (174)
42. Braeden Bowman (177)
43. Djibril Toure (178)
44. Spencer Sova (182)
45. Beau Jelsma (190)
46. Kocha Delic (191)
47. Alex Christopoulos (198)
48. Lucas Moore (209)
49. Calem Mangone (214)


1. Nathaniel Day (12)
2. Charlie Robertson (13)
3. Zach Bowen (15)
4. Charlie Schenkel (25)
5. Owen Flores (27)
6. Andrew Oke (29)
7. Corbin Votary (32)

For the complete rankings, see here.

Biggest Risers:
1. Rodwin Dionicio - From Unranked to 114 (+100ish)
2. Jacob Julien - From Unranked to 161 (+70ish)
3. Nick Lardis - From 96 to 27 (+69)
4. Anthony Romani - From 170 to 106 (+64)
5. Braeden Bowman - From Unranked to 177 (+60ish)
6. Matthew Mayich - From 122 to 72 (+50)
7. Cole Brown - From 105 to 69 (+36)
8. Angus MacDonell - From 172 to 142 (+30)
9. Easton Cowan - From 75 to 51 (+24)
10. Tristan Bertucci - From 51 to 32 (+19)

Biggest Fallers:
1. Nic Sima - From 133 to Unranked (-90ish)
2. Ondrej Molnar - From 48 to 129 (-81)
3. Chris Barlas - From 177 to Unranked (-50sh)
4. Owen Outwater - From 76 to 126 (-50)
5. Spencer Sova - From 136 to 182 (-46)
6. Matthew Soto - From 88 to 130 (-42)
7. Calem Mangone - From 176 to 214 (-38)
8. Florian Xhekaj - From 103 to 131 (-28)
9. Blake Smith - From 123 to 155 (-22)
10. Djibril Toure - From 156 to 178 (-22)


- I haven't released my own final rankings yet. But I have a rough idea of what they will look like. Denver Barkey, Joey Willis, and Alex Assadourian (unranked) are the guys that I'm definitely going to have a bit higher. 

- Obviously not shocking at all to see how far Nick Lardis has risen in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting. He's a borderline first rounder depending on how he performs at the U18's. 

- Love the aggressive ranking of Tristan Bertucci, who will also be in my own top ten of the OHL players available and is someone that I can will end up being a top 50 selection.

- As far as Brady Stonehouse is shocking and not something I'd agree with. Ditto for Oliver Peer and Connor Punnett.

2023 OHL Priority Selection Mock Draft & Preview

The 2023 OHL Priority Selection is set to go this weekend, with rounds 1-3 occurring Friday night. The Erie Otters will select first after winning the draft lottery and all signs point to them taking Halton defender Matthew Schaefer.  
It should be noted that this collaborative mock draft was started over a week ago, before things start to leak out regarding placement. Even if the mock does not end up being extremely accurate, the true purpose of this piece is to provide you with information on some of the top players available this year. 
This is the fifth year that I have gathered scouts together for this piece. It seems like with each passing year, I am able to see less and less U16 action. This couldn't be more true now that I've taken on the director of scouting role with McKeen's Hockey. Thus, I love putting this together to help me learn too. This piece wouldn't be possible without the contributions of some terrific scouts.
Helping out with this mock draft are:
Steven Ellis – Associate Editor and Prospect Analyst for The Daily Faceoff (@SEllisHockey)
Connor Williams – Scout for Recruit Scouting (@cwilliams_384)
Chase Rochon - Scout for McKeen's Hockey & Stathletes Video Analyst (@chaserochon18)
Gavin Chiasson - Owner of Recruit Scouting (@NHLChiasson
Joely Stockl - Scout for McKeen's Hockey & Toronto Jr. Patriots (OJHL) (@joely_stockl04)
Chase Allen - Scout for Puck Preps (@ChaseAllen03)
Mat Goodwin - Scout for (@Goody_0808)
Ryan Ferizovic - Director of Scouting for (@RFerry27)
Jordan Malette - Scout for Puck Preps (@jordanmalette)
Gabe Foley - Head of North American Scouting for Recruit Scouting (@NHLFoley)
Steven Graves - Independent Scout (@German_Spitfire)
Ethan Atticus Page - Scout for (@e_pager_)

If you're hungry for more information on these players, check out the content on the sites of these contributors!

Without further ado, here is our first round mock draft, honorable mentions, and top US potential selections:

1. Erie Otters (Brock Otten) - Matthew Schaefer, D, Halton (OMHA/SCTA) 
Coming into the year it was thought to be the Roobroeck and Moore draft after those two were denied exceptional player status last season. However, Moore has since signed on with the U.S. NTDP and Roobroeck had a disappointing end to the year. That opened the door for dynamic defender Matt Schaefer. Not only was he a factor for the Hurricanes all year, but he was probably the best player at the Canada Winter Games this year, helping Ontario capture a gold medal. A truly gifted skater, Schaefer likely jumps right into a top four role and should be able to help the Otters’ transitional attack and powerplay. As he gains experience, he should become an elite two-way defender because of his high IQ. With Spencer Sova and Schaefer, the Otters will now have two of the better skating defenders in the league and they’re building from defense out to support a solid, young forward group.

2. Niagara IceDogs (Joely Stockl) - Brady Martin, F, Waterloo (Alliance)
After having a true breakout performance for the Waterloo Wolves at the OHL Cup, and helping his team win the Alliance championships, Brady Martin has firmly placed himself inside the projected top three selections. From scoring overtime winners, to the quarter final hat trick to eliminate the 1st place Toronto Marlboros, Martin was the star of the show at the OHL Cup and was scoring goals at the time it mattered most. There is never a dull moment in Martin’s game, he’ll throw a big hit at one end, and then hustle down the ice and rip a shot past the goaltender at the other. Martin’s greatest asset is his shot. He seems to be able to consistently find open pockets in the ice where he has just enough room to get his shot off. Between his precise accuracy and incredibly heavy release, Martin is a nightmare for goaltenders to handle. He is a very powerful player with a great work ethic, battles hard in the corners and refuses to be pushed around. Martin isn’t the quickest player on the ice, but his stride and strength will likely allow him to improve in those areas as he develops. If the IceDogs are able to get Martin to commit at this position, he will bring life back into their offense and make an immediate offensive impact alongside skilled, young forwards like Kevin He & Declan Waddick.

3. Soo Greyhounds (Gavin Chiasson) - Ryan Roobroeck, F, London
While many felt that Roobroeck’s OHL Cup performance was a disappointment, I felt differently the more I thought about it. I watched Roobroeck early on this year at the Wendy Dufton and felt disappointed by what I had seen by (at the time) a bonafide 1st overall pick. He often hung around the opposing blue line, coasting and waiting for breakout passes for breakaways and odd-man opportunities, and I felt there was nothing more to his game than that. Obviously good speed and a good shot are what highlighted why he was successful in that regard which meant there had to be some deserving skillset there, right? Well, that proved useful as the year carried on. By the OHL Cup, Roobroeck was ‘disappointing’ stats wise, and maybe he wasn’t as dangerous in shooting attempts, and while I had the same opinion, I felt different the longer I thought about it. Roobroeck was magnificent two-ways, and was constantly disrupting opponents offensive and neutral play. I can’t really picture any other player who was that dangerous at stopping opposing opportunities than Roobroeck at that tournament. With his long reach, size, and already discussed speed, as Roobroeck learns how to make his two-way game work with his offensive flare, I still think Roobroeck could be incredibly dangerous, and possibly still the best of this draft class. I could see the Hounds going for Roobroeck as the name still stands out as one of the best, and there’s growth potential to hit a large two-way centreman. Any team would be happy with grabbing someone like that, and the Hounds have a good way of developing prospects to be offensive dynamos over the years, so I feel confident that if Roobroeck is interested in joining the Hounds, that they will grab him at 3.
4. Kingston Frontenacs (Jordan Malette) - Tyler Hopkins , F, Halton (OMHA/Alliance)
I could see the Fronts going in many different directions with this pick, but Hopkins made the most sense to me. Hopkins is among the best skaters in the class, and all he needs is a few long powerful strides to explode through the neutral zone uncontested. His speed creates separation all over the ice and should continue to be a competitive advantage at the OHL level. He manages the puck incredibly well, and when combined with his skating, makes for the mould of a play-driving centerman at the next level. Outside of the skating and transition impact, Hopkins is a gifted playmaker who creates plenty of chances for everyone around him. Tyler has a "pass first" mindset, constantly scans for open teammates, and can exploit the smallest of passing lanes. Kingston has a lot of talented wingers in their core, and adding a centerman who can handle the heavy lifting in transition, who is also a crafty playmaker, will complement their existing assets nicely.

5. Niagara IceDogs* (Chase Rochon) - Dryden Allen, D, Southern Tier Admirals (OMHA/SCTA)
The Icedogs are in a tough position with their compensation pick for Sam Dickinson, who failed to report last summer. After one season of new, inexperienced management, they will be forced to make safe decisions on draft day for players who will report for training camp, as this year's compensation pick will not be eligible to be compensated for next year. Using this pick to take the best player available that they believe will report will be the best route. Dryden Allen playing for the local AAA team, Southern Tier Admirals, would be a great, safe pick. Currently, a late first to early second-rounder, Allen would not be too far of a reach to ensure they are still getting a great player. This also fills the hole in young defence after losing Dickinson last year. Allen is great at headmanning the puck and driving play which is exactly what Niagara needs. Allen has lots of growing left to do, and once he fills out can use this more to his advantage as he is still quite slim. He is an excellent skater with a high IQ, shown by his decision-making and ability to read and create plays shows he has the tools and capability to succeed at the next level.

6. Oshawa Generals (Mat Goodwin) - William Moore, F, Toronto (GTHL)
Moore is one of the most talented forwards in this year’s draft.  He has all the tools of a top prospect: the size, the speed, the shot and the IQ.  The only question surrounding him is: will he take his talents to the OHL or suit up for the USNTDP (of course, he has signed on with the NTDP).  If he decides to go the Major Junior route, whichever team takes him will be getting a player that is ready to step in and contribute immediately.  Moore had an impressive 10 points in 5 games at the OHL Cup to help build on an incredible season and post-season run in the GTHL.  At nearly 6’2” he has a long reach and can corral the puck in transition and shows impressive stick handling skills while keeping an impressive high speed.  If opposing defenders aren’t ready, they will be beat cleanly on the rush.  Moore’s shot is as good as anyone’s in the draft class, in both speed and accuracy. He is a true offensive threat in any situation and will make you pay if he’s given too much time and space.  Moore rounds out his offensive game with solid defensive zone awareness and positioning, using his size and hockey sense to steal pucks and create turnovers.  Overall, Moore is one of the best forwards in the 2007 group and hopefully decides to display his talent in the OHL next season, even if it is appearing to be slightly far fetched.

7. Mississauga Steelheads (Chase Allen) - Quinn Beauchesne, D, Nepean Raiders (HEO)
Quinn Beauchesne really came to my attention after an impressive Canada Winter Games for Team Ontario. The offensively-inclined defender out of the HEO has been leaned on heavily by his squad to drive play from the blueline and has lived up to the expectations. He’s by-far one of the more mobile skating defenders in this years’ draft, great usage of his edges and momentum to pivot, twist, and turn, he can defend the rush strongly and keep pace with speedy puck carriers. On the other side of the puck he can lead the rush, jump in as a trailing man if needed, and even finish off plays here-and-there. Part of what makes Beauchesne so valuable is his mentality from the backend most defenders lack, he wants to drive play, he wants to have the puck, and wants to create things through transition via his stick and decision making. Occasionally there is a gaf-or-two with the puck as he transitions up ice, but the good far outweighs the bad regarding Beauchesne’s risk-to-reward ratio. Beauchesne would be a great addition to the Mississauga Steelhead’s blueline, instilling some offensive firepower on top of prospective defensive developments to round out his game fueled by his already established skating ability.

8. Hamilton Bulldogs (Steven Ellis) -  Henry Brzustewicz, D, New Jersey U16
One of the best skaters in the draft, Brzustewicz has the makings of a top-pairing, two-way defender. He's excellent on the rush (at both ends) and is calculated with his stick work. He doesn't waste much movement trying to shut someone down, and I’m fully convinced he’ll put up significant point totals in the O. The younger brother of Kitchener's Hunter, he was recently left off the U.S. NTDP team for U17.

9. Sudbury Wolves (Steven Graves) - Jack Ivankovic, G, Mississauga Senators (GTHL) 
The 9th overall selection belongs to Sudbury this year. The Wolves don’t have any major graduations going into next season so there isn’t an immediate position that needs addressing at the draft. Because of this, they’re in a position to take the best goaltender in the draft in Mississauga Senators backstopper Jack Ivankovic. Jack is one of the best goaltending prospects to come into the OHL in the past 10 years, He is very athletic in the crease, he is able to move left to right very quick and isn’t reliant on his frame to make saves. Ivankovic is the type of kid that gives his team an opportunity to win games in and out. He was the starter for Ontario at the Canada Winter games and was a big reason why the team took home gold. He made many clutch saves throughout the game and into overtime. Ivankovic has really shown to be a big game player at such a young age, coming up big whenever he is tasked to do so. Sudbury solve any goaltending concerns for the next 4 years with this selection. 

10. Kitchener Rangers* (Ryan Ferizovic)– Owen Griffin, C, York Simcoe Express (ETA)
Being left on the board this late into the first round, the Rangers would undoubtedly take the highly skilled two-way centreman from York Simcoe. With an extraordinary under-aged year last season with the Markham Waxers and leading the ETA in points this season, Owen Griffin has demonstrated why he is a top prospect in the 2023 OHL Entry Draft. He possesses a strong offensive skill set, a high compete level, and a hockey IQ that consistently gets the best of opponents. He is able to drive the play up-ice and generate prime scoring chances with great playmaking ability or employing a combination of strong puck skills and a quick-release shot. His positional awareness and creative passing allows him to find open linemates in seemingly impossible situations. Whether he’s coming off the cycle low in the zone or flying down the half wall after a successful zone entry, Griffin can find anyone in the same sweater as him regardless of pressure and traffic. Due to his high compete level and strong work ethic, he plays both special teams and is able to make meaningful contributions on both. Strong mobility and effective checking ability earns him the puck on the penalty kill while strong passing and shooting ability sees him quarterbacking his team’s power play. Don’t be surprised if Griffin is taken higher than this spot. He is a natural leader and highly skilled. 

11. Kitchener Rangers (Ethan Atticus Page) - Cameron Reid, D, Rochester BK Selects (USA)
As Kitchener comes into the draft with their second first round pick, it would make sense for a defensman to be their selection of choice. Reid, an Aylmer, Ontario native had another head-turning season for the BK Selects, establishing himself as one of the better defensive prospects in this years draft. Reid’s combination of mobility and IQ make for an exciting player to watch game-in game-out. The two-way D-man is poised with the puck, making smart plays and calculated decisions. Reid thinks one step ahead of his opponents, making it easy for him to anticipate plays and gain a strong sense of awareness of all areas of the ice. He is effective in most situations, displaying a solid sense of both offensive and defensive awareness. In his own end, he has the ability to keep opponents to the outside and keep player out of dangerous scoring areas. In transition, he makes accurate first passes to start breakouts. He will often join the rush when he can to add an extra level of offense. At the point, he moves well laterally, as he can effortlessly walk to blueline to evade defenders and look for possible shooting/passing lanes. When shooting, he is effective at getting the puck through traffic - usually looking to create a tip-in or a rebound for his forwards to pick up. When passing, he has the ability to be creative, making risky passing look easy, setting his teammates up with prime scoring opportunities. Reid will without a doubt be an exciting player to keep an eye on for seasons to come.

12. Owen Sound Attack (Connor Williams) - Jake O’Brien, C, Toronto JRC (GTHL)
The Owen Sound Attack hold the 12th overall pick in the 2023 OHL priority selection. Going into the draft the Attack don’t have a ton of roster turnover in terms of overage players, leaving or players ageing out. As a whole they have a fairly young roster, and given the Attack have not selected a defenceman since they selected Nolan Seed 15th overall in 2018, it wouldn’t necessarily be a stretch to think the Attack may go with a forward once again. Add onto that is the OHL cup MVP and leading scorer Jake O’Brien and Toronto Jr. Canadiens remains available at the 12th overall selection, that would be a very hard player to pass up at this position. O’Brien is a very smart player with a high hockey IQ, he understands where to be in all three zones of the ice, specifically in the offensive zone, finding soft pockets where he can receive the puck to create offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. in addition, O’Brien combines his high level hockey IQ with his high end puck skills play, making its score in ability to ultimately be an impact player whenever he is on the ice.

13. Peterborough Petes (Mat Goodwin) - Luca Romano, C, Toronto JRC (GTHL)
Romano is a very intriguing prospect for the OHL Cup winning Junior Canadiens.  He is not the biggest or flashiest player and was out-paced by fellow teammates during the OHL Cup tournament when it comes to points, however, Romano’s game is so much more than numbers.  He is a very good skater with an effortless stride and great acceleration.  He has great vision and his puck distribution is some of the best in his age group.  What really sets him apart from his peers is his hockey sense and ‘IQ”.  Romano is a very cerebral player that is wise beyond what his birth certificate reads.  He understands the importance of playing a 200-foot game and is rarely out of position in the defensive zone.  He can be counted on to get the puck out of the zone safely and is always calm and poised doing so.  He can control the pace of play when he has the puck, pushing the pace, or slowing it down and setting up in the offensive zone.  His gifted style of play makes everyone around him better and a fun player to watch.  He can be trusted in all situations, whether it be to win an important defensive zone draw in the dying seconds of a game, or to score a key power-play goal when his team is down late.  Romano has future captain potential and whichever team takes him will be very happy with their pick for years to come. 

14. Guelph Storm (Brock Otten) - Carson Cameron, D, Central Ontario Wolves (OMHA/ETA)
If Cameron is still available at #14, I believe that the Storm would have a very difficult time passing on him. In contention to be the second best defender available behind Schaefer, Cameron was another player who stood out in a really positive way at the Canada Winter Games for that strong Ontario team. He is a high IQ two-way defender who plays the right side and in two years time, he could end up anchoring the second pairing behind Cam Allen, helping to replace Buchinger. In the meantime, he can be brought along slowly and help to give more depth to a Storm team that has Jake Murray graduating and likely a decision to make between Enright and Romeo as an OA on the backend next season.

15. Flint Firebirds (Gavin Chiasson) - Chase Hull, F, Renfrew Wolves (HEO)
Chase Hull brings such offensive flare to his game that he becomes impossible to miss shift-by-shift. With Flint picking at 15, if Hull isn’t gone yet, I think he becomes the type of player Flint is looking for. The HEO is perhaps a bit underrated this year in terms of their top-end talent and Hull brings physicality, speed and an impressive shot that Flint is missing since losing Othmann. 

16. Saginaw Spirit (Steven Ellis) - Matheas Stark, F, Toronto Marlboros (GTHL) 
When he gets the puck, he races down the ice like he's shot out of a cannon. He has a quick, accurate release, but it's his playmaking that makes him appear as the smartest player on the ice anytime he's on. You won’t have to worry about his effort level - he brings it every single shift.

17. Sarnia Sting (Ryan Ferizovic) – Aiden Lane, RW, Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)
Perhaps the player who has shown the most development over the season, Lane is a sizable winger who has the ability to play in any and all offensive situations. From a player who played a ‘grinder’ style of play at the beginning of the season- coming in heavy on the forecheck to secure pucks and outlet them to streaking linemates- to a durable and pure goal-scoring winger, Lane was an integral part in why the Marlboros won the GTHL Playoffs and went so deep in the OHL Cup. He plays an assertive style in the offensive zone, using his big frame to protect the puck and his edges to find open ice to where he can make an accurate setup pass or take the puck to the net. He is a dangerous shooter from anywhere in the attacking end, able to employ velocity and accuracy in full stride or from a fixed position. He plays a physical style to win pucks and force turnovers, giving his team increased time on attack whenever he is out for a shift. His high compete level and continuous growth alludes to the fact he could become a top player at the next level. 

18. London Knights (Chase Rochon) - Aiden Young, F, London Jr. Knights (ALLIANCE)
London's current team looks quite different from their typical model of high-end offensive stars. Now they play more of a structured, defensive system with the elite defenders Logan Mailloux, Oliver Bonk, Isaiah George, Jackson Edward, and the developing 2006 star Sam Dickinson. With most of these defence returning next season and losing co-captains George Diaco and Sean McGurn, they should be looking toward a forward. Born and raised in London, Ontario, Aiden Young would be a great fit for the Knights at this pick. Currently playing for the local Jr. Knights, Young has been well-known and scouted by the Knight's scouting staff for a while. Possessing the two most transferable traits to succeed at the OHL level in skating and IQ should make for a smooth transition to developing into an OHL star. Under great coaching and management of the Hunters, they should be able round out his game and turn this type of player into a star. Aiden plays very well with Elite company but can create space to produce offence on his own, and this will fit perfectly into playing with some high-end talent with the Knights. The fit seems too good to be true and can make Youngs' dreams come true on draft day.

19. Barrie Colts (Joely Stockl) - William McFadden, F, Peterborough Petes (ETA)
William McFadden established himself as a difference maker in the offensive end this season for the U16 Peterborough Petes. He averaged over 2 points per game in the regular season, and had an impressive 9 points in 6 games at the OHL Cup before losing to Vaughn in the semi-finals. McFadden is a winger that oozes pure offensive skill. What makes McFadden unique, is the emotional edge that he plays with. He plays with loads of compete and he is relentless on every puck. He is able to pick up passes and loose pucks at full speed and always drives play with a purpose. McFadden’s foot speed and edges allow him to attack the defense in a variety of ways, whether he is beating them down the wall, or charging through the defense by using his hands. Sitting at just 5’7”, McFadden’s size is an issue that prevents him from getting picked earlier in this draft, and will prevent him from playing certain roles in the OHL. He doesn’t let himself get pushed around, but continuing to increase his strength will be crucial to making that next step. With the absence of over-age forwards Ethan Cardwell, Evan Vierling, & Declan McDonnell, offense will be hard to come by for the Barrie Colts next season. McFadden has the potential to be that difference maker for Barrie in the next couple seasons and provide some much needed offense.

20. Windsor Spitfires (Steven Graves) - Caden Taylor, LW, Mississauga Senators (GTHL) 
Windsor are in real good hands moving forward thanks to a strong 2022 draft class that saw them pull out three productive rookies in Liam Greentree, Anthony Cristoforo and AJ Spellacy. The Spitfires get to add to that here with the 20th overall selection. Taylor was very good for the Mississauga Senators at the OHL cup, in particular, where he turned his game up a notch and finished among the tournaments leading scorers despite only playing four games. The 6’2” Taylor has one of the best shots in the entire class; he already has a pro shot, not many kids his age can shoot the puck like him - His shot is heavy and he is able to get the puck off his stick quickly, and with precision. Taylor has very good offensive instincts, he reads the play well and positions himself accordingly for good scoring opportunities. He’s also a really good skater that can get up to pace quick and beat defenders to the outside. I know there are concerns about his off-puck game and his defensive effort, but a talent like Taylor is worth the risk at this spot. 

21. North Bay Battalion (Chase Allen) - Jacob Cloutier, RW, Pittsburgh Pens Elite (NEPACK)
From the HEO to the NEPACK, Jacob Cloutier has spent his OHL Draft Eligible season with the Pittsburgh Pens Elite south of the border and has been one of the leading offensive threats throughout the entire year. He’s by-far one of the best transition pieces available in this draft, and can lead offensive transition with ease regardless of the situation. His ability to pre-scan with the puck on his stick in all 3-zones, evade pressure, and create space is one of his greatest strengths. He has some decent physical maturity to go along with his evasive nature, if he gets caught with physical play he can endure the check through some decent strength and pivots via his footwork to better position himself to box out opposition from the puck. On top of the lethal transition work and playmaking ability via good reads and natural passing talent, Cloutier also possesses some nice finishing ability by finding open ice and using his quick and accurate wrist shot to beat goaltenders. He supports his teammates off-puck very well, remaining dynamic in the offensive zone, buzzing in-and-out of coverage, and ultimately winning space to be the reciptiant of dangerous scoring chances. With an aging core relative to Major-Junior standards, Jacob Cloutier would be a great offensive piece to insert into the North Bay Battalion lineup going forward.

22. Ottawa 67’s (Jordan Malette) - Tanner Lam, F, Halton Hurricanes (SCTA)
With the 67s first-round pick, I think they lean toward a forward after selecting Henry Mews and Frankie Marelli high in the 2022 draft. The 67s never seem to shy away from the undersized skill players, and that's precisely what you're getting in Tanner Lam. Lam plays with tremendous pace, outstanding individual skill, and creativity, and they all stack on top of each other to deliver that "wow" factor. He's one of the most confident players in the class and can pull off some outrageous moves to dangle his way to the dangerous parts of the ice. Conversely, there are moments where his ambitious moves don't work out, but he converts more often than not.  Especially as the 67s will have back-to-back picks as they hold Niagaras 2nd rounder, they could take a major upside swing by selecting Lam with one of those two picks. It's certainly not risk-free, but there is enormous potential for a top-line winger at the OHL level.

—-------------------------------- (Bonus Second Round)--------------------------------

23. Ottawa 67’s (via Niagara) (Connor Williams) - Parker Snelgrove, C, London Jr. Knights (ALLIANCE)
After having the final pick of the first round in the draft, the 67’s have back to back selections, opening up the second round of the draft with the first pick of the second round, as they hold Niagara’s second round selection in the draft. Although there are lots of options with this pick, the 67’s certainly can’t go wrong with selecting Team Ontario forward Parker Snelgrove of the London Jr. Knights. Snelgrove is a two way forward who plays the game, up-tempo high pace, utilizing his speed and quickness to put pressure on the opposition with and without the puck on his stick. While Snelgrove can play the game with speed he can also slow the game down with his edges, changing pace and creating time and space for himself and his teammates. In addition, Snelgrove sees the ice very well with the puck on his stick, finding teammates and setting them up for offensive scoring opportunities.

24. Erie Otters (Ethan Atticus Page) - Jimmy Lombardi, C, Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)
Lombardi, who could very well be taken in the first round, is a strong 200 foot centreman with a knack for winning face-offs. With Erie projected to take Schaefer first, and picking up former GTHL superstar winger Malcolm Spence in last years draft, it only makes sense for them to take a chance on this crafty forward. What stands out most about Lombardi is his ability to never stop moving. He is consistently active in the play in all areas of the ice, making presence known to everyone when on the ice. Standing at 5’11”, 147 lbs, he may not be the biggest on the ice, however that never stops lombardi from battling along the boards and making calculated checks to separate players from the puck. Lombardi is a strong skater who makes effective use of his edges to make quick direction changes to evade traffic. With the puck, he has the ability to protect it against other top plyers and defenders. Lombardi is versatile, having the ability to play the perimeter and actively engage in the slot. When in the defensive zone, he demonstrates an understanding of his assignments, picking up his man and clogging up passing lanes. Lombardi’s game should transition well to the next level.

Each Contributor’s Honorable Mentions

Brock Otten

Casey Bridgewater - Defense - Halton Hurricanes
Saw Halton play a few times this year and Bridgewater was always someone who caught my eye playing behind Matt Schaefer. Strong skating, puck moving defender who also shows well in the defensive end. If he was on a different U16 team playing larger minutes and receiving greater powerplay responsibility, would he be more highly regarded? Shades of Michael Buchinger, who played behind Ty Nelson with JRC a few years ago and has ended up becoming a high end OHL defender because of his skating ability and two-way impact.

Nico Addy - Forward - Toronto Jr. Canadiens
Big, physical, power forward with JRC who really caught my eye at the Canada Winter Games. Anyone who follows my work knows that I’m a sucker for a throwback power forward. Addy can really have a profound impact on a game with his ability to drive the net and lay the body in puck pursuit. I also think he shows well as a playmaker and passer and is more than just a North/South attacker with tunnel vision. The feet will need to improve and he’ll have to become more disciplined, but he should play in the OHL next year if he selects that route.

Adrian Manzo - Defense - Vaughan Kings
I hadn’t watched the Vaughan Kings until the OHL Cup and Manzo was someone who immediately jumped out at me. But, I guess he popped for others too since he was named to the OHL Cup All Star team. I don’t see a defender with significant offensive upside at the OHL level, at least in my smaller sample size (although he does quarterback the powerplay for Vaughan), but I do see someone who can be a really solid and dependable defensive presence. 

Joely Stockl

Nolan Jackson - Defense - Barrie Jr. Colts (ETA)
Any offense that the Barrie Jr. Colts are generating, seems to always be going through the hands of defender Nolan Jackson. Watching Jackson skate is truly a pleasure, he has a quick first step, lateral mobility and edges. Anytime that he is caught out of position, usually jumping up in the rush, his skating allows him to bounce back into position efficiently. His play oozes confidence as he is always trying to make plays through the middle of the ice and surely isn’t afraid to take risks. His feet allow him to get into quality shooting spots and he loves to shoot the puck. There are some lapses defensively, especially in front of the net, and cases where he is relying solely on his foot speed to generate chances. Large offensive upside with Jackson, and he is definitely worth taking a chance on post-first round.

Luke Dragusica - Defense - Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)
Dragusica could very well be taken in the first round, as he has a lot of translatable tools. He is a long strided defender with an aggressive, purposeful first pass and a physical edge. When he is facilitating a breakout, he is always looking far down the ice, and is able to hit a teammate with a hard pass on the tape almost every time.  He lacks quickness, but his lateral mobility allows him to take up a lot of area with his long reach, and this is how he is able to open up passing lanes. Dragusica is not a player that you want to go into the corners with or match up against as an opposing winger. He is not afraid to dominate physically and he is always looking to take advantage of an attacker with his head down. Dragusica has a very safe projection into the OHL, not much offensive upside, but he is a player that is extremely difficult to play against.

Brady Smith - Forward - Halton Hurricanes (SCTA)
Among the high-end point producers on the Halton Hurricanes is skilled-power forward, Brady Smith. Smith had a phenomenal season playing alongside Tyler Hopkins and he became a highlight reel of his own. Smith plays with finesse and tremendous puck control, if there are any bouncing pucks or rebounds down low, he always finds a way to pounce onto them. Most of his damage is done around the net, whether he is feathering passes through the slot to teammates, or beating the goalie himself using his deceptiveness. Smith’s lack of speed is the main concern surrounding his game. He has slow acceleration and it prevents him from being a major threat in transition. Smith is most likely going to be a support player at the next level, and it will be about finding a perfect situation for him to explode offensively in the OHL. 

Gavin Chiasson

Hudson Chitaroni, F, Soo Greyhounds
I have to highlight the north here, and why not do so with Hudson Chitaroni. It feels as though he’s being underrated quite a bit heading into the draft, and while I can see some of the concerns, I think there’s a lot more deep down. When Chitaroni is off-puck, his ability to get into open positions is among the best in the draft. With a great nose for the net, he is consistently putting himself in dangerous scoring opportunities, which is how he netted 62 points in 33 GNML U18 games this season. When on-puck, Chitaroni exhibits uber-confidence, where he often makes slick moves to open up ice or make a highlight reel deke. Now, I understand that at times Chitaroni does try to do too much, but he makes these moves work out more frequently than most skilled players. When he cleans up these aspects of his game, he’ll make out to be a fine OHL player. Now, the top end speed may also be a concern, but it can become better with good skating coaches, as he’s also very strong in his edgework and lower body strength. Chitaroni also displays great stick-lifting ability, winning most puck battles that he enters. There’s a lot of heart on his sleeve and a chip on his shoulder as well. 

Drew McLennan, D, Whitby Wildcats 
Out of all the U16 AAA defenders I saw at the OHL Cup, McLennan may just be my favourite. He might not be the best one out of them, but I for one believe he’s deserving of a top 50 pick. McLennan has the poise, awareness, speed and IQ of a defender who should be in the OHL next season. With a great motor that seems to last forever, he quickly became one of my favourite players in this class. In the game that saw overtime, McLennan probably played 30 minutes of a 50 minute game. It felt like he was on the ice for 10 of the 15 minutes in the third, and most of the overtime too, where he was the most responsible player on the ice in those shifts as well. 

Vasily Serov, F, Vaughan Kings
Vasili Serov is one of the most OHL-ready talents in this class. Spending last season as well in Canada makes him eligible, and I have a hard time seeing a 6’3 - 205 lbs power forward with his skillset not being taken in the top 30 of this class. Maybe the footspeed lacks a little from time to time, but Serov is very hard to strip the puck off of and has nice hands to go with it. Is it even worth mentioning that his shot is booming? Serov might have the best one-timer of the forward group in this draft, that he highlighted at the OHL Cup. Serov could potentially step into the second power-play squad right away of the OHL team that picks him. 

Jordan Malette

Lev Katzin, F, Toronto Marlboros
Lev is tendered with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, so his draft status is a bit of a question mark. Nonetheless, he is worthy of an honourable mention, as if a team can get him to commit to the OHL, it would be a massive acquisition. Lev is the most exciting player in the draft class. He's one of the most dynamic and electric forwards and simply just oozes skill. What best describes Lev is the saying, "If you give someone an inch, they'll take a mile." The defence could give him hardly any space, and he'll still find a way to make a move and find an opening to the net. A few times a game, I am convinced the defence has Lev cornered and a turnover is coming, but Lev always finds a path to escape using quick turns and slick moves. He can create something out of absolutely nothing, which is such a unique and valuable trait. Katzin is a bit undersized, but he doesn't allow it to be a limiting factor. He's tenacious and feisty in the corners, rarely backing down from physical play. There's no guarantee he ever reports to the OHL, but it could be a home run if he did.

Rylan Singh, D, YSE 
If I created a Tony Ferrari and Brock Otten-style Frankenstein defenceman, they would have Rylan's brain and approach to hockey. Everything Rylan does is through the lens of pushing play to the dangerous parts of the ice. Rarely will Rylan opt for an uncontrolled play or low-danger shot, but instead, he'll do everything he can to attack a dangerous shooting lane or skirt a forechecker, then thread a pass to the slot. His mobility and evasiveness are at the core of his ability to generate such chances. Rylan can turn, pivot, or spin his way out of any corner or pressure, and he does it with complete control of the puck. Given his mobility and puck skills, Rylan will never back down from a chance to challenge opponents one-on-one and will routinely dangle his way to the middle of the ice. Likewise, Singh will never hesitate to activate up ice and join in on a rush, making him the most offensively involved defender in the class by a long shot. Outside of the offence, Singh is a reliable puck mover who can push play-up ice to his forwards with long stretch passes for fast breaks. He is more than capable defensively, routinely breaking up plays with smart stick position and quick stick checks. I love how Rylan plays hockey, and think he has enormous potential to be a top-pairing defender down the line. 

Ivan Galiyanov, F, Vaughan Kings
Galiyanov first caught my eye at the Toronto Marlboros Tournament, and since then, he's kept moving his way up my list. To me, Ivan is the "lite" version of Will Moore. He doesn't have the same high-end skill, but he is similarly a tremendous puck manager. When Galiyanov is on the ice, every transition flows through him, and it's extremely evident why. Ivan is one of the most reliable puck managers available in the draft. He is incredibly patient with the puck and constantly scans to find a path to a controlled zone exit and entry route. Like Moore, Galiyanov is a fantastic playmaker who can manipulate the defence with calculated puck touches to then connect on a slip pass into the open space he created. Even if the offensive upside isn't enormous, when we start getting into the mid-second round, finding a dominant possession centerman, even if he ends up in a depth role, would be great value.

Chase Rochon

Luka Graziano (D) Toronto Jr. Canadians (GTHL) 
Graziano turned heads at this year's OHL cup after leading defenseman in goals (4) and points (8), joining the OHLCup all-star team, being player of the game in the finals, and helping his team win the tournament. He didn't just have a good tournament, he has been dominant all season. Putting up 16 goals and 44 points in 56 regular season games as a defenseman in the GTHL is impressive. Graziano has great edges and elite mobility making him very shifty which he uses to his advantage to gain space. He does this particularly well on the blue line to open up shooting lanes to utilize his quick release to beat goaltenders from far. Graziano might be the most offensive gifted defenceman in this draft but will need to work on his strength and conditioning to become a two way threat at the next level so he can be more effective physically on the defensive side of his game.

Kieran Riley (D) Toronto Nationals (GTHL)
Kieran Riley had a terrific tournament at the 2023 OHL Cup representing the underdog wildcard Toronto Nationals. He may have only scored 2 goals, but, these were big game winning goals including a single handed effort overtime winner. Riley's production this season is nothing crazy and might be a reason he may fall on draft day with 5 points in 16 games and unfortunately missing a large chuck of the season due to injury. He had entered the 2022-23 season as one of the favorites as the top defenseman in the class and I can see why. Very deceptive and hard to read Riley does an amazing job of evading forecheckers with quick fakes and amazing footwork. With his large frame he is also such a good shut down defensman making life hard for any offensive attacks that come his way. He has a long reach that makes it hard to enter the zone and if you make it past that in tight with him you get bullied off the puck with all the strength and size he has. If a team can feels confident with his health and put him in a position to succeed he could be one of the most OHL ready players ready to make an impact right away in his rookie season.

Liam Beamish (F) Niagara North Stars (SCTA)
Liam Beamish was the best player in Niagara coming into this season and would have likely ended up on the loaded Southern Tier team but new boarder rules in Niagara left him playing with his middle of the pack team in the North Stars. This was a blessing in disguise as it showed local scouts what he is capable of on his own. Yes, he had help of teammate Jaden Flora, but, Beamish was the one driving the ship. No matter the team he plays against, or situation he is in, Beamish is always the hardest on the forecheck and backcheck. Hunting pucks down is a staple to his game. What makes Liam special is what he does once he gets the puck. He doesn't really have a single trait that is his standout specialty but more so that he has few flaws or things he cant do. He is well rounded and very skilled in all areas from his shot, puck skills, physicality, IQ and skating, Beamish can do it all. The only things holding him back from being a first rounder in this draft is his size and exposure playing on a struggling team. He very well could be the steal of the draft.

Mat Goodwin

Josh Avery, F, Peterborough Petes
Avery is a cerebral two-way centre man for an impressive Petes squad.  He plays a very solid all-around game, including lots of physicality and a nice offensive skill set and scoring touch.  Avery’s work ethic is admirable and he appears to be the straw that stirs the drink for his Peterborough team.  He is consistently finishing checks and taking care of the play in the defensive zone while also leading the fore-check and creating scoring chances in the offensive zone.  He is a strong skater and has the size and strength to fight through checks.  He’s excellent at lifting sticks and stealing pucks and his tenacious play often creates turnovers.  As Avery continues to grow and become even stronger, he will be that much more of a force as a high-scoring power forward. 

Ben Radley, D, Peterborough Petes
Radley is an exciting defender on a very talented Petes team.  He is the type of defenceman that does everything well and can be trusted in just about any situation.  His defensive game is strong, he is physical and battles hard for pucks in the corner and will punish opponents in front of the net.  He shows a great level of poise and patience with the puck and makes a smart and accurate first pass out of the zone.  Radley is a strong skater and puck carrier.  His zone exits are tops among his peers and you rarely see him give the puck away or turn it over.  He was often entrusted with “quarterbacking” the Petes power-play throughout the season and his quick feet and awareness with the puck make him ideal for the position.  Overall, Radley is a defender who improved throughout the year and pushed himself into early round consideration.  He has a high ceiling and will be exciting to watch him flourish at the next level.

Ryan Brown, F, YSE
Brown is a very smart and creative player for the Express.  He has a very strong motor and plays much bigger than his 5’08.5” 149 LBS frame may suggest.  He can be counted on to finish every check and battle hard in all the gritty areas.  There is, however, much more to Brown’s game than hard work and physicality, he also possesses an elite offensive upside that centres on vision and play-making.  He has the ability to slow the game down and set up teammates for prime scoring opportunities in the offensive zone.  His passes are hard and accurate and he does everything with purpose.  Brown has an accurate shot and will use it to beat unsuspecting goalies clean.  All of these tools is what makes Brown such an effective player.  He can be trusted in any situation and will drag his teammates into the fight with him.  His potential is very high and he will be exciting to watch moving forward.  

Chase Allen

Cooper Dennis - Center/Left Wing - Bishop Kearney Selects 15u AAA
After viewing Cooper Dennis time-and-time again at some of the highest competitions both within Ontario and the United States, it’s clear to me Cooper Dennis is hovering around that range of being worthy of a 1st round pick in the OHL Draft. He attended the 2023 NTDP Evaluation Camp but was unfortunately cut, but the speed and two-way presence Dennis offers, along with his ability to overcome his size, is sensational. He’s one of the better goal-scoring forwards within the 2007-born American class, and is relentless off-puck to force turnovers, apply pressure, and overall be a pain in the side of puck carriers.

Kieran Witkowski - Left Wing - Toronto Marlboros 16u AAA
Going back to August 2022 when I began taking a few looks at some 2023 OHL Draft eligible skaters, Kieran Witkowski was one of the first to catch my eye. On a stacked Toronto Marlboros team I find he can slide under the radar a little bit, but given opportunity and the chance to flash his skill, it’s clear there is something with this player. He’s incredibly smart with the puck, has wicked processing speed when challenged by defenders, and overall moves around the ice very efficiently, acting as a constant playdriving threat whenever he’s in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick. A perhaps daunting comparison, but, the methodical analysis and processing of the ice reminds me of a lesser-version of a young Mitch Marner, minus the elite high-end skill.

Marco Boccardi - Left Defenseman - St. Louis AAA Blues 15O
Perhaps a bit of an off-the-board pick here as an honorable mention, Marco Boccardi is one of the most exciting defensemen from the 2007-born American class, akin to a Rylan Singh stylistic player, although, a bit smaller in stature. Boccardi has great edgework and foot-speed, capable of walking the blueline and opening up dangerous passing lanes, he can manipulate stationary defenders atop the zone and create space for both himself and his teammates from moves very few defenders are skilled, or brave enough to attempt. Defensively he works very hard to overcome his size, plays tight to the puck carrier and uses his speed and skating prowess to remain explosive and agile, keeping them to the outside with good body position and accurate stick checks. 

Steven Ellis

Shamar Moses, F, Don Mills Flyers
Need a hard-working, do-it-all forward? Moses is your guy. He was a big reason why the Don Mills Flyers advanced to the OHL Cup and continued his strong play against quality competition. He can be selfish when he needs to be, but this is the type of player that’ll lay it all on the line for his teammates.

Brendan Gerber, F, Waterloo Wolves
Outside of Brady martin's obvious heroics, Gerber was one of the biggest reasons to watch Waterloo this year. He tied Martin with 56 points (in 10 more games, albeit) before recording another 25 in the playoffs, giving them 45 on the season. With the right teammates, Gerber can get the job done thanks to his quick release.

Tanner Lawson, D, Halton Hurricanes
More of the reserved blueline option compared to Schaefer, there's a lot to like about Lawson's game. He's quick, smart and doesn't crumble under pressure. He's still quite raw, but he's aggressive, moves well, and, with the right coaching, I think he'll turn out to be something quite solid.

Steven Graves

Ethan Weir, F, London Jr Knights
Weir came into the year very highly regarded. His stock definitely slipped a bit but he is still an über talented two-way forward with a ton of potential. Weir is an excellent north-south skater, he frequently attacks defenders to the outside and has the puck skills to cut to the middle of the ice when necessary. He is a smart kid that flashes good playmaking ability and good offensive awareness. The question for Weir is if he is able to create and drive the offense himself.

Lane Sim, F, Weeks Major Midgets 
Brother of London Knights forward Landon Sim; Lane is taking a similar path to the OHL as his brother. He played his hockey in Nova Scotia this year but because his father, Jon Sim played 4 years in the OHL - it allowed Lane the opportunity to play in the OHL. Lane is an excellent skater, he moves well in all 4 directions. He is a shifty player that consistently has his feet moving - he isn’t afraid to be physical and shows flashes of a high end skill set. At the same age, Lane is probably better than his brother. 

Jack Nesbitt, F, Lambton Jr Sting
First thing that jumps out when talking about Nesbitt is his size, Nesbitt stands at 6’4” already at 16. He is a big, rangy centreman that uses his size well, he gets a lot of his goals within 6’ of the goal mouth and is very good at battling for pucks down low. Definitely a budding power-forward - Nesbitt started the year off on a torrid pace but cooled down in the second half of the season, skating could be a concern. 

Ryan Ferizovic

Lukas Moore- D- Peterborough Jr. Petes (ETA)
One of the best defensive defenders in the age group, Moore has demonstrated assertiveness in his own zone and willingness to do whatever it takes to move the puck out of trouble. He defends well against the forecheck with controlled physical play and uses strong puck skills to find open ice and kickstart the breakout. Additionally, he uses his big body to shield the puck from pressure and find open ice. He makes a strong first pass and joins the rush when there is little to no risk in doing so. He was able to start scoring near the end of the year, driving the rush deep into the zone and to the net. 

Charlton Trethewey- D- Detroit Little Caesars (HPHL)
One of the most exciting American prospects in this 2007-born age group, Trethewey caught the attention of many with strong two-way play and a high propensity for offence. He is an exceptionally strong skater with a high top-speed and elite edges, allowing him to be first on loose pucks and take away space from opponents. He possesses an extremely strong shot, able to power pucks by goaltenders from anywhere in the offensive zone. He runs his team’s power play with a keen hockey sense and quick decision-making, moving the puck to open teammates without hesitation to maximize scoring chances. Defensively, he maintains strong gap control and challenges the rush early. His size and strength allow him to defend against the forecheck well and move opponents from the front of the net. He is committed to the NTDP. 

Easton Lynds- F- Southern Tier Admirals (SCTA)
Admirals forward Lynds is a dynamic player with an amicable hockey IQ. He sees the ice exceptionally well, taking strong skating routes to receive the puck when he doesn’t have it and opening up the ice for his teammates when he does. He employs strong vision in the offensive zone, able to find his teammates with the puck as he draws in opponents. His ability to create scoring chances for his team is unparalleled by anyone else in the Admirals’ lineup. He does a nice job of skating the puck into the ‘home plate’ area before registering hard shots on net to convert on scoring chances for his team. Additionally, he maintains effective positioning at both ends of the ice. 

Ethan Atticus Page

James Barr - D - Burlington Eagles (SCTA)
Barr was a player that progressively got better as the year went on. He really rounded out his two-way ability, making him a force in both ends of the ice for the Eagles. Barr uses his body effectively in battles and puck protection, making it hard for opponents to play against him. He is versatile, being used by his coaches in all situations. What makes Barr a special player is his combination of size and skill. Not many defenders in this years draft can be physical on one shift, than quarterback a powerplay the next.

Harry Nansi - F - Nepean Raiders (HEO)
Another player who got better as the season went on, Nansi was Nepean's most electric forward for most of the year. He has an exceptional ability to pass the puck, picking up his teammates in all areas of the ice. Nansi’s vision is unlike many others, as he effectively gets the puck out of his zone and consistently creates dangerous scoring opportunities. He has a solid top-line speed, allowing him to get by defenders with ease. It will be interesting to watch Nansi as he progresses to the next level.

Nicholas Kiss - F - Burlington Eagles (SCTA)
Kiss is likely a player that has flown under the radar for most U16 AAA viewers this year. However, once you get a glimpse of his quietly dangerous IQ, it’s hard to look away. The Eagle’s assistant captain has an elite vision of the ice, making highly intelligent plays and calculating every move. He possesses soft hands and quick feet, making him a deceptive puck carrier and solid set-up man for his linemates. Kiss is a creative passer and is skilled at finding passing lanes through traffic. He plays a solid 200 foot game and understands defensive assignments well.

Connor Williams

Jeremy Martin, Wing, Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)
A dynamic winger for the Marlboros this year, Martin is a big fast winger who plays an extremely aggressive style of game. Martin plays an intimidating brand of hockey. He's the type of player who constantly moves his feet when he's on the ice utilizing his feet to bring a strong forecheck against the opposition, getting pucks in dee, forcing pucks loose, finishing his checks hard and not allowing the opposition time and space with the puck. The 6 ft winger combines both his size and strength with his quick feet and speed to be a consistent threat off the rush, he gets low in his stance he drives deep into the ice, and uses his body really effectively to drive the net with the puck, generating a great deal of offensive chances as a result. 
Ethan Czata, Centre, Mississauga Rebels (GTHL)
Playing on a defensively Sound Mississauga Rebels team this year, Czata was consistently relied upon in some of the Rebels biggest moments down the stretch of regular season, playoffs, and OHL Cup. Czata is an extremely smart two-way centreman, whose positioning in all three-zones has continually been impressive this year. Off the puck the centre has continuously showed off his high hockey IQ, as he consistently knows where the soft and quiet areas of the ice are, and understands how to work into those areas at the right times, allowing him to receive pucks in quality areas in the offensive zone. Late in games Czata was consistently relied upon to take big faceoffs in the defensive zone, while also being a player the Rebels continually relied upon late in games when a goal was needed.

Carter Kostuch, Wing/Centre, Vaughan Kings (GTHL)
A slick, highly skilled, offensively creative forwards, Kostuch was one of the most impactful forwards on the offensive end for Vaughan whenever he stepped on the ice. With his high end puck skills Kostuch is consistently looking to carry the puck up ice and be a threat off the rush offensively. The forward is an agile player who utilizes his edges, effectively to change pace when attacking defenders, both when in the offensive zone off the cycle and off the rush. Kostuch has the ability to beat defenders with slick dekes and dangles with his puck skills, but also has the ability to create offence and put the puck in the back of the net with a quick and deceptive release. Already with some good size and still filling out into his frame, Kostuch is an exciting prospect for OHL teams to draft. He’s been trending upwards with his play all season long, and showed what he’s capable of with his outstanding performance at the OHL cup, earning All-Star team honours at the tournament.

Gabriel Foley

Cameron Aucoin – Left Defense – Chicago Mission 15U AAA (HPHL 15U)
The son of former NHLer Adrian Aucoin, now the assistant coach of Chicago Mission 15U, Cameron Aucoin is a smooth-moving, hard-working defenseman who isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice. He steps into hits well, showing a great ability to force, and win, puck battles. When he does, Aucoin uses strong passing to work the puck up the ice and is always quick to join the rush. He’s also a big fan of dipping into the offensive zone, consistently jumping into the slot and creating another dangerous scoring option. With how smooth his skating, puck-handling, and passing are, it’s hard to find large ‘needs’ in Aucoin’s game. He could benefit from better risk assessment – needing a little more caution in when and how he joins the rush – and while his physical play is a boost, he’ll need to better learn to square up his hits. But these are minor improvements to what is a very attractive playing style. Coming from a family of Canadians, a move to the OHL could be tantalizing for one of America’s top defenders.