Tuesday, April 9, 2024

2024 OHL Priority Selection Mock Draft & Preview

The 2024 OHL Priority Selection is set to go this weekend, with rounds 1-3 occurring Friday night. The Windsor Spitfires will select first after winning the draft lottery.
 
It should be noted that this collaborative mock draft was started over a week ago, before things start to leak out regarding placement. Even if the mock does not end up being extremely accurate, the true purpose of this piece is to provide you with information on some of the top players available this year. 
 
This is the sixth year that I have gathered scouts together for this piece. It seems like with each passing year, I am able to see less and less U16 action. This couldn't be more true now that I'm the Director of Scouting for McKeen's Hockey. Thus, I love putting this together to help me learn too. This piece wouldn't be possible without the contributions of some terrific scouts.
 
Helping out with this mock draft are:
 
Connor Williams – Scout for TheScout.ca (@cwilliams_384)
Joely Stockl -  OHL Site Editor for The Hockey News & Coquitlam Express (BCHL) & Hamilton Kilty B’s (GOJHL) U16/U18 Scout (@joely_stockl04)
Jordan Malette - Scout for Puck Preps (@jordanmalette)
Steven Graves - McKeen's Hockey Video Scout (@German_Spitfire)
Ethan Atticus Page - Scout for TheScout.ca (@e_pager_)
Blake Bell - Scout for TheScout.ca (@Blake_Bell93)
Kris Leblanc - Director of Scouting for TheScout.ca (@KLebScouting)
Keenan McEwan - Scout for TheScout.ca & Cobourg Cougars Scout (OJHL) (@keenmcewan)
Sean Meyers - Director of Scouting for Pickering Panthers (OJHL) & Scout for TheScout.ca (@SeanMeyers)
Sean Ellison - Independent Draft Scout & Scout for Blind River Beavers (NOJHL) (@SeanEllison92)

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

Without further ado, here is our first round mock draft and honorable mentions.

1. Windsor Spitfires (Steven Graves) - Ethan Belchetz, F, Oakville Rangers
For the first time since 1976, the Windsor Spitfires hold the top spot in the OHL draft thanks to winning the draft lottery. Last season saw them finish with the second worst record in the league after only the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Spitfires have been building a lineup that is focused on size with guys like Liam Greentree, AJ Spellacy and Jack Nesbitt already in the fold. They will add to that with OHL Cup MVP Ethan Belchetz this season. The 6’5” 230lb winger will undoubtedly be an elite contributor in the OHL, and is a kid that may not spend all 4 years in the OHL because of how attractive his skillset will be for NHL teams down the line. Belchetz is a rare blend of size, physicality, shooting, and skill - this was on full display at the OHL Cup where Belchetz and the Oakville Rangers beat the favored Vaughan Kings to win the OHL Cup - Belchetz was rewarded with the tournament MVP after 11 points in only 7 games. With most big players, there are concerns on whether or not they’re able to generate offense in transition, and off the rush - this isn’t something Belchetz struggles with. While I wouldn’t call Belchetz’ skating a strength of his game, I also wouldn’t call it bad. He has showcased good straight line speed and acceleration, but maybe isn't the most agile kid either. He does however use his size to great effect in the offensive zone to fight for positioning on the ice and to battle for pucks down low. He combines that with some very good vision as he has shown consistently this year he’s able to feather difficult passes through multiple defenders. He also has a killer shot that is able to beat goalies from most anywhere on the ice. If he gets the puck around the goal mouth in particular, watch out because Belchetz more often than not makes the other team pay. There are many good options for the Spitfires in this spot, but when they inevitably decide to go for Belchetz they’ll have one of the biggest and most physical forward groups in the league in a few seasons, and that could very well help the team become championship contenders. Belchetz is a unicorn-like talent that has a combination of skills you rarely see from a kid his age - scary thing to consider too is that Belchetz could still be growing

2. Sarnia Sting (Brock Otten) - Adam Valentini, F, Toronto Marlboros
The GTHL’s player of the year this season, Valentini would be a great choice for Sarnia should he not go first overall to Windsor. His high end vision, skill, creativity, and skating ability all give him an extremely high offensive upside; he’s about as complete an offensive player you’ll find. Sarnia and Dylan Seca have done a great job retooling in the last calendar year, but the one thing that they could use to accelerate their rebuild is a future play driver who can make his teammates better. Insert Valentini.

3. Peterborough Petes (Keenan McEwan) - Braidy Wassilyn, F, Markham Majors
Wassilyn was a catalyst offensively all season long for the Majors, and should he be available at 3, the Petes won’t let him pass by. His ability to read defences and pick them apart was exciting to watch as he gained speed with powerful strides. Blowing past defenders, he was able to pull off moves at full speed and fire heavy shots at the net with accuracy, picking corners easily from anywhere in the offensive zone. Braidy’s vision is also high end, as he uses his teammates effectively, finding them with tape-to-tape passes with tons of time and space, as well as using the give and go to beat defenders with one touch passes. Should Wassilyn end up in Peterborough, he can step into a top six role right away and create a potent line with himself, Nico Addy, and Caden Taylor.

4. Niagara IceDogs (Connor Williams) - Brady Smith, F, North York Rangers
Another very big question coming in at number four, similar to their fifth selection in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection is, who will the IceDogs select? After the top three players are selected, there are a number of quality players that could be selected, however with the need for offence from the IceDogs, after drafting a former North York Ranger in Kevin He in 2022, they make look to draft another who does not lack offence, in the Ranger’s Brady Smith.. The vast majority of scoring came from the IceDogs top line of Gavin Bryant, Kevin He, and Ryan Roobroeck with all three putting up 50 plus point seasons and 20 plus goal seasons. Likely looking to add some more scoring depth, Smith certainly has it, scoring 50 goals this season while scoring over 100 points in just over 50 games this season with the Rangers. The highly offensive winger loved to shoot the puck this year, and for good reason. Possessing a high end shot, Smith gave goalies little time to react to his shots with one quick motion from the snap of the wrists he is able to activate the flex of his stick, generating a great deal of power and velocity in his shot. With further connections to the IceDogs organization, don’t be surprised if we see one of the top goal scorers in the 2008 born class off the board early come draft day.

5. Barrie Colts (Joely Stockl) - Alex McLean, F, Barrie Jr Colts
The visionary playmaking winger that could potentially have one of the highest upsides in this draft is Alex McLean. McLean’s vision is already at an elite level. Specifically in the offensive zone, McLean is a catalyst with the puck with his manipulation and creation of lanes. He understands how drawing opponents towards him opens up lanes for his teammates, and he is able to find them every single time. McLean makes the players around him better and he is a perfect complement to any goal scorer. Barrie Colts’ youngsters Cole Beaudoin & Riley Patterson each neared the 30-goal mark this season. By putting Alex McLean on the ice alongside them, those numbers would be a lot higher. Should McLean join the Colts next season, he would be a staple inside their top-six with the talent they have currently.

6. Flint Firebirds (Blake Bell) - Colin Fitzgerald, F, Peterborough Petes
A player who continually improved all aspects of his game all season, Fitzgerald would be very hard to pass up for Flint with the sixth overall selection should he still be on the board. Fitzgerald is a dominant force in all zones, bringing a dangerous scoring touch along with his play driving capabilities that makes him a highly rounded offensive threat who remains defensively responsible. Flint has some exciting prospects coming up the pipeline, and Fitzgerald would be a perfect addition to provide immediate impact on both ends of the ice at the OHL level.

7. Owen Sound Attack (Sean Ellison) - Cole Zurawski, F, Mississauga Rebels
One of the purest goal-scorers in the draft. Zurawski was the driving force of a Mississauga Rebels team that surprised a lot of people this year with their success. Along with his lethal shot, Cole plays a complete game consisting of a strong combination of compete, physicality, and playmaking ability. His consistency is what impressed the most, as he is able to make his presence felt every time he steps on the ice whether it's scoring a big goal or dominating physically, his compete never wavered. Should Zurawski be available at 7, I believe the Attack would do well to take him here. With the loss of Goure, Burroughs, and potentially Barlow up front, Owen Sound will look to replace some scoring. Bringing in Zurawski will help to start to fill that gap, while also adding a physical and competitive type player that fits the Owen Sound brand. 

8. Kingston Frontenacs (Jordan Malette) - Nathan Amidovski, F, Barrie Colts
The Frontenacs have quite the young forward core, and if I had to guess, they might be looking for a defenceman here. However, the defence class is a little awkward in my mind, with two of the top ones seemingly headed the NCAA route. It may be best to wait to see who is still available when the Fronts select near the top of the 2nd as the drop-off may not be that steep in who you're getting. This fuzziness around the defenders made me hesitant to pass up on the value Nathan Amidovski brings. There are quite a few 6'0+ scoring wingers in the draft, and Amidovski is my personal favourite. His ability to play under pressure, in motion, and in small areas is all so exceptional, yielding a player with all the tools to translate seamlessly to the junior game where time and space aren't as easy to find. 

9. Guelph Storm (Sean Meyers) - Zach Nyman, D, Vaughan Kings
In my opinion, Nyman has been the top defenseman in the 2008 age group for his entire draft year. His combination of high end skating, high hockey IQ, ability to generate offense, and ability to defend at his own end makes him a great pick for a team to build a team around. Over the last few weeks there has been speculation over his plans for next hockey season following a report that he has verbally committed to a team in the BCHL (post edit...he has). I believe this has led to his draft stock sliding a bit, but I believe he should still go high in the draft, and can envision him being a top defender in the league in a couple of years. Last year the Storm drafted defender Quinn Beauchesne in the first round, and adding another high profile defender in Nyman would solidify a great d-core for many years. If Nyman is still on the board, I believe Guelph is getting a fantastic pick with top 5 potential. 

10. Erie Otters (Ethan Atticus Page) - Caleb Malhotra, F, Vaughan Kings
Seeing Malhotra fall to 10 made it a no brainer for me to pick him up. Malhotra is a complete package player, in the making to be an extremely effective playmaker at the OHL level that any team would be lucky to have. Coming off a hefty injury which sidelined Malhotra for most of the season, Malhotra was able to make a strong comeback for the Kings, sliding into their top line and making positive contributions from everywhere on the ice. Malhotra’s toolkit consists of an exceptional skating ability, elite puck handling skills, an excellent shot, and an unmatched ability to locate soft areas on the ice to get open. Additionally, Malhotra is a great defensive player, as he is able to locate his man with ease and understand assignments. Malhotra was utilized on both the power play and penalty kill, which is a confirmation of his coaches trust in him. With a little more development and under the correct coaching and opportunity - which I believe Erie can provide - Malhotra is poised to become a well known OHLer. 

11. Ottawa 67’s (Kris Leblanc) - Logan Hawery, F, Barrie Colts
There are a lot of different ways Ottawa could go with this pick, but with the departure of 2 overage centremen (Kressler and Maillet) next season, I think they go with talented centreman Logan Hawery of the Barrie Colts. After a successful season playing U16 as an underager last year, Hawery came into the season already as a highly touted prospect and getting him outside of the top 10 is great value here for Ottawa. Hawery is a powerful skater with an explosive stride, good body control and he plays the game with good pace. He maintains his speed with the puck on his stick and can make plays extremely quickly. He possesses a lethal shot with a quick release and good accuracy, and he has terrific vision, using fake shots to stall goaltenders before dishing it to teammates for easy goals. Hawery is also a hard working player that loves to compete. He projects to be a first line goal scoring centreman with solid playmaking ability who can play on your first powerplay unit at the next level. He’s a player that has the ability to step into the lineup full-time as soon as next year. 

12. Sudbury Wolves (Blake Bell) - Parker Vaughan, F, Elgin Middlesex Canucks
The ALLIANCE player of the year, Parker Vaughan would be an excellent pick for the Sudbury Wolves should he still be available. Vaughan plays an explosive game both at centre and on the wing, providing the ability to take over games at both ends of the ice. His high end speed, puck handling, puck protection, and strength gives him the tools to play a powerful game at the next level, providing offense for himself and teammates while remaining defensively responsible. With the Wolves poised to potentially lose some important pieces to the NHL and/or AHL next season such as Quentin Musty and David Goyette, selecting Parker Vaughan would help to partially fill that hole as he evidently possesses an OHL-ready game. Vaughan should be able to slot into Sudbury’s forward core next season and provide immediate value and production.

13. Mississauga Steelheads (Joely Stockl) - Tyler Challenger, F, North York Rangers
Thinking about how incredible Mississauga’s young talent is, they should strive to pick a player that can jump in and transition smoothly to the major junior level. They will be looking to load up and make a deep playoff run next season, and adding a no player that will play a role in that run would be most beneficial. That player could be Tyler Challenger. Challenger plays a very mature game, and he is one of few natural centres in this draft class. He’s physically mature at 6’2” and 190lbs, but his methods of offensive creation around the net and his ability to drive the puck also translate to the OHL level right now. He generates a lot of his offence around the net, whether he is creating chaos out front, making plays down low, or driving to the middle with his strength, Challenger knows how to play his role in the offensive zone. He’s a very explosive skater for his size as well, and right now his pace would be average in the OHL — impressive for a 6’2” sixteen year old. He’s going to score a lot of flashy goals at the junior level with his hands and manipulation, but he is also going to score a lot of “garbage” goals around the net. It is easy to see Challenger playing in an OHL lineup today, and that’s what makes him valuable to a team like Mississauga. Seeing Challenger play alongside Porter Martone would also be a very exciting duo to watch.

14. Brantford Bulldogs (Connor Williams) - Luca Blonda, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
After dealing a couple top defencemen in Jorian Donovan (Saginaw) and Noah Van Vliet (Sudbury) midway through the season, and with a couple more defencemen moving on in Daniil Sobolev (Aged out) and Tomas Hamara (Potential AHL), Brantford may be looking to retool some more of their defence. After trading Donovan in particular, the Bulldogs lost that number 1 top pairing defenceman who could move the puck up ice with a great deal of efficiency. This is where a hidden (but also not so hidden) gem playing for the Pittsburgh Pens Elite program slots right in, in Sault Ste. Marie product Luca Blonda. Blonda caught everyone's attention north of the border at the end of November when Pittsburgh came up to play in the Whitby Silver Stick. As Blonda showcased his elite skating, poise and patience, and high end offensive instincts. Since that time, Blonda has only continued to get better. Rounding out his game on the defensive side of the puck as well, he has maintained that offensive flare that grabs your attention while adding that attention to detail defensively in his own end being able to use his mobility, stick, and body to shut down opposing players' offence in his team's own zone. Building on those elements of growth in his game, Blonda has the special skills as a defenceman to be able to break the puck out with his feet as a primary puck carrier, as well as with strong first passes. While he certainly won’t be playing against the Calum Ritchie’s and Porter Martone’s of the OHL’s Eastern Conference right off the bat, Blonda projects as a top pairing defenceman, who down the line, will be able quarterback offensively while driving the breakout for his team.

15. Kitchener Rangers (Ethan Atticus Page) - Callum Croskery, D, Oakville Rangers
Immediately addressing the elephant in the room, Croskery has indeed committed to the Chicago Steel of the USHL. However, we have witnessed players changing their minds depending on the situation they are in on draft day. Or they play in the USHL for a year then commit to the OHL. If Croskery is to be picked by the Kitchener Rangers, I can see a universe where he stays in Ontario. Kitchener is a powerhouse when it comes to developing young players. And with the emergence of their star defender, Hunter Brzustewicz, Kitchener has a good reputation of pumping out elite defenders. Croskery is a mold of elite two-way d-man, having all the necessary abilities to transition well at the next level. His skating is among the best of the draft, and his vision with and without the puck makes him an asset in any area and any situation. This is why I feel Kitchener will select Croskery with their 15th pick. 

16. North Bay Battalion (Sean Ellison) - Alessandro Di Iorio, F, Vaughan Kings
I’d wager he’s long gone by this point, but if he were to slide I think North Bay will be happy to select Alessandro Di Iorio here. Di Iorio really came on to the scene with his impressive tournament at the Youth Olympic games, where he put up 6 G 1 A in 4 GP.  One of the leaders on the powerhouse Vaughan Kings team, he is a force on the ice and was one of the most dominant players in U16 hockey this year. He is a big strong 2-way centreman that plays with pace, smarts, and a high level of competitiveness. Alessandro is at his best in possession where his explosiveness combined with his quick release make him a threat to score if given any time and space. He is a very smart player and can be trusted in all situations. Di Iorio has all the tools to become a top player at the next level.

17. Oshawa Generals (Keenan McEwan) - Pierce Mbuyi, F, Toronto Marlboros
The Generals are losing two to three of their top forwards next year in Stuart Rolofs, Connor Lockhart and possibly Dylan Roobroeck, if he turns pro, so drafting Mbuyi with this pick would be huge. He has the ability to create chances out of thin air, turning defenders around with bursts of speed and good hands. Pierce also has one of the best finishing abilities in this draft and can put pucks in the net from anywhere in the zone by using a deceptive snapshot that comes off his blade in a flash, even if it looks like he isn’t set up to shoot, as well as being able to catch and shoot or fire hard and accurate one-timers from the top of the circles. Pierce never looked panicked or hurried in his motions, always playing with poise and pace, which allowed him to slow the game down and play how he wanted to with the puck on his stick. Mbuyi has all the offensive tools necessary to step into an OHL lineup next year and put up points.

18. Soo Greyhounds (Steven Graves) - Cole Emerton, D, Vaughan Kings
At 18th overall I have the Soo Greyhounds going for Vaughan Kings rearguard Cole Emerton. The Soo Greyhounds are in a situation next year where they’re losing a ton of talent throughout their roster. This is especially going to hurt on defense as two of their top-3 defenders on the roster in Arttu Karki and Kirill Kudryavtsev are likely to graduate from the OHL into the AHL next season. Because of this, I have them investing their first round selection into rearguard in Come Emerton. Emerton joined the high flying Vaughan Kings last season and is a two-way defender that uses his strong skating ability at both ends of the rink to help his team. In the offensive zone, he is able to use deceptive edge work to keep the defense guessing and opening up lanes from the blueline. While in the defensive zone Emerton is so good at using his skating to keep up and suffocate chances in transition using a strong stick and anticipation. Emerton’s puck handling is also some of the best in the class, paired with his deceptive footwork, he can really make the defense look silly. I think that Emerton would be a player able to lead the blueline during Soo’s next window of competing for an OHL championship. 

19. Saginaw Spirit (Sean Meyers) - Weston Cameron, F, Toronto Marlboros
Coming off hosting the 2024 Memorial Cup the Spirit will have a big ‘futures’ pick to make at 19. I believe if he is on the board, Weston Cameron would be a great pick for them. A big, powerful, two-way centerman, Cameron would be a great asset to build around. Weston was the captain of the Toronto Marlboros of the GTHL this year, and played with top prospect Adam Valentini. He has the frame (6’03) to play at the next level, and I believe as he fills out more he will become even more impactful, and be able to play the style of game he has been so dominant at this year. When it comes to other parts of his game, he has a great shot and high end vision. In addition to his offensive skill he can be relied on at both ends of the ice, which will be a great asset for Chris Lazary and his staff to utilize in all situations. I think Weston has a lengthy OHL future ahead of him, and I think he would be a great pick to lead the Spirit through their next re-tool towards an OHL Championship. 

20. London Knights (Jordan Malette) - Alexander Hage, F, Vaughan Kings
After missing out on Will Moore, I can't imagine the London Knights taking a huge risk here with a player unwilling to commit, but I have a gut feeling Hage will end up in the OHL. There are a few premier playmakers available in this class, and Alex Hage is undoubtedly one of them. He's a tactical and cerebral puck manager who can manipulate defences out of position with slick puck moves and delays, all to open up passing lanes to feed pucks through. Hage is so effective at creating lanes and finding ways to get pucks from the exterior of the offensive zone to teammates open in the dangerous areas, sparking scoring chance after scoring chance. There are more elements to his game, but to me, the focal point has always been his playmaking abilities, which is what makes me so optimistic about him moving forward.

21. Ottawa 67’s (Kris Leblanc) - Maximus Crete, F, Upper Canada Cyclones
Sticking with the best player available approach, the Ottawa 67’s are staying local and selecting the U16 HEO player of the year, centreman Maximus Crete. The 67’s are familiar with the family, having selected his older brother, Gabriel Crete, 183rd overall in the 2019 OHL Draft. After selecting Logan Hawery with the 11th overall pick earlier in the draft, Crete gives Ottawa yet another fast skilled forward to complement their lineup. Crete is extremely mobile and fluid on his skates, he uses his elite edgework and shiftiness to maneuver around the ice with ease. Crete loves having the puck on his stick and is definitely a play driver, often creating offense for himself and teammates. He is excellent at zone entries, both 5 on 5 and especially on the powerplay. Crete has a good level of unpredictability to his game, as he’s often reading and reacting to what his opponents are giving him and does so very effectively. He excels in transition using his explosive stride to create separation while using his hockey sense to capitalize on odd-man rushes. Crete projects to be either a first or second line playmaking centreman that may need to start on the wing in his first OHL season. 

Honorable Mentions

Brock Otten

Ryder Carey, F, Oakville Rangers
Carey was the perfect complement to linemates Belchetz and Headrick this year because of his speed, skill, and creativity as a playmaker. He can really drive the pace of play and I think he can easily develop into a three or four year scoring line forward in the league. He should be a first round selection IMO.

Brady Blaseg, D, Ottawa Myers Automotive
Blaseg was a standout at the OHL Cup for me. IMO, he was one of the most impressive defenders at the event and that has to be worth something. He’s got great size, decent mobility, and looks to have potential as a solid two-way guy. I like the physical tools and the upside, even if I’ve had people tell me that consistency was an issue this year.

Kam Hodgson, F, Culver Military Academy
Previously a key member of that strong ‘08 group in Barrie (along with Vaughan defender Cole Emmerton), Hodgson left the program to play prep in the United States with Culver Military Academy. He was the U16 team’s second leading scorer this year despite being an ‘08 (playing with 07’s and 08’s) and he was top 30 among all 08’s in the US AAA loop. A member of a very strong TPH team at this year’s OHL Cup, Hodgson helped people to remember him with a very strong performance. He drove play offensively by playing a North/South power game, but he was also physical and strong in the defensive end. He looks the part of a future OHL impact player to me if he’s willing to take that route.

Steven Graves

Aiden O’Donnell, F, Steele Subaru
O’Donnell is a surprise admission to this years OHL draft class as he has played the year in Nova Scotia - but like Lane Sim last year, O’Donnell is choosing to come to the OHL and forego the QMJHL draft, where if he decided to go QMJHL - he would be a top-10 selection in that leagues draft. O’Donnell is a centerman that possesses good vision to go along with some nice playmaking abilities. He is also a really smart player away from the puck, making good reads at both ends of the rink, whether that be putting himself in good positions to score in the offensive zone or taking away passing lanes in the defensive zone. The questions with O’Donnell come down to how much of a play driver he can be at the next level. He may just end up being a high end complementary piece, and that’s okay. 

Ethan Garden, F, Detroit Little Caesars
Garden enjoyed a sporadic year for the Detroit Little Caesers, it was a year of ups and downs. The Michigan born centreman was passed up for the USNTDP selection camp and at this point it is unclear which path he might take. If he decides to come to the OHL, he is a clear first round selection but if he foregoes the league to go NCAA/USHL he could see himself fall quite far in the draft. Garden is an ultra skilled, puck dominant player. He thrives when carrying the puck and facilitating the offense. Because of this, he has some of the best transitional games in the draft. As you can imagine, has some slick puck skills and is a very good skater, also. He is quite engaged at both ends of the rink as well, so he isn’t an offensive only player. Overall, if Garden is set to come to the OHL, you can expect a player that plays with pace and is able to generate offence.

Michael D’Alessio, D, Vaughan Kings
D’Alessio is one of many impressive players on a Vaughan Kings team that has dominated the 2008 age group for many seasons now. He is one of the most talented offensive defenders available in this years OHL draft. D’Alessio is able to move the puck like very few other defenders in this class - he has excellent breakout passes and is able to facilitate a power play from the blueline. He is also a very good skater, able to glide the puck up ice with his head up, with ease. He isn’t the most refined in the defensive end, and is known for maybe over committing in the offensive end, but I’m sure with the right situation, he’ll be able to nullify these concerns - it also helps he already stands at 6’1” so he has a good physical profile to build off of. 

Blake Bell

Kohyn Eshkawkogan, D, North York Rangers
Eshkawkogan is a dynamic puck moving defenseman who is able to drive transition and offensive play from the backend for his team through his speed, vision, and puck handling ability. Equipped with a hard, accurate shot as well as excellent playmaking skills, he has all the tools to cement himself as a highly mobile blueline threat in the OHL. Keep an eye on Eshkawkogan on draft day, as he is a name that I feel could be called during the first round.

Ethan Kindree, F, Halton Hurricanes
One of the main offensive driving forces on a Halton team which unfortunately saw more regular season success than that in the postseason, Kindree immediately stands out with his explosive acceleration, quick release shot, and puck skills. He is a forward who has the capacity to play a dominant 200 foot game through using his speed and physicality to remain an active defensive presence, as well as utilizing his previously mentioned offensive skills to be effective in transition and the offensive end. Kindree has all the tools to make an impact in the OHL, and is likely to be high on a number of teams' draft lists.

Kale Mace, F, Peterborough Petes
Mace is a highly talented goal scorer who is able to produce a high volume of chances for himself both through his puck carrying skills and his ability to consistently get open in the slot. His hard and accurate quick release shot alone should help him develop into a successful goal scoring specialist at the next level, and further development of the other areas in his game will give him the potential to be a true all-situations difference maker. I like Mace’s high upside potential, and I am sure that a number of OHL teams do as well.

Joely Stockl

Dima Zhilkin, F, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
If Dima Zhilkin was 5’10”, he would be a no-brainer to be a first round pick in this draft. Instead, his size unfortunately plays a big factor in his value, this is a player with a very high ceiling. The brother of former OHLer Danny Zhilkin is an incredibly explosive and creative winger that can generate offence in droves with his electric pace. He handles contact tremendously well at this level, and his evasiveness helps him dodge pressure in tight areas. He creates space at a high level, and his confidence with the puck is high at all times. Zhilkin could be an electric top line player and creator in the OHL, but the concerns with his size and slightness could hold him back. 

Evan Headrick, F, Oakville Rangers
Evan Headrick has a lot of the same concerns attached to him as Zhlikin does, sitting at 5 '7". Headrick has elite hockey sense and awareness, and he plays with advanced pace and anticipation. He has been able to complement Ethan Belchetz, but also drive and create his own offence while on the ice with Belchetz. Headrick became his own player on a team with so much high-end skill, and his vision and hockey sense separated him from the rest. He can create in all areas of the offensive zone, and he is an elite space manipulator. He is always drawing players towards him to open up lanes for himself and teammates, Headrick is easy for players to play with. He can create offence out of nothing, and all of a sudden he’s worked himself to the front of the net for a high danger chance. Like Zhilkin, his ceiling is high as a top-six visionary creator, but there will be an adjustment period with his size and adapting to the mature physicality of the league.

Patrick Babin, D, Niagara North Stars
Babin has slowly been improving over the course of this season, and he definitely made a final statement at the OHL Cup. The Niagara North Stars were an underdog wild card team that didn’t seem to have much of a chance to make it in to begin with, but Babin was one of the main reasons they were able to make it to this tournament. Babin was dictating and creating offence from the point anytime he was on the ice at the OHL Cup. In the first part of the season, he seemed to hesitate and look unconfident at times on the ice, and he would rush plays. As the season has progressed, his confidence with the puck is higher than ever and he is looking for any opportunity to take the puck in transition or create from the point. He has high anticipation away from the puck, and he’s always in the right spots to create when his team has possession. He’s a high-end puck mover and doesn’t give the puck away too often. Babin projects as a top four puck-moving defenceman who creates heavily off of the pass. He’s a calming, reliable presence with the puck, and there isn’t a lot to worry about when he is on the ice.

Jordan Malette

Sam Wathier, D, Eastern Ontario Wild
Dual citizen Sam Wathier is expected to be named to the US NTDP, so his name may not be called on the first day of the draft, but he is still worthy of a mention. In this draft class that is definitely forward heavy, I've landed on Wathier being one of the few with top-four certainty, which has propped him up to the end of the first round on my list. While he doesn't bring the same offensive upside as some of the top defenders, Sam is proficient in nearly every other category. If you're looking for a defenceman who excels on retrievals, can find ways to break out of his zone with control consistently, defends his blueline well, and has all the desirable physical characteristics, Sam's your guy. I've always thought there's still some untapped offensive potential in his game, but the selling point is you're getting a highly projectable defender who should be a sure bet to fill a top-four role.

Ryder Cali, F, Markham Majors
I'd say pretty comfortably that Ryder Cali is the forward I've been most impressed with defensively this season. Cali is always on the right side of the puck, constantly breaking up plays all over the ice, and winning back possession for the Majors. Especially in the neutral zone, I always note him being effective at disrupting play and getting his team back on the attack. The second major aspect of his game is his tactical and methodical puck touches. It's never the flashy dangle with Ryder, but he always has a clever puck touch for the moment to evade defenders and keep play flowing up ice and positively impact transition. It may not be a "sexy" pick, but these two elements of his game always make me think he plays a highly projectable game that should translate seamlessly to junior and bring a solid two-way impact. 

Alexander Bilecki, F, Mississauga Rebels
Bilecki is the perfect polar opposite of Wathier, as his game is all about offensive involvement. His game revolves around constantly activating, whether it's on the rush or within the offensive zone, Alexander wants to get involved with the play. If there's an opportunity to get level with the play or rotate back door for a seam pass, Bilecki will almost always take advantage and explode into open space. While operating at the point, he's been easily the best passer and rarely settles for low danger shots, as he's always looking to find ways to thread pucks around the offensive zone to teammates in prime shooting locations. There's some rounding out to do in other areas, but in terms of pure offence, Bilecki is near the very top, if not the best, among defenders in the class.

Ethan Atticus Page

Kent Greer, D, Barrie Colts
A player that was likely on everyone’s radar at the start of the year, Greer stepped into OMHA east as a dominant force on the back end, showing his offensive upside. Greer’s main attribute is his skating and deceptiveness, as he is able to skate his way into any area of the ice while in possession of the puck. He makes it hard for defenders to predict his routes using his strong edgework and quick stop and start skills. 

Gage Brandon, F, Vaughan Kings
The Silver Stick MVP, Gage Brandon was a player that flew under the radar for most U16 AAA fans this season. The lethal offensive player is an excellent playmaker and goal scorer, as he is able to connect on creative passing plays and score from anywhere in the offensive zone. Without Brandon, the Kings’ offensive core would’ve had a large hole on their powerplay and during 5v5 pressure. 

Mason Roy, D, Halton Hurricanes
Roy was one of the most intriguing defensive prospects of this year's draft. Roy possesses all the necessary tools to be an effective defender at the next level; excellent skating, good puck moving ability, defensive zone awareness and positioning - to name a few. With the right development opportunities and coaching, Roy could find himself being a crucial two-way piece for any team in the OHL.

Keenan McEwan

Thomas Vandenberg, F, Ottawa Myers Automotive
Vandenberg is one of the most reliable 200-foot players available in this draft class and has the potential to be a good OHL player, and he’s not a one trick pony either. Defensively, he covers assignments well and gets down low to help out his defenceman when the play is around the net. He is quick to get his sticks on loose pucks and battles hard in corners and uses good body positioning to regain control. Once possession is gained, Thomas uses hard and quick passes to transition pucks up ice, other times using his straight-line speed to wheel the puck into the offensive third. Offensively, Vandenberg is very confident with the puck and is a threat to pass or shoot. His shot isn’t the hardest but he knows when and where to fire the puck and can catch goalies off guard. He keeps his feet moving and stays engaged away from the puck, creating off puck assists by knocking sticks out of shooting lanes or setting subtle picks for his linemates to get into space.

Caleb Mitchell, D, Peterborough Petes
Mitchell was a steady presence on the backend for Peterborough throughout the year and provided consistent offence from the blueline. He was able to start transitions with his feet and got going in a hurry or send out a nice stretch pass covering multiple zones. His poise and control with the puck at the offensive blue line was solid, keeping his feet moving and using his edges to open up shooting lanes or fake a shot and drive down the boards and towards the net. In his own zone, Caleb used his skating ability to match the speed of incoming forwards and keep a good control of his gaps, allowing him to step up and knock the puck away from his man, or force them to the outside into low danger areas. Caleb has the tools and ability to succeed at the next level and could be an impactful offensive defenceman.

Noah Barton, D, Oshawa Generals
Barton has worked his way up draft boards all year long, and for good reason. Standing at 6’2, his skating ability is some of the best you’ll see for his size. He closes gaps quickly and with force, either knocking pucks away to break up chances or stepping up to lay a huge hit and was effective at boxing out his net. Noah was an intimidating presence for the Minor Generals and learned to use his size to his advantage offensively too, starting rushes from behind his own net and working his way through defenders, some who were smart enough not to get in his way and if they were, Barton can use a different mix of dekes to open up more space for himself and get shots on net uncontested.

Connor Williams

Jacob Xu, D, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
A defenceman who played up last season with the 2007 North York Rangers, with really good size on the backend. Xu plays a mean and rugged game while also possessing a level of finesse that allows him to go from levelling players off the puck in his own zone, to transitioning the play up ice with his feet. Leading with an active stick and finishing with a strong physical presence in the defensive zone, Xu provides hints of a vintage Winnipeg Jets blueliner Dustin Byfuglien as Xu is simply able to knock over his offensive counterparts as opposed to chasing them around the defensive zone. While this aspect may not come as easily playing against bigger and stronger players at the OHL level, his feet, hockey sense, awareness, and strong stick will help him to adjust effectively as he faces that learning curve in the defensive zone that many rookie’s face in their first year in the league. Offensively, Xu provides some excitement from the backend, with the ability to skate the puck out of trouble in his own end and activate from the point in the offensive zone. Creating shot lanes with his feet, Xu is subsequently able to show off that heavy shot that he can sift through traffic or fire head on with lots of power, as a result creating scoring chances either for himself or his teammates. 

Jett Kwajah, D, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
An exciting, dynamic, high IQ offensive defenceman, Kwajah was one of my favourite defencemen to watch over the course of the season. A forward turned defenceman when he was younger, this aspect of Kwajah’s development shows in his offensive instincts as a defenceman. He consistently recognizes the right opportunities to jump up on offence in transition as an extra player or activate from the point in the offensive zone. He uses his mobility really well along with eyes to manipulate the defensive zone coverage, opening up more space and lanes for Kwajah to make plays through the high danger areas of the ice. Rotating down with and without the puck to help create high danger offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. While he can get up in the play quite quickly, with his skating he is also able to be the first one back in his position. Kwajah provided the Jr. Canadiens coaching staff with a luxury in the defensive zone, as a dual threat defenceman on the breakout using a strong first three steps to skate the puck out of pressure, as well as good vision, reads, and execution to make strong first passes on the breakout. Although he signed a tender agreement with the Madison Capitols of the USHL, as we know from previous players (I.e., Carson Rehkopf) all it takes is one team to bring a player back to the OHL.

Ryland Cunningham, F, Peterborough Minor Petes
A player who reminded me a great deal of Boston Bruins captain Brad Marchand, Cunningham was an exciting player to watch this season with his speed and skill, combined with the fire and feistiness he plays with on the ice. While he isn’t the biggest player on the ice and there’s still plenty of time to grow, Cunningham plays a lot bigger than he is. Unafraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice, whether it be first in the corners for pucks, or driving hard to the net with or without the puck, Cunningham was right in the middle of everything both in between the whistles and outside too. Cunningham was a player who Peterborough relied a great deal on offensively with his quick feet to generate speed and quick hands in tight, Cunningham had some big performances late in the season as the Petes made their run through OMHA playdowns, the OMHA Championships (without Colin Fitzgerald), and the OHL Cup.

Sean Ellison

Ben Bowen, F, Vaughan Kings
Yet another elite forward from the Vaughan Kings. Coming into the season, Ben had a lot of hype as a potential 1st rounder but due to a couple of injuries and some missed time, he has become a bit of a question mark. When in the lineup he was dynamic, providing an offensive spark for the Kings when needed. He is a big body winger, with an explosive stride and good edgework. He uses his body very well to protect the puck, making him strong in possession and along the boards. Bowen has the brain to be a very good player at the next level as well, showcasing very good vision and decision making with the puck. Ben has very high upside and it will be interesting to see where he goes in this year's draft. 

Jaxon Cover, F, York Simcoe Express
Cover is a player who seemed to get better with every viewing as the season went on. He displayed his potential becoming one of the go to guys on a very good York-Simcoe Express team in just his first complete season of AAA hockey.  He is a dynamic forward who uses his smooth skating, crafty hands, and vision to get himself and teammates into high danger areas and generate scoring chances on a consistent basis.  A player who has been trending in the right direction for a couple years now, Jaxon has a high ceiling and will be tremendous value in this year's draft. 

JC Lemieux, F, Quinte Red Devils
One of the more underrated players in the OMHA this year, Lemieux had an impressive season on a solid Quinte Red Devils squad. Although inconsistent at the beginning of the year, Lemieux stepped up his game as the season went on. He is a dynamic winger with a unique combination of strength, speed, and skill. He possesses an excellent shot and a good motor, making him very dangerous in transition. He doesn’t necessarily drive play, but doesn’t need to due to his goal-scoring ability. He is very strong on the puck, making him effective down low and when activating on the cycle. His drive and energy allow him to be effective on the defensive side of the puck as well, whether it's laying the body creating turnovers or hounding down loose pucks. As JC continues to grow and become even stronger, he will be exciting to watch moving forward at the OHL level.

Sean Meyers

Carter Hicks, D, London Jr. Knights
One of my favourite defenders from this year’s draft class is Carter Hicks. Carter was the Captain of the London Jr. Knights who won the Alliance Hockey Championship. He is a 6’02 right handed defender who is a great skater, defends and puts up points. We know how valuable right-handed defenders are in hockey, and one that can skater and has size should be high on team’s draft boards. He is a smart defender who has a great shot and strong playmaking ability. He is not afraid to use his speed and skating abilities to break the puck out of his own end, or drive it to the net to generate scoring chances. He played lots of minutes in London, in many different situations, and I believe he has the potential to be special in the OHL.  

Jackson Halloran, F, York Simcoe Express
Jackson played this season for the York Simcoe Express of the OMHA. He is an exciting and dynamic forward who was able to drive his line and generate a lot of offense for the Express. Jackson is also a great skater who is really able to change the pace and dynamic of the game as he stretches the ice and challenges defenders. He has a good shot, but also good hands that allow him to navigate through the offensive zone and open up play for his linemates. While I think his draft stock is somewhat hindered by his size, I believe teams that are able to see past that will be getting a great player who should be slotted higher. 

Beckham Edwards, F, Detroit Little Caesars
Beckham has all of the tools to be a first round pick in this year’s OHL Draft. However, Beckham signed a tender with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL earlier this year. While we have seen an increased number of tenders signed/verbal CJHL commitments this year, I believe we could still see Beckham play in the OHL at some point, with the right OHL team. He has all the tools to be a great player in the OHL. He is an exciting skilled forward who knows how to put the puck in the net. In addition to scoring, Beckham has a strong hockey IQ and is a good skater, which should allow him to take on a more impactful role as he learns the OHL. While he took an unconventional route in his U16 season, playing in the US, he was still able to get lots of exposure playing for Little Caesars. We also got to see him play at the Youth Olympic Games with team Canada, with the best 2008 born players from across the country. I believe if the right team drafts Beckham, and is able to convince him to sign and play they will be getting a great talent at a slot much lower than he should be going.  

Kris Leblanc

Braydon Lindsay, F, Ottawa Valley Titans
Lindsay was one of my favourite players to watch this year. He plays the game with so much jam and has the skill level to back it up. If you include the playoffs, he was the points leader in the HEO, while leading in the assists department with 46 in 41 games. He also played 3 U18 games, scoring 3 goals and 1 assists. There’s no doubt he produces offensively, but he brings so much else to the game, he hits everything that moves, kills penalties effectively, runs the point on the powerplay, and understands the game away from the puck. A player you love having on your team, and a player you hate playing against. His game projects well at the next level as he can play up and down your lineup, and can play a variety of roles for any given team. 

Carter Stevens, F, Ottawa Valley Titans
Stevens does it all, and it does it all extremely well. He was the straw that stirred the drink for the first line of the Ottawa Valley Titans (Lindsay-Stevens-Perrier). He wins faceoffs, can shutdown the opponents #1 centre, he can score, he can set-up his teammates and he can knock you into next week with some body checks. He was the captain of the Titans, and led by example, oftentimes dragging his teammates into the fight with him, and he was a huge reason behind the successful season by the Titans. With all the intangibles he brings to the game, he has the skill to produce offensively, and can be relied upon by his coaches in all situations, especially in the last minute of a game when protecting a 1-goal lead or looking to tie the game up. Much like Lindsay, a player you love having on your team. 

Jordan Perrier, F, Ottawa Valley Titans
Perrier is a speedster! One of the fastest skaters in this year's draft class and he can maintain that speed with the puck on his stick. He is extremely fluid on his skates and with solid edgework can utilize his speed in a variety of ways. Along with his obvious speed, he has a good level of puck skills, he possesses good puck control with soft hands and can deliver saucer passes and backhand saucer passes with ease and accuracy. He also has a powerful and accurate wrist shot that he can use going full speed, while possessing good vision and playmaking ability making him a true dual threat offensively. Look for any teams that prioritize speed as part of their evaluation process to have Perrier high up on their draft boards. 


Sunday, March 24, 2024

2024 OHL Coaches Poll - My Ballot

Sometime soon, the OHL will release the results of their annual Coaches Poll, where the league's bench bosses vote on a number of categories within their own Conference. As is the annual tradition, below you can find my own opinion on how the results should look.

One thing worth noting though. OHL teams are only allowed to submit the name of one player per category for the ballot, thus on the results you won't notice any teams having more than one player per category. On my ballot, you'll see that I don't follow that rule (and never have), as the intention of this from my end is to highlight the very best of the league without that restriction. So this works as both a prediction, and also a fake ballot if I were indeed an OHL coach (which I am obviously not).

It goes without saying that these are not the results and below is strictly my opinion. As mentioned, the results should be released soon-ish.

As is the case every year, some of these categories were really hard to narrow down; a testament to the talent level in the Ontario Hockey League. So if your favourite player isn't listed...my apologies.

Most Underrated Player
East
1. Jacob Oster
2. Owen Van Steensel
3. Marek Vanacker/Finn Harding/Andre Anania

West
1. Jacob Julien
2. Sam Sedley/Carter George
3. Trent Swick/Jett Luchanko

Most Improved Player
East
1. Anthony Romani
2. Marek Vanacker/Florian Xhekaj
3. Jacob Battaglia/Finn Harding

West
1. Jacob Julien
2. Jett Luchanko
3. Trent Swick

Smartest Player
East
1. Cal Ritchie
2. Anthony Romani
3. Luca Pinelli

West
1. Zayne Parekh
2. Denver Barkey
3. Jack Beck

Hardest Worker
East 
1. Luke Misa
2. Marek Vanacker
3. Beau Jelsma

West
1. Denver Barkey/Easton Cowan
2. Gavin Hayes
3. Coulson Pitre/Matthew Sop/Owen Beck

Best Playmaker
East
1. Cal Ritchie
2. David Goyette/Quentin Musty
3. Dalyn Wakely

West
1. Zayne Parekh
2. Denver Barkey/Easton Cowan
3. Jett Luchanko

Most Dangerous in the Goal Area
East
1. Anthony Romani
2. Luca Pinelli
3. Beau Jelsma/David Goyette

West
1. Colby Barlow
2. Matthew Sop
3. Gavin Hayes

Best Skater
East
1. Luke Misa
2. Nick Lardis
3. Paul Ludwinski/Marek Vanacker/Henry Mews

West
1. Sam Dickinson/Isaiah George
2. Carey Terrance
3. Owen Beck/Oliver Peer/Jorian Donovan/AJ Spellacy

Best Shot
East
1. Luca Pinelli/Nick Lardis
2. Anthony Romani
3. Dalibor Dvorsky

West
1. Carson Rehkopf
2. Colby Barlow
3. Braeden Bowman/Gavin Hayes

Hardest Shot
East
1. Ty Nelson
2. Connor Punnett
3. Samuel Mayer

West
1. Carson Rehkopf
2. Colby Barlow
3. Arttu Karki

Best Stickhandler
East
1. David Goyette/Quentin Musty
2. Beau Jelsma
3. Sandis Vilmanis/Luca Pinelli

West
1. Rodwin Dionicio
2. Liam Greentree
3. Easton Cowan

Best on Faceoffs
East
1. Jax Dubois
2. Dalibor Dvorsky
3. Beau Jelsma

West
1. Owen Beck
2. Pano Fimis
3. Jacob Julien

Best Body Checker
East 
1. Liam Arnsby/Ethan Procyszyn
2. Daniil Sobolev
3. Andre Anania/Roman Schmidt/Connor Punnett

West
1. Couslon Pitre
2. Braden Hache
3. Ryan McGuire/AJ Spellacy/Sam O’Reilly

Best Shot Blocker
East
1. Paul Christopoulos
2. Connor Punnett
3. Andre Anania

West
1. Braden Hache
2. Andrew Gibson
3. Taos Jordan/Matt Andonovski

Best Defensive Forward
East 
1. Liam Arnsby
2. Cole Beaudoin
3. Jax Dubois/Gavin Bryant

West
1. Matyas Sapovaliv/Owen Beck
2. Cedrick Guindon/Deni Goure
3. Marko Sikic/Easton Cowan

Best Penalty Killer
East
1. Jacob Oster
2. Marek Vanacker
3. Justin Ertel/Liam Arnsby

West
1. Easton Cowan/Denver Barkey
2. Owen Allard
3. Carey Terrance/Malcolm Spence/AJ Spellacy

Best Offensive Defenseman
East
1. Ty Nelson
2. Henry Mews
3. Samuel Mayer

West
1. Zayne Parekh
2. Rodwin Dionicio
3. Hunter Brzustewicz/Sam Dickinson

Best Defensive Defenseman
East
1. Connor Punnett
2. Andre Anania/Nolan Collins
3. Paul Christopoulos/Danil SobolevMatthew Mayich

West
1. Andrew Gibson
2. Matt Andonovski
3. Oliver Bonk/Braden Hache/Michael Buchinger

Best Puck Handling Goalie
East
1. Matteo Drobac
2. Jacob Oster
3. Dom DiVincentiis/Owen Flores

West
1. Michael Simpson
2. Carter George
3. Joey Costanzo

Best Shootout Shooter
East
1. Braeden Kressler
2. Luke Misa
3. Quentin Musty

West
1. Denver Barkey
2. Liam Greentree
3. Eduard Sale/Malcolm Spence

Best Shootout Goalie
East
1. Jacob Oster
2. Jakub Vondras
3. Mason Vaccari

West
1. Carter George
2. Brayden Gillespie
3. Charlie Schenkel

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Midseason Top 50 for the 2024 NHL Draft

It's time to update my draft board for the 2024 NHL draft now that we're past the halfway point of the OHL season.

Back in early November (on my preliminary list) I told you that I was having serious difficulty ranking this year's crop outside of Dickinson at #1. I do feel a little better about it all now. I feel pretty good about the players I have ranked in the first three spots. Then I think there's another group at 4 and 5. Then a huge glut of players ranked 6 through about 15 that I truly believe can be ranked in almost any order according to preference. The depth of this group from the OHL is still not amazing. Right now, I'd say the OHL is tracking towards about 30ish players getting selected this year. But we'll see what the second half holds.

A reminder that this list does not include potential re-entry candidates (players already passed over in the draft). Anthony Romani, for example, would easily be on this list and quite high. I do a separate list for them closer to the draft.

Here's my list:

1. Sam Dickinson - Defense - London Knights
Still my number one and I don't see that changing this year. Dickinson has such an easy projection as a pro. While I'm not quite as bullish on his high end upside as some of my scouting peers, I do think that he's a safe bet to be a longtime 20+ minute a night guy who can play in any situation. I've seen names like Noah Dobson and Alex Pietrangelo thrown around a bunch and I just don't think I see that kind of skill and creativity. I think people forget how creative and dominant in transition Pietrangelo was as an OHL defender. Ultimately I see Dickinson more in that Darnell Nurse, Brady Skjej prototype, which holds significant value inside the top 10. Where Dickinson excels for me is in his ability to start the breakout. I love his poise in the face of the forecheck. He trusts his feet and he has great scanning habits. He's just really tough to pin in. The size, mobility, and reach combination will make him a high end defensive player at the NHL level too. Right now he can be too passive at times, especially down low. But as he matures physically, I think he'll eventually become a more than adequate competitor. The point shot is a big offensive weapon for him and his decision making without the puck always stands out as a positive. He picks his spots well to creep up or jump up in the play. Early on in the season, Dickinson was struggling with neutral zone turnovers as he tried to be more of a leader in transition, but he's cut down on those in the last month or so. Although I would argue that he's cut down on those because he has simplified his approach. Whatever NHL team selects Dickinson is going to be very happy adding such a safe and stable presence to their blueline. 

2. Liam Greentree - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
The newly named captain of the Spits as an 18 year old, I don't see myself moving off Greentree at #2. I went very in-depth on Greentree for McKeen's recently, with a ton of video, so check that out if you want more on him (found here). In a nutshell, Greentree reminds me a lot of Jason Robertson at the same age. Big shot. Great puck protection tendencies. High level of skill and creativity. Great awareness and vision for a power winger. But also a need to improve his quickness and a need to improve the consistency of his two-way game. I think a lot of Greentree's skating deficiencies can be fixed with an emphasis on strength training and power skating the way that Robertson's were. I still see a lot of rankings with Greentree outside of the top 20 and I just can't understand it. Players like him; big wingers with skill and offensive upside, do not grow on trees. I really hope Greentree has a fantastic U18's for Canada in April (which seems like an inevitability given Windsor's spot in the standings) and rockets up lists to where he deserves to be placed.

3. Zayne Parekh - Defense - Saginaw Spirit
Oh boy Zayne Parekh. I mean, how can you argue with the way he's producing right now? He could end up having a draft year for the ages. The sad thing is, it wouldn't matter how many points Parekh puts up, I'm going to guess that there are some NHL scouts and executives out there who have already made up their mind about him as a draft prospect. There's going to be a lot of worry that he's more of a Ryan Murphy type who has difficulty defending at the pro level and who has difficulty replicating his offensive success at the NHL level. They're similar kind of skaters too, with elite overall mobility and edgework, but only average quickness for their size. I saw a lot of Ryan Murphy. I think that's where the comparison ends. Parekh is just such a highly intelligent offensive player. He has that "IT" factor. He's so creative; crafty. Rarely do you see him get boxed in...in any zone. He doesn't force plays very often though. While he's certainly a high risk player, more often than not it's high reward. For someone who plays like he does, he does such a good job of limiting his turnovers and his poor pinches. I get the defensive concerns. There are times where he cheats for offense. There are times where he looks disengaged physically. But there are others where he shows a really strong stick and anticipation to shut down plays. He's a unicorn. There haven't been many prospects to come through the CHL like Parekh in recent years and that's why his projection is scary. Saginaw's free flowing system also makes it difficult for scouts to imagine him fitting within their team's system. We heard the same stuff about Pavel Mintyukov in his draft year and I'd say that's working out pretty well for Anaheim right now. Would I draft Parekh in the lottery? Maybe, but there are many other high end defenders this year with more projectable physical tools. But once those players are gone, you just have to bank on Parekh's upside. The reality is that this year's OHL playoffs will make or break Parekh's draft stock...whether that is fair or not. He's going to continue to rip up the regular season. But what will he perform like with all eyes on Saginaw as Memorial Cup hosts? What will he defend like in the playoffs? The pressure on him will be enormous. 

4. Beckett Sennecke - Wing - Oshawa Generals
Another guy that I did I deep dive on for McKeen's recently (found here). I think what people need to realize about Sennecke is that he's experienced a massive growth spurt since entering the OHL. He was drafted by Oshawa at 5'10 and is now listed at 6'3 and still growing (Mom was a Canadian national volleyball player). I think this has had a negative impact on his conditioning and it helps to explain the swings of inconsistency we've seen from him this year. I saw something the other day (apologies to the author whom I can't remember) that stated the majority of great junior players are early maturers, where as the majority of great NHL players are later maturers. NHL teams are on to this and they're targeting athletic guys like Sennecke who are still growing into their frames. As he gets stronger, expect the accurary and release of his heavy shot to improve. As he gets stronger, expect the consistency of his off puck play to improve. As he gets stronger, expect his first step quickness to improve to match his excellent agility, edgework, and top speed. When all that happens, he's going to be better equipped to take advantage of his high IQ and skill. I really like Sennecke as a first round pick because I see a ton of possible outcomes for him and all of them make him a useful NHL player in some capacity. There's upside, but there's also a solid floor that could make him an Alex Killorn type.

5. Jett Luchanko - Center - Guelph Storm
I recently posted the preliminary media/scout poll for 2024 and I was actually quite shocked to see how many of my contemporaries had Luchanko outside of the top ten. This tells me that he's being massively undervalued in the amateur scouting community right now. He's transformed himself from an excellent high energy checker as a rookie to a dynamic playmaker and offensive catalyst as a sophomore. Matt Poitras making the NHL this year had to have been such a blow to the psyche of Guelph players to start the year, but Luchanko was like "hold on, I got you." I love to see that from a younger player, stepping up to put a team on his back. Luchanko's got the speed, the tenacity, the skill, and the IQ to be a top six center at the NHL level. He's also a committed two-way player and has kept up the strong off puck play that he exhibited last year, despite being counted upon to be an offensive play driver. Really the only two things missing from Luchanko's game is a high end shot (it's a weakness) and strength to win battles consistently. He can be easily pushed off the puck/knocked off stride. But what I love is that it doesn't deter him from trying to work between the dots. He's like Thomas the Tank Engine. Once the strength and conditioning improves, he's going to be even more dangerous because we'll see him playing through contact. 

6. Lukas Fischer - Defense - Sarnia Sting
This is all about projection and upside. Right now, there's no question that Fischer is NOT the 6th best player from Ontario in the draft. He might not even be in the top 20 of that list. But, I'm still of the belief that Fischer can be one of the best defenders from this class when all is said and done. The physical tools are just so projectable. You've got a 6'3, 170lbs defender (and still growing since brother and Dad are much larger) who skates really well and flashes upside at both ends. What if Fischer ends up being 6'4, 220lbs with his mobility? That's a potentially elite shutdown defender at the next level. The thing holding him back right now in the OHL is a lack of aggressiveness. He's just too passive currently. He gives up space too easily to attacking forwards. With his reach and mobility, he should be bringing the fight to attackers by stepping up earlier, or by closing off lanes with his body. But instead, he gets beat off the rush, especially in transition. I think it's a mindset that will be fixed with more experience and added strength. Because there are times where that isn't the case and it's damn impressive. There are times where he dominates down low. Playing on a rebuilding Sarnia team means that his flaws are going to be magnified without being surrounded by other high end, experienced players. Offensively, I do see upside. Not Norris winning upside. But he's skilled enough to quarterback a powerplay at this level and he can start the breakout effectively and be a transition leader. Even then, with his pedigree, I'm just really excited to see how the perception of his ceiling shifts as he fills out. Even if it's just one event, I'm really curious to see how Fischer plays in this year's Top Prospect's Game.

7. Henry Mews - Defense - Ottawa 67's
Honestly, I still don't know what to make of Mews and I've talked to several others who are in the same boat (this was evident in my aforementioned media/scout poll). The offensive production has been trending way up. I do think he has offensive upside because of his high end skating ability and penchant for being a difference maker in transition. Yet, I'm just not sure how everything comes together as a pro. The consistency of his decision making scares me. On one shift, he'll make a really intelligent read with the puck to help set up a scoring chance. On another shift, he'll make a poor one that leads to a turnover. The same can be said of his defensive game. On one shift, he'll make a great defensive play in transition, stepping up aggressively to close a gap, or a great read with his stick to force a turnover. On another, he'll completely blow a defensive assignment leading to a goal. The thing is, I know that consistency has kind of been the issue for Mews dating back to his U16 year. I wish there was more growth there. If all these kinks get ironed out, Mews is a potential difference maker in the NHL. If they don't, he likely ends up being more of a tweener. For me, I think his performance in this year's OHL playoffs are going to be critical for my final opinion. Ottawa is going to need him to come up big, even with the addition of Samuel Mayer. 

8. Carter George - Goaltender - Owen Sound Attack
Sometimes stats do tell the story. Carter George - .910%. Corbin Votary - .859%. Now Votary hasn't been great this year, but it also tells you how many prime scoring opportunities the Attack defense is giving up this year. And how often George is making great saves to keep his team in games. I just love George's vision and play reading ability. He's already very technically sound. He fights for sight lines. He controls his rebounds to limit second chance opportunities. He's aggressive in challenging shooters to make his 6'1 frame seem bigger. The mental makeup and compete are really solid. Are NHL teams going to wish George was a little quicker in the crease given his lack of size? Absolutely. But, that can be improved. If it doesn't, it probably limits George's upside and prevents him from being an NHL starter. But in a year that looks extremely weak for goaltenders in the draft, George is unquestionably my top netminder (overall) right now. It looks like NHL Central Scouting agrees with me too.

9. Luke Misa - Center/Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
I get the reservations from some in the scouting community regarding Misa. Conversely, I get those who really, really like him. That's sort of a runaround way of saying that I fall somewhere in the middle. I love the speed. Misa is one of the quickest players in the OHL. He's truly dynamic. What I like about his game this year is that he's become less reliant on it to create offense. He's moving better without the puck, has become more inside focused, and has improved his shot to become more of a dual threat. Of course, Misa is also a competitive forechecker and someone who projects to be a high quality penalty killer at the next level. At times this year, I've actually liked him better on the wing and that could ultimately be where he ends up as a pro, to simplify his game and take advantage of his quickness. I say all this, yet I just have reservations about his overall skill level/creativity and how his offensive game transitions to the NHL level. I've seen Mississauga the most of any team this year. Porter Martone (eligible next year) routinely pops off and passes the eye test as a play driver. Misa I don't think has the same ability to problem solve his way out of traffic when his speed advantage is neutralized. Yet, I still have him 9th because I like his chances of being a longtime NHL pro. At the very least, I think Misa can have a similar career to the one Michael McLeod is having in Jersey. And at the very best, he's probably a solid middle six option like an Andreas Athanasiou.

10. Gabriel Frasca - Center/Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
An offseason shoulder injury forced Frasca to the sidelines to start the year, but he's been quite solid since returning. The numbers aren't going to pop off the page at you. They're lower than some of the other Kingston draft prospects like Thibodeau and Battaglia. Yet, I really like what I've seen from Frasca this year. I think the attention to detail in his game gives him a really solid projection as a pro. Frasca is a highly intelligent player who can be highly effective in all three zones. The skating is solid (easily the best of the Frasca brothers). His bread and butter moving forward might actually be his shot. I think he has one of the best shots in this Ontario draft class. His scoring upside is excellent. Is his game more tailored for the wing where he can be a complementary piece? I think that remains to be seen. I'd like to see him drive the play more with the puck on his stick, especially when he's at center and leading the charge in transition. I'm always inclined to bank on high IQ players and Frasca is no different. No offense meant to Kingston, who want to make a nice run in this year's playoffs, but I'd love to see Frasca at the U18's in April.

11. Sam O'Reilly - Center/Wing - London Knights
I don't think anyone expected O'Reilly to be the top contender for the Emms Family Award as the OHL's rookie of the year this season. He's been playing some tremendous hockey for London the last few months as he has worked himself up the lineup. I really, really like O'Reilly. He's exactly my type of player. He works his butt off without the puck. He brings a consistent physical element. He shoots the puck well. He drives the net. He has enough skill and protects the puck well enough to be a really solid complementary piece at the NHL level. I really wanted to put him higher and there's a chance that I do by the draft, but I'm just a bit hesitant right now because I don't love his skating. I've seen some praising his speed on social media, and I just don't see that. I think his stride is clunky and it lacks power, preventing him from getting clear separation. Luckily, O"Reilly is a smart player and his game is predicated on quick touches in the offensive zone, so it doesn't hurt him right now. But I can find a ton of clips where he just isn't able to evade pressure as a transporter. Once he gets going, he can be tough to stop moving North/South. He'll beat defenders off the rush. But, there's not a lot of variability in those attacks currently. He'll try to switch into a mohawk-esque stride at times to help him protect the puck, often receiving passes at 10-2, but he struggles to explode coming out of those pivots. He's very much in that second round range for me and I'd go to bat for him at the scouting table, but I do have some concerns about his skating ability limiting his upside.

12. Cole Beaudoin - Center/Wing - Barrie Colt
I thought that it was fitting to have O'Reilly and Beaudoin back to back given some skating issues. I think O'Reilly is unquestionably a better mover overall so I give him a slight nod right now, but Beaudoin is a similar kind of player; a guy who projects as a solid pro because he plays a mature game that should translate well. Beaudoin is already a committed defensive player and excellent penalty killer. Not only does he have a great stick, but he's strong on and off the puck and is consistently engaged physically. I'm not going to lie, after his terrific Hlinka/Gretzky, I had higher expectations for him offensively this year. Overall Barrie has been a major disappointment and part of the reason for that (outside of injuries) has been the inconsistent play of their younger players. My live viewings of Beaudoin haven't been terrific this year, as he's been fairly invisible in them. So even if I like him, that does make it tough for me to rank him highly. The reality is that even if the skating has improved already, it still has a ways to go. Simply put, he works best as a complementary piece right now when he's not responsible for being the primary play driver...which is what we saw at the Hlinka/Gretzky too. 

13. Ryerson Leenders - Goaltender - Mississauga Steelheads
Leenders is such an interesting foil compared to Carter George. Two somewhat undersized netminders by today's standards, yet they play such different styles. Leenders is more of a "stopper." By that I mean he relies solely on his athleticism to make saves. And he does just that. He's been one of the better netminders in the OHL this year for a surprising Mississauga team. He routinely makes highlight reel saves look easy with how quickly he covers his posts and with how well he tracks the play at times. But unlike George, the technical components of Leenders' game remain much more unrefined. His rebound control, in particular, can be a real problem. He can struggle to catch pucks cleanly, trap pucks to his chest, or control his pads, kicking out second chance opportunities. Additionally, Leenders can be prone to giving up bad goals by failing to find pucks through traffic. He needs to battle for sight lines and play more aggressively in his crease, especially given his average size. I get why some of my scouting peers prefer Leenders because of his athleticism and upside. But I prefer George. Even still, Leenders is my second ranked goaltender for the entire draft and someone I wouldn't hesitate to draft come June. There is so much to work with.

14. Marek Vanacker - Wing - Brantford Bulldogs
Easily one of the most improved 2006 born players in the OHL this year. He's gone from being a good skater as an OHL rookie (his skating was certainly one of the reasons why Brantford drafted him in the first round), to an elite one as a sophomore. Without question, Vanacker is one of the quicker players in the OHL. I really like his odds of developing into a high end middle six option for an NHL team down the line. He has good habits away from the puck and projects as a strong two-way player at the pro level. He plays a solid North/South game, using his speed to attack the net, with and without the puck. He has a heavy wrist shot and could easily be a strong complementary scorer at the next level. I think of some other players who have had similar profiles from the OHL in recent years (like Alex Formenton, Liam Foudy, etc) and I'd say Vanacker has been more consistently dangerous in his draft year than they were. I could easily see NHL teams valuing Vanacker more than a guy like Cole Beaudoin because the skating is better. I think what I'm looking for the rest of the way is more proof that Vanacker has the skill, playmaking ability, and creativity to play higher up a lineup down the line.

15. Ben Danford - Defense - Oshawa Generals
Danford is just a really solid, potential stay at home defender for the NHL level. I kind of wish the physical tools were just a bit better (he's not a high end skater, nor does he have elite reach), but the defensive mind and compete level are just really solid. Danford is already one of the better shot blockers in the OHL because of how well he reads the play. His gap control is excellent and he has a really active stick in both the neutral zone and defensive zone. He competes below the goal line and takes away space, although I wouldn't classify him as an overtly physical player. Don't confuse him with a throwback stay at home defender like a Derian Hatcher. I think what I like most about Danford is the growth in his play with the puck this year. That's never going to be his role in the NHL, but he's cleaned up some of the turnovers that plagued his game last year and that were visible at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup. He's worked to simplify his approach by improving his scanning habits and is getting the puck off his stick quicker in the defensive end. Additionally, we're actually seeing him jump up in the play and activate offensively. The shot is designed to strictly generate second chances and is probably an after thought at the pro level, but he holds the blueline well and has enough skill to navigate the neutral zone to help gain the zone. Additionally, he's a right shot guy, which we all know adds value. I think there is a real shot that he could be an Erik Cernak kind of guy at the next level.

16. Jakub Fibigr - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
Honestly, part of me wanted to rank Fibigr higher. I've been so impressed by the first year defender from Czechia. He's one of the best skating defenders in this class and he does a great job of using his skating ability to bring value at both ends. He's a very active defender who loves to be aggressive by trying to be disruptive in the neutral zone and he will look to be physical high in the defensive zone to help disrupt clean zone entries. Occasionally this does see him get burned, but his quickness often helps him recover quickly. Offensively, he's aggressive in leading the charge out of the defensive zone and will look to push deep into the offensive zone after successfully gaining the line. It's not uncommon to see Fibigr playing below the opposing goal line. He also does a good job of running the powerplay, using his lateral quickness and edges to beat pressure to work inside the dots and collapse the box. His shot is an OK weapon, but he could stand to do a better job of getting pucks on net, especially with his ability to walk the line and be evasive. I guess the concern I have is projecting Fibigr to the NHL level. I'm not really sure what he is. His decision making at both ends is so raw. I'm also not sure that he's skilled enough or creative enough to be a true offensive catalyst at the next level. His skating advantage won't be as much of a weapon once he exits the junior level and that's his biggest weapon right now. I like many components of his game, but I wonder how it all comes together. Still a 75-100 guy for me though. 

17. Luca Testa - Wing/Center - Brantford Bulldogs
Simply put...Testa just has to stay healthy. Started the year late due to injury, then he missed another month and a half before the holidays. This has had a negative impact on his development. He was playing some phenomenal hockey in November before the second injury and I don't think he's been quite as effective since returning at the beginning of the month. But, I really like the offensive upside. I think he's one of the most naturally skilled/gifted forwards in this crop. Every aspect of his offensive game is above average. He skates well. He handles well. He shoots the puck well. He has good offensive instincts and can drive play. I really like shift from being perimeter focused as a rookie (and even as a U16 player, to an extent) to trying to play between the dots as a sophomore. He's using his speed to be a high energy player off the puck and he's trying to earn touches. Much like Jett Luchanko, it's about adding that strength to be more consistent. Testa can be pushed off the puck and since returning from injury, I've noticed more offensive turnovers from him. I think he's pressing a bit. But I just really appreciate the adaptations that he's made this year to help him become a better OHL player and pro prospect. 

18. Jacob Battaglia - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
I got a ton of questions about Battaglia after the release of the initial media/scout poll and the fact that Battaglia didn't receive a single vote. I think that's an extremely valid point considering how good Battaglia has been this year. Why isn't he getting more attention? The skating is probably the main reason. There is a definitive need to improve his quickness. I think there's a desire to see his physical play become a little more consistent too. While a big body, I'm not sure that I'd classify Battaglia as a power forward. All that said, I have been consistently impressed with Battaglia's play in the offensive zone this year. I think that he's a real high IQ guy. Equal parts goal scorer and playmaker, it's rare to see Battaglia turn the puck over. He's poised and patient, willing to use his size to protect the puck along the wall and work the cycle. Give him room and he could burn you. The skill is there and he consistently finds those soft spots in coverage, especially in that home plate area. 15 years ago, Battaglia would have been a first round pick IMO. Now, he's more of a gamble outside of the first two rounds, in hopes the athletic profile improves. Can an Andrew Brunette type find success in the NHL these days? 

19. Luca Marrelli - Defense - Oshawa Generals
I'm having a bit of a tough time with Marrelli this year. I believe a lot of others are too, based on some conversations that I've had. Some really like him, others are a bit hesitant. That hesitation comes from projecting him to the NHL level. He has a similar profile to the Stuart Percy, Roland McKeown types that have had a bit of a rough time transitioning to the NHL. Yet with a solid frame, good mobility, and good offensive instincts/vision...all from the right side...he's rightfully drawing significant draft attention. Efficiency is the name of the game here. I really like how Marrelli holds the offensive blueline and the poise he shows inside the offensive end. He's definitely a high IQ guy with the puck on his stick and he's a quick thinker who handles pressure well. The same could be said when he has the puck on his stick in the defensive zone. It's all about making quick plays to help start the breakout. No nonsense. Defensively, he's not as effective as his teammate Ben Danford, but he's more than adequate at the junior level. Again, it's those good instincts that help him get his stick in passing lanes and anticipate play well. As mentioned, I guess I just wonder what the projection is? I don't really see him as a powerplay quarterback at the NHL level. I don't really see him as a high end defensive guy either. With a late birthday, there's going to be a little less room to grow too. It's a little more what you see is what you get. You draft him inside the top 100 (which I would still do) and you hope the athletic tools improve a little more to make him just that little more dynamic.

20. Kieron Walton - Wing - Sudbury Wolves
The big man has had quite the breakout for Sudbury this year as a secondary scoring option behind that terrific first unit. When Walton was drafted into the OHL, the consensus was that things would go one of two ways, either Walton would fail to become an OHL player because of major consistency issues or he would become an OHL star. He was the biggest boom/bust pick of that draft and for that reason he fell out of the first round. Well he's certainly proving a lot of doubters wrong at this point. NHL scouts are going to be rightfully interested in Walton's size/skill package. At 6'6, Walton's high end skill makes him a bit of a unicorn. He's such a dangerous North/South attacker because he's actually a good linear skater for someone his size. He can beat defenders wide with speed, but can also play through them and keep the puck in his hip pocket to drive the net. I wouldn't classify his shot as elite, but he's got really good hands in tight and has that ability to work inside checks to get pucks on net. The off puck play remains a big work in progress. The overall skating profile needs to improve. His East/West movement, edgework, agility, balance...all need to improve to truly unlock his upside. However, the reward far outweighs the risk here if you can get Walton in this range. Higher? I think I just have other preferences at this point in the season. 

21. Nathan Villeneuve - Center - Sudbury Wolves
Villeneuve has had to take a bit of a backseat this year, given the strength and the depth of the Wolves' forward group. The former third overall pick has struggled a bit with consistency, but that's to be expected when your ice time fluctuates. As such, I've had a hard time determining my opinion on Villeneuve's high end upside. I love the physicality and the potential to develop into a very good two-way center. He's one of those guys old school scouts would say, "plays the right way." Yet, I think Villeneuve is often most noticeable when he is supporting the offense rather than leading it. He gets himself to the net, he wins those board battles, and he finishes well in tight. I think the skating has improved a lot this year to the point where his speed is a strength. I'd probably say the overall skill level/package is only average. However, he is one of the few guys on this list that I do expect to stick at center as a pro and that will give him higher value to NHL scouts (thus him being ranked higher on lists like NHL Central Scouting). I plan to really get a better look and read on Villeneuve in the second half. Is he Luke Glendening? Erik Haula? JG Pageau?

22. Kevin He - Wing - Niagara IceDogs
Playing on the IceDogs can't be easy. Last place in the entire OHL (as of writing this) and roster turnover has been a staple of the current management group. Yet, I do like the collection of young talent that they have assembled. He is certainly in that group. He's undergone a real interesting transformation this year. He's become quite the pest. I've seen a lot mentioned about He's scoring upside and his speed, but rarely do you hear about his physicality. It's become a huge part of his game. He's like a pitbull in the offensive zone. I'd actually probably consider him one of the most physical forecheckers in the entire OHL. Watching him this year has kind of invoked memories of watching Stefan Legein back in the day with Niagara. Pairing with those pest like tendencies is He's goal scoring ability. He can really fire it. I guess the concern that I have revolves around his vision and playmaking ability. It's by far the most inconsistent component of his game. It brings to light concerns over just how well he sees the ice as he skates himself into trouble or settles for lower percentage shots. I do believe some of that can be attributed to playing in Niagara and having the desire to do things yourself. But, the concerns remain.

23. Christopher Thibodeau - Wing - Kingston Frontenacs
Thibodeau's skating and the energy he brings without the puck are the first two areas that you're bound to notice about his game. He plays at a lightning quick pace and routinely gains the offensive blueline for Kingston to help them establish zone time. I think the shot is a potential weapon for him too, especially after he bulks up a bit and is able to fight through traffic more consistently to get looks from the slot. His release is really quick. Even though he's extremely slight, he is actually fairly slippery in the offensive zone thanks to his skating ability; consistently darting in and out of traffic, altering his speed to evade pressure. The hands and skill are solid too. Consistency has ultimately been an issue this year. Because of his lack of size, he goes through stretches where he is kept to the outside. Given that he's a late born 2005, I just wish the production was a bit better. He's taken great steps forward this year, but when you compare his progress with a guy like Luke Misa, it becomes less impressive. I do like Thibodeau as a mid round gamble though. I think that there's upside here as a middle six option.

24. Anthony Cristoforo - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
It's been quite the fall for Cristoforo, a player who started the season with first round consideration. Seems like the OHL has a defender every year now who fits that description (Cam Allen and Spencer Sova, for example). I do believe that a lot of this is circumstantial. The Spitfires have been a mess defensively this year and it has not helped Cristoforo stand out in a positive way. He's struggled in his own end too and it's been magnified because of the team's struggles overall. I still believe that Cristoforo is a highly intelligent playmaker from the backend. The vision, especially once inside the offensive zone, is top notch. But, the physical tools just haven't improved this year. We haven't seen that jump in skating and physicality that you typically see from sophomore defenders in the CHL. Not calling Cristoforo a poor skater by any means, but when you compare him to last year, it's clear that he hasn't become more explosive to help him be a more consistent difference maker. And the lack of physicality is evident. He's just not winning enough battles down low or near the crease. Ultimately, the U18's are going to be massive for Cristoforo's draft stock. Canada is likely to be missing many of the top defenders in this age group due to deeper runs in the playoffs and that opens the door for Cristoforo to play a much larger role than he did at the Hlinka/Gretzky. I still have belief in him, but I am worried that his skill set screams tweener more than longtime NHL defender, thus the mid round ranking. 

25. Riley Patterson - Center - Barrie Colts
Patterson has recovered well from a slow start. He's been a point per game guy since the holiday break. It's clear that he's starting to adjust finally. Patterson has a well rounded skill set. He's a good skater. He's a competent three zone player who should become a quality two-way guy as he gains strength. He can create in transition with his speed and skill. He finds soft spots in coverage in the offensive zone and shows good vision down low. He's just a well rounded player. Therein lies a bit of the issue. What is Patterson at the next level? I still see him as a player trying to find an identity at this level. Consistency has been an issue, much like the rest of Barrie. He's had problems with offensive zone turnovers as he can get easily pushed off the puck and skates himself into trouble. Kind of like Nathan Villenueve, I think he's been at his best as a support guy, rather than a play driver. That's not necessarily what you like to see from your center. But given that it's his first year in the OHL, I'd have no trouble fighting from him at the table in the mid rounds. There are a lot of different pathways for him to take as he matures physically.

26. Parker Von Richter - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads
I continue to be a big fan of Von Richter's. The offensive game hasn't developed the way that I had hoped it would. I think the skating still needs to be upgraded too. Yet, I'm always impressed by him defensively. I think he's got a great mind for the game in the defensive end. He covers the net front and the slot well, rarely losing a battle for position and consistently getting his stick in passing lanes. He's a physical player who uses his size/strength as leverage to win board battles, suffocating his opponents. NHL scouts are going to wish he were a bit bigger than 6'1, but his right shot gives him value. While I wouldn't rank him nearly as high as I had him early in the year or offseason, I still would look at him late because I think there could be a place in the league for PVR despite some current limitations. I love the young make-up of this Mississauga team and he'll be right there growing with them all. Maybe he tops out as a Zach Bell type and never progresses further. But, maybe just maybe he ends up a Marc Methot type too. In the later rounds, as much as upside is intriguing, so is finding guys who can be possible role players in the future. 

27. Ethan Procyszyn - Center - North Bay Battalion
A lock to be drafted by an NHL team this year because of how he projects as a bottom six, PK anchor down the middle. Procyszyn is a 6'3 center who skates well, has good two-way instincts, is strong without the puck, and who does have some upside as a shoot first pivot because of a heavy shot. The NHL upside is likely fairly limited. But he should develop into a solid junior scorer at some point too, a prerequisite to being even a bottom six NHL contributor. At the very least he could be a solid depth option like Mackenzie Entwistle has turned into in Chicago. At best, maybe he can be a Nick Bjugstad type. There's a solid pro projection here. 

28. AJ Spellacy - Wing/Center - Windsor Spitfires
I was a Spellacy truther to start the year, but he had such a rough start to the year that I just had to move him down my rankings. My last few viewings of Windsor he's been much better and is finally starting to look comfortable again following the knee injury he rehabbed late last year and into the offseason. I think at this point, it's fairly obvious that his offensive upside is fairly limited. He's had some trouble finishing off plays (his shot needs to improve a lot) and the hands are not a huge strong suit at this point in time. He's at his best when he keeps things simple in a physical, North/South game. But I think that he can eventually turn himself into a really solid three zone guy who brings versatility with his power game. Maybe he's eventually a longtime pro like an Austin Watson? I just like the idea of using later round picks on guys like Spellacy who have intriguing athletic tools and who have solid floors.

29. Jack Van Volsen - Center - Mississauga Steelheads
Van Volsen, previously thought to be one of the most talented forwards in this age group, just hasn't developed according to plan at this point. He's strictly a complementary guy currently; he does see the ice well and he does have the skill to make plays under pressure. But the physical tools just need to improve greatly for him to be a true difference maker. The skating hasn't improved since his U16 days and it prevents him from being a dynamic play creator. The strength and desire to physically engage needs to improve. Simply put...on most nights on this very strong, young Mississauga team...he's just there. The problem is that he still has the potential to be so much more than that. At this point, I'm not sure he gets drafted. He probably deserves to be ranked lower than this. However, I also think that at this point of the rankings, he's the one guy who does have that upside to be a huge swing for the fences if he figures things out. 

30. Frankie Marrelli - Defense - Ottawa 67's
I actually do really like Marrelli. He's a tough as nails defensively oriented defender. Really like how he defends pace, even without elite reach and mobility. He just anticipates the play so well and he's aggressive in his approach to take away space early. He has that penchant for the big hit, but times his physicality well. Offensively, Marrelli does have some upside I think, at least at the junior level. He can make a clean exit pass and he looks comfortable at the point in the offensive zone. His shot shows potential once he gains more confidence in it. I guess the concern I have is how few guys Marrelli's size make it as "stay at home" types in the NHL. It's just such a rarity. If he were an elite skater, I'd like his odds better. As is, I'd say that he's probably a long shot to be drafted at this point. However, I'd advocate for him late because I do think that he has some real standout qualities in his own end.

31. Lucas Ellinas - Wing/Center - Kitchener Rangers
Physical, two-way forward who projects as a center down the line (IMO) despite the fact that he's mostly played on the wing this year due to Kitchener's depth. The Rangers have used him a lot in key defensive situations despite his age. He's not as good of an athlete as Ethan Procysyzn, but he projects similarly. I don't see significant upside as a pro, but he could end up being a solid role player down the line.

32. Kaden Pitre - Center - Flint Firebirds
Similar player to his brother Coulson, only he's a natural pivot. He's also just not quite as skilled or as physically dominant. When you take those things away, but add in the "average skating" tag, you do have a player who can be a bit difficult to project as a pro. Kaden is pretty solid across the board, but without any above average qualities, what kind of role does he play at the next level? I think that's why we've seen him so far down many draft rankings (like NHL Central Scouting) despite solid production for a rebuilding Flint team. All that said, he's another guy that I'd advocate for in the later rounds. When his physical maturation is finished, I'd be curious to see if a few of those qualities elevate to above average, making him a high energy bottom six option.

33. Nathan Aspinall - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Massive winger (6'7) who looks a bit like a tree out there. There's a real need to bulk up. When that happens, I'm very curious to see where his game ends up. I don't think he'll ever be the kind of guy who uses his size consistently; he's not a true power forward. But he does have a heavy shot and he can finish in tight. Can the skating improve as he improves his conditioning? A true North/South attacker, teams will be very intrigued by Aspinall's size and scoring combination.

34. Landon Miller - Goaltender - Soo Greyhounds
Big netminder who has been making the most of limited appearances as a back-up this year. He's a great athlete, but as you might expect, consistency has been an issue. Rebound control has been a big culprit of that. Ditto for his positioning and angles. But he's a solid stopper with upside. I think he's an NHL pick, especially if he keeps playing well down the stretch.

35. Bode Stewart - Wing - Barrie Colts
Stewart has the pro size and off puck tendencies to be a solid two-way player. He's done a good job killing penalties for Barrie this year and I'm always impressed by his effort at both ends. I think he does have some skill to play a North/South, net driving game. Firstly, he needs to stay healthy. Injuries have derailed his development a bit this year. Secondly, his skating needs to improve. Once he fills out, he'll be a very solid OHL player IMO, it's just a matter of whether he's more than that.

36. Charlie Hilton - Wing - Ottawa 67's
Hilton has been in and out of the lineup in Ottawa. He hasn't always been very impactful. Pucks have had a tendency to die on his stick, especially in transition. Yet, I find myself so intrigued by the bits and pieces of strong play that he does show. He's got great size, plays a physical game and actually isn't a terrible skater. There's upside here. Big guys can take longer, especially from a coordination perspective. On effectiveness alone this year, he's not in the top 50. But I just think that there might be something there in the long run.

37. Charlie Paquette - Wing - Guelph Storm
After a really strong start to the season, Paquette's offensive game has dropped off a cliff in recent months. He just hasn't been as noticeable. And as a late born 2005, that's probably not going to cut it for NHL scouts. I think he still has great upside as an OHL scorer because of the frame, physical approach, and heavy shot, but he's just not getting to those soft spots consistently enough. His confidence with the puck seems to have fallen off too. 

38. Cole Davis - Wing - Windsor Spitfires
Davis is a true high energy guy. He's all over the ice and is great in puck pursuit. He has been a real nice surprise for Windsor this year in what has been a really disappointing season. Put him beside high skill guys and he's going to standout with how he does the dirty work on his line and works to earn touches. But he's not huge and he's not exceptionally quick (it may seem that way because he never stops moving his feet, but he's not really a speedster). He's also not a high skill guy. I have Davis ranked here out of respect for how he always catches your eye, but in reality, he's probably just a really solid OHL guy and not more. The second coming of Cory Tanaka.

39. Mason Zebeski - Wing - Mississauga Steelheads
A player with a real strong sense of identity. You'd probably expect that given his late 2005 birthday. He knows how to leverage his size/strength advantage to get to the net and to win battles for the puck. He can finish off plays in tight with good enough hands. Skating isn't a weakness either. I know NHL Central Scouting has him ranked much higher, but I'm just not sure I see NHL upside. Really like the player as an OHL player, especially alongside this great, young Steelheads group. He's the perfect complement to guys like Misa, Martone, etc. But I'm not sure I see more.

40. Owen Protz - Defense - Brantford Bulldogs
Really have my eye on Protz in Brantford. He caught my eye a lot in Sudbury with limited ice time, but now he's getting nearly 20 minutes a game in Brantford. I like the size, mobility, and physicality. Now it's time to see what the ceiling is as an offensive player. With continued strong play for the Bulldogs, he'll be much higher on my final list. For now, this is a fairly temperate ranking.  

41. Jack Brauti - Defense - Barrie Colts
A real unsung hero for Barrie this year; one of the few pleasant surprises in what has been a disappointing year. The trade of Connor Punnett has opened up space and more ice time for Brauti. He's been a real steady defensive presence. I'd actually classify him as the most physical defender available from the OHL this year. He blocks shots. He clears the crease. Now it's time to see if he can handle more responsibility with the puck. Putting he and Protz beside each other made sense.

42. Jakub Chromiak - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
The trade to Kingston hasn't really done much for Chromiak's sinking draft stock. Once thought of as a highly promising prospect, Chromiak just hasn't developed the way many thought he would. I think the best term to describe him would be vanilla. He's a good skater. He's a good puck mover. But he's not innately skilled enough to be a true difference maker offensively or a high end powerplay QB. Additionally, he has struggled defensively since coming to the OHL. The physical engagement level isn't high enough. I say this with disappointment too, as someone who liked his brother. 

43. Alex Kostov - Wing - Flint Firebirds
Another guy I'm watching closely with a new team. A big winger, Kostov had moments with the Greyhounds. I think there's still good offensive upside as a scorer. But he needs to add strength and find a way to the middle of the ice more consistently. Let's see what he does in Flint.

44. Jared Woolley - Defense - London Knights
Firstly, Jared is not the son of former NHL defender Jason Woolley. But he is a potential draft pick because of his size and the faith NHL teams have in the London development model. At 6'4 and well over 200lbs, Woolley has stood out at times as a stay at home type. Mobility and puck skill need to improve, but I'm sure he'll have his fans. After playing much of the year in the GOJHL, I want to see more from him down the stretch.

45. Sam McCue - Wing - Owen Sound Attack
Basically Mason Zebeski. Sam is a late born 2005 who understands how to be a strong support player with his size and ability to work between the dots. He competes hard away from the puck and is a typical Owen Sound type of player. I think Mason's offensive ceiling is just a tad higher, but he could draw NHL interest all the same.

46. Karsen Chartier - Goaltender - Sarnia Sting
It can't be easy to be a goaltender in your draft year on a rebuilding team like Sarnia. Really magnifies your flaws as you face high end scoring chances by the dozen. But Chartier has had some moments of real brilliance this year. Big kid. Good athlete. Shows potential as a play tracker. He's someone to watch in the future even if he doesn't get drafted this year because of consistency and technical issues.

47. Matthew Virgillio - Defense - Soo Greyhounds
Once upon a time ago, Virgillio was considered one of the best defenders in this age group. But his development in Sault Ste. Marie hasn't really gone according to plan. I do think some of that is circumstantial. The Hounds brought in Karki this year and he's essentially stolen the role I thought Virgillio would play this year. With less ice time, his confidence with the puck seems low. Every once in a while you can see the offensive upside he possesses because of his skating ability and creativity. But, at this point he's just not a true draft prospect. Deserves to be ranked IMO, but not highly. Worth noting that the Soo has had several defenders develop into NHL players later in their OHL careers.

48. Josef Eichler - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
Physical, stay at home type who has been eating minutes for the Spits this year as a first year Import. Average size. Average mobility. Below average puck skill. I've seen him ranked highly on some lists...like NHL Central Scouting, but I have many other preferences.  

49. Caden Kelly - Wing - Ottawa 67's
I really thought Kelly would be more of an impact player this year for the 67's. Liked him a lot as a high energy guy as a rookie. This year, he just hasn't been able to earn more ice time and I'd argue that his off puck play and high energy approach hasn't been as consistent this year. A player to watch in the future still.

50. Carson Woodall - Defense - Windsor Spitfires
The offensive production at the beginning of the year has proven to be unsustainable. But the Spitfires have definitely found someone who can be a longtime contributor to their roster through this rebuild. Woodall is just a really smart defender. The athletic tools aren't great (size, mobility, skill), so I'm not sure I see an NHL draft selection in his future, but he's going to be a solid four year OHL guy IMO.