Saturday, June 24, 2023

2023 NHL Draft Primer

With the 2023 NHL Entry Draft slated for this week, here is everything you need to know about the players available from the Ontario Hockey League.
My Rankings:

Re-Entry (Second/Third Year Eligible) Candidates

Of course, you can find so much more of my work on McKeen's Hockey. Here you will find a link to purchase our draft guide, which can also come with a site subscription.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Final Media/Scout Top 10 for 2023

A week before the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, the final media/scout poll for 2023 is complete!

For comparison's sake, here was the preliminary (from late December) list:

It's always interesting to note some of the major changes/trends from the beginning of the year to the end. 

It should come as no surprise to see Cam Allen as the biggest faller from the preliminary list in December. He remarkably went from being ranked 4th to receiving only three votes for the final list. Ethan Miedema got several votes the first time around but didn't receive a single one this time. Interestingly enough, Hunter Brzustewicz went from being ranked 5th in December to an HM this time around, despite what I would argue was a better second half than a first.

Nick Lardis was the biggest riser, going from an HM to inside the top five; no surprise there. Andrew Gibson was the other one to move from the HM list to the main list.

As for the strength of this group as a whole? Well, I think the OHL is still playing catch up post pandemic thanks to a lost year. I like the depth of this group a lot. However, we don't have someone who is likely going to be a perennial award winner or even a star player. Lots of great complementary pieces available from the OHL, but the crop lacks star power. While I do expect Colby Barlow to go inside the lottery, it's certainly not a given that we have an OHL player selected in the top 10. 
As always, it's important to note the contributors, as without them and their terrific insight, this article does not exist. For the final list, the following helped out: 

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

Dominic Tiano - Creator of The OHL Writers (@dominictiano)

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

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

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

Mike Morreale - Staff writer for (@mikemorrealeNHL)

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

Victor Findlay - CHL on TSN PxP (@Victor_Findlay)

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

Joely Stockl – OHL Regional Scout for McKeen's Hockey (@joelystockl04)

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

Mark Seidel - Scouting Director for NACS Hockey (@MarkSeidel)

Steve Clark - OHL PxP Announcer for the Niagara IceDogs (@SteveClarkMedia)

Steven Ellis - Associate Editor and Prospect Analyst for DailyFaceoff (@SEllisHockey)

Hadi Kalakeche - Director of North American Scouting for Dobber Prospects (@HadiK_Scouting)

Austin Broad - Head OHL Scout for Future Considerations (@Austin_Broad)

and of course...myself (@BrockOtten)

Here's the List:

1. Colby Barlow - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 1st (12x)
Lowest Ranking: 3rd (2x)
"Barlow has the makings for a long NHL career. He operates as a power forward sniper who brings intensity and high competitiveness to the lineup. He's got an appetite for scoring goals and playing physically. He scores in various ways, one-timer on the PP, quick hands at the net front to score in tight, and an excellent drag release that zings off his blade with tremendous power and velocity. His powerful straight-line skating allows him to be an effective F1 and force turnovers. Barlow is also an excellent leader who lets his play do the talking. I really wouldn't be shocked to see him wear a letter in the NHL." - Jared Brown

"Barlow cements himself as the top OHLer in this class as a result of his consistent goal scoring abilities. After a strong rookie season where he finished with 30 goals, he was just shy of the 50-goal mark this season with 46. He’s already displaying an NHL-like shot as he has excellent power with his release and great accuracy that freezes goaltenders and a one-timer that’s hard to stop. While he can hurt you from far out, he’s very capable of finding his way to the net and bury his chances in tight as he has quick hands to get it past goaltenders. While he’s a threat at even strength and on the power play, he’s an efficient penalty killer, can get into lanes and provide strong one-on-one coverage. Despite developing at a quick pace, he still has a strong skillset to be successful at the next level." - Peter Baracchini

"Barlow has a ton of value because of his projected versatility. It's rare to find solid goal scorers who don't need to have their responsibilities sheltered. I remember saying the same thing about Jack Quinn, in his draft year, and it's why I had him ranked highly too. Barlow could end up developing into the type of guy you want on the ice whether you're up a goal or down a goal late in the game. He is a smart kid, probably wears a letter in the NHL, and has the kind of straight forward game that projects to play well in the NHL playoffs. People seem to focus on the things that he needs to improve on for him to develop into a top six forward (overall mobility, small area skill), but they should be focusing on all the things he does well already that make him one of the most pro ready players available this year." - Brock Otten

"I came away so impressed with the live viewing I had of Colby Barlow.  He's someone who has an NHL ready body, and an NHL ready shot.    Plus, he shows as a mature player beyond his years, given the captaincy he was given this year for Owen Sound.  Like a lot of players, I would have loved to have seen more playoff action ,to see how he would perform when the games got real because with his size, and strength, he's tailor made for a physical game.     Skating fluidity was the only downside I saw, but overall he's well earned his Top 15 ranking. 76 goals in 118 games is true sniper material, and he's added 8 more in 11 playoff games." - Steve Clark

"To me Barlow has all the makings of an elite power forward in the NHL. With his combination of shooting ability, size, and tenacity on the puck, he is a nightmare to defend against. He has drastically improved his off the puck play throughout the year and has a knack for getting himself open in the scoring area. When fully engaged he is unstoppable; very few in this class have his combination of natural scoring ability and size. I think he is easily the best 2023 NHL Draft prospect in this OHL class, and it is not particularly close in my opinion." - Austin Broad

"Obviously a ton to like about his game on this ice, but I don't think you can really understate just how impressive his work in the classroom was this season. Barlow had a stretch from January 20th to 28th where he played 6 games in 9 days (including CHL Top Prospects) and managed to write his mid-term grade 12 exams in that timeframe as well. Barlow never let his on-ice commitments take away from his work in the classroom, and became the first ever Owen Sound Attack player to win the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year award. For a bona-fide NHL prospect to have that kind of commitment in his draft year to excelling in school speaks volumes about the type of person he is." - Victor Findlay

"Barlow is an interesting prospect in that he plays a fairly simple north-south game, driving to the net and overpowering his opponents with his strength. The Owen Sound captain is physically mature which allows him to bully junior-aged players already in front of the net and around the boards. His shot is very good but he has a tendency to take shots from above the faceoff circles and then follow it up and attempt to bang in the rebound. His shot metrics look great because he does follow his initial shot up so frequently. Barlow is a decent play connector and has a nose for the net with the hands to score on those chances in tight. His acceleration and agility are going to need work as they limit his mobility at this stage. He is a safe player if you’re looking for an NHLer but his lack of dynamism and mobility issues could limit just how high in an NHL lineup he could play. " - Tony Ferrari

2. Cal Ritchie - Center/Wing - Oshawa Generals
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 1st (2x)
Lowest Ranking: 6th (1x)
"A season of struggle that was impacted by a lingering shoulder injury that he will be getting surgery on this offseason. Ritchie has some playmaking ability and a good curl and drag shot but the flashes of skill and offensive creativity were too far apart to ever really get too excited about. He was good at the U-18s when playing with other good players – something he didn’t get to do all too often on an underwhelming Oshawa team. If Ritchie isn’t asked to be the driving force, he’s a capable contributor. A clean bill of health could also be the answer to a lot of the questions that arose this season." - Tony Ferrari

"Ritchie’s draft year definitely didn’t get off to the best start as there was some inconsistencies with his overall game and production. However, he turned on the jets in the second half and started to find his footing and dominance on the ice. He managed to finish a point per game with the Oshawa Generals and stood out with nine points at the World U18 Championship. He has great IQ and awareness to be a highly effective playmaker, finding the seams very well and can execute plays perfectly with tape to tape or long stretch plays. He has soft hands in tight spaces, great control to maintain possession and provides excellent support for his teammates. His strong edgework to weave his way through traffic and his body positioning allows him to gain the inside edge on his opponents. He has a high end compete level and work ethic and does a great job engaging on the forecheck to force turnovers and mindset to prioritize defense." - Peter Baracchini

"Ritchie is a right-handed center and was impressive down the stretch despite dealing with a nagging upper-body injury. He really impressed me at the World Under-18 Championship, leading all OHL players who participated for Canada at the tournament. He worked on his all-around game over the second half of the season. Coach Derek Laxdal did a nice job instilling in Ritchie a pro-style type game that he’ll need at the next level. He's good at finding teammates in open ice, shooting the puck and is hard to play against. He wins his share of face-offs and tracks hard, is aggressive and pretty reliable in the defensive end. Ritchie won 53 percent of his face-offs in the regular season (413-for-779), averaged a point-per game, and had 6 power play goals. He's a top-line player who can move and create space for himself." - Mike Morreale

"I just can't help but wonder if we're all underrating Ritchie this year because of the fact that he clearly wasn't ready to be the go-to guy on a rebuilding OHL team. Many players in this draft class would have struggled with consistency the way that Ritchie did this year in Oshawa. I keep going back to the fact that when he played with other elite players (U17's last year, Hlinka/Gretzky Cup/U18's this year), he looked like one too. He's such an intelligent player. His game is predicated on drawing in pressure to open up lanes for his linemates to exploit...which is why he has looked so good with other high end players. I just want to see him attacking the middle and getting to the net a little more consistently, but I do think that once he fixes his shoulder issue and builds strength, he will become more of a power player." - Brock Otten 

"Carved out to be a middle six forward in the NHL. I love the way he thinks the game, values all three zones and makes his wingers better. Has some untapped offensive potential, and some creative tools that he wasn’t able to exercise as much, due to having so much responsibility with the Generals this season." - Joely Stockl

"I have mixed feelings about Ritchie. On one hand, the skill set is there but on the other hand, consistency on a rebuilding Oshawa team has been an issue. There is the odd occasion where you left the rink and wondered whether he played. He’s a high IQ player who plays a complete 200-foot game and in any situation. He’s a playmaker first and foremost but I also think he has an underrated shot, which he doesn’t use often enough. His top speed is decent, enough that he is willing to challenge defenders. If he can find that consistency, his upside is high." - Dominic Tiano

"What Ritchie lacked in high-end offense this year, he made up for in extra defensive responsibility and more willingness to engage physically. And while he only had a point per game in the OHL, he decimated the Hlinka Gretzky with Canada before the season started before finishing off with a good U-18 World Championship despite dealing with a shoulder injury. He's going to be a dependable two-way center in the NHL." - Steven Ellis

3. Quentin Musty - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Total Votes: 17
Highest Ranking: 1st (3x)
Lowest Ranking: 6th (1x)
"Musty needs to improve on his play away from the puck, but he has the rest of the tools he needs to be an excellent second-line winger in the NHL, both in terms of his soft skill and his frame." - Anonymous

"If we re going off of skill, talent, and potential offensive impact alone, then Musty would be right there at the top of my list with Barlow and Ritchie. He's been one of the more polarizing prospects that I've scouted as he's got a dynamic skillset and is constantly creating chances. But, defensive play concerns and lack of effort without the puck make me question his drive. At times he can be too individualistic trying to do everything himself. His saving grace is that he can do it all himself at times due to his elite creativity and stickhandling skills. His playmaker-like instincts and deceptive body language allow him to sell the shot on the PP before sliding a slip pass across to set his teammate up. His delay game as a passer is terrific and he also has a pinpoint accurate snapshot that can pick the corners. Musty has the ceiling of a top-line-producing winger." - Jared Brown

"The Sudbury Wolves star was questioned early in the year for his effort and coming off a bout of mononucleosis to start the season certainly didn’t help his case. Musty started feeling like himself just before Christmas this year and you noticed a change in his drive as the season wore on. Musty’s improvement in that department allowed his playmaking and shot creation to truly take a step to another level. Musty needs to use his size a bit more away from the puck but with it, he protects the puck and blends strength and skill to get around defenders. By season’s end, he was my clear-cut number-one player from the OHL and that came despite not using the excellent shot that he has enough. If he uses his shot a bit more over the next few years of his development, his dual-threat ability will tear opponents apart." - Tony Ferrari

"Musty really seems to be building a ton of momentum heading into the draft. But he's more of a late first/mid second round guy for me. Unquestionably the talent is there. Unquestionably, his off puck play, physical engagement level, and decision making improved in the second half. However, I'm still wondering how well his game ends up translating to the pro level. For one, I feel like I'm taking crazy pills by being one of the only people criticizing his skating. His quickness in all directions needs to improve greatly IMO. For two, I just want to see him doing a better job of playing through the hard areas of the ice. He has this fantastic shot, but he's not getting himself consistent looks to use it from in close. He doesn't score the dirty goals like Barlow does. Can he fit in with two other highly skilled players who want to puck on their stick to be more of a complementary piece the way that Cal Ritchie does? I think we saw a bit of that with his struggles at the Hlinka/Gretzky in the summer. I love the skill. I love the passing ability and vision with the puck. I love the progression he showed this year. But, he's one of those guys I'd probably want another team to take because the question marks surrounding his game have held back quite a few other talented players in the last decade." - Brock Otten

"Whichever team takes Musty on draft day, is taking a risk. Very similar to Arthur Kaliyev on draft day, he produces offensively and he will be effective in the offensive zone, but there are huge question marks around his skating and off-puck engagement outside of the offensive zone. If a team can develop his game and help him survive in his own end, he will definitely be a gem in this draft." - Joely Stockl

"It took him a while to develop the needed consistency to earn a mention in my top 15, but boy did he ever. Major steps in his defensive game and physical engagement help as well. He’s got a top 10 skillset in this draft, and if the hockey sense keeps improving, he could be a gem." - Hadi Kalakeche

"When debating Musty, Barlow and the rest of the OHL class, the thing that sets Musty apart from the rest of the class is how well he handles pressure when he has the puck on his stick. He threads the needle in tight passing lanes consistently. But, he's also got a great shot, has excellent reach and is quite mobile. I would without hesitation select Musty with a top 15 pick." - Josh Tessler

4. Nick Lardis - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Total Votes: 16
Highest Ranking: 3rd (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (1x)
"The tendencies were always there, intriguing me far before he was traded to Hamilton. The explosion in production once he arrived with the Bulldogs made it impossible to ignore just how good Nick Lardis is. He is a speedy, shifty forward who has a great shot from a number of positions on the ice. Lardis has an outstanding one-timer that makes him a lethal threat on the powerplay. He has a sweet curl and drag wrister off the rush and does an excellent job of settling into pockets of space off the puck to give him a chance to catch and shoot. There are shades of creative playmaking and puck skill as well but they will need to become a bit more consistent to round out his game. Lardis forechecks hard and works hard to get the puck back in the neutral zone but he will need to continue improving his play in his own end. Rounding out his strong set of tools and refining things will give him a chance to be the best OHLer from this draft class." - Tony Ferrari

"Maybe a change of scenery was all that Lardis needed as he went on an offensive tear going from 12 goals with the Peterborough Petes to 25 with the Hamilton Bulldogs. In the process he was given a chance to play a more important role and as a result improved his draft stock tremendously. He’s great at creating space for himself and opening the game up, reading the play very well and maintain that separation from defenders to remain an open outlet for a shot. He has a quick and smooth release and is able to get the puck off his stick in a flash. He displays great patience with the puck and when he finds an opening, he’ll take it as he has a great burst of speed. He can anticipate plays very well to pick them off and quickly go into attack mode." - Peter Baracchini

"Lardis deserves a ton of credit as he saw a jump in production and a rise in the rankings after being acquired by Hamilton from Peterborough in a four-play trade and two draft picks on Jan. 7. He was able to really showcase his strengths with the Bulldogs ... that speed, skating ability and creativity in the offensive zone. I think he definitely put himself in a good spot entering this draft. He scored well at the NHL Scouting Combine, too. He had the most pull-ups (15) and the highest vertical jump (25.49 inches) of the 100 prospects tested." - Mike Morreale

"Lardis is an extremely talented offensive winger who can create in a wide variety of ways. He can create for himself off the rush/through the cycle and he can facilitate for his teammates by delivering accurate high-danger passes from anywhere in the offensive zone. His ability to see the play as it develops and to create while working at his top speed make him a lethal player with the puck on his stick. After the trade his play exploded, and he has quickly become my favourite OHLer in the 2023 class, he has forced his way into the conversation when it comes to best OHL players available for this draft." - Austin Broad

"I'm starting to get the impression that Lardis is going to get drafted later than I think he should and lower than many independent scouting agencies have him (including us at McKeen's). Look, I do understand the trepidation. He's a smaller and slight winger who plays a pretty straight forward North/South game. NHL teams prefer those types to be bigger and stronger because the success rate is higher. I also think that Lardis is still trying to shake the scouting reputation of being too perimeter focused, like he was earlier in the year with Peterborough. I see a lot of similarity between the treatment of Lardis and the treatment of Jordan Kyrou in his draft year. Ultimately, scouts got it wrong there and I think they will make the same error by underrating Lardis. Sure, his game is pretty straight forward. But, his speed is elite. He's going to be able to use it as a weapon at the next level too. Ditto for his shot. And we saw at the NHL combine that Lardis is a young man that takes his strength and conditioning seriously. He's going to be fine physically. Anyone that watches Hamilton a lot will tell you that he's actually still working on ways to harness his skating ability to be a more consistent play driver. He might just be scratching the surface here. Additionally, I really loved the way he stepped up his game in round one against Barrie in the playoffs." - Brock Otten 

5. Oliver Bonk - Defense - London Knights
Total Votes: 15
Highest Ranking: 2nd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
"Bonk took his time to grow on me this season as I wasn't sold on him early on as one of the top guys coming out of the OHL. But with each viewing, he seemed to have gotten better and better. What he lacks in high-end offensive skills and play-driving qualities, he makes up for with his terrific shutdown ability and defensive intelligence to swallow up attacks. He possesses the hockey sense of a pro and is incredibly consistent at separating his man from the puck and eliminating them from the play. He scans and tracks his man very well in the Dzone. He squashes the cycle with his quick reads and size. There s potential there for Bonk to be a 20-minute-a-night shutdown Dman in the show." - Jared Brown

"Bonk has been my favourite player to watch all season. After playing in the GOJHL last season, he made a seamless transition to the OHL and was very impressive. He plays a simplistic, but effective two-way game as he’s always successful when he’s on the ice. He’s a perfect blend of offense and defense as he’s a great example of a prototypical, two-way defenseman for the NHL. He’s got great defensive awareness and gap control when defending against the rush to keep players to the outside while utilizing an active stick to break up plays. He knows when to jump in to keep plays alive in the offensive zone, while also picking his spot to join a rush. He’s extremely competitive, has great IQ, energy and is always putting forth the effort every shift. Finding smart and efficient defenseman are hard to come by and Bonk has been consistent with his play this season." - Peter Baracchini

" Call me a sucker for the guy with NHL pedigree.  I only saw Bonk live once this year, but tracked his progress and read a bunch about him.   I always give an intangible nod to those who are sons of NHL players because they do have a knowledge of the lifestyle of an NHL player. There is offensive upside and he certainly did not hurt his stock with a lengthy playoff run." - Steve Clark

"He's not going to go end-to-end like Cale Makar, but Bonk does the little things well and does them consistently. He's a solid two-way defenseman, with high hockey IQ, shutdown ability and a good puck mover off the transition. He also doesn't shy from contact or getting under the skin of opposing players." - Mike Morreale

"The vast improvement from Bonk is what I have appreciated the most about his game since September. He has molded into this mature defender who can create lots using his first pass. His defensive stick is fantastic and he has the potential to eat lots of minutes at the next level. He has quickly become one of my favourite defenders in this draft class." - Joely Stockl

"Big body defender that moves well and defends well but doesn't have a high offensive ceiling. Very safe pick that should become a middle pairing defender in the NHL." - Mark Seidel

"Growing up around NHL dressing rooms with his dad Radek clearly had a positive influence on Oliver Bonk as a kid. The habits that made his dad such a well-liked pro for a long time in both North America and Europe have certainly translated to Oliver as well. From the way he prepares for games, to the way he treats people around the game (trainers/teammates/fans, etc.), he has an understanding of what it takes to make himself a positive part of a team's culture. On-ice abilities aside, I think he's one of the most mature players available in this draft class." - Victor Findlay

6. Beau Akey - Defense - Barrie Colts
Total Votes: 15
Highest Ranking: 3rd (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
"An elite skater and plays big minutes and in all situations. Has good hockey sense and an ability to contain with his good positional play. The right-handed shot had 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 66 games with the Colts this season and has good size (6-0, 175)." - Mike Morreale

"The thing that stands out the most with Akey is his skating, arguably the best skating blue liner in the draft class. He’s also probably the best at transitioning. He can gain the opposition blue line with what looks like relative ease for him and then combined with his IQ and vision, can distribute the puck. His defensive game needs some work though. He is prone to losing coverage and battles for pucks." - Dominic Tiano

"Tremendous skating defenseman that saw his role change in Barrie with the return of Brandt Clarke but he accepted it and continued to improve. Ability to go back and retrieve pucks and create clean entries with his feet or a smart pass is impressive. Has the skills to be a PP defenseman in the NHL." - Mark Seidel

"A high-end skater who shows a knack for making great plays at both ends of the ice. Akey’s ability to use his pace to make great offensive and defensive plays make him a potential all situations blue liner at the next level. He is patient, he lets the play develop rather than trying to rush his decisions with the puck, and has a skillset that fits in perfectly with today’s NHL game." - Austin Broad

"I had a hard time seeing why Akey got a high grade from Central Scouting at the start of the year, but near the end of the season, I fell in love with his rush defending. He has average puck skills, but you’ll have a very hard time getting set up in his zone off the rush. I like him as a second-rounder." - Hadi Kalakeche

7. Carson Rehkopf - Center/Wing - Kitchener Rangers
Total Votes: 11
Highest Ranking: 4th (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (6x)
"The highs were high and the lows were low with Rehkopf this season which isn’t all too shocking considering this is a player who has a bunch of tools but hasn’t figured out the toolbox to put them in though. His shot is very good when he’s firing on all cylinders but he can get in the habit of settling for low danger chances. He will throw his body around at times but it’s not entirely a trait that’s visible in every game. Rehkopf is a good player who could be a solid NHL'er if he can get some sort of consistency and figure out exactly what he’s going to be at the next level." - Tony Ferrari

"I still remain one of Rehkopf’s biggest fans as he can bring a lot to the table. I felt that he took a big step with the Kitchener Rangers this season as he has strong offensive potential with his goal scoring abilities. He’s a highly competitive and energetic, two-way centre that plays with an edge. He has a wicked release and great accuracy with his wrist shot. Even when he may not have a lot to work with, his movement and ability to draw his hands in quickly allows him to get it on net in a flash. As a result, he has great hands and puck skills and with his long reach, he has no problem making moves at a quick pace to get around defenders with such ease. He was a standout at the CHL Top Prospects game, taking home MVP honours, scoring a goal and adding an assist. His competitive style is one that should have teams lining up for him at the draft." - Peter Baracchini

"Okay, I’ll say it: Pound-for-pound Rehkopf may be the most talented player in the OHL draft class. The issue I have is that he doesn’t always appear to be giving 100%. When he puts his mind to it, he can dominate the game in all three zones like no one else. He has size, he’s physical and he can skate and he uses those tools on offence and defence. He can score, he can be a playmaker, he can just impact the game in so many ways. For me, he could be the top player on my list if he just had more consistency and effort. If he puts it altogether, one NHL team is going to be very lucky to get him where they do." - Dominic Tiano

"There is a ton of inherent risk here. I get the wide variation of his rankings because it truly depended on what night you caught him on. But I saw enough good from him this year to believe that his compete level and ability to use his size more consistently can and will improve. If everything goes according to plan, Rehkopf is going to be a very versatile player. He can play multiple positions. He can drive transitional attacks with his quickness. He can work the wall. He can operate as a triggerman off the puck because of his big shot. He CAN play a heavy game and that will entice someone in the second round, which I think is a great spot for him. He's well worth the risk there." - Brock Otten

8. Luca Pinelli - Wing/Center - Ottawa 67's
Total Votes: 10
Highest Ranking: 5th (3x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (7x)
"Pinelli is going to surprise some people. He’s a worker with skill who is going to make the most of what he has." - Anonymous

"A tenacious undersized forward who often gets overlooked as a player benefitting from being on a good team but he was one of the best players on a good team and led them in scoring during the playoffs. Pinelli plays a smart two-way game, using body positioning and getting under opposing players in small-area battles to win the puck for his team. He understands that his size can be an advantage for him if used correctly and forcing his way under defenders rather than trying to joust and physically overpower them. He has a very good shot and gets to high-danger areas. His playmaking comes from his creativity and willingness to make the play to the middle of the ice even if it’s not an obvious one." - Tony Ferrari

"Small, but feisty and competitive.  With a Dave Cameron team, he was never going to provide jaw dropping numbers but he's a smart, tenacious player who plays way bigger than his size.  Offensive skill is certainly on display, and I was disappointed that Ottawa got knocked out of the playoffs earlier than I'm sure they intended.    He had a really good playoff, with 18 points in 11 games which was above his season average." - Steve Clark

"Pinelli is a ball of energy out there. After a solid foundational rookie season with the 67's, he nearly doubled his total output with 29 goals and 63 points. Pinelli was one of the better draft prospects at putting the puck where he wants it to go, but will scouts overlook his 5-foot-9 frame? Does he have enough for the next level? We'll see." - Steven Ellis

"Luca Pinelli has an excellent combination of hands and deception. His stick-handling off of the rush allows him to get to the interior quickly and that leads to a lot of net front scoring chances. When facing pressure on his backside, he'll look to be deceptive and use pivots to shake himself free." - Josh Tessler

9. Denver Barkey - Center - London Knights
Total Votes: 7
Highest Ranking: 4th (2x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (10x)
"I advise everyone to not sleep on Barkey and look at his size and count him out as a prospect they don't want to see their favourite team draft. You want Barkey on your team. I'm not saying he's the next Brayden Point. But, Barkey shows a lot of similarities to the Tampa Lightning centreman. The drive, heart, and determination are all there for an undersized forward who can find success at the pro level. He wins battles in the small areas and will outwork players much bigger than him. He has the ability to play fast by making quick plays and getting pucks behind defenders faster than they can anticipate. If he was a few inches taller then we would be hearing his name a lot more, but don't count out Barkey becoming a high-impact NHLer who brings energy and pace to the lineup." - Jared Brown

"The London Knights relied on their young players more this year than they typically do and it resulted in an OHL final appearance. Barkey led the charge in that regard, using his speed and intelligence to force opponents into making mistakes. He plays a smart, pro-style game that would intrigue teams so much more if he weren’t 5-foot-9. Barley is a battler who does a lot of the work for his line, making the small plays that advance the puck. He’s going to continue getting stronger to ensure that the style of play he has had success with at the next level." - Tony Ferrari

"As the season progressed, I became more of a big fan of Denver Barkey. After a 59-point regular season, he stood out even more for the Knights in the playoffs with 24 points in 20 games. While Central Scouting might have him low at 79th overall among North American skaters, I personally feel that he can be a mid to late second-round pick with his creativity and skillset as a playmaker. He’s a quick and agile skater as he’s got a really strong burst of acceleration and speed. He’s extremely deceptive with the puck as he has great control, can draw opponents in easily, create space for his teammates and find the seams with crisp passes, while also displaying soft hands for dekes at a quick pace. He isn’t afraid to attack the net and use his soft hands in tight to beat goaltenders or be in position for a rebound opportunity." - Peter Baracchini

"There isn’t a more intense player in this OHL class. He’s a headache on both sides of the puck, loves to push the middle, can create pretty well and always seems to pop up in dangerous ice. The lack of size is a bit of a concern, but he’s in my very early second round due to how well he’s adapted to his size." - Hadi Kalakeche

"Shouldered immense responsibility playing on London's top line with Easton Cowan and Ryan Winterton. Often times mixes it up with opposing players much older, and holds his own very well. Not only a productive and scrappy player, but he has a true passion for the game. You'd be hard pressed to find another player in the OHL who follows the league and the NHL like Barkey does. He's a hockey nerd in the best sense. His dedication and knowledge of the game reminds me a lot of Nick Robertson from his time in Peterborough." - Victor Findlay

10. Andrew Gibson - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
Total Votes: 7
Highest Ranking: 5th (1x)
Lowest Ranking: Outside of the Top 10 (10x)
"Gibson just seems to have the qualities of an NHL Dman doesn't he? He can skate, transport the puck efficiently through his feet or passing, and is physically abrasive with a mean side to him. As a first-year OHL'er, Gibson was thrown out on a weak Greyhounds team but looked like a defender who had been playing in the OHL for multiple years already. At the U18's for Canada, he had to be elevated in the lineup after Quinton Burns suffered an injury. Gibson didn't panic under the new responsibility in the lineup but exceeded my expectations for someone that could've used the excuse of being thrown in a tough spot. He appears to relish when being put in a tough spot and that is a very valuable trait to have for a pro." - Jared Brown

"You want a defenceman with size and can skate? Gibson is your guy. You could make an argument that in his own zone, Gibson is the best in the class. His mobility, size and reach make him difficult to beat. Add in his dedication to defending and you have a true shut down defender. While he has some offensive abilities, I don’t think it jumps out at you and it certainly won’t at the next level. There is enough for Gibson to have a successful NHL career, but it may just be as a shut down guy." - Dominic Tiano

"Just on the verge of my top 10, but I do really like the player. Gibson has the chance to develop into a very good defensive player at the NHL level. The key for him will be improving his puck management in the defensive end, as that likely dictates how high he eventually plays in a lineup. However, this is a young man that takes a ton of pride in his ability to excel in the defensive end. It's cliche, but he's the kind of player who would do anything to help his team win. On a U18 Canadian team with many more hyped prospects, he might have been the best and most consistent at that event. Also, it's worth mentioning how well the Soo develops defenders." - Brock Otten

Honorable Mentions:

Carey Terrance - Center/Wing - Erie Otters
Total Votes: 6
Highest Ranking: 6th (2x)
"So I'm calling this my bias pick because I really like Terrance who shone on a lousy team this team this year.  Thirty goals, including thirteen on the PP this year represented a leap from the 10 he scored last year.     He's just a smart overall player and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do with a more experienced Malcolm Spence or with Pano Fimis.   I hope that Stan Butler does not stifle his offensive creativity or acumen though." - Steve Clark

"Like others on this list, the first thing you notice about Terrance is his skating. He has explosive speed that allows him to get in on the forecheck and play the cycle game with excellence. But he’s not the type that goes full speed all the time. If he has the puck, he understands when to slow the game down and uses good vision and passing abilities to set up teammates. When he doesn’t have the puck, he’s good at eluding the opposition and putting himself in position to get off a lethal shot. Terrance is still a little green, even at this level but his development curve has gone quite well. Terrance can impact the game in other ways besides scoring." - Dominic Tiano

"I'm definitely higher on Terrance than the consensus. I'm pretty certain that we, at McKeen's, have Terrance ranked the highest of any independent scouting agency. I just think that people are sleeping on him because of how poorly Erie finished the year in the OHL and not a lot of people bothered to watch him in the second half. This is someone with some really good pro tools. He can play center or the wing. He skates very well. He's already a polished three zone player, on and off the puck. He has a quick release. He proved at the U18's that he can be a great complementary piece and that he doesn't need the puck on his stick consistently to be an effective player. As that Erie team improves over the next few seasons, I think his play improves dramatically. Maybe he's no more than an Erik Haula type...but that has a ton of value outside of the first round." - Brock Otten

Hunter Brzustewicz - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
Total Votes: 6
Highest Ranking: 5th (2x)
"Brzustewicz is an impressive athlete whose solid foundation of tools and skating are complemented by impressive smarts and a know-how out there. I like him to become a No. 4-5 D." - Anonymous

"Brzustewicz s above-average skating ability and puck moving qualities give him the upside as an NHL Dman who can drive results at 5v5. His skating looks effortless and he's got the shifty footwork to escape pressure on breakouts and fluidly walk the line in the Ozone. He constantly has his head up scanning and always seems to have a play in mind before he gets the puck. His transitional value is high as he generates controlled exits at a high rate either by using his feet to carry pucks out or using his vision to make an accurate, smart first pass. Brzustewicz checks off a lot of boxes and I see him as a safe pick in the draft with maybe not the highest ceiling, but a safe floor for the NHL." - Jared Brown

"An elite offensive defender, Brzustewicz can drive play from the backend like no other draft eligible from the OHL. His two-way game needs some work, but his ability to create offense and run Kitchener’s powerplay make him an entertaining player that garners eyes every time he steps on the ice. At the very least he is going to be a specialist and put up points, but if he can improve his defensive game I think he can be a mainstay in the NHL for a long time." - Austin Broad

Tristan Bertucci - Defense - Flint Firebirds
Total Votes: 5
Highest Ranking: 9th (3x)
"Much like Lardis impressing in the second half of the season, Tristan Bertucci has risen among OHL skaters and defensemen in the draft. He possesses a well-rounded skillset with his defensive game being a major standout. He doesn’t panic in any situation and is rarely out of position or gets caught cheating in a play. He can box out attackers effectively and get into the shooting lanes for a block and breakup. Offensively, his game started to come around, as he finished 13th overall in OHL defenders with 50 points. He has become involved even more on the attack with his skating, puck control, and decision making. He isn’t afraid to jump in on the cycle and draw players in and open things up for perfectly timed pass or shot. He shouldn’t be slept on as he could be selected on the second day of the draft." - Peter Baracchini

"Bertucci has a good frame to build some needed bulk on. He’s a very good skater with great mobility. For me, he’s come along fine defensively, controlling his gaps, possessing an active stick and engaging well in puck battles. He transitions to offence very well either by skating, but more often with a good first pass. I’m actually surprised by his offensive production which has caused me and I’m sure many others to move him up in my rankings." - Dominic Tiano

"It took all year for Bertucci to get respect for his overall game and I was shocked that he didn't get a CHL Top Prospects game. A 6'2 defender that was a plus player and had 50 points has a good shot at becoming an NHL regular." - Mark Seidel

"Bertucci is miscast as strictly an offensive defender. His length, aggressiveness, and mobility allows him to be an impactful defensive player. Is his game a bit erratic defensively? Absolutely. But, the tools are there. Offensively, he was the most effective defender on this list in the second half. His point shot is a major weapon. His instincts and vision with the puck are sound. He understands how to start the breakout. I just really liked his progression this year and I think a lot of people are holding his below average U18 performance against him." - Brock Otten

Coulson Pitre - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Total Votes: 5
Highest Ranking: 7th (3x)
"Pitre is one of the hardest workers you will come across. He is a versatile player with great speed and a solid commitment when playing away from the puck. His ability to close in on players and get on the forecheck to create havoc are impressive. He put up good points in the OHL this season but he will have a tougher time at the next level. He has a very high IQ with great vision, traits you don’t often find in a power forward." - Dominic Tiano

"An offensive machine in the OHL, Pitre is easily one of the more underrated forwards in this draft class. He's physical, can play anywhere in a lineup and has an excellent release. But, again, his skating doesn't match his endless energy." - Steven Ellis

"A personal favorite that will do whatever it takes to in. Has an edge to his game and a doggedness that will help him find a way to play in the NHL. Combined with his grit, he will chip in offensively." - Mark Seidel

"One of my favourites in this OHL draft class. He plays a very mature game. His strong performance at the CHL Top Prospect's Game was a great showcase of that. He understands how to play with other great players and knows how to be effective as a complementary piece. In a lot of ways, Pitre is a bit of a unicorn. Rarely do you see wingers with his tenacity and hockey sense together. Usually, young, physical players like Pitre want to play that strict North/South game and can struggle with their decision making as they approach the game like a windup toy car. However, Pitre already has a clear understanding of how to alter pace and attack East/West. He is poised with the puck and is a great playmaker, something you love to see from a high energy guy. I wish he was just a little bit better as a finisher and that could ultimately restrict his upside, but this is a competitive young man I want on my team." - Brock Otten

Easton Cowan - Wing - London Knights
Total Votes: 4
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
"In September, Cowan was my biggest sleeper. Now, he is hardly a sleeper after his performance in the second half. His fantastic work ethic and defensive tendencies make him a unique forward at this spot, but most of all, his vision is elite. He finds plays and passing lanes that no one else on the ice can see. With the help of his linemate and “twin” Denver Barkey, the two are unstoppable." - Joely Stockl

"Really came on in the 2nd half and was a huge beneficiary of Dale Hunter and his Staff. Became a genuine offensive threat while exhibiting a fair amount of grit. Is a better player than the sum of his parts." - Mark Seidel

"Usually it's the WHL kids who have the farm-boy reputation. But in this case, that applies to Easton Cowan of Mount Brydges, Ontario. About 27 minutes West of London, Cowan grew up as a farm kid in small-town Ontario, and as a result, he's affectionately nicknamed as 'Cowboy' by his teammates. Much like his linemate Denver Barkey, he loves to stir up the opposition, and shows no fear whatsoever matching up against older competition on London's first line. After a good regular season, Cowan was even better in the playoffs, battling through a case of strep throat to record 21 points in 20 games, including 5 goals in his last 7 postseason games." - Victor Findlay

Quinton Burns - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 3
Highest Ranking: 9th (2x)
"The combination of his physicality and passing vision has made me a huge fan of Burns this season. He is intelligent with the puck and he is not a player that you want to go up against in the corners. I think there will be a lot of teams looking at Burns because of how well he can skate, defend, and move the puck, along with being a big physical presence." - Joely Stockl

"Burns has been a reliable rush defender for the Kingston Frontenacs. He stays well-aligned to the rush and looks to trap them prior to the defensive zone blue line. Once the puck is dumped into his own zone, he's equipped with an excellent power stride that allows him to be quick to loose pucks. His power stride also allows him to pick up speed nicely when moving the puck up the ice. Burns will look to drive the puck as far into the neutral zone / offensive zone that he can and then will look to pass. He doesn't force the puck into heavy traffic and thus will look for an open teammate further up in the zone to pass to. Burns projects to be a bottom four defenseman at the NHL level, but one who can be reliable with and without the puck in transition." - Josh Tessler

Matthew Mania - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
Total Votes: 3
Highest Ranking: 7th (1x)
"He has one of the best names in the draft – and might have some of the best upside, too. The term "raw" has been thrown out a few times on this list, and Mania's game is just that. He can blow your mind with some of his moves, but then he'll get caught trying to be too fancy and make costly mistakes. If he can refine his play, there's some top-four potential here." - Steven Ellis

"Plays with pace and intensity, insanely good at making things happen in offensive transitions, and particularly strong on the puck, Mania is another OHL kid who I didn’t appreciate enough at the start of the year. He made my second round, and I feel like he easily could’ve climbed into the first half of it." - Hadi Kalakeche

"I love Mania's play in the offensive zone. He constantly looks to pinch up and find skating lanes to dangerous areas. Once he gets to the slot, he is eager to use his shot. When it comes to his distribution, it is a bit more D to D along the point. Over time I'd love to see Mania elevate his distribution by identifying passing lanes while pinching up." - Josh Tessler

Cam Allen - Defense - Guelph Storm
Total Votes: 3
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
"Allen is a strong two-way defender, using his skating ability to cover space in all three zones. He’s extremely agile and has the quickness to maintain solid gap control while defending the rush. Offensively, while he may not be much of a scoring threat, he’s extremely smart and can use his vision and patience to manipulate the defense and open up passing/shooting lanes. The type of player who does a ton of little things that may go unnoticed, but he consistently has a positive impact when he’s on the ice." - Austin Broad

"In most games I watched of Allen’s, he gave me migraines. I’ve never seen a more trigger-happy defender, who yet refuses to change the angle on his shot. On his day, though, the skillset and intensity are off the charts, the defensive engagement is solid, and the hits are bone-crushing." - Hadi Kalakeche

Matthew Soto - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Total Votes: 1
Highest Ranking: 9th (1x)
"Soto is a very active and hard-working forward who displays interesting skill and creates offensive chances at a solid rate. He plays with controlled chaos at times but there have been moments in time in which the controlled part of that goes out the window. Soto is a ball of clay that some team is going to get their hands on and try to mold into the player they want. He has some very good puck skill and maneuverability but he will need to tidy up the loose ends of his game that result in mistakes due to careless play." - Tony Ferrari

Brad Gardiner - Center - Ottawa 67's
Total Votes: 1
Highest Ranking: 8th (1x)
"An advanced defensive forward with lots of intelligence, Gardiner may not have a ton of offense to his game yet, but he'll be trusted by his coaches at the next level right away. If he does add more scoring to his game, he'll be a great two-way threat down the middle." - Ryan Kennedy

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft - Part 3: 10-1

Here is the final part of my 2023 rankings; the top ten!

1. Colby Barlow - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Barlow is just such a solid NHL prospect. Does he have the highest upside in the draft? Definitely not. But, he's such an efficient player in so many different ways, and as such, I just can't see him failing to become a quality/useful NHL player in some regard. For some people, that's not enough for a potential top 20 selection and I understand that. For me...if I'm picking in that range and I can get an Alex Killorn or TJ Oshie type of player, I'm pretty happy. There's no coincidence that both of those guys have Stanley Cup rings. You win in the NHL playoffs with players like Colby Barlow. There's no question that he's not the most skilled or creative player out there. There are currently some skill limitations that will need to improve for him to reach that Killorn/Oshie level. This is particularly true of his puck reception consistency. He can struggle to gather passes at full speed or cleanly catch pucks in the slot for scoring chances. This is partly why he's not a dynamic transition leader, but is better served as transition support. However, that can and should improve. Barlow's skating doesn't concern me either. I think that for the game he plays and for the game he is going to play at the NHL level, his skating is good. He generates great linear power and quickness and this helps him beat defenders to spots and pucks. Does he need to improve his balance/agility? Definitely. But, that can also be improved as we have seen recently with Mason McTavish, a fairly similar straight line attacker. The other parts of Barlow's game I said earlier...just solid. The shot is very dangerous; his release is very deceptive. He can score in multiple ways and has a clear understanding of how to play a power game to get himself looks near the net. He's a hard worker in all three zones who won't need his starts sheltered. He competes hard physically. I think his playmaking ability and vision are underrated. He's not Craig Janney, but I've seen him make some really nice reads and passes out of the cycle or coming off securing possession on the forecheck. By drafting Barlow, you're getting a top notch offensive support player who can be a great complementary piece on your second line for many years.

2. Cal Ritchie - Center - Oshawa Generals
I can understand the hesitation with ranking Ritchie as a mid first round pick. His year and performance this year was a rollercoaster. It started with a tremendous Hlinka/Gretzky performance. That carried into a strong start with Oshawa. That was followed by a big time lull and some injury issues. Which, was followed by a great end to the year with both Oshawa and the Canadian U18 team. The year also included the struggle with a nagging shoulder injury that came to a head at the U18’s. I mean, talk about a whirlwind. But here's why I like Ritchie and why I would have no hesitation using a top 20 pick on him; I think he's one of the smartest players in the draft. Whenever Ritchie has been surrounded by other great talents and had strong support on his wings (or has moved there himself), he's played fantastic. But in Oshawa this year, the inconsistent play stems from him just not being ready physically to be the sole focal point of an attack. Thankfully for him, in the NHL, he'll be surrounded and flanked by other players of his quality. Are there things that concern me? Sure, he's not a perfect prospect. The skating, specifically his quickness, will need to improve. He's going to need to improve the consistency of his defensive game and become more consistently physically intense. He needs to continue to work on his shot and improve his confidence in using it to make him more of a dual threat in transition. However, I do believe that he can improve all of those things. When his development is complete, I do expect Ritchie to turn into a Ryan O'Reilly kind of player. They both are so good at protecting the puck down low and creating coming off the wall. They are both so intelligent with the puck in transition and invite contact/pressure to help open up passing lanes. There's such a quiet effectiveness to Ritchie's game that masks how skilled he is too. Make no mistake, if Ritchie had played this year on a strong team and not a rebuilding Oshawa team, I think we'd still be talking about him as a potential lottery selection as we were in preseason. 

3. Nick Lardis - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
There's no question that I'm higher on Lardis than others. At McKeen's, we ranked him 32nd, but I'm pretty doubtful that he's an actual first round selection. Do I think he deserves to be? Yes, but that's another story. I mean, how could you not be impressed with what he accomplished following the trade to Hamilton? He instantly became one of the league's most consistently dangerous offensive players. The big difference in that was an increase in physical intensity. In Peterborough, he was too perimeter oriented. But the shift to become a player who attacked inside the dots made all the difference in Hamilton. Lardis' combination of elite level speed and goal scoring ability makes him such an interesting NHL prospect. The scary thing is, I actually think he's only scratching the surface of being able to utilize his speed as a weapon. He's still pretty slight and can get knocked off stride too easily and he can also struggle to cleanly catch/carry when trying to build speed. With added strength, I believe both of those aspects of his game will improve and he becomes a near unstoppable force at the junior level. The shot is such a massive weapon for him too. The release on both his wrist shot and his one timer are terrific; lightning quick. He can score from anywhere on the ice. He can score from a standstill or in motion. Personally, I don't think he was terrific at the U18's, but I also think that he was utilized improperly by the coaching staff. It looked like they wanted him to be more of an F1, high energy guy and he's just not at that level off the puck yet. If you want a better indication of Lardis' ability and progression, watch the first round of the OHL playoffs where he nearly dragged a rebuilding Bulldogs team past Brandt Clarke and the Barrie Colts. Look, there's no question that Lardis is going to take some time. He's going to need to finish his final OHL seasons and then probably play in the AHL too, but someone's patience could be rewarded as, IMO, Lardis has among the highest scoring upside of any player from the OHL this draft.

4. Quentin Musty - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
At this point, it seems like you either love Musty or you don't. Weirdly, I seem to be one of the few who finds themselves right, smack dab in the middle. There are many components of Musty's game that I really like. Early on in the year, he was incredibly frustrating to watch because his decision making with the puck left a lot to be desired, but once the switch to Derek MacKenzie was made (as coach of Sudbury), that became way less of an issue. Musty is going to commit turnovers. He's a highly confident puckhandler who loves to challenge defenders one on one. But, picking those spots to attack are critical and he did a much better job of that as the year went on. Musty's passing ability is top notch. He can saucer pucks right on sticks through multiple defenders; his precision is tremendous. Obviously, the physical tools are intriguing too. He's a big kid who flashes a power game to go with his high end skill. He can be effective on the forecheck and he will throw his body around when he's motivated. The offensive upside is legitimate and there is absolutely no denying that Musty's ceiling is the highest of any player available from the OHL this year. So what are my concerns? For one, the skating will need to improve. Musty is fine once he gets going. But his feet are heavy. His start ups need major work. On top of that, his off puck intensity level and success are inconsistent at best. That combination of weaker skating and wavering intensity level is a dangerous one. Ask those who championed Michael Dal Colle. For a big kid who can play that power game, Musty doesn't play between the hashmarks nearly enough for me at this current moment. He has such a good shot, but he doesn't get himself enough looks to use it because he's not consistently outworking defenders to get positioning. So where does that leave us? For me, Musty is a 30-40 guy and not a locked in first rounder. Once you get outside the top 30, the upside is too much to pass up. But inside? I just have too many questions, even if I do like him.

5. Oliver Bonk - Defense - London Knights
I would have had a tough time ranking Bonk this highly if I didn't believe that he was one of the smartest defenders available in the entire draft. The physical tools aren't elite. He doesn't really have a standout skill. Yet, he's so effective because of how well he anticipates the play and how well he thinks the game. I mean, would you expect anything else from a player who grew up around the game like Oliver (with father Radek)? But it's truly the foundation of his game. Defensively, he's rarely caught out of position. His stick placement is great. He's always one step ahead of the opposition by closing down lanes. He is great at gaining leverage when trying to win battles for the puck or for position. Bonk has great scanning habits with the puck in the defensive end and is a breakout machine because of it. He does a great job running the point in the offensive end because he gets shots through and makes quick decisions with the puck. He is also effective offensively because of his off puck play and anticipation. He's so sneaky and consistently finds gaps in coverage by going back door or jumping up in the play. The question ultimately becomes, what is Bonk's upside without those elite physical tools? He's not the best skater or most agile four way mover. He's not an overtly physical player. He's not an extremely creative puckhandler or the type of defender who can make players miss cutting through the neutral zone. Bonk's game is highly simplified but also highly effective. Because of that, the range of outcomes is pretty vast. Is he Devon Toews or Josh Morrissey? Is he more of a solid second pairing guy like a John Marino or Calvin de Haan? Is he more of a solid depth guy like Jon Merrill? The answer to that is tied to how much Bonk can improve his skating and skill to go with his great processing ability. 

6. Carson Rehkopf - Center/Wing - Kitchener Rangers
Speaking with scouts, Rehkopf has to be one of the draft's most polarizing players. It really depends on what night you saw him play. The consistency issues are real. I was firmly on team Rehkopf until I wrote a really lengthy piece for McKeen's on him (found here). Writing that piece and combing through hours of video really helped me understand where the concerns about him come from. His physical intensity level really does waver. His two-way commitment level does too. He can be too perimeter oriented and he can float in the offensive zone looking to use his heavy one timer. There are some bad habits built into his game. Yet, I'm magnetically drawn to Rehkopf like a moth to a flame because of his immense physical tools and how he flashes the ability to utilize them to be a dominant force all over the ice. There's a chance that the switch never turns on and he's a Brendan Perlini type. But there's also a really good chance that with more consistent ice time and better conditioning, he fulfills his upside. It's a dice roll, but that's why he's more of a 40-60 guy and not a true first round option. What Rehkopf does well is rare. He's a potential power forward with great quickness, a big time shot, and the ability to be a versatile two-way player. Rehkopf consistently creates chances for himself by being a quick strike player thanks to how quickly he builds speed. Then he can protect the puck with his length and get inside of defenders. His one timer and wrist shot are in contention to be the hardest shots of this year's draft class. Accuracy and release are a work in progress, but his shot is a real bullet. His off puck play is just really inconsistent. One game, he's dialed in on the forecheck, is working hard on the backcheck, and is driving the net to get position. Another game, he plays passively. If everything works out well, you've got a really good middle six forward. And if it doesn't, Rehkopf is probably more of a depth guy like Perlini was. It's a risk, but it's a risk worth taking IMO.

7. Carey Terrance - Center/Wing - Erie Otters
I just really like Terrance. I've made that pretty clear with my coverage this season. This guy can impact the game in so many different ways, but we haven't seen it consistently because Erie just wasn't great this year. I think his versatility makes him such an intriguing option. Look at the difference between how he was used in Erie vs. with the U.S. U18 team, yet he found success both ways. In Erie, he's a primary play driver at pivot who is counted upon to use his speed to lead the Otters in transition and who controls play in the offensive zone with his quick feet and strength on the puck. With the U.S. U18 team, he was asked to play the wing with Oliver Moore in a support role. He was asked to use his speed to forecheck, to drive the net and to play more consistently off the puck. This versatility, in combination with his speed is going to make him an attractive target to NHL teams who probably see him as fairly moldable in the future based on their needs. Terrance is a strong two-way player already. He has a very underrated shot. His 30 goals this year (third most among U18 players) were no fluke. He led the Otters in goal scoring by a significant margin (next closest was Sam Alfano with 18). Terrance is also a terrific forechecker, IMO one of the better ones in the OHL. His quickness is so difficult for opposing defenders to handle. the ceiling high? No, I don't believe so. I think Terrance profiles best as a quality third line option in the future. But, his well rounded skill set is going to give future coaches a lot of options on how they utilize him. 

8. Coulson Pitre - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Here's the main reason why Coulson Pitre is going to go in the top two rounds this year and has a great chance to develop into a quality NHL player; he's a unicorn. By that I mean, his combination of physicality, strong skating ability, and high end vision makes him unique. Usually players who play the way Pitre does don't have the kind of passing touch and offensive zone awareness that he possesses. He's not the power forward who drives the net with his head down and is strictly a North/South player that we see a lot. He is calculated in his approach. He varies speed and pace. He is equally effective on the puck as he is off of it. He is competitive and hates to lose a 50/50 battle. He is extremely physical and brings a consistent element of truculence (oh yes, that word again). In essence, Pitre is the perfect complement to high end skilled players because of the high work rate and strong awareness he has. The only thing is that I wish Pitre had a better shot and better finishing ability overall. Maybe that's something that grows, but he's definitely more of a pass first kind of player. Like some of the other guys I have ranked in this range, Pitre could be a swiss army knife at the NHL level. Maybe he gets utilized in a top six role as a Michael Bunting/Lawson Crouse type. Maybe he is counted upon to be more of a third line, high energy guy like Sam Bennett. Either way, he's going to have value and I believe that he's going to be an NHL player in some capacity.

9. Beau Akey - Defense - Barrie Colts
Early on in the season, I would have never envisioned having Akey ranked 9th. I thought, this is a guy who I'm going to end up touting as a possible first round selection. But I felt like his development over the course of the season was a bit disappointing. After Brandt Clarke joined the Barrie lineup and his role diminished, his game kind of flatlined for me. I wanted to see more positive development in his skill/confidence with the puck and in his defensive zone decision making. Instead, he reverted into a bit of a shell with the puck and some sloppy habits crept into his game. All that said, I still like Akey and I do believe that he can possibly turn things around, I'm just not quite as confident as I was early on. That's why I see him more as a solid second round option and not earlier. Let's start with some positives. The skating is high end. His four way mobility is effortless. He generates power quickly with explosive strides. Akey flashes high end transporting ability, in addition to high end skill to hold the offensive blueline and create chances in the OZ. Defensively, his mobility gives him an advantage as he can be quick to retrievals and difficult to beat off the rush. His physical intensity did increase over the course of the year, which obviously improves his future projection as a two-way defender. However, for a player with such strong mobility, he seems hesitant to use it to his advantage. He can be tentative in using it to push deep into the offensive zone. His routes to retrievals aren't great and it causes him to get pinned in the defensive end. If he were to take better routes, he would be a breakout machine because his feet would help him easily get clearance to make a pass or clear the zone. His scanning habits are inconsistent and he can turn the puck over because of poor passing or clearing decisions. He can get caught flat footed when defending because he lacks assertiveness and allows the opposition to dictate pace and direction. All of these things are extremely fixable. In a lot of ways, Akey's raw two-way approach and lack of refinement in utilizing his mobility reminds me of TJ Brodie in his draft year. I think he represents sort of a best case scenario for Akey at the NHL level. The worst case is that he falls into that Roland McKeown category that I've mentioned for other guys this year; good at lots, but a master of none.  

10. Tristan Bertucci - Defense - Flint Firebirds
Heading into the U18's, it seemed like a lot of people were finally catching on to Bertucci and his three zone effectiveness. But then he didn't have a great performance for Canada and his "hype" has flatlined a bit. I think that's unfair. You simply can't base your entire assessment of a player based on a single tournament. I mean, how could you not be impressed by the massive growth shown by Bertucci over the course of this past OHL season? He had 37 points in his final 38 games with Flint, emerging as a dominant two-way leader for the Firebirds. One of Bertucci's most admirable qualities is a high panic threshold with the puck in the defensive end. He scans well and trusts his mobility. He keeps things simple with his exits. In the offensive end, his ability to get point shots through is excellent. He walks the line well and can beat that first layer of pressure with his feet. Defensively, he loves to play aggressively. You will routinely see him blowing up plays in the neutral zone or near the blueline. He has a very active stick. Now, herein lies the issue with Bertucci. His decision making at both ends can leave some to be desired. His over aggressiveness can cause him to get burned and he can get caught out of position defensively. He can make risky passes and plays in the offensive zone too, that can lead to turnovers and odd man rushes the other way. For Bertucci, it's all about learning to pick his spots better. I've heard some suggest that these errors are a representation of a lack of high end hockey sense. I would disagree. I see it as a player who wants to play a certain way, but who simply needs coaching and experience to learn how to best utilize his skill set. I think adding strength would go a long way too, because it could allow him to be more successful defensively down low. I mentioned John Marino earlier and I think he is the type of player that Bertucci could become if his development goes according to plan. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

My Final Top 50 OHL Players for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft - Part 2: 30-11

Here's part two of my rankings release: the players ranked from 30 to 11. 

11. Andrew Gibson - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
I would be absolutely shocked if Gibson was the 11th OHL player drafted or later. He's going to go earlier than this ranking. NHL teams love him. And quite frankly, I really like him too. I just don't believe he has the high end upside of the ten players I have ranked ahead of him. Let's start with the limitations. Gibson's first pass and decision making in the defensive end will need to improve. He can make some very poor decisions with the puck under pressure. The same can be said of his play in the offensive zone. He's actually most effective off the puck because of how smart he is. He supports possession incredibly well, but due to some small area skill limitations, he can get boxed in when carrying play. From a skating perspective, Gibson is good, especially for his size, but his transitions and quickness will need to improve a smidge. Skating is not really a concern IMO. OK, so what about the strengths? Defensively, he is a potential rock. The length, mobility, physicality, compete, and IQ are all top end. He is aggressive at closing gaps or angling off and loves to step up on players early. He is suffocating down low. He competes for pucks and space and is a tremendous shot blocker. He has a great point shot that he gets through traffic to generate second chance opportunities. As mentioned, he does a great job of finding soft spots in the offensive zone, or when jumping up in the rush and this is because of his processing ability. Even if Gibson ends up as no more than a solid #5, there's a ton of value in that as a second round selection. 

12. Easton Cowan - Wing - London Knights
Cowan's transformation from complementary support player to primary play driver in the second half (and into the playoffs) has led to a massive jump for him in my rankings. Man...he was so good for London in the playoffs. There are just so many things to like about his game. He's a high end skater. His compete level is excellent. He's strong on the forecheck and backcheck. He can play in any situation and projects as a high end penalty killer. His shot and scoring instincts are good. His vision with the puck is good, especially when attacking with pace. As the season progressed, he gained so much confidence in his carrying ability. Not only that, but his poise and patience increased. In the playoffs, we saw him dictate pace and learn to slow the game down, rather than simply just play that North/South game. There are limitations in his skill and creativity. He's not likely to be a high end skill guy in the NHL. In fact, he probably settles into more of a complementary role in the NHL. But for him to show that he CAN be the guy already in the OHL is a critical step in his development. I like his odds of developing into a really solid middle six guy like a Jasper Fast. Don't be shocked if he gets taken inside the top 50 this year.

13. Hunter Brzustewicz - Defense - Kitchener Rangers
I kind of feel wrong about ranking Hunter this late. It just doesn't feel right considering how good he was in the second half for Kitchener as part of the Rangers' resurgence. The first half of the year, I was legitimately concerned about his projection. He struck me as one of those "jack of all trades" types who can struggle to find a role at the NHL level. Especially given that late birthdate, the runway for development just wasn't as long. But, he really tightened things up defensively in the second half. The physical intensity level increased. He was taking better routes to retrievals to let him utilize his skating ability to help Kitchener in transition. He also gained confidence in his ability to play with pace and lead the attack with his feet. This made him more dynamic and again, IMO, improved his projection. Unquestionably, the best part of Brzustewicz's game is his play and composure in the offensive end. He holds the blueline so well because of his edgework and lateral quickness. But he's also just so calm and composed back there. He rarely makes a poor play that leads to an odd man opportunity the other way. So why is he 13th? I guess I'm still a wee bit concerned about his projection. Players like him do tend to have difficulty finding a role at the NHL level; Roland McKeown comes to mind. I love him in that 50-75 range because of that risk, but probably not earlier.

14. Luca Pinelli - Wing/Center - Ottawa 67's
My colleague at McKeen's Joely Stockl (who you should be following by the way) put it perfectly in a recent report; a decade ago, a player like Pinelli would have been an after thought because of his lack of size and lack of quickness. However, the game has changed for all the right reasons. There is a place for players like Pinelli now. Obviously my ranking is a little lower than some have him, but I do appreciate him as a player and do see him as a potential high energy, middle six guy like a Dillon Dube. Luca is very much a different player than his brother Francesco. He's so tenacious in puck pursuit; his feet are always moving. He's also fearless. He shows no fear in challenging bigger players and as he gets stronger and improves his conditioning further, he's likely to develop into a top flight shift disturber. I think Pinelli's skill level is underrated too. He shows a high level ability to problem solve out of pressure and can combine his silky mitts with his strong edgework to be a difficult cover. Ultimately there are two questions. One; can he continue to be successful playing this type of game at his size in the NHL? Two; can his quickness and speed improve to give him a better projection at the NHL level? I thought about ranking him a bit lower but I was very impressed by how he elevated his game in the playoffs this year; especially after a bit of a disappointing second half of the year.

15. Cam Allen - Defense - Guelph Storm
Here's what it comes down to. I absolutely refuse to believe that Cam Allen is as bad as he was at times this year. Not the player that I saw dominate games as a 16/17 year old rookie. You don't just forget how to play hockey. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think the pressure of carrying the Guelph Storm, given their early season struggles, was too much for him and he fell into some awful habits. Could those habits point to some flaws in how he sees the game; flaws in his processing ability that could prevent him from being an NHL player? Absolutely. But, we didn't see a lot of that in his rookie year when he largely kept things simple. Ditto for the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup in the summer. That probably means that Allen will need to work on simplifying his approach next year. Get back to the basics. Improve your scanning habits in the defensive end and look to make clean and simple exits using the wall or your defensive partner. Take better routes to the puck to be able to use your feet to clear the zone and trust them more. Limit the chances you take jumping up into the play for now. Continue to get stronger to win battles more consistently. I loved the compete level he showed at the U18's in the defensive end. If he can play like that defensively all the time, he'll be fine once he cleans a few things up. The upside is certainly not as high as it once was thought to be, when we were comparing him to a guy like Charlie McAvoy. However, he has enough tools and enough character to overcome some of the warts we see currently to become an NHL defender. 

16. Quinton Burns - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Burns is a throwback defender. He doesn't have the elite size and length that you like to see from players of that ilk, but neither did the likes of Rich Pilon, Lyle Odelein, Ken Klee, Craig Rivet, etc. Burns just flat out loves to be a pain in the butt to play against. He loves to lower the boom and play the body. He's in the corners and in front of the net laying the lumber. As he gets stronger, this component of his game will only intensify. However, Burns does also have some intriguing offensive tools. He can lead the rush and quarterback the powerplay with some decent puck skills. His future in the NHL is probably as more of a stay at home type, but he'll be a top end powerplay QB in the OHL first. IMO, there are two keys for Burns in order for him to reach his potential as a solid #4-5 guy. The first is improving his footwork and four way mobility. It's not a weakness by any means, but without elite length, he'll need to be a bit quicker and cleaner to be a standout defense first guy. The second is improving his decision making with the puck in the defensive end. It was tough playing on Kingston this year. He didn't get a ton of help. However, like mentioned with Gibson, he needs to have a higher panic threshold and develop better habits with the puck. He was probably Canada's best defender at the U18's before that nasty lower body injury, so that's going to give him major points for NHL scouts, proving that the situation in Kingston probably led to a lot of the inconsistencies in his game this year.

17. Denver Barkey - Center - London Knights
I mean, how can you not love Barkey? This guy just has a motor that doesn't quit. Do I wish he was bigger? Yeah, sure. Do I wish he was a little quicker? Yeah, sure. But, as he proved in this year's OHL playoffs (and in the summer's Hlinka/Gretzky Cup), he can play just about any role you ask of him and excel at it. I kind of expected him, and not Easton Cowan, to be the one to step up in the second half to become a primary play driver for London, taking a step forward in his skill development, but that didn't really happen. Barkey is still at his best when he keeps things simple. Chip and chase. Work the wall. Drive the net. Outwork. Outhustle. His IQ is really good and his three zone awareness is among the best of any player on this list. The hustle and awareness will take him a long way and then once the athletic tools improve, we'll see him become a top flight OHL player. But what about the NHL potential? At this point, I think I overvalued his creativity and skill early on. I'm not sure he'll ever be more than a bottom six guy at the NHL level. The shot isn't a strength currently. He can get boxed in. He'll improve a lot under Dale Hunter, but is he more than a Casey Cizikas type? Lots of value there in the third or fourth round still.

18. Matthew Mania - Defense - Sudbury Wolves
On pure offensive upside, Mania is going to be an intriguing project pick for NHL teams. His even strength production was among the best of any defender in the OHL this year. He can have a really profound impact on the transition game with his skill and ability to carve up the neutral zone. His skating is a real asset. Mania also has a good point shot and does a great job getting pucks through to the net, part why his production was so solid at even strength. As he learns to use his skating better inside the offensive zone to evade pressure; as his poise and confidence improves, the ceiling is quite high as an offensive defender. Defensively, he's a work in progress. He needs to get stronger to win battles along the wall and near the net. He can be too easy to play against currently. His defensive zone awareness also needs to improve; he can get lost in coverage, especially when trying to recover from the offensive zone. But on pure offensive upside, one could easily argue that he has the most of any OHL defender available this year. He's either going to mature as part of that young Sudbury team and turn into a great NHL prospect...or completely fall flat and probably not end up getting signed. I don't really see an in-between here.

19. Ondrej Molnar - Wing - Erie Otters
It had to be really tough for Molnar this year, under the circumstances. I mean, yes, those circumstances were self inflicted (the floorball incident that led to his dismissal and move to Erie), but it didn't make it any easier on him to quickly acclimate himself to a new league on a last place team. On the powerplay, you could see the potential Molnar has. The skating ability, plus the hands and the vision were on full display with room to operate on the outside. At even strength, he really struggled because he's just not strong enough to compete between the hash marks at this level in North America. He was too easily pushed to the perimeter and struggled to get himself in scoring position. I actually didn't even mind his compete level. He worked hard to try to find success as an F1, using his speed to be first to pucks. But, he just wasn't strong enough to maintain possession long enough to truly capitalize on it. I do think that the upside is still really high. He's going to grow as part of that young Erie group that's going to be really good in a few years. But is there a chance that NHL teams avoid Molnar completely as they did Egor Sidorov? I think it could end up being a mistake, but it's completely possible. 

20. Ethan Miedema - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Consistency is the number one issue here. That's not always an easy fix, but it's a common one for big, power wingers like Miedema. It takes great conditioning to be an impact power forward and right now it's clear that Miedema doesn't have that. On some nights, he brings it physically but struggles to make an impact offensively. On other nights, he plays a more passive game, but showcases his skill and playmaking touch. Rarely, did he find a way to put both together this season. The other thing that needs to continue to improve is his skating ability. I think his linear quickness improved this year, which is a start. However, his overall agility is lacking and it makes him pretty rigid. For such a big guy, he doesn't find himself in scoring position near the crease near enough and he's not making the kind of impact that he can make between the hash marks. At this point, I view Miedema as a pretty big boom/bust kind of selection. The number of players like Miedema who've not succeeded is a longer than the ones who have. We're looking at a Matthew Strome, Nick Magyar, Josh Brittain, Graham Knott, AJ Jenks type situation or we're looking at Josh Anderson. 

21. Joey Willis - Center/Wing - Saginaw Spirit
If Willis had better physical tools/athleticism, I firmly believe we'd be talking about him as a top 50 pick. The offensive production wasn't anything to shake a stick at either, for a player without those physical tools. Yet, every time I saw Saginaw this year, this young man passed the eye test. He's just such a smart player. Always in the right spot. Always makes the right play. His vision is a real asset in the offensive zone. I think he has more to offer from a skill perspective too. I've seen the notion that he's not a high skill player, but I saw enough flashes of creativity this year to suggest that as he gains confidence, we could see him become more assertive. I have no doubt that Willis will become a high end OHL player. It's just about whether the skating and strength will improve enough to make him a serious NHL prospect. Maybe he's Austen Keating. Maybe he's Riley Damiani or Cal O'Reilly. But maybe, just maybe, he's Brad Richardson (a very useful, longtime pro). Considering that this was his first year playing out of the AAA level south of the border, I'm inclined to believe that as he adds strength and improves his conditioning, his skating can and will improve. I'm mentally preparing myself for Willis to go undrafted, but if he does, it will be a big mistake IMO.

22. Alex Pharand - Center/Wing - Sudbury Wolves
Pharand is just a really solid North/South player with a concrete projection as an NHL player in some capacity. Personally, I'm not sold on him having high end upside. I think he's best when he keeps things simple. He uses his linear speed to forecheck and chase pucks. He drives the net. He works the wall. When he tries to make skilled plays, turnovers often happen and plays die on his stick. He's not a high end shooter, although he does have great hands near the crease to score the greasy ones he earns with hard work and determination. Maybe he's a Marcus Foligno type, but it's also possible that he doesn't have the skill or sense to be a long time NHL player. I came into the year really high on him, but his really poor second half has me less infatuated. I'd be very comfortable taking him in the fourth or fifth round because I think he has pro qualities. But, I have a feeling that someone will take him in that 50-75 range and that's too rich for my blood.

23. Ethan Hay - Center - Flint Firebirds
I really like Ethan Hay and I think he deserves to be selected in the mid rounds, which is higher than I've seen him on other independent lists. At McKeen's we have him ranked 171st and EP has us (currently) as the only one with him listed. He's kind of like Liam Arnsby previously. Hay is the kind of player NHL teams are looking at and thinking, this guy could be a long time fourth line center and defensive specialist for us. He's got good size. He skates well. He has great instincts at both ends. He competes hard. There is a real chance that he's a Scott Nichol, Luke Glendening type. That has value. Anytime you can get an NHL player in the mid rounds, you do it. Is the upside high? Not likely. It will be interesting to see how he performs with more responsibility in the future, but right now his game looks pretty limited. But the high end physical tools and awareness that he possesses makes him an ideal bottom six player in today's NHL. 

24. Brad Gardiner - Center/ Wing - Ottawa 67's
Gardiner played so many different roles for Ottawa this year. He's extremely versatile and that has value. He can be a shutdown defensive center. He can work as the F1 and be a complementary piece to more skilled players. He can work the wall and kill penalties. His skating is good, although he could stand to be a little quicker. He's most effective off the puck because he always keeps his feet moving and he has a quick release that should make him an effective goal scorer at the junior level. I've seen him ranked fairly high in some places (like The Hockey News), but after he really hit a wall in the second half of the year, I'm kind of skeptical about his future role. What is Brad Gardiner at the next level? He does a lot of things well; it's why he's a swiss army knife for Ottawa. But does he do anything at an above average level? I like the bloodlines (father is Bruce Gardiner). I like the spot that he's in with Ottawa moving forward. However, he's more of a mid round guy for me.

25. Angus MacDonell - Center/Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
This is a player who already knows exactly who and what he is. There is a strong sense of self. Whether you watched MacDonell with Sarnia, with Mississauga, or at the U18's, you likely saw him playing the exact same way. He's about as consistent as it gets and that consistency really seemed to endear him to his Canadian coaches at the U18's, who slowly increased his work load. For that reason, I'd bet good money that he ends up a captain in the OHL by the time he graduates. As for his NHL potential, he's not going to be a front line player or big time point producer. If he makes the NHL, it will be in a high energy, depth role. He's not big, but he's tenacious. He's not the world's quickest skater, but he always keeps his feet moving. He has a great shot and scoring instincts. He opens up space for his linemates and prolongs possession. He can play center or the wing. Am I one hundred percent confident in his odds of making the NHL? Nope. But I love the way he plays and I firmly believe he should and will get drafted.

26. Matthew Soto - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Soto definitely has his fans in the independent scouting community. All things considered, he had a pretty good year for the Frontenacs, leading them in scoring. I'm just worried that he's too vanilla. I like the way that he pushes pace. His skating is good and it's probably going to be great once he gets stronger. He was one of the fastest players in this age group in minor hockey, but other players have caught up to him as they have matured physically at a greater rate. I think that he's, generally, a pretty hard worker and he is someone who will take a hit to make a play or compete hard in puck pursuit in all three zones. But, I think his game is too perimeter focused at this current time. I also don't see him ever developing into a high end goal scorer. Will a winger with average physical tools who profiles best as a perimeter focused playmaker make it as an NHL player? I'm not as sold. I see a very good junior player, but not necessarily more. For me, Soto is a mid to late round flyer and not earlier.

27. Cooper Foster - Center/Wing - Ottawa 67's
Foster didn't get a ton of ice time this year for Ottawa, but he made the best of it. It's extremely obvious that Foster is a highly intelligent player. He clearly needs to get stronger to be an impact player, but he managed to be a strong supporting piece this year because of his quick thinking and strong off puck positioning. I could actually see an NHL team really liking Foster if they believe that he has a long runway to improve his athleticism/quickness. He's the kind of guy who could get drafted late and then explodes in future years and looks like a steal because he was hidden on a deep team. But, I could also see Foster being just a good junior player and nothing more because he lacks a true standout quality that could separate him from others. 

28. Charlie Robertson - Goaltender - North Bay Battalion
Massive goaltender who plays more of a hybrid style in order to take advantage of his huge frame. He tries to stay up as long as he can, but he does look comfortable dropping down to the butterfly to make saves. He's kind of awkward in the crease as he tries to cover his posts or get out to the top of the blue paint. There's a need to improve his up/down quickness too. But, I can't help but be intrigued by Robertson. He's rail thin; his body type reminds me a lot of Matt Murray in his Soo days. If North Bay can manage to get him to beef up, it'll help him improve his strength and control. I felt like he played really well in the second half when he got a chance to give DiVincentiis a break. If he was a starter and got more exposure, would we be talking about him more? There's no way I draft a netminder from the OHL in the first three or four rounds this year, but Robertson could make for an interesting late round flyer.

29. Cole Brown - Wing - Hamilton Bulldogs
Brown is a big power forward who plays a mature game that sees him find most of his success below the hash marks or near the blue paint. He is comfortable and confident as a net front presence and has good hands in tight, especially for deflections. I felt like his skating improved a lot over the course of the year. It's still not amazing, but from start to finish, he looked quicker and this helped him drive wide to try to beat defenders to the net or to retrieve pucks. Like many other players ranked in this range, the offensive upside is probably pretty limited. Brown isn't a high skilled guy. He doesn't have a high end shot that allows him to beat goalies from a distance. He's not a terrific or confident transporter. But with his frame and physical consistency, an NHL team will definitely draft him in hopes that he can be a solid bottom six option in the future.

30. Donovan McCoy - Defense - Peterborough Petes
McCoy's development is something that has perplexed me. I really thought that we'd see him develop into one of the better 2004 born defenders in the OHL. He has all the tools, but putting them together has been an issue. He shows flashes of being a competent puck mover who can be a rush leader, use his feet as an asset, and make plays to hold the offensive blueline. But most of the time he settles for lower percentage plays or defers to his defensive partner/his centermen to handle the puck. Defensively, he's a physical presence and he can be difficult to match up against, especially in the corners where he wins the vast majority of his 50/50 puck battles. However, there are times where there are lapses in judgment in coverage and that makes me wonder just how well he is processing things on the ice. In a lot of ways, McCoy reminds me of how Connor Punnett looked in his original draft year and now we're discussing him as a possible re-entry candidate. Development is non linear. While McCoy is not likely to ever be the player many thought he could become when he drafted into the OHL (myself included), it does not mean that there is zero chance that he could still put it together to be an high end OHL player. He was good for Peterborough in their playoff and Mem Cup run. It was also interesting listening to Dan Malta (who covers the Petes) talk recently (on our podcast) about how McCoy is one of the most mature young men that he's encountered in his years covering Peterborough. That stuff matters (as it should) to NHL teams.