Thursday, May 3, 2018

2018 OHL Playoff Preview - OHL Championship

The OHL Finals kick off tonight; a battle of the two number one seeds in Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie.

Went 1-1 in the Conference finals with my predictions. Kingston let me down. So I'm now 12-2 for this year's playoffs.

Here's my look at the OHL Championship.

1. Hamilton Bulldogs vs. 1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Season Series: 1-1 Tie (both games won by the home team)
Analysis: Here we go. A battle of the two OHL juggernauts. No upsets here. Two evenly matched teams, even if the Greyhounds had more media attention as the CHL's top ranked team. Let's start with Hamilton. Kaden Fulcher has been solid in net, which has been the case all year.. He's supported by a very veteran heavy defense who are extremely physical. Up front, the Bulldogs get balanced scoring from three lines and can break you down on the cycle, or beat you with speed. Robert Thomas has been sensational in these playoffs and has proved to be worth the extremely high asking priced paid to London for him. Sault Ste. Marie is structured a little differently. Goaltender Matthew Villalta has been a little shaky in these playoffs, but he's made the big saves when he's needed to in two games sevens. Their defense is based upon being able to move the puck and limit zone time for the opposition, instead of playing through more brute force. Up front, they are designed very similarly to Hamilton. Three solid scoring lines who can beat you with speed, skill, and force. Boris Katchouk has unquestionably been the team's best player in these playoffs. So who wins out? The special teams for both of these squads have been nearly identical in proficiency these playoffs. One factor that likely plays in Hamilton's favour is how fresh they are. Hamilton is coming off a relatively quick series against the Frontenacs while the Greyhounds have had to endure back to back game 7's against physical clubs. I also think Hamilton has the clear advantage in goal right now. I think the Soo's speed will be hard for Hamilton to contain, as their defensive unit isn't quite as mobile. Prior to the playoffs, I had pegged the Greyhounds to be victorious. But I'm going to switch here. I just think that fatigue may be a huge factor and the Bulldogs goaltending has been vastly superior. When you've got two extremely close clubs battling it, that can be the difference.
Prediction: Hamilton in 6

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018 OHL Playoff Preview - Conference Finals

Conference Finals kick off tonight in Hamilton with the Eastern Conference getting first kick at the can. Quite frankly, no real upsets yet, although the last round gave us a few close calls. Kitchener and Sarnia was always going to be a toss up, but I think most expected Hamilton, Kingston, and the Soo to be part of the final four.

If you recall, my opening round preview was completed for McKeens Hockey, and you can find that here. Went a perfect 8-0 in my first round predictions and 3-1 in my second round predictions making me 11-1 so far.

Here's are my Conference final previews:

Eastern Conference

1. Hamilton Bulldogs vs. 3. Kingston Frontenacs
Season Series: Hamilton leads 4-2
Analysis: No offense meant to all the other series that have already played or will be played in the future. This is the match-up that I've truly been looking forward to. Two extremely well matched, veteran laden teams. Hamilton took the season series that saw 4 out of 6 games decided through overtime or shootout. And 5 out of 6 were decided by one goal. Talk about intensity. Up front, I think it's a toss up. Kingston's size with the likes of Vilardi, Jones, Robertson, etc could certainly work to tire out Hamilton's defense. But Hamilton has just as much depth, if not more in terms of scoring. On the defensive end, I give the slight advantage to the Bulldogs. Deep unit. Veteran unit. More so than Kingston anyway, even with defending Memorial Cup winner Sean Day on the squad. It's in net that I give a clear advantage to the Frontenacs. Kaden Fulcher is a great goalie. But Helvig has the experience advantage and he's been so good in these playoffs (+.920 save percentage). I also like all the playoff experience in Kingston's lineup, and that is invaluable when we get to this point in the postseason when guys really start to get tired. When I filled out my bracket before the postseason began, Kingston was my choice to come out of the East and I'm sticking with that. It will be a close series, but I look at Kingston's ability to work the cycle game, their veteran stability, and their advantage in net to help them get a competitive edge.
Prediction: Kingston in 6

Western Conference

1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 2. Kitchener Rangers
Season Series: Sault Ste. Marie leads 4-0
Analysis: Look, don't let the Soo's regular season dominance of this series make you believe that this one will be a cake walk. Only one of those games came after the trade deadline when Kitchener greatly improved their squad. Kitchener's goaltending really struggled in those regular season matchups, with 3 out of 4 started by someone other than Mario Culina. Culina was great in the Sarnia series and will look to continue that into this series. Meanwhile, Matthew Villalta struggled against Owen Sound and will need to prove himself against an equally formidable foe in Kitchener (compared to Owen Sound). Quite frankly, I think that Owen Sound largely outplayed the Soo in the last round, but their goaltending just let them down. The Greyhounds will need to be better in order to beat Kitchener because Culina can shut the door. Cutting down their defensive zone turnovers is a must, especially against a Kitchener forecheck which is extremely strong. What the Soo needs to do here is use their speed advantage. They need to push the pace and keep Kitchener on it's heals. Where as the Rangers are likely to try to slow the game down, work the cycle and really grind things out in the offensive end. So who am I going with? People are pointing at that Owen Sound series and saying that the Hounds are overrated. But that Attack team was, IMO, the second best team in the Conference (as proven by their 2nd half record too). That's not to say that I think this is an easier match-up. It's just that we can't discredit what SSM has done this season. Again, they were my pick to win the OHL this year and I'm sticking with it. I think their speed will be too much for the Rangers and it gives them the advantage.
Prediction: Greyhounds in 6

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018 NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings

NHL Central Scouting has released their final rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft. Below is a breakdown of how OHL players were ranked. If you're curious for a comparison, you can find the midterm rankings here.

Skaters
1. Andrei Svechnikov (1)
2. Evan Bouchard (4)
3. Barrett Hayton (9)
4. Serron Noel (10)
5. Rasmus Sandin (11)
6. Akil Thomas (15)
7. Ryan McLeod (16)
8. Liam Foudy (19)
9. Ty Dellandrea (25)
10. Blade Jenkins (26)
11. Kevin Bahl (29)
12. Kody Clark (34)
13. Sean Durzi (37)
14. Ryan Merkley (45)
15. Allan McShane (50)
16. Declan Chisholm (52)
17. Nico Gross (56)
18. Giovanni Vallati (57)
19. Mitchell Hoelscher (62)
20. Curtis Douglas (63)
21. Cam Hillis (67)
22. Aidan Dudas (68)
23. Alec Regula (72)
24. Carter Robertson (78)
25. Pavel Gogolev (79)
26. Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (82)
27. Caleb Everett (84)
28. Merrick Rippon (85)
29. Linus Nyman (89)
30. Maxim Golod (97)
31. Billy Moskal (99)
32. Riley Damiani (100)
33. Sam Bitten (106)
34. Nathan Dunkley (109)
35. Joey Keane (111)
36. Andrew Bruder (114)
37. William Ennis (116)
38. Mac Hollowell (118)
39. Connor Corcoran (123)
40. Matthew Struthers (124)
41. Oliver True (134)
42. Peter Stratis (139)
43. Justin Brazeau (142)
44. Connor Roberts (146)
45. Brandon Saigeon (147)
46. Hunter Holmes (148)
47. Albert Michnac (151)
48. Adam Liska (158)
49. Riley McCourt (161)
50. Hugo Leufvenius (167)
51. Tyler Tucker (171)
52. Isaac Nurse (180)
53. Lulke Burghardt (181)
54. Matthew MacDougall (183)
55. Damien Giroux (190)
56. Justin MacPherson (201)
LV: Dennis Busby
LV: Zack Malik

Goaltenders
1. Christian Propp (11)
2. Jacob Ingham (13)
3. Jordan Kooy (15)
4. Anthony Popovich (28)
5. Nick Donofrio (31)

The full rankings can be found here.

Changes from Midseason

Biggest Risers
Linus Nyman +113
Joey Keane +104 (previously unranked)
Andrew Bruder +101 (previously unranked)
Oliver True +81 (previously unranked)
Liam Foudy +72
Aidan Dudas +63
William Ennis +57
Riley McCourt +54
Ty Dellandrea +51
Isaac Nurse +35 (previously unranked)
Billy Moskal +31
Nathan Dunkley +23
Maxim Golod +21
Mitchell Hoelscher +20
Christian Propp +20 (previously unranked)

Biggest Fallers 
Brady Lyle -88 (now unranked)
Rickard Hugg -81 (now unranked)
Renars Krastenbergs -78
Albert Michnac -67
Tyler Tucker -67
Matthew MacDougall -62
Adam Thilander -60 (now unranked)
Kirill Nizhnikov -54 (now unranked)
Justin MacPherson -38
David Levin -32 (now unranked)
Hugo Leufvenius -31
Alec Regula -29
Luke Burghardt -28
Connor Corcoran -27
Ryan Merkley -24
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev -24
Peter Stratis -23
Merrick Rippon -22
Giovanni Vallati -19
Allan McShane -17 
Carter Robertson -17 
Jacob Ingham -10 (among goalies) 

Comments
- I suppose the first thing people will be talking about is where Ryan Merkley is ranked at #45. Which would put him towards the end of the 2nd round or early 3rd.. But I don't think it's necessarily surprising. NHL CSS already had Merkley as an early 2nd rounder on their midterm list and he drops even further now. The talent is there, but the late season shenanigans (including the healthy scratch) were bound to hurt him on a list like this. He's going to need to have a great U18's and even better combine interviews to climb back into the first round IMO.

- Seeing guys like Foudy, Dellandrea, Dudas, and Keane as the biggest risers makes sense as those were the players mentioned as being too low last time. Foudy, more so due to a 2nd half surge. But the other three were just criminally underrated on the midterm list by Central Scouting.

- Again, a huge number of 2nd and 3rd year eligible players listed. I just published my annual ranking of those players and they hit on most of them. Jakob Brahaney is the one guy that I've got ranked high that they ignored again. He should be listed IMO. ICYMI, here was that list.

- Interesting to see that in Central Scouting's eyes, Christian Propp (a re-entry) is the top goaltender available from the OHL and not Ingham or Kooy. Ingham took a hard fall thanks to his rough season.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Top 10 - 2018 NHL Draft Re-Entries




It's that time of the year for my annual (2017, 2016, 2015201420132012201120102009) list of the top second and third year eligible OHL players for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. NHL teams continue to draft re-entry players in increasing number. This is mostly because drafting a second or third year eligible player gives NHL teams a lot of flexibility in their development under the CBA. Plus, a lot of these guys have been having success in recent years (Andrew Mangiapane, Tanner Pearson and Andrew Shaw are great examples from the OHL), which basic psychology tells us that other NHL teams will try to mimic.

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

Also, do not confuse this list with players drafted in 2016 who will re-enter the draft should they fail to come to a contractual agreement with their NHL team by June 1 (and whose birth date still allows them to be eligible). Quite often those too are referred to as draft re-entries. But this list does not contain them because it is not yet known who those players will be.

Last year five re-entries from the OHL were drafted (Rymsha, Brassard, Crawley, Palmu, and Bourque), with another (Miletic) signing an NHL deal. This year, I think we could see more. This might be the strongest list of this type that I've ever put together. That also means that it was the most difficult to pare down. Many of the players listed as HM's would have made previous year's lists and have an excellent chance of being drafted. I honestly wouldn't be shocked at all if we had 8 (or more) guys from this article drafted come June.

 
Without further rambling, here's my list:


1. Joey Keane - Defense - Barrie Colts
Some (or many) will probably be surprised to see Keane at #1 on this list and not Sean Durzi. I am sure many will disagree. And I do love Durzi too and believe both deserve to be top 3 round NHL picks this year and have the potential to be longtime NHL defenders. But those who follow me on twitter will know how impressed I've been with Keane this season. I just see him as potential impact defender at both ends. Last year, coming over from the USHL and playing for such a poor team, he just wasn't a noticeable player for the right reasons. But it's been the exact opposite this season. He's the #1 defender for one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and emerged as one of the better defenders in the entire OHL (is a finalist for the Max Kaminsky). And he's a year younger than Durzi. Keane finished 13th in the league in defenseman scoring, but was 1st in +/- at +45. The next closest Barrie defender was Tyler Tucker at +27. That's why he was not only named the top defensive defender in the Eastern Conference in the Coaches Poll, but also the East's most improved. I look at Keane and see a defender made for today's NHL. Smooth skater who can push the pace of attack, but also solid and dependable in his own end. He makes a great outlet pass and rarely seems to turn the puck over. Keane also has a bit of a mean streak and he makes himself difficult to beat in all one on one situations. I mean, it's not like we're talking about a guy who has come out of nowhere either. Keane is a former highly touted prospect who was one of the 17 players invited to the U.S. NTDP U17 tryouts a few years ago and he finally seems to have figured it all out. I just see Keane as the complete package and teams would be crazy to pass on him again.

2. Sean Durzi - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
As I said, I love Durzi too. Consider him 1(B). I actually had Durzi listed on my draft list last year, ranked 41st among OHL players (here). As I said then, he was actually one of the higher scoring defenders in the 2nd half last year and he simply just continued that into this year. Also, I mentioned that his shot was a heck of a lot better than his 2 goals last year might have made you believe. That high ankle sprain certainly stunted his production in the 2nd half, but it was a very impressive year with Durzi having the 2nd highest point per game rate in the league among defenders (behind Evan Bouchard). Last year I mentioned how I couldn't really envision a defined role for Durzi at the next level, and that's likely why he wasn't drafted. But I think he worked hard to make himself a more dynamic player this offseason and now he's made a believer of scouts (and myself) that he can be a puck mover at the next level. His acceleration is much more crisp this year and he's really made himself a better skater overall. When you combine that with improved puck skill and confidence leading the rush, you've got a guy who can generate offense at a high rate. Smart, positional defender too who generally makes good reads. I think that he'll need to be a little stronger away from the puck at the next level, but the improvements he has made to his game has made him a legitimate NHL prospect. As I said, I wouldn't hesitate to take either he, or Keane, in the first three rounds.

3. Linus Nyman - Forward - Kingston Frontenacs
Had Nyman ranked as the 28th best OHL available last year after his rookie OHL season (here). I was impressed with his play last year on an offensively challenged Frontenacs team. A true offensive spark plug with a clear head for the game. But as I wrote, a lack of strength hindered his ability to produce consistently. This year, he looked much stronger. OK, he's not Zdeno Chara and he's still undersized. But he was much more effective along the wall, showcasing an ability to prolong possession, which made him a more dynamic player. He can really break down opposing defenses and is just so slippery in the offensive zone. That perfect complimentary offensive player and it's why whatever line he has been on, has been Kingston's most effective one. Played the first half of the year with Robertson, and the second half with Vilardi. I don't think there's any guarantee that his offensive production will translate to the NHL level. But with his effort in all three zones, solid skating, and hockey sense/vision in the offensive zone, he deserves to be an NHL draft pick this year.

4. Justin Brazeau - Forward - North Bay Battalion
Hulking winger became a force to be reckoned with this year in North Bay. Last year, after going from 6 goals to 22, I felt like an NHL team would give the 6'5 forward a chance at the draft. In fact, I had him 4th on this very list last year. It wasn't the case, but his game grew even more this year and I'd honestly be shocked if Brazeau isn't drafted this year or signed this summer. For me, there were three distinctive improvements made in his game. The first and most noticeable was an improvement in his playmaking ability. With his size and ability to dominate down low, this was a necessary adjustment if he wanted to take that next step as an elite player. He now exhibits poise and vision to find open linemates when teams try to play him too aggressively in order to try to stop him coming off the wall or driving the net. The second improvement was in his confidence. No longer a secondary scoring option, Brazeau drives the play offensively; comfortable taking charge in the offensive end and running the offense through his unique skill set. The third improvement was in his skating. It's certainly not the best in the league, but it's far from the worst. His first few strides, in particular, look more explosive now and it's really made him a load to handle for opposing defenders who lack the reach to keep him at bay. You'd be hard pressed to find a player who was more important to his team this year (plays in all situations) and you have to be impressed with the progression each year of this unique 6'5 power winger. 

5. Jakob Brahaney - Defense - Kingston Frontenacs
Brahaney was unquestionably one of the league's most improved players this year. In his rookie year last year, Brahaney looked overmatched quite often and his playing time was limited as a result. But the former high pick and highly touted prospect (was an invite to the Hlinka camp in 2016) came back strong this year and has looked like a completely different player. His biggest strength is in his mobility. He's a very smooth skater and uses this mobility to be an effective two-way defender. He's always been billed as a potential puck mover, but it was his defensive game that really took shape this year for Kingston, emerging as a top 4 defender on a potential Championship squad. Has really learned to be more patient, using his mobility to help him cover ground in his own end and his upgraded strength has helped him play with a little more truculence. Offensively, he's great at starting the breakout. Has a high panic threshold in the defensive end and has really learned to use his mobility to create time and space for himself to make a smooth exit pass. As he gains confidence further, I would look for his offensive game to continue to evolve, although his point shot will need to improve to make himself as true threat working the powerplay. Like Joey Keane and Durzi, Brahaney's game is suited for the way the pro game is played now. Mobility, puck movement, and smarts.  

6. Mac Hollowell - Defense - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Talk about unheralded stars and Mac Hollowell has to be one of the first names you mention. Consider this. Hollowell broke his fibula at the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp and yet, played in 63 games this OHL, missing only the first 5 games of the year. If that doesn't speak to the type of work ethic and character that Hollowell has, I don't know what will. I also ask you this question. What Greyhounds defender posted the highest point totals this year? Not Timmins. Not Sandin. Not Sambrook. Mac Hollowell. Been huge in the postseason too, with nearly a point per game and a +10 rating. Yes, he's only 5'9. But this is a new NHL where undersized defenders can succeed so long as they have three things. The first is elite skating ability, which Mac has. The second is poise with the puck, which Mac has. Very rarely does he make a mistake with the puck and his ability to start the breakout is integral to the Soo's success. The third is character and toughness to compete through contact in the defensive end. Being a key cog on the top team in the OHL (and CHL), Hollowell deserves to be drafted this year. 

7. Brandon Saigeon - Forward - Hamilton Bulldogs
Another repeat appearance on this list, and just as Brazeau was, Saigeon is actually ranked in the same position as last year. And its due, not just to another jump in production (nearly doubling his goal and point totals), but also to continued improvement in his skating and play away from the puck. Saigeon is a terrific two-way center who really plays with a chip on his shoulder. Loves to play below the hash marks and is willing to take punishment near the crease. He's developed into sort of a pest for the Bulldogs; a guy who really gets under the skin of the opposition. His shot looks way better this year too. Was lethal on the powerplay, working the slot and dot as a one time option. The other thing that shows progression has been his playoff performance thus far. The goose egg he laid last year might have cost him a draft spot, but this year he leads the Bulldogs in post season goals. There will be concerns about how much of his production came with the man advantage. And even though his skating has improved, he will still need to become more explosive to be successful at the next level. But with his complete game, uptick in production and goal scoring potential, he could finally hear his name called this year.

8. Brady Lyle - Defense - Owen Sound Attack
Really like the progression Lyle's game showed after a move to Owen Sound at the start of the season. Lyle went undrafted last year despite starting the season ranked as a potential top 3 round selection. But his season in North Bay was too bland for scouts. Size and mobility, but what was he? Neither his offensive or defensive approach showed enough urgency and that vanilla style prevented him from really standing out. In Owen Sound, he was given a little more freedom offensively and it really seemed to invigorate him and his game. Seeing time on both the second and third pairing, as well as on the powerplay, Lyle excelled. However, it was not until Sean Durzi went down with an injury, thrusting him into the top 4 with more powerplay time, that Lyle really started to showcase just how much he had improved. A lot more aggressive in using his speed to lead or jump up into the rush. And looks way more confident running the powerplay, while also upgrading his point shot. Defensively, he's getting caught flat footed a lot less and is way more of an active participant, rather than a passenger. He didn't have an identity last year. But this year, I think it was a lot easier to see him as a potential NHL puck mover. In my Owen Sound viewings this year, Lyle was the better player between he and Markus Phillips (who was an NHL draft selection last year).

9. Jason Willms - Forward - Barrie Colts
One of the unsung heroes of the surprise of the Eastern Conference, the Colts, Willms is an easy player to like. The effort always seems to be consistent for him and he's transformed himself into one of the league's top two-way forwards. Along with Jaden Peca (and a rotating cast of other wingers), that 3rd line has been a consistent force who provides energy and grit for Barrie. For as intelligent as he is as a penalty killer and three zone presence, we can't overlook Willms' offensive contributions. More than doubled his production from last year and was nearly a point per game player this year in only his 2nd OHL season. In fact, his 27 goals this year were 2nd only to Linus Nyman among undrafted 99's, and were 14th overall among 99's. Ultimately, the key to Willms' success will be the upgrades he can make to his skating and overall puck poise and creativity. His top speed is alright, but that first step quickness is mediocre. And there will be concerns over his overall potential at the next level. But, I love seeing this kind of progression from 99's on good teams, who can make the necessary improvements to help their team take that next step. 

10. Adam Thilander - Defense - North Bay Battalion

Tough choice for me at #10. There were several guys that I really deliberated about. But ultimately, I settled on Thilander. At face value, you're probably asking yourself, what's the big deal? This guy went undrafted last year, is a '98, and only modestly improved his production (35 to 42 points). But to me, he looked like a different player than last year. Despite rebuilding by dealing Cam Dineen and Brett McKenzie, the Battalion actually improved in the second half and a lot of that had to do with the play of Thilander IMO. Last year I talked about how I didn't really see a role for him at the next level because of a lack of identity and a lack of a standout skill. The production was decent, but I just didn't see a guy who was dynamic enough to be an offensive blueliner at the NHL level. But I think I saw that this year. Looked a bit quicker, but more importantly, looked way more confident in his ability to make plays with the puck. Extended rushes. Qb'd the power play. Exhibited poise starting the breakout. Heck, this guy was one of the league's best shootout players this year as a defender (4 for 4). And I thought his defensive game was definitely better, especially in the corners where he was more effective engaging physically and separating his man from the puck. Some of the other candidates for the #10 spot, had great starts but fizzled down the stretch. Where as Thilander did the opposite and elevated his game when his team really needed him. I'm not sure that he's ever a high impact player at the next level, but he could be a steady third pairing puck mover who won't hurt you. 

Honorable Mentions (listed alphabetically and positionally)

Goaltender

Stephen Dhillon - Niagara IceDogs 
Kind of a tough season for Dhillon after becoming one of the league's breakout goaltending stars last year (was the top player on this very list a year ago). His play was up and down, although he did finish the season exceptionally well (especially in the playoffs). Huge goaltender who definitely has pro potential. Will backstop a very strong Niagara team next year as an OA. 

Anthony Popovich - Guelph Storm
One of the guys that I considered at 10. Guelph's defense was a nightmare some nights, but Popovich was cool as a cucumber and really provided consistently strong goaltending this year for a team that needed it, and wasn't sure it was going to get it. Definitely one of the league's most improved players. Looked a lot more athletic this year. Guelph should be even better next year and he'll likely see another numbers spike then.

Christian Propp - North Bay Battalion 
Brought in from Barrie, Propp was outstanding for the Battalion this year. North Bay badly needed to develop another young netminder and Propp looks like the one. The '99 has size, athleticism and composure in the crease. Really aggressive goalie who plays a bit of an unorthodox style. Raw, but has a lot of potential. Another guy I heavily considered at 10.
 
Joseph Raaymakers - London Knights
I'll admit that I don't see Raaymakers getting drafted. But I think that he deserves mention on this list. London turnaround this year correlated with bringing him into the fold and he was calming, veteran influence on the team (and Jordan Kooy). Raaymakers is a traditional butterfly style goalie who is aggressive in looking to cut down angles. He'll be a starter in the OHL next year for someone, whether it's London or not remains to be seen.

Defense

Theo Calvas - Sarnia Sting
Hulking stay at home defender who emerged as a top 4 defender in the OHL this year for the Sting. 6'4, 200lbs and mean. Calvas' +29 was second best on the team. Moves the puck reasonably well for a big man too. Skating isn't terrific, but he's an asset in the defensive end and has that pro frame. 
 

Ben Gleason - Hamilton Bulldogs 
A tough player to gauge. Has long been a guy who you look at and watch play and wonder why he hasn't already been drafted. Extremely mobile defender who starts the breakout quickly and has some size. Defensive game continues to get better. I guess the sticking point is, are his offensive talents strong enough to be a top flight offensive defender and powerplay QB at the next level? Because he doesn't exactly profile as a defensive first guy. Not sure he gets drafted again, but could be a top flight free agent option next year as an OA if he can take his offensive game to that next level. 

Liam Ham - Niagara IceDogs
Probably not a serious draft option at this point, but felt Ham deserved mention because of how much he improved this year and because of how critical he was to Niagara's success this year. Plays in all situations for Niagara and logs a ton of minutes on an unheralded defense. He's only 5'10. And he's not the world's most dynamic skater. But he plays with a ton of heart and grit. And he's very intelligent at both ends. If the skating keeps improving, he's going to draw NHL interest by the time his OHL career is over 

Hudson Wilson - Ottawa 67's
A guy you have to watch play a decent amount to really appreciate. Offensively, he's not the most effective player. But defensively, he's an absolute rock. Skating continues to improve and by season's end, he was seeing first pair ice time on a young 67's blueline. At 6'3, 200lbs, Wilson is intriguing because of his defensive pedigree and potential. 

Forward

Luke Burghardt - North Bay Battalion
What a difference a change of scenery can make. Fell out of favor in Guelph and North Bay thanks them for that after he put up over a point per game for the Battalion this year. Burghardt is an extremely quick skater who loves to push the pace. In North Bay, he's figured out how to become an effective three zone player who also excels along the wall and gets under the skin of the opposition. Could definitely be a future bottom sixer at the next level.

Tyler Burnie - Kingston Frontenacs 
Really like Burnie, despite the modest stat line. First half of the season, I thought he was fantastic and a lock to make this list (15 goals in his first 33). But when Kingston started loading up, he got pushed down the depth chart a bit and the offensive production dipped (2 goals in his last 22). Thought his physical game wasn't as consistent after the suspension either (8 games for a head check to Sean Durzi). But we're looking at a 6'4, 200lbs center with good hands, the potential to dominate down low, and who has shown to be a very imposing physical threat who looks to drive the net hard. Probably the Fronts 1st line center next year IMO (he or Neumann) and the numbers should jump yet again then. As he continues to improve his skating, he could definitely be an NHL player IMO.

Cole Coskey - Saginaw Spirit 
The leading goal scorer for the Spirit this year with 27 and the team's most improved player after his disappointing draft season last year. Heavily considered him at #10. But his slump down the stretch (4 goals in the final 22) hurt his draft stock IMO. He really faded. I do like Coskey though. Really knows his role on the ice and is an excellent support player in the offensive end. Gets after it on the forecheck. Digs out pucks along the wall. Works the cycle. Drives the net. Has good hands in close and is a generally smart player. Could see him being this year's Sam Miletic. A guy who goes undrafted again, but impresses at a development camp and earns a contract.

Kevin Hancock - Owen Sound Attack 
Hancock is an excellent OHL player. He's one of Owen Sound's most important players, without a doubt. He's also one of the OHL's elite two-way forwards. His awareness in all three zones is top notch and he's really increased his physical intensity this year to make himself that much more difficult to play against. But his skating is still only average and he's not going to win any size contests. And in reality, he's probably not a top 6 player at the next level and teams are looking for speed from their bottom 6 these days in the NHL. If he doesn't get drafted yet again, I'm guessing teams will want to see what he can do in his overage year, with less support around him. If Suzuki makes Vegas, can he be an offensive leader for the Attack? 

Sean Josling - Sarnia Sting
Proving to be a tremendous free agent signing by the Sting at this point. Nearly doubled his goal totals this year and played in every situation imaginable for Sarnia. Such a hard working and intelligent player. Huge part of that elite penalty killing group this season. Love how much he's elevated his game in this year's playoffs too. He's the type of guy who is going to keep getting better and eventually draw interest from NHL scouts IMO. 
 
Austen Keating - Ottawa 67's 
Hard to imagine Keating getting drafted this year after his offensive production took a dip from last year. No question he was a surprising no draft last year after being a near point per game player in his draft year. But his average size, combined with his average skating ability definitely scared off NHL teams from being able to project him as an NHL player. Even with the offensive production decrease, he deserves mention on this list for the improvements he made away from the puck. Emerged as a terrific penalty killer and defensive zone presence. Much improved play along the wall. I'm sure the offensive numbers increase again next year.

Renars Krastenbergs - Oshawa Generals
Quite frankly, had higher expectations for Krastenbergs this year. Was still a 20 goal scorer, but feel that he's capable of more. Strong on the puck. Good in tight. Good skater. As a '98, probably needed to produce more to be an NHL draft pick, even if the Generals spread their ice time around pretty evenly and 19 of those goals came 5 on 5. Hope he returns for an OA season, even if it's rare for an Import. Could be a 30 goal scorer in that scenario.

Hugo Leufvenius - Sarnia Sting
Hulking Swedish Import winger who has been a standout for the Sting in this year's playoffs. 6'3, 224lbs and already on his way to the Ryan Getzlaf haircut. In all seriousness, this guy is an absolute load to handle down low. Once he gets that inside positioning on you, he's really hard to separate from the puck or remove from the crease. With more powerplay time next year, I think he's a 30 goal scorer. Skating will need to improve though. As a very physically mature '99, I think there is some untapped potential here and the playoffs have shown that. Another guy that was heavily considered at #10.

Kyle MacLean - Oshawa Generals 
The stats don't really warrant a mention for this list. And MacLean had a tough year on the injury front, missing chunks of time on multiple occasions. But I can't help but feel like MacLean has a ton of potential that he's not yet fulfilling. The son of former Devils forward John, Kyle is a very well rounded player. Good size down the middle. Plays well in all three zones. Great skater. Was excellent for Oshawa in this year's playoffs. Just feel like that MacLean will eventually be an excellent OHL player and pro prospect. Whether that happens next year or in his OA year remains to be seen.

Zachary Magwood - Barrie Colts
Another one of those unsung heroes for the Colts this year. Magwood is all energy, all the time. Type of guy who is all over the ice, using his speed to attack, with and without the puck. Very slippery in the offensive zone. Not the biggest guy (5'10), but the puck seems to find him near the net. Magwood is also a terrific penalty killer who can use that speed to be a pest. He's improved every year that he's been in the league and next year, should be a go to player for the Colts, possibly even the team's first line RW'er. One of the OHL's most underrated players IMO.

Kyle Maksimovich - Erie Otters 
After playing on some really strong Erie teams since he entered the league, this season had to be tough on Maksimovich. He finished the year as the team's leading scorer and still managed to average a point per game for the 3rd straight year. I think scouts would be impressed with his ability to be an offensive leader and not just a support player. His lack of size will factor against him, but Maksimovich has everything else that you'd look for. Just a really smart player in all three zones. Will be interesting to see if the Otters move Maksimovich to a potential contender at some point next year. The Aaron Luchuk breakout candidate next year as an OA.

Albert Michnac - Mississauga Steelheads
Probably going to surprise some people that he's not in my top 10, considering the type of press and pro scouting attention that he's received this year. Michnac was fantastic for the Steelheads to start the year. High energy offensive player who has some really slick mitts and is an excellent playmaker. Has really good edgework and agility that makes him very elusive. But for the second straight season he disappeared down the stretch. Goalless over his final 20 games (including the playoffs). Thought he especially struggled in the playoffs against Barrie, who really played him physically and he had some trouble adjusting to that. Like Krastenbergs, I'd like to see him return as an OA (a rare thing for an Import). Just needs to get stronger on the puck.

Isaac Nurse - Hamilton Bulldogs 
Cousin to Darnell, Isaac is one of the OHL's hardest workers. Relentless without the puck. Always keeps his feet moving. 17 goals on the year in a supporting role for the Bulldogs, but he's been super clutch thus far in the playoffs with 6. Kills penalties. Plays the body. Attacks the net. Does all the little things well. Probably not an NHL pick at this point, but if he can prove to have a little more in him offensively moving forward, he'll definitely draw NHL attention.

Jaden Peca - Barrie Colts
I sound a little like a broken record, but here's another one of those offensive sparkplugs for the Colts whose game took massive strides this season. 7 points in 2017. 47 in 2018. Love Peca's intensity level on the ice. He's one of the better forecheckers in the league and despite being under 6'0, he's terrific at creating space for linemates because of how well he works the wall and drives the net. There's a reason why whoever the Colts put with Willms and Peca found success. 

Cole Purboo - Windsor Spitfires
One of the most improved 99's in the OHL this year. Had the huge winger (6'3, 220lbs) as an HM in my draft rankings last year. Needed to upgrade his skating and his physical intensity heading into this year and he definitely did that. Ended up finishing the year as Windsor's leading scorer. Still at his best down low. His office is behind the net where his ability to work the cycle is extremely important to Windsor's offense (especially the powerplay). Next step is upgrading his puck skill and ability to work in transition, but there's definitely pro potential here.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

2018 OHL Playoff Preview - Round Two

No Game 7's in the first round of the OHL playoffs this year. But it's safe to say that some teams were made to sweat. For example, safe to say that Sarnia will be happy to stare down another goalie besides Michael Dipietro in the next round (no offense meant to Mario Culina/Luke Richardson).

If you recall, my opening round preview was completed for McKeens Hockey, and you can find that here. Went a perfect 8-0 in my first round predictions and now it's time to look at round two.

Eastern Conference

#1. Hamilton Bulldogs vs. #4. Niagara IceDogs
Season Series: Niagara leads 5-1
Analysis: I'm sure it's surprising to see just how much Niagara dominated the season series between these two clubs. This includes taking the last two games that these two played against each other in March. Two things were the difference in that season series. The first was the powerplay. In the season head to head, Niagara operated at nearly 40% on the powerplay! And the second was goaltending with Stephen Dhillon (.940 SV%) outplaying Kaden Fulcher (.880 SV%). So it goes without saying that Hamilton is going to need to stay out of the box if they want to win this series. This is especially true considering Hamilton's PK did not look great in the opening round against Ottawa. Hamilton will also need to get more from guys like Marian Studenic, Mackenzie Entwistle, and Arthur Kaliyev (although I realize that his ice time has been reduced). Where the Bulldogs have the advantage in this series is depth. They need their veteran 3rd/4th lines to outplay and outwork Niagara's and it's something that didn't happen in the regular season either. Niagara, on the other hand, is going to need to continue to get good goaltending from Stephen Dhillon, who was excellent against Oshawa. Their inexperienced defense is going to face all it can handle against Hamilton's veteran and deep forward group. Ultimately, I do feel like Hamilton will take this series, but I do also believe that Niagara is going to push them hard. The real difference maker for me right now is Robert Thomas, who is playing his best hockey of the season.
Prediction: Hamilton in 6

#2. Barrie Colts vs. #3. Kingston Frontenacs
Season Series: Kingston leads 3-1
Analysis: Both of these teams had to work exceptionally hard to escape the first round, even if neither had to play in a game 7. Barrie managed to survive without it's star, Andrei Svechnikov, to start the playoffs. Where as Kingston fought off a hard nosed North Bay squad, capped off by a thrilling 3OT game. For Barrie, I think one of the main keys to this series is goaltending. Leo Lazerev really struggled against the Fronts in the regular season. He had some shaky moments in the opening round, but battled hard and came through in the clutch to win his first OHL playoff series against Mississauga. He'll need to be even better against a deep Frontenacs team. Up front, I feel like these two teams line up extremely well. Three lines deep. Aggressive. Tenacious. But it's on the defensive side of things that I feel Kingston has the advantage. For as good as Barrie's defense has been this year (the most improved group in the league by far), the playoffs are another test and their inexperience could hurt them. I also feel more confident with Jeremy Helvig in the net and I think he can be a difference maker. I look at Kingston's experience and I see them reaching the 3rd round for the first time in 25 years (since 1993; a team that featured Chris Gratton and Craig Rivet).
Prediction: Kingston in 7


Western Conference

#1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. #4. Owen Sound Attack
Season Series: Tied at 1
Analysis: Interesting that both of these teams are coming off of sweeps in the opening round, although I don't think anyone would call Owen Sound's sweep an easy victory. Let's be honest here though, everyone is expecting Sault Ste. Marie to win this series. They have the offensive firepower. They have the defensive experience. And they've been getting solid goaltending from Matthew Villalta. This is a team that has been number one pretty much all year in the CHL. But it's important not to sleep on the Attack. They started slow, but were probably the second best team in the Conference in the second half. The Attack are finally healthy and they are a solid hockey club. What they need to do to win is simple. Stay out of the box and make the Hounds outwork you 5 on 5. And play solid team defense to support Olivier Lafreniere, who isn't someone I'm extremely confident can make enough big saves to get his team this victory. The Attack also need WAY better production from Nick Suzuki and Jonah Gadjovich, who combined for one goal in four games against London. I love this Owen Sound team, but I just don't see them tackling this giant. The Greyhounds operate on another level and still look like the favourite to represent the OHL at the Memorial Cup this year.
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 5

#2. Kitchener Rangers vs. #3. Sarnia Sting
Season Series: Kitchener leads 3-1
Analysis: This is the series in round two that I see being the most difficult to predict. So let's break it down position by position. In net, I give the slight advantage to the Sting with Justin Fazio. Mario Culina has been solid since arriving in Kitchener, but he looked a bit shaky down the stretch and in the opening round against Guelph. On defense, I give the slight nod to the Rangers because they have guys like Stanley and McEneny who have the experience advantage over anyone on that Sting blueline. On offense, I'm calling it a draw. Both teams are three lines deep in terms of pure playmaking ability. Both teams have size upfront. Both teams have solid powerplay units (even if Sarnia didn't score on the PP against Windsor). No question that Sarnia will need more from Jordan Kyrou though. He had only 1 goal and 1 assist in the opening round. I think one thing that could be a real difference maker is Sarnia's penalty kill. They were perfect against Kitchener in the regular season and were by far the league's most effective unit in the regular season. If they can keep the Rangers from scoring with the man advantage and win the 5 on 5 battle, they take this series. I also look at steady goaltending swinging the series in Sarnia's favour.
Prediction: Sarnia in 7

Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 OHL Priority Selection Primer

The 2018 OHL Priority Selection is set for next Saturday, April 7th. If you recall, the last two years I have hooked up with the guys from TheScout.ca to help us preview and highlight potential selections in a (now) annual Priority Selection Primer (2017, 2016). Well, I am happy to bring you the 3rd edition this year. Once again, each member of the scouting team at TheScout has given us their favourites for the draft, in addition to potential sleepers.

USA

Matt Grainda - @graindaiv

1. Antonio Stranges, Detroit Little Caesars 16U AAA
“Way high up on TheScout.ca’s list of best players available for the OHL Priority Selection is Antonio Stranges, who tore up the Detroit Little Caesars independent schedule and completely dominated the T1EHL playing in some limited showcases. Stranges is a kid who has been on many OHL and USHL draft radars for over two seasons now, having played up with the 16U team last season along with this season, all while putting up big-time numbers both years. Stranges is most well-known for his unique skating ability and his exceptional puck skills that allow him to be one of the deadliest offensive players on the ice at any moment. His footwork, edge control and utilization of his explosive feet enable him to literally dance around the competition, like a Jeff Skinner or Jeremy Bracco type skater. The creativity is through the roof when the puck is on his stick too, as he has the high-end hockey sense and the crafty offensive talent to shoot, pass and score in bunches. Stranges is currently committed to the University of Michigan and will be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp with a strong chance of making the U17 team. Will he end up in the OHL someday though? It is definitely a possibility.”

2. Dylan Peterson, Canadian International Hockey Academy Midget AAA (CIHA)
“Another gifted forward who has been on the radar for a while now is Dylan Peterson with the CIHA Midget AAA program just outside of Ottawa. Peterson is an American/Canadian dual-citizen, and was one of the first 2002-born skaters to commit to a NCAA university when he selected Boston University as a 14-year-old. Peterson has been very well known in scouting circles due to his NHL ready 6.03” frame paired with his powerful and very fluid skating stride. Not many large hockey players have the high-end speed of Peterson, and his strength along with his extremely quick hands make him a lethal threat every time he’s coming down the ice. His puck skills can dazzle for sure, and he can take a direct path right through the opposition or dangle a defenseman with his slick skills and long reach. Watch out for his high-end and accurate shot as well, but he does hesitate at times as he needs to work on becoming the dominant player he can be on every shift. Peterson will also be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp, and he has a very good chance to make the U17 team. The sky is the limit for this kid, he has the physical gifts and smooth skating to make him a top NHL Draft selection down the line.”

Sleeper #1: Andrei Bakanov, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U AAA
“Probably not much of a sleeper here, but Andrei Bakanov will likely be a player discussed a lot as we lead up to the OHL Priority Selection as his eligibility is currently up-in-the-air for the draft. Bakanov is a Russian-born player who has spent this year with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U team after playing up the season before with the Cleveland Barons 16U team. With Oakland, the Russian kid displayed his pro-quality talents before all the HPHL by finishing second in both goals and points in one of the most competitive leagues in the country. You don’t have to watch too long before you see his best trait, a deadly accurate, hard shot that probably gives goalies at this level nightmares. Bakanov has the Russian patience for sure, taking his time to read plays at times and then striking exactly when you least expect it, often drawing peer-to-peer comparisons to famous NHL player Evgeni Malkin. Footwork is a little heavy for Bakanov, but his smooth puck handing and decent smarts help mitigate this issue. Should he be declared eligible for the OHL Draft, look for his name to go very high in the 1st Round. His goal scoring capabilities, his patience with the puck, and his NHL sized frame will be highly coveted.”

***Note: Bakanov recently announced his NCAA commitment to the University of Michigan. His OHL Priority Selection status is currently still unknown, although seems like a long shot at this point.

Sleeper #2. Avery Winslow, Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA
“One big-time sleeper that likely only got some looks at the very beginning of the scouting season at the USA Select 15’s and then very recently at the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp is a smart defensive prospect named Avery Winslow. Winslow spent the season playing in the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League for the very well-known Notre Dame Hounds AAA program. A native of Clearwater, Florida, Winslow is a very polished two-way defenseman with great skating ability. His patience with the puck and his decision making are very good, always surveying the ice and making a smart move even while being pressured. His game oozes confidence and poise, and his four-way mobility, speed and directional agility help him in all areas of the ice. Winslow is also great in the defensive zone, playing with an active stick and always having his head on a swivel looking to shut down the opposition. His potential is decent on the offensive end too, managing his blue-line very well while also being able to join the rush and jump in plays at the other end of the ice. He’s not an elite offensive catalyst, but he does a great job leading by example in just about every aspect of his game. If OHL scouts paid close attention and got to some of his games, this kid could be a great value pick.”

Alliance

Mitchell Avis - @mitchyav

#1 – Blake Butler, C, Lambton Jr. Sting
Blake Butler has been my top prospect from start to finish in the Alliance and in my eyes is also the closest prospect to being OHL ready. He is a big, strong center who played his Minor Midget season on a weaker Lambton team and showed an ability to elevate the play of his teammates around him. What’s attracting is his mix of size, speed and skill that makes him a threatening player as a playmaker or a shooter. Listed at 6’1”, he is a strong skater who dictates the speed and tempo of the game transitioning the puck quickly from defense to offense and attacking defenders either on the outside or through the center of the ice. While he has not perfected his defensive responsibilities it is not a concern at this time because he possesses all the physical tools and IQ to make these adjustments for the next level. Look for Butler to be selected as early as the 2nd round but no later than the 4th round.

#2 – George Diaco, C, London Jr. Knights
Diaco is a player who quickly catches your eye because of his energy, puck skill and skating agility and is easily one of the hardest working players in the league. Playing on the Jr. Knights, Diaco was the sparkplug winning the scoring title with 52 points in 33 games and leading his team all the way to the Alliance finals. Shifting from the wing to center part way through the season allowed him greater control of the game and he really excelled as a facilitator in this position. Possesses an average shot but makes up for it with his high hockey IQ and playmaking ability. Displayed great competitiveness all season long that rubs off on his teammates. The biggest knock on him as a prospect will be his size (5’5” and 140 lbs) but he continually demonstrated all season long that despite his smaller frame he’s one of the most skilled players in the Alliance and had a consistent impact on the outcome of each game.

Sleeper – Ryan Gagnier, C, Sun County Panthers
After a record 46 players were selected out of the Alliance in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft, the 2002 birth year will not come close to breaking that mark and is considered by many scouts as an overall ‘down’ year for the league. That being said this presents opportunities for teams to get great value from their picks out of the Alliance.

Gagnier is a sleeper to watch having played his Minor Midget season in the shadows of Matt Maggio, who won the Alliance Player of the Year award. Gagnier’s title as a sleeper, however, may be in jeopardy following his OHL Cup performance where he scored 7 points in 6 games and led his team to the quarterfinals. He is a complete 200-foot center who is defensively aware yet possesses offensive upside. As the season went on, his confidence with the puck improved displaying an ability to either stickhandle past defenders or beat them inside for positioning and better scoring chances. He possesses an element of grit to his game finishing checks and blocking shots. Playing in all game situations, he is attentive to the smaller details of the game and demonstrates attractive leadership and character qualities. As a potential mid-round pick, he will be a versatile player with an ability to play anywhere throughout the lineup.

Honourable Mentions: Theo Hill (Brantford 99ers), Nathan Small (Elgin Middlesex Chiefs), Carter Schoonderwoerd (Huron-Perth Lakers), Ben McFarlane (Cambridge Hawks), Zane Dalpe (Sun County Panthers), Rylan Bowers (Elgin Middlesex Chiefs), Dylan Robinson (Brantford 99ers), Bryce Ryan (Windsor AAA Zone), Thomas Gangl (Huron-Perth Lakers)

Branden Scott @b_scott39

#1. C George Diaco, London Jr. Knights
George Diaco is easily one of the best players in the Alliance with his remarkable offensive production this year. Smaller players tend to get timid in the physical game, but despite his smaller frame, Diaco has great skating ability and puck control allowing him to juke around defenders and create strong scoring chances with his great vision. He reads the ice like a running back reads the field, finding the open hole then slicing up the neutral zone and gain entry into the opposition’s zone, making him the focal point of London’s power play unit all season long. There is nothing more dangerous than when Diaco has the puck on his stick.

#2. C Ryan Gagnier, Sun County Panthers
Ryan Gagnier is a safe pick out of the Alliance, a two way centre that plays well in all 3 zones away from the puck or when the puck is on his stick. Some of his aspects that stand out are his defensive game, which is uber impressive, being able to mark key players and support his teammates when needed to get the puck out of his zone. He is also good at keeping his stick in lanes and is not afraid to throw his body around to separate players. Offensively, he’s a smart player that can predict his team-mates’ moves and locate them with little effort to create scoring chances. Probably not one of the flashier players, but definitely an intelligent one who carries a winning attitude and excellent leadership qualities. 

Sleeper: W Carter Schoonderwoerd, Huron Perth Lakers
For being a sleeper pick, Carter Schoonderwoerd is probably the first player you notice on the ice being 6 foot 4 and over 200 pounds. With his body being ready to step right into the OHL, he brings a heavy shot that makes him lethal in the offensive zone. One of his biggest assets is his ability to come off the rush and charge at the net by muscling off defenders and protecting the puck. Using his long legs and larger figure to create space makes it easy for him to rip the puck into the net. Knowing how to use his body, he can punish opponents with bone crushing hits and break up plays using his reach. Adjusting to his big frame didn’t come with ease, but has steadily improved since the beginning of the season. He could probably use another year to develop, but the talent is there and can make a big impact for his future club.

GTHL 

Jason Gray - @jasongr31964761

#1: Cole Perfetti, Vaughn Kings
Perfetti was one of the most consistent point producers in the GTHL all season long. This 5ft8" 155lb pivot is one of the smartest players at the 2002 level. Perfetti possesses a skill that many don't at his age and experience, maybe having played up with the Whitby Wildcats minor midget team that played in the 2017 OHL Cup helped him build, a level of patience and calm that is rarely this mature at 16. Not an outright speed demon Perfetti is a deceptive skater that can utilize outstanding edge work coupled with a strong wide stance that makes him very difficult to knock off the puck. He is at his best when on the cycle and with the puck on his stick. Because of his great playmaking skill and capacity to maintain puck possession he backs off defenders making him dangerous in transition. Using his elite hockey sense and tremendous hands Perfetti is masterful at the art of the saucer pass and can slot passes into to space creating plenty of scoring opportunities for linemates. A stalwart on the PP he draws the attention of defenders freeing up other players to assert offensively. If not the smoothest playmaker in the G he is without question a scoring threat every time he is on the ice. Continually finds a way to sift through defenceman and ending up in a scoring position or a dish for a chance. Because he is such a calm player his compete level may go unnoticed but Perfetti often used in PK and is very skilled in the neutral zone as a gap closing forward that uses his elite hands to pick off passes and create turnovers. While not shoot first center with a powerful shot he is very accurate and scores most of his goals in the key scoring area within 10 feet of the goal. As he gains further size and strength he will only develop his scoring at greater range and variety. Perfetti is currently committed to the University of Michigan and while there is no doubt he will be an excellent player at the NCAA level, his game is very primed for the OHL as well and would no doubt be contributor as a top line forward in the not so distant future.

#2: Lleyton Moore, Toronto Marlboros
Moore is a diminutive defender that is listed at 5ft 8" and 155lbs but there nothing small about his game. He checks every box when it comes to being an defenceman at the minor midget level in the GTHL for the #1 ranked Toronto Marlboros. An elite skater that has spectacular edge control he can keep plays alive with his open hip style pivoting and powerful stride. Equally as quick going east west as he is north south his crossover step and deceptive changes of direction give him plenty of time and space to make plays. What's so impressive about this player is he ability to assess the situation in the game and make plays and/or adjust his style of play accordingly. He can play the speed and transition game or go physical and puck possession mode depending on the opponent and the state of the game. This speaks to his high hockey IQ and competitive level. Moore is an ex excellent passer with top level vision and playmaking ability. His poise and patience allow plays to develop. Not prone to the slapshot he uses a quick release wrister to get pucks through and create tip or rebound opportunities. If Moore was 6ft and 185lb there is no doubt he would be right in the conversation with Drysdale and Power as one of the top defenceman in the upcoming draft. He is one of the most entertaining players of the 2002 group and undoubtedly has the tools to be a 1/2 defenceman at the next level.

Sleeper: Isaac MacLeod, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
MacLeod demonstrated (in the OHL Cup Final) what he has done most of the season. A great secondary scorer that possesses a good release and penchant for scoring key goals. The word tenacious comes to mind right away when describing this player. While not a dynamic skater he has solid acceleration and once in stride moves with pace. He is a stop and start forward that rarely gives up on a puck battle. Uses his physicality well, great body position and wide stance coupled with good balance allows him to protect pucks and be a positive possession player. A deceptive release and quick hands in tight spaces especially around the net allows him to be a quality clean up man. MacLeod comes with a keen sense for the game which makes him lethal on the PK as he can pick off.passes and create havoc for defenders with his capacity to read plays and use pressure to cause turnovers. At the next level MacLeod will be a serviceable player that can play up and down your line up and give you quality play in a variety of roles.

Chris Bowen - @IamChrisBowen

#1. Jamie Drysdale - D (Toronto Marlboros)
The most dominant overall defenseman in this draft class and arguably the most gifted one offensively, Drysdale has the type of intangibles and skill set that very few prospects posses, certainty at this age. With elite skating and play making abilities, Drysdale is a game breaker on the back end who very rarely puts in a bad shift, let alone a bad game. He led the Toronto Marlboros along with fellow captain Lleyton Moore as they toyed with teams in the GTHL all season long. An all situations type player who is deadly on the rush and on the power play, where he can change and create different shooting angles from the blue line with his lateral movement. With a high IQ, Drysdale is able to effectively shut down plays and doesn't miss a beat in one on one defensive battles despite not being the biggest guy on the ice. He is without a doubt a complete package and the type of player who can change the complete dynamic of a team almost instantly. He should be the first defenseman off the board and he can make an impact right away.

#2. Jean-Luc Foudy - F (Toronto Titans)
Argubly the best skating in this draft class, Jean-Luc Foudy looks certain to follow his brother Liam's footsteps as a first round draft pick. In terms of an individual player being essential to a teams success, nobody was more important this season in the GTHL than Foudy was to the the Toronto Titans. Playing on a team was limited forward talent, he single handedly carried the offensive charge on a number of occasions, where he willed his team to wins. With the speed and puck skills that Foudy has, we are talking about someone who would have been a top scorer in the league, if he had a little bit more polish finishing scoring chances and if he had more talented forwards to work with. Despite teams being overly physical and had defensive structures in place to defend Foudy on the rush, his skating ability was simply too good at times where he became undefendable and he was still one of the best players in terms of scoring chances created in the GTHL. Foudy will likely find himself just outside the top 10, but make no mistake this is a top 10 talent.

Sleeper: Nolan Dillingham-Morelli - D (Mississauga Rebels)
Dillingham-Morelli finds himself behind a number of players in a group of very talented defensemen, something which has the potential to pay huge dividends for the team that drafts this kid. The physical two way blue liner may lack the offensive polish that some of the top end defensemen do, but very few have the ability to play at the level that he does in their own end. An impressive skater and puck mover who has shown at times during the season that he can rush the puck, Dillingham-Morelli is the type of player who is ready for the OHL now and while the offensive numbers may not translate straight away, he won't take long to adjust to playing at the next level. He can play all three situations effectively and has an OHL level shot right now along with the ability to play a lot of high quality minutes. When you look at him as a player, it is hard to see how a player of this talent could fall outside of the first three rounds which may be the case.

NOHA 

Brandon Wright

1.  Pacey Schlueting- North Bay Trappers (6’1, 175 pounds)
Schlueting, the NOHA Player of the Year, is the top player available from northern Ontario. He is a big two-way defenceman who has excellent skating ability. His powerful stride allows him to skate up and down the ice with ease. Schlueting has a powerful shot, and is a very effective puck mover. He registered 13 goals and 21 assists in 24 league games. He was also captain of both his minor midget club and Team NOHA.

2.  David Campbell- North Bay Trappers (6’1, 165 pounds)
Campbell is coming off a season in which he averaged a goal per game in league play, having scored 24 goals while adding another 12 assists in 24 games. He possesses a very good release and soft hands. Campbell plays strong with the puck and along the boards. He is also very effective penalty killer. Campbell is a threat to score any time he is on the ice. He and Schlueting tied for the Team NOHA scoring lead with 4 points in 4 games at the OHL Cup.

Sleeper- Justin Mauro- Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds (5’6, 140 pounds)
Mauro is an undersized, but highly skilled winger. His lack of stature may hurt his draft stock, but his skill and offensive instincts suggest he can be an effective player at the next level. He is a good skater who uses his speed to generate offensive opportunities. Mauro was the only player from his minor midget team selected to play for Team NOHA.

HEO

Brent Craswell - @brent_craswell 

1. Dylan Peterson (C/RW - Canadian International Hockey Academy)
Peterson is a highly gifted player who has a special combination of speed, agility, and skill. He is 6'3" with an enviable frame, but has the lateral mobility of an undersized forward. It is remarkable to watch him weave through the neutral zone with power and masterful control of his edges. His first few strides are explosive and his top gear is effortless. Defenders instinctively retreat when he’s skating at them so as to not get burned wide or plowed over. There are not many forwards in the age group better at creating space for themselves. To make matters worse for opposing D, he has dazzling stick handling ability, which only seems to improve the faster he is moving. Combine that with his natural length, and you have an attacker who can essentially do what he pleases while in possession of the puck. Despite having essentially every tool imaginable, Peterson's stock is not as high as it was at the start of the year. He started the campaign in a tier with Quinton Byfield, but you would be hard-pressed to find a scout who still feels that way. Part of that is Peterson became a victim of the expectations he created. He was expected to dominate the HEO Midget AAA league, and for the first half of the season, he didn't. He looked disinterested in some outings, spending far too much time on the perimeter. He wasn’t scoring goals from the outside, because his shot is probably the weakest part of his game. To his credit, Peterson was a different player in the last half of the season, making better use of his pro tools to play directly and relentlessly. That should leave scouts with a good taste in their mouths when discussing Peterson at the draft table. The complicating factor, however, is that Peterson is a dual citizen who has received an invite to join the US National Team Development Program. All indications are that he intends to accept that invitation and honour his commitment to Boston University.

2. Joshua Barnes (C/LW - Cornwall Colts U18) 
Barnes is an electric offensive talent who owns one of the best set of hands in minor midget. He is a wizard with the puck on his stick and attacks with speed and intention. He has great poise in possession, probing the defensive alignment for weak spots before darting into scoring positions. Barnes has quick feet, which helps him accelerate and helps him push back defenders. He will add more power to his stride as he strengthens his lower body. Barnes has lethal goal scoring touch from all distances. His shot is hard and accurate, but his release is what makes him a special talent. He gets a ton on his wrist shots without requiring much in the way of a wind-up. When on the rush, he can shoot off-stride which is highly disruptive to a goalie's timing and reads. If Barnes gets in alone, he has an array of breakaway moves that are downright scary. He has the perfect combination of attributes to work the half-wall on a powerplay, and that's where he's at his most dangerous. The most exciting part about Barnes is that he's already shown he can be an impact player with OHL-aged players. He suited up for the Jr. A Cornwall Colts of the CCHL for a total of 14 games, including all seven playoff games in the Colts' first round loss to the Hawkesbury Hawks. Barnes was one of the most dangerous players in that series, generating a ton of offence. It was an incredibly impressive feat, especially considering he won't turn 16 until late September. The only real knock on Barnes is that his effort on the defensive side of the puck can leave you wanting from time to time. He has lined up at center the bulk of the time for the Colts, but my view is he's better suited to play the wing. That should ease his defensive burden and free him up to make the most of his offensive gifts.

Other Favourites

Donovan Sebrango (LD - Canadian International Hockey Academy)
Sebrango is a complete player who does everything you want from a defenceman. He excels at turning defence into offense. He disrupts oncoming attackers as early as he can, yielding very few controlled zone entries down his side of the ice. More often than not, attackers will dump the puck behind him, giving Sebrango a chance to showcase his smooth pivoting and puck retrieval skills to get to the puck first and start the breakout. His passes are firm and hit players in stride, which facilitates clean breakouts. He assesses his options very well and more often than not picks out the teammate in the best position to transition the puck up ice. Sebrango is also the league's top defenceman when it comes to the stretch pass. His puck distribution prowess is not limited to facilitating breakouts, though. He also shows great vision in the offensive zone, finding seams and hitting open teammates in dangerous areas. This skill makes him an effective powerplay quarterback. He doesn't have a booming shot from the point, but he gets firm, low shots through with regularity.  It is difficult to find anything Sebrango cannot do on the ice. He has good puck skill and can evade forecheckers while carrying the puck through the neutral. He has the speed and offensive wherewithal to jump up at the proper time to create odd man rushes. He can play a physical game to eliminate forwards along the wall and regain possession. All in all, he can make an impact in any zone on any shift. The only real question with Sebrango is whether or not he is interested in playing OHL hockey. Like his teammate Dylan Peterson, he is committed to Boston University. Unlike Peterson, however, he is not eligible for The Program. That might give OHL teams more hope that they can persuade him of the benefits the OHL has to offer. If they are successful in that endeavour, they're going to get a defenceman who can be a Top 4, all-situations stalwart. 

Sean McGurn (C - Ottawa Jr. Senators U18)
McGurn is a crafty playmaking center. The foundation of his game is his ability to handle the puck in traffic. He has an excellent set of hands that allow him to maintain possession in tight while under duress. He has exceptional control of his edges, and can quickly change directions to shake forecheckers and drive into space. McGurn is very comfortable in possession, and it's hard to overstate just how good he is at distributing the puck. He regularly makes passes that require a great deal of skill, intelligence, and vision to execute. He has a knack for making his passes just as the defence or goaltender has over-committed to him. It is no surprise that he led all of HEO in assists this past season. McGurn is very capable defensively as well. He plays an up-tempo style of hockey away from the puck. He uses his quickness to aggressively pursue puck carriers all over the ice, which creates turnovers and more possession time for his team. He wins more battles than he should for a slight player due to a crafty stick. Although the stat is not recorded, I would not be surprised if McGurn led the league in faceoff percentage. In many of my viewings, he wouldn't lose more than a draw or two. The only concern with McGurn is whether he will be able to score goals at the next level. His shot is not strong enough to truly trouble goaltenders, and it will become more difficult to get into scoring areas in the OHL, where defenders have more experience containing slick forwards. Still, McGurn's high-end playmaking abilities give him a good chance to be a center on a scoring line at the next level.

Other HEO Top Players: Mikael Bissonnette, Yanic Crete, Simon Labelle, Kyle McDonald, Julian Recine, Nolan Seed, Rocco Testa-Basi, and Tyson Tomasini

Sleeper Picks

Ryan Stansel (LD - Hawkesbury Hawks U18)
What I love about Stansel's game is his poise and intelligence with puck. He knows when he needs to retrieve the puck quickly and move it with urgency. He has a lot of success getting the puck to teammates in those high pressure moments. But he also understands how to manage the puck effectively when the forecheckers give him time and space. He values possession, and does not want to throw the puck away. He transports the puck well and with intention, his head always up and ready to make a positive play. He is a capable distributor who snaps hard passes on top the tape of his teammates. Stansel covers a lot of ground quickly by using his long, efficient skating stride and is surprisingly agile laterally. On the defensive side of the puck, his main tools are his crafty stick and his intelligence. He takes excellent angles on attackers, and is adept at deftly pulling the puck out of scrums with precise stick work. He has a projectable frame and, once he adds muscles, he will be a more effective net front presence. The reason why Stansel is a sleeper despite all these positive tools is that his offensive game lacks polish. For all his success moving the puck in the defensive zone and the neutral zone, he hasn't yet figured out how to make himself a consistent threat in the offensive zone. He can be a bit stagnant away from the puck, and he needs to work on his reads in terms of when to pinch down low to keep the play alive and when to retreat. His shot isn't that hard and he's not going to beat goalies clean from the point. Still, he moves the puck so well everywhere else on the ice that I'd bet on him figuring out how to become a more impactful player offensively. It is also important to recall that Stansel is one of the youngest players in the draft (DOB: December 12, 2002), so you can expect more growth in his game when compared to older 2002s. He will likely need a year of development in local junior leagues, but I think Stansel would provide long-term value as a mid-round selection.

James Mayotte (LD - Shattuck-St. Mary's U16)
Mayotte is a sleeper more because of where he plays than anything else.  The native of Mallorytown, Ontario was accepted to Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota for his draft year, which will somewhat limit the ability for Ontario-based scouts to get a look at him. But Mayotte is a promising, highly-mobile defender. He defends high in the neutral zone, pressuring the puck carrier whenever that is an option. He's not overly physical and will need to work on maintaining position on his man down low, but that will become easier as he fills out. He is listed at a wiry 6'1', 165, but certainly has room to add muscle. He gets his team out of the defensive zone efficiently, either skating the puck through traffic or executing well-timed passes to beat the forecheck. Where Mayotte has most improved over the course of the season is in the offensive zone. He has become far more active, and is constantly moving in reaction to the position of the puck and the defenders. Mayotte jumps into holes well to make himself a dangerous passing target, which stress defences and makes him a very tough cover for wingers. He doesn't have a cannon from the point, but he isn't one to try to force shots. If he gets the puck in space, he is more likely to try to freeze the goalie and throw the puck into traffic with the hopes of getting a deflection. Teams who got a good read on Mayotte last year when he played for the Upper Canada Cyclones, or those who made the trip down to Minnesota, might be able to find a bit of a hidden gem at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. 

Mat Milberry@MatMilberry

#1 - Joshua Barnes C , September 27, 2002 - Cornwall Colts U18
Overall the 2002 age group from the Ottawa area is the strongest from top to bottom than it has been in years past. There isn't any doubt that C Dylan Peterson of CIHA is among the top prospects available for this years OHL draft, but one could easily argue that C/LW Joshua Barnes should also be among the top prospects available. He's the most electric, dynamic and opportunistic '02 prospect from the Ottawa region. He's a threat every time he's on the ice. He's a special talent and has a skill set that you can't teach. Left with carrying much of the load on a weak Cornwall Colts U18 team, he still finished 2nd in league scoring. Only helping his draft stock more was his ability to be an impact player for the CCHL Cornwall Colts down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. In 7 regular season games - 3 G 2 A 5 PTS & in 7 playoff games - 2 G 4 A 6 PTS, which included a double overtime break away goal. He has all three elements of Speed that I look for in a top prospect - Mind, Feet and Hands. CCHL teams won't have to worry about how to defend against Barnes next year because he won't be playing in the league.

#2 - Sean McGurn C , July 30, 2002 - Ottawa Jr Senators U18
Sean is the most complete HEO U18 prospect available. High IQ and drive train on both sides of the puck, with leadership and quality character traits. May not be as explosive or dynamic as other HEO '02's available, but he still finished 3rd in league scoring with 16 G & 50 PTS in 40 GMS. His puck possession, play making ability and confidence with the puck got better as the year went on. His foot work and puck skills allow him to get on the inside of defenders in the offensive zone and get pucks to the net. He needs to work on his skating and strength training. A player that can play in all situations - special teams, important faceoffs, needing a goal or preserving a lead late. I believe he's among the smartest, most competitive, complete 200' two-way centres in Ontraio/US that is available for this years OHL draft. A team would be smart to consider signing Sean and having him play one year in the CCHL. He will improve based on his intelligence, work ethic and commitment levels, he just needs time to mature physically. Long term projection - Captain of a championship team at either the OHL or NCAA level.

Sleeper - Liam Cavan LD, March 9, 2002 - Rockland Nationals U18
A player that was at the bottom of my list to start the season, Liam has steadily climbed the list as the season went on. Like most 15 year old's that make the jump to U18 from Major Bantam, the first 2 months of the season are like drinking out of a fire hose. Liam always showed that he had some hockey sense, but it wasn't until he got his bearings, coupled with a little mid season growth spurt, that his confidence with & without the puck grew. Though he's playing on a very talented Rockland team, he's underused and over shadowed by returning players on the back end. He has a good puck possession skill set, good hockey sense, good first pass and has an edge to his game. His skating and edge work is under rated, his mechanics are there, but he just needs to get stronger. His smarts, communication and positional play in all three zones makes life easy for his Dpartner. He's a late bloomer and I really like his upside long term. With a good summer of training and maturing, his development path will just continue trending upwards.

SCTA
 
Matt Stewart - @stewbucs

#1. Cameron Tolnai, Oakville Rangers #9,
Position: C
Shoots: L
February 14, 2002
6’0”, 166 lbs

Tolnai was a top offensive threat for the Oakville Rangers who were one of the better minor midget teams in the province this season. He is an intelligent and efficient operator whose decision making and execution is next-level. A consistent threat to score every time he touches the ice, he has elite hands and great creativity in his game. Regularly beats defenders one-on-one and is as pure of a goal-scorer as there is in the age group, while also having above average playmaking ability. Possesses innate shooting instincts and a shot that freatures a quick release and tremendous pinpoint accuracy. His feet are good and he gets to his top speed quickly. He can accelerate through the neutral zone with relative ease and is always looking to make things happen once in the offensive zone, attacking the net with real vigour and purpose. Strength on his skates is also an asset and he uses it to beat defenders wide with really solid outside power moves. With his good size and strength, he protects the puck extremely well, pivoting and shielding calmly to display a great feel and response to any pressure. Uses his strength to fight off defenders on the boards as well to win most of his battles. A top player on the powerplay as he commands the puck and makes things happen with smart distributions. Finds soft spots to where he can get off his excellent shot with precision and accuracy to pick corners for goals. When he is left alone with the goalie he fools them with ease as they barely even move at times before the puck is in the back of the net. A willing defender, he fights hard in his own end to win the puck back and then turns up ice quickly to attack. His strength and quick stick provide his team with good defensive work. He generally has at least two or three steals in a game coming back into his own zone and stripping opponents from behind. A scoring machine as well as being an intelligent player in all three zones, Tolnai is one of the most well-rounded players in the ’02 class and figures to be an early first-round selection in this year’s Draft. 

#2. Luke Evangelista, Oakville Rangers #22
Position: RW
Shoots: R
February, 21, 2002
5’9”, 150 lbs

Evangelista is a super skilled player who lead his team and the SCTA in scoring with 90 points in 36 games. Evangelista can dominate a game with his special hands and craftiness. There seems to be an unlimited amount of creativity in his game. He loves to take players on one on one and usually wins that battle. A dangler who can slip by opponents with ease and has that ‘wow’ factor to his game. Because of his elite hands, Evangelista is a game breaker in every sense of the word. He has excellent vision in the offensive zone and can make passes that others can not. He is absolutely lethal when playing with Tolnai as those two just wreck havoc on the opponents goal especially when set up on the power play. He is also a devastating finisher himself with an accurate shot. Loves to pick the top corners. Evangelista gets around the ice with relative ease and has good acceleration. He is a smaller player but he does not back down from anyone. His quick feet get him out of trouble as opponents seem to underestimate his speed and elusiveness as he slips right by them. He can do things at a high level of speed that not many his age can do. Patience is also gift he possesses as he is willing to slow things down when necessary and wait for things to develop in front of him. He has the ability to come at you with speed and skill and also come at you with a slower, cerebral approach. More times than not it will result in a good scoring chance for himself or a team mate. Evangelista is obviously an offensive player first but he is also a willing defender. He uses his quickness and intelligence to get into good positions in the defensive zone to steal pucks. Once he gets a turnover, he quickly looks up the ice to attack. He never seems to take shifts off even when his team are well ahead in a game which happened quite a lot this season in league play. There’s no doubt that Evangelista is skilled and has the tools to excel at the next level. He should probably be a first or early second round pick in the upcoming OHL Priority Selection Draft. 

Sleeper: Ryan Mansfield, Burlington Eagles #11
Position: C/LW
Shoots: L
February 22, 2002
5’10”, 180 lbs

Mansfield is definitely a player that has flown under the radar all season with Burlington. He is as skilled as any in the league and has excellent speed and acceleration that make his offensive game devastating. He quietly finished 6th in SCTA league scoring with 28 goals in 31 games for 44 points. It is his speed that sets him apart from others in the league. There are not many quicker than Mansfield is, both with and without the puck. His strides are powerful and smooth, and he explodes in and out of his cuts. His abilities to do things at a high rate of speed with the puck also put him above most of his peers. Without the puck, he can be an effective fore checker and penalty killer with that speed. He gets on top of defenders quickly and forces them into mistakes. He is always a danger when shorthanded to break away and get a scoring chance which he can bury with relative ease. His hands are not elite, but they are good. He can beat people with skill, but he mostly relies on his speed and quickness to get around defenders. He also has a knack for finding teammates in the offensive zone. He has good offensive instincts and he uses them to his advantage. He can, at times, make passes that make you sit up and take notice. He is first and foremost a goal scorer, but he does have the ability to be a set up guy as well if needed. He plays a solid game in all three zones. He can help out in his own end, uses speed and intelligence to rip through the neutral zone untouched, and finally has the talent to make things happen in the offensive zone both for himself and his teammates. There is raw ability and talent there that seems to have gone a bit unnoticed this season in the SCTA. Mansfield could very well be a mid round pick or later that goes on to have a solid OHL career.

#1. Jamie Drysdale - D (Toronto Marlboros)
The most dominant overall defenseman in this draft class and arguably the most gifted one offensively, Drysdale has the type of intangibles and skill set that very few prospects posses, certainty at this age. With elite skating and play making abilities, Drysdale is a game breaker on the back end who very rarely puts in a bad shift, let alone a bad game. He led the Toronto Marlboros along with fellow captain Lleyton Moore as they toyed with teams in the GTHL all season long. An all situations type player who is deadly on the rush and on the power play, where he can change and create different shooting angles from the blue line with his lateral movement. With a high IQ, Drysdale is able to effectively shut down plays and doesn't miss a beat in one on one defensive battles despite not being the biggest guy on the ice. He is without a doubt a complete package and the type of player who can change the complete dynamic of a team almost instantly. He should be the first defenseman off the board and he can make an impact right away.

#2. Jean-Luc Foudy - F (Toronto Titans)
Argubly the best skating in this draft class, Jean-Luc Foudy looks certain to follow his brother Liam's footsteps as a first round draft pick. In terms of an individual player being essential to a teams success, nobody was more important this season in the GTHL than Foudy was to the the Toronto Titans. Playing on a team was limited forward talent, he single handedly carried the offensive charge on a number of occasions, where he willed his team to wins. With the speed and puck skills that Foudy has, we are talking about someone who would have been a top scorer in the league, if he had a little bit more polish finishing scoring chances and if he had more talented forwards to work with. Despite teams being overly physical and had defensive structures in place to defend Foudy on the rush, his skating ability was simply too good at times where he became undefendable and he was still one of the best players in terms of scoring chances created in the GTHL. Foudy will likely find himself just outside the top 10, but make no mistake this is a top 10 talent.

Sleeper: Nolan Dillingham-Morelli - D (Mississauga Rebels)
Dillingham-Morelli finds himself behind a number of players in a group of very talented defensemen, something which has the potential to pay huge dividends for the team that drafts this kid. The physical two way blue liner may lack the offensive polish that some of the top end defensemen do, but very few have the ability to play at the level that he does in their own end. An impressive skater and puck mover who has shown at times during the season that he can rush the puck, Dillingham-Morelli is the type of player who is ready for the OHL now and while the offensive numbers may not translate straight away, he won't take long to adjust to playing at the next level. He can play all three situations effectively and has an OHL level shot right now along with the ability to play a lot of high quality minutes. When you look at him as a player, it is hard to see how a player of this talent could fall outside of the first three rounds which may be the case.
Ryan Stacey (SCTA)@ryan_stacey5

#1 Cameron Tolnai, Center, Oakville Rangers
“The best player from start to finish in the SCTA, Tolnai is a unique blend of size, finesse, and pure offensive ability. With a rocket for a wrister and exceptional vision when running through the cycle game, he checks the box in almost every offensive category and has been playing at a high level which also carried into the OHL Cup. Poised with the puck on his stick, he is confident in every offensive situation and always seems to make the right play no matter what defensive barrage he faces. In the defensive zone, the same effort applies, and he is great at hunting down players on the rush and creating turnovers. Overall just an exceptional player with a bright future ahead.”

#2 Luke Evangelista, Right Wing, Oakville Rangers
“Quickly labeled as the shooter on Tolnai’s wing, Evangelista soon changed that thinking and has been a player possessed in the offensive zone this year and is quite capable of dominating on his own. Light on his feet, but powerful in his own right, he demands respect at all times and can make hard plays look easy and good defenders look incompetent. With a shot as lethal as his playmaking ability, he is completely unpredictable at times and has shown what happens when the opposition guesses wrong with a healthy 90 points in 36 SCTA games. At 5’10’’ and 150 lbs he isn’t the most physically demanding player but he uses his body well in both ends and has great defensive tendencies which show he isn’t simply an offensive threat. Look for him to go fair early come draft day”

Sleeper: Robbie Stewart, Defence, Niagara North Stars
“Stewart falls under the sleeper category, simply because I think he may fall in the draft. After providing solid play early on for Niagara, he was injured just before the new year and missed the SCTA Showcase, Playdowns and he wasn’t successful in making the OHL Cup. After barely seeing him for some time he may be a slightly forgotten commodity and it provides an opportunity for a team to strike gold. Standing at 6’3’’ 172 lbs, he already has good size and is in a primed position to be impactful after some time in the weight room. Armed with a healthy combination of vision and defensive anticipation, he is just as good moving pucks forward as he is as keeping them out. With a long clean stride, confidence in his puck carrying abilities and a heavy shot he loves to use when openings arise, Stewart does everything from the backend and he looks like a guy who will make an impact in the OHL sooner rather than later.”

ETA

Trevor Revoy (ETA)@RevoyJr2

#1: Quinton Byfield - LC - York Simcoe Express
Not much can be said about Byfield that you probably haven't heard yet. Provably one of the best prospects to come from the ETA in quite some time. The consensus top prospect from start to finish, Byfield plays like he is a year older then everyone else. A big, strong center paired with high end speed make it nearly impossible to shut him down. Possessing an elite shot that gets off in a hurry and elite puck skills has helped Byfield put together the third best points per game in the ETA behind only Steven Stamkos and Taylor Hall, showing how elite his season was. A great skater and smart player he knows when to pass to the open man and when to challenge the defender with his skills. A good back checker who creates turnovers with his size, stick and physicality. Works hard on the For check and when he gets the puck he turns it into a scoring chance in seconds. All in all Byfield is an elite level player who excels in every aspect of the game.

#2: Evan Vierling - LC - York Simcoe Express 
A smooth skating center, Vierling is one of the best 200 ft player coming from the ETA, an elite stickhandler, he can go from a stand still in his own end to a breakaway at the other. Shifty with the puck he is always looking create a scoring chance, he plays with elite vision and a high IQ. When the games get tough his game gets better and better, a go to option when up a goal and down a goal late in the third period. Identifies weak coverage and exploits it with ease. Has good snap shot that he likes to use coming down off the wing. Runs a powerplay knowing when to set up the open man and when to take the puck to the net. A coaches dream player who excels in all situations. Look for him to be a top pick in the upcoming draft.

Sleeper: Luc Reeve - LC/LW - Peterborough Petes 
A strong two way player, Reeve has played under the radar since the start of the year always having to prove doubters wrong. An aggressive forchecker who creates turnovers in the offensive zone with his physical nature and strong stick. A good skater who can shield the puck with his body or dump and ware down opponents in the corner. Can play a hard nosed physical game or switch it and play skill game depending on the opponent. Plays with a ton of energy, backchecking hard, then turning it into offense. Very effective at gaining space and opening up in front of the net to get open for a pass or boxing out defenders to pounce on a rebound. A hard working, high energy player with a scoring touch.

 

#1: Cole Perfetti, Vaughn Kings
Perfetti was one of the most consistent point producers in the GTHL all season long. This 5ft8" 155lb pivot is one of the smartest players at the 2002 level. Perfetti possesses a skill that many don't at his age and experience, maybe having played up with the Whitby Wildcats minor midget team that played in the 2017 OHL Cup helped him build, a level of patience and calm that is rarely this mature at 16.
Not an outright speed demon Perfetti is a deceptive skater that can utilize outstanding egde work coupled with a strong wide stance that makes him very difficult to knock off the puck. He is at his best when on the cycle and with the puck on his stick. Because of his great playmaking skill and capacity to maintain puck possession he backs off defenders making him dangerous in transition. Using his elite hockey sense and tremendous hands Perfetti is masterful at the art of the saucer pass and can slot passes into to space creating plenty of scoring opportunities for linemates. A stalwart on the PP he draws the attention of defenders freeing up other players to assert offensively.
If not the smoothest playmaker in the G he is without question a scoring threat every time he is on the ice. Continually finds a way to sift through defenceman and ending up in a scoring position or a dish for a chance. Because he is such a calm player his compete level may go unnoticed but Perfetti often used in PK and is very skilled in the neutral zone as a gap closing forward that uses his elite hands to pick off passes and create turnovers. While not shoot first center with a powerful shot he is very accurate and scores most of his goals in the key scoring area within 10 feet of the goal. As he gains further size and strength he will only develop his scoring at greater range and variety. Perfetti is currently committed to the University of Michigan and while there is no doubt he will be an excellent player at the NCAA level, his game is very primed for the OHL as well and would no doubt be contributor as a top line forward in the not so distant future.

#2: Lleyton Moore, Toronto Marlboros
Moore is a diminutive defender that is listed at 5ft 8" and 155lbs but there nothing small about his game. He checks every box when it comes to being an defenceman at the minor midget level in the GTHL for the #1 ranked Toronto Marlboros. An elite skater that has spectacular edge control he can keep plays alive with his open hip style pivoting and powerful stride. Equally as quick going east west as he is north south his crossover step and deceptive changes of direction give him plenty of time and space to make plays. What's so impressive about this player is he ability to assess the situation in the game and make plays and/or adjust his style of play accordingly. He can play the speed and transition game or go physical and puck possession mode depending on the opponent and the state of the game. This speaks to his high hockey IQ and competitive level. Moore is an ex excellent passer with top level vision and playmaking ability. His poise and patience allow plays to develop. Not prone to the slapshot he uses a quick release wrister to get pucks through and create tip or rebound opportunities. If Moore was 6ft and 185lb there is no doubt he would be right in the conversation with Drysdale and Power as one of the top defenceman in the upcoming draft. He is one of the most entertaining players of the 2002 group and undoubtedly has the tools to be a 1/2 defenceman at the next level.

Sleeper: Isaac MacLeod, Toronto Jr. Canadiens
MacLeod demonstrated (in the OHL Cup Final) what he has done most of the season. A great secondary scorer that possesses a good release and penchant for scoring key goals. The word tenacious comes to mind right away when describing this player. While not a dynamic skater he has solid acceleration and once in stride moves with pace. He is a stop and start forward that rarely gives up on a puck battle. Uses his physicality well, great body position and wide stance coupled with good balance allows him to protect pucks and be a positive possession player. A deceptive release and quick hands in tight spaces especially around the net allows him to be a quality clean up man. MacLeod comes with a keen sense for the game which makes him lethal on the PK as he can pick off.passes and create havoc for defenders with his capacity to read plays and use pressure to cause turnovers. At the next level MacLeod will be a serviceable player that can play up and down your line up and give you quality play in a variety of roles
1. Antonio Stranges, Detroit Little Caesars 16U AAA
“Way high up on TheScout.ca’s list of best players available for the OHL Priority Selection is Antonio Stranges, who tore up the Detroit Little Caesars independent schedule and completely dominated the T1EHL playing in some limited showcases. Stranges is a kid who has been on many OHL and USHL draft radars for over two seasons now, having played up with the 16U team last season along with this season, all while putting up big-time numbers both years. Stranges is most well-known for his unique skating ability and his exceptional puck skills that allow him to be one of the deadliest offensive players on the ice at any moment. His footwork, edge control and utilization of his explosive feet enable him to literally dance around the competition, like a Jeff Skinner or Jeremy Bracco type skater. The creativity is through the roof when the puck is on his stick too, as he has the high-end hockey sense and the crafty offensive talent to shoot, pass and score in bunches. Stranges is currently committed to the University of Michigan and will be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp with a strong chance of making the U17 team. Will he end up in the OHL someday though? It is definitely a possibility.”

2. Dylan Peterson, Canadian International Hockey Academy Midget AAA (CIHA)
“Another gifted forward who has been on the radar for a while now is Dylan Peterson with the CIHA Midget AAA program just outside of Ottawa. Peterson is an American/Canadian dual-citizen, and was one of the first 2002-born skaters to commit to a NCAA university when he selected Boston University as a 14-year-old. Peterson has been very well known in scouting circles due to his NHL ready 6.03” frame paired with his powerful and very fluid skating stride. Not many large hockey players have the high-end speed of Peterson, and his strength along with his extremely quick hands make him a lethal threat every time he’s coming down the ice. His puck skills can dazzle for sure, and he can take a direct path right through the opposition or dangle a defenseman with his slick skills and long reach. Watch out for his high-end and accurate shot as well, but he does hesitate at times as he needs to work on becoming the dominant player he can be on every shift. Peterson will also be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp, and he has a very good chance to make the U17 team. The sky is the limit for this kid, he has the physical gifts and smooth skating to make him a top NHL Draft selection down the line.”

Sleeper: Andrei Bakanov, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U AAA
“Probably not much of a sleeper here, but Andrei Bakanov will likely be a player discussed a lot as we lead up to the OHL Priority Selection as his eligibility is currently up-in-the-air for the draft. Bakanov is a Russian-born player who has spent this year with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U team after playing up the season before with the Cleveland Barons 16U team. With Oakland, the Russian kid displayed his pro-quality talents before all the HPHL by finishing second in both goals and points in one of the most competitive leagues in the country. You don’t have to watch too long before you see his best trait, a deadly accurate, hard shot that probably gives goalies at this level nightmares. Bakanov has the Russian patience for sure, taking his time to read plays at times and then striking exactly when you least expect it, often drawing peer-to-peer comparisons to famous NHL player Evgeni Malkin. Footwork is a little heavy for Bakanov, but his smooth puck handing and decent smarts help mitigate this issue. Should he be declared eligible for the OHL Draft, look for his name to go very high in the 1st Round. His goal scoring capabilities, his patience with the puck, and his NHL sized frame will be highly coveted.”
1. Antonio Stranges, Detroit Little Caesars 16U AAA
“Way high up on TheScout.ca’s list of best players available for the OHL Priority Selection is Antonio Stranges, who tore up the Detroit Little Caesars independent schedule and completely dominated the T1EHL playing in some limited showcases. Stranges is a kid who has been on many OHL and USHL draft radars for over two seasons now, having played up with the 16U team last season along with this season, all while putting up big-time numbers both years. Stranges is most well-known for his unique skating ability and his exceptional puck skills that allow him to be one of the deadliest offensive players on the ice at any moment. His footwork, edge control and utilization of his explosive feet enable him to literally dance around the competition, like a Jeff Skinner or Jeremy Bracco type skater. The creativity is through the roof when the puck is on his stick too, as he has the high-end hockey sense and the crafty offensive talent to shoot, pass and score in bunches. Stranges is currently committed to the University of Michigan and will be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp with a strong chance of making the U17 team. Will he end up in the OHL someday though? It is definitely a possibility.”

2. Dylan Peterson, Canadian International Hockey Academy Midget AAA (CIHA)
“Another gifted forward who has been on the radar for a while now is Dylan Peterson with the CIHA Midget AAA program just outside of Ottawa. Peterson is an American/Canadian dual-citizen, and was one of the first 2002-born skaters to commit to a NCAA university when he selected Boston University as a 14-year-old. Peterson has been very well known in scouting circles due to his NHL ready 6.03” frame paired with his powerful and very fluid skating stride. Not many large hockey players have the high-end speed of Peterson, and his strength along with his extremely quick hands make him a lethal threat every time he’s coming down the ice. His puck skills can dazzle for sure, and he can take a direct path right through the opposition or dangle a defenseman with his slick skills and long reach. Watch out for his high-end and accurate shot as well, but he does hesitate at times as he needs to work on becoming the dominant player he can be on every shift. Peterson will also be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp, and he has a very good chance to make the U17 team. The sky is the limit for this kid, he has the physical gifts and smooth skating to make him a top NHL Draft selection down the line.”

Sleeper: Andrei Bakanov, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U AAA
“Probably not much of a sleeper here, but Andrei Bakanov will likely be a player discussed a lot as we lead up to the OHL Priority Selection as his eligibility is currently up-in-the-air for the draft. Bakanov is a Russian-born player who has spent this year with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U team after playing up the season before with the Cleveland Barons 16U team. With Oakland, the Russian kid displayed his pro-quality talents before all the HPHL by finishing second in both goals and points in one of the most competitive leagues in the country. You don’t have to watch too long before you see his best trait, a deadly accurate, hard shot that probably gives goalies at this level nightmares. Bakanov has the Russian patience for sure, taking his time to read plays at times and then striking exactly when you least expect it, often drawing peer-to-peer comparisons to famous NHL player Evgeni Malkin. Footwork is a little heavy for Bakanov, but his smooth puck handing and decent smarts help mitigate this issue. Should he be declared eligible for the OHL Draft, look for his name to go very high in the 1st Round. His goal scoring capabilities, his patience with the puck, and his NHL sized frame will be highly coveted.”
1. Antonio Stranges, Detroit Little Caesars 16U AAA
“Way high up on TheScout.ca’s list of best players available for the OHL Priority Selection is Antonio Stranges, who tore up the Detroit Little Caesars independent schedule and completely dominated the T1EHL playing in some limited showcases. Stranges is a kid who has been on many OHL and USHL draft radars for over two seasons now, having played up with the 16U team last season along with this season, all while putting up big-time numbers both years. Stranges is most well-known for his unique skating ability and his exceptional puck skills that allow him to be one of the deadliest offensive players on the ice at any moment. His footwork, edge control and utilization of his explosive feet enable him to literally dance around the competition, like a Jeff Skinner or Jeremy Bracco type skater. The creativity is through the roof when the puck is on his stick too, as he has the high-end hockey sense and the crafty offensive talent to shoot, pass and score in bunches. Stranges is currently committed to the University of Michigan and will be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp with a strong chance of making the U17 team. Will he end up in the OHL someday though? It is definitely a possibility.”

2. Dylan Peterson, Canadian International Hockey Academy Midget AAA (CIHA)
“Another gifted forward who has been on the radar for a while now is Dylan Peterson with the CIHA Midget AAA program just outside of Ottawa. Peterson is an American/Canadian dual-citizen, and was one of the first 2002-born skaters to commit to a NCAA university when he selected Boston University as a 14-year-old. Peterson has been very well known in scouting circles due to his NHL ready 6.03” frame paired with his powerful and very fluid skating stride. Not many large hockey players have the high-end speed of Peterson, and his strength along with his extremely quick hands make him a lethal threat every time he’s coming down the ice. His puck skills can dazzle for sure, and he can take a direct path right through the opposition or dangle a defenseman with his slick skills and long reach. Watch out for his high-end and accurate shot as well, but he does hesitate at times as he needs to work on becoming the dominant player he can be on every shift. Peterson will also be attending the USA NTDP Evaluation Camp, and he has a very good chance to make the U17 team. The sky is the limit for this kid, he has the physical gifts and smooth skating to make him a top NHL Draft selection down the line.”

Sleeper: Andrei Bakanov, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U AAA
“Probably not much of a sleeper here, but Andrei Bakanov will likely be a player discussed a lot as we lead up to the OHL Priority Selection as his eligibility is currently up-in-the-air for the draft. Bakanov is a Russian-born player who has spent this year with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U team after playing up the season before with the Cleveland Barons 16U team. With Oakland, the Russian kid displayed his pro-quality talents before all the HPHL by finishing second in both goals and points in one of the most competitive leagues in the country. You don’t have to watch too long before you see his best trait, a deadly accurate, hard shot that probably gives goalies at this level nightmares. Bakanov has the Russian patience for sure, taking his time to read plays at times and then striking exactly when you least expect it, often drawing peer-to-peer comparisons to famous NHL player Evgeni Malkin. Footwork is a little heavy for Bakanov, but his smooth puck handing and decent smarts help mitigate this issue. Should he be declared eligible for the OHL Draft, look for his name to go very high in the 1st Round. His goal scoring capabilities, his patience with the puck, and his NHL sized frame will be highly coveted.”